Watch: 2020 Year in Review with Baron Davis, Mark Suster and Emily Slade

Sarah Favot

Favot is an award-winning journalist and adjunct instructor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She previously was an investigative and data reporter at national education news site The 74 and local news site LA School Report. She's also worked at the Los Angeles Daily News. She was a Livingston Award finalist in 2011 and holds a Master's degree in journalism from Boston University and BA from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

Watch: 2020 Year in Review with Baron Davis, Mark Suster and Emily Slade

The pandemic and social unrest of 2020 accelerated change at a rapid pace for individuals, corporations and communities, L.A. business and tech leaders said during a virtual panel discussion. They predicted 2021 will be an opportunity for tech growth.

Upfront Managing Partner Mark Suster, Valence co-founder and COO Emily Slade and entrepreneur, athlete and investor Baron Davis spoke to dot.LA during its final Strategy Session event of the year. The challenges of 2020 were a common theme.

Suster said he sees the economic recovery as being K-shaped rather than U or V-shaped where half of the economy is doing better than it ever has, while the other half is doing worse.

"It's really, sadly, exacerbated inequalities in our system because the people that are doing better are knowledge workers and remote workers, and the people doing worse are the people who have to have their earnings from being in person," he said. "So, one thing I didn't anticipate was what we've basically done is accelerate societal change that would have taken five or eight or 10 years into one year."

Working from home is a change that the pandemic brought that Suster doesn't see going away. He expects people will work from home two or three days a week. He also said he is "bullish" about VR as the pandemic is pointing towards remote collaborative working.

One of the takeaways of Airbnb's and DoorDash's successful IPOs last week was how important and pervasive tech companies have become in today's market, Suster said.

"It sets up the opportunity of what we expect in the next 10 years," he said. "The second thing it speaks to is the sheer demand there is for public stocks because there's been a six, seven, eight-year period of time where these great companies raised billions of dollars in the private markets and weren't public. And now a lot of them are shifting to becoming public companies."

Valence, which connects Black professionals with capital, mentorship and professional development, saw its community membership double this year amid the social unrest following the death of George Floyd. Companies had been thinking about diversity and inclusion before this summer, but the protests brought "a sense of urgency and the awareness and understanding across the board," Slade said.

She said they saw strides this year towards diversity and inclusion in the L.A. tech and startup community, although the steps companies took in response to the movement varied.

She outlined three things that companies can do in 2021 to achieve diversity and inclusion goals: have diverse people on recruiting teams; spend money, time and attention on retention of new employees and promote Black and diverse leadership within the company.

"Being a part of a moment like this is actually really inspiring — to be able to say that we were in a time where so much change is taking place and that we didn't just stand by, that we participated," she said.

Davis, a former L.A. Clipper, said when he was involved in the early L.A. tech scene, he advocated for a name other than "Silicon Beach" to differentiate the community from Silicon Valley.

A native Angeleno, he'd like to see what he called "L.A. Unified," not the school district, but a community of innovation and inclusivity.

"For me it's really about unifying the city so we understand how to pay it forward, how to pay it back and how to build a modern city and a smart city where everybody can participate and everybody can share," Davis said.

He wants to create a structure for opportunities for young entrepreneurs, especially women, people of color and those in the LGBTQ community. And he's hopeful that the pandemic can create a unique moment for innovation.

"Right now, L.A. is, I keep saying, it's in its infancy, especially due to COVID," he said. "Obviously our school systems were failing, our educational systems need to be rewritten, so COVID has given us all these opportunities for these young minds to come and create and build. So, I think the opportunity for all of us is to seek, find, deliver and give access and use some of the things that we have, as the privilege, to share and build opportunities for the unprivileged."

Baron Davis

Baron Davis, Entrepreneur, Athlete & Investor

Baron Davis, Entrepreneur, Athlete & Investor

Baron Davis is a two-time NBA All Star, serial-entrepreneur, investor and creator of thought-provoking content and platforms. During his years in the NBA, Davis was constantly listening, learning, networking, and connecting both on the court and off which ignited a successful post-NBA business career.

Davis is the founder of several companies, including Sports and Lifestyle in Culture (SLiC), Business Inside the Game (B.I.G.), The Black Santa Company and No Label; each with the objective of combining creative talent with original publication and production to develop and provide educational and empowering stories that appeal to global audiences of all ages. Davis was one of the original investors in Vitaminwater and helped launch Thrive Market.

Davis also served as producer of several acclaimed documentaries including "Crips and Bloods: Made In America," "30 for 30: Sole Man," and "The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce."Davis currently resides in his hometown of Los Angeles where he plays his most important role, Dad to his two kids.

