LA Tech Updates: Snap Releases Voting Apps; Hilton Taps Sweetgreen COO

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

LA Tech Updates: Snap Releases Voting Apps; Hilton Taps Sweetgreen COO

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.


  • Sweetgreen COO Chris Carr Joins Hilton's Board of Directors
  • Snap's New Apps Aim to Get Young Voters Registered and Informed

    Snap's New Apps Aim to Get Young Voters Registered and Informed

    Santa Monica-based Snap announced new features and partnerships Thursday meant to help young people vote. The announcement coincides with the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

    Two new features are Minis, simplified third-party apps that live within Snapchat, which Snap debuted at its annual Partner Summit earlier this year.

    The Voter Registration Mini will enable Snap users to register to vote without having to leave the app. It was developed in partnership with TurboVote, part of New York-based nonprofit Democracy Works.

    In 2018, Snap helped to register over 450,000 users to vote, 57% of whom turned out, a company spokesperson said.

    The Before You Vote Mini, developed in partnership with Chicago-based nonprofit BallotReady, is meant to help Snapchat users understand their options for voting early and by mail. Users will be able to fill out sample ballots with their friends, and look up polling locations, the spokesperson said.

    Snap is also adding searchable resources for users who look up keywords like "voter registration", "vote by mail" and "voter suppression". Information will come from organizations including the NAACP and the ACLU.

    Every Snap user will also have a "voter checklist" feature incorporated into their profile, which will remind them to register to vote, consider their ballot before Election Day and make a voting plan.

    The new features will debut in September.

    Snap's announcement highlighted several obstacles that young people face in the voting process. New research out of Tufts University shows that many young people rely on college campuses to learn about civic engagement.

    "63% of 18-21 year olds who have at least some experience with college said they learned about voter registration at their schools, and 66% said their college professors had encouraged them to vote," the spokesperson said, adding that COVID-19 will disrupt this process.

    The Tufts data also show that only 24% of 18-29 year olds report having voted by mail before. And over a quarter of 18-21 year olds say they don't know where to find information about mail-in-voting.

    "For a generation who grew up on smartphones, and are used to being able to do everything from their fingertips – to date technologies haven't done much to make it easier for them to vote," the spokesperson said.

    Sweetgreen COO  Chris Carr Joins Hilton's Board of Directors

    LA Tech Updates: Snap Releases Voting Apps; Hilton Taps Sweetgreen COO

    Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. announced Wednesday that Chris Carr, who recently joined Sweetgreen as Chief Operating Officer, has been appointed to the hotel chain's board of directors.

    Carr started at Sweetgreen in May after 13 years at Starbucks, where he most recently served as chief procurement officer. There, he was responsible for global strategic sourcing and supplier relationships. Prior to Starbucks, Carr spent 18 years with ExxonMobil in retail operations.

    "We are delighted to welcome Chris to Hilton," said Jon Gray, chairman of Hilton's board of directors in a written statement. "When we began our board search process last year, we were looking to add world class executive leadership in global and consumer-facing organizations. Chris brings these highly relevant skills, as well as unmatched focus on customer experience and procurement. We look forward to his insights as we navigate Hilton's continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."

    Carr joins the Hilton board at what is probably the most challenging time in its storied 101 year history. The company lost $432 million in the second quarter while revenue plummeted 77.3% year-over-year as people stayed at home because of the coronavirus.

    Carr also serves as a director at REI, a trustee of Howard University and a trustee of the University of San Diego.

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    Energy Shares Gears Up To Bring Equity Crowdfunding to Retail Investors

    David Shultz

    David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

    Energy Shares Gears Up To Bring Equity Crowdfunding to Retail Investors
    Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash

    The Inflation Reduction Act contains almost $400 billion in funding for clean energy initiatives. There’s $250 billion for energy projects. $23 billion for transportation and EVs. $46 billion for environment. $21 billion for agriculture, and so on. With so much cash flowing into the sector, the possibilities for investment and growth are gigantic.

    These investment opportunities, however, have typically been inaccessible for everyday retail investors until much later in a company’s development–after an IPO, usually. Meaning that the best returns are likely to be captured by banks and other institutions who have the capital and financing to invest large sums of money earlier in the process.

    That’s where Pasadena-based Energy Shares comes in. The company wants to help democratize access to these investment opportunities and simultaneously give early-stage utility-scale energy projects another revenue stream.

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    How These Ukranian Entrepreneurs Relocated Their Startups to LA and Found Success

    Aisha Counts
    Aisha Counts is a business reporter covering the technology industry. She has written extensively about tech giants, emerging technologies, startups and venture capital. Before becoming a journalist she spent several years as a management consultant at Ernst & Young.
    How These Ukranian Entrepreneurs Relocated Their Startups to LA and Found Success
    Joey Mota

    Fleeing war and chasing new opportunities, more than a dozen Ukrainian entrepreneurs have landed in Los Angeles, finding an unexpected community in the city of dreams. These entrepreneurs have started companies that are collectively worth more than $300 million, in industries ranging from electric vehicle charging stations to audience monetization platforms to social networks.

    Dot.LA spent an evening with this group of Ukrainian citizens, learning what it was like to build startups in Ukraine, to cope with the unimaginable fear of fleeing war, and to garner the resilience to rebuild.

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