🎮 Riot Games' Valorant Finals Are Another Jewel In LA's Gaming Crown

Wil Chockley
WIl Chockley is a partner at 75 & Sunny, where he evaluates potential investment opportunities across sectors and works with founders to build their strategy and execute on their vision.

🔦 Spotlight

🎮💥🔫 “USA, USA, USA!” If you wandered into the Kia Forum this past Saturday and listened to the cheers, you might have thought you had stumbled into a secret Olympic Games, and honestly you’d kind of be right.

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

That not-so-secret Olympics was the Valorant Champions Tour Grand Final, hosted by LA-based gaming giant Riot Games.

I was lucky enough to attend, and, as I sat in the sold-out crowd of 11,500 screaming fans, watching (real) fire erupt from the stage and (CGI) explosions and gunshots flash on the jumbotrons, I felt like a kid on his first day at a new school. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly what to do, and I was just sitting there, confused and overwhelmed, looking exactly like this emoji → 😮

For those of you not familiar with Valorant, it’s a first person shooter game (á la Call of Duty) where two teams of five compete to shoot each other or finish various tasks while avoiding being shot by the other team (sorry to all of the Valorant fans out there for butchering this description). Last month, more than 20 million people played the game, and over a million fans tuned in online to watch the Championship Finals live, according to Riot. While those numbers are obviously huge, Valorant is tiny compared to Riot’s flagship game League of Legends, which counted over 150 million players last month.

So why the “USA, USA, USA!” chant? For the same reason traditional pro sports teams are built around cities. People love cheering for the home team. Riot has organized the professional Valorant league (Valorant Champions Tour or VCT) into regional teams. Saturday’s eventual champion was the North American team, Evil Geniuses - an underdog who triumphed against the heavily favored Southeast Asian Paper Rex team. Fans couldn’t get enough of both sides, though “EG” was the definitely a little more hometown love.

These fans didn’t just come for the 3+ hour actual competition, though. Attendees started showing up more than four hours before the Grand Finals started, hanging out in the baking hot parking lot at the Riot-organized “Fan Fest” before watching the wildly impressive opening musical acts performing Riot-created music from the Valorant game. It was, dare I say it? A Riot of a good time.

So what does this all mean…

This competition is living proof of how gaming is now the largest category in entertainment, and it’s not even close. The industry’s estimated $192B in 2022 revenue is double the size of the TV and movie businesses, and more than 7x the size of the music industry.

It also demonstrates the strength of gaming as one of LA’s core tech sectors. Riot is an LA company, through and through. It was born out of founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill’s USC dorm room, opened its first office in Santa Monica in 2006, and maintains its headquarters on Olympic Blvd in West LA to this day. For more evidence of LA’s gaming prowess, look no further than our Around the Internet section below. 😎

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • LA-based Trellis, a provider of state trial court data, raised $15m in Series B funding led by Top Tier Capital Partners, with participation from Okapi Ventures, Calibrate Ventures, Craft Ventures, Revel Partners and Sky Dayton - learn more
LA VCs
  • MFast, a financial services distribution network, raised a $6M Series A led by LA-based Wavemaker Partners, with participation from Krungsri Innovate, Headline Asia and insiders Do Ventures, JAFCO Asia and Ascend Vietnam Ventures - learn more
  • Pi-xcels, a startup that manufactures an NFC-enabled point of sale device that can issue interactive e-receipts, raised a $1.7M Seed Round led by LA-based Wavemaker Partners, and joined by Hustle Fund, Amand Ventures, and Black Kite Capital - learn more
  • TeamSense, a platform that helps manufacturers manage the attendance of their deskless workers, raised a $4M Seed Round led by LA-based Bonfire Ventures, with additional funds provided by Operator Collective - learn more
New LA Funds
  • Black Ostrich Ventures, an LA-based venture capital firm, has launched a $20 million pre-seed and seed stage fund to support African founders to grow their businesses in the cleantech, supply chain, ag-tech, and edtech sectors. The newly created firm says it will mainly support startups in Tanzania, Zambia, Morocco and Uganda, with check sizes ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. - learn more

⚒️ Open Roles

Operations Associate @ Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is hiring a Los Angeles based Operations Associate. This role is responsible for the administrative duties and operational execution throughout the duration of the accelerator program. Logistics experience as well as familiarity with the early stage venture backed company ecosystem is preferred. A willingness to learn and comfort tackling new problems is a must.

It’s a chance to get amazing experience, broaden your network in ways you could never imagine, get exposure to some of the greatest up and coming companies and teams in the country. Historically, most associates end up being employed by one of the teams or by someone they met during the span of the three months. Many also go on to build their own companies. Apply directly here.

Featured Event

Plug In South LA is hosing its Accelerator Cohort 4 Founder Showcase on September 14th.

Hosted by our friends at Plug In, this event will showcase Early Stage Black and Brown Founders rolling out new service and platform solutions in Digital Health/Healthcare Tech, FinTech, Digital Media, PropTech, and EdTech.

🚀 For Early Stage Investors looking to diversify their portfolios with high-potential companies led by Black and Brown Entrepreneurs, this showcase is a must-attend. We also extend a warm welcome to the LA Tech community, including LPs, Corporate Executives & Foundations, and Family Offices.

🎟️ Secure your spot now and immerse yourself in a night of innovation, inspiration, and boundless opportunities. Register for the Plug In Accelerator Cohort 4 Founder Showcase here.


📅 LA Tech Calendar

Tuesday, September 5th

  • Tacos and Tech 🗽 - ScaleHealth’s monthly happy hour for tech and healthcare innovators.

Thursday, September 7th

Other events to add to the calendar

🗽 - Free

🌍 Around The Internet

Over the past few years, there has been a shift in startup dynamics that has resulted in a dispersion of funding across the country. This geographical redistribution of seed investments mirrors the evolving landscape of venture capital, propelled by trends such as remote work and the strength of emerging startup ecosystems.

Unsurprisingly the Bay Area stands as the preeminent force in startup funding taking the top spot for capital invested in 7 of the 10 verticals listed below. That being said Los Angeles had a strong showing in the first half of 2023 and dominated the gaming vertical. Total capital raised by gaming companies based in Los Angeles during in the first half of 2023 was nearly $85M, more than 4X the next leading market, Dallas/Fort Worth. 🎮👾🕹️

Read More

Source: Carta

📙 What We’re Reading

  • SEC Settles First NFT Enforcement Action, Against Media Company Impact Theory. - read more
  • Completion of the $2 billion automated people mover project at Los Angeles International Airport has been pushed back to fall of next year. - read more

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

🏰 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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