Body camera footage showed that a Chicago officer fired a single shot into the boy’s chest after chasing him down a dark alley.
It’s not the next Higgs boson — yet. But the best explanation, physicists say, involves forms of matter and energy not currently known to science.
In the suburbs of Chicago, New Trier High School offers a lesson in just how complicated it can be to track the coronavirus in schools.
Much like the legend that Catherine O’Leary’s cow started the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, historians doubt the story that the home was built for her — or that she ever lived there.
Willie Hedden is one of three guards at the Western Illinois Correctional Center charged in the May 2018 assault of Larry Earvin, who was handcuffed at the time.
Announced this morning, the investment in Natural Fiber Welding will see Allbirds bring a vegan leather replacement option to customers by December 2021. It’s a natural addition for a company that has always billed itself as focused on environmental impact in other aspects of its apparel manufacturing.
Allbirds these days is far more than a shoe company and Natural Fiber Weldings suite of products that include both a purportedly tougher cotton fiber made using the company’s proprietary processing technology and a plant-based leather substitute.
Those materials could find their way into Allbirds array of socks, shoes, tshirts, underwear, sweaters, jackets, and face masks. Natural Fiber Welding already touts a relationship with Porsche on its website, so Allbirds isn’t the only company that’s warmed to the Peoria, Ill.-based startup’s new materials.
With the addition of Allbirds Natural Fiber Welding has raised roughly $15 million, according to data from Pitchbook. Other investors in the company include Central Illinois Angels, Prairie Crest Capital, Ralph Lauren Corp. and Capital V, an investment firm focused on backing vegan products.
Allbirds is far from the only clothier to make the jump to plant-based materials in the past year. The buzzy clothing company Pangaia invested $2 million into a company called Kintra which is making a bio-based polyester substitute in December.
By the far the biggest startup name in the sustainable fashion space is a company like Bolt Threads, which has inked deals with companies including Stella McCartney, Adidas, and the owner of the Balenciaga fashion house (among others).
Other startups that have raised significant capital for plant-based fabrics and materials are companies like Mycoworks, which raised $45 million last year from backers include John Legend, Natalie Portman along with more traditional investors like WTT Investment Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan), DCVC Bio, Valor Equity Partners, Humboldt Fund, Gruss & Co., Novo Holdings, 8VC, SOSV, AgFunder, Wireframe Ventures and Tony Fadell.
With Natural Fiber Welding’s products Allbirds is boasting about a significantly reduced environmental footprint for its leather-like material. Natural Fiber Welding claims its material reduce the associated carbon footprint by 40 times and uses 17 times less carbon in its manufacturing than synthetic leather made from plastic.
The company does say that the plant leather will use natural rubber, an industry with its own history of human rights abuses, that’s also trying to clean up its act.
“For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment,” says Joey Zwillinger, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, in a statement. “Natural Fiber Welding is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98% reduction in carbon emissions. Our partnership with NFW and planned introduction of Plant Leather based on their technology is an exciting step on our journey to eradicate petroleum from the fashion industry.”
TechCrunch has reached out to Allbirds for additional comment, but had not received a reply at the time of publication.
State power is the path to racial equality and liberation.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law that he said would end a system that disproportionately hurts the poor and favors wealthier defendants.
SoLo Funds wants to replace payday lenders with a community-based, market-driven model for individual lending and now has $10 million to expand its business in the U.S.
Payday lenders offer high interest, short-term loans to borrowers who are at their most vulnerable and the terms of their loans often trap borrowers in a cycle of debt from which there’s no escape.
Around 80% of Americans don’t have adequate savings to cover unforeseen expenses, and it’s that statistic that has made payday lending a lucrative business in the U.S.
Over the past decade websites like GoFundMe and others have cropped up to offer a space where people can donate money to individuals or causes that in some cases serve to supplement the incomes of people most in need. SoLo Funds operates as an alternative.
It’s a marketplace where borrowers can set the terms of their loan repayment and lenders can earn extra income while supporting folks who need the help.
The company is financing tens of thousands of loans per month, according to chief executive officer and co-founder, Travis Holoway and loan volumes are growing at about 40% monthly, he said.
