Read Activision's Letter to Staff After Firing 20 Employees

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Read Activision's Letter to Staff After Firing 20 Employees

Activision Blizzard addressed ongoing employee concerns over workplace culture in a letter to staff Tuesday, and said it disciplined 40 employees for inappropriate workplace behavior.

The letter was written by Blizzard's Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs (and former U.S. Homeland Security adviser) Frances Townsend, who joined the company in March and sent it to employees via email the afternoon of Oct. 19.

Recently 20 Activision Blizzard employees were fired and 20 more were reprimanded following widespread accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender.


In a copy of the letter viewed by dot.LA, Townsend said Activision did find misconduct had taken place after conducting its own investigation, and claimed it disciplined the offenders accordingly.

Townsend also said the company has seen an increase in harassment and workplace culture-related reports in recent months, both new and from years ago, as people began to talk more openly about the issue. She promised increased investment in training resources and more transparency about the investigation process and its results.

Activision wouldn't disclose which employees were reprimanded or let go but Townsend said in the letter that Activision Blizzard management is encouraged to "not hesitate to terminate or discipline those who violate our policies and fail to contribute to a positive culture that treats all members of our team with respect."

In July, Activision employees walked out to protest the game publisher's misogynistic and allegedly harmful company culture.

The walkout happened a week after the state of California filed a lawsuit against Activision for discriminating against female employees and having a "frat bro" culture where sexual misconduct and outright harassment were accepted. The lawsuit noted that women accounted for only 20% of the game publisher's staff.

Last month the Securities and Exchange Commission launched its own investigation into Activision. The Wall Street Journal reported the investigation is looking into how the company handled allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Take a look at the letter in its entirety below.

Today, Activision Blizzard's Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs Fran Townsend shared the following email update with our employees:

Everyone,

As one of the world's largest and most influential companies, our future depends on fostering a company culture where all feel safe and heard. That comes with the responsibility of earning our employees' confidence that, when they speak up, we'll do the right thing. We must earn our team's confidence that, when they speak up, they will be heard. I have been quietly listening over the last few months to your comments, concerns, and observations. I am grateful to everyone who shared their points of view – especially those who challenged us to do better. It's important to me that you know how seriously I take this, and how committed I am to the next steps we will take together. We are working tirelessly to ensure that, moving forward, this is a place where people are not only heard, but empowered.

We have a committed team dedicated to this work. However, in listening to feedback over the past several months it is clear to me that we need to do more, and with a renewed urgency. We have expanded our compliance team and have even greater initiatives already underway to enable meaningful improvements to our company's culture.

Working with Jen Brewer and the team, we have thoroughly evaluated our broader compliance, employee relations, and investigative procedures, including how we handle claims and communicate with the members of our team who are involved. And today, I would like to highlight our progress on all these goals, along with some changes to build a more accountable workplace and culture.

Among the input we have received, there have been several clear and actionable recommendations, from many of you and from our Ethics & Compliance team. Among them, three key themes emerged:

First, do not hesitate to terminate or discipline those who violate our policies and fail to contribute to a positive culture that treats all members of our team with respect.

Second, be transparent, not only about our investigations processes, but also about the actions we take.

Third, invest resources and people into ethics, culture, and training.

First, I wanted to give you a sense of the work we've been doing to investigate all claims and concerns raised by members of our team:

- Ongoing Investigations: Nothing is more important to me - and the entirety of Activision Blizzard leadership - than making sure everyone feels safe and equal in this workplace. There is no place for harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in this company.

In recent months, we have received an increase in reports through various reporting channels. People are bringing to light concerns, ranging from years ago to the present. We welcome these reports, and our team has been working to investigate them, using a combination of internal and external resources. Based on the information received in the initial report, they are assigned into different categories, and resources are allocated to prioritize the most serious reports first. In connection with various resolved reports, more than 20 individuals have exited Activision Blizzard and more than 20 individuals faced other types of disciplinary action.

We continue to look into any issues or reports raised through the many channels that are available. But it bears repeating: Reports can be submitted anonymously, and there is zero tolerance for retaliation of any kind.

Second, we have begun work to improve how we address complaints, including the restructuring of two teams, Ethics & Compliance and Employee Relations, to more efficiently and effectively handle the investigation of complaints.

- Ethics & Compliance Team Leadership: I am very happy to announce the promotion of Jen Brewer to Senior Vice President, Ethics and Compliance. Jen has already been skillfully guiding the compliance function for many years. More importantly, she has been instrumental in helping me to reimagine how our investigative, training, and employee relations functions can work better together, along with the resources those teams will need to make our company better.

- Way To Play Heroes: These are the Ethics & Compliance program's unsung heroes. They volunteer their time to build bridges – by helping fellow members of our team navigate their reporting options, championing speaking up, and advising us on how we can strengthen the Ethics & Compliance program. The Heroes are crucial to our success. We are expanding the program by adding more Heroes and investing resources to better support the work they do. I am pleased to announce that effective immediately, Heroes will receive one additional vacation day a quarter to recognize their contributions to this very important work.

- Investigation Team Resources: Ensuring we have the capability to properly look into reports is critical. In the past couple months, we have already added three full-time positions to address the workload. Moving forward, we plan to scale this significantly, adding 19 full-time roles to our overall Ethics & Compliance Team, which include team members dedicated to investigations, including the ability to take live calls, as well as data analytics and communications, to help us understand how we're doing and help us better convey results of our work. Two of those roles will be specifically dedicated to overseeing investigations related to the EMEA and APAC regions.

- Investigation Team Structure: We are combining our investigations groups into one centralized unit within a central ABK Ethics & Compliance Department, which will be separate from business units and other groups like Human Resources or Employee Relations. This will allow investigators to be more efficient and coordinated, aligned on approach, and enable consistent decision making. It also allows us to scale resources more appropriately versus considering how to allocate team members across disparate units.

- Employee Relations Team: Alongside improving how we investigate concerns or claims, we need to consider how best to communicate with members of our team affected by these issues. Working with Chief People Officer Julie Hodges, this will be a key focus for the Employee Relations team. This will allow us to better bridge our improved investigative process to a recommended action, whether it's discipline, additional training, or other next steps. Our goal is to broaden our team of individuals with considerable human resources experience, ensuring we handle complaints and concerns with the care and attention they deserve.

- Transparency: We are working on additional materials that document our investigative procedures and outline what members of our team who report misconduct can expect during the investigative process. We are also working to ensure communications are transparent and time sensitive for any members of our team involved in investigations. Even more, we want to provide data reporting so we remain accountable, even if we can't always share what is happening behind the scenes. We know there's a desire to know about the outcome when misconduct is reported. Sometimes, there are privacy reasons we can't share. But where we can, we will be sharing more information with you. We will also be providing you regular aggregate data about investigative outcomes.

- Improving Training: We are preparing to triple our investment in training resources. Our intent is to deliver meaningful, real-life, scenario-based live and online training required for all members of our team, including executives - covering bystander training, speaking up, and training managers to recognize concerns and understand their obligations to escalate situations urgently and appropriately.

We are committed to making meaningful and positive change, and this is just the start. We will be sharing additional updates in the coming weeks and months. We know there is always more work to do. We are committed to continuing that work. Please continue to share your ideas and suggestions, in whatever ways you want to send them. We will work hard every day to earn your trust and confidence. Together, let's ensure that we always have a safe, inclusive, and ethical workplace that makes us all proud.

Best,

Fran

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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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