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.

Today:

  • 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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    From Pitch Meetings to Power Lunches: LA’s Exclusive Membership Clubs 🗝️

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    Summer's here, so it's time to zhuzh up your work environment. Discovering the best membership and social clubs in Los Angeles for meetings can boost networking and collaboration, offering exclusive venues and premium amenities tailored for professionals and creatives to thrive amidst the city's vibrant backdrop. These clubs provide a sophisticated setting for productive gatherings and meaningful connections in LA. Here are some top private member clubs perfect for meetings and productive work sessions.

    The Jonathan Club

    Club Details: The Jonathan Club, one of Los Angeles' original membership clubs, has been a cornerstone of the city's elite social scene since its founding in the mid-1890s. Its legacy is intertwined with the growth and development of LA itself, most notably through a pivotal meeting held at the club that sparked the idea for a southern campus of the University of California—what would eventually become UCLA. Today, the Jonathan Club continues to offer its members an unparalleled experience of exclusivity and refinement. With locations in both DLTA and Santa Monica, members enjoy access to premium amenities and spaces and a calendar with hundreds of social events and workshops throughout the year, providing ample opportunities for networking, personal growth, and leisure activities.

    Membership Details: Initiation fee is around $50,000, and admission typically requires that you be invited or know someone who is already a member.

    Spring Place

    Image Source: Spring Place

    Neighborhood: Beverly Hills

    Club Details: A mix between co-working space and social club, this Beverly Hills hotspot is a more exclusive version of similar clubs. Spring Place Beverly Hills spans three floors and offers a stunning art collection. The interior is filled with tons of natural light and has an intentional design that fuels members to harness some of their best work. Members also have access to luxurious dining and nightlife pop-ups that happen at Spring Place.

    Membership Details: There is a non-refundable initiation fee of $500 and then local membership for people under 30 starts at $300 per month, while monthly membership for locals over 30 is $600.

    Griffin Club

    Image Source: Griffin Club

    Neighborhood: Cheviot Hills

    Club Details: Located in Cheviot Hills, Griffin Club LA is a sporty club with ample shared workspace. Following a $20M renovation in 2020, the club now boasts seven LED-lit tennis courts, four LED-lit pickleball courts, two recreational lap pools, a 25-meter family pool for kids, an adults-only resort pool, and childcare services. It's the ideal destination for a clientele looking to mix work with competitive sport.

    Membership Details: Membership is by invitation only and is subject to approval. Membership prices at the club vary. A family membership entails a $12,000 initial fee plus a $450 monthly fee, while a junior membership only entails a $2,000 initiation fee and a $205 monthly fee.

    Soho House West Hollywood

    Image Source: Soho House West Hollywood

    Neighborhood: West Hollywood

    Club Details: Soho House West Hollywood provides a stylish and exclusive work and meeting destination, featuring chic meeting rooms and workspaces with panoramic views of Los Angeles. Combining luxury amenities with a creative atmosphere, it offers an ideal setting for networking, collaboration, productive sessions, and an amazing Sunday brunch!

    Membership Details: Two current member referrals are needed, plus an online application, and a recent photo to confirm your identity. Quarterly memberships start at $675.25, but if you’re under 27, you can pay $337.75 quarterly. However, if you want access to every house, membership costs $5,250.00 annually, or $2,650.00 if you’re under 27.

    Little Beach House Malibu

    Image Source: Little Beach House Malibu

    Neighborhood: Malibu

    Club Details: The Little Beach House Malibu is a small, local club for the creative community of Malibu and the surrounding coastal areas. The club is known for its magnificent dining room, bar, sitting room and terrace. It is the perfect place for a truly memorable work meal.

    Membership Details: Malibu Beach House is not included in the Soho House membership. If you are an existing member, you can apply for “Malibu Plus” for an additional $2,190 a year, or $1,095 if you’re under 27.

    San Vicente Bungalows

    Image Source: San Vicente Bungalows

    Neighborhood: West Hollywood

    Club Details: San Vicente Bungalows is an exclusive, members-only social club located in West Hollywood, California, offering a luxurious and private environment for its high-profile clientele. The club is renowned for its strict privacy policies, elegant decor, and high-end amenities, catering to celebrities (and royals) and industry elites seeking a discreet space to unwind and socialize.

    Membership Details: You must be nominated by a current club member to apply. Applications are evaluated monthly and annual dues start at $4,200 plus a $1,800 initiation fee.

    The Aster

    Image Source: The Aster

    Neighborhood: Hollywood

    Club Details: The Aster, located at the iconic intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, redefines the modern members' club with its emphasis on warmth and hospitality, blending public hotel amenities with private club exclusivity. Featuring bright, airy spaces and top-notch facilities such as an outdoor pool, recording studio, and rooftop bar, it offers a fluid environment for work, relaxation, and socializing.

    Membership Details: Memberships start at $3,600 per year and be acquired by filling out an application. In addition to uploading a photo, hopeful members also have to write a small bio while highlighting their interests, skills, profession, and hobbies.

    NeueHouse

    Image Source: NeueHouse

    Neighborhood: Venice/Hollywood/DTLA

    Club Details: NeueHouse in LA is a chic private workspace and cultural hub designed for creative professionals, offering sophisticated workspaces, a dynamic calendar of cultural programming, and luxurious amenities. Situated in three bustling neighborhoods across LA, it provides a collaborative environment where members can work, network, and unwind in style.

