Joshua Letona

Photo provided by UTA

If you need more proof that NFTs have officially invaded Hollywood, look no further than United Talent Agency’s client roster.

The Beverly Hills-based talent agency recently signed Deadfellaz, an NFT collection of 10,000 zombie portraits. UTA counts Larva Labs, the creators behind the CryptoPunks NFT project, as a client, too. Even Coinbase, the publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange, is now part of UTA’s portfolio.

The agency’s foray into the crypto world shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Digital artists are selling NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, for sky-high prices. NFT exchanges like NBA Top Shot have attracted large fan bases willing to shell out money for digital collectibles. And entertainment companies in the music, film and gaming industries have been quick to venture into NFTs—even if there’s still plenty of skepticism about the digital assets.

“At first, my instinct was that this would be disruptive of things like art,” Lesley Silverman, UTA’s head of Web3 and a former fine art agent, told dot.LA. “We as an agency quickly realized that there would be similar innovation around the way we think about the broader media landscape, and that NFTs, and Web3 more broadly, would impact all of them.”

Silverman was the first full-time digital assets agent at UTA, which claims to be the first major talent agency to launch a dedicated Web3 practice. Other Hollywood talent agencies have since entered the fray—including rival WME, which recently signed a pair of Bored Ape NFTs. Read more >>

Here’s What Happened in LA’s Entertainment Tech World This Week 🍿

Netflix’s new “culture memo” reads like a blueprint to how the company is evolving after its disappointing earnings and subscription numbers, focusing on anti-censorship, frugality and employee behavior.

Meet the women-led startups trying to address gender imbalance in the music and film industries.

The problems dogging Netflix don’t seem to have affected Disney Plus—at least not yet.

Activision is arguing that California overstepped its authority in bringing a harassment lawsuit against the company.

Riot Games claims competing game developers stole intellectual property and promotional tactics from "League of Legends."

Some Activision Blizzard employees say they feel left in the dark about what the potential repeal of federal abortion protections might affect them and their workplace.

Netflix’s new ad-supported tier could be in effect by the end of the year.

Social Media 📱

The mother of a 10-year-old girl who died after allegedly trying a dangerous online “challenge” has sued Culver City-based TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

Queer dating app Grindr plans to merge with a Singapore-based blank-check company in a deal that would value the company at $2.1 billion.

A U.S. senate bill would require social media companies like TikTok and Snap to share previously undisclosed data with credible researchers.

Unexpected demand for Snap's new Pixy handheld drones has led to a 3-month delay for orders.

Top 10 YouTube breakout influencers for April include a backyard trampolinist who racked up more than 826,00 subscribers last month with contests around flips, pranks and other stunts.

Philippine President Elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reportedly paid TikTok influencers to support him and spread misinformation.

Snap has hired advertising veteran Colleen DeCourcy as its chief creative officer.

Transportation 🚗

The stock market hasn’t been so hot, especially for electric vehicles companies.

Rivian reported a net loss of $1.6 billion in its Q1 earning report. Still, it saw its stock rise in after-hour trading.

Xos’ new electric semi and medium-duty trucks aim to shift everything from local delivery vehicles to long-distance freight away from internal combustion engines.

Ford dropped 8 million shares in Rivian, but still owns 94 million shares in the electric vehicle manufacturer.

🎧 Listen Up 

Jumpstart Nova’s Kathryne Cooper says the pandemic was a wake up call about the disparities in the healthcare system, especially for people of color.

Before founding Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel said investors couldn't see past the fact she didn't have a college degree. So she funded the company with her own savings.

Thinking of starting your own business? Blenders Eyewear founder Chase Fisher says bootstrapping is the best way to learn what you’ll need to succeed.

Also...

Looking to name your new startup concept? Spencer Rascoff has some suggestions.

U.S.'s lax privacy precautions around tech could endanger women seeking info about abortions.

Pasadena wearable biosensor startup Rockley Photonics is ramping up production, even as it takes a hit from disappointing quarterly earnings.

