YouTube TV expands its live TV service with more Spanish-language networks

Google’s streaming TV service, YouTube TV, announced today it’s adding more Spanish-language networks to its base membership package and is preparing to launch an add-on package that will include even more Spanish-language content. Starting today, all subscribers will gain access to three new TV networks at no additional cost: Univision, UniMás, and Galavisión. These will join YouTube TV’s existing lineup of over 85 live TV channels, which today include top networks like Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and others, in addition to entertainment networks like those from Discovery and ViacomCBS.

The additions will bring to YouTube TV members a range of new Spanish-language content, including primetime series like “La Desalmada” and “Vencer El Pasado” arriving this fall, reality competition series “Nuestra Belleza Latina” on September 26, plus the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards on November 18. The additions also bring sports programming like the Campeones Cup on September 29, and ongoing match-ups from Liga MX, UEFA Champions League, MLS, and the Mexican National Team, the company says.

Univision also noted that subscribers in top Hispanic markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and others, will be able to access Univision and UniMás’ local news, weather, and other programming. Plus, YouTube TV will carry Univision’s video-on-demand content library at launch, and subscribers will be able to use their YouTube TV credentials to authenticate with the company’s “TV everywhere”-powered Univision app.

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their new agreement, but the deal hasn’t come with a price increase. YouTube TV, however, has been steadily hiking prices since its debut. It increased the service’s pricing to $64.99 last summer, following the new additions of 14 ViacomCBS networks, for example. But last month, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said there would be no new price increases in the near-term.

While the new channels will reach all subscribers, YouTube TV also announced plans to introduce a new add-on package that will be available for an additional monthly cost. This will include other Spanish-language networks like Sony Cine, CNN Español, Discovery en Español, Estrella TV, Cinelatino, Fox Deportes, and others. YouTube TV is not yet sharing the full lineup nor the price of the add-on just yet, but said it would offer more details in the “coming months.”

The Spanish-language network Pantaya will also be offered in the weeks ahead for an additional $5.99 per month, providing access to Spanish-language movies and exclusive original series, all of which are on-demand.

“We are delighted to partner with YouTube TV to expand Univision’s robust portfolio of networks and stations to include YouTube TV,” said Hamed Nasseri, Univision Vice President, Content Distribution, in a statement. “Amid the popularity of streaming services as well as the growing influence of our Hispanic community, this is an important step to ensure that our audience has access to our leading Spanish-language news, sports, and entertainment wherever they consume content. We are excited for today’s launch and recognize YouTube TV’s continued commitment to serving our growing and influential Hispanic audience.”

YouTube TV is not the first streamer to cater to an audience looking for Spanish-language content. In 2018, Hulu added its own Spanish-language bundle called ‘Español,’ which now gives subscribers live programming from networks including ESPN Deportes, NBC Universo, CNN En Español, History Channel En Español, Discovery en Español, and Discovery Familia. Hulu, however, doesn’t carry Univision but does offer Telemundo. Fubo TV, meanwhile, offers Univision and Telemundo and provides an Español plan with dozens of Spanish-language channels.

If anything, YouTube TV had been behind in terms of catering to Spanish speakers until now, and this offering will make it more competitive with rival services.

 

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VC Geoff Lewis on moving to Austin and popping Silicon Valley’s ‘self-referential’ bubble

Austin has made headlines over the past year for a number of reasons: It’s home to Oracle’s new headquarters. Tesla is building a massive gigafactory in the Texas capital. People, mostly tech workers, are leaving the Bay Area in droves to settle in the city, driving up home prices in the process.

But, it’s not just tech workers. A number of venture capitalists have set up shop in Austin, including Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital and Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, who said last year he was moving his venture capital firm, 8VC, from Silicon Valley to the city.

‘I don’t believe everyone should move to Austin. I don’t think it’s right for everyone, but I do think it’s right for us.’

The latest VC to call Austin home is Geoff Lewis, founder and managing partner of Bedrock Capital, a 4-year-old early-stage venture capital firm with $1 billion in assets under management. Lewis started his investing career at Founders Fund, where he was a partner for several years. He either serves or has served on the board of companies such as Lyft, Nubank, Vercel and Workrise.

Lewis also led early investments in Wish, Upstart, Tilray, Canva, Rippling, ClearCo, Flock Safety and a number of other unicorns. He’s largely credited with popularizing the phrase “narrative violation” to describe promising companies that are overlooked or underestimated because they are incongruent with popular narratives.

In making the move to Austin, the investor said he had grown disillusioned with Silicon Valley and the region’s continued lack of focus on solving what he described as real-world problems.

In a Medium post, Lewis said he was first introduced to Austin after backing Workrise (formerly called RigUp), a marketplace for skilled trade workers. In fact, he was the company’s first seed investor eight years ago and has gone on to invest in the company eight subsequent times. Today, Workrise is valued at nearly $3 billion.

Lewis said he was drawn to the company not just because it was “going to be huge” but also because it was “much more concerned with real people and real places than today’s Silicon Valley behemoths.”

“Put simply, it is a more humane technology company,” Lewis writes. “And it’s my search for this more humane genre of technological innovation that brought me to Texas. I’ve lived on the coasts and built my career as a Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and investor, but I’ve never felt of the coasts or as an insider in Silicon Valley — I didn’t go to Stanford nor grow up rich.”

TechCrunch talked with Lewis to get more details around his decision to move his firm to Austin, learn more of his views on why Silicon Valley is too much of “a bubble” (spoiler alert: they may not be popular with many of you!) and how he plans to invest in more of Texas’ nexus of startups.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

I understand that you grew up in Canada. How did you first get involved in the tech industry to begin with?

I started off as an entrepreneur myself, building a SaaS company in the travel space [Topguest]. I founded that business in New York City, and in 2009 ended up moving my team to San Francisco. I spent most of my career from 2009 to 2021 bouncing between New York and SF. We ended up selling that company in 2011 and it was a reasonably OK outcome. I joined Founders Fund in 2012, where I just fell in love with investing. I ended up really having a special trajectory there and 2012 was a great time to be a young VC in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I ended up specializing in marketplaces, both consumer and enterprise, backing companies like Lyft and Canva early. I also did the firm’s first fintech investment in Latin America, backing Nubank, and now that company has a $30 billion valuation.

I grew up with pretty modest means and by 2017, I figured I had done well enough as a VC and I should strike out on trying to get back to what I wanted to do, which was more entrepreneurial. So we founded Bedrock in late 2017. We’re on Fund III now and it’s been consistent with the investment philosophy I pursued — trying to find what we call narrative violations, or these counternarrative companies that are being overlooked or underestimated. We were very early investors in Cameo, which is now obviously a pretty well-known business, for example.

You initially chose to base Bedrock in New York. Why?

When I was at Founders Fund I had a home in both cities (SF and NYC), so I was the kid who grew up in Calgary, Canada and wanted to live on the coasts and be in the center of the action. But we decided to actually headquarter Bedrock in New York in 2017 because we had an inclination that Silicon Valley was becoming a little bit overly self-referential and wanted to be a bit outside of the noise. New York is less of a one-horse town, so we decided to base the firm there, but really invested in, and continue to invest, everywhere across the country and quite honestly around the world. We invested in WordPress in the early days and more recently in Argyle and Lambda School.