While Holoway would not disclose the book value of the loans transacted on the platform, he did say that the company’s default and delinquency rates were lower than that of its competitors. “Our default rate is about three times better than the industry average — which is the payday lending industry that we’re looking to disrupt,” Holoway said.
The company also offers a sort of default insurance product that lenders can purchase to backstop any losses they experience, Holoway said. That service, rolled out in April of last year, helped account for some of the explosive 2,000% growth that the company saw over the course of 2020.
SoLo has seen the most activity in Texas, Illinois, California, and New York, states with large populations and cities with the highest cost of living.
“Our borrowers are school teachers… are social workers. When you live in those larger cities with higher costs of living they can’t afford the financial shocks that they could if they lived in Dayton, Ohio,” said Holoway.
While the company’s borrowers represent one cross section of America, the lenders tend to also not be hailing from the demographic that a casual observer might expect, Holoway said.
About half of loans on the platform are made by folks that Holoway called power lenders, while the rest are coming from less frequent users.
“A majority of [power lenders] are college educated and the majority of them tend to be white men. It’s individuals who you might not think are going to be power lenders… They may make $100,000 to $125,000 per year,” said Holoway. “They’re looking to diversify their capital and deploy it to make returns. And they’re able to help individuals out who otherwise would not be able to pay for groceries, paying rent or taking care of their transportation expenses.”
Given the company’s growth, it’s no wonder investors like ACME Capital, with support from Impact America Fund, Techstars, Endeavor Catalyst, CEAS Investments and more joined the new round. previous investors like West Ventures, Taavet Hinrikus of Transferwise, Jewel Burks Solomon of Google Startups, Zachary Bookman of OpenGov, Richelieu Dennis of Essence Ventures, and tech innovation accelerators also participated in financing the company.
“For too long, there have been limited options for individuals in need of immediate funds due to unforeseen circumstances, like a shift in hourly schedules, unplanned car troubles or other cases,” said SoLo, co-founder and CEO Travis Holoway. “SoLo was created to offer safe, affordable options for borrowers that need cash quickly, while also creating a marketplace for lenders to grow capital and help community members in need. We believe that at the end of the day, people are innately honest and tend towards generosity, and our platform’s growth is further proof that people want to do good in the world and make an impact.”
Controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI violated Canadian privacy laws when it collected photos of Canadians without their knowledge or permission, the country’s top privacy watchdog has ruled.
The New York-based company made its splashy newspaper debut a year ago by claiming it had collected over 3 billion photos of people’s faces and touting its connections to law enforcement and police departments. But the startup has faced a slew of criticism for scraping social media sites also without their permission, prompting Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to send cease and desist letters to demand it stops.
In a statement, Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner said its investigation found Clearview had “collected highly sensitive biometric information without the knowledge or consent of individuals,” and that the startup “collected, used and disclosed Canadians’ personal information for inappropriate purposes, which cannot be rendered appropriate via consent.”
Clearview rebuffed the allegations, claiming Canada’s privacy laws do not apply because the company doesn’t have a “real and substantial connection” to the country, and that consent was not required because the images it scraped were publicly available.
That’s a challenge the company continues to face in court, as it faces a class action suit citing Illinois’ biometric protection laws that last year dinged Facebook to the tune of $550 million for violating the same law.
The Canadian privacy watchdog rejected Clearview’s arguments, and said it would “pursue other actions” if the company does not follow its recommendations, which included stopping the collection on Canadians and deleting all previously collected images. Clearview said in July that it stopped providing its technology to Canadian customers after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Service were using the startup’s technology.
“What Clearview does is mass surveillance and it is illegal,” said Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy commissioner. “It is an affront to individuals’ privacy rights and inflicts broad-based harm on all members of society, who find themselves continually in a police lineup. This is completely unacceptable.”
A spokesperson for Clearview AI did not immediately return a request for comment.
Folx Health is leveraging the explosion of virtual care services to offer greater access to healthcare focused on the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, and has raised $25 million in new funding to help it grow.
