Eaze Adds LA-Based Cannabis Startups to Its Equity Program and Platform
Tami Abdollah is dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.
More than a year ago, Darius Kemp, then a community manager at cannabis delivery app Eaze, realized the platform didn't have any Black-owned products on their menu.
Today he is Eaze's head of equity and change, spearheading a program for change and to prevent that from ever happening again.
"Eaze is the largest legal marketplace for cannabis and because of that, it's our responsibility to help correct the governmental and societal problems created by the war on drugs and the over incarceration of Black & brown bodies," Kemp said in an interview with dot.LA. "It's how you fight racism in the long run, (you) create communities that are self-sustaining, that don't depend on the oppressor."
As a continuation of that effort, the San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday that it is expanding its social equity program menu into Los Angeles, featuring local cannabis brand products owned by Black people and people of color.
Eaze's platform could go a long way to evening the playing field, essentially putting a "small Black soda company next to Pepsi and Coca-Cola," Kemp said.
Localities across California have worked on criteria for social equity licenses, aiming to prioritize people underrepresented in the industry for cannabis-related opportunities. The rules for each locality are different, but all social equity brands that take part in Eaze's program must have a social equity license or be actively engaged in the application process.
Eaze's Social Equity Partners Program provides social equity brands with "wraparound" financial and operational support to help them scale and become sustainable, including financing and payment structuring, discounted partner portal data analytics, access to Eaze's supply chain, and marketing and PR support. Since last fall, social equity brands have sold nearly $1 million in products on Eaze's platform.
The social equity partners menu already includes Northern California brands Cloud 9, KGB Reserve and SF Roots, which debut in Los Angeles Wednesday along with new L.A.-based brands dreamt and Blaqstar Farms, plus Bay Area-based James Henry SF and Oakland Extracts.
Bryant Mitchell is the founder of L.A.-based Blaqstar Farms.
L.A.-based Blaqstar Farms was founded in 2012 by Bryant Mitchell when only medical marijuana was allowed locally. They worked to provide a medical-grade, non-pesticide flower. Mitchell was raised "with a foot grounded very deep in social injustices" during the war on drugs, he said. He watched family members go to jail. His father was the first Black police officer in Orange, Texas, another factor in making him who he is today.
"I always tell people, 'I'm a social equity candidate, but I want to be the guy known to bring one of the best experiences in cannabis', and that's what we strived to do," Mitchell said.
Eaze's platform has handled over 6 million deliveries and boasts over 600,000 users. It is a very large stage for what are often smaller companies.
"People are hesitant to deal with smaller brands," Mitchell said. "We're not looked at as prudent; we're looked at maybe more of a risk to deal with, as opposed to a benefit. (But) when a company like Eaze cosigns and does what Eaze has done with Blaqstar, it does validate the company in many ways."
Mitchell said Blaqstar has never raised funds and so doesn't have the deep pockets usually necessary for the exposure, marketing and backing that Eaze brings.
"I can't make light of the amount of people, the amount of resources, the amount of money, the amount of marketing, that I've personally seen Eaze put in," Mitchell said.
Blaqstar is selling some of its homegrown flower and pre-roll products on the app primarily in Southern California until it can scale up for larger distribution.
"A lot of people see social equity and they're all approaching it in different ways, and no one is doing it exactly right yet, but you appreciate the companies like Eaze that are trying to get it right and making the sort of effort to do it," Mitchell said.
dreamt's founder first started using cannabis as a sleep aid while studying for her PhD at the University of Southern California, but found it ineffective.
As most large banks continue to shy away from cannabis — it's still illegal on the federal level — access to capital is even more of a challenge for entrepreneurs who want to work in the industry. That's why Eaze last September also launched Momentum, a business accelerator focused on helping underrepresented cannabis business founders.
Carolina Vazquez Mitchell's (no relation) company was in its first cohort, and her brand dreamt is part of the new social equity partner menu unveiled Wednesday. Vazquez Mitchell first started using cannabis as a sleep aid while studying for her PhD at the University of Southern California, but found it negatively impacted her breathing or was ineffective.
