Sustainable e-commerce startup Olive now ships beauty products, in addition to apparel

Earlier this year, a startup called Olive launched its new shopping site and app with the goal of making e-commerce more efficient, convenient, and sustainable by offering a way for consumers to aggregate their orders from across retailers into single shipments that arrive in reusable packaging, not cardboard. If items need to be returned, those same packages are reused. Otherwise, Olive will return to pick them up. Since its February 2021 debut, the company has grown to include over 100 retailers, predominately in the fashion space. Today, it’s expanding again by adding support for another 25 beauty retailers.

Launch partners on the new effort include brands like Supergoop!, Kora Organics, Pai Skincare, Erno Laszlo, Jecca Blac, Sahajan, Clark’s Botanicals, NuFace, Purlisse, Cover FX, LYS Beauty, SiO Beauty, Peace Out Skincare, Koh Gen Do, Julep Beauty, In Common Beauty, Indie Lee, Glow Recipe, Ursa Major, RMS Beauty, Ceremonia, Sweet Chef, Follain, and BalmLabs.

They join Olive’s numerous apparel and accessory retailers like Adidas, Superga, Rag & Bone, Birdies, Vince, Goop, Khaite, and Veronica Beard, among others.

To support the expansion, Olive also developed a new set of reusable packaging that has protective elements for more damageable items. While before, the company had offered a variety of packages like soft-sided garment bags and various sizes of more rigid containers (see below), it’s now introducing its own alternative to the air bubble strips you’ll find in most Amazon boxes these days. Olive’s version is integrated into its reusable packaging and can be easily deflated by the customer when it’s time to return the package at pickup.

Image Credits: Olive, founder Nate Faust

The idea for Olive is a timely one. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce adoption has soared. But so has consumers’ guilt. Multiple packages land on doorsteps every week, with cardboard and plastic to recycle — if that’s even available in your area. Delivery trucks — Amazon, UPS, FedEx, and others — are now a daily spectacle on every city street. Meanwhile, market leaders like Amazon and Walmart seem largely interested in increasing the speed of delivery, not necessarily the efficiency and sustainability. (Amazon allows shoppers to pick an Amazon Day delivery, for consolidated shipments, but it’s opt-in.)

Olive founder Nate Faust says he was inspired to build the company after realizing how little interest there was from larger e-commerce players in addressing some of the inconveniences and inefficiencies in the market. Faust had previously served as a vice president at Quidsi (which ran Diapers.com and Soap.com and sold to Amazon), then co-founder and COO at Jet, which was acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion. Before Olive, he was a senior vice president at Walmart.

After some soul searching, he realized he wanted to build something in the e-commerce space that was focused more on the social and environmental impact, not just on driving growth and consumption.

Image Credits: Olive

“I had an epiphany one evening when taking out the trash and recycling,” Faust explains. “It’s pretty crazy that we’re this far into e-commerce and this is the status quo delivery experience —  all this waste, which is both an environmental issue and a hassle for consumers,” he says. “And the bigger issue than the packaging is actually the fact that the majority of those packages are delivered one at a time, and those last-mile emissions are actually the biggest contributor of carbon emissions in the post-purchase e-commerce supply chain.”

Consumers may not think about all the issues, because many of them are hidden, but they do struggle in other ways beyond dealing with the waste. Returns are still a hassle — so much so, that Amazon now allows customers to go to Kohl’s where it’s partnered on in-store return kiosks that also help the brick-and-mortar retailer increase their own foot traffic.

Plus, consumers who shop from different sites have to set up online accounts over and over, entering in addresses and payment information many times, which is an annoyance. Olive offers the convenience of an Amazon-like one-stop-shop experience on that front.

Meanwhile, Olive addresses the return issue by allowing consumers to simply place their unwanted items back in Olive’s packaging then leave them on their doorstep or with the building’s doorman for return. It works with both the USPS and a network of local carriers to serve the customers in its current footprint, which is about 100 million U.S. consumers on both coasts.

While customers don’t have to deal with packaging, it hasn’t been entirely eliminated from the equation at this point. Olive today partners with retailers who ship packages to its own west coast and east coast warehouses, where they repackage them into the reusable containers to deliver to customers. Right now, that means Olive is responsible for the recycling issues. But it’s working with its brand partners to have them pack orders directly into the reusable packaging from the start — before shipping to Olive’s consolidation warehouses for delivery. Today, it has a few retailers on board with this effort, but it hopes that will eventually expand to include all partners.

