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On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Jump Capital’s Yelena Shkolnik talks about her work with crypto and the sometimes surprising ways in which commerce, content and fintech are converging.
The firm operates a $350 million fund focused on writing $8 to $10 million checks to Series A companies. Shkolnik estimates her company leads about 70% of the rounds in which they participate.
Jump’s headquarters are in Chicago, but Shkolnik works out of Los Angeles, where she was raised. Her focus is on media and enterprise software startups.
Every year, Jump releases a report on the areas on which it wants to focus. This year, it’s looking at enterprise software, media and financial technology (fintech) companies. The firm has a reputation for focusing on crypto.
“The crypto community is an active and engaged one. So I think it is easier to get publicity for the work we do in crypto,” Shkolnik says. “But in crypto, we're not just investors, we're also builders.”
She added that she’s seen an appetite for ownership grow as people want to feel like they not only own a portion of the brands they love and creators they respect, but they also want equity in it. Whether that consumer interest ultimately resolves in stock ownership, Patreon-like funding or non-fungible tokens, she says, remains to be seen.
“Is it easier for me to sort of incentivize you by saying, ‘Hey, you're gonna have some fractional equity ownership in Nike?’ Or is it easier for me to incentivize you with a social token? I don’t know,” says Shkolnik. “There's a lot of different ways to connect creators and commerce and the end consumer. But I think that, increasingly, is all very interesting.”
Shkolnik believes the shift in how viewers consume media—from TV and theaters to streaming and social media—has led to an evolution in content. People are increasingly looking for a more interactive experience she calls “breaking the fourth wall.”
The rise of content also has allowed people to become almost experts overnight. Websites like Reddit and YouTube have created a space for fintech influencers. With their form of hybrid content, you can watch your favorite creator and make money, too.
“For example, you can now watch videos of someone talking about stocks, realities or markets. And then you could trade on that same platform,” said Shkolnik.
Shkolnik sees gaming as a perfect space for independent creators that is poised to continue growing. Livestreamers have the ability to interact with their fans from their couches and be paid to do it.
“I think that this general motif, which I think you and every sort of VC in the world would echo, is just the opportunity for everyone to be an entrepreneur and kind of determine their own destiny,” she says.
dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
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On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Amanda Groves talks about how PLUS Capital advises celebrity investors and why more high-profile individuals are choosing to invest instead of endorse.
As a partner at PLUS, Groves works with over 70 artists and athletes, helping to guide their investment strategies. PLUS advises their talent roster to combine their financial capital with their social capital and focus on five investment areas: the future of work, future of education, health and wellness, the conscious consumer and sustainability.
“The idea is if we can leverage these people who have incredible audiences—and influence over that audience—in the world of venture capital, you'd be able to help make those businesses move forward faster,” Groves said.
PLUS works to create celebrity partnerships by identifying each client’s passions and finding companies that align with them, Groves said. From there, the venture firm can reach out to prospective partners from its many contacts and can help evaluate businesses that approach its clients. Recently, PLUS paired actress Nina Dobrev with the candy company SmartSweets after she had told them about her love for its snacks.
Celebrity entrepreneurship has shifted quite a bit in recent years, Groves said. While celebrities are paid for endorsements, Groves said investing allows them to gain equity from the growth of companies that benefit from their work.
“Like in movies, for example, where they're earning a residual along the way, they thought, ‘You know, if we're going to partner with these brands and create a tremendous amount of enterprise value, we should be able to capture some of the upside that we're generating, too’,” she said.
Partnering in this way also allows her clients to work with a wider range of brands, including small brands that often can’t afford to spend millions on endorsements. Investing allows high-profile individuals to represent brands they care about, Groves said.
“The last piece of the puzzle was a drive towards authenticity,” Groves said. “A lot of these high-profile artists and athletes are not interested, once they've achieved some sort of level of success, in partnering with brands that they don't personally align with.”
dot.LA Editorial Intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.
David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.
Rivian’s stock lost 7% yesterday on the back of news that the company could face delays in fulfilling Amazon’s order for a fleet of electric delivery vans due to legal issues with a supplier. The electric vehicle maker is suing Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) over a pricing dispute related to the seats that the supplier promised, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The legal issue could mean that Amazon may not receive their electric vans on time. The dispute hinges on whether or not Commercial Vehicle Group is allowed to raise the prices of its seats after Rivian made engineering and design changes to the original version. Rivian says the price hike from CVG violates the supply contract. CVG denies the claim.
Regardless, the dispute could hamper Rivian’s ability to deliver electric vans to Amazon on time. The ecommerce/streaming/cloud computing/AI megacorporation controls an 18% stake in Rivian as one of the company’s largest early investors. Amazon has previously said it hopes to buy 100,000 delivery vehicles from Rivian by 2030.
The stock plunge marked another wild turn for the EV manufacturer. Last week, Rivian shares dropped 21% on Monday after Ford, another early investor, announced its intent to sell 8 million shares. The next few days saw even further declines as virtually the entire market saw massive losses, but then Rivian rallied partially on the back of their earnings report on Wednesday, gaining 28% back by Friday. Then came yesterday’s 7% slide. Today the stock is up another 10%.
Hold on tight, who knows where we’re going next.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Some Snap Kit platform developers have skirted guidelines meant to make the app safer for children.
A new report from TechCrunch released Tuesday found that some third-party apps that connect to users’ Snap accounts have not been updated according to new guidelines announced in March. The restrictions, which target anonymous messaging and friend-finding apps, are meant to increase child safety. However, the investigation found a number of apps either ignore the new regulations or falsely claim to be integrated with Snapchat.
The Santa Monica-based social media company announced the changes after facing two separate lawsuits related to teen suicide allegedly caused by the app. Over 1,500 developers integrate Snap features like the camera and Bitmojis. Snap originally claimed the update would not affect many apps.
Developers had 30 days to revise their software, but the investigation found that some apps, such as the anonymous Q&A app Sendit, were granted an extension. Others blatantly avoided the changes—the anonymous messaging app HMU, which is now meant for adult users, is still available to users "9+" in the App Store. Certain apps that have been banned from Snap, like Intext, still advertise Snapchat integration.
“First and foremost, we put the privacy and safety of our community first and expect the products built by our developer community to adhere to that standard in addition to bringing fun and positive experiences to people,” Director of Platform Partnerships Alston Cheek told TechCrunch.
The news is a blow to Snap’s recent efforts to cast itself as a responsible social media platform The company recently announced Colleen DeCourcy would take over as the company’s new chief creative officer and CEO Evan Spiegel to recently made a a generous personal donation to graduates of Otis College of Art and Design. The social media company currently faces a lawsuit from a teenager who claims it has not done enough to protect minors from sexual exploitation. In April, 44 attorney generals sent a letter to Snap and TikTok urging the companies to strengthen parental controls.
Lawmakers are considering new policies that would hold social media companies accountable for the content on their platforms. One such bill would require social media companies to share data with independent researchers.
Snap Inc., Snapchat's parent company, is an investor in dot.LA.