Upfront Summit: Steve Ballmer, Meg Whitman, and Even Paris Hilton
Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. 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.
- Upfront Summit will bring together top names in media, tech and finance from singer John Legend to Quibi CEO Meg Whitman
- Sustainability, climate change, white privilege and streaming are on the agenda
- The Takeaway: Upfront set to attract investors backed with billions in capital
Upfront Ventures kicks off its technology and startup conference on Wednesday, and this year's lineup includes everyone from Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer to Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos. And, given the event is in Hollywood's back yard, musician John Legend, Ice Cube, and even Paris Hilton are set to speak.
The Upfront Summit, now in its eighth year, is expected to attract more than 1,200 attendees flocking to the Rose Bowl Jan. 29-30. The invite-only event brings together a diverse mix of entrepreneurs networking with venture players armed with billions of dollars in capital, and headlined by presentations from business leaders including Quibi Chief Executive Meg Whitman, Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson, and Idealab founder Bill Gross.
And this year's conference is expected to take on a theme of sustainability, with panelists like Gross, addressing climate change. The topic takes on more significance this week after Amazon workers threatened to protest about their company's environmental stance, despite threats of termination if they do.
"If the world doesn't solve its sustainability problem, there is no world," said Upfront Managing Partner Mark Suster. "As a result we are not only solving society's biggest problems, but that's where a lot of the money goes."
The event will also tackle issues of diversity and white privilege, along with panels on venture capital, entrepreneurship and the changing media landscape. The summit, which will be live-streamed for the first time, was originally started as a way to counter what Suster believes was a perception that investors were reluctant to sink money into Los Angeles because "it's an entertainment town."
Indeed, today's Los Angeles economy thrives from a cross-pollination of companies where SpaceX sits alongside the scientific community, and tech titans like Snap or Riot Games co-exist with retail ventures like Dollar Shave Club and Sweetgreen.
The convergence of Hollywood and technology are certainly going to be front-and-center at this year's conference. The meteoric rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu launched a streaming war that lured in competitors from Apple to Quibi. NBCUniversal got into the action on Jan. 16 when it announced the launch of its Peacock streamer.
Celebrities, whose eye-catching names add a bit of glitz to the Upfront Summit, can't be counted out. After all, this is the town where Ashton Kutcher jumped into the venture capital game, Gwyneth Paltrow launched Goop, and Jessica Alba unveiled Honest Co.
That's certainly a boon to Southern California, where the entertainment industry pumped $115.7 billion into the Los Angeles and Orange County economies (including consumer and other ancillary spending). Los Angeles county is also the nation's top manufacturing base.
For Suster, the conference has the added bonus of giving Upfront a better view about potential investments. The Santa Monica-based firm is one of the region's largest and oldest venture capital players known for its early and seed investment in companies like TrueCar, Maker Studios and Ring. And there's some money to spend. Last year it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $250 million in an Upfront Growth III fund for later stage companies. "We are proudly long L.A.," Suster said.
Links to the conference agenda and the livestream can be found here.
Upfront Ventures holds a non-controlling, minority interest in dot.LA.
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Eliminating battery waste, developing new hair growth therapy, fixing carbon dioxide. These are among some of the ambitious problems that companies are trying to solve at the First Look SoCal Innovation Showcase beginning Tuesday.
Hosted by nonprofit Alliance for SoCal Innovation, the online event connects early-stage tech and life science companies with investors and serial entrepreneurs.
