SoCal's Startup Scene Is Surging: A Look At the Biggest Deals of the Second Quarter

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

SoCal's Startup Scene Is Surging: A Look At the Biggest Deals of the Second Quarter
Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

The L.A. tech scene is booming despite a year-plus pandemic and a string of natural disasters. Rocket makers, sneaker sellers and fusion power creators were among those that dominated the list of L.A. venture deals for the first half of 2021.

On Wednesday, the National Venture Capital Association and Pitchbook released their Venture Monitor report which tracks investment across the country. Both Los Angeles and the U.S. overall notched record-breaking levels of VC investment as the COVID-19 pandemic rebound continues.

A few highlights from the report:

  • At the national level, megadeals of $100 million have become more common, and L.A. appears to be no exception, with all 10 of its largest deals coming it at $100 million-plus.
  • VC investment in Q2 for the Los Angeles-Long Beach area totaled $8.5 billion, spread across 365 different deals. That's slightly down from Q1's $9.4 billion, but still more than double the investment from the same time period last year ($3.9 billion).
  • Los Angeles remains a powerhouse, but it still lags behind Silicon Valley. The $8.5 billion dollars of Q2 investment puts Los Angeles-Long Beach second, behind only the Bay Area ($26.7 billion) and New York City ($12.6 billion) in terms of total VC deal activity. Boston, Seattle and Denver round out the top 6.
  • The white-hot market streak continues. For the year to date, VC investment in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area has totaled $17.9 billion across 762 deals. That's easily on pace to shatter 2020's record total of $22.7 billion.
  • The three largest deals in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area came from the aerospace industry. Elon Musk's SpaceX raised $1.2 billion while upstart rival 3-D rocketmaker Relativity Space pulled in $650 million sending its valuation soaring to $4.2 billion. Defense contractor raised $450 million catapulting the Irvine-based company's valuation to $4.6 billion.
  • Of the top 10 largest deals, three were fintech software companies.
  • Energy and software also received large investments in excess of $100 million.
  • Santa Monica scooter company Bird Rides, which is plotting out an IPO via SPAC, also made the list. The blank-check company Switchback II Corporation was marketing a PIPE offering to investors.
  • All of the top 10 largest VC investments were later stage investments—a trend which was generalizable across the entire United States.
  • Exits were strong nationally and for the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, with IPOs representing the dominant pathway to liquidity. The region's largest exits came from FIGS, ZipRecruiter and Bridg.
    • FIGS, the Santa Monica Healthcare apparel brand, IPO'd for an exit of $3.4 billion.
    • ZipRecruiter, the Santa Monica online recruiting platform, also IPO'd for an exit of $2.4 billion.
    • Bridg, the Los Angeles SaaS data infrastructure company, was acquired by Cardlytics for an exit of $350 million.

Here's a look at Pitchbook's list of the biggest second-quarter deals in Southern California — from the Santa Barbara area to Orange County:

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    LA Venture: Emilio Diez Barroso On Why Everyone Isn’t Cut Out To Be A Founder

    Minnie Ingersoll
    Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
    LA Venture: Emilio Diez Barroso On Why Everyone Isn’t Cut Out To Be A Founder
    Photo: provided by LAV

    On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Bold Capital Partner Emilio Diez Barroso talks about his entrepreneurial journey, what led him to become an investor and shares the qualities he looks for when investing in companies.

    Bold Capital is a Series A fund that primarily focuses its investments in deep tech and biotech companies. But, like other funds, they make excuses to invest in other companies every now and then.

    “We're always interested in things that have the potential to truly transform how things are done and uplift humanity,” he said.

    In his experience with investing in early stage startups, Diez Barroso said “humility and vulnerability are assets and qualities in the journey, and you don’t feel like you have to have it all together with your investors.”

    Which is why he looks for people who have “this capacity to take full responsibility for how they show up and they have a vision and they have the willingness to go and execute it.”

    In addition to his work at Bold Capital, Diez Barroso also runs two family offices which provide him with a surplus of knowledge in the investment space.

    “I wear two very different hats,” he said, “and I invest very differently when I'm investing for myself, when I'm investing for my family, and when I'm investing for LP’s.”

    But before becoming an investor, Diez Barroso got his entrepreneurial start when he arrived in Los Angeles. He admits that he failed plenty of times because unlike in Mexico, where Diez Barroso grew up, he didn’t have the same access to the contacts or resources of his family business.

    “I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way,” he said, “I had started or partnered with someone and co-founded and most of them I had no idea what I was doing, so most of them really failed and a few got lucky enough to succeed.”

    After learning how these startups worked and investing his own capital into several companies, he soon realized he was a much better investor than an operator.

    “I think we're not all cut out for the journey,” he said, “and I don't think we should all be cut out for that journey. I think that it takes a very different character to start something from scratch.”

    Throughout his own journey, Diez Barroso acknowledged that he struggled with his own identity and need to feel like the smartest person in the room. Once he better understood his own motivations, Diez Barroso was able to see that he was chasing the next reward, the next carrot.

    “It's fun to close the deal and it's fun to grow the business,” Diez Barroso said. “But what I hadn't been in contact with is how much of my fuel was derived from trying to outrun the idea of not feeling good enough.”

    Of course, he’s not alone. “I see a lot of entrepreneurs, activists all across fields and I can tell the difference when they're running from this fuel that is sort of very quick burning because there is an anxiety that oftentimes makes us narrow minded,” Diez Barroso said. “We are so attached to what we think should happen that we leave very little space for the possibilities.”

    dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

    Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

    This podcast is produced by L.A. Venture. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

    Xos Receives Multi-Million Dollar Order for Armored EVs

    David Shultz

    David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

    Xos Receives Multi-Million Dollar Order for Armored EVs
    The United States transportation sector is rapidly adopting electric vehicle technologies at every level. From aircrafts, to tractor trailers, to sedans and bicycles, no means of locomotion is off limits…even armored trucks.
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