Column: Welcome to the Unbundling of Social Media

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Column: Welcome to the Unbundling of Social Media

It's no secret that I've been in love with social media since its very early days. As far back as 2012, I was called one of the most "social CEOs" in the country.

Back then, being a social CEO meant that you used Twitter and Facebook to communicate with Zillow's employees, users and advertisers. I loved how social media made me accessible to a variety of constituencies and it helped me scale.

To this day, I have three screens on my desk, and one is dedicated to social media.

I'm probably a Twitterphile for life, but I don't use social media the way I did in 2012. Nobody does. Facebook and Instagram boast over 3 billion monthly average users (MAUs) combined. Social media has essentially become the web.

But as these horizontal platforms continue to broaden and amass more users, the harder it becomes to discover or strengthen an authentic human-to-human connection. Oftentimes, the content shared is a curated highlight reel of picture-perfect moments, or your platforms become an algorithmic echo chamber with little room for varied discourse.

Thankfully, these broad-based platforms can be used to amplify concerning world issues and important activism. But when logging onto Instagram becomes more anxiety-inducing than enjoyable (especially for the always-connected Generation Z), users are apt to either log off or look elsewhere for a digital reprieve.

Enter the unbundling of social media. I don't believe Twitter and Instagram are in danger of imminently losing large portions of users, but evidence points to many people finding that human-to-human connection on social media platforms that are dedicated to shared interests.

The Fragmenting Effect

Commonly, a user's connections on horizontal platforms span a wide range of interests. Work friends are combined with workout buddies, closest-knit friend groups with casual acquaintances, and so on. The fragmentation of these groups into category-specific, or vertical platforms feels natural and, in some cases, necessary.

Category-specific platforms are nothing new. LinkedIn, the largest platform for career and professional networking, officially launched in 2003. As of 2020 - it boasted 722 million MAUs. LinkedIn is the place to connect with people interested in your area of work and to manage your career.

These networks have become even more niche over the years.

Strava, founded in 2009, now has 70 million cycling and running enthusiasts on the platform and continues to grow each month. Fishbrain, founded in 2010, now connects over 5 million fishermen and women all over the world.

Doximity was also founded in 2010 for doctors and medical professionals and as of 2018, over 70% of all U.S doctors were on the platform. (Doximity also recently went public - currently trading at a market cap over $10b. So there's clearly incentive to tap into these unbundled audiences.)

The options are endless. Food, fashion, finance, hiking, biking, sports, business, gaming, books, movies, travel, gambling...there could be a vertical social media platform for everyone.

The Vertical Advantages

One major advantage of vertical platforms is the ability to build specific feature sets for the audience. Users of AllTrails, for example, can access a massive database of location-based maps and routes for hiking and outdoor activities.

These maps are crowdsourced, reviewed, and vetted by other enthusiasts - and are a feature you would never find on a broad platform like Instagram.

Vertical networks also provide a safe space for these shared interest communities, allowing users to post and engage without the self-imposed curated confines of broader platforms.

Posting every accomplished (or failed) run on my Facebook seems odd - but on Strava, it is natural.

Another advantage: users are likely to strengthen authentic connections within these shared interest platforms: finding support, encouragement, celebration, and solidarity.

Investing in the Vertical

At 75 & Sunny, we're currently incubating and investing in new platforms based on this vertical social thesis. Squad, for example, is a new way to connect with only your closest friends. Squad encourages authentic communication through a combination of audio technology and habit-creating notifications.

We're also excited about Path, which provides travel recommendations from your trusted friends - and also a new stealth company dedicated to helping you decide what to stream and watch next.

Last month, 75 & Sunny Labs officially launched Recon Food, a food-centric vertical platform. Recon Food is an online community that is entirely devoted to food and drink lovers. It was co-founded by my daughter Sophia and me as a result of all the time we spent together cooking and ordering new foods during quarantine.

Whether it's a homemade masterpiece (or mishap), or a chef-driven night out, Recon Food provides the digital platform to share these experiences, reconnect, and bond over our shared love of food. It also gives a welcome escape from the social media burnout experienced on horizontal platforms.

It is fascinating to follow this unbundling of social media. I look forward to welcoming the next crop of vertical platform innovators and social media disruptors.
🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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