Mark Suster

Mark Suster, Managing Partner at Upfront

Mark Suster, Managing Partner at Upfront 

Mark Suster has been a managing partner at Upfront since 2007, where has led notable investments in companies including Bird, Invoca, Density, Nanit and Maker Studios (acquired by Disney). He previously was the founder & CEO of two successful enterprise software companies, the most recent of which was sold to, where Mark became VP of products. Prior to being a founder, Mark was a software developer at Accenture while living and worked in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Mark is a graduate of UCSD and has an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Emily Slade, Co-Founder & COO of Valence

Emily Slade, Co-Founder & COO of Valence

Emily is the co-founder & COO of Valence, a new tech platform and community incubated by Upfront Ventures focused on connecting Black professionals with mentorship, job opportunities and capital.

Previously, she was the global head of growth/partnerships at Working Not Working, the platform connecting the world's top creative talent with companies looking to hire them, She built the "Work in Progress" initiative there. That effort launched with the acclaimed food-recovery program "FoodFight" that supports tens of thousands of homeless people. They launched FoodFight with a focus on turning foodie-hotspot Abbot Kinney Blvd in Los Angeles into the first zero-food-waste street in America during their beta, and now FoodFight is a feature within the Postmates app in 19 cities with 3000+ participating restaurants donating food to homeless shelters.

Throughout her career, she's focused on helping tech companies and startups scale strategically and authentically, contributing to the $1B IPO & sale of Active Network during her seven-year tenure there. Her side hustle is behind the lens as a co-founder of a travel production company, Pindrop Films, which takes her on photo adventures around the world. She's also worked as a film consultant supporting the development of features including "Man's Search For Meaning" based on the iconic memoir by Viktor Frankl and she is the L.A. chair of The Schusterman Family Foundation.

Kelly O'Grady, Chief Correspondent & Host and Head of Video

Kelly O'Grady, Chief Correspondent & Host and Head of Video 

Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, she also served on Disney's corporate strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.

Ben Bergman, dot.LA Senior Reporter

Ben Bergman, dot.LA Senior Reporter 

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

Sam Adams, dot.LA Co-founder & CEO

Sam Adams, dot.LA Co-founder & CEO

Sam Adams serves as chief executive of dot.LA. A former financial journalist for Bloomberg and Reuters, Adams moved to the business side of media as a strategy consultant at Activate, helping legacy companies develop new digital strategies. Adams holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from the University of Southern California. A Santa Monica native, he can most often be found at Bay Cities deli with a Godmother sub or at McCabe's with a 12-string guitar. His favorite colors are Dodger blue and Lakers gold.

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Air Taxis Take Center Stage; Scooters, Bikes Get Snubbed at This Year’s Mobility Tech Conference

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
Comotion event
Photo by Maylin Tu

CoMotion L.A., the annual transportation and technology conference focused on urban mobility, is taking place in Little Tokyo this week. This year’s theme, “The Multimodal City,” brings together public and private players from a range of transportation and mobility spaces, including public officials from cities that span from Los Angeles to Paris and a broad swath of tech companies, including Lacuna, Waymo and BP Pulse.

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A Breakdown of the Data Snapchat Collects on Users

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

​Snap logo over a bunch of snap shots
Sebastian Miño-Bucheli

Santa Monica-based app developer Snap calls itself a camera company, but it’s really in the business of social media – and more specifically, advertising.

Snapchat, their primary application, collects a myriad of data on its roughly 363 million daily active users, from basics like device information to detailed location tracking.

As such, like most tech companies’ privacy policies and terms of service, the verbiage is intentionally vague or full of legalese designed to make the user gloss over and click “agree.” But Snapchat does have to provide its users some details of how it collects, stores, and uses the data it gains from interacting with the app.

Bill Budington, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told dot.LA that the common phrase, “necessary to provide service,” is particularly concerning.

“These are very vague ways to basically give a green light to very permissive practices in terms of your data,” Budington explained. He pointed out the ambiguous nature of the word “necessary,” adding, “[tech companies] can deem all sorts of things necessary, [including] using your location at every moment to better tailor their services to your life.”

While Snapchat’s terms of service haven’t changed since last November, the company most recently updated its privacy policy on July 29. Let’s dive into the various types of data Snapchat collects, how it stores it (and for how long), and perhaps most importantly, how Snapchat says it’s used.

Why Snapchat Collects Your Location Data

Snapchat is very invested in collecting users’ precise location data, if users allow it. Its Snap Maps feature launched in 2017 lets users opt-in to showing their Bitmoji avatar on a map corresponding to their location and also allows them to track other friends who have opted in. It’s not dissimilar to Apple’s FindMy app.

In the past, the feature has raised concerns for its ability to make it easier for bullies and stalkers to find targets. Snap Map location, however, isn’t public information. Snapchat says location on Snap Maps will disappear after 24 hours, or when a user deliberately goes into “ghost mode” to hide from friends – but that doesn’t mean the app still isn’t tracking their movements. The company noted that unless you opt-in to live location sharing, the Snap Map won’t update with your location when you’re not actively using it.

