Watch: Is South LA the Next Tech Hub?

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Watch: Is South LA the Next Tech Hub?

South L.A. has long produced arts and cultural icons and influencers — from actress and producer Issa Rae to two-time NBA All Star Baron Davis. It's now also home to an emerging network of founders and a recent wave of investment. But is it Los Angeles' next tech hub? Much will depend on access to capital, infrastructure and a shift in how it's perceived. That's the takeaway from Wednesday's dot.LA's strategy session, "Is South LA the next tech hub?" with Mirror Digital CEO Shelia Marmon, PLLAY Labs, Inc. CEO & co-founder Shawn Gunn and America on Tech founder and CEO Jessica Santana.


"We have to have a place to tell our own stories and define our own narratives, and that is so important," said Marmon, who grew up in South LA and was at the early network meetups in Leimert Park where the seed for Plug In South L.A. were sown. The group provides a network for founders.

Building those networks are key for Black and Latino entrepreneurs who have historically been excluded from the largely white, male tech and venture capital circles, making it more difficult to raise money and get ideas off the ground.

Just 1% of venture-backed founders were Black in 2018, according to a study led by Silicon Valley Bank. Another survey by the National Venture Capital Association and Deloitte found on 3% of investment partners are Latino and another 3% Black.

South Los Angeles is largely Black and Latino and has a long history of segregation and poverty. The South LA region spans 28 communities and 50 square miles, bordered by the Alameda Corridor, Imperial Highway, Baldwin Hills and Interstate 10.

"It's easy to tell a young person, 'Oh, just go to Santa Monica and go to this conference or, you know, go somewhere like that.'" said Gunn, who has founded several companies and recently raised $3 million for PLLAY, a game wagering platform. "You're not always felt welcome there, right? Or you have all your defenses up. So when you see people, men and women that kind of look like you, and are potentially going down a path that you want to go down...That means a lot."

Like a lot of founders of color, Gunn said, the task felt nearly impossible and he looked outside traditional venture capital firms for funds. In Los Angeles, where Hollywood, sports and tech collide, there's opportunity.

"There are high-net worth individuals that are starting to open up to the concept of becoming early-stage investors," he said.

To his point, Rae and Davis are both investors. The slain rapper Nipsey Hussle was also working on real estate investments in the region when he was killed. Gunn said there's also crowdsourcing and accelerators.

Grid110, a nonprofit that runs an accelerator focused on minority founders, this year created its first South LA cohort.

Jessica Santana, who trains youth in South Los Angeles schools, said that these options help but the narrative must also be changed.

"Generational poverty has obviously taken a toll on the way that (the youth) seek opportunities in their own communities," she said. "What we do is helping young people reimagine the way that they see technology in the first place, so that they can see themselves as creators of it and not just the ones who, you know, are on the platform."

Now she said, she'd like to see more people opening the doors to hiring and writing checks.

For more, watch the video.

This event is in partnership with Plug In South LA & Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2020.


Strategy Session: Is South L.A. the Next Tech Hub?www.youtube.com

Speakers

Sheila Marmon, Founder & CEO of Mirror Digital

Sheila Marmon, Founder & CEO of Mirror Digital 

Sheila Marmon has a passion for the launch and operation of new businesses in the digital media industry and has created innovative platforms for over 20 years. As founder + CEO of Mirror Digital, an interactive media and advertising company, she helps Fortune 500 brands tap into the fastest growing U.S. consumer base - the multicultural market. Sheila has executed over 450 digital campaigns in this space for clients including AT&T, Clinique, Disney, Ford, General Motors, Intel, Macy's, Netflix, Procter & Gamble, Universal Pictures and other leading brands and advertising agencies.

Sheila has been featured in leading publications including the Financial Times, and Media Post; she was also profiled in a cover story for Minority Business Entrepreneur Magazine. She serves on the Boards of The American Advertising Federation, A Better Chance, and Cate School and she is also a founding member of the Council of Urban Professionals. Sheila has received The Network Journal "Forty Under 40" Outstanding Achievement Award, the Code Breaker Award from Digital Diversity Network, and has been named a Catalyst in Media & Entertainment by the Council of Urban Professionals.

Shawn Gunn, CEO & Co-Founder at PLLAY Labs, Inc.

Shawn Gunn, CEO & Co-Founder at PLLAY Labs, Inc.

Shawn Gunn has successfully exited from five technologies companies during his career as an executive, investor and entrepreneur. Today, he is co-founder and CEO of PLLAY Labs, an artificial intelligence-driven behavioral data and wagering platform focused on the broader video gaming industry, and former founder and CEO of Persona, a personal data security and monetization platform.

Jessica Santana, Founder & CEO of America on Tech

Jessica Santana, Founder & CEO of America on Tech

In 2014, Jessica co-founded America On Tech (AOT) which is an organization that creates pathways for students into degrees and careers in tech. Their work has been featured in major media outlets such as Forbes, CNN, Wells Fargo, Sirius XM Radio, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, BET, Black Enterprise, AlleyWatch and The Network Journal. AOT has offices in NY and L.A.