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At the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills this week, media executives deliberated over the future of online streaming, the disruptive technology that has changed the way content is distributed and consumed. But some of those changes, it turns out, may not be so transformative; from the reemergence of commercials to bundled subscriptions, the future of TV may end up looking a lot like its past.

“I think we are going to see a great re-bundle,” said Marc Graboff, Discovery’s president of global business and legal affairs. “Eventually, there will be a limited number—three, four or whatever it is— of platforms that people will go to get their content.”

Graboff was referring to how deep-pocketed tech titans like Amazon or Apple may ultimately roll up rival streaming services into single consumer offerings on their own platforms. He noted that it would be a lot like the days when TV was dominated by just three networks: ABC, NBC and CBS.

The panel discussion came in the wake of Netflix’s stunning first-quarter earnings report, when the streaming giant disclosed that it lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade and expects to lose another 2 million in the current quarter. Netflix is now in the midst of a reckoning, laying off staffers and re-considering its long-standing opposition to advertising. That’s because its competitors—including those on stage Wednesday—have shown that consumers are willing to watch commercials if it means paying less per month.

Here’s What Happened in LA’s Entertainment Tech World This Week 🍿

The fallout from Netflix’s disastrous first-quarter earnings continues with a new shareholder lawsuit that claims the streaming giant misled investors about its ability to sign up more subscribers. Meanwhile, the company laid off many staff writers for its Tudum companion sitejust five months after launch.

The New York City Employees’ Retirement System and various pension funds for the city’s firefighters, police and teachers are suing Activision, alleging its failure to address workplace harassment devalued their investment portfolios.

Goodreads is focused on building a community of readers. Newly launched app Copper Books wants to build one for authors, too.

Investors including the Chernin Group, eBay and former Disney CEO Bob Iger have taken a 25% stake in Funko’s figurines.

For all the ambitious talk about how revolutionary the metaverse will be, it’s got a long way to go before the average person will want to engage with it.

FaZe Clan–a composite of professional esports gamers, celebrity investors and brand partnerships–will launch its first pop-up shop in West Hollywood.

Social Media 📱

A teenage girl has sued Snap after she says she was coerced into sending explicit photos of herself through the app.

More TikTok employees are speaking out against what they say is a grueling work culture at the company.

TikTok’s trying to up its advertising game—and cut in its top users.

Snap announced several new initiatives, including new shows, a new ad program and a new partnership with video-sharing app Cameo.

Match Group, the dating app owner of popular platforms like Tinder and Hinge, appointed a former Zynga executiveas its new CEO.

Reddit’s co-founder said he doesn’t believe a Musk-owned Twitter will be as bad as some might think, but it won’t be as great as others may hope.

Transportation 🚗

Electric vehicle maker Fisker is developing its third vehicle: an electric sports car codenamed Project Ronin.

Among the electric vans and autonomous food rovers operating in Santa Monica, URB-E may have the simplest solution for last-mile deliveries: e-bikes with trailers.

California electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian announced that it secured $1.5 billion in tax incentives from Georgia to begin construction on its new plant outside of Atlanta.

The Biden administration will spend $3.1 billion to fill electric vehicle battery production gaps and reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign battery suppliers.

Venture Capital 💰

A new VC focused on climate technology is emerging in Orange County, currently raising a $50 million fund. It’s already invested in two startups.

LinearB has raised $50 million in Series B funding to expand its engineering, sales and marketing teams and develop its product.

This cannabis business mentorship doesn’t come with funding, but it does come with access to Seth Rogen and his co-founder (and screenwriting partner) Evan Goldberg.

See the full list of SoCal fundraising for the week in our "Raises" round up.

🎧 Listen Up 

On this episode of Office Hours, Austin Texas Mayor Steven Adler talks about why “weirdness” is key to the city of Austin’s success as a tech mecca.

For years, people have invested with a 60/40 portfolio. Evoke Advisors’ Michael Carney said it’s time for an update.

