At a time when states with Republican-led legislatures are rushing to restrict ballot access, Kentucky proved the exception to the rule. The reasons are both political and logistical.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 19 people had been sickened in eight states.
Now the company has $10 million in financing from investors including L37 Ventures, River Park Ventures, Middleland, FJ Labs, Kelvin Beachum along with previous investors MAX Ventures, Tribeca Venture Partners, and Slow Ventures to bring that mission to a broader swath of the country.
Since the company bought its own slaughterhouse back in 2015 and expanded to e-commerce in 2018 it has been shipping its selections of lamb, beef, pork, chicken and sausages from local farms to tables across the U.S.
The new money will be used to scale the company’s sustainable agriculture and its pasture-raised meat for the direct-to-consumer business, its shop in Nashville, and for wholesale distribution to restaurants around the country.
It’s going to expand its operations in Princeton, Ky with a new USDA processing facility that’s 4.5 times larger to meet new demand. That move will create 80 new jobs in the small town and is part of a broader agricultural renaissance in Kentucky.
“It’s easy to back founders who are as comfortable on the manufacturing line as they are in the boardroom, and who see the world differently and have the deep domain expertise to execute on that vision,” said L37 Partner Randall Ussery in a statement. “They have spent years perfecting the Porter Road way which no company nor incumbent can replicate overnight. They are a category killer in the meat industry and have built a moat around their brand.”
One indication of the ways in which Porter Road differs from its larger competitors is in the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic at its facilities.
Due to its limited production schedule and measures like staggered break times, mask requirements and social distancing rules, the company was able to avoid having any outbreaks at its facilities, according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Chris Carter. “We had a handful of people who got sick, but [COVID-19] didn’t spread in Princeton,” said Carter.
And despite the push for more plant-based diets, Carter says that his company’s focus on pasture-raised animals and whole animal butchery should appeal to folks who care about sustainable production. “We care about our farmers and we care about the way our animals are raised,” said Carter. “That’s the whole point of what we’re doing… Porter Road is about animal utilization. It’s about honoring the life of an animal so we find an outlet for every single piece.”
Porter Road is expanding its product line into cooking tallow and fats, and cross cut bones for bone marrow dishes, Carter said.
“The food system is broken and in need of a substantial change. Today’s consumer is demanding a deeper level of connection to their food and can see past misleading labels and buzzwords,” said Carter, in a statement. “We are delivering trust, transparency, and flavor so no one has to compromise, all while supporting our farmers.”
For nearly 60 years, presidents have promised to lift up Appalachia, but many communities remain on the brink.
Maya Zinshtein’s revelatory documentary explores the political and philanthropic alliance of American evangelical Christians and Israeli Jews.
Three new books investigate Lost Cause mythology, justice in post-bellum Kentucky and the vibrant life of New Orleans’s Creole community in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
As Roblox eyes what could be a historic debut on public markets in the coming months, investors who have valued the company at $29.5 billion are certainly eyeing the gaming company’s dedicated and youthful user base, but it’s the 7 million active creators and developers on the Roblox platform that they are likely most impressed by.
Since 2015, Roblox has been running an accelerator program focused on enabling the next generation of game developers to be successful on its platform. Over the years, the program has expanded from one annual class to now three, each with now around 40 developers participating. That means over 100 developers per year are working directly with Roblox to gain mentorship, education, and funding opportunities to get their games off the ground.
As the company’s efforts on this front have grown more formalized, Roblox in 2018 hired a former Accelerator alumni Christian Hunter, a Roblox gamer since age 10 and game developer since 13, to run the program full-time. Having been through the experience himself, Hunter brought to the program an understanding of how the Accelerator could improve, based on a developer’s own perspective.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw the company’s plans to run the program into disarray. Instead of being able to invite developers to spend three months participating in classes hosted at Roblox’s San Mateo office, the company had to revamp the program for remote participation.
As it turned out, developers who were used to playing and building games taking place in virtual worlds quickly adjusted to the new online experience.