She has presented and spoken to over 100+ different audiences that include SXSW Edu, TechCrunch, Google for Entrepreneurs, White House, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg. Her commitment to philanthropy and community engagement is evidenced by her world travels and work in parts of Europe, China and South America to work with nonprofits, private companies and social enterprises that better local communities and economies. She is a board member or PowerMyLearning and the Office of Multicultural Advancement at Syracuse University. She graduated with undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting and information technology from Syracuse University.

Rachel Uranga, Reporter at dot.LA

Rachel Uranga, Reporter at dot.LA

Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

https://twitter.com/racheluranga
rachel@dot.la

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🔦 Spotlight

If you've been job hunting recently, you've likely experienced the soul crushing challenge of navigating numerous job application platforms, often competing with hundreds of other applicants for a single position. WeApply’s data-driven, user-centric approach is seeking to change that. 😓💼🔍

Stressed Over It GIF by HULU

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

WeApply, an LA-based job application automation platform, has quickly established itself in the market since its launch in January 2023. With over 200 paying customers each month and achieving profitability within eight months, the company's success can be attributed to CEO David Saxa's strategic emphasis on marketing, rigorous quality control measures, and a user-centric approach that prioritizes job seekers' needs. Unlike a "shotgun" approach that indiscriminately sends out numerous applications, WeApply uses a combination of human data specialists and AI technology to carefully filter and submit applications to positions that are deemed to be good fits for the user. This approach increases the likelihood of positive responses from employers, as it ensures that applicants are genuinely qualified for the roles they apply to.

WeApply caters to a diverse clientele, with around half of its users currently employed, often holding senior or director-level positions, and seeking new opportunities. The platform's algorithm-driven approach streamlines the application process, though some industry experts suggest that higher-level professionals may prefer more control over their job submissions. Looking ahead, the company aspires to serve thousands of paying users monthly by the end of the next year, offering three application packages priced between $115 and $249. What sets WeApply apart is its commitment to relevance over quantity, distinguishing it from competitors in the job application automation market.🔍🎯💰

🎉 Referral Contest Update 🎉

Competition Status:Ben Goldstein, CEO of PageSake has won a coffee and conversation with Zillow, Pacaso, and dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff! Stay tuned for updates from their power-packed meeting! ☕🚀

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • Charlie, a banking startup for people aged 62 and over, raised a $16M Series A (plus $7m in debt). TTV Capital led, and was joined by FPV Ventures and Better Tomorrow Ventures. - learn more
  • Neuros Medical, a 15-year-old company based in Aliso Viejo, CA, that is focused on alleviating chronic post-amputation pain, raised a $25M Funding Round led by Trinity Capital. - learn more
  • LighthouseAI, a maker of pharma supply chain tools, raised a $4.6M Seed Round co-led by Healthy Ventures and BluePointe Ventures and joined by Eileses Capital, Bertelsmann Next and the Legal Tech Fund. - learn more
  • Ambercycle, a recycled polyester startup, raised $5M from the VC arm of Taiwanese conglomerate Far Eastern Group. -learn more

LA Funds

Missed the Boat on Ring and Nest? Don't Let RYSE Slip Away!

Where were you when Amazon acquired Ring for $1B? Or when Google bought Nest for a cool $3.2B?

Hopefully, you were invested in those promising startups. But for those that missed out, the next groundbreaking Smart Home innovation has arrived 一 RYSE.

The company’s automated window-shade tech has secured distribution in over 100 Best Buy stores, and it’s poised to dominate the fast-growing smart-shades market.

RYSE pitched on the Canadian version of Shark Tank called Dragon’s Den and received two offers. They have recently just launched a new investment round and their share price has already grown 25% from their last round!

The smart-shades race is on, and RYSE is in pole position due to their:

  • Unmatched Features: RYSE has the only retrofit design to motorize existing window shades, and can be seamlessly controlled by voice, smartphone, or schedule.
  • Smart Price: Priced at $169 vs. competitors’ pricing of up to $1,000 per window, RYSE is uniquely positioned to bring luxury window shades to every home and business.

Early investors have seen their shares grow over 15X, yet the bulk of their growth may lie ahead, being just weeks away from launching in over 100 Best Buy stores.

Don’t make the same mistake the sharks did, learn how you can invest in RYSE today.

✨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

Wednesday, November 8th

  • Startup Cafe - Join entrepreneurs, tech professionals and enthusiasts at The KINN, a membership network, accelerator and collaborative workspace for conscious entrepreneurs. Meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee.
  • Pitch Purpose - Join Wednesday night in Venice for an evening of investor perspectives and founder pitches.
  • FROM SOUND TO SENSATION: How to go public with campus startups - Join CSUN Entrepreneurs and EDGE Sound Research for an insightful discussion on the startup journey from campus to recognition! We'll delve into technical topics, ongoing projects, and offer an open Q&A forum.