Also...

The future of remote work looks increasingly like it will include software that tracks employee performance.

From cloud infrastructure to designing video games, Amazon is adding 2,500 positions to its SoCal campuses.

Coinbase’s CEO says the U.S. is at risk of being left behind in the world of cryptocurrency.

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Roman Kosolapov/ Shutterstock

This week, we saw the investment arm of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership group bet on sports and entertainment startup Vaunt—which partners with athletes and artists to stream content, sell merchandise and offer NFTs. It also produces “alternative sports competitions” and content such as a FIBA three-on-three basketball tournament and a beer-less pong league pitting celebrities against one another.

For many years, the sports industry has relied on attracting fans to buy tickets and watch games on TV. That’s where fans have traditionally been, and where the bulk of revenue is made. Much depends on media rights and where the games get aired.

But, as Ludis Capital co-founder Matilda Sung said earlier this week, that's changing quickly. Younger fans are much less likely to watch a full game -- in person or on TV; There's simply too much competing for their attention, she said. One strategy the industry has adopted is gamifying the sports experience for viewers by offering NFTs and allowing them to bet.

“Whether it be metaverses or cryptocurrencies or fan tokens, or NFTs, you've now introduced this other format or vehicle to call upon which to further engage the fan on a much more intimate basis,” Sung added.

Here’s What Happened in LA’s Entertainment Tech World This Week 🍿

Activision shareholders voted to approve the video game developer's $69 billion merger with Microsoft.

Can the metaverse concept ever go mainstream? For many consumers, buying a VR headset is not in the cards.

As Netflix's stock price falls, employees are weighing their future at the streaming company.

Activision Blizzard’s revenues declined as its "Call of Duty" franchise underperformed and it reported delays for other popular titles.

Three-on-three basketball and celebrity, beer-less pong are just a couple of the offerings you’ll soon be able to stream on Vaunt’s network.

Social Media 📱

Snap announces a new flying camera accessory called Pixy, a pocket-size drone that offers aerial views for selfies.

TikTok—the video-sharing app once almost banned in the U.S.—continues to dominate the social media landscape.

With its recent acquisition of AMA Digital, L.A. startup Jellysmack will get more Youtube data analytics to boost its creator program.

Transportation 🚗

Rivian's one-megawatt investment in a solar farm will power its EV chargers located in Tennessee state parks, among "other clean energy commitments in the region."

With all the hubbub around Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and Tesla’s stock slide, an important piece of Tesla news may have been overlooked this week.

Divergent Technologies wants to radically change automotive manufacturing with 3D printing.

Escooter company Lime is rolling out its new eco-friendly vehicles in L.A., replacing all 7,000 of its local fleet by summer.

Venture Capital 💰

It’s already raised $835 million. Here’s why Anduril Industries' wants to raise an additional $1 billion in its next round.

Ruth Health is a telehealth startup focused on prenatal and postpartum care.

Are you a fan of Johnnie-O’s preppy polo shirts? The apparel brand just landed its first institutional investor to help it grow.

Thinking about starting a company? Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff kicks off a new series on "How to Start Up" with a look at how to brainstorm a business idea.

🎧 Listen Up 

April Gargiulo helped her parents launch a winery business. Their commitment to using the best raw materials possible became the bedrock for her own skincare company.

Sports fans aren’t as engaged with the game as they used to be. Ludis Capital’s Matilda Sung says NFTs and betting could change what it means to be a fan.

Also...

While SpaceX uses extra fuel for a soft landing back to Earth, Rocket Lab wants to catch its boosters in mid-air.

Telehealth has emerged as a game-changing technology in health care, so why hasn’t it reached those who could use it most?

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s executive chairman and CEO are accusing each other of attempting to seize control of the company.

Elon Musk is moving another one of his companies out of California, opting instead for Texas.

Miso Robotics’ burger-flipping robot Flippy is finding its way to another major fast food chain.

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