“Before COVID, everyone was together. It was easier to talk to people. [Developers] could just walk up to someone that was on our product or engineering team if they were running into issues,” explains Roblox Senior Product Manager Rebecca Crose. “But obviously, with COVID-19, we had to switch and think differently.”
The remote program, though differently structured, offered several benefits. Developers could join the program’s Discord server to talk to both current participants and previous classes, and reach out and ask questions. They could also participate in the Roblox company Slack to ask the team questions, and there were more playtests being scheduled to gain reactions and feedback from Roblox employees.
Meanwhile, to get to know one another when they couldn’t meet in person, developers would have game nights where they’d play each other’s games or others that were popular on Roblox, and bond within the virtual environment instead of in face-to-face meetings and classes.
The actual Accelerator content, however, remained fairly consistent during the remote experience. Participants had weekly leaders standup, talks on topics like game design and production, and weekly feedback sessions where they asked Roblox engineers questions.
But by its nature, a remote Accelerator broadend who could attend. Instead of limiting the program to only those who could travel to San Mateo and stay for three months, the program was opened up to a more global and diverse audience. This drove increased demand, too.
The 2020 program saw Roblox receiving the largest number of applications ever — 5 times the usual number.
As a result, the class included participants from five countries: The Philippines, South Korea, Sweden, Canada, and the U.S.
The developers at IndieBox Studios saw the program as a chance to double down on their game development side hustles. The young friends spread across the UK and Kentucky spent their time during the accelerator scaling up their photorealistic title called Tank Warfare.
“We’ve actually never once met in real life, like we’ve been friends for going on what nine years now,” Michael Southern tells TechCrunch. “We met on Roblox.”
IndieBox is representative of many of Roblox’s early developer teams, younger gamers that have spent more than a decade learning the ins and outs of the evolving Roblox gaming platform.
“We all joined Roblox way back in 2008,” IndieBox’s Frank Garrison says. “But we only started developing on the platform in 2019. And for us, the decision to choose Roblox was more down to like, well it’s what we know, why not give it a bash?”
The demographics of the accelerator have been shifting in other ways as the developer base grows more diverse.
“I would say, in the beginning, it was mostly young males. But as we’ve watched the program evolve, we’ve been getting so many new interesting teams,” notes Program Manager Christian Hunter.
The 2020 program had more women participants than ever, for example, with 12 in a class of 50. And one team was all women.
The age of participants, who are typically in the 18 to 22 year-old range, also evolved.
“We’ve seen a lot more older folks,” Hunter says. “With [the COVID-19 pandemic], we actually saw our first 50-year old in the program. We’ve never had anyone older than, I’d say, 24. And in 2020, we had 12 individuals over the age of 30,” he notes.
Two of the teams were also a combination of a kid and a parent.
Shannon Clemens learned about the Roblox platform from her son Nathan, learning to code and bringing her husband Jeff in to form a studio called Simple Games. Nathan’s two sisters help the studio part time, as well as his friend Adrian Holgate.
“Seeing [my son’s] experience on Roblox getting involved with the platform, I thought it would be neat to learn how to make our own games,” Shannon Clemens told TechCrunch.
Their title Gods of Glory has received more than 13.5 million visits from Roblox players since launching in September.
“Our whole family is kind of creatively bent towards having fun with games and coming up with things like that,” Jeff Clemens tells us. “Why would we not try this? So, that’s when we applied to the program and said, ‘well, we’ll try and see if we get accepted,’ and we did and it’s been awesome.”
In addition to the changes facilitated by a remote environment, Roblox notes there were other perks enabled by remote learning. For one thing, the developers didn’t have to wake up so early to benefit from the experience.
“With it being remote, the developers were working their hours,” says Crose. “As a developer, we tend to work later and stay up at night. Having them come in at 9 AM sharp was very difficult. It was hard for them because they’re just like…a zombie. So we definitely saw that by letting them work their own hours, [there is] less burnout and they increase their productivity,” she says.
