🏛️ Brilliant Designs or Billion-Dollar Liabilities? How This LA Ruling May Disrupt Big Tech!

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

Ever suspected your go-to black hole of time, I mean social media app, might have a secret plan to keep you hooked? Well, a judge in Los Angeles seems to think so! 📱👀⚖️

Dark Squad of Designers Productivity Tools 😄 Write me: alexanderbemore@gmail.com, if you need 3D visuals for your products.

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

A Los Angeles judge has rejected the dismissal of significant lawsuits against Meta, TikTok, Snap, and Google. The lawsuits claim that these platforms are deliberately designed to addict and exacerbate mental health disorders in teenagers, potentially leading to multibillion-dollar liabilities. The judge ruled that the companies cannot use Section 230, a legal shield often employed by Big Tech, to evade some claims. The decision is based on the assertion that it is the design features of the platforms, not the specific content, that cause harm to users.

The lawsuits, brought forth by numerous government officials and parents of minors, argue thatsocial media platforms function as defective products, contributing to issues like eating disorders, anxiety, and even suicide among young users. The focus on design elements aims to bypass the legal protection historically granted by Section 230, which shields tech companies from liability as third-party publishers. The judge's decision also allows allegations that Meta may have concealed internal research on the negative impacts of Instagram on minors' mental health to proceed. This includes data suggesting that young users spending extended time on the platform experience heightened anxiety and depression.

So what does this all mean…

In summary, this ruling could mark a significant turning point in how tech companies are held accountable for the potential negative impacts of their platforms. It may lead to increased scrutiny, regulatory changes, and shifts in industry practices to prioritize user well-being.🛀🤳🏛️

🎉 Don’t forget about our referral contest this month! 🎉

Competition Status: Number of referrals to beat is 3 with just over a week remaining!

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Gif by trt_network on Giphy

The contest is simple: whoever refers the most friends to dot.LA using our referral program by October 31st will get a coffee and conversation with Zillow, Pacaso, and dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff, where you can pitch him, get business advice, or just shoot the breeze. This is a great opportunity for any current or future entrepreneur, so good luck referring! ☕️☕️☕️

P.S. If you’re not based in LA, you can hop on a Zoom instead 💻

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • Arctop, a developer of cognition software, raised a $10M Series A co-led by Fifth Growth Fund and Supermoon Capital. - learn more
  • Jam & Tea Studios, a startup building a remote-first multi-player game studio, raised a $3.2M Seed Round led by London Venture Partners, with participation from Sisu Game Ventures and 1Up Ventures. - learn more
  • Salted, a developer of quick-serve restaurant brands, raised a $14M Series B led by Creadev and participation from Proof Ventures and B. Riley Financial. - learn more
  • K2 Space, a spacecraft startup, raised a $7M Funding Round from Alpine Space Ventures. - learn more

LA Funds

LA Exits

  • Moment, a livestream platform for events and ticketed experiences, was acquired by Patreon, which connects creators with paying fans. -learn more

Stifel Venture Banking | Where Innovation Grows

Stifel’s Venture Bankers are here to support the innovation economy. From founder dinners to industry-focused events, our LA-based team enjoys bringing people together to build lasting relationships and further strengthen the community. We focus on both VC firms and VC-backed companies from inception to exit across all sectors, including Consumer, Fintech, Enterprise Software, Frontier Tech, Health Tech, and Climate Tech. We aim to provide high-touch, white-glove service to our clients while offering attractive interest rates on deposits. Debt financing is also a critical component, and we are active lenders in the space for both venture debt, lines of credit, and capital call lines.

Al Guerrero, Managing Director, leads Stifel Venture Banking in Los Angeles. Greg Singer and Sam Wogan work with Al as Relationship Managers. Hunter Briggs handles Treasury Management for clients, and Charlie Smith serves as a Fund Banker for venture and private equity firms.

Stifel Venture Banking launched in 2018 and expanded in Los Angeles in March of this year. We are part of Stifel, a global wealth management and investment banking company founded in 1890. Entrepreneurial culture is at the core of our Firm – with over 30 accretive acquisitions in the past 20 years. The strength and diversity of Stifel’s business gives our venture banking clients’ professional guidance on managing their personal finances and planning for the future. As a founders’ business grows, our Investment Banking team can provide guidance on navigating public markets, accessing debt and equity capital markets, and more.

Learn more about Stifel Venture Banking here 😎

Featured Event (11/9)

RECURRING REVENUE CONFERENCE on November 9th in Culver City

Southern California's premier SaaS and Subscription conference, this one-day event draws 600+ top founders, executives, investors, and Cloud experts. Experience a dynamic program with 20+ sessions, including leading industry speakers, fireside chats, breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions. This year's insights span AI, metrics that matter, scaling strategies, making a pivot, the changing role of the CFO, what investors are looking for, and more. Keynotes include ChowNow and HackerOne CEOs. Attendees will enjoy plenty of networking time during breakfast, lunch, coffee cart breaks, and cocktails on the patio. Join us on November 9th at the Culver City Hilton to learn from industry leaders.

Learn more and register using DOTLA229 for a discounted ticket rate of $229 (regularly $399): bit.ly/3EitWB5

Early-stage founders get a discounted ticket rate ($59). Apply here today!

Want your event featured? Shoot us an email!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Tuesday, October 24th

Wednesday, October 25th

Thursday, October 26th

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

  • Learn about NBC’s new streaming service that bets on high school and amateur sports. - read more
  • Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in $69-billion gaming deal. - read more
  • MetAlert gets first order for its gun tracker device. - read more
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) is celebrating a milestone of its flagship startup program AWS Activate , the 10th anniversary of the program’s launch. - read more
  • Netflix raises prices and adds nearly 9 million subscribers in Q3 with ad-supported plans up nearly 70% from Q2. - read more

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

🏰 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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