The company generates revenue on an affiliate commission model, which works for now. But over time, it may need to evolve that business model over time, as its customer base and partnerships grow. At present, around 10,000 consumers have used Olive, ahead of any large-scale marketing and customer acquisition efforts on the startup’s part.

For now, New York-based Olive is growing its business by way of a fundraise of around $15 million from investors including Invus, Primary Venture Partners, and SignalFire.

#adidas, #amazon, #birdies, #diapers-com, #e-commerce, #east-coast, #ecommerce, #fedex, #goop, #kohls, #marketing, #nate-faust, #new-york, #online-shopping, #primary-venture-partners, #product-management, #quidsi, #retailers, #reuse, #soap-com, #startups, #united-states, #usps, #walmart, #west-coast

Google announces the Firmina subsea cable between the U.S. and Argentina

Google today announced its plans to build a new subsea cable that will connect the East Coast of the U.S. and Las Toninas, Argentina — with additional landings in Brazil and Uruguay. The idea here is to provide users in South America with improved low-latency access to Google’s portfolio of consumer and cloud services.

The closest Google data center in the region (and its only one in South America) can be found near Santiago, Chile, which is connected to the U.S. West Coast through Google’s Curie cable.

The Firmina cable, named after Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firmina dos Reis, will augment Google’s existing cable investments in the region. The Tannat cable, a joint venture between Antel Uruguay and Google, for example, already connects the same locations while the Monet cable connects the U.S. and Brazil, where Google’s Junior cable already connects various parts of the country.

Image Credits: Google

The new cable doesn’t just add capacity but also resilience to Google’s existing network. Specifically, one technical feat that makes this new cable, which consists of 12 fiver pairs, stand out is the system’s ability to power the cable from a single-end power source.

“With submarine cables, data travels as pulses of light inside the cable’s optical fibers,” Google explains. “That light signal is amplified every 100 km with a high-voltage electrical current supplied at landing stations in each country. While shorter cable systems can enjoy the higher availability of power feeding from a single end, recent longer cables with large fiber pair count have made this harder and harder.” To achieve this, the Firmina cable is supplied by a cable with a voltage that is 20% higher than previous cables.

 

 

 

#argentina, #brazil, #chile, #cloud, #east-coast, #google, #south-america, #subsea-cable, #technology, #united-states, #uruguay, #west-coast

SpaceX bought two oil rigs to convert into offshore launch pads for Starship

SpaceX’s next spacecraft is in development in Texas, and CEO Elon Musk previously revealed that the company was planning to build floating spaceports for Starship operations, after a job ad was posted looking for someone to oversee their development. Now, SpaceX has purchased two oil rigs to convert for this purpose, as first reported by spaceflight.com’s Michael Baylor, and confirmed by CNBC.

The rigs have been named Deimos and Phoibos by SpaceX, which are the names of the two moons of Mars (and the names of the gods of both dread and fear in Greek mythology before that). The rigs were originally designed for offshore deepwater drilling, up to a maximum depth of 8,500 feet. They’re currently located in Brownsville, a port city on the Gulf of Mexico near SpaceX’s Starship development site in Brownsville, Texas.

These vessels measure 240 feet by 255 feet and will in theory be repurposed to support launching of Starship (and perhaps return landing, given their reusable design). Thus far, SpaceX has been launching and landing its Starship prototypes on land at its Boca Chica site, though it’s only done lower altitude flights so far. The company also operates two drone ships, which are 300 feet long by around 170 feet wide, as autonomous floating landing pads for its current Falcon 9 rocket boosters.

SpaceX also posted another ad seeking a resort development manager to turn its south Texas facility into a “21st century spaceport,” specifically looking for someone with resort expertise. Meanwhile, Musk confirmed that he has moved to Texas last December, following a number of public suggestions that he would do so owing in part to California’s taxation and regulatory environment.

Musk’s other company Tesla also selected Austin as the site of its next gigafactory in the U.S., intended for assembly of its Cybertruck, Model Y and Tesla Semi, as well as Model 3 cars destined for customers on the east coast. SpaceX has maintained engine test facilities in McGreger, Texas, and set up Boca Chica as one of two Starship development sites alongside Florida, before making the south Texas location the sole focus for that spacecraft’s construction and testing after consolidating its efforts.

#aerospace, #austin, #california, #ceo, #east-coast, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #gulf-of-mexico, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #spacex-starship, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-cybertruck, #texas, #united-states

Plant-centered prepared food delivery startup Thistle raises $10.3 million

Eating less meat is the easiest way for anyone to lower their carbon footprint and the prepared food delivery startup, Thistle, has just raised $10.3 million to make that choice even easier for consumers. 

