When Spencer Rascoff moved back to Los Angeles four years ago, he discovered a broad and vibrant tech economy taking root in his hometown.
The only thing it lacked: a homegrown tech press to tell the world about it.
Rascoff had seen the impact that a tech-specific publication could have firsthand while living in Seattle, where he co-founded and then ran the digital real estate platform Zillow for nearly a decade. He appreciated how the local site Geekwire helped create a sense of community in the city’s software scene.
So he decided to take things into his own hands.
On Thursday, Rascoff announced the launch of dot.LA, a new company that will focus on covering the tech milieu in Southern California and hosting local events.
The past year has seen the media landscape shrink across the country, with over 7,000 jobs estimated lost in 2019. In Ohio, the 150-year-old Youngstown Vindicator newspaper shut its doors, and the entire staff of the New Orleans Time-Picayune was laid off after the paper was purchased by The Advocate, another Louisiana newspaper. Large media companies such as CNN, Verizon, Gannett, Buzzfeed and Vice each cut hundreds of jobs, and a number of smaller outlets laid off dozens of journalists over the course of 2019.
Some of those cuts came to Southern California: Disney planned to cut thousands of jobs following its acquisition of Fox, the Santa Barbara-based Pacific Standard magazine shut its doors, and L.A.'s Chicano car magazine Lowrider stopped publication.
But outlets covering the tech industry have seemingly gone against the trend. As companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have grown to become some of the largest in the world, with products used every day by billions worldwide, major newspapers have staffed up their tech sections, and new publications focused on the industry such as The Information, started by former Wall Street Journal staffers, and the Markup, a nascent outlet backed by Craig Newmark of Craigslist, have joined slightly older tech news startups such as The Verge and Recode in the crowded field. Most recently, the owner of Politico said he would launch a new tech-and-power website called Protocol.
Rascoff believes that his new site can join the tech media surge without getting lost in the mix — and become a profitable company — simply because the L.A. tech lane is wide open.
“We’re singularly focused on the greater L.A. area, and that focus will allow us to attract an audience and build a brand more easily than general interest national tech press,” Rascoff said. “The L.A. tech community is big enough and the business community is big enough to support this financially, and there’s a hole to fill here. I like our chances.”
Rascoff also announced Thursday that he had closed a $4-million seed round of funding for dot.LA, with investment from a number of Los Angeles venture capital firms, companies and business leaders. Participants include Tinder co-founder Sean Rad, Dollar Shave Club co-founder Michael Dubin, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and singer Ciara, who are married.
“I wanted to raise it from the town,” Rascoff said. “I wanted to build broad support and buy in from the L.A. tech community, so we could have leading companies and founders and tech executives feel emotionally and financially invested in the company’s success.”
The company’s business model will focus on sponsorships, advertising and events to bring in revenue, rather than seeking to sell subscriptions.
To help run the new company, Rascoff brought in Sam Adams, a fellow L.A. native, Harvard-Westlake and Harvard University alumnus, and recent graduate of USC’s business school, as a co-founder and chief executive.
They tapped Joe Bel Bruno, a former entertainment editor for The Times, to serve as editor-in-chief, and together hired a team of established L.A. journalists.
Adams, who worked as a reporter for Reuters before focusing on business strategy, said that despite being funded by many of the companies and players the publication is planning on covering, dot.LA is dedicated to journalistic integrity.
“The only way to really be of service to the community is to be completely unbiased and call balls and strikes,” Adams said. “The journalists are empowered to find and publish the truth wherever it may be — that’s something that is literally in our bylaws, and we’ve made every investor sign something agreeing to that.”
The publication plans to launch on Jan. 27.