Bringing jobs and health benefits, BlocPower unlocks energy efficiency retrofits for low income communities

Retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and better at withstanding climate change induced extreme weather is going to be a big, multi-billion dollar business. But it’s one that’s been hard for low-income communities to tap, thanks to obstacles ranging faulty incentive structures to an inability to adequately plan for which upgrades will be most effective in which buildings.

Enter BlocPower, a New York-based startup founded by a longtime advocate for energy efficiency and the job creation that comes with it, which has a novel solution for identifying, developing and profiting off of building upgrades in low income communities — all while supporting high-paying jobs for workers in the communities the company hopes to serve.

The company also has managed to raise $63 million in equity and debt financing to support its mission. That money is split between an $8 million investment from some of the country’s top venture firms and a $55 million debt facility structured in part by Goldman Sachs to finance the redevelopment projects that BlocPower is creating.

These capital commitments aren’t charity. Government dollars are coming for the industry and private companies from healthcare providers, to utility companies, to real estate developers and property managers all have a vested interest in seeing this market succeed.

There’s going to be over $1 billion carved out for weatherization and building upgrades in the stimulus package that’s still making its way through Congress

For BlocPower’s founder, Donnel Baird, the issue of seeing buildings revitalized and good high-paying jobs coming into local communities isn’t academic. Baird was born in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood and witnessed firsthand the violence and joblessness that was ripping the fabric of that rich and vibrant community apart during the crack epidemic and economic decline of the 1980s and early 90s.

Seeing that violence firsthand, including a shooting on his way to school, instilled in Baird a desire to “create jobs for disconnected Black and brown people” so they would never feel the hopelessness and lack of opportunity that fosters cycles of violence.

Some time after the shooting, Baird’s family relocated from Brooklyn to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and after graduating from Duke University, Baird became a climate activist and community organizer, with a focus on green jobs. That led to a role in the presidential campaign for Barack Obama and an offer to work in Washington on Obama’s staff.

Baird declined the opportunity, but did take on a role reaching out to communities and unions to help implement the first stimulus package that Obama and Biden put together to promote green jobs.

And it was while watching the benefits of that stimulus collapse under the weight of a fragmented building industry that Baird came up with the idea for BlocPower.

“It was all about the implementation challenges that we ran into,” Baird said. “If you have ten buildings on a block in Oakland and they were all built by the same developer at the same time. If you rebuild those buildings and you retrofit all of those buildings, in five of those buildings you’re going to trap carbon monoxide in and kill everybody and in the other five buildings you’re going to have a reduction in emissions and energy savings.”

Before conducting any retrofits to capture energy savings (and health savings, but more on that later), Baird says developers need to figure out the potential for asbestos contamination in the building; understand the current heating, ventilation, and cooling systems that the building uses; and get an assessment of what actually needs to be done.

That’s the core problem that Baird says BlocPower solves. The company has developed software to analyze a building’s construction by creating a virtual twin based on blueprints and public records. Using that digital twin the company can identify what upgrades a building needs. Then the company taps lines of credit to work with building owners to manage the retrofits and capture the value of the energy savings and carbon offsets associated with the building upgrades.

For BlocPower to work, the financing piece is just as important as the software. Without getting banks to sign off on loans to make the upgrades, all of those dollars from the federal government remain locked up. “That’s why the $7 billion earmarked for investment in green buildings did not work,” Baird said. “At BlocPower our view is that we could build software to simulate using government records… we could simulate enough about the mechanicals, electrical, and plumbing across buildings in NYC so that we could avoid that cost.”

Along with co-founder Morris Cox, Baird built BlocPower while at Columbia University’s business school so that he could solve the technical problems and overcome the hurdles for community financing of renewable retrofit projects.

Right before his graduation, in 2014, the company had applied for a contract to do energy efficiency retrofits and was set to receive financing from the Department of Energy. The finalists had to go down to the White House and pitch the President. That pitch was scheduled for the same day as a key final exam for one of Baird’s Columbia classes, which the professor said was mandatory. Baird skipped the test and won the pitch, but failed the class.