The company delivers plant-based full menus (with meat options available for customers that want them) for its customers along with a range of juices and sides.

That pitch of making tweaks to customer behavior for more conscious consumerism and healthy eating was enough to attract Series B funding from PowerPlant Ventures, with participation from Siddhi Capital, Alumni Ventures Group, and the venture arm of Rich Products Corp.

The company said it would use the financing to expand geographically — setting up a production facility on the East Coast to bring its healthy prepared meals to potential customers along the Eastern seaboard.

“With this funding, we’ll be able to support even more people through scientific, evidence-based principles of nutrition that lead to optimal wellness, enjoyable eating, and a healthier planet,” said Ashwin Cheryian, Co-Founder and CEO of Thistle in a statement. 

Since its launch seven years ago, Thistle has served over 5 million meals and is intent to not just launch in new geographies, but provide more robust services for its customers. Those services will include virtual consultations with an in-house registered Thistle dietitian who can give customers guidance on the best diet for their needs, the company said.   

The new offering was born from customer feedback, according to chief operating officer and Thistle co-founder Shiri Avnery.

“We tested the program last fall, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. We’re excited to be able to officially roll out the program to our customers this month, with the primary goal to further support our customers along each stage of their wellness journey,” Avnery said. 

The husband and wife duo offer menu plans starting at $42 a week or $11.50 per meal, according to the company’s website and all meals are gluten and dairy free (with vegan options available).

The financing for Thistle comes during a plant-based food boom that’s been sweeping the nation — and the nation’s investors.

“Eating a plant-forward diet is the single most impactful way to reduce your overall environmental footprint, reducing climate change, pollution, resource consumption, and species extinction,” said Dan Gluck, Managing Partner of PowerPlant Ventures, in a statement. “Consumer demand for plant-based foods is outperforming total food growth today, and this trend is expected to increase over the next decade as more people realize that eating more plants is a critical component to the long-term health of both the planet and our population.”

#alumni-ventures-group, #articles, #chief-operating-officer, #co-founder, #diets, #east-coast, #food, #health, #managing-partner, #powerplant-ventures, #tc, #thistle, #wellness

Bristol entrepreneur who exited for $800M doubles-down on the city with deep-tech incubator and VC fund

Harry Destecroix co-founded Ziylo while studying for his PhD at the University of Bristol. Ziylo, a university spin-out company, developed a synthetic molecule allowing glucose to bind with the bloodstream more effectively. Four years later, and by then a Phd, Destecroix sold the company to Danish firm Novo Nordisk, one of the biggest manufacturers of diabetes medicines, which had realized it could use Ziylo’s molecule to develop a new type of insulin to help diabetics. He walked away with an estimated $800m.

Destecroix is now embarking on a project, “Science Creates”, to repeat the exercise of creating deep-tech, science-based startups, and it will once more be based out of Bristol.

To foster this deep tech ecosystem it will offer a specialized incubator space able to house Wet Labs, a £15 million investment fund and a network of strategic partners to nurture science and engineering start-ups and spin-outs.

The Science Creates hub, in partnership with the University of Bristol and located in the heart of the city, is aspiring to become a sort of ‘West Coast’ for England, and the similarities, at least with an earlier version of Silicon Valley, are striking.

The Bay Area of old was cheaper than the East Coast of the US, had a cornerstone university, access to capital, and plenty of talent. Bristol has all that and for capital, it can access London, less than 90 minutes by train. But what it’s lacked until now is a greater level of “clustering” and startup-focused organization, which is clearly what Destecroix is planning to fix.

In a statement for the launch, he explained: “Where a discovery is made has a huge bearing on whether it’s successfully commercialized. While founding my own start-up, Ziylo, I became aware of just how many discoveries failed to emerge from the lab in Bristol alone. No matter the quality of the research and discovery, the right ecosystem is fundamental if we are going to challenge the global 90% failure rate of science start-ups, and create many more successful ventures.”

Science Creates is be grown out of the original incubator, Unit DX, that Destecroix set up in collaboration with the University of Bristol in 2017 to commercialize companies like his own.

The Science Creates team

The Science Creates team

The ‘Science Creates ecosystem’ will comprise of:

Science Creates Incubators: Unit DX houses 37 scientific and engineering companies working on healthtech, the environment and quality of life. The opening of a second incubator, Unit DY, close to Bristol Temple Meads train station, will mean it can support 100 companies and an estimated 450 jobs. The Science Creates’ physical footprint across the two units will reach 45,000 sq ft.

