Virtual reality, new media and a vet app are among week’s L.A. tech highlights


The tech boom may be cresting but investments in Los Angeles-based companies continue apace. Last week, most notably, big-media millions poured into a hot Laguna Beach virtual reality company. Also on the receiving end: An online publication that shows a lot of female skin, and a chat app for pet owners.

Media giants Time Warner and Comcast through their investment groups poured millions into NextVR, the young Laguna Beach company that’s inventing virtual reality systems for spectator sports and other live events.

Dick Clark Productions and venture capital firm Formation 8 also participated in the $30.5 million cash injection.


The investment partners could provide more than money. NextVR gets advice on securing streaming rights for sports, concerts and other events. And getting close to companies such as NextVR lets traditional media companies make decisions on what to develop internally and what to buy or license from outsiders.

Formation 8 lends deal-making expertise. The same firm helped virtual reality company Oculus VR (now owned by Facebook) land a big partnership with Samsung Electronics.

Other media companies, including Walt Disney Co. and 20th Century Fox, are making their own investments in virtual reality.

Arsenic Magazine raised $650,000 in its first round of financing. Sort of a Maxim magazine but for Snapchat-generation young men, the online publication focuses less on sports and cars for now, more on scantily clad models and music.

Arsenic Magazine, based in Los Angeles, told The Times that the funders are Arena Ventures, a firm led by prominent Los Angeles investor Paige Craig, and a co-founder of the youth-focused online publication Elite Daily.

Amanda Micallef and Billy Hawkins co-founded Arsenic to “democratize content” by letting anyone to contribute to the publication. As other digital publications have learned, democracy can significantly shrink editorial costs.


Arsenic’s Snapchat posts, boosted by images of women, get hundreds of thousands of views.

Chinese tech company LeTV, known for its online video library and an expanding lineup of gadgets, launched an online store in the U.S.

LeTV Chairman and founder Jia Yueting’s name might be familiar — he’s linked to Faraday Future, a secretive electric-car competitor to Tesla Motors.

His online store, LeMall, offers speakers, headphones and other accessories.

U.S. operations are based in Los Angeles. Other parts of the company are working with Hollywood studios on movies, and with sports leagues such as the Pac-12 to stream games in China.

Kuddly Inc., a chat app for pet owners and veterinarians, raised $1.5 million in venture capital in a financing led by Newport Beach firm Exponential Partners, according to a regulatory filing. Joshua Hong joined the venture capital firm after he co-founded the start-up, and now serves at both.

The company hopes its apps are the first place pet owners turn to with minor issues -- say, a vomiting dog -- before shelling out several hundred dollars for a vet visit. An app-based consultation costs about $5, with pricing set by vets who give 25% of their fee to Kuddly. About 500 vets have registered with Kuddly, Hong said.

Yes, there is a company that makes video doorbells. Over the weekend, Santa Monica-based Ring celebrated the 2-year anniversary of its appearance on the ABC show “Shark Tank.”

The company didn’t agree to an investment on show, but the appearance led to $5 million in sales in the following weeks and increased credibility.

“The bump we got from ‘Shark Tank’ was not decent, it was extraordinary,” Ring Chief Executive Jamie Siminoff said in a blog post.

The company recently raised $28 million from investors to develop more services to sell alongside its $199 doorbell. Ring employs 180 people.

Men’s grooming products start-up Dollar Shave Club quietly launched a twice-weekly newsletter aimed at men “who take the road less traveled.” The newsletter is a part of broader man-focused media initiative dubbed MEL. The Wall Street Journal first reported the development.

Chat technology developer TigerText raised $50 million, one of the largest financings in Los Angeles this year. TigerText’s secure-chat service is aimed at the healthcare industry, where privacy regulations make security paramount.

Adam Miller, founder and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand

Adam Miller, founder and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Coming up... On Tuesday, Cornerstone OnDemand hosts its annual L.A. Tech Summit. Speakers at the Santa Monica gathering will include brothers J.B. and Tony Pritzker, the Hyatt hotel heirs who’ve been making more tech investments in Los Angeles, and heads of local start-ups in video, finance and sports tech.

Santa Monica-based Cornerstone, among the handful of publicly traded tech companies in the region, makes employee management software and celebrated its 16th birthday last week.

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