After that it was off to Silicon Valley to pitch the business. Baird met with 200 or more investors who rejected his pitch. Many of these investors had been burned in the first cleantech bubble or had witnessed the fiery conflagrations that engulfed firms that did back cleantech businesses and swore they’d never make the same mistakes.

That was the initial position at Andreessen Horowitz when Baird pitched them, he said. “When I went to Andreessen Horowitz, they said ‘Our policy is no cleantech whatsoever. You need to figure out how software is going to eat up this energy efficiency market’,” Baird recalled.

Working with Mitch Kapor, an investor and advisor, Baird worked on the pitch and got Kapor to talk to Ben Horowitz. Both men agreed to invest and BlocPower was off to the races.

The company has completed retrofits in over 1,000 buildings since its launch, Baird said, mainly to prove out its thesis. Now, with the revolving credit facility in hand, BlocPower can take bigger bites out of the market. That includes a contract with utility companies in New York that will pay $30 million if the company can complete its retrofits and verify the energy savings from that work.

There are also early projects underway in Oakland and Chicago, Baird said.

Building retrofits do more than just provide energy savings, as Goldman Sachs managing director Margaret Anadu noted in a statement.

“BlocPower is proving that it is possible to have commercial solutions that improve public health in underserved communities, create quality jobs and lower carbon emissions,” Anadu said. “We are so proud to have supported Donnel and his team…through both equity and debt capital to further expand their reach.”

These benefits also have potential additional revenue streams associated with them that BlocPower can also capture, according to investor and director, Mitch Kapor.

“There are significant linkages that are known between buildings and pollution that are a public health issue. In a number of geographies community hospitals are under a mandate to improve health outcomes and BlocPower can get paid from health outcomes associated with the reduction in carbon. That could be a new revenue stream and a financing mechanism,” Kapor said. “There’s a lot of work to be done in essentially taking the value creation engine they have and figuring out where to bring it and which other engines they need to have to have the maximum social impact.”

Social impact is something that both Kapor and Baird talk about extensively and Baird sees the creation of green jobs as an engine for social justice — and one that can reunite a lot of working class voters whose alliances were fractured by the previous administration. Baird also believes that putting people to work is the best argument for climate change policies that have met with resistance among many union workers.

“We will not be able to pass shit unless workers and people of color are on board to force the U.S. senate to pass climate change policy,” Baird said. “We have to pass the legislation that’s going to facilitate green infrastructure in a massive way.”

He pointed to the project in Oakland as an example of how climate policies can create jobs and incentivize political action.

“In Oakland we’re doing a pilot project in 12 low income buildings in oakland. I sent them $20K to train these workers from local people of color in Oakland… they are being put to work in Oakland,” Baird said. “That’s the model for how this gets built. So now we need them to call Chuck Shumer to push him to the left on green building legislation.” 

 

Ex-General Catalyst and General Atlantic VC announces $68M debut fund

As of 2019, the majority of venture firms — 65% — still did not have a single female partner or GP at their firm, according to All Raise.

So naturally, anytime we hear of a new female-led fund, our ears perk up.

Today, New York-based Avid Ventures announced the launch of its $68 million debut venture capital fund. Addie Lerner — who was previously an investor with General Catalyst, General Atlantic and Goldman Sachs — founded Avid in 2020 with the goal of taking a hands-on approach to working with founders of early-stage startups in the United States, Europe and Israel.

“We believe investing in a founder’s company is a privilege to be earned,” she said.

Tali Vogelstein — a former investor at Bessemer Venture Partners — joined the firm as a founding investor soon after its launch and the pair were able to raise the capital in 10 months’ time during the 2020 pandemic.

The newly formed firm has an impressive list of LPs backing its debut effort. Schusterman Family Investments and the George Kaiser Family Foundation are its anchor LPs. Institutional investors include Foundry Group, General Catalyst, 14W, Slow Ventures and LocalGlobe/Latitude through its Basecamp initiative that backs emerging managers. 

Avid also has the support of 50 founders, entrepreneurs and investors as LPs — 40% of whom are female — including Mirror founder Brynn Putnam; Getty Images co-founder Jonathan Klein; founding partner of Acrew Capital Theresia Gouw and others.