    Membership Details: You have to apply for the Salon membership, which includes questions like “dream dinner guests (dead or alive?)." Annual dues for Salon memberships are $3,000 plus a $200 joining fee. You can also inquire about the Gallery membership for flexible workspaces and offices for individuals or teams, starting at $595 per month, with various options depending on your needs.

    🧬🔬AI-Driven Drug Discovery

    🔦 Spotlight

    Terray Therapeutics is at the forefront of AI-assisted drug discovery and development, operating a cutting-edge laboratory in Monrovia, California. The facility, roughly two-thirds the size of a football field, functions as a data powerhouse, generating over 50 terabytes of raw data daily, which is an amount of information equivalent to 12,000 high definition movies, through its miniaturized automation processes.

    Terray Therapeutics exemplifies a new wave of innovative companies harnessing artificial intelligence to revolutionize drug discovery and development. The key to their approach lies in generating vast amounts of high-quality experimental data to train their AI systems. This data-driven strategy enables rapid experimentation and pattern recognition, allowing the AI to make informed predictions about potential treatments. Terray's generative AI can digitally design drug molecules, which are then synthesized and tested in their high-speed automated laboratory. The platform measures the interaction between these molecules and target proteins, with both successful and unsuccessful results feeding back into the AI system.

    This iterative process creates a powerful feedback loop, continuously refining the AI's predictive capabilities and accelerating the drug discovery process. Terray's tNova platform integrates chemical experimentation and computation at an unprecedented scale, producing massive amounts of precise, purpose-built data that becomes increasingly valuable with each cycle of design and experimentation. This unique blend of experimentation and computation allows Terray to efficiently explore a vast molecular space, potentially solving complex problems in drug discovery faster and more effectively than traditional methods.

    🤝 Venture Deals

    LA Companies

    • Fuze Technology, a provider of rentable portable phone chargers, has raised a $11.5M Series A led by Beverly Pacific and joined by Palm Tree Crew, Bain Capital Ventures Scout Fund, Dream Ventures, Live Nation, ASM Global, SCIENCE Ventures, Haslem Sports Group, and Simon Ventures. - learn more
    • Stanly, a platform that offers fan-to-fan and artist-to-fan communication and commerce, raised an $8M Funding Round led by C Capital and joined by AppWorks, Goodwater, and Palm Drive Capital. - learn more
    • GrayMatter, an industrial robotics company, raised a $45M Series B led by Wellington Management and joined by NGP Capital, Euclidean Capital, Advance Venture Partners, SQN Venture Partners, 3M Ventures, B Capital, Bow Capital, Calibrate Ventures, OCA Ventures, and Swift Ventures. - learn more

    LA Venture Funds

    LA Exits

    • Webtoon Entertainment, an online cartoon company based in LA carved out of South Korea's Naver, set IPO terms to 15m shares at $18-$21. It would have a $2.6b fully diluted market value, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the Nasdaq (WBTN). - learn more
    • EV maker Fisker has finally filed for bankruptcy. - learn more
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    Sony Pictures Experiences Division Formed After Alamo Drafthouse Acquisition

    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.

    Sony Pictures Experiences Division Formed After Alamo Drafthouse Acquisition

    🔦 Spotlight

    Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in a groundbreaking deal that marks the first time in over 75 years a major Hollywood studio will own a movie theater chain. This acquisition signals a potential shift towards vertical integration in the film industry, with Sony gaining more control over the distribution and exhibition of its films.

    The deal allows Sony to expand its presence in experiential entertainment, aligning with its vision of engaging audiences outside the home through unique offerings. Alamo Drafthouse's innovative dine-in movie experience, devoted fanbase, and curated programming like Fantastic Fest make it an appealing acquisition target. Sony stressed that Alamo will continue operating its 35 locations under CEO Michael Kustermann, who will head the new Sony Pictures Experiences division.

    While the move provides financial backing for Alamo after its bankruptcy struggles, questions remain about whether the chain can maintain its independent spirit and personality under Sony's ownership. Alamo is renowned for creative programming like themed events, interactive screenings, and a strict no-talking policy that has cultivated a passionate community of moviegoers. Balancing this distinct identity with Sony's corporate interests will be a key challenge moving forward.

    From a technological standpoint, this move opens up possibilities for Sony to enhance the moviegoing experience at Alamo Drafthouse locations through integration of advanced audiovisual systems, immersive technologies, and projection/sound solutions. In addition, Sony could create a more seamless and connected experience for moviegoers, such as through integrated ticketing platforms, mobile apps, and personalization driven by data analytics. While specific technological plans are not detailed, the combination of Sony's resources and Alamo Drafthouse's innovative approach could foster synergies and drive the development of new technologies to differentiate the theatrical experience further.

    🤝 Venture Deals

    LA Companies

    • Apex, a satellite bus maker, raised a $95M funding round co-led by XYZ VC and CRV joined by Upfront Ventures, 8VC, Toyota Ventures, Point72 Ventures and others. - learn more
    • Regard, a developer of AI tools to help medical providers synthesize patient data, raised a $30M Series B led by Oak HC/FT at a $350M valuation. - learn more
    • Daisy, a small business tech installation startup, raised an $11M Series A co-led by Goldcrest and Bungalow. - learn more
    • Pyte, a startup that allows companies in highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare to perform computations on encrypted data without ever decrypting it, raised a $5M Funding Round led by Myriad Venture Partners. - learn more

    LA Venture Funds

    LA Exits

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