Chipotle’s Defibrillator is Not New CEO Niccol, Thiel Says Goodbye to Silicon Valley, Vivino App is Table Magic and Hooters in a Hot Mess

Good Friday Morning, former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney just announced he was running for the Senate in Utah. Ironing his docksiders.

Daylight – He turned Taco Bell around on a dime. So, the big question is: can Brian Niccol do it again when he becomes CEO at Chipotle next month? Wall Street thinks so, but I am going to vote no.

Culture – I understand both are basically Mexican fast food, but there is a big difference. Chipotle has 2,400 corporate stores and Taco Bell is an all-franchisees environment which, by the way, was one of Niccol’s first Taco Bell decisions – sell all corporate stores to place risk and financial pressure on owners who have skin in the game, not 17 and 18-year-old employees who have better things to do than hang posters about nacho fries.

Economics – It would be a blockbuster for Chipotle to sell all 2,400 stores to franchisees, but their Founder is way left wing on this and says it’s a non-starter as he is still the largest shareholder with a title like executive chairman. Let Niccol do his franchisee thing and I’m all in. By the way, I did some investigative reporting and visited both stores yesterday.

Buzzard Roost – Chipotle had a low-key “Open Now” sign and I looked around for a defibrillator as the kids behind the counter had such low energy. I tried their one new item: queso, a cheese dip. Maybe the worst I ever had and I have eaten Mexican in Waycross.

Live Rounds – I go over to Taco Bell and when I walked in it had a little Disneyesque feel: sales pitches for breakfast, latest menu additions and surprises like Tuscan pasta plastered everywhere. I am going to stick up for the Doritos Locos Taco – not bad – but let me tell you, Taco Bell is not worried about the recent price increase for avocados. Lot of filler, and wait until Niccol gets his first bill at Chipotle. I say Live Mas and add quesadillas to the menu.  

M&A – A Chinese-owned company will not be taking over the Chicago Stock Exchange. A federal regulator blocked the $20 million proposal on Thursday.

WebPT acquired BMS Practice Solutions, a revenue cycle management software in the physical therapy space.

Pacific Premier Bancorp acquired Grandpoint Capital, a holding company of Grandpoint Bank.

Style – Yesterday, in a huff, Peter Thiel said he was leaving Silicon Valley for LA and taking with him Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation, his non- profit. He said he was basically tired of being tortured for supporting Trump. By the way, in LA, he is moving down to Orange County so he will find some friends there.  

By the way, he is not the only one leaving Silicon Valley, as a string of technology companies are moving into downtown San Francisco and shifting the center of gravity from the sprawl of the Valley to the tightly concentrated and increasingly vertical neighborhood behind San Francisco’s Embarcadero, where Facebook leased more than 400,000 square feet in a skyscraper across from the newly opened Salesforce Tower.

Hot – Hooters Serves Up $1.3 million in gift cards to settle TCPA class action. The suit alleged thousands of violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and includes almost $440,000 in attorney fees and expenses. Hooters, the Georgia-based chain of restaurants that made its name on hot-pants-clad waitresses, chicken wings and beer, has settled by agreeing to provide up to $1.3 million in gift cards to about 55,000 people who received unwanted automated text messages.

Investment Banking – Veritas Capital agreed to acquire the U.S. public sector business from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

IPO – Run-of-the-mill-stuff. No news.

Venture Capital – Vivino, a developer of a mobile wine app and operator of an online wine marketplace, raised $20 million. This app is unbelievable. All you have to do is take a picture of the label and their database will reveal the type of wine, the grapes, the company/brand, where and when it was made, even for that 75-year-old Bordeaux saved for that special occasion. It will also let you know if your wine is too old or stale.

DailyPay, a provider of next day payments for employees and contractors, raised $9 million.

Signallamp Health, a provider of nurse care managers to doctors across the country, raised an undisclosed amount.

ENGAGE Talent, an Atlanta-based AI software company that helps companies identify and engage with candidates, raised $3 million.

HeartFlow, a medical tech company, raised $240 million.

LimeBike, a smart bikeshare provider, raised $70 million.

Singularity University, a public benefit corporation that provides educational programs, raised $32 million.

gr8 People, a hiring platform, raised $8 million.

Spotlight – The Morning Report will return Tuesday, in honor of Presidents Day on Monday.

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Venture Capital – Catalyte, a software engineering services company, raised $27 million.

RealWear, a hands-free industrial head-mounted tablet for industrial workers, raised $17 million.

SaltStack, an intelligent automation platform for a “software-defined world,” raised $15.5 million.

DroneBase, a global drone operations company, raised $12 million.

IdentityMind Global, a provider of a digital identity-based SaaS platform for online risk management and compliance automation, raised $10 million.

Miso Robotics, a robotics and artificial intelligence solutions company, raised $10 million.

Perception Point, a cybersecurity firm whose cloud-based technology intercepts advanced attacks, raised $8 million.

Vydia, a developer and operator of a centralized platform for video creators to manage their content, raised $4.35 million.

StreamLoan, a mortgage lending startup, raised $2 million.

Private Equity – Charles River Laboratories International agreed to acquire MPI Research, a provider of testing services for biopharmaceutical and medical devices, for about $800 million.

And that’s what’s ahead, Cliff