Though the COVID-19 crisis may eventually end as the world gets vaccinated, the learnings from the Accelerator and the remote advantages it offers will continue. Developers from the program hope that the growth seen on gaming platforms like Roblox continues as well.
“The pandemic has been great for most game studios,” developer Gustav Linde tells TechCrunch. “Obviously, it’s a very weird time, but the timing was good for us.”
The Gang Stockholm, a Swedish game development studio co-founded by Linde, has been building branded experiences for clients exclusively on the Roblox platform. The team of 12 has used the accelerator to slow down development deadlines and dig into some unique areas of the platform.
“If you look at Steam and the App Store and Google Play, those markets are extremely crowded, and Roblox is a very exciting platform for developers right now.” said Linde. “Roblox is also getting a lot of attention and a lot of big brands are interested in entering the platform.”
Roblox says that going forward, future Accelerator programs will feature a remote element inspired by the COVID experience. The company plans to continue to make its program globally available, with the limitation for now, of English-speaking participants. But it’s looking to expand to reach non-English speakers with future programs.
The fall 2020 Accelerator class graduated in December 2020, and the next Spring class will start in February 2021. The applications are being reviewed now with a decision to be finalized soon. The next class will have some 40 participants, as is now usual, and Roblox will again aim to diversify the group of participants.
Airports across the United States are devoting more space to freight shipments as online shopping surges in the pandemic.
Zack Parisa and Max Nova, the co-founders of the carbon offset company SilviaTerra, have spent the last decade working on a way to democratize access to revenue generating carbon offsets.
As forestry credits become a big, booming business on the back of multi-billion dollar commitments from some of the world’s biggest companies to decarbonize their businesses, the kinds of technologies that the two founders have dedicated ten years of their lives to building are only going to become more valuable.
That’s why their company, already a profitable business, has raised $4.4 million in outside funding led by Union Square Ventures and Version One Ventures, along with Salesforce founder and the driving force between the 1 trillion trees initiative, Marc Benioff .
“Key to addressing the climate crisis is changing the balance in the so-called carbon cycle. At present, every year we are adding roughly 5 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere. Since atmospheric carbon acts as a greenhouse gas this increases the energy that’s retained rather than radiated back into space which causes the earth to heat up,” writes Union Square Ventures managing partner Albert Wenger in a blog post. “There will be many ways such drawdown occurs and we will write about different approaches in the coming weeks (such as direct air capture and growing kelp in the oceans). One way that we understand well today and can act upon immediately are forests. The world’s forests today absorb a bit more than one gigatons of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere and turn it into biomass. We need to stop cutting and burning down existing forests (including preventing large scale forest fires) and we have to start planting more new trees. If we do that, the total potential for forests is around 4 to 5 gigatons per year (with some estimates as high as 9 gigatons).”
For the two founders, the new funding is the latest step in a long journey that began in the woods of Northern Alabama, where Parisa grew up.
After attending Mississippi State for forestry, Parisa went to graduate school at Yale, where he met Louisville, Kentucky native Max Nova, a computer science student who joined with Parisa to set up the company that would become SiliviaTerra.
The two men developed a way to combine satellite imagery with field measurements to determine the size and species of trees in every acre of forest.
While the first step was to create a map of every forest in the U.S. the ultimate goal for both men was to find a way to put a carbon market on equal footing with the timber industry. Instead of cutting trees for cash, potentially landowners could find out how much it would be worth to maintain their forestland. As the company notes, forest management had previously been driven by the economics of timber harvesting, with over $10 billion spent in the US each year.
The founders at SilviaTerra thought that the carbon market could be equally as large, but it’s hard for moset landowners to access. Carbon offset projects can cost as much as $200,000 to put together, which is more than the value of the smaller offset projects for landowners like Parisa’s own family and the 40 acres they own in the Alabama forests.
There had to be a better way for smaller landowners to benefit from carbon markets too, Parisa and Nova thought.
