Watch: Vejo's CEO Wants to Bring 'Olympian-Level' Nutrition Data to Market
The health and wellness market has boomed in recent years as more consumers become conscious of how the choices they make in everyday life impact their long-term health. The industry has done particularly well in Los Angeles, where juice bars and supplement companies pop up regularly. But how do you differentiate yourself in a market where companies promise consumers the world?
According to one CEO, the answer is data.
In this installment of dot.LA Dives In, we talk with Christoph Bertsch, founder and CEO of Vejo, producer of the "smart," eco-friendly, pod-based blender. As he was building the company, Bertsch says he pulled together a team of doctors and nutritionists to help design specialized wellness programs in a system called Vejo+. The system, he says, uses individual data to develop personalized blends based on each member's goals and individualized lab tests.
Bertsch created Vejo first for high-level athletes and Olympic competitors to help them improve their performance and play at their best. Those early users include Kevin Love (NBA), Todd Gurley (NFL), Conor Dwyer (Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming), Manchester City Football Club, as well as celebrities Zac Efron, Hugh Jackman, Kevin Costner, and Vin Diesel who use Vejo+ to prep for movies and as part of their daily routines. Some believe so much in the results, they invested in Bertsch's vision.
"When you ask Kevin (Love) today how he feels, and how long he actually wants to play, he says 'Listen, I feel like I'm 23,'" Bertsch says. "So Kevin did the program, liked it so much, we just got his bloodwork in such a different place. He came back and said 'Hey guys, I see it, it works in my system, and I want to be a part of the company.' So he became a shareholder."
But Vejo is not just for the elite athlete or actor. Bertsch says he designed the product with the aim of helping anyone achieve an optimal balance through its personalized nutrition recommendations. He laments how many people consume supplements without knowing what deficiencies they need to manage for, or worse - indulge in an unhealthy diet, expecting wonder pills to cancel out the negative effects. Bertsch emphasizes that optimal health and longevity are achievable even for the average consumer. How? Through data.
"Everything somehow has to be based on data," Bertsch says. "The data, which we have already from people who checked in and we transformed them... The knowledge which we have is huge, and just grows everyday."
With Vejo, Bertsch says he hopes to create a positive impact for his consumers, but also for the planet. Vejo's pods are 100% biodegradable. In collaboration with his European partners, Bertsch has been developing a water-soluble pod solution for the past few years.
"I never wanted to create a company which does not live in alignment with the planet," Bertsch says. "Once this is out there, and you have the device which is a reusable bottle, you have a pod which leaves no waste behind and it's single serve so there is no food waste, you have a solution which is quite cool."
Bertsch also hopes to utilize Vejo to give back to the community. The pandemic saw the company grow 5 times its size. Vejo launched the "Nourish Our Heroes" program to support frontline workers. For every blender a customer donates to those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the company will match 150% of value in its nutrient pods.
"We are just happy that we can play a little part in supporting the community. And we still do it - this topic is not over, it's ongoing. I think that is the most important thing for the DNA of Vejo. If we start something, we are very consistent."
Watch the full interview here:
Democratizing Nutrition Through Data with Vejo Founder & CEO
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
University of California, Los Angeles economists say the glass is half full for the U.S. economy — at least for now.
The quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast released Wednesday wanly touted a "better-than-expected outcome" for the U.S. economy in the near term, a major upgrade from the last report's forecast of a "depression-like" crisis for the economy. But the new, relatively optimistic assessment is highly reliant on how the pandemic progresses, the authors cautioned.
California's economy is broadly expected to mimic the nation's so long as pandemic-related shutdowns dissipate in 2021. Still, the optimistic outlook doesn't expect a full recovery for California until after the end of 2022, when economists forecast state unemployment will remain close to 6%, compared to just under 5% for the U.S. overall.
Part of the reason for this improved forecast is that the economy opened up earlier than anticipated and there were no new shutdowns, despite multiple states experiencing a surge in cases over the summer. Moreover, consumers and businesses adapted quickly to new technologies and remote working, while the Federal Reserve committed to near 0% interest rates until labor market conditions recover. In fact, borrowing rates are at historic lows, below even the levels reached during the Great Recession.
The economic bounce-back was always expected to be big, as temporarily laid-off workers returned to work. Because the economy reopened earlier than USC analysts predicted, recovery numbers, which had been expected in 2021, came instead in the third quarter, leading to "stronger 2020 growth and weaker 2021 growth," the report said.
GDP is expected to grow 0.3% in the fourth quarter with real GDP declining overall to 4.2% for all of 2020, the authors wrote in an essay entitled "The recovery is losing momentum." For context, that's 50% steeper than the decline of 2.8% from the Great Recession in 2008. But those numbers are far better than the annual 8.6% decline forecast in mid-June. The forecast for 2021 is 3.5% growth and 4% growth for 2022.
"That there's more economic activity than we expected that's good news, but it's not something that you'd say we're out of the woods, because we're not," Jerry Nickelsburg, the director of the forecast, told dot.LA. "The economic outlook depends critically on the trajectory of the pandemic and the public health response to it."
Nickelsberg forecasts that it will take the U.S. until the first quarter of 2022 to achieve the same level of economic activity that it saw in the fourth quarter of 2019.