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Octane raises $52M at a $900M+ valuation to help people finance large recreational purchases

Most of the time when people get loans, it’s for big life purchases such as a house or a car.

But not every big purchase is a necessity. Some are more for fun, and the financing options for those types of buys — such as motorcycles and ATVs — are more limited. Today, Octane Lending, a company that embarked seven years ago on remedying that, announced it has raised $52 million in a Series D round of funding that values the company at over $900 million.

The company, which offers “instant” financing for large recreational purchases, boasts impressive financials in a startup world whose inhabitants are mostly unprofitable. For one, Octane is both net income and operating cash flow positive, and expects to originate more than $1 billion in the next 12 months. It has been doubling revenue annually, and CEO and co-founder Jason Guss projects that the company will see “over $100 million in revenue” this year. Its valuation is now “more than double” what it was at the time of its July 2020 $25 million raise, according to Guss.

Progressive Investment Company Inc., a member of the Progressive Insurance group, led its latest financing, which included participation from existing backers Valar Ventures, Upper90, Contour Venture Partners, Citi Ventures, Third Prime and Parkwood, as well as new investors Gaingels and ALIVE. 

With the latest round, New York-based Octane has now raised more than $192 million in total equity funding since its 2014 inception.

Octane launched with the goal of “making lending better in overlooked markets,” according to Guss. Specifically, Octane initially set out to build a lender marketplace to streamline retail financing in the powersports category. Put more simply, it wanted to help people who want to buy things like motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet skis and ATVs get the financing they need to do so.

“We quickly learned that the buying journey in powersports markets was broken beyond just financing,” Guss told TechCrunch. “We elevated our goal to build an end-to-end buying solution including editorial content, consumer pre-qualification tools, instant full-spectrum financing and digital deal closing.”

Image Credits: Octane

Because lending is involved in about 80% of powersports purchases and about 80% of lending happens in the dealership, Octane focused first on building a lending platform for dealerships and consumers. Then in 2016, it launched Roadrunner Financial, a wholly owned-and-operated lender, so that it could offer full spectrum lending, “expand access to credit and speed up transactions through digitization and automation.” Today, the company is partnered with 3,800 dealers.

With an anchor in dealerships, Octane then expanded its scope. Last year, it acquired Cycle World and UTV Driver, along with five other brands from Bonnier with a goal “to inspire and inform powersports enthusiasts across the nation.” Also last year, it launched Octane Pre-qual, which enables consumers to instantly prequalify for financing on OEM and dealership websites with a soft credit pull. With that offering, Octane aims to help direct consumers to a dealership, close their loan and complete their purchase in one place.

“We are growing dramatically because we make transactions faster and simpler to close for consumers and dealerships,” Guss said. “We are the only platform to offer end-to-end purchasing benefits in the markets we play in.”

Looking ahead, Octane plans to use its new capital to expand to adjacent “other passion purchase” markets and continue to launch customer engagement tools as well as buying solutions for consumers shopping for powersports vehicles online. It also wants to continue to add dealership, OEM and brand partners, which today include BRP, Suzuki and Triumph Motorcycles.

“We define a passion purchase as a major discretionary purchase that brings people joy,” Guss said.Most innovation and investment is focused on large, marquee markets such as small business, auto and homes.” As people spent less toward travel and eating out once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the powersports market got a boost, growing double digits last year, noted Guss.

“Our core customer base was not significantly impacted by COVID economically so consumer demand and loan performance remained strong,” he said.

Andrew Quigg, chief strategy officer at Progressive Insurance, believes that technology and consumers’ needs continue to evolve.

Octane’s point-of-sale loan origination platform provides benefits to consumers and dealerships in a specialty segment of the lending market,” he said. “We like to partner with innovative, forward-thinking companies and believe that our investment in Octane aligns very well with this strategy.” 

Octane describes itself as a remote-first workplace that has offices in New York and Dallas. It has grown its team by 50% in the last year, from 213 to 336 employees.

#citi-ventures, #contour-venture-partners, #dallas, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #lending, #loans, #new-york, #octane, #progressive-investment-company-inc, #recent-funding, #startups, #suzuki, #valar-ventures, #venture-capital

Amazon expands same-day Prime delivery to 6 more U.S. cities

Amazon announced this morning it’s expanding its faster, same-day delivery service to half a dozen more U.S. cities. The service, which the retailer has been working to make same-day delivery even faster over the past year, now offers consumers in a number of markets the ability to shop up to 3 million items on Amazon.com, then receive their orders in only a few hours.

To do so, Amazon invested in what it called “mini-fulfillment centers” closer to where customers lived in select U.S. markets, initially in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, and Dallas. Those customers could then shop across a dozen merchandise categories, including Baby, Beauty & Health, Kitchen & Dining, Electronics, Pet Supplies, and more. As the pandemic continued to impact Amazon’s business, in November 2020, Amazon expanded its faster same-day service to more cities, to include Nashville and Washington, D.C.

With today’s expansion, Amazon is rolling out same-day delivery to Prime members in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Charlotte, and Houston, bringing the total markets served to 12. In these markets, shoppers will be able to place orders online throughout the day then have items on their doorstep in as fast as 5 hours, Amazon says. Customers can also place orders by midnight to have their orders arrive the following morning.

The service continues to be free with no additional charges on orders over $35 that qualify for same-day delivery. Orders under $35 have a $2.99 fee for Prime customers, and a $12.99 fee for non-members. Prime membership, meanwhile, is $12.99 per month or $119 per year.

The time frame commitments for same-day delivery are the same as those Amazon promised last year when it first announced its plans to speed up Prime delivery. Orders placed between midnight and 8 AM will arrive today by 1 PM. Orders placed between 8 AM and 1 PM arrive by 6 PM; those placed between 1 PM and 5 PM will arrive by 10 PM; and those placed between 5 PM and midnight will arrive overnight by 8 AM. That means customers can place orders fairly late and receive their items before they head out of the house the next day.

Faster same-day delivery has been one of the most significant services Amazon has used to challenge rivals like Walmart and Target, who both benefit from having a large brick-and-mortar footprint that allows them to more quickly serve their customers through same-day order pickup, curbside pickup, and same-day delivery services. While Walmart partners with third-parties on its same-day service, Express delivery, largely focused on grocery, Target acquired delivery service Shipt in 2017 to bring its fast delivery services in-house.

In response to the growing competition, Amazon has been recently acquiring smaller warehouse space inside major urban metros, including in these six new markets where it’s now announcing same-day delivery, as well as larger markets, like New York, and even suburban neighborhoods. It also acquired Whole Foods for $137.7 billion in 2017, not only to more fully participate in the online grocery business, but also in part because of its large retail footprint.

As Amazon has sped up the pace of what’s available under “Prime” delivery, it has wound down its older “Prime Now” business, which was retired Aug. 30 and will be fully shut down by year-end. The separate app had allowed customers to shop items that were available in one or two hours for an additional fee.

The news follows Amazon’s earning miss last week, when the retailer fell short of Wall St.’s estimates for revenue, and gave a weaker than-expected outlook for the quarter ahead, which Amazon attributed to difficult comparisons with a time frame that included Covid lockdowns during height of the pandemic in 2020. The company reported $113.08 billion in revenue and earnings of $15.12, versus expectations of $115.2 billion and $12.30.

