Why Trump and DeSantis Are Talking About Australia

For conservatives, the country has become a symbol of coronavirus “tyranny.”

#australia, #carlson-tucker, #desantis-ron, #fox-news-channel, #louisiana, #marijuana, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

With a Pardon, Homer Plessy’s Record Is Clear, but a Painful Legacy Endures

He boarded a whites-only train with the hope of undoing racist laws. Instead, his arrest led to a Supreme Court decision that upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine used to justify segregation.

#alexander-avery-c, #amnesties-commutations-and-pardons, #black-people, #discrimination, #edwards-john-bel-1966, #ferguson-john-howard, #louisiana, #plessy-homer, #race-and-ethnicity, #segregation-and-desegregation, #supreme-court-us

Taylor Energy to Pay $43 Million for Longest-Running Oil Spill in U.S. History

Taylor Energy’s undersea wells have been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico since 2004, when they were damaged by Hurricane Ivan.

#global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #gulf-of-mexico, #justice-department, #louisiana, #offshore-drilling-and-exploration, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #oil-spills, #taylor-energy-co

Three Months After Hurricane Ida, Residents Are Still Waiting for FEMA Housing

As storms and fires become more severe, disaster housing policy has failed to keep up, leaving people displaced for months on end.

#disasters-and-emergencies, #enterprise-community-partners, #federal-emergency-management-agency, #homeland-security-department, #houma-la, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricane-laura-2020, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #lake-charles-la, #louisiana, #mobile-homes-and-trailers, #new-orleans-la

In Louisiana, Alligator Finds a Place at the Tailgate

Alligator, long a food source for Louisianians, has become more popular nationally. But its big moment comes at an annual football matchup in Baton Rouge.

#agriculture-and-farming, #alligators, #baton-rouge-la, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #fans-persons, #football-college, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-university, #restaurants, #wetlands

On Abortion and Covid-19, a Court Goes Rogue

The Supreme Court has empowered a lower court that is out of control.

#abortion, #appeals-courts-us, #appointments-and-executive-changes, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #constitution-us, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #decisions-and-verdicts, #duncan-kyle-1972, #engelhardt-kurt-damian, #jones-edith-hollan, #louisiana, #mississippi, #occupational-safety-and-health-administration, #pitman-robert-lee, #reagan-ronald-wilson, #roberts-john-g-jr, #sotomayor-sonia, #states-us, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #supreme-court-us, #texas, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization, #workplace-environment, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

Biden Names Mitch Landrieu to Oversee Infrastructure Spending

Mr. Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans, will supervise the distribution of funds from the bipartisan legislation that the president will sign into law on Monday.

#american-jobs-plan-2021, #appointments-and-executive-changes, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #infrastructure-public-works, #landrieu-mitch, #louisiana, #united-states-politics-and-government

Homer Plessy’s Arrest in 1892 Led to a Landmark Ruling. Now He May Get Justice.

His legacy is tied to a Supreme Court decision that upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine, underpinning laws that segregated and disenfranchised African Americans for decades.

#amnesties-commutations-and-pardons, #black-people, #discrimination, #ferguson-john-howard, #louisiana, #plessy-homer, #segregation-and-desegregation

In Grand Isle, Devastated by Ida, Athletes Seek Normalcy by Running

Hurricane Ida knocked down much of Grand Isle, La., but the town’s cross-country team is determined to compete in the state championship meet.

#coaches-and-managers, #grand-isle-la, #hurricane-ida-2021, #louisiana, #running

Video Shows Louisiana Sheriff’s Deputy Slamming Black Woman to the Ground

The A.C.L.U. said that the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office had opened an investigation into the violent encounter. The woman was treated at a hospital, and no charges were filed against her.

#american-civil-liberties-union, #black-people, #cameras, #civil-rights-and-liberties, #discrimination, #jefferson-parish-la, #jefferson-parish-sheriffs-office, #lopinto-joseph-p-iii, #louisiana, #police, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #racial-profiling, #shantel-arnold, #suits-and-litigation-civil

Louisiana State Police Did Not Discover Trooper Had Been Killed for Half a Day

Master Trooper Adam Gaubert of the Louisiana State Police was found dead in his car more than 12 hours after he was ambushed on Saturday, the authorities said.

