Jiake Liu is the founder of a startup outdoor furniture company, but lately he feels like he's running a second company one that's helping supply local hospitals with thousands of protective masks and, in the process, rallying Los Angeles' tech community.

Liu started SoCal Tech for Hospitals in early March with the goal of raising $60,000 to purchase 30,000 masks for hospitals facing shortages. He's now helped raise nearly $200,000, delivered 50,000 hospital-grade masks and is looking to up the ante with the region's vast tech community to do good beyond the pandemic.

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One early-stage venture capital fund is launching a new initiative Tuesday: Helping Los Angeles entrepreneurs who have suddenly found themselves out of work as the coronavirus pandemic sideswipes the job market and freezes the amount of money flowing into startups.

Wonder Ventures, the Santa Monica-based firm that's carved a niche by writing checks to young companies below the radar of bigger VCs, has committed to fund at least three Los Angeles founders in the next month with checks starting at $100,000. The new WFH program -- which stands for Wonder from Home -- is aimed at those newly laid off from tech companies who have an idea they want to pursue.

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  • After WeWork, VC's noticed a major shift in how founders were pitching their companies. Growth and costly customer acquisition strategies are out while profitability is in.
  • Some VC's, scared off by high valuations, are holding back their dry powder waiting for the market to cool. For instance, PLUS Capital's team compiled a list last year of companies it wanted to invest in if only the price was cheaper.
  • VC's are excited about employees leaving SpaceX and starting new companies. "That talent is going to be game changing."

As the new decade begins, Southern California's tech scene continues to sizzle. More than 7,000 investors have poured money into 4,768 startups, ranging from a unicorn that aspires to have scooters whizzing through every city on earth to one that has ambitions to colonize Mars to the thousands of smaller companies just trying to get to their Series A, according to data analyzed by dot.LA.

"No one is doubting L.A.'s place in the tech ecosystem anymore," said Arteen Arabshahi, vice-president at WndrCo. "People realize L.A. is meaningful."

Last year ended with what is arguably the most consequential local acquisition to date when Paypal bought Honey for $4 billion. According to Pitchbook, L.A. VC exit deal flow hit $8.4 billion last year, the second highest amount ever after 2017, when Snap went public.

"I don't think Los Angeles will ever be Silicon Valley," said Brian Lee, co-founder and managing director of BAM Ventures. "We don't have grandparents named Fairchild Semiconductor and we don't have aunts and uncles named Google and Yahoo. But we are growing and we do have some great businesses being started here."

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