Get in the KNOW
on LA Startups & TechX
In Los Angeles—like the startup environment at large—venture funding and valuations skyrocketed in 2021, even as the coronavirus pandemic continued to surge and supply chain issues rattled the economy. The result was a startup ecosystem that continued to build on its momentum, with no shortage of companies raising private capital at billion-dollar-plus unicorn valuations.
In order to gauge the local startup scene and who’s leading the proverbial pack, we asked more than 30 leading L.A.-based investors for their take on the hottest firms in the region. They responded with more than two dozen venture-backed companies; three startups, in particular, rose above the rest as repeat nominees, while we've organized the rest by their amount of capital raised as of January, according to data from PitchBook. (We also asked VCs not to pick any of their own portfolio companies, and vetted the list to ensure they stuck to that rule.)
Without further ado, here are the 26 L.A. startups that VCs have their eyes on in 2022.
Whatnot was the name most often on the minds of L.A. venture investors—understandably, given its prolific fundraising year. Whatnot raised some $220 million across three separate funding rounds in 2021, on the way to a $1.5 billion valuation.
The Marina del Rey-based livestream shopping platform was founded by former GOAT product manager Logan Head and ex-Googler Grant LaFontaine. The startup made its name by providing a live auction platform for buying and selling collectables like rare Pokémon cards, and has since expanded into sports memorabilia, sneakers and apparel.
Boulevard’s backers include Santa Monica-based early-stage VC firm Bonfire Ventures, which focuses on B2B software startups. The Downtown-based company fits nicely within that thesis; Boulevard builds booking and payment software for salons and spas. The firm has worked with prominent brands such as Toni & Guy and HeyDay.
GOAT launched in 2015 as a marketplace to help sneakerheads authenticate used Air Jordans and other collectible shoes. It has since grown at a prolific rate, expanding into apparel and accessories and exceeding $2 billion in merchandise sales in 2020. The startup sealed a $195 million funding round last summer that more than doubled its valuation, to $3.7 billion.
The Best of the Rest
Nielsen competitor VideoAmp gathers data on who's watching what across streaming services, traditional TV and social apps like YouTube. The company positions itself as an alternative to so-called "legacy" systems like Nielsen, which it says are "fragmented, riddled with complexity and inaccurate." In addition to venture funding, its total funding figure includes more than $165 million in debt financing.
Seizing on the NFT craze, Mythical Games is building a platform that powers the growing realm of “play-to-earn games.” Backed by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Andreessen Horowitz, the Sherman Oaks-based startup’s partners include game publishers Abstraction, Creative Mobile and CCG Lab.
FloQast founder Michael Whitmire says he got a “no” from more than 100 investors in the process of raising a seed round. Today, the accounting software company is considered a unicorn.
Nacelle produces docuseries, books, comedy albums and podcasts. The media company’s efforts include the Netflix travel series “Down To Earth with Zac Efron.”
A platform for virtual concerts, Wave has hosted performances by artists including Justin Bieber, Tinashe and The Weeknd. The company says it has raised $66 million to date from the likes of Warner Music and Tencent.
Sherman Oaks-based Papaya looks to make it easier to pay “any” bill—from hospital bills to parking tickets—via its mobile app.
Based in Marina del Rey, LeaseLock says it’s on a mission to eliminate security deposits for apartment renters.
Emotive sells text message-focused marketing tools to ecommerce firms like underwear brand Parade and men's grooming company Beardbrand.
Based in Long Beach, Dray says its mission is to “modernize the logistics and trucking industry.” Its partners include Danish shipping company Maersk and toy maker Mattel.
Coco makes small pink robots on wheels (you may have seen them around town) that deliver food via a remote pilot. Its investors include Y Combinator and Silicon Valley Bank.
HiveWatch develops physical security software. Its investors include former Twitter executive Dick Costollo and NBA star Steph Curry’s Penny Jar Capital.
Whatnot competitor Popshop is betting that live-shopping is the future of ecommerce. The West Hollywood-based firm focuses on collectables such as trading cards and anime merchandise.
Founded by former SpaceX engineer Karan Talati, First Resonance runs a software platform for makers of electric cars and aerospace technology. Its clients include Santa Cruz-based air taxi company Joby Aviation and Alameda-based rocket company Astra.
Founded by Crowdstrike and Microsoft alums, Open Raven aims to protect user data. The cybersecurity firm’s investors include Kleiner Perkins and Upfront Ventures.
