The lines between Silicon Beach’s vibrant tech scene and the entertainment industry have been blurring for some time, and they’re about to get even fuzzier.
Former “Access Hollywood” host Tony Potts formed venture capital fund SierraMaya360 in September with business partners Amish Shah, Glen Howard and Eric Kagan.
Shah and Kagan previously co-founded Sierra Maya Ventures, an early stage angel fund in Charlotte, N.C., while Howard is a veteran Silicon Valley investor who co-founded Palo Alto’s Hercules Technology Growth Capital. The four partners will make investment decisions as a team.
Potts will be based in Los Angeles, while the others will be spread among San Francisco, Boston and Charlotte.
“Each of us brings something different,” Potts said. “We all patch things through each other.”
The fund, which hasn’t closed yet, will focus on investing in early stage tech companies. Once all the money is in the bank, Potts said about $10 million will be reserved for businesses in the entertainment space, representing about 20 percent of the overall fund.
As someone who’s forged close relationships with Hollywood power players, Potts said he plans to connect companies in SierraMaya360’s portfolio with celebrities and business executives who might be interested in investing or becoming involved in other ways, including through endorsement deals, licensing or strategic partnerships.
“It depends on what they want to do,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to never presuppose anything with an A-list celebrity.”
Potts is also an entrepreneur himself. In 2011, he and his wife, Shalini Vadhera, co-founded production company Dot ’N Feather Ideation, which produces a variety of scripted and reality programming.
He’s already got plans to merge his two worlds.
“One of the networks from which we have an offer for a prime-time show will include one of our portfolio companies in a major way,” said Potts, though he declined to disclose other details.
And if you’re interested in pitching Potts a startup idea, it’s pretty easy to find him.
“Most of my meetings seem to happen at Coffee Bean in Playa Vista,” he said.
Culver City’s Enplug, which develops and sells digital signage software, has launched its product in commercial office buildings.
Its first customer in the sector is downtown L.A. developer Rising Realty Partners, which has installed Enplug’s software on six digital displays in its 460,000-square-foot PacMutual Campus on Sixth Street.
Enplug has grown from 10 customers to more than 400 since January, primarily focusing on restaurants and entertainment venues such as shopping malls, movie theaters and hotels. It also has customers in Europe and Africa, and the company plans to expand to China next year.
The customizable software platform is operated from a single dashboard and can display office directories as well as apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, to name a few. Customers can curate specific posts and use the software to offer food and drink specials or other types of promotions in exchange for social media engagement.
Enplug’s base price is $99 per display, though customers who buy in bulk can secure a cheaper rate.
“We have companies with hundreds of displays using our software and others with just one or two,” said Enplug co-founder and Chief Executive Nanxi Liu.
She said the company hopes to add hundreds more office buildings to its roster over the next six months. Liu expects the commercial office sector to eventually comprise up to 20 percent of Enplug’s revenue.
In a society overrun by selfies, it’s reasonable to assume that consumers would want to find even more ways to show people their faces.
Düsseldorf, Germany’s Doob Group is bringing its proprietary 3-D scanning technology to a new retail store at Santa Monica Place just in time for the holidays to give shoppers a chance to buy 3-D figures of themselves – or their pets.
The store is Doob’s first U.S. retail location, though one will also open in New York’s Chelsea Market in a few weeks. A Tokyo branch is launching soon to complement Doob’s original stores in Berlin and Düsseldorf.
“We’ll absolutely have more retail stores,” said Doob USA Chief Executive Michael Anderson, who’s based in New York. “We’re going to continue expanding.”
All you have to do is step into a futuristic machine, known affectionately as the Doob-licator, which scans your body in a split second and sends the readout to the company’s North American printing facility in Brooklyn. Then in seven to 10 days, your very own “Mini Me” will arrive in the mail.
Doob figures range in size from 4 to 14 inches. The smallest one costs $85 and the biggest one will set you back $695.
Launched initially as a medical technology device that scans patients requiring facial implants, Doob’s technology is also used by enterprise clients in the health care, entertainment, fashion and architecture sectors.
Anderson said Los Angeles appealed to Doob as a retail location as it tries to attract attention from potential new customers in the film, TV and gaming industries.
“It’s really part of our brand strategy and marketing plan,” Anderson said. “It’s such a new technology. Other industries don’t quite understand what it can do for them.”
Staff reporter Omar Shamout can be reached at email@example.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.
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