#adam-gaubert, #attacks-on-police, #deaths-fatalities, #fugitives, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-police, #matthew-reese-mire, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides

Attack on Teacher May Have Been Inspired by TikTok Challenge, Police Say

Larrianna Jackson, 18, a student at Covington High School in Louisiana, is a facing a felony battery charge after she repeatedly punched a teacher, the authorities say.

#abuse-of-the-disabled, #assaults, #covington-la, #education-k-12, #louisiana, #mobile-applications, #school-discipline-students, #social-media, #st-tammany-parish-la, #tiktok-bytedance, #vandalism, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming

Louisiana Inmates Who Were Promised a Chance at Parole May Be Released

Relief could be imminent for several of Louisiana’s longest-serving inmates, whose cases have drawn renewed attention generations after the state changed their parole eligibility requirements.

#black-people, #jefferson-parish-la, #louisiana, #louisiana-parole-project, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #new-orleans-la, #orleans-parish-la, #plea-bargaining, #probation-and-parole, #sex-crimes

In Louisiana, a Haunting Landscape

In a break from portraiture, Dawoud Bey photographed plantations on the west bank of the Mississippi River, drawing a line between past and present.

#art, #bey-dawoud, #black-people, #louisiana, #mississippi-river, #photography, #slavery-historical

Former Louisiana Trooper Faces Federal Civil Rights Charge

Body-camera footage shows the ex-trooper, Jacob Brown, repeatedly pummeling a Black man, Aaron Larry Bowman, with a flashlight during a traffic stop in 2019.

#black-people, #bowman-aaron-larry, #brown-jacob-louisiana-state-police-officer, #civil-rights-and-liberties, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-police, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

Why Louisiana’s Electric Grid Failed in Hurricane Ida

Much of the state, including New Orleans, lost power for days because many of Entergy’s electrical poles and towers were not built to withstand a major hurricane, energy experts said.

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #batteries, #disasters-and-emergencies, #electric-light-and-power, #energy-and-power, #entergy-corporation, #global-warming, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricane-laura-2020, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #solar-energy, #weather, #wind

Flood Damage From Ida? Your Homeowner’s Policy Probably Won’t Cover That.

Most flood coverage is offered through a federal program, though some insurers offer extra insurance for sump pump failure.

#alabama, #content-type-service, #flood-insurance, #gulf-coast-us, #homeowners-insurance, #hurricane-ida-2021, #louisiana, #mississippi, #national-flood-insurance-program, #new-jersey, #new-york-state, #northeastern-states-us, #south-carolina, #tennessee

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico: What We Know

The company leading the cleanup now says it isn’t responsible for the leak, highlighting the tangle of pipes, many of them abandoned, on the seafloor.

#bureau-of-ocean-energy-management-regulation-and-enforcement, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #gulf-of-mexico, #louisiana, #offshore-drilling-and-exploration, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #oil-spills, #pipelines

Southern Republicans Cannot Be Trusted With Public Health

Some matters are too important to be entrusted to state governments anymore.

#abortion, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #global-warming, #governors-us, #gun-control, #hurricane-ida-2021, #lee-william-byron-1959, #louisiana, #mississippi, #new-orleans-la, #southern-states-us, #tennessee, #vaccination-and-immunization

On Grand Isle, a Fragile Spot Off Louisiana, Vast Damage

A tiny barrier island already endangered by sea level rise was pounded by Hurricane Ida. Most buildings were significantly damaged, many irreparably.

#grand-isle-la, #gulf-of-mexico, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana

On Grand Isle, a Fragile Spot Off Louisiana, Vast Destruction

A tiny barrier island already endangered by sea level rise was pounded by Hurricane Ida. Most buildings were significantly damaged, many irreparably.

#grand-isle-la, #gulf-of-mexico, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana

A Massive Levee System Saved New Orleans. Can Other Towns Be Helped?

A massive flood protection system built around New Orleans helped save it from flooding during Hurricane Ida. Surrounding communities, which weren’t so lucky, want their own system.

#disasters-and-emergencies, #federal-aid-us, #floods, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricane-katrina-2005, #levees-and-dams, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la

Biden to Tour Hurricane Ida Damage in New Orleans

The president has taken pains to show his commitment to the storm response even as his administration deals with the Afghanistan pullout and other critical issues.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #bush-george-w, #edwards-john-bel-1966, #hurricane-ida-2021, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #united-states-politics-and-government

Climate Change Is Winning the Battle Over Our Coastlines

As the climate changes, rising and warming seas will bring more supercharged storms.