When an actor faces the camera and speaks directly to the audience, it’s known as “breaking the fourth wall.” Named after the trope, Venice-based Fourthwall offers a website builder that’s designed for content creators.
The Non Fungible Token Company creates NFTs for musicians under the name Unblocked. Its investors include Jay Z’s Marcy Venture Partners and Shawn Mendez.
Backed by Mayo Clinic Ventures, Safe Health develops telehealth software and offers tools for enterprises to launch their own health care apps.
Intro’s app lets you book video calls with experts—from celebrity stylists, to astrologists, to investors.
With the tagline “Land the package, not the plane,” DASH Systems is a Hawthorne-based shipping company that builds hardware and software for automated airdrops.
With a focus on sustainability, Ettitude is a direct-to-consumer brand that sells bedding, bathroom textiles and sleepwear.
Along similar lines as Unblocked, Afterparty creates NFTs for artists and content creators such as Clay Perry and Tropix.
Heart to Heart is an audio-focused dating app that “lets you listen to the story behind the pictures in a profile.” Precursor Ventures led the pre-seed funding round.
Frigg makes hair and beauty products that contain cannabinoids such as CBD. The Valley Village-based company raised an undisclosed seed round in August.
- The Early-Stage Startups in LA Set to Take Off in 2021 - dot.LA ›
- Los Angeles Startups Closed a Record Number of Deals in Q3 - dot.LA ›
- dot.LA's Map of Startups in Los Angeles - dot.LA ›
- The Hottest LA Startups of 2020 - dot.LA ›
An L.A. security startup that has already signed on clients in tech, gaming, cannabis and entertainment is coming out of stealth mode just as the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and this week's presidential inauguration has brought safety to the forefront.
HiveWatch provides companies with a central platform that uses multiple sensors across buildings to help better respond to physical security threats.
Created by Ryan Schonfeld, who has spent his career building security programs for startups and Fortune 500 enterprises, and has been a consultant to the U.S. State Department since 2012, HiveWatch raised an undisclosed sum from CrossCut Ventures, with participation from Freestyle and SaaS Ventures.
The coming out has been long-planned and is not tied to current events, CEO and founder Schonfeld said.
"I don't want to say the timing is fortunate because crazy things happening in the world are never what we hope for," said Schonfeld. "But there's absolutely a tailwind that we're experiencing."
The rest of the leadership team has experience at Apple, Cisco, Bird, Disney and NORAD.
"We were attracted to the background of this founding team, and their history and experience in scaling corporate security systems for high-growth companies like Bird," Brian Garrett, co-founder and director at Crosscut said in a written statement. "Their approach will make corporate security programs more accessible for both high-growth startups and Fortune 500 enterprises as we enter a post-Covid, data-driven paradigm."
HiveWatch's platform pulls data from different sensors to offer a one-stop view of threats. The goal is to cut down on noise so help security operations centers can focus on genuine intrusions. For instance, Schonfeld says door sensors designed to monitor who's coming in and out mostly trigger false alarms, so it's hard to tell whether someone broke down the door or if the sensor is just malfunctioning. As a result, warnings go ignored.
"The main sensor that drives that entire intelligence loop in the system is about an $8 magnet that sits at the top of the door and they break and they're faulty all the time," Schonfeld said.
Ryan Schonfeld has spent his career building security programs for startups.
HiveWatch aims to complete the picture by providing guards more information. So if a door sensor is triggered, the system also gives a surveillance video of the door so guards can determine right away if something is amiss.
"The system can say, 'OK, we see that there's a door forced event, but the camera says that nobody went through that door'," Schonfeld said. "And so that's a different story for a security response than if there's a door forced event and a person actually comes through the door."
Schonfeld says he is excited about the chance to modernize the security industry, which has been very slow to evolve.
"I started my career in law enforcement, which was a passion of mine since I was a little kid," said Schonfeld. "It was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life, but the constant frustration in law enforcement was just the decades-old, antiquated approaches that never seemed to evolve."
Schonfeld says there is already a waiting list for the company's product from tech, gaming and entertainment companies and he's seen especially high interest from the growing number of cannabis companies.
"Cannabis has far and away had the most number of sensors per square foot of almost any industry we've ever encountered," said Schonfeld. "They're going to be a really interesting one to leverage the platform with."