Joshua Letona

Image by SvetaZi/ Shutterstock

It was another rough week for stocks, and SoCal startups haven't been immune. Walnut-based fintech Albert laid off a chunk of its staff Friday. Earlier this week, Santa Monica-based Bird cut almost a quarter of its workforce.

In fact, over 50 tech startups have made significant layoffs since January 2022, as companies face the harsh realities of rapid inflation, global instability and a terrible startup fundraising environment.

Zillow co-founder (and dot.LA Executive Chairman) Spencer Rascoff turned his biweekly column on "How To Startup" into a meditation on how inflation, and the interest rate hikes meant to curb it, can clobber stock prices—specifically for young, high-growth companies whose earnings are mostly in the future.

Here's a look at what to expect, and how companies and entrepreneurs can come out stronger.

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

    In its race to launch ads on its service, Netflix is reportedly looking at acquiring one of the leaders in video advertising: Roku. It also plans to transform its streaming hits “Money Heist” and “The Queen’s Gambit” into mobile games on its platform.

    "It's Always Sunny..." actor Rob McElhenney launched a blockchain platform, Adim, that aims to give writers more equity in the characters they create.

    VR startup Positron is experimenting with bringing the sense of smell to virtual environments. It's one of several such companies going beyond just sight and sound.

    Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said the company will “engage in good faith negotiations” with the new union at its Raven subsidiary.

    Riot Games just flipped the script on high school esports in a way that could disrupt one local company’s lucrative tournament-organizing gig.

    Will E3 return to DTLA? The gaming conference is set to return next summer, but whether it stays in L.A. is unclear.

    This year’s Augmented World Expo featured everything from immersive table-top gaming to TikTok’s debut in AR.

    Co-founded by NFL legends Tom Brady and Michael Strahan, Religion of Sports is expanding into entertainment, business and music.

    Social Media 📱

    TikTok’s new features address a perennial problem for its app and others: social media addiction. Another problem, misinformation, has proven a more difficult challenge. TikTok also became the latest social app to add avatars to its platform this week.

    Calaxy, a Web3 social media app, lets creators sell their own crypto tokens to fans, which can be redeemed for exclusive content.

    Transportation 🚗

    Faraday Future’s plan to expand into China includes building a factory there as early as 2025.

    Phoenix Motorcars went public this week — falling far short of its IPO target.

    Over half of the companies at this year’s Electrify Expo in Long Beach featured micromobility options, not just cars or trucks.

    Venture Capital 💰

    Despite a tricky environment, Wavemaker 360 announced a new $65 million fund to back the next wave of health startups.

    With a new $6 million fund, LACI (the L.A. Cleantech Incubator) aims to provide female, Black and brown founders of early-stage startups with non-dilutive debt funding.

    Ecommerce UGC startup Gander raised $4 million to give shoppers a better idea of what a product looks like in real life.

    Special purpose acquisition companies are having a real moment—and not in a good way.

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

    Sponsored: The Recurring Revenue Conference

    Join 500-plus entrepreneurs, executives and investors June 23 at the Hilton Los Angeles Culver City for the Recurring Revenue Conference hosted by Sutton Capital Partners. Hear from experts who are successfully growing their industry-leading companies, as well as from the investors backing them. Can’t make the in-person event? This year's conference is open to virtual attendance.

    Visit recurringrevenueconference.com for tickets and info. dot.LA readers can register with this link using promo code DOTLA229 to save over $200 on in-person attendance.

    🎧 Listen Up 

    Lovevery co-founder Jessica Rolph wanted to make a set of products that aren't just fun, but also educational—for kids and their parents.

    What does investing in India and investing in cannabis have in common? Casa Verde Capital’s Karan Wadhera says they’re both risky, with plenty of potential upside.

    Melin Hats co-founder Brian McDonell’s family lost everything when he was young. He promised that would never happen again.

    Gail Federici’s inspiration for Color Wow grew out of personal experience. Her sisters dealt with gray roots before she did, and they told her that there weren’t any good products for combating the issue.

    Also...

    Fintech startup Albert cut much of its engineering, operations, legal staff and even its customer support team.

    "Family concierge" startup Yohana launched in L.A. this week, aiming to save overwhelmed parents 8 to 10 hours a week.

    It’s already partnered with Jack in the Box and Chipotle. Now, Miso Robotics is working with Amazon to turn its prototypes into functional products at a much faster rate.

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    Disney appears to be looking at a play for the metaverse.

    The Mouse has been beefing up its Next Generation Storytelling creative experiences team in recent months. The team focused on “interconnected consumer experiences across immersive new storytelling canvases,” a Disney spokesperson said. On Friday, Disney poached a top gaming executive from Apple. Mark Bozon, a 12 year veteran of Apple who most recently worked at the tech giant’s video game service, will become the team's vice president. In February, the company named a senior vice president for the group.

    Disney has also looked to boost its operations around NFTs, the digital assets verified by blockchain technology that could play a big role in the metaverse, —a loosely-defined term for immersive, virtual reality-aided online experiences.

    Those moves echo what Disney CEO Bob Chapek told CNBC in February, when he described the metaverse as “a third dimension of the canvas that we let our creative people paint.” Chapek noted that the company could parlay the digital realm across its wide array of assets, from film and media to theme parks and resorts. So far, Disney’s moves include bringing augmented reality to its theme parks and selling digital artwork using its vast trove of intellectual property.

    “If the metaverse is the blending of the physical and the digital in one environment, who can do it better than Disney?” Chapek said.

