Francesca Billington is dot.LA's editorial fellow. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she served as a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
Los Angeles startup PeaTos brands its products as an alternative to "junk food" like Cheetos and it just nabbed a former executive from competitor Frito-Lay, maker of the neon orange puffy chip.
David Johnson, a 19-year veteran of Pepsico's Frito-Lay brand, was named chief growth officer of the Westchester-based brand.
As the startup's first CGO, Johnson will focus on driving retail sales and developing a greater presence in foodservice. The appointment comes after Peatos raised $12.5 million in February from Post Holdings, Inc., known for its hand in building out cereal brands like Honey Bunches of Oats. That came just four months after the company raised a $7 million Series A round.
The snack food brand, which is sold online and at retail outlets, has also picked up a steady stream of online subscribers for its fiber and protein-dense chips. In February, PeaTos CEO Nick Desai told dot.LA that the company grew 50% from 2019 to 2020 and expects 100% growth this year.
The flavored crunchy curls and rings are sold in 4,700 retailers including Vons, Albertsons Safeway, Sprouts and Kroger.
"It will be my pleasure to help ensure that all consumers have a choice of PeaTos while shopping their favorite retailers," Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson most recently served as chief executive of beeline North America, a fashion accessory supplier. His last post at Pepsico was as an executive on the Stacy's Pita Chips team.
Elon Musk's SpaceX will build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the moon in a deal with NASA that firmly places the Hawthorne-based startup as the nation's top space ally and solidifies the privatization of lunar travel.
The $2.9 billion contract could make SpaceX the first private company to send people to the moon.
"The U.S. leads in space exploration now, but more and more countries are taking aim at the moon," NASA's acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said during a press briefing Friday.
SpaceX — which this week topped off a massive funding round — was up against Jeff Bezos' aerospace company Blue Origin and a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama called Dynetics, according to the Post.
Last year, NASA awarded the three entities $967 million and a 10 month contract to kick off work on the lunar lander modules. It was expected to pick two of the companies to continue. Selecting SpaceX alone, and equipping the company with a near $3 billion contract, came as a surprise.
Musk's company has already begun testing prototypes of its Starship spacecraft in Texas, though recent flights have crash landed. According to the Washington Post, SpaceX will try out a new upgraded vehicle and plans to fly the spacecraft to orbit this year.
The contract falls under NASA's Human Landing Systems project, an arm of the Artemis program aiming to send astronauts to the moon by 2024. Initiated during president Trump's term, the program is being revised under President Biden partially to bring in more funding.
The first woman and first person of color will both step foot on the moon under the Artemis program, Jurczyk said.
"And we won't stop at the moon," he said. "The Artemis lunar landing is a key piece to our moon to Mars strategy."
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NBA players, talent agents and Snoop Dogg's venture firm are among the investors behind LEUNE, a California cannabis brand eying new U.S. markets.
The company closed a $5 million round on Thursday from big name athletes like Carmelo Anthony, John Wall, Lebron James' agent Rich Paul and Anthony Saleh, who manages artists like Nas and Future.
Plus, it's backed by Snoop Dogg's Casa Verde Capital, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm focused on seed investments for cannabis startups.
"I've been seeking to make an investment in the cannabis space for quite some time, but never found a brand that resonated with me until I came across Nidhi and her products," investor and celebrity La La Anthony said in a statement announcing the raise.
The company could not be immediately reached for comment.
The two-year-old startup sells cannabis products in over 130 California dispensaries and 19 delivery platforms. In a press release, founder and CEO Nidhi Lucky Handa said the funds will be used to contribute to hiring, growing LEUNE's product line and "unlocking more geographies." It's unclear where the company plans to launch next.
After becoming the first state to legalize medical cannabis use, California authorized recreational cannabis use in 2016. Last month, New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana, entering into what is becoming a crowded market.
Handa will also keep up her brand's commitment to social justice by working with The Last Prisoner Project, Eaze Momentum and the Floret Coalition — partnerships that include donations, mentorship opportunities and "awareness-building collaborations to amplify marginalized voices," LEUNE said in the statement.
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