#beaches, #coast-erosion, #coastal-areas, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #infrastructure-public-works, #louisiana, #united-states, #wetlands

Lack of Power Hinders Assessment of Toxic Pollution Caused by Ida

More than 100 industrial sites that handle large amounts of hazardous substances are in and around parishes still without power.

#chemicals, #disasters-and-emergencies, #environmental-protection-agency, #factories-and-manufacturing, #global-warming, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #hurricane-ida-2021, #louisiana, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #phillips-66, #power-failures-and-blackouts

Louisiana Residents Who Fled Before Ida Are Urged to Stay Away Indefinitely

New Orleans, which is introducing a curfew, remains without electricity. Hundreds of thousands have no water.

#cantrell-latoya, #edwards-john-bel-1966, #entergy-corporation, #hurricane-ida-2021, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #power-failures-and-blackouts

A Louisiana Man Is Missing After an Alligator Attacked Him

A woman told deputies that she saw a large alligator attacking her husband outside their residence on Monday.

#alligators, #deaths-fatalities, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana, #st-tammany-parish-la

Hurricane Ida Offers a Glimpse of the Dystopia That’s Coming for All of Us

Louisiana is no longer an outlier. 

#american-jobs-plan-2021, #american-rescue-plan-2021, #armstrong-louis, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #coast-erosion, #global-warming, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricane-isaac-2012, #hurricane-katrina-2005, #hurricane-laura-2020, #infrastructure-public-works, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #united-states-politics-and-government

In Louisiana, Rescue Workers Search for Those Stranded by Hurricane Ida

More than a million people, including most in New Orleans, were without electricity, but the city’s levees held.

#deaths-fatalities, #floods, #hurricane-ida-2021, #jean-lafitte-la, #jefferson-parish-la, #levees-and-dams, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #rescues

Scenes From Louisiana in Ida’s Wake

A day after the Category 4 storm struck the state, rescue operations were underway amid widespread power outages, flooding and wind damage.

#evacuations-and-evacuees, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la

Hurricane Veterans Were Stunned by Ida: ‘It’s Never Been as Bad’

Some small towns outside New Orleans were inundated. Trapped residents waited for daylight, when rescue boats could make their way through the floodwaters.

#floods, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #jean-lafitte-la, #jefferson-parish-la, #lopinto-joseph-p-iii, #louisiana

Hurricane Ida Exposes Grid Weaknesses as New Orleans Goes Dark

A new natural gas power plant, meant to power the city in an emergency, did not come to the rescue when the storm disabled eight transmission lines.

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #batteries, #disasters-and-emergencies, #electric-light-and-power, #energy-and-power, #entergy-corporation, #global-warming, #hurricane-ida-2021, #louisiana, #natural-gas, #new-orleans-la, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #solar-energy, #weather

Ida Hit One of the Country’s Biggest Oil and Chemical Hubs

Louisiana’s 17 oil refineries account for nearly a fifth of the nation’s capacity. Past hurricanes have cause toxic spills.

#floods, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #hurricane-ida-2021, #levees-and-dams, #louisiana, #natural-gas, #offshore-drilling-and-exploration, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #oil-spills, #phillips-66, #refineries, #st-bernard-parish-la, #valero-energy-corporation

Where Ida Is Going Next

Forecasters warned of flooding and tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday.

#alabama, #floods, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana, #national-weather-service, #rain, #weather

In New Orleans, Anxiously Watching the Levees As Hurricane Ida Arrives

The prospect of “another Katrina” has haunted New Orleans, and the rest of the nation.

#evacuations-and-evacuees, #hurricane-ida-2021, #hurricane-katrina-2005, #hurricane-zeta-2020, #levees-and-dams, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la

Video Surfaces of Louisiana Trooper Beating a Black Man

The trooper, Jacob Brown, who was charged with assaulting Aaron Larry Bowman in May 2019 and later resigned, defended the attack as “pain compliance.”