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Former Zillow execs raise $70M seed round for Tomo, which wants to simplify the mortgage process

There are so many startups pledging to reinvent the mortgage process that it’s hard to keep up. But for anyone who has had to go through the process of applying for one, it’s clear that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The latest startup to raise venture money with the goal of making the process “smarter and faster” is one that was founded by a pair of executives that spent years at real estate giant Zillow. Tomo is very early stage — so early stage that it is only launching operations in conjunction with announcing it has just raised $70 million in seed funding. That’s a massive seed round by any standards (the third-largest in the U.S., according to Crunchbase), but especially for the real estate tech space (perhaps the largest ever).

Ribbit Capital led the financing, which also included participation from DST Global, NFX and Zigg Capital.

Former Zillow executives Greg Schwartz and Carey Armstrong founded Stamford, CT-based Tomo in the fall of 2020 to take on big banks when it comes to providing mortgages to consumers. CEO Schwartz first joined Zillow in 2007, where he says he “built the sales and revenue operations from the ground up.” Armstrong, who serves as Tomo’s chief revenue officer, previously led business strategy, product strategy and core operations for Zillow’s $1 billion buyer services business. 

Launching today in Seattle, Dallas and Houston, Tomo says it will do things like issue fully underwritten pre-approvals “within hours, not days” and guarantee on-time closing. This is particularly important in competitive markets with multiple buyers making offers on homes.

It plans to use data to get homebuyers to closing in as little as 21 days, which they say is less than half of the industry average of 47 days. And, on top of all that, it claims it will offer “the lowest rates in the industry” with “customer-obsessed service.”

The company claims that besides having founders that have years of experience at a company with a reach like Zillow’s, they also aim to be different from other competitors in the space in that they are strictly focused on the buyer. For example, it won’t do any refinancing for existing homeowners but focus strictly on helping buyers secure new mortgage loans.

“The big banks have never made more money, yet an experience with their mortgage business has never been worse,” Schwartz told TechCrunch. “And it’s because the incumbents have no reason to fundamentally change.”

While it’s early days yet, only time will tell if Tomo can live up to its lofty goals. No doubt it has plenty of competition. In the past week alone, we’ve reported on two other digital mortgage startups raising significant funding rounds, including Lower and Accept.

Tomo’s investors are clearly confident about its potential.

Ribbit Capital’s Nick Huber said his firm had been connected to Schwartz and Armstrong prior to their even starting Tomo.

“When we learned that the two of them were working together, we immediately knew that we had to be a part of the journey,” he said. “We gained the conviction to lead the seed round as the team shared more of their vision for the future of home buying, which is a broken experience that they deeply understand and have the insight and relationships to fix.”

NFX founder and general partner Pete Flint has known Schwartz and Armstrong under a different capacity. They were once rivals. Flint co-founded another online real estate giant, Trulia and was its CEO and chairman from its 2005 inception until it was acquired by Zillow for $2.5 billion in 2015.

“We were initially competitors and then deep collaborators after the Trulia/Zillow merger,” Flint said. Once the pair formed Tomo, Flint says NFX “had not seen a team that was so experienced and thoughtful about the entire real estate experience that was going after the mortgage and home buying opportunity.”

In fact, the investment represents NFX’s largest initial investment to date.

“They are rethinking the entire software stack and building a modern fintech company, free of legacy constraints,” he added.

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Meet Nickson, the furniture-as-a-service startup that Barack Obama’s ex-financial adviser just backed

Ever toured an apartment and fall in love with the model unit?

You’re not alone. Harvard Business School grad Cameron Johnson is a former institutional real estate investor and Greystar exec turned startup founder that realized that very often, “renters would try to rent the model apartment.”

This got him thinking. People would love to rent a model apartment in a building, and no one likes to move. This spelled opportunity in Johnson’s mind.

So in 2017, he came up with the idea of Nickson, a Dallas-based startup that fully furnishes apartments on demand.

Image Credits: CEO and founder Cameron Johnson / Nickson

“I thought ‘What if you gave people the ability to simply rent the model, or the ability to add everything in their space needs with a few clicks, similar to how a cable modem comes to your house ’ ” CEO Johnson said. “I wondered, ‘Why can’t we do that for everything else?’ ”

But Nickson doesn’t just provide furniture such as beds and sofas, it delivers all the essentials too — from extension cords to pots and pans to silverware to curtain rods. By partnering with a variety of retailers, the startup claims that it allows users “to make their new spaces move-in ready in as little as 3 hours.” 

Users take a style quiz and share apartment layout details. Nickson’s designers create an initial layout based on the dimensions of an apartment, desired functions (such as work from home) and the volume of furnishings based on a person’s lifestyle. Once the layout is complete, Nickson creates a custom design, including all furnishings and home goods. 

Upon signing up, users pay a one-time installation fee for the furniture-as-a-service offering, and then a monthly subscription charge for the duration of a lease — starting at $199 a month for a studio to $500 a month for a 3 bedroom apartment. The startup also offers concierge services such as a household supply starter kit and maid service, as an add-on to its flat monthly subscription.

Nickson is currently only live in the Dallas market, but plans to expand into other cities over the next 12 months, including expanding its beta tests in Austin and Houston. And it’s just raised a $12 million Series A to help it advance on that goal. 

A fund managed by Pendulum Opportunities LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pendulum Holdings LLC, led the Series A round, which also included participation from Motley Fool Ventures, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest and Backstage Capital. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain, leading to delivery delays for consumers. Nickson has purchased items over time that it stores as local inventory, making it even more attractive to renters who don’t want to deal with delays and hunting down furniture and essentials, Johnson said. The convenience Nickson offers led to its user base growing 700% in 2020 compared to the year prior, he added.

Robbie Robinson, co-founder and CEO of Pendulum, said his firm was drawn to invest in Nickson due to a combination of Johnson’s “vision, secular shifts toward renting and subscription consumption and the company’s disruptive business model.” (Robinson is President Barack Obama’s former financial adviser, and recently founded Pendulum to invest $250 million in founding startups of color).

Kabir Ahmed, vice president at Pendulum, added that he believes Nickson’s model is superior to the concept of renting one-off furniture pieces in that it offers an “end-to-end, turnkey solution.”

This seamless experience is highly differentiated and offers a compelling value proposition for the consumer,” he said.

Of course, Nickson is not the only company attempting to turn the stodgy furniture rental industry on its head. Other startups offering similar services as Nickson include Oliver Space, Fernish and The Landing.

But Nickson claims that it stands out from the competition in that it “takes care of everything” beyond furniture (including artwork and toilet wand brushes) and that it can curate space and bring it all in before a renter even shows up.

“No other competitor in this space offers this level of service, detail or turnaround,” Johnson says. “You can literally arrive at your new home with a suitcase and toothbrush, and it’s ready to ‘live in.’”

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Saltbox raises $10.6M to help booming e-commerce stores store their goods

E-commerce is booming, but among the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs of online businesses are finding a place to store the items they are selling and dealing with the logistics of operating.

Tyler Scriven, Maxwell Bonnie and Paul D’Arrigo co-founded Saltbox in an effort to solve that problem.

