Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

© 2022 dot.LA. All rights reserved
  Get in the KNOW  
  on LA Startups & Tech  
In the suburbs of Silver Lake, Cover — a technology company that builds custom backyard homes is showcasing their latest, life-size lego abode. Their latest $270,000 accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is built atop a garage on a slanted hill that required some standard contracting work. But other than laying the concrete foundation every other part of this home was built in Cover’s new 80,000 square feet factory in Gardena.
If Tesla was in the home-building business, this is what it would look like.
“Our approach is similar to Tesla,” says Cover’s technological advisor to the CEO Rico Jaeggi. “Start with high-end products then, through scaling we can bring the cost down.” In other words, as a few of their other employees tell me, Cover’s current model is equivalent to Tesla’s roadster.
The idea is to streamline the homebuilding process so that, “if you work an eight-hour job, you never see us in your backyard,” says Jaeggi. In other words, with Cover you’ll never have to worry about seeing a contractor drop a stack of lumber in your backyard then disappear for a few weeks.
The 550 square-foot, single-room home I’m touring was built in 33 days. The bathroom is aseptic and white and the paneling on the ceiling–also white–can be unscrewed and removed like a car bumper in case there’s a leak. Cover co-founder Alexis Rivas tells me that although the homes are built on production lines using algorithms, the layouts are custom.
“You can move the door to this side of the home and you can put the bathroom and the kitchen anywhere you want,” he adds.
On my way out, the valet attendant who works in construction asks what I thought of the house. I tell him it looks good. That his job might soon be automated and, instead of laboring in the sun, he may be working behind a computer for a software company. He looks at me like I just told him he’s had a death in the family. Then he shakes his head. “Nah man,” he says. “That ain’t me.”
Inside a small office space that was recently vacated by reselling platform Depop, Worklife Ventures is hosting one of only a handful of L.A. Tech Week events on the Eastside of Los Angeles.
“They [presumably the folks that helped put on L.A. Tech Week] encouraged us to relocate our event to the Westside, but the Eastside is the heart of L.A.,” says Brian Yip, head of marketing at Worklife.
The small studio space looks like what you’d imagine from a V.C. fund aiming for some Silver Lake street cred: a panel of vinyl records, recessed ceilings coated in yellow paint and a Cup Noodles placard the size of a movie poster hanging on the wall. The event is jam-packed and Nelly’s “Country Grammar” blaring through the speakers makes it difficult to hear anyone say anything.
Currently, the space features merch from Canadian YouTuber Cody Ko. Last month, Yip tells me, they hosted Grailed superseller 4Gseller for an in-person retail pop-up. Worklife, per Yip, is a fund aimed at helping to connect digital communities in real life.
Inside Worklife’s Silver Lake studio, I also meet Joshua Blackwell, founder of Blck Unicrn — a Web3 project he describes as Netflix meets Spotify. Blackwell further explains that the idea is “to bring stories to life via immersive experiences and through augmented reality.” For example, he continues, “what if the ‘Thriller’ video kept going and you could be in the house with the zombies?” In other words, Blackwell says, “the concept is to mix the concert experience with the immersive nature of being inside an escape room.”
His idea sounds promising. If it were me though, I’d maybe consider reframing the pitch.
A few blocks from Downtown Los Angeles’s Skid Row, where roughly 8,000 men and women live in encampments, sits the steel and glass 1010 Wilshire building guarded by a brass Buddha statue as tall as a middling palm tree. On 1010’s labyrinthine rooftop, AI LA is hosting its luxurious $150 per ticket ($250 for V.I.P.) Fun for Funds Festival to promote AI literacy in the city of Los Angeles.
Here, the ills that plague society have been given the NFT treatment: Five 10×4 feet screens display glittering images with a variable backstory. Their similarity to a Microsoft music visualizer circa Windows 2000 is uncanny.
