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

          Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

          Christian Hetrick

          Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

          Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

          When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

          The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

          Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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          Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

          Christian Hetrick

          Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

          Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

          LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

          The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

          From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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          LA Tech ‘Moves’: HyperDraft Taps LegalZoom Exec

          Decerry Donato

          Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

          LA Tech ‘Moves’: HyperDraft Taps LegalZoom Exec
          Photo by James Opas | Modified by Joshua Letona

          “Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

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