The trio came up with a unique “co-warehousing” model that provides space for small businesses and e-commerce merchants to operate as well as store and ship goods, all under one roof. Beyond the physical offering, Saltbox offers integrated logistics services as well as amenities such as the rental of equipment and packing stations and access to items such as forklifts. There are no leases and tenants have the flexibility to scale up or down based on their needs.

“We’re in that sweet spot between co-working and raw warehouse space,” said CEO Scriven, a former Palantir executive and Techstars managing director.

Saltbox opened its first facility — a 27,000-square-foot location — in its home base of Atlanta in late 2019, filling it within two months. It recently opened its second facility, a 66,000-square-foot location, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that is currently about 40% occupied. The company plans to end 2021 with eight locations, in particular eyeing the Denver, Seattle and Los Angeles markets. Saltbox has locations slated to come online as large as 110,000 square feet, according to Scriven.

The startup was founded on the premise that the need for “co-warehousing and SMB-centric logistics enablement solutions” has become a major problem for many new businesses that rely on online retail platforms to sell their goods, noted Scriven. Many of those companies are limited to self-storage and mini-warehouse facilities for storing their inventory, which can be expensive and inconvenient. 

Scriven personally met with challenges when starting his own e-commerce business, True Glory Brands, a retailer of multicultural hair and beauty products.

“We became aware of the lack of physical workspace for SMBs engaged in commerce,” Scriven told TechCrunch. “If you are in the market looking for 10,000 square feet of industrial warehouse space, you are effectively pushed to the fringes of the real estate ecosystem and then the entrepreneurial ecosystem at large. This is costing companies in significant but untold ways.”

Now, Saltbox has completed a $10.6 million Series A round of financing led by Palo Alto-based Playground Global that included participation from XYZ Venture Capital and proptech-focused Wilshire Lane Partners in addition to existing backers Village Capital and MetaProp. The company plans to use its new capital primarily to expand into new markets.

The company’s customers are typically SMB e-commerce merchants “generating anywhere from $50,000 to $10 million a year in revenue,” according to Scriven.

He emphasizes that the company’s value prop is “quite different” from a traditional flex office/co-working space.

“Our members are reliant upon us to support critical workflows,” Scriven said. 

Besides e-commerce occupants, many service-based businesses are users of Saltbox’s offering, he said, such as those providing janitorial services or that need space for physical equipment. The company offers all-inclusive pricing models that include access to loading docks and a photography studio, for example, in addition to utilities and Wi-Fi.

Image Credits: Saltbox

Image Credits: Saltbox

The company secures its properties with a mix of buying and leasing by partnering with institutional real estate investors.

“These partners are acquiring assets and in most cases, are funding the entirety of capital improvements by entering into management or revenue share agreements to operate those properties,” Scriven said. He said the model is intentionally different from that of “notable flex space operators.”

“We have obviously followed those stories very closely and done our best to learn from their experiences,” he added. 

Investor Adam Demuyakor, co-founder and managing partner of Wilshire Lane Partners, said his firm was impressed with the company’s ability to “structure excellent real estate deals” to help them continue to expand nationally.

He also believes Saltbox is “extremely well-positioned to help power and enable the next generation of great direct to consumer brands.”

Playground Global General Partner Laurie Yoler said the startup provides a “purpose-built alternative” for small businesses that have been fulfilling orders out of garages and self-storage units.

Saltbox recently hired Zubin Canteenwalla  to serve as its chief operating offer. He joined Saltbox from Industrious, an operator co-working spaces, where he was SVP of Real Estate. Prior to Industrious, he was EVP of Operations at Common, a flexible residential living brand, where he led the property management and community engagement teams.

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Google spinoff Cartken and REEF Technologies launch Miami’s first delivery robots

Self-driving and robotics startup Cartken has partnered with REEF Technologies, a startup that operates parking lots and neighborhood hubs, to bring self-driving delivery robots to the streets of downtown Miami.

With this announcement, Cartken officially comes out of stealth mode. The company, founded by ex-Google engineers and colleagues behind the unrequited Bookbot, was formed to develop market-ready tech in self-driving, AI-powered robotics and delivery operations in 2019, but the team has kept operations under wraps until now. This is Cartken’s first large deployment of self-driving robots on sidewalks.

After a few test months, the REEF-branded electric-powered robots are now delivering dinner orders from REEF’s network of delivery-only kitchens to people located within a 3/4-mile radius in downtown Miami. The robots, which are insulated and thus can preserve the heat of a plate of spaghetti or other hot food, are pre-stationed at designated logistics hubs and dispatched with orders for delivery as the food is prepared.

“We want to show how future-forward Miami can be,” Matt Lindenberger, REEF’s chief technology officer, told TechCrunch. “This is a great chance to show off the capabilities of the tech. The combination of us having a big presence in Miami, the fact that there are a lot of challenges around congestion as Covid subsides, still shows a really good environment where we can show how this tech can work.”

Lindenberg said Miami is a great place to start, but it’s just the beginning, with potential for the Cartken robots to be used for REEF’s other last-mile delivery businesses. Currently, only two restaurant delivery robots are operating in Miami, but Lindenberger said the company is planning to expand further into the city and outward into Fort Lauderdale, as well as other large metros the company operates in, such as Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and eventually New York.

Lindenberger is hoping the presence of robots in the streets can act as a “force multiplier” allowing them to scale while maintaining quality of service in a cost-effective way.

“We’re seeing an explosion in deliveries right now in a post-pandemic world and we foresee that to continue, so these types of no-contact, zero-emission automation techniques are really critical,” he said.

Cartken’s robots are powered by a combination of machine learning and rules-based programming to react to every situation that could occur, even if that just means safely stopping and asking for help, Christian Bersch, CEO of Cartken, told TechCrunch. REEF would have supervisors on site to remotely control the robot if needed, a caveat that was included in the 2017 legislation that allowed for the operation of self-driving delivery robots in Florida.

“The technology at the end of the day is very similar to that of a self-driving car,” said Bersch. “The robot is seeing the environment, planning around obstacles like pedestrians or lampposts. If there’s an unknown situation, someone can help the robot out safely because it can stop on a dime. But it’s important to also have that level of autonomy on the robot because it can react in a split second, faster than anybody remotely could, if something happens like someone jumps in front of it.”

REEF marks specific operating areas on the map for the robots and Cartken tweaks the configuration for the city, accounting for specific situations a robot might need to deal with, so that when the robots are given a delivery address, they can make moves and operate like any other delivery driver. Only this driver has an LTE connection and is constantly updating its location so REEF can integrate it into its fleet management capabilities.

Image Credits: REEF/Cartken

Eventually, Lindenberger said, they’re hoping to be able to offer the option for customers to choose robot delivery on the major food delivery platforms REEF works with like Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash or GrubHub. Customers would receive a text when the robot arrives so they could go outside and meet it. However, the tech is not quite there yet.

Currently the robots only make it street-level, and then the food is passed off to a human who delivers it directly to the door, which is a service that most customers prefer. Navigating into an apartment complex and to a customer’s unit is difficult for a robot to manage just yet, and many customers aren’t quite ready to interact directly with a robot. 

