LA Tech Updates: Microsoft Reportedly Looking to Buy TikTok; HBCUvc and PledgeLA's New Partnership

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.

LA Tech Updates: Microsoft Reportedly Looking to Buy TikTok; HBCUvc and PledgeLA's New Partnership

Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Trump could order ByteDance to divest of TikTok today, Bloomberg reports
  • HBCUvc and PledgeLA offer $5,000 grants to founders from HBCUs

        HBCUvc and PledgeLA offer $5,000 grants to founders from HBCUs 

        HBCUvu, a non-profit increasing racial diversity in venture capital, has partnered with PledgeLA to provide $5,000 grants to startup founders from historically Black colleges and universities. The program, dubbed the The Summer Lab Fund, is now accepting applications through August 6.

        Supported by Crosscut Ventures, the fund will award equity-free grants to technology and tech-enabled startups founded by HBCU students and alumni. Selected startups will also receive mentorship and support from participating sponsors as well as access to HBCUvc and PlegeLA networks.

        The funding opportunity, launched last week, is managed and operated by the current cohort of PledgeLA VC interns who were matched at firms across Los Angeles in a 10-week program.

        PledgeLA is a cohort of tech companies and VC firms created by the Annenberg Foundation and the mayor of Los Angeles. Last week, the organization released results from its annual survey on diversity in tech companies across the city.

        Current intern Evan Hamilton told dot.LA the plan is to establish the Lab Fund as an annual project. Although it only has three spots now, he said, if demand is high enough they will look to raise more funds.

        "What I really hope for, as a result of this, is to encourage that pipeline of investors to go to HBCUs to find interesting entrepreneurial talents because as we've seen many times, most folks are in hoodies coming from Stanford," Hamilton said.

        "Five thousand dollars is a nominal amount of money, but what it does is give someone that ability to say, 'I am an entrepreneur, I have been funded,'" Hamilton said. "It really doesn't take a lot to validate a lot of the thoughts, feelings and opinions that people have. If we're doing this correctly, we're going to help these companies grow, even the ones that aren't able to receive funding."

        He said it hopes to dispel preconceived notions and encourage investors to look toward HBCUs for talent.

        After applications close on August 6, interns will form an investment committee to present and review the interested companies, which come from industries including entertainment tech, retail, education services and sports. Winners of the fund will be announced August 14.

        PledgeLA intern Liza Katsman hopes the thinking behind this initiative will one day extend beyond the HBCU ecosystem. She pointed out that entrepreneurs of different backgrounds - that had largely been excluded from tech companies - bring new perspectives and ideas that can turn into successful products or services.

        "Diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do," Katsman said. "It's the smart thing to do."

        dot.LA is a member of PledgeLA.

        Trump and Microsoft Are Looking at TikTok 

        Amazon Tells Employees to Delete TikTok, Then Claims Directive Was Sent in Error

        Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok as President Donald Trump plans to ban it, variousmedia reported Friday.

        TikTok has come under increasing pressure from the administration that Chinese Internet company ByteDance is sharing data with Beijing and has threatened to ban it.

        Bloombergreported the Trump administration had planned to order ByteDance to divest of the Culver City-based company as early as Friday.

        Microsoft could alter the question of ownership. It's unclear how advanced the talks are.

        The White House could immediately be reached for comment.

        But in an emailed statement a spokeswoman for TikTok said, "While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok."

        Trump's move would not come as a surprise. He told reporters on Friday: "We're looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There's a couple of options."

        Earlier this month, Trump suggested he would ban the app as punishment over China's handling of the coronavirus. Those comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the United States is considering whether to restrict TikTok and other social media apps amid concerns that information was being shared with China's communist government.

        "We are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it," Pompeo said.

        In March, another Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun Tech sold the West Hollywood-based gay dating app Grindr for more than $600 million after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States forced it to divest.