#assaults, #black-lives-matter-movement, #black-people, #brown-jacob-louisiana-state-police-officer, #cameras, #civil-rights-and-liberties, #deaths-fatalities, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #greene-ronald-d-2019, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-police, #police, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

The First Report: Jason Berry Uncovers Abuse in the Church

As an investigative reporter, Jason Berry exposed the church’s systematic cover-up of sexual abuse. Somehow, it wasn’t enough.

#boston-globe, #child-abuse-and-neglect, #documentary-films-and-programs, #lafayette-la, #louisiana, #national-catholic-reporter, #news-and-news-media, #priests, #roman-catholic-church, #sex-crimes, #spotlight-movie, #united-states, #writing-and-writers

Alarmed Louisiana Residents Turn to Vaccines in ‘Darkest Days’ of Pandemic

Louisiana is leading the nation in an explosion of new cases. Hospitals are overflowing and admitting more young people than before. But the crisis is also driving some to get vaccinated.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #louisiana, #vaccination-and-immunization

Survivor of Capsized Louisiana Lift Boat Seacor Power Detail Escape

The man, who was one of six survivors of the capsizing that killed 13 people, said at a Coast Guard hearing that he broke a window with a fire extinguisher and was swept into sea.

#boats-and-boating, #louisiana, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #united-states-coast-guard

Edwin Edwards, Flamboyant Louisiana Governor, Is Dead at 93

He served four terms, charmed voters with his escapades and survived a score of investigations before going to prison in 2002 for racketeering.

#deaths-obituaries, #edwards-edwin-w, #elections-governors, #louisiana, #politics-and-government

Zaila Avant-garde Makes Spelling Bee History

Zaila, a 14-year-old from Harvey, La., won on the word “murraya.” She became the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in almost 100 years of contests.

#louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #scripps-national-spelling-bee, #spelling, #zaila-avant-garde

Digital greeting card startup Givingli wraps $3 million seed round

While the digital revolution has transformed nearly every social interaction and communication type in the past couple decades, the humble birthday card has shown surprising resiliency.

Givingli, a small LA-based startup with an app aiming to challenge how Gen Z sends digital greeting cards, is picking up some seed funding from investors betting on their philosophy around modern gifting. The startup has raised a $3 million seed round led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, while Snap’s Yellow Accelerator also participated in the raise.

The wife and husband co-founding team stumbled into the world of digital greetings and gifts after abandoning physical invitations for their wedding and exploring how the digital greetings space had and hadn’t evolved. They’ve taken a mobile-first approach to tackling greetings for special events and moments where users just want to let someone know they’re thinking of them.

Image via Givingli

“Initially, we thought it would mainly be birthdays and categories like weddings, graduation, etc., and I think we just threw in some ‘just because’ cards, but then that became the most popular category, by far,” CEO Nicole Emrani Green tells TechCrunch. “I think that it’s what kicked off our virality, because obviously with every Givingli sent you’re pulling someone else in and then the conversation continues.”

The app monetizes through a $3.99 monthly premium subscription which gives users access to a greater variety of digital greeting designs from the more than 40 artists that the startup has licensed work from. Alongside paying for premium subscriptions, users can also shop for digital gift cards to send along with their greetings. Givingli’s gift card storefront has more than 150 brands available including Amazon, Spotify, Nike and DoorDash.

A big sell for Givingli’s offering has been its customization. Although users are pushed to select from the hundreds of available greeting cards, they can also spice them up by adding photos or videos in addition to writing text. The aim is to create a moment that rivals messages that can be shared via email, text or on social media services.

“For a generation of digitally native users, it’s not surprising that the ability to like, swipe, upvote or shoot a quick text from our phones have become the predominant ways we connect with others,” said Ohanian in a press release announcing the seed round. “What first attracted me to Givingli is that Nicole and Ben acutely understood this evolution and built a platform that provides the creative tools needed to elevate those interactions and deepen connections. Whether it’s sending a digital birthday gift, or a note just because – it’s clear that Givingli has put snail mail on notice.”

One of the team’s big challenges has been highlighting the visibility of their native app which users download to send greetings. Last fall, the Givingli team debuted a partnership with Snap that brought their gifting service inside Snapchat via a bite-sized Snap Mini app integration. The rollout followed the startup’s participation in Snap’s Yellow Accelerator program.

Emrani Green says that partnership has helped bring more users to their platform, and that more than 5 million people have used Givingli to send greetings since the app launched in 2019.