“It’s an interim step, but this was a path for us to move forward quickly with the technology without having any other boundaries,” said Lindenberger. “Like with any new tech, you want to take it in steps. So a super important step which we’ve now taken and works very well is the ability to dispatch robots within a certain radius and know that they’re going to arrive there. That in and of itself is a huge step and it allows us to learn what kind of challenges you have in terms of that very last step. Then we can begin to work with Cartken to solve that last piece. It’s a big step just being able to do this automation.”

#artificial-intelligence, #atlanta, #automotive, #cartken, #ceo, #chief-technology-officer, #dallas, #doordash, #driver, #fleet-management, #florida, #food, #google, #grubhub, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #miami, #new-york, #postmates, #reef-technologies, #robot, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transportation

A Dallas-based founder looks to tackle the student loan crisis with his startup, College Cash

Demetrius Curry has spent the last couple years chasing a dream.

His startup, College Cash, allows brands to petition users to create photo and video marketing content highlighting their product or service, with the wrinkle being that content creators are paid by the brands in the form of credits that go directly towards paying down their student loan debt. This model awards the brands involved a level of social good will and tax benefits.

The Dallas area founder was inspired to tackle student loan debt crisis after talking with his daughter about the prospect of eventually paying down her own loan debt. Curry has spent the past two years building out the nascent platform, tracking down brand partners, navigating accelerator programs, enticing users and pounding the pavement to find investors that are willing to bet on his vision.

College Cash has raised $105,000 to date, and is hoping to eventually wrap the funding into a $1 million seed round.

Filling out the round has been its own challenge for Curry who has struggled at times to find opportunity, even among historic levels of capital flowing into the startup ecosystem, a distinction that has been less noticeable for black founders that still make up just a small percentage of VC allocation. In the aftermath of last summer’s protests against police brutality, a number of venture capital firms issued statements decrying institutional racism and pledging to back more underserved founders, spinning up new programs for diverse founders.

Demetrius Curry, CEO of College Cash

While Curry says he appreciates the scope of the problem and the good intentions of those making the statements, he believes that venture capital networks still have a lot to learn about what being an “underserved” founder means and that plenty of the existing efforts feel like “lip service.” He says that even as Silicon Valley continues to idolize dropouts from prestigious universities, stakeholders have less interest in recognizing the accomplishments of founders who fought their way through poverty or found opportunity in geographies where opportunities are harder to come by.

“You can’t look for something different if you’re looking in the same places,” Curry tells TechCrunch. “When you look at the topic of ‘underserved founders,’ it’s not only a skin color thing, it’s also about where they came from and what they’ve been through.”

Curry says that it can be frustrating to compete for early stage opportunities when investors aren’t willing to meaningfully adjust their parameters. Of particular frustration to Curry has been navigating the world of “warm introductions” to even get a foot in the door for programs meant for diverse founders, or applying for early stage programs geared towards the “underserved” only to be told that they weren’t far enough along to qualify.

“Think about how much we had to go through to even get in the room with you,” Curry says. “I’ve sold plasma to pay a web hosting fee, nothing is going to stop me.”

College Cash’s mission of expanding opportunities for people struggling to manage their student loan debt is personal to Curry who saw his life turn around after going back to school.

Decades ago, fresh out of the military, Curry said he had a random conversation with a stranger while eating at a Hardee’s — the discussion about what more he wanted from life ended up pushing him to to go back and get his GED and later a business degree. What followed was a career in finance that eventually led towards his recent entrepreneurial pursuits with College Cash.

The platform is firmly an early-stage venture at the moment, but Curry has big ambitions he’s building toward. His next effort is building out a College Cash tipping integration with gig economy platforms, with the aim that users of those platforms could ultimately opt to tip a worker and route that money directly towards paying down that person’s student loan debt.

Curry says the team at College Cash has been working with a “national gig economy platform” to run a pilot of the integration and has run focus groups showing that users are more likely to tip when they know that money goes towards erasing loan debt.

#articles, #asian-cuisine, #business, #ceo, #college-cash, #content-creators, #corporate-finance, #dallas, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #private-equity, #startup-company, #startups, #student-debt, #tc, #techcrunch-include-company, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-firms

Firehawk Aerospace extends seed funding to $2.5 million with $1.2 million from Harlow Capital

Rocket fuel technology startup Firehawk Aerospace has added $1.2 million to its existing seed financing, bringing the full amount invested in the round to $2.5 million. The new tranche comes from Harlow Capital Management, a Dallas-based firm run by Colby Harlow, who will join Firehawk’s board of directors as part of the deal.

Firewhawk, which was a finalist in our first-ever all-virtual Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt last September, has developed a new kind of hybrid rocket fuel that greatly enhances rocket launch safety, cost and transportation using additive manufacturing (basically, the grown-up version of 3D printing). Hybrid rocket fuel (which combines aspects of both liquid and solid propellants used previously) isn’t new, but past technology has been unable to compete on cost and efficacy relative to existing nonhybrid alternatives.

The startup’s Chief Scientist Ron Jones was able to get around these limitations with two new approaches: Using a fuel with a hard polymer structure and producing it using additive manufacturing instead of casting via molds with a liquid that hardens.

Firehawk now intends to use its seed funding to test its technology in operational conditions and at the kind of scale required for commercialization, and to build out its partnerships and client list. The startup also intends to grow its R&D and manufacturing operations in both Texas and Oklahoma.

#3d-printing, #additive-manufacturing, #aerospace, #articles, #dallas, #economy, #emerging-technologies, #firehawk-aerospace, #funding, #oklahoma, #rocket, #rocket-propulsion, #rocketry, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #texas

Nomad’s charcoal grill suitcase is modern ingenuity combined with classic cooking

Dallas-based Nomad set out to take an age-old cooking method and modernize it – but not by introducing connected or smart features. Instead, the Nomad Grill & Smoker takes classic charcoal grilling and relies on clever industrial design to make it packable and portable, while making sure cooks of all expertise levels can make great-tasting food even if they’re cooking with charcoal for the first time.

Basics

Nomad’s grill looks like some kind of fancy protective case that you’d expect to see traveling with a film crew, crossed with maybe a modern Mac Pro. It has an anodized aluminum build that uses a unibody casting in manufacturing, with high external durability and internal heat retention. It measures roughly 2 feet by 2 foot, and is around 9.5 inches tall when closed, with a total weight of 28 lbs including the cast stainless steel grill grate that’s included int the basic package.

28 lbs may seem like a lot, but it’s remarkably light for the cook surface you get with Nomad, which adds up to either 212 square inches of space in single-grate closed mode (good for smoking) or up to 425 square inches in open grill mode, which can double the cooking surface with the purchase of an optional second grate and charcoal placed in either side (better for open flame BBQing).

The case features a strong and durable dual latch closure system, and a reinforced handle for toting it around. Silicon skids offer protection for surfaces when laying the grill down to cook, and there are two magnetic air vents on either side for controlling airflow and flame, which are adjusted simply by manually sliding.

Design and performance

Image Credits: Nomad

The Nomad design is deceptively simple – at heart it’s essentially a metal box. But looking below the surface a bit, it actually hides some very advanced construction, including a layered shell design that means the outside never actually gets too hot, which is great not only for chef safety but also for setting it down on a wide range of materials during the actual cook process. For a portable grill, that’s a huge benefit.