He expects 2020 fourth quarter growth to be relatively weak, with more bankruptcies and layoffs. And winter will put a damper on economic activity in many parts of the country where it has been moved outdoors, Nickelsberg said.
Unemployment isn't expected to reach pre-pandemic rates until late 2024 at the earliest.
And that's with some rather optimistic assumptions, including that there is widespread availability and usage of an effective vaccine in early 2021 or that the pandemic has a relatively mild impact on economic activity in 2021 and 2022. The report also assumes another, more limited federal fiscal stimulus round before the end of 2020.
"None of these assumptions are assured, and if they do not come to pass, our forecast, presented here, is too optimistic," the authors wrote.
Though employment recovery has been fast as workers returned from temporary layoffs, sectors that rely on more human contact have seen a rise in permanent layoffs. In those sectors, employment "won't fully recover until consumers and businesses return to old habits, which won't be for some time, if ever," the forecast said.
But it's on theme that the forecast is a little more uncertain, as Nickelsberg said, "there's a higher probability that we are too optimistic than that we are too pessimistic."
California's leisure and hospitality industry have been hurt by the drop off in international tourism. But home sales have bounced back after a precipitous first-quarter drop.
"There is heightened uncertainty now, uncertainty about the pandemic, uncertainty about fiscal policy, another stimulus package or not out of Washington, uncertainty about the election, there's lots of uncertainty in the economy right now," said Nickelseberg.
A Dive into L.A.'s Tech and Gig Economy
The forecast noted that the gig economy in California has been hit harder by the pandemic in terms of overall unemployment.
L.A. County has more than one million gig workers as of 2018 — roughly one gig job for every four traditional jobs — and the numbers are growing faster in this segment than the U.S. overall.
That helps explain why L.A. has seen steeper drops in overall employment during the "pandemic-induced recession," the report states, especially since a greater share of its gig workers are in transportation, arts, entertainment and recreation, which have been hit especially hard.
Many have been buoyed by the unemployment benefits provided by the coronavirus stimulus bill.
That's especially relevant because gig workers tend to make less than their conventional counterparts. Gig workers in the professional, scientific and technical sector in L.A. earn an average of $52,000 annually, compared to their counterparts who earn $142,000.
The forecast examined tech industry jobs, with five large clusters led by the Bay Area and followed by Southern California, then Boston, Seattle, and Manhattan. The report noted that tech jobs increased dramatically in most of those areas from 2005 to 2020, while in Los Angeles there was only a moderate increase of 36,000 tech jobs.
Although L.A. County ranked second out of 20 counties for having the most tech jobs in the U.S., it was 11th on that same list for average pay. Tech workers in L.A. earned an average salary of $142,000, slightly above the national average of $135,000 for the industry. In Santa Clara, tech workers received an average salary of $287,000, while in Manhattan that number is $205,000 and in Seattle $200,000.
Though the tech industry has done well amid the pandemic, the forecast noted that it could be harder to see a near-future increase in tech workers in the Bay Area and New York, with high costs of living, as companies experiment with remote working.
__Do you have a story that needs to be told? My DMs are open on Twitter @latams. You can also email me at tami(at)dot.la, or ask for my Signal.
- UCLA Economists 'Tear Up' 2020 Forecast Due to Coronavirus - dot ... ›
- UCLA Anderson Finds it Will Take 3 Years to Recover from COVID-19 ›
Venture Firm Rolls Out its Investing Strategy for the 'Metaverse' that May Soon Eclipse the Internet
Gaming is eating the world.
So says a new report issued Tuesday by L.A.-based investment firm MaC Venture Capital.
The report mentions the recent explosion of gaming companies – including Epic Games' $1.78 billion raise that valued it at $17.3 billion, Unity's $1.3 billion IPO that valued the Epic competitor at $13.7 billion and Roblox's $150 million fundraise that valued the kid's gaming "sandbox" at $4 billion — and that was before the pandemic boosted Roblox's user base.
But most of the analysis is devoted to the techniques and tools that gaming has popularized over the years, and that are fast proliferating into areas as diverse as retail, film production, medicine and national defense.
Disney is laying off 28,000 workers at its U.S. theme parks after the pandemic devastated Walt Disney World and kept Anaheim's Disneyland Resort shuttered for six months.
Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro said Tuesday that 67% of those being laid off from both Disney World and Disneyland are part-time employees.
"As difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal," said D'Amaro in a statement.
Disney World was able to open with a limited capacity in July, but Disneyland has been closed since March. D'Amaro took a jab at Gov. Gavin Newsom suggesting that his hand was forced by California's "unwillingness" to allow for the park to open.
On Tuesday, 19 state legislators pleaded with Newsom following calls from Anaheim's mayor to reopen the Disneyland and theme parks throughout California. They argued that parks can reopen safely but they are left in the dark as to which steps need to be followed for reopening.
The announcing statement also added that they are speaking to unions in order to know what steps are next for union-represented cast members.
Disney's third quarter earnings showed an 85% drop in revenues to $2 billion from the company's parks, experiences and products division compared to the same period last year.
- Coronavirus Updates: California Unemployment Claims at 1.9M ... ›
- Hollywood Has Lost 14K Jobs During the Pandemic - dot.LA ›