Each screen represents a different district in Los Angeles, something participants learn after they’ve scanned the screen-adjacent QR code. The first display– or “District 1” as it’s referred to–covers Downtown and East L.A. According to the information drawn from the QR code, the main challenge in District 1 is “access to quality jobs, retail stores and perhaps most importantly—food.”
This being an AI event, the solution, as suggested by the information drawn from the QR code, is reinventing the supply chain “through smart supply systems” and via “AI-based monitoring.”
So what do the mashing molecules on the screen have to do with any of this? James Macion, the data analyst tasked with pulling public data and grouping the data into themes tried his best to put it in terms I can understand.
“For example, District 4 represents racial equity,” says Macion. So Macion pulled data sets related to racial equity: population, education, social depression and language. The data was then given to award-winning independent media studio Ouchhh to create AI-generated NFTs. In other words, the psychedelic renderings are the visual incarnation of the data that tells us everything that’s wrong with our society. The idea, Macion says, was to make the AI-generated art, “homegrown for L.A.”
According to the summary of “District 3’s” future, AI predictive models will play a role in “anticipating housing needs of individuals who are encountering circumstances that may cause them to be unhoused and connecting them to relevant resources before they become unhoused.” This is all to suggest that AI is the future and it’s here to save the world from suffering.
The event is the brainchild of AI LA’s founder, president and executive director Todd Terrazas, who tells me that AI LA’s goal–among other things–is to promote AI literacy to “fewer white guys.” The way he plans to do this is by piloting AI literacy programs in community colleges where students of color comprise 60% of enrollment.
Early in the evening, Terrazas promises that when the sun goes down the screens will change. That they will then display one-of-one NFTs produced by Ouchhh that will soon travel to a Mozilla conference in Hawaii and that the attendants of the AI LA event can bid on to become owners of the NFT.
The other major AI enterprise at the event is Jeremy Fojut’s friendship-finding platform Like|Minded. After diving into psychological research about friendship and personalities, Fojut, also the co-founder of NEWaukee, known for hosting community events in Milwaukee, turned his attention to developing a platform that uses a personality assessment to match individuals within an organization to help them form meaningful connections and increase their engagement within their company.
The algorithm is based on HEXACO, a personality inventory that assesses a person's honesty, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. Fojut promises the algorithm won’t lead to issues oft-associated with group think or conformity since the algorithm “doesn’t define your entire identity, but rather highlights the parts of you that are most present in your worldview and interactions with other people.”
Perhaps even more compelling is Like|Minded’s use in establishing mentorships within organizations by leveraging the inverse of the algorithm to match people, which Fojut refers to as “growth matches.”
An hour or so before nightfall, Stephen Piron is staring at an installation of old TVs of variable sizes displaying the footage of cameras recording different parts of the party. Piron is the founder of Dessa — acquired by Square in 2016 and famous for creating deep fakes, the most notable of which was a Joe Rogan clip that went viral in 2019. Piron is a veteran of the deep learning space and he seems eager to leave this party. But not before he tells me about how he and his colleagues at Dessa tripped and fell onto their AI-generated deep-fake notoriety.
“It was an accident,” he says. They were bored working on projects that helped banks detect fraud, so, he says, “some of us started working on this other thing.”
Near the end of the evening, as promised, the NFT auction begins when the electric-blue NFT graphic transforms into an abstract red, white and black animation. The bidding begins at $500.
“If you don’t buy this for $500,” begins the auctioneer. “You’re a broke bitch and we hate you.”
The bidding on the first of five, one-of-one NFTs reaches $2,000. From the ground floor, I can still hear the auctioneer as I exit the building.
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.
When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”
The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.
Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.
Similar programs are common in the startup world and in the creator economy. For example, social media companies can use accelerator programs not only to support rising stars but to lure those creators—and their audiences—to the company’s platforms. Genies believes avatars will be a crucial part of the internet’s future and is similarly using its program to encourage creators to launch brands using Genies’ platform.