Science Creates Ventures: This £15 million EIS venture capital fund is backed by the Bristol-based entrepreneurs behind some of the South-West’s biggest deep tech exits.

Science Creates Network: This will be a portfolio of strategic partners, mentors and advisors tailored to the needs of science and engineering start-ups.

Destecroix is keen that the startups nurtured there will have more than “Wi-Fi and strong coffee” but also well-equipped lab space as well as sector-specific business support.

He’s betting that Bristol, with its long history of academic and industrial research, world-class research base around the University of Bristol, will be able to overcome the traditional challenges towards the commercialization of deep tech and science-based startups.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bristol, commented: “We are delighted to support the vision and help Science Creates to build a thriving deep tech ecosystem in our home city. Great scientists don’t always know how to be great entrepreneurs, but we’ve seen the impact specialist support can have in helping them access the finance, networks, skills, and investment opportunities they need. Working with Science Creates, we aim to support even more ground-breaking discoveries to progress outside the university walls, and thrive as successful commercial ventures that change our world for the better.”

Ventures in Unit DX so far include:
– Imophoron (a vaccine tech start-up that is reinventing how vaccines are made and work – currently working on a COVID vaccine)
– Cytoseek (a discovery-stage biotech working on cell therapy cancer treatment)
– Anaphite (graphine-based science for next gen battery technology).

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Destecroix went on to say: “After my startup exited I just got really interested in this idea that, where discovery is actually founded has a huge bearing on whether something is actually commercialized or not. The pandemic has really taught us there is a hell of a lot more – especially in the life sciences, and environmental sciences – that has still yet to be discovered. Vaccines are based on very old technology and take a while to develop.”

“Through this whole journey, I started trying to understand it from an economic perspective. How do we get more startups to emerge? To lower those barriers? I think first of all there’s a cultural problem, especially with academically-focused universities whereby entrepreneurship a dirty word. I had to go against many of my colleagues in the early days to spin out, then obviously universities own all the IP. And so you’ve got to go through the tech transfer office etc and depending on what university you are at, whether it’s Imperial, Cambridge or Oxford, they’re all different. So, and I put the reason why there were no deep terch startups in Bristol down to the fact that there was no incubator space, and not enough investment.”

“I’ve now made about 14 angel investments. Bristol has now catapulted from 20th in the league tables for life sciences to six in the country in the last three years and this is largely due to the activities that we’ve been helping to encourage. So we’ve helped streamline licensing processes for the university, and I’ve helped cornerstone a lot of these deals which has resulted in a wave of these technology startups coming in.”

“I thought, now’s the time to professionalize this and launch a respectable Bristol-based venture capital firm that specializes in deep technologies.”

#advisors, #articles, #bristol, #business, #cambridge, #cancer-treatment, #deep-tech, #east-coast, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #oxford, #private-equity, #start-up, #start-ups, #startup-company, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital, #west-coast, #wi-fi

Spying a pivot to ghost kitchens, Softbank’s second Vision Fund pours $120 million into Ordermark

“We’re building a decentralized ghost kitchen,” is a sentence that could launch a thousand investor calls, and Alex Canter, the chief executive officer behind Ordermark, knows it.

The 29 year-old CEO has, indeed, built a decentralized ghost kitchen — and managed to convince Softbank’s latest Vision Fund to invest in a $120 million round for that the company announced today.

“We have uncovered an opportunity to help drive more orders into restaurants through this offering we have called Nextbite,” Canter said. “Nextbite is a portfolio of delivery-only restaurant brands that exist only on UberEats, DoorDash, and Postmates.”

After hearing about Nextbite, Softbank actually didn’t take much convincing.

Investors from the latest Vision Fund first reached out to Canter shortly after the company announced its last round of funding in 2019. Canter had just begun experimenting with Nextbite at the time, but now the business is driving a huge chunk of the company’s revenues and could account for a large percentage of the company’s total business in the coming year.

“We believe Ordermark’s leading technology platform and innovative virtual restaurant concepts are transforming the restaurant industry,” said Jeff Housenbold, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Alex and the Ordermark team have a deep understanding of the challenges that independent restaurants face. We are excited to support their mission to help independent restaurants optimize online ordering and generate incremental revenue from under-utilized kitchens.”

It’s an interesting pivot for a company that began as a centralized hub for restaurants to manage all of the online delivery orders coming in through various delivery services like GrubHub, Postmates and Uber Eats .

Canter is no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owns one of Los Angeles’ most famous delicatessens, the eponymous Canters, and Ordermark apocryphally started as a way to manage the restaurant’s own back-of-the-house chaos caused by a profusion of delivery service orders.