It’s part of a revolution in care that’s targeting the needs of specific communities with access to physicians that understand those needs. And it’s all made possible by virtual interactions.
“We have a good sense of the nature of the need and the depth of the pain in the community,” said A.G. Breitenstein, the founder and chief executive of Folx Health. “As a non-binary lesbian and healthcare industry veteran, I have seen and experienced firsthand just how broken the current system is for the queer and trans community,”
Breitenstein said Folx would be using the cash to try and expand to all fifty states and increase the available products and services the healthcare company would look to make available to the queer and trans community.
“Whether it’s HRT, PrEP, sexual health or family creation, health care is essential for us to be who we are. It’s about time we build a platform for ourselves, so Queer and Trans people feel seen, heard, and celebrated,” she said in a statement.
That was one reason why Bessemer Venture Partners leapt at the chance to lead the new financing round for Folx, according to Morgan Cheatham, an investor out of Bessemer’s New York office. The other was the size of the market.
“At a high level, 2% of the population identify as transgender,” said Cheatham. “At that math, when we looked at that, we were able to see a multibillion dollar market opportunity not just to provide [hormone replacement therapy], but to provide a healthcare destination for this community.”
Telescoping out to the opportunity to provide care to the LGBTQ community broadly, when that population represents about 10% to 20% of the population is a “deca-billion opportunity,” said Cheatham.
Breitenstein envisions offering family planning services, broad primary care, and sexual health and wellness care in addition to the hormone therapies that the company currently offers.
Folx joins a cohort of companies tackling health issues specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community which include the mental healthcare service, Violet; Included Health, an employee benefit service; and Plume, which focuses on care for the transgender community.
“We believed in the vision and the approach that she’s taking. She’s building a healthcare experience that is celebratory and dignified rather than one that pathologizing healthcare,” said Cheatham.
For Bessemer and Cheatham, the investment speaks to broader opportunities to identify specific populations that need care tailored to their specific experience. That includes companies like Spora Health and Live Chair Health, which focus on providing healthcare specifically to people of color.
“Our individual identities whether it be socioeconomic status, race, gender… All of these things inform how we interface with the medical industrial complex,” Cheatham said.
Previous investors Define Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners will also participate in the round, which follows quickly on the heels of Folx’s launch from stealth in December 2020.
For its patients, Folx Health is offering Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT: testosterone or estrogen) with monthly plans starting at $59 a month. Folx Health will also begin releasing its sexual health and wellness offerings starting with Erectile Dysfunction (ED) treatment, soon to be followed by at-home STI Testing and Treatment, all customized for the specifics of Queer and Trans bodies, the company said.
The services will include unlimited on-demand clinical support with at-home lab testing (for most plans) and home-delivered medications (costs may vary based on medication). The company’s services are now available in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
The company is also launching a Folx Library, which will serve as a content hub and resource for Queer and Trans health, written by Folx clinicians and its broader community.
“Our partnership with Folx is a historical moment. It’s challenging to articulate how transformative Folx is for our community. We do so mindful of the brilliant and brave Queer and Trans people who fought for this moment to happen,” said Cheatham in a statement.
Before Jefferson Davis there was John C. Calhoun. What rougher beasts do Trump, Hawley and Cruz prefigure?
Millions of Facebook users in Illinois will be receiving about $340 each as Facebook settles a case alleging it broke state law when it collected facial recognition data on users without their consent. The judge hearing the case in federal court in California approved the final settlement on Thursday, six years after legal proceedings began.
“This is money that’s coming directly out of Facebook’s own pocket,” US District Judge James Donato said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The violations here did not extract a penny from the pockets of the victims. But this is real money that Facebook is paying to compensate them for the tangible privacy harms that they suffered.”
Three different Illinois residents filed suit against Facebook in 2015 and claimed that the service’s “tag suggestions” feature, which uses facial recognition to suggest other users to tag in photos, violated their rights under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The suits were eventually rolled together into a single class-action complaint and transferred to federal court in California.
Representative Mary Miller, an Illinois Republican, had faced condemnation and calls to resign for declaring at a rally: “Hitler was right on one thing: He said, ‘Whoever has the youth, has the future.’”