“I think us being able to work hands on with this next era—this next generation of designers and entrepreneurs—not only gets us a chance to understand how people want to use our platform and tools, but also allows us to nurture those types of creators that are going to exist and continue to build within our ecosystem,” said Allison Sturges, Genies’ head of strategic partnerships.
DIY Collective’s initial cohort will include roughly 15 people, Sturges said. They will spend three weeks at the Genies headquarters, participating in workshops and hearing from CEOs, fashion designers, tattoo artists and speakers from other industries, she added. Genies will provide creatives with funding to build brands and audiences, though Sturges declined to share how much. By the end of the program, participants will be able to sell digital goods through the company’s NFT marketplace, The Warehouse. There, people can buy, sell and trade avatar creations, such as wearable items.
Genies will accept applications for the debut program until Aug. 1. It will kick off on Aug. 8, and previous experience in digital fashion and 3D art development is not required.
Sturges said that the program will teach people “about the tools and capabilities that they will have” through Genies’ platform, as well as “how to think about building their own avatar ecosystem brands and even their own audience.”
Image courtesy of Genies
Founded in 2017, Genies established itself by making avatars for celebrities from Rihanna to Russell Westbrook, who have used the online lookalikes for social media and sponsorship opportunities. The 150-person company, which has raised at least $250 million to date, has secured partnerships with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to make avatars for each music label’s entire roster of artists. Former Disney boss Bob Iger joined the company’s board in March.
The company wants to extend avatars to everyone else. Avatars—digital figures that represent an individual—may be the way people interact with each other in the 3D virtual worlds of the metaverse, the much-hyped iteration of the internet where users may one day work, shop and socialize. A company spokesperson previously told dot.LA that Genies has been beta testing avatar creator tools with invite-only users and gives creators “full ownership and commercialization rights” over their creations collecting a 5% transaction fee each time an avatar NFT is sold.
“It's an opportunity for people to build their most expressive and authentic self within this digital era,” Sturges said of avatars.
The company’s call for creators could be a sign that Genies is close to rolling out the Warehouse and its tools publicly. Asked what these avatar tools might look like, the startup went somewhat quiet again.
Allison Sturges said, “I think that's probably something that I'll hold off on sharing. We will be rolling some of this out soon.”
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.
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.
LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.
The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.
From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.
DoorDash’s Founding Story: Stanley Tang, a cofounder and chief product officer of delivery giant DoorDash, speaks with Pear VC's founding managing partner, Pejman Nozad. They'll discuss how to grow a tech company from seed stage all the way to an initial public offering. Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Santa Monica.
The Founders Guide to LA: A presentation from dot.LA cofounder and executive chairman Spencer Rascoff, who co-founded Zillow and served as the real estate marketplace firm’s CEO. Aug. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Brentwood.
Time To Build: Los Angeles: Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) hosts a discussion on how L.A. can maintain its momentum as one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the U.S. Featured speakers include a16z general partners Connie Chan and Andrew Chen, as well as Grant Lafontaine, the cofounder and CEO of shopping marketplace Whatnot. Aug. 19 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Santa Monica.
How to Build Successful Startups in Difficult Industries: Leaders from Southern California’s healthcare and aerospace startups gather for panels and networking opportunities. Hosted by TechStars, the event includes speakers from the U.S. Space Force, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Applied VR and University of California Irvine. Aug. 15 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Culver City.
LA Tech Week Demo Day: Early stage startups from the L.A. area pitch a panel of judges including a16z’s Andrew Chen and Nikita Bier, who co-founded the Facebook-acquired social media app tbh. Inside a room of 100 tech leaders in a Beverly Hills mansion, the pitch contest is run by demo day events platform Stonks and live-in accelerator Launch House. Aug. 17 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Beverly Hills.
Registration information and a full list of LA Tech Week events can be found here.
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.