Years later, in 2019, she would go on to found dreamt, a cannabis product dedicated to improving sleep with science. It's the first brand-line for L.A.-based Ciencia Labs, a company co-founded by Vazquez Mitchell, who also serves as its chief scientific officer.
"As you can tell from my accent, I'm not from here, I came here 10 years ago, I don't have an MBA, I didn't start a business before, and my background is in science," said Vazquez Mitchell, who hails from Guadalajara, Mexico, and originally worked in the world of genetics and pharmacology.
Carolina Vazquez Mitchell's company dreamt is part of Eaze's new social equity partner menu.
Vazquez Mitchell said she is trying to use science to make cannabis products better, even if that means disrupting existing cannabis culture by making a pharmaceutical-like product to help with sleep.
"Cannabis helps, but it's not perfect," Vazquez Mitchell said. For example, it impacts REM sleep, which is essential for memory, learning and creating new synapses for a healthy brain and a healthy sleep cycle, she said. dreamt added additional ingredients to synergize with the cannabis to improve upon sleep without the negative drawbacks. The company's vape pen, and tincture are available on the menu; it's also created a drinkable shot and is working on a gummy.
"I'm an immigrant, I'm a woman, I look very Mexican," Vazquez Mitchell said. When she arrived as a researcher at the University of Southern California, her "first challenge" was understanding English. "Not a lot of people believe that a Mexican, with broken English, will be successful in science or any other industry."
But she worked hard to prove them wrong. She went on to create products for Pepsi, Quaker, Taco Bell and Gatorade as a food scientist and has developed more than 50 cannabis products, including dreamt. Last November, she landed a $50,000 grant in November from Eaze as part of its Momentum program.
Momentum is announcing applications for its second cohort this fall, said Eaze spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford.
"I'll throw the gauntlet out to MedMen, Harvest, Caliva and everyone," said Eaze's Kemp, calling out other major cannabis companies. "Give me a call or go out and do your own thing (for social equity). There's no secret sauce here. There's basic business and real social impact."
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Proptech startup Pacaso emerged from stealth mode Thursday, aiming to make it easier for a larger swath of the population to own a second home, or at least a portion of one.
The company announced a $17 million seed round led by venture capital firm Maveron, with participation from Global Founders Capital, L.A.'s Crosscut and individual investors such as former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, real estate coach Tom Ferry, former Zillow executive Greg Schwartz, and Amazon CEO of Consumer Worldwide Jeff Wilke. Pacaso also raised $250 million in debt financing to purchase homes.
California's AB 3262 Is Quietly Shelved; GoodRx Files for IPO; Scopely Adds FoxNext Exec to Its Ranks
FoxNext Games Executive to Head Scopely's Business Operations<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4NTExOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzkxNzcyNH0.hEWc12TK3b9bqj44Ibqq0xzn8te61KEa8xagFHY55vU/img.jpg?width=980" id="a50b4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ceeb59ed0c4245b31ffd129e67acf88c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
FoxNext Games Executive to Head Scopely's Business Operations<p>Scopely, the Culver City-based gaming company behind Scrabble Go and several other mobile games, has named former FoxNext Games executive Aaron Loeb as its chief business officer.</p><p>The move to bring in the veteran gaming executive came as part of Scopely's acquisition of FoxNext's gaming division, which it bought from Disney after then-CEO Bob Iger spun it off from 20th Century Fox.</p><p>Before FoxNext, Loeb was president at mobile gaming studio Kabam and its spinout Aftershock, following stints as vice president and group general manager at games publisher EA and CEO at Planet Moon Studios, a game developer.</p><p>Loeb will oversee several teams at Scopely, with a focus on "refining game development, tech quality and creative processes," according to the company statement. He will be based in the company's London offices, where Scopely has pushed its European expansion. </p><p>The move comes as the gaming industry has been growing rapidly. There are nearly 3 billion gamers worldwide – that's more people than live in China and India, the world's two most populous countries, combined. One big reason that number is so high? Mobile games. Those "gamers" range from professional esports players seeking fame and fortune to folks waiting for their lattes by twiddling at games like Scrabble Go and Candy Crush.</p><p>Earlier this year, nine-year-old Scopely raised a $400 million Series D, bringing its total funding raised to over $650 million. That cash helped to finance Scopely's acquisition of FoxNext Games in April. Scopely's other game titles include Yahtzee With Buddies, which has earned over $500 million in lifetime revenue according to a company statement, and Marvel Strike Force, which was developed by FoxNext. </p><p>In addition to its L.A. HQ and London office, Scopely has offices in Boulder CO, Tokyo, Dublin and Barcelona.</p>