To create this carbon economy, there needed to be a single source of record for every tree in the U.S. and while SilviaTerra had the technology to make that map, they lacked the compute power, machine learning capabilities and resources to build the map.
That’s where Microsoft’s AI for Earth program came in.
Working with AI for Earth, SilviaTierra created their first product, Basemap, to process terabytes ofsatellite imagery to determine the sizes and species of trees on every acre of America’s forestland. The company also worked with the US Forestry Service to access their data, which was used in creating this holistic view of the forest assets in the U.S.
With the data from Basemap in hand, the company has created what it calls the Natural Capital Exchange. This program uses SilviaTerra’s unparalleled access to information about local forests, and the knowledge of how those forests are currently used to supply projects that actually represent land that would have been forested were it not for the offset money coming in.
Currently, many forestry projects are being passed off to offset buyers as legitimate offsets on land that would never have been forested in the first place — rendering the project meaningless and useless in any real way as an offset for carbon dioxide emissions.
“It’s a bloodbath out there,” said Nova of the scale of the problem with fraudulent offsets in the industry. “We’re not repackaging existing forest carbon projects and try to connect the demand side with projects that already exist. Use technology to unlock a new supply of forest carbon offset.”
The first Natural Capital Exchange project was actually launched and funded by Microsoft back in 2019. In it, 20 Western Pennsylvania land owners originated forest carbon credits through the program, showing that the offsets could work for landowners with 40 acres, or, as the company said, 40,000.
“We’re just trying to get inside every landowners annual economic planning cycle,” said Nova. “There’s a whole field of timber economics… and we’re helping answer the question of given the price of timber, given the price of carbon does it make sense to reduce your planned timber harvests?”
Ultimately, the two founders believe that they’ve found a way to pay for the total land value through the creation of data around the potential carbon offset value of these forests.
It’s more than just carbon markets, as well. The tools that SilviaTerra have created can be used for wildfire mitigation as well. “We’re at the right place at the right time with the right data and the right tools,” said Nova. “It’s about connecting that data to the decision and the economics of all this.”
The launch of the SilviaTerra exchange gives large buyers a vetted source to offset carbon. In some ways its an enterprise corollary to the work being done by startups like Wren, another Union Square Ventures investment, that focuses on offsetting the carbon footprint of everyday consumers. It’s also a competitor to companies like Pachama, which are trying to provide similar forest offsets at scale, or 3Degrees Inc. or South Pole.
Under a Biden administration there’s even more of an opportunity for these offset companies, the founders said, given discussions underway to establish a Carbon Bank. Established through the existing Commodity Credit Corp. run by the Department of Agriculture, the Carbon Bank would pay farmers and landowners across the U.S. for forestry and agricultural carbon offset projects.
“Everybody knows that there’s more value in these systems than just the product that we harvest off of it,” said Parisa. “Until we put those benefits in the same footing as the things we cut off and send to market…. As the value of these things goes up… absolutely it is going to influence these decisions and it is a cash crop… It’s a money pump from coastal America into middle America to create these things that they need.”
In a small town in Kentucky, an immense replica of Noah’s ark looms over the countryside.
Urban and rural fortunes diverge in the state, with the pandemic compounding troubles that predated it.
Gregory Bush shot Vickie Lee Jones and Maurice E. Stallard at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., in 2018 in a racially-motivated attack.
The governor had ordered all of the state’s K-12 schools, whether public or private, to close temporarily to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Wright Thompson’s “Pappyland” goes deep into Kentucky’s bourbon culture through a history of one of its prominent producer families.
Many election experts feared a tide of rejected mail ballots. So far, the rate of rejections appears to be lower than in years past.
A training slide show that urged officers to “always fight to the death” is no longer used but has raised an outcry in a state that has struggled with police violence.
Public monuments, and the artists who create them, are beginning to represent women and their achievements.
Unlike earlier outbreaks concentrated in the Northeast and South, the virus is simmering at a worrisome level in most regions.
