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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  • 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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          Cadence

          Illumix Founder Kirin Sinha On Using Math to Inform Creative Thinking

          Yasmin Nouri

          Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

          Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

          Illumix Founder Kirin Sinha
          Photo courtesy of Illumix

          Kirin Sinha wanted to be a dancer. When injury dashed that dream, she turned to her other passion: math.

          On this week’s episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, host Yasmin Nouri talks with the founder and CEO of augmented reality (AR) technology and media platform Illumix.

          Read more Show less

          Rael Raises $35M To Grow Its Organic Feminine Care Brand

          Kristin Snyder

          Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

          Rael Raises $35M To Grow Its Organic Feminine Care Brand
          Courtesy of Rael

          Rael, a Buena Park-based organic feminine care and beauty brand, has raised $35 million in a Series B funding round, the company announced Wednesday.

          The funding was led by the venture arms of two Asian companies: Japanese gaming firm Colopl’s Colopl Next and South Korean conglomerate Shinsegae Group’s Signite Partners. Aarden Partners and ST Capital also participated, as did existing investors Mirae Asset and Unilever Ventures.

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          E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA

          Maylin Tu
          Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
          E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA
          Photo by Maylin Tu

          When Lime launched in Los Angeles in 2018, the company offered five free rides per day to low-income riders, so long as they were under 30 minutes each.

          But in early May, that changed. Rides under 30 minutes now cost low-income Angelenos a flat rate of $1.25. As for the five free rides per day, that program ended December 2021 and was replaced by a rate of $0.50 fee to unlock e-scooters, plus $0.07 per minute (and tax).

          Lime isn’t alone. Lyft and Spin have changed the terms of their city-mandated low-income programs. Community advocates say they were left largely unaware.

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