Avid invests at the Series A and B stages, and so far has invested in Alloy, Nova Credit, Rapyd, Staircase, Nava and The Wing. Three of those companies have female founders — something Lerner said happened “quite naturally.”

“Diversity can happen and should happen more organically as opposed to quotas or mandates,” she added.

In making those deals, Avid partnered with top-tier firms such as Kleiner Perkins, Canapi Ventures, Zigg Capital and Thrive Capital. In general, Avid intentionally does not lead its first investments in startups, with its first checks typically being in the $500,000 to $1 million range. It preserves most of its capital for follow-on investments.

“We like to position ourselves to earn the right to write a bigger check in a future round,” Lerner told TechCrunch. 

In the case of Rapyd, Avid organized an SPV (special-purpose vehicle) to invest in the unicorn’s recent Series D. Lerner had previously backed the company’s Series B round while at General Catalyst and remains a board observer.

Prior to founding Avid, Lerner had helped deploy more than $450 million across 18 investments in software, fintech (Rapyd & Monzo) and consumer internet companies spanning North America, Europe and Israel. 

When it comes to sectors, Avid is particularly focused on backing early-stage fintech, consumer internet and software companies. The firm intends to invest in about 20 startups over a three-to-four year period.

“We want to take our time, so we can be as hands-on as we want to be,” Lerner said. “We’re not looking to back 80 companies. Our goal is to drive outstanding returns for our LPs.”

The firm views itself as an extension of its portfolio companies’ teams, serving as their “Outsourced Strategic CFO.” Lerner and Vogelstein also aim to provide the companies they work with strategic growth modeling, unit economics analysis, talent recruiting, customer introductions and business development support.

“We strive to build deep relationships early on and to prove our value well ahead of a prospective investment,” Lerner said. Avid takes its team’s prior data-driven experience to employ “a metrics-driven approach” so that a startup can “deeply understand” their unit economics. It also “gets in the trenches” alongside founders to help grow a company.

Ed Zimmerman, chair of Lowenstein Sandler LLP’s tech group in New York and adjunct professor of VC at Columbia Business School, is an Avid investor.

He told TechCrunch that because of his role in the venture community, he is often counsel to a company or fund and will run into former students in deals. Feedback from numerous people in his network point to Lerner being “extraordinarily thoughtful about deals,” with one entrepreneur describing her as “one of the smartest people she has met in a decade-plus in venture.”

“I’ve seen it myself in deals and then I’ve seen founders turn down very well branded funds to work with Addie,” Zimmerman added, noting they are impressed both by her intellect and integrity. “…Addie will find and win and be invited into great deals because she makes an indelible impression on the people who’ve worked with her and the data is remarkably consistent.”

New York’s David Energy has raised $4.1 million to ‘build the Standard Oil of renewable energy’

“We intend to build the Standard Oil of renewable energy,” said James McGinniss, the co-founder and chief executive of David Energy, in a statement announcing the company’s new $19 million seed round of debt and equity funding. 

McGinniss’ company is aiming to boost renewable energy adoption and slash energy usage in the built environment by creating a service that operates on both sides of the energy marketplace.

The company combines energy management services for commercial buildings through the software it has developed with the ability to sell energy directly to customers in an effort to reduce the energy consumption and the attendant carbon footprint of the built environment.

The company’s software, Mycor, leverages building demand data and the assets that the building has at its disposal to shift user energy consumption to the times when renewable power is most available, and cheapest. 

It’s a novel approach to an old idea of creating environmental benefits by reducing energy consumption. Using its technology, David Energy tracks both the market price of energy and the energy usage by the buildings it manages. The company sells energy to customers at a fixed price and then uses its windows into energy markets and energy demand to make money off of the difference in power pricing.

That’s why the company needed to raise $15 million in a monthly revolving credit facility from Hartree Partners. So it could pay for the power its customers have bought upfront.

Image Credit: Getty Images

There are a number of tailwinds supporting the growth of a business like David Energy right now. Given the massive amounts of money that are being earmarked for energy conservation and energy efficiency upgrades, companies like David, which promise to manage energy consumption to reduce demand, are going to be huge beneficiaries.