The automatic I.R.A., administered by state governments, will be more widely available.
A man claiming to be a property owner in Peoria, Ill., wanted a Soviet-style mural of Cookie Monster. The artist who did the job now says he was tricked (and paid) by an impostor.
Mr. Rittenhouse, 17, is accused of shooting three protesters, two fatally, during a protest against the police in Kenosha, Wis.
The people of Illinois, Arizona and California have a chance to make the distribution of state taxation a little more fair.
The injured included 15 children ranging from 1 to 12 years old, the State Police said.
In response to the coronavirus, the conference first said no to fall football on its campuses. Then, after being pulled in different directions by players, politicians and others, the league reversed course.
The police in Waukegan, Ill., said Marcellis Stinnette, 19, was fatally shot while riding in a car that went into reverse toward a police officer who had been approaching during an investigation.
Unlike earlier outbreaks concentrated in the Northeast and South, the virus is simmering at a worrisome level in most regions.
Amazon has received delivery of its very first, custom-built EV delivery van – a vehicle built through its partnership with electric transportation startup Rivian. The van doesn’t look too different from existing, traditional fuel and hybrid commercial delivery vans (though there are a lot more rounded edges) but most of the innovation is happening in less obvious places.
In a blog post detailing the vehicle, Amazon outlined some of the unique features of its custom vehicle, including sensor-based highway driving and traffic assist features; exterior cameras that can provide a 360-degree view for the driver via a digital display; a larger interior floor space in the cabin to help with drivers getting to and from the cabin compartment; surround tail lights for better braking visibility for other drivers; integrated three-level shelving and a bulkhead cargo compartment separating door; and finally, of course – built-in Alexa voice assistant integration.
Amazon announced a sizeable investment in Rivian in 2019, when it led a $700 million round for the startup EV maker. The e-commerce giant then announced last September that it was ordering 100,000 of the custom-made electric delivery vans. Rivian also intends to build and ship electric pickups and SUVs to consumers, on top of its commercial vehicle plans.
Amazon plans to ramp deployment of its all-electric fleet form here, starting with 10,000 custom vans on roads globally within the next two years, and then expanding to a total fleet size of that full 100,000 order by 2030, the company says. Rivian, meanwhile, says it has begun a pilot production line run of its Illinois factory, and plans to begin delivery of its SUV starting in June 2021, with shipments of its SUV starting next August.
The C.D.C. and four state health departments described how one girl spread the coronavirus to 11 relatives during a gathering.
Sana Benefits, a manager of self-funded insurance plans for small businesses, said it has raised $20.8 million in a recent round of funding as it looks to roll up all of the latest startup health benefit providers into a convenient package for small businesses.
Self-financed insurance plans are set up by companies to pay out of pocket for their employees’ health care and are typically cheaper, because employers can pick and choose which services they offer.
According to Sana Health co-founder Will Young, most companies wind up spending too much because they buy off-the-shelf plans from the big insurance companies like United Healthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna or Humana.
The company touts partnerships with startups like Beam Dental for dental coverage, PlushCare for telemedicine, Calm and Ginger.io for mental wellness, ClassPass for physical fitness, and Maven Clinic for maternity care.
Its pitch attracted the attention of Gigafund, Trust Ventures and mark vc, which came in to back the company’s $20.8 million series A round.
“Sana’s disruptive model for health insurance empowers small businesses to both cut costs and improve employee benefits,” said Stephen Oskoui, Managing Partner of Gigafund, in a statement. “We believe that only a win-win solution like Sana can make a real dent in the healthcare crisis.”
What do employees get? Sana’s plans range from health insurance offerings with a $4,000 deductible and $6,650 in out of pocket maximum payments of $6,650 to a $0 deductible plan with a $1,250 out of pocket maximum expense for individuals.
“We save our customers 20 percent on what they would get on a traditional plan,” according to Young. “From the perspective of our client company. Self insured means technically the company is offering insurance and buying insurance itself.”
The company makes money by managing the health insurance plans for customers and direct and distribute the plans. It currently operates in Texas and Kentucky with plans to bring its services to Illinois later this year.