Looking at the grill grate specifically, it features a honeycomb design that helps better distribute the heat, which is also domed subtly to allow more clearance for the charcoal underneath. It’s removable, but also snaps into place in the grill itself using magnets, which is great for transport and also for ensuring things don’t move around with any bumps.

One other huge benefit that seems like a small thing at first glance is a built-in thermometer that’s molded into the case. This provides you easy, clear temperature readings for the grill, and it’s analog so there’s no power required – another big benefit for portability.

In practice, the grill works exactly as you’d expect a great charcoal grill to work, which is amazing given its size and portability. It should definitely be mentioned that you’re going to be much happier getting the grill lit if you pick yourself up a charcoal chimney, which eases the lighting process – but that’s a great accessory regardless what kind of charcoal grill you’re using.

Image Credits: Nomad

I was particularly impressed at the Nomad grill’s performance when it comes to smoking. It maintains an even and consistent temperature with the box closed, and it’s easy to moderate the temperature with the built-in vents if you need to adjust the cooking intensity. The proximity of the charcoal to the food also imbues it with great flavor.

Bottom line

The Nomad Grill & Smoker is $599, which is a fairly high asking price, but it’s also unique in the market for the convenience it provides combined with the performance it offers. Whether at home or on road trips, Nomad is a wonderful addition to any home cook’s arsenal, and an all-in-one supplement that can replace even a dedicated, more fixed installation charcoal grill if that’s the way you want to go.

#barbecue, #chef, #cooking, #dallas, #food, #food-and-drink, #gadgets, #grill, #grilling, #hardware, #manufacturing, #nomad, #reviews, #smoking, #startups, #tc

Kanarys raises $3 million for its data-driven platform to assess diversity and inclusion efforts

Mandy Price was already a highly successful lawyer in private practice before she took the jump into entrepreneurship alongside two co-founders to launch Kanarys a little over one year ago.

The Harvard Law School graduated didn’t have to start her company, which helps businesses measure the efficacy of their diversity and inclusion efforts using hard data, but she needed to start the company.

Now, a year after its launch, the company counts companies like Yum Brands, the Dallas Mavericks, and Neiman Marcus among the dozen or so companies using its service and has $3 million in seed funding to help it expand.

For Price, the drive to launch Kanarys came from her own experiences working in law. It wasn’t the microagressions, or the lower pay, or casually dismissive attitude of colleagues toward her well-earned success that led Price to start Kanarys, but the knowledge that her experience wasn’t unique and that thousands of other women and minorities faced the same experiences daily.

I have had many things happen to me in the workplace that is similar to what many other women and women of color have dealt with and didn’t want to have my children have to go through similar issues,” Price said. 

So alongside her husband, Bennie King (himself a serial entrepreneur in the Dallas area), and her University of Texas at Austin and Harvard classmate, Star Carter, Price launched Kanarys in late 2019.

The company uses Equal Employment Opportunity reports and assessments of various policies involving promotion, recruitment, and benefits to track how a company is performing in relation to its industry peers.

“A lot of the inequities we see are from a structural and systemic standpoint. That is where Kanarys can see how they’re perpetuating inequity,” Price said. 

Kanarys starts with an independent assessment of a company’s policies and practices and then conducts quarterly surveys with employees of its customers to see how well they are meeting their stated goals and objectives. They also integrate with existing human resources systems to track things like pay equity and promotions.

The service has attracted the attention of the Rise of the Rest fund, Morgan Stanley, Jigsaw Ventures, Segal Ventures and Zeal Capital Partners, which led the company’s $3 million seed round.

“Organizations have typically tried to address this with individual interventions,” said Price. “What we’re saying is we have to address it on both fronts. So much of the inequities that we see are based off of institutional and systemic policies and practices.”

Not only does Kanarys track information on diversity and inclusion efforts for customers, but for job seekers there’s a database of about 1,000 companies which operates like Glassdoor . The focus is not just on worker satisfaction, but on how employees view the diversity efforts their employers are undertaking.

Notably, Kanarys founders join the (far-too-few) ranks of Black entrepreneurs launching businesses and raising venture capital. In 2017, studies showed that 98 percent of venture capital raised in the U.S. went to men, according to data provided by the company. Black entrepreneurs in general receive less than one percent of venture capital, and Black women founders make up only 0.6 percent of venture capital funding raised. 

“We know that a focus on DEI in business is not just the right thing to do for employees, it also makes good business sense,” said Price, CEO and co-founder of Kanarys, in a statement. “Kanarys’ DEI data arms companies, for the first time, to make precise, immediate, and informed decisions using real, intersectional metrics around their diversity goals and inclusion programs that ultimately drive bottom-line business objectives.”

 

#articles, #business, #business-models, #dallas, #dallas-mavericks, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #glassdoor, #harvard, #lawyer, #morgan-stanley, #neiman-marcus, #serial-entrepreneur, #small-business, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital, #yum-brands

Cyber insurance startup At-Bay raises $34M Series C, adds M12 as a new investor

Cybersecurity insurance startup At-Bay has raised $34 million in its Series C round, the company announced Tuesday.

The round was led by Qumra Capital, a new investor. Microsoft’s venture fund M12, also a new investor, participated in the round alongside Acrew Capital, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Munich Re Ventures, and Israeli entrepreneur Shlomo Kramer, who co-founded security firms Check Point and Imperva.

It’s a huge move for the company, which only closed its Series B in February.

The cybersecurity insurance market is expected to become a $23 billion industry by 2025, driven in part by an explosion in connected devices and new regulatory regimes under Europe’s GDPR and more recently California’s state-wide privacy law. But where traditional insurance companies have struggled to acquire the acumen needed to accommodate the growing demand for cybersecurity insurance, startups like At-Bay have filled the space.

At-Bay was founded in 2016 by Rotem Iram and Roman Itskovich, and is headquartered in Mountain View. In the past year, the company has tripled its headcount and now has offices in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

The company differentiates itself from the pack by monitoring the perimeter of its customers’ networks and alerting them to security risks or vulnerabilities. By proactively looking for potential security issues, At-Bay helps its customers to prevent network intrusions and data breaches before they happen, avoiding losses for the company while reducing insurance payouts — a win-win for both the insurance provider and its customers.

“This modern approach to risk management is not only driving strong demand for our insurance, but also enabling us to improve our products and minimize loss to our insureds,” said Iram.

It’s a bet that’s paying off: the company says its frequency of claims are less than half of the industry average. Lior Litwak, a partner at M12, said he sees “immense potential” in the company for melding cyber risk and analysis with cyber insurance.

Now with its Series C in the bank, the company plans to grow its team and launch new products, while improving its automated underwriting platform that allows companies to get instant cyber insurance quotes.

#acrew-capital, #atlanta, #california, #chicago, #computer-security, #computing, #cyber-insurance, #cyberwarfare, #dallas, #europe, #information-technology, #internet-security, #los-angeles, #m12, #new-york, #portland, #qumra-capital, #security, #series-c

AWS updates its edge computing solutions with new hardware and Local Zones

AWS today closed out its first re:Invent keynote with a focus on edge computing. The company launched two smaller appliances for its Outpost service, which originally brought AWS as a managed service and appliance right into its customers’ existing data centers in the form of a large rack. Now, the company is launching these smaller versions so that its users can also deploy them in their stores or office locations. These appliances are fully managed by AWS and offer 64 cores of compute, 128GB of memory and 4TB of local NVMe storage.