“Looking at the macro shift and the attention being paid to things like battery storage and micro grids we do feel like we’re launching this at the perfect time,” said McGinniss. “We’re offering [customers] market rates and then rebating the savings back to them. They’re getting the software with a market energy supply contract and they are getting the savings back. It’s is bringing that whole bundled package together really brings it all together.”

In addition to the credit facility, the company also raised $4.1 million in venture financing from investors led by Equal Ventures and including Operator Partners, Box Group, Greycroft, Sandeep Jain and Xuan Yong of RigUp, returning angel investor Kiran Bhatraju of Arcadia, and Jason Jacobs’ recently launched My Climate Journey Collective, an early-stage climate tech fund. 

“Renewable energy generators are fundamentally different in their variable, distributed, and digitally-native nature compared to their fossil fuel predecessors while customer loads like heating and driving are shifting to electricity consumption from gas. The sands of market power are shifting and incumbents are poorly-positioned to adapt to evolving customer needs, so there’s a massive opportunity for us to capitalize.” 

Founded by McGinniss, Brian Maxwell and Ahmed Salman, David Energy raised $1.5 million in pre-seed financing back in March 2020.

As the company expands, its relationship with Hartree, an energy and commodities trading desk, will become even more important. As the startup noted, Hartree is the gateway that David needs to transact with energy markets. The trader provides a balance sheet for working capital to purchase energy on behalf of David’s customers.

 

“Renewables are causing fundamental shifts in energy markets, and new models and tools need to emerge,” said Dinkar Bhatia, Co-Head of North American Power at Hartree Partners. “James and the team have identified a significant opportunity in the market and have the right strategy to execute. Hartree is excited to be a commodity partner with David Energy on the launch of the new smart retail platform and is looking forward to helping make DE Supply the premier retailer in the market.”

David now has retail electricity licenses in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and is looking to expand around the country.

“David energy stands to reinvent the way that hundreds of billions of dollars a year in energy are consumed,” said Equal Ventures investor Rick Zullo. “Business model creativity and finding ways to change user behavior with new models is just as important if not more important than the technology innovation itself.”

Zullo said his firm pitched David Energy on leading the round after years of looking for a commercial renewable energy startup. The core insight was finding a service that could appeal not to the new construction that already is working with top-of-the-line energy management systems, but with the millions of square feet that aren’t adopting the latest and greatest energy management systems.

“Finding something that will go and bring this to the mass market was something we had been on the hunt for really since the inception of Equal Ventures,” said Zullo.

The innovation that made David attractive was the business model. “There is a landscape of hundreds of dead companies,” Zullo said. “What they did was find a way to subsidize the service. They give away at low or no cost and move that in with line items. The partnership with Partree gives them the opportunity to be the cheapest and also the best for you and the highest margin regional energy provider in the market.”

A look at how proptech startup Knotel went from a $1.6B valuation to filing for bankruptcy

This week, flexible workspace operator (and one-time unicorn) Knotel announced it had filed for bankruptcy and that its assets were being acquired by investor and commercial real estate brokerage Newmark for a reported $70 million.

Knotel designed, built and ran custom headquarters for companies. It then managed the spaces with “flexible” terms. In March 2020, it was reportedly valued at $1.6 billion.

At first glance, one might think that the WeWork rival, which had raised about $560 million since its 2016 inception, was another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But New York-based Knotel was reportedly in trouble – facing a number of lawsuits and evictions – before the pandemic had even hit, according to multiple reports, such as this one in The Real Deal.

Jonathan Pasternak, a partner in the bankruptcy, restructuring and creditor rights group at New York-based Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, believes the company’s Chapter 11 filing was inevitable despite it reaching unicorn status after raising $400 million in Series C funding in August 2019.

“In addition to being grossly overvalued on the market, the company overextended itself with long term leases and lavish build-outs, leaving the company in significant debt while failing to ever turn a profit,” Pasternak wrote via email. “The pandemic exacerbated their vacancy situation, resulting in more than 35% vacancies in their 2.4 million square-foot NYC portfolio. The company overextended and likely ran out of cash.”

Newmark’s purchase of Knotel’s assets is an effort to recoup some of its investment, according to Pasternak.

