The Future 5 of Los Angeles Tech, Q4 2022
Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across eight major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out last quarter’s Los Angeles round-up here.
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While the City of Angels may be known for its galaxy of socialite stars, the Los Angeles tech scene has a shimmering reputation of its own. The market is a hot spot for solutions geared toward an eco-friendly and internet-savvy world. Check out some of the young companies getting a head start at building out this futuristic vision. This quarter, Built In featured innovators in sectors like fintech, food and charity. Read on to learn more about the Future 5 of LA tech.
Built In’s Future 5 Up-and-Coming Los Angeles Startups, Q4 2022
- B Generous (Charity)
- Elevate.Money (Fintech)
- Luckmon (Gaming)
- Renno (E-Commerce)
- Rooted Fare (Food)
Many online shopping platforms offer buy now, pay later options for consumers, but this payment model can also work for purposes outside of retail and services. Dominic Kalms created B Generous, a platform that lets people donate to charities and nonprofits in small installments rather than a one-time lump sum.
B Generous partners with nonprofits like schools, religious organizations, animal shelters and more to embed a “donate now, pay later” button on their websites. This allows donors to contribute small amounts of money for finite periods of time and could enable people to donate more money in the long run, according to Kalms.
“People have very strong emotional connections to the nonprofits that they donate to, so the idea of signing up to do this and then [not following through] makes people feel very uncomfortable,” Kalms said. “So that moral connection to these causes makes the default rate go down substantially.”
The company is adding factoring capabilities to its platform, a tool that will help it provide capital liquidity directly to nonprofits when they need it most. It’s also building out software integrations that will allow donors to access the donate now, pay later option in more places, such as QR codes and social media.
Elevate.Money works to make generational wealth building more accessible. The fintech startup operates exclusively in the commercial properties sector of real estate investing and enables non-accredited investors to build portfolios that yield stable returns.
“Our approach is unique because we use our knowledge to bring more people into this world who may not have [had] access before,” Sachin Jhangiani, Elevate.Money’s CMO, told Built In via email. “Whether it is [a] lack of resources, education, economic class, social class or age, we just want to give more people the opportunity to open those doors with real estate.”
The company invests in long-standing, economically resilient businesses, like local gas stations or dollar stores, enabling investors to buy in at an affordable rate. When the company’s portfolio tenants pay rent each month, Elevate.Money collects that income and distributes dividends to its shareholders. It also enables auto-investing, allowing users to set up recurring investments to incrementally add to their portfolio.
Elevate.Money launched its mobile app for iOS this past summer and has reached 13,000 users to date. It plans to offer the app on Android within the next year and has several other developments in the pipeline.
Playing mobile games is a fun activity for many people, but thanks to Luckmon, having fun can be synonymous with earning money. Users can download the company’s free app and gain access to its library of mobile games that reward them with convertible in-game currency the more they play.
As users indulge in low-key games like Sudoku, they accrue points called Star Xperience, or SXP, that help them accumulate the in-app currencies of coins and gems. These currencies can be redeemed for gift cards at businesses like Amazon, Best Buy, Nike and more.
“We’ve started with the concept of rewarding gamers with NFT and blockchain-related rewards, but now we are building an even more inclusive reward system — from gift cards, physical goods, digital items and more in the near future,” MC Tang, Luckmon’s chief data officer, told Built In via email. “We’ve gone down many roads and ultimately we came back to the team’s unique and specialized backgrounds to build the next innovative products that users would enjoy.”
In the near future, the startup plans to launch its third-party game partnership. The deal will allow users to earn rewards from more kinds of mobile games.
Renovating a home is a multi-faceted process that hinges on contractors, designers and the homeowner themselves. Helping smoothe out the edges and make this journey more enjoyable, Renno launched a materials marketplace.
“We help connect building materials suppliers to their customers, and we help their customers — whether it be homeowners or professionals like contractors, designers [and] small businesses — to streamline their renovation process, material sourcing and fulfillment,” Khalief Brown, Renno’s CEO and co-founder, told Built In.
In its initial form, Renno strived to connect homeowners to contractors, and it also worked to help facilitate their renovation designs. Today, Renno counts a few hundred professional users on its platform and offers them services including material delivery logistics and a suite of financial tools to aid in their renovation journey.
Looking ahead, Renno is largely focused on helping suppliers streamline their business operations. Its supplier-facing e-commerce solution is currently active in a private beta, so Renno’s main objective at this point is to build and launch this solution’s final form.
In an effort to bridge their Chinese roots with their American lifestyles, Hedy Yu and Ashley Xie co-founded Rooted Fare, a food brand with a flagship product that tastes of home.
Xie and Yu are both daughters of immigrants who grew up in Southern California. As second-generation Chinese Americans, the pair had vastly different experiences at home compared to at school.
“The Chinese and American parts of ourselves felt very separated growing up and in an effort to be ‘American’ enough, we sometimes distanced ourselves from our Chinese selves,” Yu told Built In via email. “As adults, we found ourselves trying to fuse the two and what better way to do that than through food? We wanted to beautifully fuse the two to create something delicious and unique that helps us remember our roots every day.”
The two created Black Sesame Crunchy Butter, a spreadable topping with a flavor profile like the Chinese dessert tangyuan with the texture of peanut butter. Almost 50 specialty stores distribute Rooted Fare’s solution and about 20 of these locations are based in Los Angeles.