LA Tech Updates: Panic Buying is Broadening Soylent's Reach; Curative Sends Tests to Texas
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
- 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 Customerupload.wikimedia.org
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 Spikeassets.rebelmouse.io
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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Fresh off of closing a $50 million round that valued the company at $300 million, Triller – headquartered in L.A. and with offices in New York, London and Paris – is now seeking $250 million at a valuation of $1.25 billion, according to executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht. The short-form, user-generated video sharing app's momentum has picked up lately thanks to increased usage during the pandemic and the troubles of TikTok.
Triller executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht.
Pegasus Tech Ventures chief executive Anis UzzamanAnis Uzzaman
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As patients look beyond doctors' offices for health, the $4.5 trillion wellness industry is booming.
Technology and social media has made wellness services from nutritional foods to community clinics more accessible as providers rethink their approach to how they brand themselves.
These are among the forces transforming the booming industry Upfront Ventures Partner Kevin Zhang, Sequoia Consulting Group Wellbeing Director Kaleana Quibell and Remedy Place CEO & founder Dr. Jonathan Leary told dot.LA during a strategy session on Tuesday.
Kevin Zhang, Partner at Upfront Ventures
Kevin Zhang, Partner at Upfront Ventures<p>Kevin Zhang is a Partner at Upfront Ventures, the largest and longest-serving venture capital firm in Los Angeles with $2B in assets under management. Kevin focuses on healthcare, life sciences and interactive media. Prior to Upfront, he worked at The Boston Consulting Group, where he advised on strategy and operations for technology, automotive and healthcare clients in the US and Asia, and Cotiviti, where he built SaaS products for healthcare payors and providers. Kevin studied Biology at Harvard College.</p>
Kaleana Quibell, Wellbeing Director, Sequoia Consulting Group
Kaleana Quibell, Wellbeing Director at Sequoia Consulting Group<p>As the Wellbeing Director at Sequoia Consulting Group, Kaleana is responsible for the needs assessment, vendor selection, and rollout strategy of competitive benefit and wellbeing programs for some of the world's most innovative tech companies. This approach includes a holistic analysis of employees' needs and gaps in care, particularly focusing on the physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing of the employee and their family.<br><br>Kaleana has over 10 years experience in the Total Rewards sector, with a background in recruiting & onboarding, benefits & human resources, and employee wellbeing program design. With BA degrees in Psychology and Communications, she also earned a MA degree in Organizational Psychology, focusing on workplace engagement and motivation. She was humbled to be recognized as one of EBA's 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising this year for her role in Sequoia's innovative approach to holistic wellbeing with her clients, and has spoken on various panels and conferences including SXSW.</p>
Dr. Jonathan Leary, CEO & Founder at Remedy Place<p>Over the past 9 years, Dr. Leary has pioneered cutting-edge techniques that optimize the body's natural ability to heal. From day one, his groundbreaking private practice has had a wait list that includes a wide range of celebrities, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and executives.</p><p>In addition to his private practice, Dr. Leary is a highly sought after global health and wellness speaker who's expertise has been featured in a wide range of prestigious media outlets, from Forbes and ABC to Vogue. He has given corporate wellness talks for Fortune 100 companies, such as Delta Airlines, as well as hosted retreats at the Cannes Film Festival and across the globe.</p>
Rachel Uranga, Senior Reporter at dot.LA
Rachel Uranga, Senior Reporter at dot.LA<p>Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.</p>
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