Anytime a company that has raised more than half a billion dollars basically implodes, it’s worth taking a look at the roller coaster ride it was on before it got to that point.


2016

Virgin Mobile co-founder Amol Sarva and former VC Edward Shenderovich founded Knotel, essentially reversing the WeWork model. There’s hype around the company in its early days.

2017

Knotel raised a Series A round of $25 million in February from investors such as Peak State Ventures, Invest AG, Bloomberg Beta and 500 startups. It marketed its offering as “headquarters as a service” — or a flexible office space that could be customized for each tenant while also growing or shrinking as needed. 

2018

In April, Knotel announced the close of a $70 million Series B financing led by Newmark Knight Frank and The Sapir Organization. In August, the company told me that it was operating over 1 million square feet across 60 locations in New York, London, San Francisco and Berlin, and that it was on track to reach 2.5 million square feet and $100 million in revenue by year’s end. Revenue growth had increased by 300 percent year over year, according to the company. Customers and users and clients ranged from VC-backed startups Stash and HotelTonight to enterprise customers such as The Body Shop. 

“What they’re doing is different,” said Barry Gosin, CEO of Newmark Knight Frank, in a press release, at the time of the round. “It’s a new category the industry hasn’t seen and is rapidly adopting. We’ve watched their ascent from a distance and are now thrilled to join them on the journey. It marks a shift in how owners and tenants are coming together.”

2019

In August, Knotel announced the completion of a $400 million financing, led by Wafra, an investment arm of the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Kuwait. With the round, the company had achieved unicorn status and was being touted as a formidable WeWork competitor. At the time, Knotel said it operated more than 4 million square feet across more than 200 locations in New York, San Francisco, London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Boston, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. 

In a statement at the time, CEO Sarva said: “Knotel is building the future of the workplace, and we are excited to welcome a group of investors who believe passionately in our product, vision and ability to execute. Wafra will help us continue our rapid global expansion and solidify our position as the leader in a fast-growing, trillion-dollar flexible office market.”

2020

In late March, Forbes reported that Knotel had laid off 30% of its workforce and furloughed another 20%, due to the impact of the coronavirus. At the time, it was valued at about $1.6 billion. 

The company had started the year with about 500 employees. By the third week of March, it had a headcount of 400. With the cuts, about 200 employees remained with the other 200 having either lost their jobs or on unpaid leave, according to Forbes. 

“Business as usual is over,” Amol Sarva, Knotel’s CEO and co-founder, said in a statement to Forbes. “Knotel has decided to take sharp action to prepare for the worst case — a long health and economic crisis.”

In the second quarter, Knotel’s revenue slipped by about 20% to about $59 million compared to the first quarter, reported Forbes. Multiple landlords had filed lawsuits against the company.

By July, Forbes had reported that Knotel was attempting to raise as much as $100 million, according to various sources “familiar with the matter.”

2021

Knotel filed for bankruptcy, agrees to sell assets to investor Newmark for a reported $70 million after being valued at $1.6 billion less than one year prior.

“Newmark’s commitment offers a path forward amidst this challenging climate,” CEO Sarva said in a statement. “We are optimistic that, through a successful restructuring, we can refocus on our mission of providing state-of-the-art, tailored flex space in key U.S. and international markets.”

To facilitate the transaction under Section 363 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, an affiliate of Newmark agreed to provide Knotel with about $20 million in cash as DIP financing to support Knotel through the bankruptcy process.

Just as the startup and VC world watched as WeWork lost a significant amount of value over the past two years, we’re paying attention to the demise of Knotel and wondering what this means for the flexible workspace sector. As much of the world continues to work from home and office buildings remain mostly vacant as this pandemic rages, our guess is that things will only get worse before they get better.

Clearview AI ruled ‘illegal’ by Canadian privacy authorities

Controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI violated Canadian privacy laws when it collected photos of Canadians without their knowledge or permission, the country’s top privacy watchdog has ruled.

The New York-based company made its splashy newspaper debut a year ago by claiming it had collected over 3 billion photos of people’s faces and touting its connections to law enforcement and police departments. But the startup has faced a slew of criticism for scraping social media sites also without their permission, prompting Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to send cease and desist letters to demand it stops.

