Watch Our Startup Pitch Showcase Featuring Diverse and Underrepresented Founders in LA

Annie Burford

Annie Burford is dot.LA's director of events. She's an event marketing pro with over ten years of experience producing innovative corporate events, activations and summits for tech startups to Fortune 500 companies. Annie has produced over 200 programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City working most recently for a China-based investment bank heading the CEC Capital Tech & Media Summit, formally the Siemer Summit.

Watch Our Startup Pitch Showcase Featuring Diverse and Underrepresented Founders in LA


Bank of America

Unarmed

When Tony Rice II was 17, he was pulled over by the police, who pointed a gun at his head. He said his first reaction was to look over at his younger brother in the passenger's seat, terrified.

Years later, he was pulled over again and this time the officer asked him if he was on parole.

"Unfortunately, situations like this happen too often to people that look like me," Rice, who is Black, said. "And a part of me thinks I'm lucky because others weren't."


Rice told his story about what led him to found a company that developed a platform for government agencies to file and track complaints or compliments about police officers during dot.LA's most recent Startup Pitch Showcase Thursday that highlighted startups that have diverse and underrepresented leaders. Rice was joined by executives from three other startups, Kilo, Gleam Network and StartupStarter.

The startups were offered advice from judges Redonna Carpenter Woods, senior vice president and market executive at Bank of America, Ajay Relan, partner at Slauson & Co. and Camden McRae, co-founder and investor at Industrious Ventures about how to develop their pitch in the hope of getting funding. But the stars of the show was the startups themselves.

Rice said government entities, including police oversight agencies, can use the Unarmed platform on their websites for citizens to file complaints or compliments about police officers. The cases then enter into a dashboard where officials manage the case. Citizens are also able to track their case through the system.

"This is the real deal not just for people that look like you and I, but this is for the safety and wellness for everyone," Carpenter Woods said.

Rice is seeking $500,000 in funding to hire full-time employees.

Kilo

Amanda Bender, founder of Kilo, said it was her experience as a therapist and her relationships with male friends that led her to develop an app for men to track their emotional fitness. While she said the market is flooded with apps that focus on physical fitness, there is a lack of apps focused on mental health for men that speak directly to them.

"We've specifically designed Kilo for its core audience," Bender said. "We've created an app to transform men into happier and healthier humans."

The app, which is still in development, uses nine markers, like sleep, motivation, mood, workout and libido, where a user rates each marker to increase their own self-awareness and to receive personalized insights.

The company is seeking $600,000 in funding to hire full-time staff.

The judges were interested in how Kilo would market to men who might not be open to improving their mental health.

GLEAM Network

GLEAM Network is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that mentors and offers leadership training to underserved communities in the restaurant and foodservice industry.

Founded nine months ago by Sanjiv Razdan, former COO of Sweetgreen, GLEAM has ambitions to scale quickly and grow globally.

"The demand for our services is even greater than we anticipated and what's stopping us from global growth is funding," GLEAM's Rosemary Staltare said.

GLEAM is seeking $150,000 to fund a new technology platform that will help match mentors with mentees. With that money, it hopes to expand the number of mentees it works with to 500.

StartupStarter

Jose Barrera, founder and CEO of StartupStarter, sees opportunity with his social network for startups. All businesses are now internet businesses, he said.

"This is true whether you're trying to launch a mining company or a high-tech startup, the same principles apply that is you have to attract customers, convert customers, pay your employees, basically you have to open your computer, enter the grid," Barerra added.

The network has different membership levels for founders, service providers and investors.

Its goal is to democratize entrepreneurship through efficiency and convenience.

StartupStarter has begun working with startups because there is a single model, however Barrera also sees the business expanding to other verticals like restaurants because every business needs to know how to build a better website, for example.

Barrera is seeking $1.3 million in funding to develop a mobile app to expand to millions of users and to hire marketing staff.