In addition, the company expanded its set of Local Zones, which are basically small extensions of existing AWS regions that are more expensive to use but offer low-latency access in metro areas. This service launched in Los Angeles in 2019 and starting today, it’s also available in preview in Boston, Houston and Miami. Soon, it’ll expand to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle. Google, it’s worth noting, is doing something similar with its Mobile Edge Cloud.

The general idea here — and that’s not dissimilar from what Google, Microsoft and others are now doing — is to bring AWS to the edge and to do so in a variety of form factors.

As AWS CEO Andy Jassy rightly noted, AWS always believed that the vast majority of companies, “in the fullness of time” (Jassy’s favorite phrase from this keynote), would move to the cloud. Because of this, AWS focused on cloud services over hybrid capabilities early on. He argues that AWS watched others try and fail in building their hybrid offerings, in large parts because what customers really wanted was to use the same control plane on all edge nodes and in the cloud. None of the existing solutions from other vendors, Jassy argues, got any traction (though AWSs competitors would surely deny this) because of this.

The first result of that was VMware Cloud on AWS, which allowed customers to use the same VMware software and tools on AWS they were already familiar with. But at the end of the day, that was really about moving on-premises services to the cloud.

With Outpost, AWS launched a fully managed edge solution that can run AWS infrastructure in its customers’ data centers. It’s been an interesting journey for AWS, but the fact that the company closed out its keynote with this focus on hybrid — no matter how it wants to define it — shows that it now understands that there is clearly a need for this kind of service. The AWS way is to extend AWS into the edge — and I think most of its competitors will agree with that. Microsoft tried this early on with Azure Stack and really didn’t get a lot of traction, as far as I’m aware, but it has since retooled its efforts around Azure Arc. Google, meanwhile, is betting big on Anthos.

#amazon-web-services, #atlanta, #aws-reinvent-2020, #boston, #chicago, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-services, #computing, #dallas, #denver, #developer, #enterprise, #google, #houston, #kansas-city, #las-vegas, #los-angeles, #miami, #microsoft, #minneapolis, #mobile-edge, #new-york, #philadelphia, #phoenix, #portland, #seattle, #tc, #vmware, #web-hosting, #web-services

Investors back Pacific Consolidated Holdings to merge leading LA-based liquor and weed delivery companies

There’s a new company that’s sitting on top of some of the fastest growing consumer-facing businesses in the world — liquor and marijuana delivery — and its name is Pacific Consolidated Holdings Group.

The investment firms and executive teams behind the Los Angeles-based delivery liquor delivery company, Saucey, along with Inception Companies, the backer of marijuana distribution company, Emjay, have formed Pacific Consolidated to merge their two companies and build what’s likely the largest “vice” company in the world.

(Although in a global pandemic and period of political tumult unseen since the 1960s, what even is vice anymore anyway?)

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The merger is the first step of what’s a planned rollup strategy for PCH (also the nickname for the highway that runs along the California Coast), which aims to be the leading vertically integrated vice platform focusing on e-commerce, delivery logistics, and cross industry behavioral insights.

As the co-founder of Saucey and now chief executive of PCH, Chris Vaughn, said: “Everyone in the liquor industry is thinking about the marijuana business and everyone in marijuana is looking at liquor.”

Both Vaughn and his Saucey co-founder Daniel Leeb will take management positions at PCH, and Blumberg Capital and Bullpen will have a large equity stake in the newly formed holding company, Vaughn said.

“We’ve spent the past decade in bev-alc at the forefront of providing solutions to changing consumer shopping behaviors. What we’ve seen is a more exploratory customer than the industry recognizes, ready to try new form factors, products and categories. The one consistent theme is they want to be able to discover and shop these products conveniently, and to be able to trust their platform of choice,” said Vaughn in a statement. “The strength of PCH is that we’re able to provide unparalleled and personalized cross-industry shopping experiences to consumers, while also having the data to understand customer behaviors between cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and CPG. When you combine this with the diversified infrastructure of PCH and the incredible team we have working on these opportunities, it gives us the flexibility and the foundation for best serving the future of these industries.”

Saucey launched in 2014 and now operates across 22 markets including LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, New York City, Chicago, Washington, Dallas, Orlando, Tampa and Miami.

Its sales growth has expanded 200% year-over-year even as the company maintains its profitability, according to a statement. The liquor side of the PCH business is indeed incredibly strong.

And of the 1 million users that the company surveyed (most in its largest market — California, which is perhaps one of the most mature consumer markets for cannabis consumption in the US) an overwhelming majority of 70% said they’d like to see integrated marijuana and liquor delivery services.

While Emjay was only formed a year ago, the company had built a groundwork of distribution, cultivation, and production licenses as it was getting off the ground. Formed by the Inception Companies, Emjay brought in Vaughn as an advisor to the company early on and as the company grew, so did the recognition among the investors and operators of the potential for a powerful merger, Vaughn said.

With Emjay, not only does PCH get a distribution company, but since it also acts a vertical operator the company can deliver marijuana products to consumers at a far lower cost than its competition.

Vaughn and Leeb have actually been operating the Emjay business since January and have grown the company’s revenues from less than $100,000 in transaction volume to the seven-figure sales that the company currently enjoys. And Emjay itself became a profitable business earlier this year, according to a statement. Now, the focus is on growing its footprint within Saucey’s massive California user base.

While there was a surge of interest and investment into the cannabis business in the industry’s early years following its legalization in certain states back in 2014, many of the market’s early leaders fell on hard times in 2019 as legal hurdles, grey market suppliers, a crisis in the vaping industry, and a lack of professionalization took their toll on the industry.

It’s a storm that Omar Mangalji, the former Goldman Sachs banker turned Los Angeles gadfly who co-founded the Inception Companies (and sometimes goes by the name Ronnie Bacardi).

“The broader cannabis market has largely struggled due to weak underlying fundamentals and poor management. But much like the dashed expectations that came with the rise and fall in the DotCom era, this industry is now evolving into Cannabis 2.0.”, Mangalji said in a statement.

With the merger of the two companies, Saucey users can create an Emjay account with their existing login and toggle between the two services simply by tapping on an icon.

#advisor, #blumberg-capital, #california, #cannabis, #chicago, #co-founder, #dallas, #e-commerce, #goldman-sachs, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #miami, #new-york-city, #orlando, #sacramento, #san-diego, #san-francisco, #saucey, #tampa, #tc, #united-states, #washington

Skydio partners with EagleView for autonomous residential roof inspections via drone

Skydio only just recently announced its expansion into the enterprise and commercial market with hardware and software tools for its autonomous drone technology, and now it’s taking the lid off a brand new big partnership with one commercial partner. Skydio will work with EagleView to deploy automated residential roof inspection using Skydio drones, with service initially provide via EagleView’s Assess product, launching first in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas.