In a statement, Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner said its investigation found Clearview had “collected highly sensitive biometric information without the knowledge or consent of individuals,” and that the startup “collected, used and disclosed Canadians’ personal information for inappropriate purposes, which cannot be rendered appropriate via consent.”

Clearview rebuffed the allegations, claiming Canada’s privacy laws do not apply because the company doesn’t have a “real and substantial connection” to the country, and that consent was not required because the images it scraped were publicly available.

That’s a challenge the company continues to face in court, as it faces a class action suit citing Illinois’ biometric protection laws that last year dinged Facebook to the tune of $550 million for violating the same law.

The Canadian privacy watchdog rejected Clearview’s arguments, and said it would “pursue other actions” if the company does not follow its recommendations, which included stopping the collection on Canadians and deleting all previously collected images.

Clearview said in July that it stopped providing its technology to Canadian customers after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Service were using the startup’s technology.

“What Clearview does is mass surveillance and it is illegal,” said Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy commissioner. “It is an affront to individuals’ privacy rights and inflicts broad-based harm on all members of society, who find themselves continually in a police lineup. This is completely unacceptable.”

Doug Mitchell, an attorney for Clearview, said:

“Clearview AI’s technology is not available in Canada and it does not operate in Canada. In any event, Clearview AI only collects public information from the Internet which is explicitly permitted under PIPEDA. The Federal Court of Appeal has previously ruled in the privacy context that publicly available information means exactly what it says: ‘available or accessible by the citizenry at large.’ There is no reason to apply a different standard here. Clearview AI is a search engine that collects public data just as much larger companies do, including Google, which is permitted to operate in Canada.”

Updated with comment from Clearview AI.

Folx Health raises $25 million for virtual clinical offerings and care for the LGBTQIA+ community

Folx Health is leveraging the explosion of virtual care services to offer greater access to healthcare focused on the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, and has raised $25 million in new funding to help it grow.

It’s part of a revolution in care that’s targeting the needs of specific communities with access to physicians that understand those needs. And it’s all made possible by virtual interactions.

“We have a good sense of the nature of the need and the depth of the pain in the community,” said A.G. Breitenstein, the founder and chief executive of Folx Health. “As a non-binary lesbian and healthcare industry veteran, I have seen and experienced firsthand just how broken the current system is for the queer and trans community,”

Breitenstein said Folx would be using the cash to try and expand to all fifty states and increase the available products and services the healthcare company would look to make available to the queer and trans community.

“Whether it’s HRT, PrEP, sexual health or family creation, health care is essential for us to be who we are. It’s about time we build a platform for ourselves, so Queer and Trans people feel seen, heard, and celebrated,” she said in a statement. 

That was one reason why Bessemer Venture Partners leapt at the chance to lead the new financing round for Folx, according to Morgan Cheatham, an investor out of Bessemer’s New York office. The other was the size of the market.

“At a high level, 2% of the population identify as transgender,” said Cheatham. “At that math, when we looked at that, we were able to see a multibillion dollar market opportunity not just to provide [hormone replacement therapy], but to provide a healthcare destination for this community.”

Telescoping out to the opportunity to provide care to the LGBTQ community broadly, when that population represents about 10% to 20% of the population is a “deca-billion opportunity,” said Cheatham.

Breitenstein envisions offering family planning services, broad primary care, and sexual health and wellness care in addition to the hormone therapies that the company currently offers.

Folx joins a cohort of companies tackling health issues specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community which include the mental healthcare service, Violet; Included Health, an employee benefit service; and Plume, which focuses on care for the transgender community.

“We believed in the vision and the approach that she’s taking. She’s building a healthcare experience that is celebratory and dignified rather than one that pathologizing healthcare,” said Cheatham. 

For Bessemer and Cheatham, the investment speaks to broader opportunities to identify specific populations that need care tailored to their specific experience. That includes companies like Spora Health and Live Chair Health, which focus on providing healthcare specifically to people of color.

“Our individual identities whether it be socioeconomic status, race, gender… All of these things inform how we interface with the medical industrial complex,” Cheatham said.