 

#alexis-ohanian, #amazon, #birthdays, #ceo, #co-founder, #computing, #doordash, #gift-card, #greeting-cards, #louisiana, #nike, #postcards, #recent-funding, #reddit, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #spotify, #startups, #tc, #technology

Golden Ventures raises $100M fourth fund and $20M opportunities fund

Canadian early stage venture firm Golden Ventures has raised its fourth fund, a $100 million pool of capital that it will use to invest in between 20 to 25 companies, as well as a $20 million ‘Opportunities Fund’ that it will use to make follow-on investments in standout performers among its portfolio. This is also the 10th anniversary for Golden Ventures, and its latest fund arrives at a time when the Canadian startup ecosystem looks healthier than ever, with a proliferation of angels emerging from past success stories, a number of new funds being announced, and unicorn valuations on significant funding rounds for multiple Canadian startups.

I spoke to Golden Ventures Founder and Managing Partner Matt Golden, and General Partner Ameet Shah about its plans for this fund, and about the Canadian startup and investment landscape in general.

“Over time, we’re certainly seeing more and more interest in institutional LPs, more and more interest in the Canadian ecosystem, which I think is a net positive,” Golden said. “Whereas before, the Canadian ecosystem was largely funded by Canadian institutions, so I think that’s really positive, because you have to sort of be judged on the on the world stage. And we’re starting to meet that bar as both an ecosystem and as a fund.”

Golden said that the game plan with this Fund IV doesn’t really change in terms of their investment targets; while Golden initially set out to invest primarily in companies working on software products for mobile devices, it eventually shifted to a strategy of backing North American seed stage, mission-driven founders working on venture-scale opportunities across a range of verticals and categories.

“I would say that over time, our ratio of deals, Canada to U.S., we’ve increased the number of deals on a ratio basis that we do in Canada versus the U.S., just by virtue of the fact that the Canadian ecosystem is on a terrific, high-velocity trajectory.” Golden said. “You’ve seen it coming, but I think it’s really starting to hit its stride now, with lots of founders with ‘big swing’ vision, and an increasing interest in capital playing in the ecosystem.”

Shah added that he also thinks we’re trending towards more startups that originate in Canada setting up nodes in different geographies in ways that make most sense for their talent needs, and vice versa.

“Post-COVID, a lot of companies may start here, but with the geographical boundaries just blurring, there’s really no reason they can’t set up locations in different centers of gravity and take advantage of other ecosystems’ competitive advantages,” he said. “We had one that recently set up a location in LA, as well as Toronto, capturing some the value of LA but also leveraging all the talent in Toronto as well. I think you’re gonna start seeing more and more of that, where things are moving more towards networks, and not just cities in general.”

As for this fund raise, it’s one of three recent Canadian early stage pools of venture capital to also include an ‘Opportunities Fund,’ which in each case has been described as a way for the firms to participate in later stage deals in their star portfolio companies that they wouldn’t otherwise be set up to invest in as an early stage investment organization. Golden Ventures is also introducing another new type of investment to its roster with Fund IV, however.

“There’s this concept, we call it ‘Angel allocation,’ […] it’s the idea that we can invest smaller checks, sort of 400-to-500 thousand, into companies where maybe the structure of the opportunity or of the deal may not fit what our core checks would be,” Golden explains. “That could be, for example, a case where there’s not enough room left in the round, or the valuation is outside of our core range, or maybe we’re learning about a completely new space that’s highly experimental — but we still have a high degree of conviction in the opportunity, in the people behind that opportunity, and the returns that it could generate.”

Funds for those investments will come out of the main Fund IV pool, but the majority will still be targeting those core 20-25 larger checks. Overall, though, both Golden and Shah emphasize that the primary goal of the fund at this stage is capitalizing on the growing trend they see of more opportunity emerging in the Canadian ecosystem, and the impact that’s having in terms of startups across North America.

“When you talk about who are the the top five to ten companies in Canada, for a long time, it was really the same group,” Shah said. “Now, you’ve got this new crop of people that have come in and feel like they’re still on an upward trajectory, and I think that’s just really exciting as well.”

#business-incubators, #canada, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #golden-ventures, #louisiana, #managing-partner, #matt-golden, #mobile-devices, #money, #north-america, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #toronto, #united-states, #venture-capital

Tropical Storm Claudette Forms in the Gulf of Mexico

The region, which was hit repeatedly in 2020, braced for heavy rains through the weekend.

