Meet Sunroom, a New App That Wants to Empower Women and Non-Binary Creators

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

​The interface for the Sunroom app.
Courtesy of Sunroom

After Lucy Mort left Hinge, where she served as the popular dating app’s director of design, she grew fascinated with sex-positive platforms like OnlyFans—and how creators who built followings on Instagram and TikTok would move to OnlyFans to monetize their content.

Through a roommate, Mort connected with former Bumble marketing director Michelle Battersby, who was also looking for a new venture that would better the lives of women. The fellow Australians struck up a partnership that resulted in an app of their own, Sunroom.

Similar to membership platforms like OnlyFans and Patreon yet geared toward empowering women and non-binary creators, Sunroom launched on Wednesday with $3.6 million in seed funding. The Venice-based app is backed by the likes of Australian venture firm Blackbird; venture capitalists Li Jin, Cyan Bannister and Sarah Downey; and founders like Peanut CEO Michelle Kennedy and Brud CEO Trevor McFedries. (Sunroom says more than 50% of its investors are women or women-led.)

\u200bSunroom cofounders Michelle Battersby (left) and Lucy Mort (right).

Sunroom co-founders Michelle Battersby (left) and Lucy Mort.

Image courtesy of Sunroom

Unlike Instagram and Tiktok, Sunroom bakes in frictionless ways for people to support creators. Using an in-app currency called Beams (which are worth roughly 5 cents), users can pay for monthly memberships and tip creators. Sunroom also replaced a “like” button with a “cheers” button that sends creators a few cents per tap.

“There's kind of a big apprehension among our creators around monetizing,” Mort said. “They're really afraid that they'll be judged for asking to be compensated.”

The app deploys anti-screenshot technology to prevent users from stealing content, while also welcoming content that may normally get creators banned or their platforms demonetized on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Sunroom relies on a moderation team led by women, rather than algorithms, who allow creators to make content about sexual health and show more skin. (The platform does not allow pornography.)

“It feels like when things are moderated at scale, context is sometimes missed or not taken into consideration,” Battersby said. “And it really is women and non-binary people that are kind of losing out in among all of that.”

Sunroom is launching on iOS with around 100 creators, who can set their own membership prices ranging from $1 to $30 per month. Sunroom’s initial creators include sex-work activist Aella, actress and podcaster Paige Elkington, artist and model Charlie Max and actress and model Marta Pozzan. The startup is also offering reduced service fees for Black, Hispanic and indigenous creators as part of a commitment to reducing the racial wage gap.

While the creator economy has long been a major source of revenue for social media giants like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, those platforms traditionally have offered those creators little in the way of a direct or efficient way to make money from their followers and subscribers. Sunroom joins a growing number of startups, from Substack to Cameo, that have looked to address that issue.

But the giants are taking note. YouTube gives creators a portion of advertising revenue and rolled out a membership platform in 2018. Last year, Twitter gave prominent figures on its platform a way to make money through its Super Follows feature. Even Github, an open-source software development platform, began allowing users to sponsor contributors in 2019.

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How Virgin Orbit’s Fallout Could Impact SoCal’s Space Operations

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.

How Virgin Orbit’s Fallout Could Impact SoCal’s Space Operations
Evan Xie

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Virgin Orbit’s rapid plunge towards insolvency happened fast. So fast, in fact, that it’s rattled the space industry more than expected.

The Long Beach-based small satellite launch company was founded in 2017 by Richard Branson and was valued at $3.7 billion when it went public via a SPAC merger in 2021. But by mid-March of this year, the company had paused operations and furloughed most of its staff. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, which will allow it to continue operating in a limited capacity as it tries to restructure debt.

There’s been ample speculation about exactly when Virgin Orbit took a nosedive, and why. The main question we may never have the answer to is about the money: where did more than $116 million in cash on hand and recently raised capital disappear to so quickly?

In filings, it’s clear that Virgin walked a tightrope when it came to financing; at the end offering equity in exchange for funding. Branson remains the company’s largest shareholder, with about 75% of shares. Those shares, by the way? They’re now valued at about 16 cents, a nearly 95% reduction in value since the company went public.

Jordan Noone, an ex-SpaceX engineer who co-founded and was CTO of Long Beach 3D-printed rocket startup Relativity Space, had some insights here. Noone left Relativity in 2020 to start Embedded Ventures, a Malibu-based venture capital firm that invests in space and defense technology.

In his view, Noone said part of the issue was how Virgin structured its debt. He noted Virgin had a “fairly large line of credit outstanding that people looked to as a confidence builder for their long-term health, or at least riding out launch issues in the current market.” But as SEC filings note, much was convertible debt (fixed-income debt with interest payments that can be converted into a set number of equity shares or stock). In this case, the interest was being paid by Virgin in equity. There were maximum percentage limits on ownership equity, though, so Virgin Orbit had maxed out its line of credit prior to the bankruptcy.

But basically, the higher the share price went, the less equity Virgin Orbit had to give away. That’s the tricky thing with convertible debt; if the company chooses to convert the interest payments into equity or stock, their longevity is even more tied to the stock’s success.

“I think Branson putting in capital was to help buoy the share price so that the convertible debt ate away at max ownership slower,” Noone speculated.

To that end, Noone said he is worried the Virgin fallout will impact space industry investments. “There does need to be more private investment in national security startups, space startups and hard tech in general in the U.S.,” Noone said. “Virgin was an amazing example of that. Unfortunately the speed is something that can scare people… billions of dollars turned into nothing, essentially overnight.”

This evaporation of assets, Noone added, could prompt investors to say, “Should we still invest in SaaS, because it’s safe? Should we invest in companies that have residual value [instead]?” Part of Noone’s thesis is that the space launch market is oversaturated. On the plus side, oversaturation helped drive launch costs down and reinvigorated the American space program. But now, Noone thinks there needs to be more investment in space and defense hardware. The companies Embedded has backed – which include Slingshot Aerospace and Skyryse – are focused on building hardware and software for space operations.

An Inside Look Into LA-Based FCTRY LAb’s Shoe Technology

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.

A machine digitally making a shoe
Courtesy of FCTRY LAb

Last week, Los Angeles-based prototyping footwear company FCTRY LAb announced the launch date of its second drop of Knight RNR, pronounced as “Night Runners,” which is the company’s first footwear product. This drop comes a month after its first release of the shoe.

As previously reported by dot.LA, Omar Bailey launched the lab with Abhishek Som with the intention of helping independent designers cut down the time it takes for their designs to reach the market.

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VR Therapy Becomes More Accessible With New Medicaid Coverage

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.

VR Therapy Becomes More Accessible With New Medicaid Coverage

Virtual reality healthcare company AppliedVR could soon be the first company to get a VR device covered by Medicaid. The Los Angeles-based health tech firm launched in 2015. Since then it has been steadily working towards making its main product, a virtual reality headset and software for managing chronic pain called RelieVRx.

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