Voyage SMS Lays Off Sales Staffers, COO As Tech Downturn Continues

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Voyage SMS Lays Off Sales Staffers, COO As Tech Downturn Continues
Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Text message marketing startup Voyage SMS has laid off more than 10% of its staff, including its chief operating officer, dot.LA has learned—as the Santa Monica-based company became the latest local venture to fall victim to worsening economic conditions.


Voyage cut eight people from its roughly 60-person workforce last week, co-founder and CEO Rev Reddy confirmed to dot.LA. Besides COO Dave Link, the cuts affected the company’s full-time sales department and some contractors, he said.

“It’s unfortunate to let people go—it’s never a fun thing,” Reddy said. “This is a multi-factor decision, but of course the macro[economic] climate affected [and] was an input in this decision.”

Reddy added that the company hopes the downsizing will be temporary and that Voyage plans to eventually hire more staff, specifically people in the Los Angeles area who have expertise in digital marketing. “We are prioritizing growth efficiency over growth at all costs,” he said.

Voyage CEO Rev Reddy.Credit: Voyage SMS

The ongoing economic downturn has not spared the tech and venture capital sectors, spooking investors into pulling back funding and prompting a wave of layoffs across the industry. It’s a sudden change of winds of Voyage, which earlier this year raised a $10 million funding round and acquired rival SMS marketing startup LiveRecover. Voyage’s text-based marketing strategy is plugged into ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and ZenDesk—but as consumers have cut their discretionary spending to cope with rising inflation, they’re spending less on ecommerce, indirectly hindering Voyage’s business.

Link, Voyage’s outgoing COO, previously worked for LiveRecover and joined the company in February after the acquisition.

“Technically, [Link] wasn’t even an employee—it was a trial,” Reddy noted. “The title was internal and it was very much contingent upon execution of results. And candidly speaking, those results were just not hit.”

Link could not immediately be reached for comment. Other former Voyage employees confirmed on LinkedIn that they were laid off and looking for new work.

While Voyage is not yet profitable, Reddy said he believes the company is on a “path to profitability in a reasonable timeframe.” Still, he acknowledged that the startup’s backers—which include former Airbnb executive James Beshara and venture firms RiverPark and Guild Capital—will be eager to see progress if Voyage is to “attract the capital we need” moving forward.

“Limited partners now look at their portfolio and their allocations, and since the public markets have dropped so much, they look overweight in venture,” York IE managing partner Joe Raczka, whose New Hampshire-based investment firm is among Voyage’s investors, told dot.LA. “So they course-correct a little bit in terms of where their allocations are going, so you see some hesitancy.”

York IE Managing Partner Joe Raczka.

Credit: York IE

Still, Raczka said York IE plans to stick with Voyage. “I think the company has a massive market that they play in [and] they have a really strong product,” he said. “I remain very confident in the business.”

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From Pitch Meetings to Power Lunches: LA’s Exclusive Membership Clubs 🗝️

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Summer's here, so it's time to zhuzh up your work environment. Discovering the best membership and social clubs in Los Angeles for meetings can boost networking and collaboration, offering exclusive venues and premium amenities tailored for professionals and creatives to thrive amidst the city's vibrant backdrop. These clubs provide a sophisticated setting for productive gatherings and meaningful connections in LA. Here are some top private member clubs perfect for meetings and productive work sessions.

The Jonathan Club

Image Source: The Jonathan Club

Neighborhood: DTLA & Santa Monica

Club Details: The Jonathan Club, one of Los Angeles' original membership clubs, has been a cornerstone of the city's elite social scene since its founding in the mid-1890s. Its legacy is intertwined with the growth and development of LA itself, most notably through a pivotal meeting held at the club that sparked the idea for a southern campus of the University of California—what would eventually become UCLA. Today, the Jonathan Club continues to offer its members an unparalleled experience of exclusivity and refinement. With locations in both DLTA and Santa Monica, members enjoy access to premium amenities and spaces and a calendar with hundreds of social events and workshops throughout the year, providing ample opportunities for networking, personal growth, and leisure activities.

Membership Details: Initiation fee is around $50,000, and admission typically requires that you be invited or know someone who is already a member.

Spring Place

Image Source: Spring Place

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills

Club Details: A mix between co-working space and social club, this Beverly Hills hotspot is a more exclusive version of similar clubs. Spring Place Beverly Hills spans three floors and offers a stunning art collection. The interior is filled with tons of natural light and has an intentional design that fuels members to harness some of their best work. Members also have access to luxurious dining and nightlife pop-ups that happen at Spring Place.