Now, instead of becoming the proprietor of one restaurant brand, Canter is running 15 of them. Unlike Cloud Kitchens, Kitchen United or Reef, Ordermark isn’t building or operating new kitchens. Instead, the company relies on the unused kitchen capacity of restaurants that the company has vetted to act as its quasi-franchisees.

Ordermark logos for some of the company’s delivery-only restaurant concepts. Image Credit: Ordermark

While most of the restaurant concepts have been developed internally, Ordermark isn’t above the occasional celebrity sponsorship. Its Nextbite service has partnered with Wiz Khalifa on a delivery-only restaurant called HotBox by Wiz, featuring “stoner-friendly munchies”.

The first brand Canter launched was The Grilled Cheese Society, which took advantage of unused kitchens at places like a Los Angeles nightclub and mom-and-pop restaurants across the East Coast to build out a footprint that now covers 100 locations nationwide.

It’s perhaps the growth of the HotBox brand that shows what kind of growth Nextbite could promote. Since the brand’s launch in early October, it has grown to a footprint that will reach 50 cities by the end of the month, according to Canter.

In some ways, Nextbite couldn’t exist without Ordermark’s delivery aggregation technology. “The way that Ordermark’s technology is designed, not only can we aggregate online orders into the device, but we can aggregate multiple brands into the device.”

For restaurants that sign up to be fulfillment partners for the Nextbite brands, there are few additional upfront costs and a fair bit of upside, according to Canter. Restaurants are making 30% margin on every order they take for one of Ordermark’s brands, Canter said.

To become a part of Nextbite’s network of restaurants the business has to be vetted by Ordermark. The company takes cues on what kinds of restaurants are performing well in different regions and develops a menu that is suited to match those trends. For instance, Nextbite recently launched a hot chicken sandwich brand after seeing the item rise in popularity on different digital delivery services.

Restaurants are chosen that can match the menu style of the delivery-only brand that Ordermark’s Nextbite business creates.

Behind those menus is Guy Simsiman, a Denver-based chef who is in charge of developing new menus for the company.

“We’re building things that we know can scale and we do a lot of upfront vetting to find the right types of fulfillment partners,” said Canter. “When a restaurant signs up to become a fulfillment partner, we’re vetting them and training them on what they need to do to … We’re guiding them to become fulfillment partners for these concepts. There’s a whole bunch of training that happens. Then there’s secret shopping and review monitoring to monitor quality.”

While Nextbite may be the future of Ordermark’s business, its overall health looks solid. The company is about to cross $1 billion worth of orders processed through its system.

“We are laser focused right now on helping our restaurants survive COVID and the best way we can do that is by doubling down on the incremental revenues of the Nextbite business,” said Canter when asked where the company’s emphasis would be going forward.

Nextbite is something we’ve been developing for a while now. We took it to market at the end of last year prior to COVID. When COVID kicked in every restaurant in America needed to be more creative. People were looking for alternative ways to supplement the loss in foot traffic,” he said. Nextbite provided an answer.

#america, #business, #ceo, #chef, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #covid, #delivery-services, #denver, #doordash, #east-coast, #grubhub, #jeff-housenbold, #laser, #los-angeles, #managing-partner, #menu, #online-food-ordering, #ordermark, #postmates, #restaurant, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #vision-fund, #websites, #wiz

With a Warby Parker playbook, SISU raises funding from Greycroft to face-off against cosmetic clinics

With so many people getting ‘botox’ and ‘filler’ treatments to their faces these days (or are they, during the pandemic?), it’s probably no wonder that Venture Capital has decided to look at the space. In the same way that the small and scattered market of spectacle/optometrist shops were disrupted by startups like Warby Parker, so the extremely variable experience of back-street cosmetic clinics are ripe for targeting.

Step in SISU, a chain of cosmetic clinics created by a serial tech entrepreneur who will apply tech startup methodology to this relatively untapped world.

SISU has now raised a $5.5M Series A fundraise, led by Greycroft and Bullpen Capital. Mana Ventures and the Gaingels Syndicate also participated in the round, alongside angel investors, including Liam Casey, founder ans CEO of PCH, and Dan and Linda Kiely, the co-founders of Voxpro.

The funds will be used to go into the US cosmetic clinics market and standardize ‘facial feature’ pricing for things like lips, chin, under-eye, cheeks and brow. It will also offer treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections, dermal and facial fillers, laser and teeth whitening. There is even going to be a “Face as a service”. So that would be FaaS…

According to SISU, botox consumers are charged per unit, and often sold the maximum number of units, regardless of the results. SISU will set a price for what you want done, and that’s it. A web site will have “instant online evaluations”, and digital bookings.