About the Companies:

Unarmed is a technology company serving the public sector. Our mission is to create a safer world for all civilians. Our vision is to be the global leader in civilian-focused solutions. Our subscription-based, software as a service (SaaS) platform consists of an online portal where civilians can prepare, file and track their compliments and complaints ("cases") about law enforcement. Those cases then seamlessly flow into a dashboard, where oversight officials are able to manage the case until it is closed.

StartupStarter is a professional network for startups and the communities that support them. We are a collective of founders, investors, subject matter experts and service providers on a mission to make launching and scaling a successful business accessible to anyone. We're united by the idea that every business is now an internet business, and we strive to give the most user-centric and efficient experience by providing our members with the innovative resources, products, services or connections that best meet their needs.

GLEAM Network is a volunteer network whose purpose is to provide mentorship and leadership development to the underserved and underrepresented community in the restaurant and foodservice industry. With a bold vision to be a truly global and the most effective mentoring network in the industry, our organization provides low / no cost access to all programs, including executive leadership training, 1:1 mentoring and biweekly learning circles helmed by the industry's most inspiring leaders. At GLEAM we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to learn from engaging with others and to build expertise in leading effectively.

Kilo is an app for men who want to be their best selves, an app to track emotional fitness with powerful data like quality of mood, energy, libido, relationships and sleep on a daily basis to unlock actionable insights and cultivate growth in order to improve happiness and mental health. Building better hu[man]s.

About the Judges:

Redonna Carpenter Woods

Redonna Carpenter Woods, senior vice president and market executive at Bank of America

Redonna Carpenter Woods, Senior Vice President & Market Executive at Bank of America​

As the SVP & market executive for the L.A. coastal market of commercial business banking, Redonna leads a team of financial professionals who deliver strategic, integrated financial guidance and solutions to companies with $5 million to $50 million in annual revenue.

Redonna has enjoyed a career in banking that spans over 35 years. She joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch in 2011. Prior to that time she held key leadership positions in SBA Lending, Consumer and Commercial Banking.

Redonna is the Executive Sponsor for Greater LA LEAD for Women and Multicultural Women Ready to Lead. She is also a member of the Black Professional Group (BPG), Power of 10, and the Black Executive Leadership Team (BELT). Redonna is an active volunteer in her community and has served inmany leadership roles and as a member of several nonprofit boards. A few of these organizations include: The Wellness Community – Valley/Ventura, Moorpark College Foundation, Conejo/Las Virgeness Future Foundation, and United Way of Ventura County, Big Brother/Big Sister - Ventura County and YMCA, Thousand Oaks/Conejo Valley. Redonna is a current board member for Discovery Cube, LA and Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Ajay Relan

Ajay Relan, partner at Slauson & Co.

Ajay Relan, Partner at Slauson & Co.

Ajay is an investor, entrepreneur, and community builder. Prior to Slauson & Co., Ajay was a founding partner at Queensbridge Venture Partners. With a keen focus on brand building and storytelling, Ajay's passion lies in identifying trends and engineering culturally relevant brands.

A lifelong Angeleno, Ajay has established a business portfolio grounded in community. His most recent collaboration, Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, has become a staple, facilitating productivity and collaboration in diverse neighborhoods across Los Angeles.

In 2012, Ajay founded #HashtagLunchbag, a nonprofit program who's supporting feeding 150-plus cities around the globe. He went on to establish the Living Through Giving Foundation, a platform empowering the creation of programs engaging diverse groups of people to contribute to various causes in their local communities.

Camden McRae

Camden McRae , co-founder and investor at Industrious Ventures

​Camden McRae, Co-Founder and Investor at Industrious Ventures

Camden McRae is a co-founder and investor at Industrious Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on industry transformation. He currently serves on the Executive Committee for BLCK VC, as well as the Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs of Southern California. Camden co-founded a company that led him to become a Fellow at Lightspeed Venture Partners and he later worked as a Fellow at Alchemist Accelerator. Most recently, Camden was a principal at Noname Ventures. He received a BA in psychology from Harvard University and a JD from Stanford Law School.

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

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.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

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.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

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.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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