Researchers are testing an experimental drug to halt sudden outbreaks. The trial may bring a new type of treatment for the virus.
A relentless campaigner, he served for 14 years after winning an election to a special two-year term in 1976.
Residents in Iowa, Illinois and surrounding states were still without electricity days after Monday’s storms brought hurricane-force winds.
The powerful storms, which covered hundreds of miles, brought winds exceeding 100 miles per hour to Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana.
The library, in Springfield, Ill., said Black community leaders who previewed it feared parts of the traveling exhibition, created 15 years ago, were outdated and lacked context.
Corruption scandals in Ohio and Illinois reveal an unsavory underside to the politics of energy.
Despite their disparate backgrounds, the Illinois Democrat has carved out a public life most evocative of the man she could join on the presidential ticket.
A nanny and cook, she played the part as the pancake flour company that employed her perpetuated a racial stereotype. She died 97 years ago in Chicago.
Illinois Speaker Michael J. Madigan has not been charged, but the governor, a fellow Democrat, said he must resign if the allegations are true.
The senator from Illinois joins the podcast to talk about Tucker Carlson, the vice presidency and parenting in a pandemic.
In a set of new lawsuits, two Illinois residents argue that three tech giants violated state laws prohibiting the use of personal biometric data without permission. Illinois residents Steven Vance and Tim Janecyk allege that images of their faces appeared in IBM’s “Diversity in Faces” database without their consent and were used to train facial recognition systems at Amazon, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet.
While all three companies are based on the West Coast, the suit accuses the tech giants of running afoul of an Illinois law known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The suit names Vance and Janecyk as plaintiffs but also seeks class action status on behalf of “all other similarly situated individuals” in Illinois. In the lawsuit, the pair of plaintiffs seek $5,000 per violation of the law, an injunction barring the companies from using Illinois residents’ “biometric identifiers” and the destruction of any relevant facial data that’s been stored.
“In its effort to improve its facial recognition technology, Defendant Microsoft violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act… by, among other things, unlawfully collecting, obtaining, storing, using, possessing and profiting from the biometric identifiers and information of Plaintiffs Vance and Janecyk and all other similarly situated Illinois residents and citizens (hereinafter, the “Class Members”),” the version of the suit against Microsoft states.
The law cited in the suit, passed more than a decade ago, is designed to protect Illinois residents from having their biometric data harvested or stored without their explicit permission. Lawsuits involving BIPA pop up with some frequency now, as facial recognition becomes both more commonplace and more controversial. In the absence of federal privacy protections in the U.S., the Illinois law poses an interesting hurdle for companies that are used to extracting data from Americans with little oversight.
In January of this year, Facebook paid $550 million to settle a class action lawsuit stemming from BIPA. The suit was filed on behalf of Illinois residents in 2015 and alleged that the social media giant collected facial recognition data from user images without disclosing it to users. At the time, Snapchat, Google, and Shutterfly faced similar suits.
In 2019, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court swatted away Facebook’s claim that facial recognition data did not count as biometric data, stating that “development of face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”
The IBM dataset the companies trained facial recognition systems on also poses its own controversies. As NBC News reported last year, IBM claimed that its Diversity in Faces dataset was designed “purely for academic research” and not for the company’s own commercial interests. The IBM dataset was apparently culled from more than 100 million Creative Commons-licensed Flickr images, a decision that raised its own ethical questions around the use of facial imagery and if corporations should be allowed leverage images with open licensing for facial recognition applications without the consent of photographers and the people they photograph.
A third of states have strict measures in place for visitors, from mandatory testing to quarantine requirements.
People cycled through jails on minor offenses are taking the virus back to their communities.
The C.D.C. urged consumers in eight states to avoid four different salad kits produced by Fresh Express.
The facial recognition start-up violated the privacy of Illinois residents by collecting their images without their consent, the civil liberties group says in a new lawsuit.
Construction on the factory, which will eventually produce its R1T and R1S electric vehicles for consumers as well as 100,000 delivery vans for Amazon, has restarted with employees returning in phases. Despite the shutdown and gradual restart, the timeline for the Amazon delivery vans is still on track, according to a statement from Amazon released Thursday.