The company will launch an e-commerce platform in the US and 20 medical-retail clinics are planned for the East Coast. It already eight now in Ireland.

Dubbed by its founders as the ‘One Medical for aesthetic treatments’, SISU is led by Dr. James Cotter, Dr. Brian Cotter, and Irish entrepreneur Pat Phelan, who previously made his name in the telecoms market. Phelan founded both Trustev, which exited to TransUnion in 2015 for $44M, and Cubic Telecom, which exited in 2012.

They are taping into to big market. The ‘medical aesthetics’ market is projected to reach $14.5B by 2023, according to some estimates.

#bullpen-capital, #cubic-telecom, #drugs, #east-coast, #entrepreneur, #europe, #greycroft, #ireland, #laser, #liam-casey, #pch, #tc, #transunion, #united-states, #warby-parker

SpaceX successfully launches its first polar orbit mission from Florida

SpaceX performed a milestone first polar orbital launch of a satellite from its East Coast launch facility at Cape Canaveral on Sunday. The Falcon 9 mission carried three payloads, including a SAOCOM-1B synthetic aperture radar satellite which was flown on behalf of the Argentine space agency, and two small satellites for clients Tyvack and PlanetiQ.

The launch took place at 7:18 PM EDT from Florida, and used a first stage booster that SpaceX previously flew on two separate commercial resupply missions on behalf of NASA for the international Space Station, as well as one of SpaceX’s recent Starlink internet satellite launches. SpaceX also recovered the booster again with a controlled landing back at their landing site at Cape Canaveral.

This was originally set to be one of two launches that SpaceX was going to perform on Sunday – both from the same launch facility, though at different pads. That would’ve been a historic first, but weather earlier in the day meant that the first mission on the schedule, a Starlink launch, was cancelled and will be rescheduled.

SpaceX would ultimately like to be launching at a cadence that would include multiple launches per day, and this would’ve been a great test of its ability to operationalize that ambition. Considering how aggressive the company has been with its Starlink launches, however, it seems likely we’ll encounter another opportunity for a double launch day at some point in the future.

#aerospace, #east-coast, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #science, #space, #space-station, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

Boston’s Q2 shows that the startup rebound isn’t ahead of us, it’s upon us

The coronavirus caused some disagreement amongst Boston’s venture capital community. Looking back at our mid-2020 survey of its VCs, some saw the city’s strength in biotech and healthcare as a competitive advantage, while others saw Boston’s diverse startup ecosystem as key to its survival.

And some were worried that activity was about to clamp down. Jeff Bussgang, Flybridge Ventures, put it most frankly: “Q2 financing for Boston is going to fall off a cliff. The biotech industry may see some bright spots […] but the financing market has frozen up as solid as the Charles River in February.”

With fresh data in hand, it appears that the more bullish were more right than the bears and that, in a good turn of affairs for Boston startups, Bussgang was wrong.

The city, much like the country, did not see the sharply negative quarter that many anticipated. Boston posted record venture capital investment in the period, its highest total since at least Q3 2018 according to CB Insights data.

The same dataset also says that Boston-area companies raised $3.7 billion across 126 deals. Indeed, the good news from Boston’s Q1 bested better-than-anticipated-results from both the global venture capital community, and the domestic VC world in Q2.

Bussgang sent an updated metaphor to the TechCrunch team in response to this data: “It was a tundra in March and April but, as happens in Boston, April showers and May flowers kicked in and the financing markets started to gush again in the late spring/early summer, just in time to save Q2 .”

While the data isn’t historically definitive due to reporting lags, it can be used as a directional sign that Boston’s rebound isn’t ahead of us, it’s upon us.

The solid numbers are a sign that COVID-19 and economic turmoil have put many startups in greater demand than before, which means that they need to amass money to meet growth needs.

#boston, #covid-19, #east-coast, #flybridge-capital, #indigo, #jeff-bussgang, #q2, #startups, #tc, #venture-funding

From bioprinting lab-grown meat in Russia to Beyond Meat in the US, KFC is embracing the future of food

From a partnership with the Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions to make chicken meat replacements using plant material and lab cultured chicken cells to an expansion of its Beyond Fried Chicken pilots to Southern California, KFC is aggressively pushing forward with its experiments around the future of food.

In Russia, that means providing 3D Bioprinting with breading and spices to see if the company’s chicken replacements can match the KFC taste, according to a statement from the company. As the company said, there are no other methods available on the market that can allow for the creation of complex products from animal cells.