Membership Details: There is a non-refundable initiation fee of $500 and then local membership for people under 30 starts at $300 per month, while monthly membership for locals over 30 is $600.

Griffin Club

Image Source: Griffin Club

Neighborhood: Cheviot Hills

Club Details: Located in Cheviot Hills, Griffin Club LA is a sporty club with ample shared workspace. Following a $20M renovation in 2020, the club now boasts seven LED-lit tennis courts, four LED-lit pickleball courts, two recreational lap pools, a 25-meter family pool for kids, an adults-only resort pool, and childcare services. It's the ideal destination for a clientele looking to mix work with competitive sport.

Membership Details: Membership is by invitation only and is subject to approval. Membership prices at the club vary. A family membership entails a $12,000 initial fee plus a $450 monthly fee, while a junior membership only entails a $2,000 initiation fee and a $205 monthly fee.

Soho House West Hollywood

Image Source: Soho House West Hollywood

Neighborhood: West Hollywood

Club Details: Soho House West Hollywood provides a stylish and exclusive work and meeting destination, featuring chic meeting rooms and workspaces with panoramic views of Los Angeles. Combining luxury amenities with a creative atmosphere, it offers an ideal setting for networking, collaboration, productive sessions, and an amazing Sunday brunch!

Membership Details: Two current member referrals are needed, plus an online application, and a recent photo to confirm your identity. Quarterly memberships start at $675.25, but if you’re under 27, you can pay $337.75 quarterly. However, if you want access to every house, membership costs $5,250.00 annually, or $2,650.00 if you’re under 27.

Little Beach House Malibu

Image Source: Little Beach House Malibu

Neighborhood: Malibu

Club Details: The Little Beach House Malibu is a small, local club for the creative community of Malibu and the surrounding coastal areas. The club is known for its magnificent dining room, bar, sitting room and terrace. It is the perfect place for a truly memorable work meal.

Membership Details: Malibu Beach House is not included in the Soho House membership. If you are an existing member, you can apply for “Malibu Plus” for an additional $2,190 a year, or $1,095 if you’re under 27.

San Vicente Bungalows

Image Source: San Vicente Bungalows

Neighborhood: West Hollywood

Club Details: San Vicente Bungalows is an exclusive, members-only social club located in West Hollywood, California, offering a luxurious and private environment for its high-profile clientele. The club is renowned for its strict privacy policies, elegant decor, and high-end amenities, catering to celebrities (and royals) and industry elites seeking a discreet space to unwind and socialize.

Membership Details: You must be nominated by a current club member to apply. Applications are evaluated monthly and annual dues start at $4,200 plus a $1,800 initiation fee.

The Aster

Image Source: The Aster

Neighborhood: Hollywood

Club Details: The Aster, located at the iconic intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, redefines the modern members' club with its emphasis on warmth and hospitality, blending public hotel amenities with private club exclusivity. Featuring bright, airy spaces and top-notch facilities such as an outdoor pool, recording studio, and rooftop bar, it offers a fluid environment for work, relaxation, and socializing.

Membership Details: Memberships start at $3,600 per year and be acquired by filling out an application. In addition to uploading a photo, hopeful members also have to write a small bio while highlighting their interests, skills, profession, and hobbies.

NeueHouse

Image Source: NeueHouse

Neighborhood: Venice/Hollywood/DTLA

Club Details: NeueHouse in LA is a chic private workspace and cultural hub designed for creative professionals, offering sophisticated workspaces, a dynamic calendar of cultural programming, and luxurious amenities. Situated in three bustling neighborhoods across LA, it provides a collaborative environment where members can work, network, and unwind in style.

Membership Details: You have to apply for the Salon membership, which includes questions like “dream dinner guests (dead or alive?)." Annual dues for Salon memberships are $3,000 plus a $200 joining fee. You can also inquire about the Gallery membership for flexible workspaces and offices for individuals or teams, starting at $595 per month, with various options depending on your needs.

🧬🔬AI-Driven Drug Discovery

🔦 Spotlight

Image Source: Terray Therapeutics

Terray Therapeutics is at the forefront of AI-assisted drug discovery and development, operating a cutting-edge laboratory in Monrovia, California. The facility, roughly two-thirds the size of a football field, functions as a data powerhouse, generating over 50 terabytes of raw data daily, which is an amount of information equivalent to 12,000 high definition movies, through its miniaturized automation processes.