        Two months later, Beijing-based parent company ByteDance appointed Kevin Mayer, once widely considered Bob Iger's heir apparent at The Walt Disney company, to head TikTok in a move that would help distance itself from its Beijing parent company.

        TikTok, has around 30 million active users and has increasingly become a favorite of advertisers to sell their products among the youth-oriented social media app.


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        Cadence

        'It's Almost Winter-Agnostic': At This Annual Gathering of Creators, Recession is on No One's Mind

        Kristin Snyder

        Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

        Vidcon 2022
        Photo by Kristin Snyder

        The creator economy is the bedrock of this week’s VidCon convention, which is drawing creators, companies, investors and fans alike to Anaheim to discuss the rapidly growing realm of digital content and entertainment.

        To discuss how investors, in particular, are viewing the booming creator landscape, Thursday’s “Betting Big on the Creator Economy” panel featured the likes of MaC Venture Capital partner Zhenni Liu, Investcorp managing director Anand Radhakrishnan, Team8 Fintech managing partner Yuval Tal and Paladin co-founder and CEO James Creech.

        Read moreShow less

        Netflix Lays Off Another 300 People

        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.

        Netflix Lays Off Another 300 People
        Photo by DCL "650" on Unsplash

        Netflix has imposed its second round of layoffs in less than a month, cutting another 300 people from its staff.

        “Today we sadly let go of around 300 employees,” a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to dot.LA. “While we continue to invest significantly in the business, we made these adjustments so that our costs are growing in line with our slower revenue growth.”

        Read moreShow less

        Santa Monica-Based Scooter Startup Veo Expands Into the City of LA

        Maylin Tu
        Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
        Veo
        Image courtesy of Veo

        Three months after opening its new headquarters in Santa Monica, micromobility startup Veo is expanding its fleet and its footprint. As of last week, riders have been able to cross the municipal boundary between Santa Monica and L.A. and take trips north to Will Rogers State Beach, south to Marina Del Rey and east to Mar Vista.

        “It’s good to see more people able to actually commute from Santa Monica to a nearby neighborhood…because in the past, we [did] see a lot of people stopped at the boundary,” said Veo CEO Candice Xie.

        A screenshot shows Veo scooters' new availability on the west side of the city of L.A.

        Still, riders will not be able to ride all through the city of L.A. The city of L.A. has only granted them permits for 500 vehicles. Xie said they’re focusing on expanding the boundaries of where their mostly Santa Monica-based users are already indicating they want to ride.

        As part of the expansion, the company is adding a mixed fleet of 400 e-bikes and 100 standing scooters.

        Enterprising riders who venture beyond the new, expanded geofenced zone can expect to receive a warning text message and for their vehicle to come to a slow stop. In addition, they will not be allowed to leave the e-scooter or e-bike outside of the zone without incurring a penalty that starts at $15.

        Currently, it costs riders $1 to unlock and $0.33 cents per minute to ride (plus tax and fees). Residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles who qualify can apply to ride at a reduced rate through Veo Access, where riders pay $5 per month for unlimited 30 minute rides.

        Xie said that the permit approval process for the city of L.A. took longer than originally anticipated and that this new expansion will happen in phases, with the next phase anticipated in two to three months.

        Veo is the seventh micromobility operator currently permitted in the city of Los Angeles, joining rivals Bird, Lime, Wheels, LINK (Superpedestrian), Lyft and Spin.

        Veo’s expansion comes at a precarious time for the shared micromobility market. Earlier this month, Santa Monica-based Bird laid off 23% of its staff. Layoffs were also reported at both Superpedestrian and Voi this week.

        However, Xie said that Veo is doubling down on both the greater L.A. area and California as a whole, as it recently launched in Berkeley and intends to move into Santa Clara and San Jose soon. As other companies lay off workers in pursuit of profitability, Xie said Veo is expanding.

        “We're still hiring from the community and want to increase our exposure and also have more local talent join us.”

        Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Veo vehicles were already available in Santa Clara.

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