“3D bioprinting technologies, initially widely recognized in medicine, are nowadays gaining popularity in producing foods such as meat,” said Yusef Khesuani, co-founder and Managing Partner of 3D Bioprinting Solutions, in a statement. “In the future, the rapid development of such technologies will allow us to make 3D-printed meat products more accessible and we are hoping that the technology created as a result of our cooperation with KFC will help accelerate the launch of cell-based meat products on the market.”

KFC beyond meat

Image: Beyond Meat

Closer to its home base in the US, KFC is working with the publicly traded plant-based meat substitute developer Beyond Meat on an expansion of their recent trials for KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken.

Continuing its wildly successful limited trials in Atlanta, Nashville, and Charlotte, KFC is now setting its sights on the bigger markets in Southern California, near Beyond Meat’s headquarters in Los Angeles.

Beginning on July 20, KFC will be selling Beyond Fried Chicken at 50 stores the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego areas, while supplies last, the company said.

Unlike the 3D bioprinting process used by its Russian partner, Beyond Meat uses plant-based products exclusively to make its faux chicken meat.

Beyond Fried Chicken first appeared on the market last year in Atlanta and was made available in additional markets in the South earlier this year.  The menu item — first available in a one-day consumer test in Atlanta — sold out in less than five hours, the company said.

“I’ve said it before: despite many imitations, the flavor of Kentucky Fried Chicken is one that has never been replicated, until Beyond Fried Chicken,” said Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer, KFC U.S. “We know the east coast loved it, so we thought we’d give those on the west coast a chance to tell us what they think in an exclusive sneak peek.

Beyond Fried Chicken nuggets will be available as a six or 12-piece à la carte or as part of a combo, complete with a side and medium drink starting at $6.99, plus tax.

Meanwhile, KFC’s Russian project aims to create the world’s first lab-made chicken nuggets, and plans to release them this fall in Moscow.

Popularizing lab-grown meat could have a significant impact on climate change according to reports. The company cited statistics indicating that growing meat from cells could half the energy consumption involved in meat production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while  dramatically cutting land use.

“Crafted meat products are the next step in the development of our ‘restaurant of the future’ concept,” said Raisa Polyakova, General Manager of KFC Russia & CIS, in a statement. “Our experiment in testing 3D bioprinting technology to create chicken products can also help address several looming global problems. We are glad to contribute to its development and are working to make it available to thousands of people in Russia and, if possible, around the world.”

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Tesla scouts head to Tulsa, Austin as hunt for Cybertruck gigafactory location nears end

Tesla officials visited two sites in Tulsa, Oklahoma this week to search for a location for its future and fifth gigafactory that will produce its all-electric Cybertruck and Model Y crossover, a source familiar with the situation told TechCrunch.

Company representatives also visited Austin. A final decision has not been made, but Austin and Tulsa are among the finalists, according to the source. The AP also reported Tulsa and Austin as top picks for the gigafactory.

Tesla expects to make a decision as soon as next month, and “certainly within three months,” CEO Elon Musk said April 29 during the company’s first quarter earnings call.

Musk tweeted in March that Tesla was scouting locations for a so-called “Cybertruck Gigafactory.” Musk said, at the time, that the factory would be located in the central part of the U.S. and would be used to produce Model Y crossovers for the East Coast market as well as the cybertruck.

Not long after the tweets, TechCrunch learned that Tesla was eyeing Nashville and had been in talks with officials there. It’s unclear if Nashville is still in the running.

An email was sent to Tesla requesting comment. The article will be updated if Tesla responds.

This next gigafactory, wherever it is located, will likely be larger and produce multiple products, CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said during the same April 29 call.

“That’s under a belief that there’s significant efficiencies by having as much as possible and similar product lines under the same roof and as much vertical integration as possible all in one facility,” Kirkhorn said.

Musk has referred to these as future plants as “tera” factories — a nod to terawatt, or more specifically a terawatt-hour of battery capacity. The company’s first “gigafactory” is in Sparks, Nevada. The massive structure, which has surpassed. 1.9 million square feet, is where Tesla produces battery packs and electric motors for its Model 3 vehicles. The company has a joint venture with Panasonic,  which is making the lithium-ion cells.

Tesla dubbed the Sparks plant a “gigafactory” because the company said at the time it would be capable of producing 35 gigawatt-hours per year of battery cells.

Tesla assembles its Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles in Fremont, Calif. at a factory that was once home to GM and Toyota’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) operation. Tesla acquired the factory in 2010. The first Model S was produced at the factory in June 2012.