In September, Amazon announced it had ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian as part of its commitment to The Climate Pledge to become net zero carbon by 2040. Vans will begin delivering to customers in 2021, as previously planned. About 10,000 of electric vehicles will be on the road as early as 2022 and all 100,000 vehicles on the road by 2030, Amazon said in a statement Thursday.
Rivian has pushed the start of production on the R1T and R1S to 2021. The company had initially planned to start production and begin deliveries of the electric pickup truck and SUV in late 2020. That timeline has been adjusted. Rivian had always planned to deliver the R1T truck first, followed by the R1S.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to adjust its timeline due to supply constraints. However, Rivian is now working on bringing the production and delivery timeline of the R1T and R1S closer together.
For now, the company is focused on work inside and outside the factory. About 335 Rivian employees were on site before COVID hit. Today, about 116 are on site with plans to gradually bring back the remaining employees. Rivian did not furlough any employees and continues to pay all workers their wages.
About 109 contractors are also back at the factory working on the interior. Another 120 to 140 contractors are working outside to expand the factory from 2.6 million to 3 million square feet.
The company has implemented new safety practices under a 4-phase plan, according to Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe. Temperature checks are carried out and workers are supplied with protective clothing and equipment.
The vehicle engineering and design teams have also developed digital methods to make sure that program timing remains on track, according to Scaringe.
Illinois’s health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, offers a glimpse into the round-the-clock, all-consuming effort of containing the coronavirus.
Rivian is hiring an insurance agency data manager, a job posting that suggests the all-electric automaker is planning to offer its own insurance to customers.
The job was first posted by RivianForums, which also reached out to TechCrunch with the tip. Roadshow/CNET also reported about this new position. Rivian wouldn’t provide more details about its plans, but did confirm it has some job postings in the area of insurance.
The job is to lead Rivian’s property and casualty (P&C) insurance agency, a position that entails recruiting, training, coaching and managing employed licensed sales agents and an insurance customer care team, according to the posting on Rivian’s website. The employee will also sell insurance products and provide feedback to partners on opportunities, the posting said.
The posting, which seeks someone with more than 10 years of experience and who is a licensed in P&C in multiple states, suggests this will be a global product. The job is curiously based at the automaker’s factory in Normal, Ill., and not at its Plymouth, Mich. headquarters.
The move appears to follow Tesla’s lead. Last August, Tesla launched an insurance product, promising owners of its electric vehicles to deliver rates 20% and even as high as 30% lower than other insurance providers. The product known as Tesla Insurance is only available to owners in California. The business will expand to additional U.S. states in the future, Tesla has said.
NASA is going to test a new solar sail system to determine if it’s a viable alternative to propellant-based thrusters for maneuvering small satellites, and potentially for low-cost transportation of spacecraft set on deep-space missions. The agency has selected Illinois-based NanoAvionics to provide the spacecraft that will be used to test the solar sail system, the company announced today.
The mission, called NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System or ACS3, is headed by NASA’s Ames Research System, and will see a small satellite deployed to low Earth orbit equipped with a solar sail that unfurls to cover around 800 square feet – the size of a pretty large one bedroom apartment. The sail will work by actually propelling the spacecraft using not solar power, but the energy generated by photons from the sun striking the sail. This method results in very little force generated, but the accumulated power in a vacuum without the interference of friction means that eventually, a spacecraft using this method of propulsion can build up quite a head of steam.
NASA wants to develop this kind of propulsion system because they don’t require any propellant at all, which greatly decreases the cost of launch and operation. They could undertake long-duration missions like traveling the solar system as scientific scouts, and eventually take on even more complicated tasks like deep-space asteroid mining, where conventional fuel systems make the costs and logistics unfeasible.
Solar sail technology is not new, and NASA has flown a test solar sail before, in 2011, though a second demonstration flight called Sunjammer was cancelled prior to a flight test in 2014. Non-profit scientific organization The Planetary Society flew its own crowd-funded solar sail spacecraft last year, and demonstrated that it was able to raise the orbit of a small satellite using only the power of the sun.