Previous investors Define Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners will also participate in the round, which follows quickly on the heels of Folx’s launch from stealth in December 2020. 

For its patients, Folx Health is offering Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT: testosterone or estrogen) with monthly plans starting at $59 a month. Folx Health will also begin releasing its sexual health and wellness offerings starting with Erectile Dysfunction (ED) treatment, soon to be followed by at-home STI Testing and Treatment, all customized for the specifics of Queer and Trans bodies, the company said. 

The services will include unlimited on-demand clinical support with at-home lab testing (for most plans) and home-delivered medications (costs may vary based on medication). The company’s services are now available in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

The company is also launching a Folx Library, which will serve as a content hub and resource for Queer and Trans health, written by Folx clinicians and its broader community.

“Our partnership with Folx is a historical moment. It’s challenging to articulate how transformative Folx is for our community. We do so mindful of the brilliant and brave Queer and Trans people who fought for this moment to happen,” said Cheatham in a statement.

Berlin’s Remagine secures $24M to finance high-growth and impact-led startups

Remagine, a financing platform offering banking services to high-growth companies with an ‘impact’ twist, has raised €20 million ($24M) in a Seed funding round. The Berlin-based startup has been operating in stealth mode, but already has 20 clients under its former brand name ‘Get Conscious Growth’. Its backers include former Global Head of Google Payment Jonathan Weiner and former COO of Venmo Michael Vaughn. Remagine’s lead investor is unmade but Techcrunch understands it comprises largely of debt financing.

The fintech will specialize in offering revenue-based financing for high-growth and impact-led businesses, which tends to be more founder-friendly than equity or debt products, allowing them to quickly secure funding while staying in control of their business. Remagine will rollout business accounts in the coming months from its base in Germany, and plans to expand across Europe.

While the fashion in fintech for a while now has been ‘Neo’ or ‘challenger’ banks, there is a new breed arriving: financing platforms. These offer banking services but also offer extra features aimed at new businesses. Another example is Rho in New York, which recently raised $15m.

The ‘twist’ is that Remagine is going to aim at business with a ‘sustainable and impactful’ bent to their business model which might have a ‘positive social and environmental impact’. Remagine itself says it is also committing to impact-driven initiatives and will contribute 10% of its profits to impact causes.
 
Founded by Julia M. Profeta Johansson and Sebastian Dienst, co-CEO Dienst said in a statement: “We believe capital and technology can be forces for good. When used together, they can be powerful tools that help shape the future. The challenge now is to shape it in a way that aligns people and planet with profit,” said “We believe that every business – big and small – can be more sustainable and impactful. Remagine has been created to help them achieve this.”
 
Johansson added: “Having already provided financing to numerous companies, the funds raised will allow us to support many more startups towards more impact. With the upcoming launch of our accounts and cards, we’re excited to continue to grow the team, invest further in our products, and help create a world where money and business are forces for good.”
 
Weiner said: “Sustainability and impact have become increasingly relevant for businesses over the past decade and today, research shows that nearly four-fifths of CEOs are planning to align their business strategy with social and environmental goals.. Remagine’s mission and business model enables founders to consider both their bottom line and their impact. This is the future of financing and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”
 
Remagine’s products will include Team cards (unlimited separate cards for team members to improve expense management); Multi-IBANs; analytics; zero negative interest; and free accounts. It’s competitors include Finom and Penta, but these tend to focus more on SMEs rather than startups.

2020 was one of the warmest years in history and indicates mounting risks of climate change

It’s official. 2020 was one of the warmest years on record either edging out or coming in just behind 2016 for the warmest year in recorded history according to data from US government agencies.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had the year just tied with 2016, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the figure just behind 2016’s totals.

No matter the ranking, the big picture for the climate isn’t pretty according to scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York and the Washington, DC-based NOAA.

“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt, in a statement. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”

That’s a dire message for the nation considering the cost of last year’s record-breaking 22 weather and climate disasters. At least 262 people died and scores more were injured by climate-related disasters, according to the NOAA.

And the combination of wildfires, droughts, heatwaves, tornados, tropical cyclones, and severe weather events like hail storms in Texas and the derecho that wrecked the Midwest cost the nation $95 billion.