A Snap spokesperson told dot.LA that while many of Snapchat’s core features do require location tracking, “location-sharing is off by default for all users” and “Snapchatters have complete control over their location sharing.” Snapchat added that there is no option to share your location with any user you aren’t friends with and that users have to individually select friends to share their location with.

Snapchat clarified that it does use location data to provide its Geofilters – custom photo and video filters often themed around specific places or events – and show people what’s nearby (also useful for ad purposes).

“We don’t share personal data about the users of the Snapchat app with data analytics providers,” Snap said.

Snapchat employees can also allegedly access all this information, and more – in 2019 Motherboard reported on a tool called SnapLion that it claimed was abused by employees to “spy on users.” Snap didn’t provide comment on the feature.

Snap\u2019s AR lenses being using in a public setting.Snap\u2019s AR lenses being using in a public setting. Courtesy of Snap Inc.

How Snapchat Uses Your Content

Snapchat can see the snaps you send, who is receiving them, and how often you’re online, as well as the metadata in each image.

Snapchat’s Streak feature (which tracks how long you and friends have regularly been sending and opening each other’s content) is one reason why the app also collects data on how often you and your friends open messages or capture screenshots.

It also tracks and scans the content users upload to its Memories feature. This is to train its AI to recognize the content of user images. In its privacy policy Snapchat notes that “if there’s a dog in your photo, it may be searchable in Memories by the term ‘dog,’” as part of its goal to make image search more accessible.

Snap’s policy also dictates that any public content a user generates on Snapchat is also fair game for the company to share though it doesn’t say how it will share this content.

What Data Snapchat Collects From Accessing Your Camera

Besides the typical use for taking pictures, Snapchat can also access information from Apple’s TrueDepth camera – the front-facing, high-powered cameras that Apple’s iPhone X uses to record Face ID and Memoji data.

Snapchat says it uses this data “to improve the quality of Lenses”—its filter and augmented reality feature. But it also said it doesn’t collect biometric information, much less store the data on its servers or give it to any third parties.

Still, that’s a practice that’s come under scrutiny recently. In August, Snap was sued, accused of violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act by collecting and storing users’ biometric data without their consent. That $35 million case is expected to head to settlement next week, after a judge couldn’t rule in favor of either party.

How Snapchat Uses All This Data

Now that we know all the information Snapchat collects, what is the company doing with it?

The main use case is advertising. Snapchat has a myriad of advertisers on its platform and they are all eager to turn users into sales by showing them the most relevant ads. Ad pricing starts at a modest $5 per day, so theoretically anyone with a marketing budget and the right connections could use Snap’s tools to market to its growing audience of Gen Z and Millennials.

Snapchat promises advertisers “advanced targeting capabilities,” and the benefit of finding a target audience using its location, demographics, interest and device data.

But who’s getting this information? That’s where things get vague. Snapchat doesn’t have to tell users specifically which companies are getting access to their data. The company notes it may share information with service providers that it contracts for services like ad analytics or payments. The company also says it might share user information with “business partners that provide services and functionality” for Snapchat, but again, doesn’t elaborate any further.

Snapchat also says it will share information about users if it could help “detect and resolve any fraud or security concerns, comply with any investigations, legal processes or regulations and to investigate potential terms of service violations.”

Snapchat doesn’t have to tell users when it turns over this data, though. In fact, most apps don’t.

How Snapchat Stores Your Data

Snap’s Support site notes Snapchat servers are designed to delete all Snaps automatically after they’ve been viewed by every recipient; the app’s trademark fleeting quality. The servers will delete unopened Snaps between two people after 31 days, and unopened Snaps sent to a group chat after 7 days. Snaps sent to your story are wiped from the servers 24 hours after posting.

Snapchat also says that when you delete a Snap in chat, it deletes it from its servers and will “make our best attempt” to wipe it from your friends’ devices.

If you post a Snap to Memories, though, Snapchat’s servers will back them up forever – unless you delete them, in which case they’ll be erased ASAP.

So what’s the safest way to protect your personal information on Snapchat? Well, Budington recommends an easy fix: simply don’t use it. But for people who are determined to keep their account but want to access what Snapchat collects, there are ways to download your Snapchat data.

You can also opt-out of audience and activity-based ads and third-party ad networks. This will mean the ads on your Snapchat will be less relevant, but the trade-off is that the app will use less of your personal data for marketing purposes.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Snap Map's location tracking feature. The feature needs to be enabled first, and Snapchat offers the ability to turn off the feature in Map settings.
CoMotion LA ‘22: The Future of Transportation
Photo courtesy of CoMotion

dot.LA is proud to announce our partnership with CoMotion for their 6th edition of CoMotion LA, one of the most important events on the future of transportation. CoMotion LA ‘22 will be held November 15-17 at the Japanese American National Museum for three days jam-packed with talks, pitches, demos and workshops.

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