“Gigafactory 2” in Buffalo, New York, is where Tesla produces solar cells and modules. The company’s third gigafactory is located in Shanghai, China and started producing the Model 3 late last year. The first deliveries began in early January.

Tesla is now preparing to build another factory near Berlin. Once complete, this German factory will produce the Model 3 and Model Y for the European market.

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Impossible Foods rolls out to nearly 1,000 new grocery stores and supermarkets

Starting tomorrow, 777 supermarkets in California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nevada will begin stocking the Impossible Foods plant-based meat substitute.

Fueling the increased distribution and a push to expand its product suite and geographic footprint domestically and internationally is a $500 million round of funding the company closed in March.

Some of that money is supporting the company’s debut at stores like Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Pavilions, Safeway and Vons.

In all, the company said it would be in nearly 1,000 grocery stores by tomorrow. That includes all Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Gelson’s Markets in Southern California; all Safeway stores in Northern California and Nevada; Jewel-Osco stores in Chicago, eastern Iowa and northwest Indiana; Wegmans stores on the East Coast and Fairway markets in and around New York.

Since its debut in September, the company said it was the number one item sold at the locations it was available on the East and West coasts.

The company’s 12-ounce packages are sold for somewhere between $8.99 and $9.99 and it plans to soon introduce the Impossible Burger at even more stores nationwide.

“We’ve always planned on a dramatic surge in retail for 2020 — but with more and more Americans’ eating at home, we’ve received requests from retailers and consumers alike,” said Impossible Foods’ president Dennis Woodside, in a statement. “Our existing retail partners have achieved record sales of Impossible Burger in recent weeks, and we are moving as quickly as possible to expand with retailers nationwide.”

Even as the company announced its expansion, it made moves to assuage any consumer concerns over the processes in place at its manufacturing facilities.

Impossible Foods said it had instituted mandatory work from home policies for all of its employees who can telecommute; restricted visitors to its facilities and those operated by co-manufacturers; banned all work-related travel; and implemented new sanitizing and disinfection procedures at its workplaces.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our employees, customers and consumers,” Woodside said. “And we recognize our responsibility for the welfare of our community, including the entire San Francisco Bay Area, our global supplier and customer network, millions of customers, and billions of people who are relying on food manufacturers to produce supplies in times of need.”

The company said it was proceeding with its research and development initiatives; accelerating the ramp of its production facilities; and moving to broadly commercialize its Impossible Sausage and Impossible Pork products.

Impossible Foods has raised $1.3 billion from investors, including Mirae Asset Global Investments, Khosla Ventures, Horizons Ventures and Temasek.

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Tesla is eyeing Nashville for Cybertruck gigafactory

Tesla is in talks with Nashville officials to locate a factory there that will produce its all-electric Cybertruck and Model Y crossover, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday evening that the company is “scouting” locations to build a new U.S. gigafactory that will produce the Cybertruck and Model Y crossover.

“Scouting locations for Cybertruck Gigafactory. Will be central USA,” Musk tweeted Tuesday. He added that the factory would be used to produce Model Y crossovers for the East Coast market. The first Model Y vehicles are being produced at its plant in Fremont, Calif.

Musk didn’t provide further information in the tweets. However, a source with knowledge of the talks said Nashville is on a short list of contenders.

Tennessee is already shaping up to be a hub of electric vehicle production. Volkswagen is spending $800 million to expand its U.S. factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. and turn it into the company’s North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles. Electric vehicle production at the Tennessee site will begin in 2022, VW said at the time. Meanwhile, Nissan has been producing the Nissan Leaf in Smyrna since 2013.

Tesla assembles its Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles in Fremont, Calif. at a factory that was once home to GM and Toyota’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) operation. Tesla acquired the factory in 2010. The first Model S was produced at the factory in June 2012.

Tesla turned its efforts to battery production and in June 2014 broke ground on its first “gigafactory” on land near Reno, Nevada. The massive structure, which has surpassed. 1.9 million square feet, is where Tesla produces battery packs and electric motors for its Model 3 vehicles. The company has a joint venture with Panasonic, which is making the lithium-ion cells.

Tesla also has a “gigafactory 2” in Buffalo, New York where it’s producing solar cells and modules.

In 2018, Tesla struck a deal with the Chinese government to build a factory in Shanghai, a milestone for Musk, who has long viewed China as a crucial market. The China factory started producing the Model 3 late last year. The first deliveries began in early January.

Tesla is now clearing land for another factory near Berlin. Once complete, this German factory will produce the Model 3 and Model Y for the European market.

The story has been updated to reflect new information about the possible location of the factory. 

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