BioZen Batteries Aims to Solve Our Energy Storage Issues<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0Nzg5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTg3OTYyNn0.y9dSMjovB1GtsQ1SZhKiPTIJY3VW0XOE2YXd-JN1xYU/image.jpg?width=980" id="95064" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3ad9197ad70005802e6d34d6da3c29d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Left to right: BioZen Batteries' co-founders Zach Rengert, Nate Kirchhofer and Eric Brigham.<p>Nate Kirchhofer, co-founder and CEO of <a href="https://biozenbatteries.com/" target="_blank">BioZen Batteries</a>, wants to make batteries that will outlive him.</p><p>Santa Barbara-based BioZen creates organic electrolytes, the active material inside a specific type of battery called a "redox flow battery." It's a different type of technology that differs from the lithium batteries often used in mobile applications like cars and phones. Only 5% of those get recycled.</p><p>BioZen's batteries are well suited for green, large-scale energy storage, Kirchhofer said. For example, batteries that help solar panels connect to the grid or provide backup during disasters when the power goes out.</p><p>Kirchhofer, an electrochemist, founded the company in June of 2019 with Zach Rengert, a materials chemist, and Eric Brigham, the company's CFO. Kirchhofer and Rengert met while getting their doctorate at UC Santa Barbara.</p><p>There hasn't yet been a push for sustainable batteries because it isn't economically incentivized, Kirchhofer told dot.LA. He said that his batteries are cheaper than competitors.</p><p>Kirchhofer's product fits into a growing renewable energy market and a social movement in which individuals want to do their part. He's worked for four startups but says this one is poised to make the biggest impact.</p><p>"If it's not our generation that solves climate change, there's not another chance. There's not another Earth." he said. "If we can make these batteries happen, we can truly integrate renewable energy and stop the petroleum-dominated energy paradigm we're part of."</p>
Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus
Amplifica Treats Baldness with Mole Molecules<p>Back in 2013, Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus began studying hairy moles. Though some find the growths unsightly, his work showed promise for baldness treatment.</p><p>He, along with colleagues at UC Irvine, discovered that molecules from moles that grow excessive hair can induce follicle growth when administered anywhere on the skin.</p><p>"As long as you can tease it out and replicate it in the form of purified molecules, you can achieve essentially what we think would be a novel, revolutionary solution to baldness," Plikus told dot.LA.</p><p>Plikus said his company is the first to solve hair loss by replicating cells from hairy moles to stimulate hair growth. At the moment, hair follicle research has emerged as a leading experimental model for studying stem cells.</p><p>By 2025, hair-loss products are projected to surpass $12 billion, Plikus said. But only two drugs are FDA approved and require daily treatment in the form of pills, which he said come with long-term side effects.</p><p>Amplifica says it's poised to put a more effective and convenient solution on the market. Pinkus' proposed product is a topical solution requiring less frequent application, like getting Botox injections a few times per year.</p>
FixingCO2 Aims to Recycle Fuel from the Air<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0ODM4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA1ODA4MH0.9RqwD9zUN1et1kor8zNPj8WH2kOX6SrysdpRDFT5QMc/image.jpg?width=980" id="daa89" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9851b177139c4b5e06bd9c96fb395083" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
FixingCO2's team. CEO Eldar Akhmetgaliyev is at right.<p><a href="https://fixingco2.com/" target="_blank">FixingCO2</a> got its start on Mars. Like the name says, the company aims to fix the global carbon problem that's fueling climate change.</p><p>In 2018, co-founder Alma Zhanaidarova's professor and research group at UC San Diego received a grant from NASA to build out a reactor that makes renewable fuels and chemicals from carbon dioxide, often a byproduct of industrial waste. The technology was being developed in anticipation of a one-day human mission to Mars, where 95% of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.</p><p>Now, the San Diego-based startup is commercializing their product for earthlings.</p><p>"It's a different application but the same core technology," co-founder Eldar Akhmetgaliyev told dot.LA. "Instead of making fuels from oil or any other fossil sources, we can make them essentially from air."</p><p>The team is developing the hardware to capture industrial emissions blamed for much of the Earth's warming. The product has significant application for the aviation industry, where planes are built to burn jet fuel that produces carbon emissions.</p><p>"These kinds of technologies provide them a pathway to decarbonization," he said. "They can use fuels made from CO2 so they're not contributing to climate change."</p><p>As fires burn through California and the Pacific Northwest, Akhmetgaliyev said there's urgency for innovators in the carbon tech market. "We're pretty much turning our planet into Mars," he said.</p><p>He said that by 2050, about 14% of overall carbon reduction will come from carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) technology like his.</p><p>"The market hasn't met its opportunity and with the effects of climate change being seen everyday, there's going to be more drive towards these low carbon technologies."</p>
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This Test Prep Service has a Cult Following Among Med Students. Soon it Will Have an Animation Studio
The unnamed king wears a crown and large pink robe as he grasps a tissue to his nose.
No, this isn't some Netflix show on the quarantine lives of the rich and famous; it's actually a method SketchyMedical uses to help students recall complicated concepts.
Such images by Los Angeles-based online education startup SketchyMedical have helped catapult the company to cult status among the med school set, who dress up in their drawings for Halloween. One fan even got a tattoo of SketchyMedical's pencil representing penicillin.
On Thursday, SketchyMedical announced its first outside investment stake, a $30 million shot in the arm from former Hollywood executive Peter Chernin's investment firm TCG to help establish an in-house animation studio that will bring to life those famous sketches and expand its team of 30 employees.
- A Test Prep Service with a Cult Following - dot.LA ›
- A Test Prep Service with a Cult Following - dot.LA ›