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

    Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing has resulted in plenty of inconsistencies, leaving some customers—and even its own employees—confused. Still, after a rough couple weeks, the streaming giant is finally reporting some good news.

    The family of Kerri Moynihan have reportedly dropped their wrongful death lawsuit against Activision Blizzard.

    Ten sports tech startups, including four from SoCal, got one-on-one time with leaders at NASCAR, the PGA and Sky Sports as part of Comcast’s accelerator program.

    TikTok is entering the world of streaming services with a new subscription comedy series.

    Musician Halsey, who was prevented by their label from releasing a track until they created a fake 'viral moment' on TikTok, did just that by openly complaining about the policy on the platform.

    Snap’s foray into travel ads hopes to interest the tourism industry as summer trips get underway.

    Poparazzi is a new social photo app aimed at people who are put off by the polished content and pressure to look good on competitors like Instagram.

    VR therapy startup TRIPP raised new funds and announced it has purchased Eden, a small VR world-building platform and online social hub for meditation.

    Venture Capital 💰

    Santa Barbara has become a hub for software startups, and it now has a new venture fund to back them.

    Bonfire Ventures is looking to invest in 25 to 30 startups with its new $230 million fundraise.

    🎧 Listen Up 

    U.S. House Representative Derek Kilmer spoke to Office Hours host Spencer Rascoff about how technology can improve politics, and how social media has made consensus so much harder.

    Regeneration.VC’s Dan Fishman joined the LA Venture podcast to talk about how his experience scaling businesses in food and fashion prepared him to focus on climate innovation.

    Sponsored: Get Discounted Tickets to the Recurring Revenue Conference

    Join 500-plus entrepreneurs, executives and investors June 23 at the Hilton Los Angeles Culver City for the Recurring Revenue Conference hosted by Sutton Capital Partners. Hear from experts who are successfully growing their industry-leading companies, as well as from the investors backing them. Can’t make the in-person event? This year's conference is also open to virtual attendance.

    Visit recurringrevenueconference.com for tickets and info. dot.LA readers can register with this link using promo code DOTLA229 to save over $200 on in-person attendance.

    Also...

    Azure Printed Homes said it can build a backyard studio in under 24 hours. Can it help ease California's housing crunch?

    Bird is offering free rides in the city of Long Beach as part of its new disability-accessible e-scooter and wheelchair program.

    eBay's pop-up on Fairfax aimed to get sneakerheads to think of shoes beyond investment opportunities, by giving them deep discounts to wear their new kicks out of the store.

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    Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

    YouTube and TikTok are going head-to-head on new ways to pay their content creators.

    YouTube Shorts will now incorporate an expanded array of ads on its short-form video feed. which could potentially lead to Shorts creators receiving a cut of ad revenue. Meanwhile, TikTok is beta-testing LIVE Subscription, a new model which allows fans to directly compensate creators.

    As TikTok and YouTube stars gain popularity, both companies are seeking to advance monetization models that will keep creators on their apps. Social media influencers, for their part, are incentivized to spread their content across multiple platforms—as evidenced by Santa Monica-based Snap poaching TikTok stars for its own original content. (Snap has also introduced a new ad revenue initiative for creators this year.)

    The race for new content, new talent and new revenue models to keep them happy is just gearing up.

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

    It may be cutting in other areas, but Netflix says it’s going full bore into gaming. Next week’s release of “Exploding Kittens - The Game” will expand its catalog to 22.

    Workers at a Wisconsin-based Activision Blizzard subsidiary have voted to form the first union at a major video game publisher in the U.S. In the wake of that success, Activision workers in L.A. sent a list of demands to the company's CEO.

    AR startup Jadu raised a $38 million round to let players roam real world landscapes with their NFT avatars.

    Musician Halsey called out their record label for refusing to allow them to release their latest song until “they can fake a viral moment on TikTok.”

    Actor Seth Green scored a coveted Bored Ape NFT he planned to use in a new show. But—plot twist!—the NFT was stolen, giving us all got a lesson in intellectual property and the blockchain.

    Transportation 🚗

    Angelenos may soon be able to enjoy dinner and a short movie as they wait for their Tesla to charge, if a new proposal from the automaker goes through.

    Lime, Lyft and Spin have changed the terms of their city-mandated low-income programs. Community advocates say they were left largely unaware—both of the recent changes and of the equity programs themselves.

    Faraday Future disclosed its first-quarter earnings, and in it revealed only 401 people have paid for the company’s first EV.

    Consumers are worried about electric vehicles' batteries running out on them. But new research suggests 90% of drivers mobility's needs can be met with a range capacity of just 124 miles.

    Venture Capital 💰

    Buena Park-based beauty brand Rael landed the "largest amount raised in the U.S. feminine care category to date."

    While some local VCs are pulling back on startup investments as they await a market correction, others are doubling down.

    CropSafe raised $3 million in seed funding to help develop and scale its remote crop-monitoring capabilities for farmers.

    You have an idea for your startup. You even gave it a name. Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff has some tips on the next step: pitching it to investors.

    🎧 Listen Up 

    On this week’s episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, Illumix founder Kirin Sinha discusses how augmented reality changes the ways people engage with the space around them.

    On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Cedars Sinai Health Ventures’ Maureen Klewicki discusses price transparency, the labor shortage crisis and emerging models for health care.

    Also...

    Glendale's Americana at Brand mall will be home to a new kind of shopping experience: Amazon Style, as the ecommerce giant makes its first foray into a brick-and-mortar apparel retail.

    Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recently tested an artificial intelligence program that examines, identifies and classifies stool samples, and the verdict is in: The AI knows its 💩.

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