I’m standing on the sidewalk in Santa Monica, waiting for my lunch, when a Coco robot rolls past. “Human operated,” reads the sign on the delivery bot’s back. “Zero emissions.”

The robot doesn’t know it, but it just had a drive-by encounter with another member of the food tech community: Stas Matviyenko, founder of Allset. He’s standing outside The Hive – Organic Cafe & Superfood Bar, directing people to a QR code to download his app, which he hopes will one day become the de facto choice for people ordering food for pickup.
Matviyenko says he’s not trying to compete with UberEats or Postmates. By eliminating delivery from his business model, his company is able to lower prices and operate more efficiently. More importantly, Allset is focused on a different audience. Allset, Matviyenko says, is for people who want to get out of the house.
Their company story can be told in three parts: before, during and after COVID. Before Covid, Allset’s primary demographic was hungry people in financial districts ordering lunch. During COVID, that user-base was wiped out, but replaced with increased activity in suburban areas. Today, the financial district audience is slowly returning, and activity in suburban areas continues to grow.
Allset is available in major cities nationwide.
“Accessibility” is a word I hear over and over this week, and it pops up again during the AR/VR virtual production + VFX Happy Hour.
I’m chatting with Thomas Suarez, one of the co-founders of Teleportal, a spatial computing company based in Culver City. They’re about to release a new version of their app, Movieoke, which aims to bring 3D animation to creators in a way that is both collaborative and remixable.
(Teleportal expects Movieoke will be available for download in the app store within a few weeks.)
Suarez lets me demo the app as he explains that the current process of creating 3D animation is complex. There’s a steep learning curve, and because animation requires powerful, expensive computers, accessibility and collaboration are both key issues.
I’m playing around with the app’s beta version, attempting to use my finger to make one of the characters in our two-shot jump up and down. Suarez walks me through changing camera angles and replacing the backdrop. He takes a photo of the happy hour taking place on the floor below us, and layers our characters on top of the image. It’s the lazy girl’s approach to animation and I am loving it.
Suarez is most excited about an upcoming version of the app which will enable remixing. When TikTok users see a Movieoke video they like, they can use a QR code to reopen it in the app, download all the source assets, re-edit them, and reupload the newly remixed video back to social media. Suarez hopes this new tech will ensure digital creators receive credit for their work.
Animation is at a boiling point. After years of low wages and lack of transparency regarding what happens to content after it’s created, animators are raising concerns in union negotiations, the media and online.
I ask Tom if he thinks Movieoke will supplement current animation techniques or supplant them.
“I think there’s room in the market for a lot of different types of tools,” he says. “We don’t see [this] as replacing the way 3D animation is done in the short-term…this is creating another market.”
By the time I reach Quantum Space LA, a community hub hidden behind a storefront on Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade, I am tired. Tech Week is a grind, and I accidentally sprinted the marathon.
It’s a bad night to lose steam, because Show Out (hosted by Lola Menthol and Qrypto Queer) promises to be a banger of an event. There’s a scheduled panel discussion, music, dance and poetry performances, plus a room full of incredible art to look at.
I arrive early enough that the space is still filling up. There’s not yet a line at the bar, and no one is taking advantage of the poster boards and Mr. Sketch markers the organizers set out for attendees to doodle on.
I wend my way through tables laden with pizza boxes and Hawaiian Haze joints to look at the different TV screens hung throughout the room, showcasing photography and digital paintings by queer artists. Every TV screen comes with a QR code that redirects interested parties to a site where they can browse the artist’s collection.
Try as I might, I don’t make it through the panel discussion featuring Bee Davies, Erika Isett, Lola Menthol and Raven50mm. After a week of listening to and being inspired by some of the smartest, most innovative minds in the field, my own personal piece of technology – my brain – has ceased to function.
CORRECTION: "Qrypto Queers" was corrected to "Qrypto Queer."

© dot.LA All rights reserved


Leave a comment