#floods, #gulf-coast-us, #gulf-of-mexico, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #louisiana, #national-hurricane-center, #national-oceanic-and-atmospheric-administration, #rain, #weather

Juneteenth Is a Federal Holiday Now. Can It Still Be Black?

Juneteenth is now a national holiday. But is it for everyone?

#barbecue, #black-people, #emancipation-proclamation-1863, #juneteenth, #knowles-beyonce, #louisiana, #picnics, #slavery-historical, #texas

Federal Judge Says Biden Cannot Pause New Leases for Drilling on Public Lands

President Biden suspended new oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands. A judge in Louisiana ruled those leases could not be temporarily halted.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #decisions-and-verdicts, #executive-orders-and-memorandums, #federal-lands, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #haaland-deb, #interior-department, #louisiana, #natural-gas, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #states-us, #united-states-politics-and-government

Special IDs for Sex Offenders: Safety Measures or Scarlet Letters?

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear a First Amendment challenge to a Louisiana law that required driver’s licenses to identify sex offenders.

#drivers-licenses, #first-amendment-us-constitution, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #louisiana, #sex-crimes, #supreme-court-us, #united-states-politics-and-government

Google’s Gradient Ventures leads $8.2M Series A for Vault Platform’s misconduct reporting SaaS

Fixing workplace misconduct reporting is a mission that’s snagged London-based Vault Platform backing from Google’s AI focused fund, Gradient Ventures, which is the lead investor in an $8.2 million Series A that’s being announced today.

Other investors joining the round are Illuminate Financial, along with existing investors including Kindred Capital and Angular Ventures. Its $4.2M seed round was closed back in 2019.

Vault sells a suite of SaaS tools to enterprise-sized or large/scale-up companies to support them to pro-actively manage internal ethics and integrity issues. As well as tools for staff to report issues, data and analytics is baked into the platform — so it can support with customers’ wider audit and compliance requirements.

In an interview with TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Neta Meidav said that as well as being wholly on board with the overarching mission to upgrade legacy reporting tools like hotlines provided to staff to try to surface conduct-related workplace risks (be that bullying and harassment; racism and sexism; or bribery, corruption and fraud), as you might expect Gradient Ventures was interested in the potential for applying AI to further enhance Vault’s SaaS-based reporting tool.

A feature of its current platform, called ‘GoTogether’, consists of an escrow system that allows users to submit misconduct reports to the relevant internal bodies but only if they are not the first or only person to have made a report about the same person — the idea being that can help encourage staff (or outsiders, where open reporting is enabled) to report concerns they may otherwise hesitate to, for various reasons.

Vault now wants to expand the feature’s capabilities so it can be used to proactively surface problematic conduct that may not just relate to a particular individual but may even affect a whole team or division — by using natural language processing to help spot patterns and potential linkages in the kind of activity being reported.

“Our algorithms today match on an alleged perpetrator’s identity. However many events that people might report on are not related to a specific person — they can be more descriptive,” explains Meidav. “For example if you are experiencing some irregularities in accounting in your department, for example, and you’re suspecting that there is some sort of corruption or fraudulent activity happening.”

“If you think about the greatest [workplace misconduct] disasters and crises that happened in recent years — the Dieselgate story at Volkswagen, what happened in Boeing — the common denominator in all these cases is that there’s been some sort of a serious ethical breach or failure which was observed by several people within the organization in remote parts of the organization. And the dots weren’t connected,” she goes on. “So the capacity we’re currently building and increasing — building upon what we already have with GoTogether — is the ability to connect on these repeated events and be able to connect and understand and read the human input. And connect the dots when repeated events are happening — alerting companies’ boards that there is a certain ‘hot pocket’ that they need to go and investigate.

“That would save companies from great risk, great cost, and essentially could prevent huge loss. Not only financial but reputational, sometimes it’s even loss to human lives… That’s where we’re getting to and what we’re aiming to achieve.”

There is the question of how defensible Vault’s GoTogether feature is — how easily it could be copied — given you can’t patent an idea. So baking in AI smarts may be a way to layer added sophistication to try to maintain a competitive edge.

