LA Tech Updates: Spotify Misses Revenue Mark, Snap Releases Diversity Report, TikTok Jabs Facebook

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

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Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Spotify has more listeners, but ad revenue drops
  • 'We Must Do More': Snap Releases Dismal Diversity Report
  • TikTok CEO Promises More Transparency, Jabs Facebook for 'Copycat Product'

    TikTok CEO Promises More Transparency, Jabs Facebook for 'Copycat Product'

    LA Tech Updates: TikTok Says it Will Pay Creators — and Universal Music Group

    TikTok is promising more transparency.

    The Culver City-based social media platform will release its algorithms and content moderation policies, CEO Kevin Mayer wrote in an open letter Wednesday. Owned by China's ByteDance, the company has been facing pressure as speculation grows that its content is being shared with Beijing.

    "We accept this and embrace the challenge of giving peace of mind through greater transparency and accountability," Mayer wrote. "We believe it is essential to show users, advertisers, creators, and regulators that we are responsible and committed members of the American community that follows US laws."

    Earlier this month, the Trump administration said it was "looking at" banning the app over those concerns. Then last week, the House prohibited U.S. federal employees from downloading the app on government-issued devices.

    It's also notable that his letter was published the same day Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg as well as the CEOs of Twitter, Google and Apple testified before Congress on antitrust law. In the letter, Mayer takes a swipe at Zuckerberg for this upcoming Reels product.

    What you need to know:

    • Calling it the Transparency and Accountability Center, TikTok will let experts view the company's data practices and algorithms.
    • Investors of parent company ByteDance are now valuing the app at $50 billion — surpassing the projected 2020 revenue by 50 times. Some are pushing for ownership over the platform.
    • Mayer took jabs at the other tech giants in the letter:
      • "This puts us a step ahead of the industry, and we encourage others to follow suit."
      • "At TikTok we welcome competition. We think fair competition makes all of us better. To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on."
      • Then he hit Facebook's forthcoming Reels feature, calling it a "copycat product."

    'We Must Do More': Snap Releases Dismal Diversity Report

    Snap's Accelerator Program Expands with 'Yellow Collabs'

    While much of the tech world was fixated on a blockbuster congressional hearing of four executives from top tech companies, Snap Inc. quietly released its first report on diversity since the company was founded in 2011 and the numbers were dismal.

    Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, which has faced allegations of a racist and sexist workplace, as recently as last month told employees he wouldn't release the numbers publicly. The company has good reason to try to bury the news.

    Blacks only represent 4.1% of Snap's U.S. workforce while Hispanic/Latinx makeup 6.8%, far below their numbers in the general population. At the top, 2.6% of leadership roles are held by Blacks while seven percent are held by Hispanic/Latinx. Women make up 32.9% of Snap's global workforce but only 16.1% of tech teams and just 6.7% of tech teams' leadership.

    "To date, our DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) outcomes simply have not been good enough," the company said in the report. "We must do more." Snap has set a goal of doubling the number of women in tech roles by 2023 and doubling the number of underrepresented minorities at the company by 2025.

    While its diversity numbers are low, Snap is not much worse than other tech giants, though most of those companies have released their numbers for years.

    Last month, Snap was forced to remove a Juneteenth filter that prompted users to smile in order to break a series of chains, and that was not the first time the company was criticized for an offensive filter.

    "We deeply apologize for the offensive Juneteenth Lens," the company said in a tweet.

    Snap outlined a number of steps to improve its numbers, including changes to recruiting, setting representation goals for underrepresented groups, and instituting a $70,000 minimum living wage for employees working at its Santa Monica headquarters.

    Spotify Has More Listeners, but Ad Revenue Drops

    Spotify Earnings: The Music Streaming War Is Heating Upfarm5.staticflickr.com

    Spotify's second quarter earnings, released today, show listening and podcast streaming up even as revenue missed the mark with the pandemic hurting ad sales.

    The Swedish music streaming service acknowledged slower business in April and May across emerging regions. Still, Spotify said its strength in North America offsets the setback, noting that it turned a corner in June.

    "We believe the improved momentum we saw in the back half of the quarter has continued into Q3 and we expect to hit our full year targets," the company told shareholders.

    What you need to know:

    • Ad revenue, which makes up less than 10% of total revenue, is down 21% from last year, a nod to dropping sales brought on by the pandemic.
    • The average revenue per Spotify Premium user (ARPU) is also down 9% as a fewer percentage of users pay the standard $9.99/month rate. More are opting in for family and student plans. Users in some countries also pay a lower price for subscriptions.
    • 13 million new monthly active members brings Spotify's total to an all-time high of 299 million. Plus, 8 million new subscribers brings the total of ad-free premium customers to 138 million.
    • Overall listening times have returned to pre-pandemic levels in all regions except Latin America.
    • More users are listening on at-home smart speakers and smart TVs.
    • In an effort to diversify Spotify content and move away from music, podcast options are expanding — including exclusive deals with big names like Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian, DC Franchise, the Obamas and TikTok star Addison Rae.
    • Since the start of 2019, overall podcast listening has doubled since. One fifth of monthly active members are tuning in.

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    Cadence

    Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

    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.

    Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

    When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

    The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

    Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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    Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

    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.

    Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

    LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

    The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

    From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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    Rivian Q2 Earnings Are a Much-Needed Nothing Burger

    David Shultz

    David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

    Rivian R1S at a charging station in the desert.
    Rivian's Q2 numbers are delightfully boring.

    Rivian, the fledgling electric vehicle startup in Irvine, CA, released its Q2 earnings yesterday. I’m happy to report they’re pretty boring! There were no big surprises from RJ Scaringe’s EV hopeful, but here are the report highlights:

    • ~$15 billion of cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash as of June 30 2022.
    • 98,000 net R1 preorders
    • Amazon has ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans
    • Rivian has produced 8k vehicles so far
    • The company is still on pace to deliver 25,000 vehicles in 2022
    • -Actual revenue was $364 million.
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