The plan is to expand coverage to additional metro areas starting next year, and then broaden to rural customers as well. The partners will use AI-based analysis, paired with Skydio’s high-resolution, precision imaging to provide roofing status information to insurance companies, claims adjustment companies and government agencies, providing a new level of quality and accuracy for property inspections that don’t even require an in-person roof inspection component.

Skydio announced its enterprise product expansion in July, alongside a new $100 million funding round. The startup, which has already delivered two generations of its groundbreaking fully autonomous consumer drone, also debuted the X2, a commercial drone that includes additional features like a thermal imaging camera. It’s also offering a suite of “enterprise skills,” software features that can provide its partners with automated workflows and AI analysis and processing, including a House Scan feature for residential roof inspection, which is core to this new partnership.

#articles, #business, #dallas, #drones, #emerging-technologies, #enterprise, #hardware, #inspection, #insurance, #robotics, #skydio, #tc, #texas, #workflow

VenoStent has a new technology to improve outcomes for dialysis patients

Timothy Bouré and his co-founder Geoffrey Lucks were both near broke when they moved to Dallas to join the first accelerator they entered after forming VenoStent, a company that aims to improve outcomes for dialysis patients.

Failed dialysis surgeries occur in roughly 55% to 65% of patients with end-stage renal disease, according to the company. Caring for these patients can cost the Medicare and Medicaid Services system roughly $2 billion per year — and Bouré and Lucks believed that they’d come up with a solution.

So after years developing the technology at the core of VenoStent’s business at Vanderbilt University, the two men relocated from Nashville to South Texas to make their business work.

Bouré had first started working on the technology at the heart of VenoStent’s offering as part of his dissertation in 2012. Lucks, a graduate student at the business school was introduced to the material scientist and became convinced that VenoStent was on the verge of having a huge impact for the medical community. Five years later, the two were in Dallas where they met the chief of vascular surgery at Houston Medicine and were off to the races.

A small seed round in 2018 kept the company going and a successful animal trial near the end of the year gave it the momentum it needed to push forward. Now, as it graduates from the latest Y Combinator cohort, the company is finally ready for prime time.

In the interim, a series of grants and its award of a Kidney XPrize kept the company in business.

The success was hard won, as Bouré spent nearly three sleepless nights in the J-Labs, Johnson and Johnson’s  medical technology and innovation accelerator in Houston, synthesizing polymers and printing the sleeve stents that the company makes to keep replace the risky and failure-prone surgeries for end stage kidney disease patients.

The key discovery that Bouré made was around a new type of polymer that can be used to support cell growth as it heals from the dialysis surgery.

In 2012, Bouré stumbled upon the polymer that would be the foundation for the work. Then, in 2014, he did the National Science Foundation Core program and started thinking about the wrap for blood vessels. Through a series of discussions with vascular surgeons he realized that the problem was especially acute for end stage renal disease patients.

Already the company has raised $2.4 million in grant funding and small equity infusions. and the KidneyX Prize from the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology. VenoStent was one of six winners.

“It’s part of this whole ongoing effort by the executive office to improve dialysis,” said Bouré. “[They are] some of the most expensive patients to treat in the world… Basically the government is highly incentivized to find technologies that improve patient’s lives.”

Now the company is heading into its next round of animal testing and will seek to conduct its first human trials outside of the United States in 2021.

And while the company is focused on renal failure first, the materials that Bouré has developed have applications for other conditions as well. “This can be a material for the large intestine,” says Bouré. “It has tunability in terms of all its properties. And we can modify it for a particular application.”

 

#chief, #co-founder, #core, #dallas, #houston, #medicare, #medicine, #national-science-foundation, #tc, #united-states, #y-combinator

Uber latest features lets riders book by the hour and make multiple stops

Uber is bringing a new feature to the U.S. that lets users book rides for $50 an hour and make multiple stops as the ride-hailing company tries to respond to changing consumer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hourly booking feature, which is already available in a handful of international cities in Australia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, will launch in a dozen U.S. cities beginning Monday. The product will be available in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tacoma, Seattle and Washington D.C. Uber said it expects to expand into other U.S. cities in the coming weeks.

Uber made the move in an effort to offer riders a more convenient way to get things done, and to provide an additional earnings opportunity for drivers as we move forward in this ‘new normal,’ Niraj Patel, director of rider operations at Uber said in a statement.

Riders who want to use the new feature start by selecting “hourly” in the app and then entering their initial stop. Riders can see the $50 hourly rate at a glance and compare to other options before committing to the trip. The rider selects the expected hours and can enter in multiple stops — as many as three including the destination.

Uber Hourly for Rider feature

Image Credits: Uber

There are limitations to the feature, including mileage. In some cities, the hourly booking feature only allows drivers to travel up to 40 miles. Trips that travel farther than the mileage limit will be charged to the rider at a per mile rate. The same rule applies to trips the run over the booked hour; riders will be charged per minute over the hour.

Hourly booking cannot be used to travel to or from airports and trips must be within a city service area. The $50 hourly rate excludes tolls and surcharges.

 

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Extra Crunch Live: Join Mark Cuban for a Q&A on April 30 at 11am ET/8am PT

Billionaire. Entrepreneur. Investor. Shark.

Mark Cuban is one of tech’s best-known entrepreneurs, so we are amped to have him join us for an upcoming Extra Crunch Live, our virtual speaker series that connects the brightest minds in tech directly with our Extra Crunch audience.

Starting out as a salesman for one of Dallas’s earliest PC software resellers, Cuban was fired after he ignored his boss’ orders and asked another employee to cover for him while he picked up a check for a $10,000 sale. He went on to create his own software reseller/system integrator called MicroSolutions, which he sold in 1990 for $6 million to CompuServe, then an H&R Block subsidiary. That marked the beginning of a storied (and, at times, tumultuous) career as an entrepreneur and investor.

Cuban went on to co-found Audionet (later renamed Broadcast.com), which he eventually sold to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in 1999; that same year, he made history when he purchased a Gulfstream V for $40 million in the largest single e-commerce transaction ever conducted.

The man’s brain is always 20 years in the future.

The Dallas Mavericks majority owner and “Shark Tank” judge has invested in startups for two decades. His portfolio includes Apptopia, The Zebra, Node, UBeam and many other startups; according to Crunchbase, Cuban has made more than 100 investments since 2004.

We’ll ask how he’s advising his portfolio companies in the midst of a crisis and will get his predictions on the economic outlook over the next 12 to 24 months. We’re also interested to hear how Cuban thinks technology may or may not solve for the current situation around live sports, which have effectively been halted by the pandemic.

And if we have time, we’ll ask a bit about workers, equitable capitalism and his thoughts regarding the gig economy in these turbulent times. Given Cuban’s straightforward speaking style, we’re expecting a candid conversation, and as we’re snagging him in unprecedented times, our chat may help you understand how at least one leading capitalist views the new world.

Hit the jump to add the call details to your calendar via the AddEvent link and access the Zoom information directly. We’ll take audience questions toward the end, so weigh in. If you aren’t an Extra Crunch member yet, join here for just a few bucks to start.

Cuban joins a schedule packed with all-stars, including Charles Hudson, Mitch and Freada Kapor, Hunter Walk, Roelof Botha and Kirsten Green. And if you missed it, check out our Extra Crunch Live episode with Aileen Lee and Ted Wang.

Details

Here’s the information you’ll need:

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