LA Tech Updates: Panic Buying is Broadening Soylent's Reach; Curative Sends Tests to Texas

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Soylent

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Today:

  • Watch: Curative Sends 240K COVID-19 Tests to Texas
  • Pandemic Panic Buying is Bringing Soylent a New Kind of Customer

          Pandemic Panic Buying is Bringing Soylent a New Kind of Customer

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          Pandemic panic buying is opening up a new customer base for Soylent.

          The meal replacement startup says it saw a spike in new online customers in March and April when COVID stay-at-home orders began.

          "It's a completely different consumer than what you might think about — the gamer, techie, Silicon Valley profile," CEO Demir Vangelov told dot.LA "That validates the strategy we've had to expand the profile of our consumers and reach into different demographics."

          That panic-buying trend, the company said, coupled with Soylent's move into some traditional retail outlets is changing who they're selling to.

          Soylent debuted in 7-Elevens in July 2017. As demand in traditional brick-and-mortar stores expanded, they added more national chains in October 2018, including Walmart and Target. Walmart remains their best-performing retailer.

          Now, the Los Angeles-based company is working to keep those shoppers in the Soylent community.

          "Some of these [customers] bought 20 boxes of powder, a significant amount of food," Vangelov said. "It was very interesting to see how many of those folks are actually going to stick with us."

          In June, Soylent released two new flavors, banana and creamy chocolate, and revised their original recipes to include fewer carbs and a lower sugar content per bottle.

          "It was a nice way to follow up on all these new consumers," Vangelov said. "March and April were the crazy months when people were buying and over-buying. In May, we saw stable consumption. Now, we're starting to see an extremely strong performance in the retail channels."

          Watch: Curative Sends 240K COVID-19 Tests to Texas as Infections Spike 

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          Fred Turner, the twenty-something leading the charge behind coronavirus testing across L.A., posted video on Twitter Tuesday showing 240,000 tests getting ready to head to Texas to support the state's COVID response.

          The tests, produced by Turner's company Curative Inc., will land at 11 Texas A&M System universities across the state, according to Texas TV news station KBTX. About 15,000 tests will be shipped to campuses each month, a plan that offers students, faculty and staff access to testing free of charge.

          On Wednesday, California reported its highest daily count yet of coronavirus cases, reaching 11,000 confirmed infections. Texas saw its highest daily increase on Tuesday, reaching 10,859 cases.

          Curative has been supplying L.A. with their FDA-approved saliva-based test since March. According to the company's studies, Curative's product has a 10% false negative rate — a sensitivity as good if not better than the nasal pharyngeal swab tests, dot.LA's Rachel Uranga reported in her interview with Turner.

          Turner, an Oxford dropout, stepped down as head of Shield Bio in January and moved to Southern California for an opportunity to build a lab for coronavirus tests. He now operates labs out of San Dimas and Washington D.C.


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          Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
          Image Source: Discover LA

          In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

          Pickleball

          Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

          Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

          Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


          Escape Room

          Image Source: The Escape Game

          Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

          Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


          Day Trip to Catalina Island

          Image Source: Love Catalina

          Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

          Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


          Top Golf

          Image Source: Topgolf

          Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

          Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


          SoFi Stadium Tour

          Image Source: Discover LA

          A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

          Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


          Corporate Volunteering

          Image Source: L.A. Works

          Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

          Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


          Corporate Improv Sessions

          Image Source: Improv for the People

          A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

          Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

          🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
          Image Source: Paramount

          Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

          🔦 Spotlight

          Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

          Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

          The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


          🤝 Venture Deals

          LA Companies

          • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

          LA Venture Funds


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