A Venture Fund for the Influencer Economy: UTA.VC Plans to Invest Big In Web3

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

A Venture Fund for the Influencer Economy: UTA.VC Plans to Invest Big In Web3
Image courtesy of UTA

United Talent Agency is linking with former stakeholder Investcorp to create a strategic partnership that will invest in startups focused on culture and technology, including Web3 and the creator economy.

The new venture is called UTA.VC. Investcorp is a previous investor in the Beverly Hills-based agency; it first backed UTA in 2018 but sold its stake in July to Swedish private equity firm EQT Partners for a reported $800 million.

Now, UTA and Investcorp are looking to invest in startups that are synergistic with areas UTA has long been interested in, whether as an investor or agency – including entertainment, creator-focused startups, consumer products and, more recently, Web3 and NFTs.

UTA.VC will be led by UTA general partners Caroline Jacobs, Clinton Foy and Sam Wick. Anand Radhakrishnan, managing director of Investcorp’s United States private equity division, will serve as a partner.

In a press release Wednesday, UTA.VC said it is targeting companies working in the creator economy, Web3 and the future of entertainment. Vague, yes, but UTA said it defines this as “technologies driving the production, distribution and consumption of content.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. UTA wouldn't disclose the size of the strategic partnership’s fund, though the UTA.VC website notes several recent investments, including blockchain company Consensys (where Jacobs is a board observer), influencer marketing tool Bounty and NFT marketplace Percs.

The agency has been investing in startups since at least 2014, under the banner of UTA Ventures. Notable local investments UTA Ventures has made over the years include Pluto TV, NTWRK and Cloud9 Esports. UTA Ventures also backed firms that went from tech upstarts to household names, including Patreon, Lyft, MasterClass and Cameo.

Venture funding database PitchBook notes UTA Ventures investments date back as far as 2012. Its biggest hits include Santa Monica-based YouTube channel AwesomenessTV, which sold to DreamWorks Animation in May 2013 for $33 million.

“UTA.VC is the next evolution of UTA’s venture platform,” Foy and Wick said in a statement Wednesday. “The strategic partnership builds on our successful previous investments in companies… and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to invest and partner with the next generation of companies in this space.”

Other competitors to UTA such as the Creative Artists Agency and Endeavor are prolific investors in tech. Within the last two years, CAA Ventures has seen sales of portfolio companies including Genies, Thatgamecompany and Hinge. Endeavor’s been on the buy side of a number of deals so far this year, as well. Solidifying its venture capital thesis and shoring up a firm that is dedicated specifically to identifying potential moonshots in the startup community is a key way for UTA to prove it’s a competitor.


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Starships Were Meant To Fly: Astrolab's New Jeep-Sized Rover Gets a Lift from SpaceX

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Starships Were Meant To Fly: Astrolab's New Jeep-Sized Rover Gets a Lift from SpaceX
Photo by Samson Amore

Local Los Angeles-area startup Astrolab Inc. has designed a new lunar vehicle called FLEX, short for Flexible Logistics and Exploration Rover. About the size of a Jeep Wrangler, FLEX is designed to move cargo around the surface of the moon on assignment. It’s a bit larger than NASA’s Mars rovers, like Perseverance, but as it’s designed for transport and mobility rather than precision measurement, it can travel much faster, at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour across the lunar surface.

In the short-term, this “cargo” would be mostly scientific equipment, but down the road, it’s possible that FLEX could also contribute to larger-scale projects, such as building out a “lunar infrastructure.” Astrolab founder Jaret Matthews told The New York Times that his goal, ultimately, would be to serve as a kind of “UPS for the moon,” providing a “local distribution solution” once private companies had figured out the logistical challenge of getting their products to the lunar surface in the first place.

To that point, Astrolab plans to get FLEX itself on to the moon with help from SpaceX. Specifically, the company’s new giant spacecraft, Starship, which will reportedly be ready for uncrewed lunar cargo missions as soon as 2026. Matthews – an engineer by trade, and a veteran of both SpaceX and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – assured the Times that FLEX will be part of the very first SpaceX commercial cargo flight to the moon. For their part, SpaceX has not yet made any specific announcements about when this might actually be happening, and didn't respond to requests for comment.

Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, surpassing even NASA’s own Saturn V and Space Launch System. It’s unconventional in a few other ways as well. Starship is constructed from stainless steel, the first time this particular metal has been used in a space rocket since the 1950s. Steel is heavy, so launching a steel rocket into orbit requires more fuel than alternate metals such as aluminum or titanium. Nonetheless, SpaceX prefers steel as it apparently works better in extreme temperature conditions, such as during launch and atmospheric re-entry. The use of stainless steel also gives Starship a distinct, rather stylish silver appearance.

SpaceX’s plans for the Starship megarocket lie not just in its massive size but reusability. Being able to launch heavy payloads into orbit and beyond without having to construct an enormous new rocket each time significantly lowers costs, and gives SpaceX a potential leg-up in terms of transporting satellites and spacecraft, along with cargo and even passengers on space tourism getaways.

The vehicle has flown a few times before, but only low-powered versions on quick roughly 6-mile trips above the Earth’s surface. SpaceX had hoped to launch some early orbital tests in 2022 but faced numerous delays. The new goal – pending FAA approval – is to get orbital tests going in late April, which founder and CEO Elon Musk predicts have about a 50% chance of success. (Yes, this could potentially include one of Musk’s personal favorite dates in the annual calendar: 4/20.)

Once FLEX arrives, it will actually rank among the first-ever American-made rovers to hit the lunar surface. Though NASA previously sent a famed “moon buggy” up there which astronauts used during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions, and both the Soviet Union and China have deployed robotic rovers, the US has previously preferred to do its moon exploration in person. That’s all about to change, though, with not only FLEX’s debut, but NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. This rover, about the size of a golf cart, will explore the area around the Moon’s South Pole looking for water ice ahead of the arrival of the Artemis Program – and human astronauts – in 2025.

Astrolab isn’t the only local company hoping to leverage SpaceX’s Starship plans for its own purposes. K2 Space, founded by brothers Karan and Neel Kunjur, are developing large-scale “satellite buses,” physical structures that can move and power entire spacecraft, which are about as large as any objects humans have ever attempted to blast into space. While previous efforts to innovate space travel on the commercial side have focused on making vehicles smaller, and thus cheaper to launch, K2 views the progress of SpaceX as a sea change, indicating that – one day soon – manufacturers will have a variety of “launch providers” for getting their products on to the moon and beyond.

Meet the Creator Economy’s Version of LinkedIn

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Meet the Creator Economy’s Version of LinkedIn

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LinkedIn hasn’t caught on with Gen Z—in fact, 96% rarely use their existing account.

Considering 25% of young people want to be full-time content creators and most influencers aren’t active on LinkedIn, traditional networking sites aren’t likely to meet these needs.

Enter CreatorLand.

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This Week in ‘Raises’: Total Network Services Gains $9M, Autio Secures $5.9M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Total Network Services Gains $9M, Autio Secures $5.9M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

It has been a slow week in funding, but a local decentralized computing network managed to land $9 million to accelerate deployment of its new product called Universal Communication Identifier (UCID™). Another local company that secured capital included Kevin Costner’s location-based audio storytelling platform and the funding will go toward expanding the app’s content library and expanding into additional regions in the United States.

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