“There’s some very sophisticated, unique technology there in the backend so we are continuing to invest in this side of our technology. And Gradient’s investment and the specific we’re receiving from Google now will only increase that element and that side of our business,” says Meidav when we ask about defensibility.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Gradient Ventures founder and managing partner, Anna Patterson, added: “Vault tackles an important space with an innovative and timely solution. Vault’s application provides organizations with a data-driven approach to tackling challenges like occupational fraud, bribery or corruption incidents, safety failures and misconduct. Given their impressive team, technology, and customer traction, they are poised to improve the modern workplace.”

The London-based startup was only founded in 2018 — and while it’s most keen to talk about disrupting legacy hotline systems, which offer only a linear and passive conduit for misconduct reporting, there are a number of other startups playing in the same space. Examples include the likes of LA-based AllVoices, YC-backed WhispliHootsworth and Spot to name a few.

Competition seems likely to continue to increase as regulatory requirements around workplace reporting keep stepping up.

The incoming EU Whistleblower Protection Directive is one piece of regulation Vault expects will increase demand for smarter compliance solutions — aka “TrustTech”, as it seeks to badge it — as it will require companies of more than 250 employees to have a reporting solution in place by the end of December 2021, encouraging European businesses to cast around for tools to help shrink their misconduct-related risk.

She also suggests a platform solution can help bridge gaps between different internal teams that may need to be involved in addressing complaints, as well as helping to speed up internal investigations by offering the ability to chat anonymously with the original reporter.

Meidav also flags the rising attention US regulators are giving to workplace misconduct reporting — noting some recent massive awards by the SEC to external whistleblowers, such as the $28M paid out to a single whistleblower earlier this year (in relation to the Panasonic Avionics consultant corruption case).

She also argues that growing numbers of companies going public (such as via the SPAC trend, where there will have been reduced regulatory scrutiny ahead of the ‘blank check’ IPO) raises reporting requirements generally — meaning, again, more companies will need to have in place a system operated by a third party which allows anonymous and non-anonymous reporting. (And, well, we can only speculate whether companies going public by SPAC may be in greater need of misconduct reporting services vs companies that choose to take a more traditional and scrutinized route to market… )

“Just a few years back I had to convince investors that this category it really is a category — and fast forward to 2021, congratulations! We have a market here. It’s a growing category and there is competition in this space,” says Meidav.

“What truly differentiates Vault is that we did not just focus on digitizing an old legacy process. We focused on leveraging technology to truly empower more misconduct to surface internally and for employees to speak up in ways that weren’t available for them before. GoTogether is truly unique as well as the things that we’re doing on the operational side for a company — such as collaboration.”

She gives an example of how a customer in the oil and gas sector configured the platform to make use of an anonymous chat feature in Vault’s app so they could provide employees with a secure direct-line to company leadership.

“They’ve utilizing the anonymous chat that the app enables for people to have a direct line to leadership,” she says. “That’s incredible. That is such a progress, forward looking way to be utilizing this tool.”

Vault Platform’s suite of tools include an employee app and a Resolution Hub for compliance, HR, risk and legal teams (Image credits: Vault Platform)

Meidav says Vault has around 30 customers at this stage, split between the US and EU — its core regions of focus.

And while its platform is geared towards enterprises, its early customer base includes a fair number of scale-ups — with familiar names like Lemonade, Airbnb, Kavak, G2 and OVO Energy on the list.

Scale ups may be natural customers for this sort of product given the huge pressures that can be brought to bear upon company culture as a startup switches to expanding headcount very rapidly, per Meidav.

“They are the early adopters and they are also very much sensitive to events such as these kind of [workplace] scandals as it can impact them greatly… as well as the fact that when a company goes through a hyper growth — and usually you see hyper growth happening in tech companies more than in any other type of sector — hyper growth is at time when you really, as management, as leadership, it’s really important to safeguard your culture,” she suggests.

“Because it changes very, very quickly and these changes can lead to all sorts of things — and it’s really important that leadership is on top of it. So when a company goes through hyper growth it’s an excellent time for them to incorporate a tool such as Vault. As well as the fact that every company that even thinks of an IPO in the coming months or years will do very well to put a tool like Vault in place.”

Expanding Vault’s own team is also on the cards after this Series A close, as it guns for the next phase of growth for its own business. Presumably, though, it’s not short of a misconduct reporting solution.

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