✨Diverse, Impact-Driven Founders Shine at Plug In South LA's Demo Day

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

Plug In South LA, a Los Angeles accelerator program, hosted their 2023 Founder Showcase at Blackbird House in Culver City on Thursday night. Founders made their pitches and then participated in a short Q&A session with Plug In South LA’s founder Derek Smith. 🎬🚀🌟

Half of Plug In’s first national cohort, consisting of ten companies, are based in Los Angeles with the rest dispersed across the country from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. Diversity is the name of the game for this group of companies. Not only is Plug In South LA designed for under-represented founders the companies themselves span the gambit when it comes to sector with healthcare, social networking, marketplace startups and more.

Plug In South LA was founded by LA-native Derek Smith in 2014 because he noticed a significant lack of representation and opportunities for Black and Latinx communities in the growing tech industry in Los Angeles, particularly in South Los Angeles neighborhoods like Crenshaw, Leimert Park, and Inglewood. He wanted to bridge this gap and create a platform to empower underrepresented talent by providing networking, exposure, and support within the tech sector. According to its website, Plug In South LA’s accelerator is “designed for Black and LatinX founders who are focused on solving big problems in Healthcare, Fintech, Digital Media, Climate Control and Sustainability Efforts in historically marginalized communities.”

Scroll down to see more information and the full list of companies! 💻🌴🌇

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🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • Bold, a healthy aging platform, raised a $17M Series A led by Rethink Impact, with participation from Samsung Next and existing investors Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) Bio + Health, Khosla Ventures, GingerBread Capital, and Primetime Partners. - learn more
  • Requirements management and digital thread platform, Prewitt Ridge, raised a $4.1M Seed Round led by Squadra Ventures, joined by Stage Venture Partners, Aurelia Foundry, Wonder Ventures, Haystack, Acequia, TechStars, GC&H and others. - learn more
  • Morty, a platform to help people find local ‘IRL’ experiences and cultivate real world interactions between friends, raised a $2.2M Seed Round from prominent Los Angeles-based firms including Wedbush Ventures and Wonder Ventures. Initially only featuring escape rooms, Morty recently expanded into haunted attractions with plans to feature immpersive theater, speakeasies, location based VR and more!
  • Mavida Health, a maternal mental health platform, raise a $1.5M Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • VideoAmp, a media measurement and optimization software company, raised a $150M Series G led by Vista Credit Partners. - learn more
  • Strada, an AI-enabled cloud platform with tools for production and postproduction, raised a $1.9M Pre-Seed Round from some major Hollywood players among others. - learn more
LA Funds

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Saturday, September 16th

  • Y3K Innovation Summit USC - A day filled with workshops, competitions, and opportunities to connect with industry leaders and fellow tech enthusiasts of all levels. The event is designed for anyone interested in exploring the future or entrepreneurship, social impact, and career development within the emerging tech industries including digital content creation, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain application, artificial intelligence, and e-gaming.

Wednesday, September 20th

  • Startup Cafe🗽 - Meet and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, and industry professionals while enjoying a nice cup of coffee or going on a hike or both Wednesday morning in Venice.
  • The LA Business Show - Day 1 🗽 - Join hundreds of business experts and leaders for the first day of this business expo in Downtown Los Angeles built to equip, educate and encourage the small businesses and entrepreneurs with 300 exhibitors, 150 seminars and unmissable masterclasses.

Thursday, September 21st

  • The LA Business Show - Day 2 🗽 - Join hundreds of business experts and leaders for the second day of this business expo in Downtown Los Angeles built to equip, educate and encourage the small businesses and entrepreneurs with 300 exhibitors, 150 seminars and unmissable masterclasses.

Friday, September 22nd

  • LA Tech Wind-Down🗽 - Join Startup Coil and The KINN Friday evening in Venice for an alternative to the mid-week happy hour for networking, chill vibes, and functional non-alcoholic libations.

Other events to add to the calendar

🗽 - Free

📙 What We’re Reading

  • Disney’s recent deal with Charter Communications signals the growing challenges of transitioning from traditional TV to streaming. - read more
  • SpaceX's satellite internet division, Starlink, falls short of Elon Musk's ambitious 2015 projection and faces challenges expanding its subscriber base, especially in urban areas. - read more
  • 5 things to know about a potential strike against video game companies. - read more

🚀 Plug In South LA’s 2023 Cohort

See below for all 10 companies featured at Plug In South LA’s 2023 Demo Day.

🩺 At Their Side, LLC

HQ: Long Beach, CA CEO: Emily Woodman-Nance

Sector: Healthcare

Description: At Their Side is a 24/7 healthcare status platform that enables healthcare providers to communicate with families, allowing staff to dedicate more time to providing care rather than being occupied with phones.

🪴 MyVoluntier

HQ: Atlanta, GA CEO: Aubrey Gibson

Sector: Social Networking Platform

Description: MyVoluntier is a virtual civic engagement hub, akin to a 'LinkedIn for civic engagement,' centralizing community initiatives, events, resources, fundraising, and volunteers to inspire social connection and drive collective impact.

🍽️ Nutrible

HQ: St. Louis, MO CEO: Kwamane Liddell

Sector: Healthcare

Description: Nutrible is a technology platform that provides virtual social service navigation and nutrition-centered chronic care management to vulnerable patients and communities.

💼 Peadbo

HQ: Washington, DC CEO: Keith Chaney

Sector: B2B Software

Description: Peadbo (short for Personal Advisory Board) is a cloud-based platform that allows users to build and manage teams dedicated to their personal or professional growth and create recurring newsletters for their broader network of supporters and advisors.

💐 Postal Petals®

HQ: Los Angeles, CA CEO: Talia Boone

Sector: B2C

Description: Postal Petals®, an immersive floral and wellness startup, uses fresh cut flowers and do-it-yourself flower arranging to promote creative expression as a form of mindfulness and self-care.

💸 Prosperety Technologies Inc.

HQ: San Francisco, CA CEO: Darren Black

Sector: FinTech

Description: Prosperety Technologies Inc. is a fintech SaaS platform that helps small businesses succeed financially with: the right customers at a reasonable cost, unlimited access to no-fee, no-credit-check, no-revenue, capital from consumers and the ability to easily build and get business credit. All in the same place, on the same platform.

🏀 Subler

HQ: Los Angeles, CA CEO: Carlos Rivera

Sector: Marketplace, Proptech

Description: Subler is a B2B/C SAAS marketplace that connects schools with communities, making it easy for event organizers to find and rent school spaces. Subler democratizes access to athletic and event spaces and simplifies the rental process by centralizing new leads, creating leases, and collecting rent — all in one place.

📳 SwayBrand

HQ: Los Angeles, CA CEO: Horace Flournoy

Sector: Marketplace

Description: SwayBrand is a marketplace that connects brands with creators for on-location user-generated content. They aim to be the new studio for creators and help brands reach new audiences through authentic, personalized content.

👟The Crease Beast

HQ: Los Angeles, CA CEO: Matt J.

Sector: Consumer Products

Description: The Crease Beast is an innovative shoe care brand that provides sneakerheads with effective products to preserve footwear aesthetics.

*The Crease Beast was not present at the Demo Day but is part of the 2023 cohort

🚗 Upward

HQ: New York, NY CEO: Osvaldo Rodriguez

Sector: FinTech

Description: Upward helps 5M ride share drivers and delivery workers save at least $2,500 in taxes by automating the process of finding the largest possible deductions, so they pay less when it is time to file.

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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