SoCal Cleantech Still Buzzing Despite Gloomy VC Environment

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.

SoCal Cleantech Still Buzzing Despite Gloomy VC Environment
Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash

It’s been just over a month since the Silicon Valley Bank collapse rocked the tech landscape, but even before the bank’s failure, the economic outlook for startups across the nation had been remarkably grim. A combination of interest rate hikes from the Fed, record-setting inflation, and the lingering effects of COVID have made venture capital money hard to come by and kept the IPO window firmly closed for essentially all of 2022.

In the stingy environment, founders have shifted priorities away from growth-at-all-costs and focused instead on building sustainable businesses that generate revenue. Layoffs have impacted virtually every tech company under the sun from Salesforce to Nefflix to Meta, and many analysts anticipate the dour climate to continue well into 2023, if not longer. “Anticipate that for the next six months things are going to be kind of status quo,” says Harpreet Walia, partner Michelman & Robinson and the firm’s Emerging Companies & Venture Capital Chair. “You're not going to have any movement, so you need to at least get through that period of time.”

There have, however, been several bright spots in the tech landscape. Most notably artificial intelligence is having a real moment thanks to the incredible success of OpenAI and their ChatGPT service, which is quickly becoming the hub in the middle of a full ecosystem of shockingly powerful new tools.

But flying a bit below the radar perhaps, cleantech is also looking relatively healthy compared to the sector at large. Matt Petersen, the President and CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). “We have many of our startups with active rounds right now that seem to be going quite well,” says Petersen. “Some of our founders recently closed oversubscribed rounds and added additional capital in the round. I still think there's a strong demand now. You've seen a little bit of slowdown, but it's still pretty robust.”

Part of the reason, Petersen thinks, that cleantech hasn’t been hit as hard as other areas is due to the influx of state and federal funding aimed at decarbonizing the economy. The Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have earmarked hundreds of billions of dollars for businesses focused on electrifying the economy and transitioning the country away from fossil fuels. Petersen says LACI is seeing robust activity for startups focused on electric vehicle charging, clean energy, building decarbonisation, micro grids, and even circular economy projects. “There’s an enormous amount of capital looking still to go into these companies, given the federal incentives,” he says.

Harpreet says that the current leaner times may also create companies that are ultimately more resilient and smarter. When the purse strings do start to loosen, he thinks there may be some excellent deals to be had, but he expects venture money to start flowing into earlier stage companies first. “I think you are definitely going to see [VCs] going back to what they do best and trying to focus on early stage and growth companies where they can be more effective,” he says. There are opportunities to be had, both for founders and investors, but the road to success may be a bit slower and the valuations may be a bit more realistic than the giddy highs we saw in 2020 and 2021.

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LA Tech Week: How Local Climate Investors Assess and Vet Green Startups

Samson Amore

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

LA Tech Week: How Local Climate Investors Assess and Vet Green Startups
Samson Amore

In a region known for being a national trailblazer when it comes to climate policies, there’s no shortage of green energy startups in L.A. looking for funding. There’s also a plethora of investors and incubators, which means founders looking for cash flow should be extra specific about their value proposition when they pitch to cut through the noise. At least that was the message coming from the panelists at the UCLA Anderson School of Management on Tuesday.

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Here's What People Are Saying About Day Two of LA Tech Week
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about day two of L.A. Tech Week on social:

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LA Tech Week: Technology and Storytelling for Social Good

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech Week: Technology and Storytelling for Social Good
Photo taken by Decerry Donato

On Monday, Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization Goldhirsh Foundation hosted the Technology and Storytelling For Social Good panel at Creative Visions studio to kick off LA Tech week.

Tara Roth, president of the foundation, moderated the panel and gathered nonprofit and tech leaders including Paul Lanctot, web developer of The Debt Collective; Alexis Cabrera, executive director of 9 Dots; Sabra Williams, co-founder of Creative Acts; and Laura Gonzalez, senior program manager of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).

Each of the panelists are grantees of Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050, an initiative launched in 2011 that is continuously trying to drive and track progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles. Goldhirsh’s vision is to make Los Angeles better for all and in order to achieve their goal, the foundation makes investments into organizations, creates partnerships and utilizes social capital through community events.

The panelists shared how the work they are doing in each of their respective sectors uses technology to solve some of society's most pressing challenges and highlight the importance of tech literacy across every community.

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