Santa Monica based Headspace is offering L.A. County residents free app access.

Santa Monica based Headspace is offering L.A. County residents free app access.

 Dave Inc.

CEO: Jason Wilk
BUSINESS: Financial technology
EMPLOYEES: Approximately 150
FUNDING RAISED: $186.4 million

NEED TO KNOW: In 2017, backed by early investors including Capital One Ventures and Mark Cuban, Dave Inc. launched a mobile app to help users manage expenses and avoid overdraft fees. Since then, the company has quietly built itself into a major player in the financial technology sphere.
The company achieved unicorn status in 2019 when it was valued at $1 billion in a Series B funding round.

According to Dave, more than 8 million users have now signed up for its services.

As its user base has grown, the company has scaled up its business and added more services, including gig economy job finder Side Hustle and Dave Banking, which the company finished rolling out last year to a long wait list. The latter feature gives users a digital banking option that integrates the company’s budget planning tools and includes a pay day advance function that allows users to borrow up to $100 free of interest.

The company announced in January that it had received a $100 million credit facility from investment firm Victory Park Capital to expand.

Chief Executive Jason Wilk said Dave will focus on “expanding the company’s product suite” in the year ahead in a bid to attract even more users.

“Dave is a banking app on a mission to create financial opportunity that advances America’s collective potential,” Wilk said. “Dave helps its more than 8 million customers budget, avoid overdraft fees, find work and build credit.”

Headspace Inc.

LOCATION: Santa Monica
CEO: CeCe Morken
BUSINESS: Mindfulness app developer
EMPLOYEES: Approximately 380
FUNDING RAISED: $215.7 million

NEED TO KNOW: Tech companies have kept the L.A. economy moving during the pandemic, and Headspace Inc. has done more than that — it has kept many local residents feeling calm and collected.

The company opened up its signature mindfulness app to L.A. residents through a partnership with the county’s Department of Mental Health, giving locals free access to the meditation training and sleep exercises offered through the Headspace app and raising the profile of the company, which nearly doubled its office footprint in Santa Monica at the beginning of 2020.

The company also launched multiple original television series in partnership with BBC Studios and Netflix Inc. It also announced a partnership with Laugh Out Loud Network, the production company headed by comedian Kevin Hart.

New Chief Executive CeCe Morken said the company is also expanding its mindfulness program for businesses, which is now used by more than 1,700 companies. L.A. has long been a hub for businesses focused on mindfulness, meditation and physical well-being, but Headspace has taken this focus to new heights and consistently ranks among the top-grossing health apps in the United States, according to mobile app data tracker Sensor Tower Inc.

QUOTABLE: “We believe mindfulness should encompass every aspect of life, not just when you’re sitting to meditate,” said Morken. “We’ll continue to expand our meditation, sleep, movement and focus content to create more opportunities to integrate well-being routines into people’s everyday lives.”

Fair Financial Corp.

CEO: Brad Stewart
BUSINESS: Digital auto leasing
EMPLOYEES: Approximately 280
FUNDING RAISED: $2.2 billion

NEED TO KNOW: Fair Financial Corp. launched its digital car leasing platform in 2017 and appeared poised to disrupt the massive used car sales industry nationwide. Founded by serial entrepreneur Scott Painter, who previously created TrueCar Inc., the company had gained a valuation of $1.2 billion by 2019.

Then investors began to express concerns about the company’s business model, and Fair’s rapid growth came to a screeching halt. The company laid off 40% of its staff in 2019, and Painter stepped down as chief executive.

Last year, Fair relaunched its app and significantly altered its product offerings, giving users the opportunity to sign up for more conventional long-term leasing options, rather than the more flexible — and more expensive — month-to-month plans that had been its primary offering. The company also brought on former XOJET head Brad Stewart as its new CEO, and Stewart has vowed to broaden the company’s vision and set Fair on a path to more immediate profitability.

Car sales surged nationwide during the pandemic, and Fair is now in a good position to capitalize on the growing tendency of consumers to make purchases and rentals through digital platforms.
QUOTABLE: “With Covid-19 meaningfully accelerating consumer demand for digital-first transactions, our 2021 goal is to transition Fair from an offering primarily focused on flexibility-minded car shoppers into an all-encompassing, world-class online auto marketplace,” Stewart said.

Zwift Inc.

CEO: Eric Min
BUSINESS: Virtual fitness platform
EMPLOYEES: Approximately 400
FUNDING RAISED: $614 million

NEED TO KNOW: Going into 2020, Zwift Inc. was already in an enviable position, having developed a popular interactive fitness platform and a strong base of enthusiastic users.

Then, in September, the Long Beach-based company announced a massive $450 million Series C funding round that boosted Zwift to a $1.9 billion valuation, according to PitchBook Data Inc.

The raise leaves the company with money to spend on developing fitness hardware that users can purchase to complement the company’s software — a step that could allow the company to better compete with rival businesses like Peloton Interactive Inc.

Zwift also raised its profile worldwide in July when it orchestrated a virtual Tour de France with participation from professional cyclists. In December, the company hosted the inaugural Esports World Championship on behalf of competitive cycling governing body Union Cycliste Internationale.

The company said last year it had registered more than 2.5 million users in 190 countries since launching its platform in 2015.

QUOTABLE: “Zwift is primed to operate in a broader fitness market and deliver on our ambition to provide gamified fitness through integrated software and hardware to anyone who wants to have fun while getting fit at home,” said Chief Executive Eric Min following the company’s big Series C funding round.

Keep reading the 2021 Who's Who in Tech Special Report. 

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