Thursday, November 9th

Saturday, November 11th

  • The Multimodal Generative Hack - Join AI LA and the brightest innovators in music, video, gaming, and AI for two days in Playa Del Rey to shape the future of entertainment and interactive design!

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

📙 What We’re Reading

🔦 Spotlight

After announcing its partnership with the PGA of America earlier this year, LA-based Sensible Weather, a climate finance platform, has now introduced its Weather Guarantee program in collaboration with 23 distinguished golf facilities in Myrtle Beach, managed by Founders Group International, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, and True Blue Golf Club. ⛈️⛳️

Straight to hole

Photo by Mick De Paola on Unsplash

This guarantee allows golfers to protect their rounds from undesirable weather by offering a reimbursement if rain is forecasted on the day of play. Sensible Weather assessed a need in the golf community, surveying 1,000 golfers and finding that 97% of avid golfers expressed interest in Weather Guarantees. The initiative addresses the increasing impact of disruptive weather on outdoor activities like golf by specifically aiming to simplify operations for golf courses, enhance golfer satisfaction, reduce last-minute cancellations, and generate additional revenue for facilities.

The success of this venture can be attributed to Sensible Weather first identifying a need by the golf community followed by a thoughtful strategic approach. Sensible Weather brought Golf Professional, Ben Tyler, on board to ensure effective communication of the opportunity and exceptional customer service required to make the partnership a success. To implement the Weather Guarantee, Sensible Weather collaborated closely with Tee Time Central, a booking platform, to integrate the feature directly into their checkout process. Golf facilities using Tee Time Central for their online bookings can easily activate Weather Guarantees.

The expansion to golf courses adds to Sensible Weather’s growing market and customer base over the past year. In September, Sensible Weather secured an investment from AMEX Ventures adding to its list of investors that includes Wonder Ventures, Infinity Ventures, and Industry Ventures. Sensible Weather is partnered with over 3,500 businesses and has received $22 million dollars in investments. Since it began offering Weather Guarantees in 2021, they have sold over 55,000 guarantees. That’s the tee! ☕⛳🏌️

Check out our previous coverage of Sensible Weather here.

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

Competition Status: 🔥 It’s heating up! Number of referrals to beat is 8 with less than a week remaining.

Ron Burgundy Battle GIF

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

  • Greater Good, a provider of primary care for seniors, raised a $20M Series A led by Flare Capital Partners, and joined by LRVHealth, Health Velocity Capital, Martin Ventures and Optum Ventures. - learn more
  • LegalMation, a developer of generative AI solutions for high-volume litigation, raised a $15M Series A led by Aquiline Capital Partners and joined by insiders Motley Fool Ventures, REV Venture Partners, Key Venture Partners, Quick Set and Brentwood Investments. - learn more

LA Funds

Built for founders, by founders: Rho, the consolidated finance automation platform designed to help you scale.

Founders, we know how much you are handling at once. Operating multiple platforms for each facet of your finances should not be getting in the way of running your business.

Leave managing your finances to Rho, so that you can focus on growing your business. Whether you have just raised your first round of funding and need help managing your funds, or you are a start-up looking to diversify your capital, Rho is the only finance automation platform that lets organizations manage all spend and cash in a single system.

Rho is your trusted and reliable financial support that can help you diversify and manage your cash efficiently. Manage all your cash and spending in one system:

  • Cash Management: Enterprise-grade banking where you can streamline your finances and manage multiple entities from one platform. With Rho’s sophisticated treasury management, put your idle cash to work and keep your cash secure with FDIC-insurance up to $75 million.
  • Spend Management: Control spend before it happens with Rho corporate cards. Streamline post send reporting by digitizing your expense policy and eliminating expense reports. Pay all your vendors in one workflow.
  • Accounting Automation: Reduce time-to-close and reconcile seamlessly. Integrate directly with your ERP.

“Rho has made it their mission to help companies like ours. By giving us the ability to loop corporate cards and expense management into one place…we’ve been able to close our book smooch faster each month and automate our spend from end to end.” - Dr. Squatch.

Join other startups like Dr. Squatch, Sundae, Canvas, and Runway that are making finance frictionless with Rho.


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!


📅 LA Tech Calendar

Saturday, October 28th

  • Mental Health Innovators Social- Saturday afternoon in Venice join a diverse community of founders, investors, researchers, clinicians and creators who are building the future of mental health.

Sunday, October 29th

Wednesday, November 1st

Thursday, November 2nd

  • Los Angeles Tech Networking Event - Join other tech enthusiasts in Playa Vista onThursday night for a laid-back networking event that's all about fostering connections.


📙 What We’re Reading

🏛️ 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!

Dwight Office Tv GIF by The Office

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
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