The president of the State Senate asked for $40 billion to help the pension system, fund unemployment insurance and aid hospitals and cities.
Ventilators assembled by GM and Ventec Life Systems were delivered to hospitals Thursday night with more making their way to facilities today and through the weekend, the first in a 30,000-unit order with the U.S. government.
The deliveries, which went to hospitals in Chicago and Olympia Fields, Ill., are a milestone for the two companies that launched an effort less than a month ago to make thousands of ventilators for hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
GM and Ventec announced a partnership March 20 to help increase production of respiratory care products such as ventilators. The companies had initially focused on making Ventec’s critical care ventilators, called VOCSN, a higher-end multi-function device that includes a ventilator, oxygen concentrator, cough assist, suction and nebulizer. The device, which has more than 700 components, was cleared in 2017 by the FDA.
GM investigated the feasibility of sourcing the materials needed as well as what it would take to build a new clean room and production line within its Kokomo, Ind. factory. GM estimated it would cost about $750 million, a price that included retrofitting a portion of the engine plant, purchasing materials to make the ventilators and paying the 1,000 workers needed to scale up production, the source said. The remaining $250,000 of estimated costs came from Ventec.
The Trump Administration balked at the price tag, putting a contract with the U.S. government in limbo. GM and Ventec planned to push ahead anyway, even as President Trump used Twitter to criticize the automaker and its CEO, Mary Barra . Trump then signed a presidential directive ordering GM to produce ventilators and to prioritize federal contracts, just hours after the automaker announced plans to manufacture the devices.
In spite of the scuffle, GM did reach a $490 million contract with the federal government to produce 30,000 ventilators by the end of August. Under the contract, GM is producing a different critical care ventilator from Ventec called the VOCSN V+Pro, a simpler device that has 400 parts. The other more expensive and complex machine had a multi-function capability.
To speed its ability to build ventilators, the government contract calls for the VOCSN unit with ventilator capability only, according to GM.
Production began this week with one shift of workers and is ramping up. Eventually, GM has plans to add a second and then a third shift in the coming weeks, according to a company spokesperson. More than 1,000 workers will be needed over the three shifts.
To date, 10 ventilators have been delivered to Franciscan Health in Olympia Fields. Another 10 were expected to be delivered Friday afternoon to Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. A third shipment of 34 ventilators will be delivered Saturday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Gary/Chicago International Airport for distribution to other locations where the need is the greatest, according to GM.
The need for ventilators is urgent as cases of COVID-19 pop up with increasing frequency as widespread testing begins. While some people with COVID-19 reported more mild symptoms, others have experienced severe respiratory problems and need to be hospitalized. The shortage has prompted automakers, including Ford and Volkswagen, to investigate ways of ramping up ventilator production. Ford and GE Healthcare have licensed a ventilator design from Airon Corp and plan to produce as many as 50,000 of them at a Michigan factory by July.
Automakers are also making face masks, face shields and Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) for healthcare workers.
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.
The company said Thursday the delivery service is now available from nearly 200 Costco locations in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, Washington and Washington D.C. The service, which was initially piloted at several locations in Southern California and Washington, will expand nationally in the coming months, the company said.
Customers who use the online prescription service will receive a text message from their Costco pharmacy when their prescription is ready. The text will include a link with the option to schedule their prescription for delivery. Once the customer clicks the link, they will be redirected to Costco’s site. From here, customers can confirm their prescription and continue to add groceries and household goods to their Instacart Costco delivery order. The orders are delivered to customers in a sealed, tamper-proof bag to ensure customer safety and privacy.
Instacart is also offering contactless delivery for most medications. Instacart shoppers are able to scan a customer’s ID for verification without a signature on qualifying prescription orders. Customers are also able to schedule delivery up to one week in advance under the new service.
The new service was driven by demand in the wake of COVID-19, Instacart president Nilam Ganenthiran.
“For many people, we know that part of their grocery shopping experience goes beyond fresh produce, meat, seafood and pantry staples, and also includes getting much-needed medications,” said Ganenthiran.
