Farmland with Foreign Investors, An LGBTO+ Startup Accelerator, and Walmart Recruiting High School Students

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STARTUPS

Digital health startup Kick is offering customers easier access to a performance-enhancing drug—propranolol: “It’s generally prescribed for high blood pressure, but in recent years, propranolol has been reinvented as the ‘CEO drug’—used by the likes of Richard Branson, Katy Perry and Shawn Mendes for its performance-anxiety benefits. It eases flushing, sweating and shaking.

“[Kick is] the first dedicated platform for propranolol prescription. Users pay $40 and fill out a short medical form that is then reviewed by a doctor to screen out (or monitor) people with health contraindications. If approved, they can opt to have Kick shipped to their house, or have their prescription filled at a pharmacy. Currently, Kick is available in 12 states (including California, Florida and Colorado), with the goal of being in 20 by the end of the year.

“[Propranolol’s] off-label use for performance-related anxiety has become increasingly common. For example, a 2015 survey of professional orchestras reported that 66 percent of classical musicians said beta blockers improved their performance—today, you might even find dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club show on it.”

The StartOut Growth Lab is America’s first brick-and-mortar startup accelerator focusing entirely on LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. “So far, it’s graduated 20 companies, and it hosts a new cohort of up to seven different startups every six months. The growth lab provides access to other founders, angel investors and other potential funding outlets, as well as lunch-and-learns and panel discussions.

“Those young companies innovate in a variety of different industriescybersecurity insurance, virtual reality, medical technology and more. Alumni range from Goodly, a student loan repayment service that allows employers to make contributions as an employee benefit, to Reflect, a mental health platform that aims to connect individuals to therapists best-suited to their needs. ‘We want to even the playing field sufficiently [so] that any entrepreneur, regardless of their background, their sexual orientation, their race, their gender, will have equal opportunity for their shot at economic liberty and economic freedom,’ [co-founder Tom Gaynor] said.”

E-COMMERCE

Walmart is going to start delivering to shopper homes even if they’re not there and even right to their refrigerators: “Starting this fall, nearly 1 million people across three cities—Kansas City, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Florida—will have access to Walmart’s new in-home delivery option, the retailer announced Friday at its annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. The company said it will “learn and scale” the option across the U.S. from there, not specifically outlining any further expansion plans.

“Walmart’s in-home delivery project is headed up by Bart Stein. A Google alum, Stein joined Walmart a little more than a year ago from Wim, a hardware company he founded that hoped to be the so-called Keurig of frozen yogurt, to lead Project Franklin. Franklin is the second start-up to come from Walmart’s tech incubator, Store No. 8. In stealth mode, Stein’s been testing in-home delivery with Walmart in New Jersey.”

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SOCIAL MEDIA
YouTube is readdressing its hate speech policies. The changes include banning videos alleging that one group is superior ‘in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.’ … YouTube says it will identify more content as “borderline,” which will remove it from being recommended or monetized. When someone is watching borderline content, YouTube says its algorithm will start to recommend more authoritative content as the next video.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

Walmart is recruiting high school students, offering free SAT prep and $1/day college tuition as a way to acquire more workers in a tightening retail market: “Students who go through the program while they work at Walmart will be eligible for different types of bachelor’s and associate degrees, such as computer technology, business management and supply chain management. … It has more than 1.5 million workers in this country, but less than 25,000 of them are in high school today. That’s below the retail industry average, entry-level according to Walmart. … Reaching high school students is important to Walmart so the company can identify and train its next crop of talent.”

M&A

MBMS, a developer of technology solutions for custodians and warehouse lenders, was acquired by American Mortgage Consultants, a provider of due diligence and consulting services via its financial sponsor Stone Point Capital through an LBO.

SUSTAINABILITY

Michael Bloomberg is giving $500 million to end close every coal-fired plant in the country and halt the growth of natural gas: “The new campaign, called Beyond Carbon, is designed to help eliminate coal by focusing on state and local governments. The effort will bypass Washington, where Mr. Bloomberg has said national action appears unlikely because of a divided Congress and a president who denies the established science of climate change. ‘We’re in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years,’ Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement.”

France plans to end the disposal of $900 million in unsold goods each year: “By 2023, manufacturers and retailers will have to donate, reuse or recycle the goods, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on Tuesday of the measure, which the government billed as the first of its kind. ‘It is waste that defies reason,’ Mr. Philippe said at a discount store in Paris, according to Agence France-Presse, and he called the practice ‘scandalous.’

“Under a new measure that will be part of a bill set to be debated by the government in July, destroying unsold goods could result in financial penalties or prison time. The practice—widespread across the retail and consumer industry as a way to free up warehouse space or prevent unwanted items from being sold at a significant discount—has received bad press in France recently.”

VENTURE CAPITAL

Voatz, a developer of a mobile application to make voting safer and more accessible raised $7 million in a Series A  Round. The valuation of the company is $27 million following the round.

WorkRamp, an platform that helps with training and developing employees raised $8 million in a Series A Round.

Zyper, a developer of a marketing platform that is designed to engage passive social media followers raised $6.5 million in a Series A Round.

AGRICULTURE

Nearly 30 million acres of US farmland, the size of Pennsylvania, are held by foreign investors: “That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities. When the stock market tanked during the past recession, foreign investors began buying up big swaths of US farmland. And because there are no federal restrictions on the amount of land that can be foreign owned, it’s been left up to individual states to decide on any limitations. …

“’Right out my back door here, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, has recently bought out a couple grain elevators,’ [sixth generation Ohio farmer Angela] Huffman says, pointing across the field behind her house, ‘basically extracting the wealth out of the community.’ To be fair, US farmers and corporations also invest in overseas agriculture, owning billions of dollars of farmland from Australia to Brazil, but the Smithfield Food buyout has really raised concerns with American farmers. As part of that 2013 sale, a Chinese company now owns 146,000 acres of prime US farmland.”

And that’s what’s ahead.

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