Terray Therapeutics exemplifies a new wave of innovative companies harnessing artificial intelligence to revolutionize drug discovery and development. The key to their approach lies in generating vast amounts of high-quality experimental data to train their AI systems. This data-driven strategy enables rapid experimentation and pattern recognition, allowing the AI to make informed predictions about potential treatments. Terray's generative AI can digitally design drug molecules, which are then synthesized and tested in their high-speed automated laboratory. The platform measures the interaction between these molecules and target proteins, with both successful and unsuccessful results feeding back into the AI system.

This iterative process creates a powerful feedback loop, continuously refining the AI's predictive capabilities and accelerating the drug discovery process. Terray's tNova platform integrates chemical experimentation and computation at an unprecedented scale, producing massive amounts of precise, purpose-built data that becomes increasingly valuable with each cycle of design and experimentation. This unique blend of experimentation and computation allows Terray to efficiently explore a vast molecular space, potentially solving complex problems in drug discovery faster and more effectively than traditional methods.

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Fuze Technology, a provider of rentable portable phone chargers, has raised a $11.5M Series A led by Beverly Pacific and joined by Palm Tree Crew, Bain Capital Ventures Scout Fund, Dream Ventures, Live Nation, ASM Global, SCIENCE Ventures, Haslem Sports Group, and Simon Ventures. - learn more
  • Stanly, a platform that offers fan-to-fan and artist-to-fan communication and commerce, raised an $8M Funding Round led by C Capital and joined by AppWorks, Goodwater, and Palm Drive Capital. - learn more
  • GrayMatter, an industrial robotics company, raised a $45M Series B led by Wellington Management and joined by NGP Capital, Euclidean Capital, Advance Venture Partners, SQN Venture Partners, 3M Ventures, B Capital, Bow Capital, Calibrate Ventures, OCA Ventures, and Swift Ventures. - learn more

LA Venture Funds

LA Exits

  • Webtoon Entertainment, an online cartoon company based in LA carved out of South Korea's Naver, set IPO terms to 15m shares at $18-$21. It would have a $2.6b fully diluted market value, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the Nasdaq (WBTN). - learn more
  • EV maker Fisker has finally filed for bankruptcy. - learn more
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How Does LA Rank Among the World's Best Startup Ecosystems?

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.

How Does LA Rank Among the World's Best Startup Ecosystems?

Image Source: GoodFon.com

The 2024 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER), a joint effort by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network, was unveiled on Monday at London Tech Week. Los Angeles solidified its position as a global startup powerhouse, maintaining its impressive #4 (#3 in the US) ranking in the 2024 GSER, tied with Tel Aviv. The city's thriving ecosystem continues to attract top talent and investment across diverse sectors like crypto, gaming, and cleantech.

Image Source: Startup Genome

While large exits above $50 million declined in LA during 2023, the drop was less severe compared to Silicon Valley, London, or Tel Aviv. Notably, LA was the only ecosystem to see an increase in active unicorns from 41 to 42 between mid-2021 and end of 2023. New unicorns include advanced auto manufacturing startup Divergent 3D, cleantech company Newlight Technologies, and cloud platform Restaurant365.

With over 500 VC firms, a top talent pipeline from universities like UCLA, Caltech and USC, and recent major funding rounds like $1.05 billion for parking tech startup Metropolis, $150 million for VideoAmp, and $70 million for Chaos Industries, LA's startup scene shows no signs of slowing down. The city's diverse population provides a rich global talent pool, further fueling its entrepreneurial growth across hot tech sectors.

However, LA still lags behind the top three startup ecosystems - Silicon Valley, New York City, and London - in certain key metrics:

  • Funding and Exits: While LA's drop in large exits was less severe than other top ecosystems in 2023, it had only one exit valued over $1 billion (gaming startup Scopely at nearly $5B), compared to multiple billion-dollar exits in Silicon Valley, New York, and London. Silicon Valley also continues to dominate late-stage funding, increasing its global share to 26% in 2023 despite an overall funding crunch.
  • Startup Success Factors: The report suggests that Los Angeles trails the top ecosystems in the following metrics: early-stage success (ratio of Series B to Series A companies) and late-stage success (ratio of Series C to A companies, and speed to exits (both to IPO and other exits). New York was the only top 5 ecosystem to see an increase in average Series A deal size in 2023.

Despite these challenges, Los Angeles' diverse and vibrant startup ecosystem, bolstered by significant investments and a rich talent pool, is strongly positioned for continued growth. The city's strengths in emerging sectors like cleantech and gaming, combined with an increasing number of active unicorns, should not be underestimated. With strategic efforts to enhance funding and success metrics, LA is well on its way to joining the more elite global ranks of startup ecosystems.

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