Instacart has seen demand for its grocery service skyrocket as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. The company’s total order volume last week was 400% higher than the same week last year. Customers are spending more as well. The average customer basket size — meaning the total amount a customer spends on their order on Instacart — is more than 25% month-over-month, according to the company.
The increase in demand has prompted Instacart to expand its reach by adding nearly 150 new stores to its marketplace since March 1. It’s also adding workers to keep up with the increase in customers.
Instacart announced April 10 that it doubled its “Care” team, from 1,200 agents to 3,000 agents. These employees answer questions about how Instacart works as well as respond to delivery issues and other mishaps with orders.
The hiring news followed a strike in March organized by Instacart shoppers who demanded personal protective equipment, hazard pay, default tips and extended sick pay.
Compass, the real-estate brokerage startup backed by roughly $1.6 billion in venture funding, has laid off 15% of its staff as a result of the shifting economic fortunes created by the global response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal email seen by TechCrunch.
Citing economic fallout that has seen stock markets plummet 30 percent in just 22 days, Compass chief executive Robert Reffkin wrote that the company has seen an over 60 percent decline in real estate showings and is modeling a six-month decline in revenue of 50 percent.
“We aren’t just facing an economic recession, we are facing an economic standstill,” Reffkin wrote. As the country’s unemployment rate soars to a projected 10 percent, Reffkin wrote that the company had no choice but to cut its workforce.
The 15 percent reduction in staffing is being accompanied by an 80% reduction in its concierge business for the moment. As part of the reductions in corporate spending, Reffkin cut his own salary to nothing and reduced the entire executive team’s salary by 25 percent.
For the employees that are laid off, the company said it would provide an “enhanced severance and COBRA health insurance” along with letting employees hang on to their company laptops and providing tools, training, and networking help so that they can try to get a new job.
The news from Compass is just one indicator of a potential reckoning coming for the booming property tech investment category.
Zillow said it decided to halt its offers to sellers after several states, including California, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, New York and Nevada, implemented emergency orders requiring people to stay home and stopping all non-essential business activities, including some real estate-related activities.
Opendoor and Redfin made similar decisions to pause homebuying. Meanwhile other real estate companies are also laying off staff. The co-working startup Convene laid off staff as well, citing current market conditions.
Reffkin is hopeful that the economy will turn around and predicted that the economy could recover in the next 100 days, ending his email saying that he looks forward to a return to normalcy for Compass and the broader market.
“I feel hopeful that China’s apparent success at reducing the spread of the Coronavirus and restarting their enormous economy may provide a blueprint for our future, as well,” Reffkin wrote. “And I feel hopeful because of the ways I see people throughout our company and throughout our society stepping up during this challenging time.”
To date, Compass has raised $1.6 billion in financing from investors including the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity, Wellington Management, Softbank Vision Fund, and the Qatar Investment Authority, according to Crunchbase.
Zillow said Monday it will temporarily stop buying homes in all 24 markets where it operates in response to public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest real estate startup to shift how it operates as the disease caused by coronavirus continues to spread.
Zillow said it decided to pause making offers to sellers after several counties and states, including California, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, New York and Nevada, implemented emergency orders requiring people to stay home and all non-essential business activities, including some real-estate related activities, to stop.
Zillow follows action from other real estate startups such as Opendoor and Redfin to temporarily pause making offers on homes.
“We plan to restore Zillow Offers full operations once health concerns pass and local health orders are lifted,” Zillow Group CEO and co-founder Rich Barton said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are working to support our customers and partners in these uncertain times when home has never been more important.”
The company started to slow its pace of buying homes last month, while accelerating sales in the quarter, Barton said. Zillow’s inventory is now 1,860 homes, a 31% decline from 2,707 homes at the end of 2019.
The company said it will continue to market and sell homes through “Zillow Offers,” and will temporarily suspend plans to open additional Zillow Offers markets. Zillow also halted open houses in all markets, beginning last week.
We have a strong balance sheet and cash position, and are taking proactive steps to reduce spending to offset the important financial support we’re giving our industry partners so we may continue to best serve our mutual customers,” added Barton.