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

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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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          Minutes into filling out my absentee ballot last week, I was momentarily distracted by my dog Seamus. A moment later, I realized in horror that I was filling in the wrong bubble — accidentally voting "no" on a ballot measure that I meant to vote "yes" on.

          It was only a few ink marks, but it was noticeable enough. Trying to fix my mistake, I darkly and fully filled in the correct circle and then, as if testifying to an error on a check, put my initials next to the one I wanted.

          Then I worried. As a reporter who has previously covered election security for years, I went on a mini-quest trying to understand how a small mistake can have larger repercussions.

          As Los Angeles County's 5.6 million registered voters all receive ballots at home for the first time, I knew my experience could not be unique. But I wondered, would my vote count? Or would my entire ballot now be discarded?

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          Culver City-based Airvet's mission to connect more pets with vets is getting a boost.

          The company announced Friday they have raised $14 million in a Series A round to expand their telemedicine and telehealth veterinary network.

          CEO Brandon Werber said he's seen the number of users and doctors on its platform surge during the pandemic, as homebound pet owners scrambled to find pet care online. The company — which was launched in 2018 — now has a network of 2,600 veterinarians across 43 states, according to Werber.

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