California's AB 3262 Is Quietly Shelved<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU3NjQ2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODI5MTA2NH0.gAJBFGvo-vBRcvJxYVbXzo9ofhwDOpq3Km1uldi_WFQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="b147c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1a2a3ec30586c4a1ae9ff8c5b0e52425" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />California Could Soon Make Amazon, Other Online Marketplaces Liable for Defective Products<p>A California bill that would have held Amazon and other online marketplaces strictly liable for defective third-party products was quietly shelved over the weekend.</p><p>The bill, AB 3262, authored by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Stone of Santa Cruz, was expected to be voted on by the state Senate before session adjourns Monday. But the bill has <a href="https://dot.la/ab-3262-2647068497.html" target="_self">spurred increasing opposition among the business community</a>. A novel coronavirus scare among Republican senators after one had tested positive last week further delayed the vote.</p><p><span></span>Stone said in a statement that he recognized the complexity surrounding the purchase of flawed or falsely advertised products online but wanted to "move beyond the 'Buyer Beware' mentality, and toward an online policy that has been the law for brick-and-mortar retailers in California for decades."</p><p>Supporters of the measure have said it is crucial to leveling the playing field for such brick-and-mortar stores, but critics say that the bill places an unnecessary burden on small businesses and startups with tighter budgets to address such issues who are already under tremendous strain during a global pandemic.</p><p>"Unfortunately, despite promising ideas and potential paths for moving forward, AB 3262 will not advance in its present form by the legislative deadline," Stone said. "I am committed to continuing the conversation with the online industry, with my follow [sic] members in the legislature, and with California consumers, to create a strong and effective measure in the future that ensures that if a defective product is purchased online, the consumer has a remedy."</p>
GoodRx To Enter NASDAQ as GDRX<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU5OTIxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODYzNTE5OX0.G4UrM_3cUeSMl_z0pkxZQvQeSj4fcspdv_MxCWdgHyo/image.jpg?width=980" id="3daeb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a56344f62569b55f270eb50f0fc4195c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="GoodRx" /><p>Prescription discount GoodRX filed to go public Friday and is looking to raise $100 million. It will be traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol "GDRX" later this year.</p><p>Co-founded by former Facebook executive Doug Hirsch in 2011, the Santa Monica company makes money by collecting fees from pharmacy benefits managers. It offers comparison pricing at different pharmacies and has been one of the most popular downloaded medical apps. </p><p>While some tech companies are going out for IPOs while <a href="https://sec.report/Document/0001193125-20-230013/" target="_blank">losing money</a>, GoodRx stands apart for its steady profit growth over recent years. It earned $54 million in profit for the first six months ending in June, up from $31 million over the same time last year, a 74% increase. </p><p>The company targets consumers who are paying for drugs out-of-pocket at drug stores, and many of them have fallen off during the pandemic, choosing instead to stay home or avoid the doctor. Second quarter use fell to 4.4 million from 4.9 million from the prior quarter, although usage appears to be picking up again.<br></p><p>Last year, GoodRx expanded into telehealth with HeyDoctor and, while patients have flocked to the new service during the pandemic, the division is less profitable than the prescription side of the business.</p><p>In its filings on Friday, the company laid out some of its biggest risks, including a model that's highly dependent on a drug pricing structure dictated by pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers, insurance companies and benefits managers - all of which it has little control over. The company is also reliant on more than a dozen benefit managers, but their business is dominated by just three of them.<br></p><p>Earlier this year, Hirsch and co-founder Trevor Bezdek told CNBC they are "constantly worrying" about regulatory issues like single payer health care, competition and the industry souring on them.</p><p>"All we can do, and all we have done, is stayed true to our mission of helping provide more transparency to consumers," Bezdek told CNBC.</p>
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