Moving troubled monuments to museums for context may sound like an easy answer, but the story of trying to send a statue of Jefferson Davis back to his hometown shows how difficult that really is.
The demise of coal-fired power plants in Arizona and Kentucky shows how the president, despite promises to restore jobs, failed to counter the forces decimating the industry.
The Kentucky attorney general’s office said it would release the panel’s recordings after a grand juror contended in a court filing that its discussions were inaccurately characterized.
Daniel Cameron, a rising G.O.P. star in Kentucky, is seen as a possible successor to Senator Mitch McConnell. But first, he has to navigate a case roiling the nation.
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.
The Jefferson County attorney will expunge the charge from the records of an N.F.L. player, a reality TV star and 85 others who gathered this week on the Kentucky attorney general’s lawn.
Traveling during a pandemic requires lots of research, precision planning and a willingness to play by new and very stringent rules. For these writers, it still felt good to get away.
The demonstrators were arrested at the home of Kentucky’s attorney general in Louisville, where they had gathered to demand charges against the officers who killed Ms. Taylor.
Mr. Booker, who narrowly lost a Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky, talked about how to get rural voters on board with a progressive message, saying structural inequality affects all people who feel left behind.
Ms. McGrath, who raised over $40 million, won the Democratic primary by narrowly holding off a candidate who had harnessed energy from the protests over racial injustice.
A challenger to Senator Mitch McConnell should finally emerge, and John Hickenlooper is trying to win his Senate primary in Colorado, among other races unfolding on Tuesday.
After a concerted reintroduction effort two decades ago, the state is now home to the largest population of elk east of the Mississippi. The animals’ home: reclaimed coal mines.
State election officials face shortages of money, poll workers, capacity to print ballots and public trust — without much time to fix them.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez easily won her primary, though many other races in New York were still up in the air. Kentucky Democrats were deciding who would face Mitch McConnell in the fall.
There are competitive House races in New York and Charles Booker faces Amy McGrath in the Senate primary in Kentucky. Results may be delayed because of the many voters casting absentee ballots.
How a once low-profile Senate primary in Kentucky reveals a broader ideological challenge for the Democratic Party.
There are competitive House races in New York and Charles Booker faces Amy McGrath in the Senate primary in Kentucky. Results may be delayed because of the many voters casting absentee ballots.
As the Democratic primary between Amy McGrath and Charles Booker gets tighter, Mr. Booker has closed the gap in ad spending as both make a final push before Tuesday’s voting.
With a war chest of $40 million, Amy McGrath was considered a safe bet in the Democratic primary. But the recent movement for racial justice has elevated the candidacy of her African-American rival, Charles Booker.
Sending McConnell back to his old Kentucky home.
The wife of Representative Andy Barr, Republican of Kentucky, died suddenly at home in Lexington, the congressman’s office said.
Representative Thomas Massie and his Republican primary challenger have made race and racism a central focus weeks before Election Day in an increasingly ugly contest.
A top Democrat said the House would likely weigh a federal chokehold ban as leaders in the House and Senate announced hearings on race and policing.
We listened as University of Kentucky administrators discussed bringing students back to campus, providing a glimpse into what other schools might do in the fall.
A three-month investigation also found alcohol use and public nudity by students on the team, the university said.
No stranger to partisan warfare at 37, Judge Justin Walker will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering him for a seat on the D.C. Court of Appeals.
The family was holding a funeral service for four children who died last week when news arrived that the fifth had been found.
“The absolute most important thing is that they know that they’re cared about,” said a principal in Texas who drove 800 miles to visit each of his school’s 612 graduating seniors.
A deputy coroner in northeastern Kentucky said their mother was able to reach the banks of a waterway and summon help on Wednesday.
Blocking federal aid is vile, but it’s also hypocritical.
In states like Michigan, North Carolina and Kentucky, people protested against rules aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. More demonstrations were planned.
As the numbers show, the timing of social distancing can have an enormous impact on death tolls.