Homes are engulfed in flames in Vacaville, California during the LNU Lightning Complex fire on August 19, 2020.

Homes are engulfed in flames in Vacaville, California during the LNU Lightning Complex fire on August 19, 2020. – As of the late hours of August 18,2020 the Hennessey fire has merged with at least 7 fires and is now called the LNU Lightning Complex fires. Dozens of fires are burning out of control throughout Northern California as fire resources are spread thin. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Both organizations track temperature trends to get some sort of picture of the impact that human activities — specifically greenhouse gas emissions — have on the planet. The image that comes into focus is that human activity has already contributed to increasing Earth’s average temperature by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the industrial age took hold in the late 19th century.

Most troubling to scientists is that this year’s near record-setting temperatures happened without a boost from the climatic weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which is a large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming.

“The previous record warm year, 2016, received a significant boost from a strong El Niño. The lack of a similar assist from El Niño this year is evidence that the background climate continues to warm due to greenhouse gases,” Schmidt said, in a statement.

The warming trends the word is experiencing are most pronounced in the Arctic, according to NASA. There, temperatures have warmed three times as a fast as the rest of the globe over the past 30 years, Schmidt said. The loss of Arctic sea ice — whose annual minimum area is declining by about 13 percent per decade — makes the region less reflective, which means more sunlight is being absorbed by oceans, causing temperatures to climb even more.

These accelerating effects of climate change could be perilous for the world at large, Katharine Hayhoe, a professor at Texas Tech University wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

“What keeps us climate scientists up in the dead of night is wondering what we don’t know about the self-reinforcing or vicious cycles in the Earth’s climate system,” Hayhoe wrote. “The further and faster we push it beyond anything experienced in the history of human civilization on this planet, the greater the risk of serious and even dangerous consequences. And this year, we’ve seen that in spades… It’s no longer a question of when the impacts of climate change will manifest themselves: They are already here and now. The only question remaining is how much worse it will get.”

UK on-demand supermarket Weezy raises $20M Series A led by NYC’s Left Lane Capital

Weezy — an on-demand supermarket that delivers groceries in fast times such as 15 minutes — has raised $20 million in a Series A funding led by New York-based venture capital fund Left Lane Capital. Also participating were UK-based fund DN Capital, earlier investors Heartcore Capital and angel investors, notably Chris Muhr, the Groupon founder.

Although the company hasn’t made mention of a later US launch, the presence of US investors would tend to suggest that. Weezy is reminiscent of Kozmo, the on-demand groceries business from the dotcom boom of the late ’90s. However, it differs from Postmates in that it doesn’t do pickups.

The cash injection will be used to expand its grocery delivery service across London and the broader UK, and open two fulfillment centers across London. Some 40 more UK sites are planned by the end of 2021 and it plans to add 50 new employees in the next 4 months.

Launched in July 2020, Weezy uses its own delivery people on pedal cycles or electric mopeds to deliver goods in less than 15 minutes on average. As well as working with wholesalers, it also sources groceries from independent bakers, butchers and markets.

It has pushed at an open door during the pandemic. In Q2 2020 half a million new shoppers joined the grocery delivery sector, which is now worth £14.3bn in the UK, according to research.

Kristof Van Beveren, Co-founder and CEO of Weezy, said in a statement: “People are no longer happy to wait around for deliveries, and there is strong demand for a more efficient service.”

Weezy’s co-founders are Kristof Van Beveren and Alec Dent. Van Beveren is formerly from the consumer goods world at Procter & Gamble and McKinsey & Company, while Dent headed up operations at UK startup Drover and business development at BlaBlaCar.

Harley Miller, managing partner, Left Lane Capital, commented: “Weezy’s founding team have the right balance of drive, experience and temperament to lead in e-commerce innovation
and convenience within the UK grocery market and beyond.”

Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, DN Capital, said: “Even before the pandemic, interest in online grocery shopping was on the rise. The first time I ordered from Weezy, my delivery arrived in seven minutes and I was hooked.”

New York licenses GMO Internet to issue the first JPY-pegged stablecoin

The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) has approved Tokyo-based GMO Internet to launch GYEN, the first stablecoin pegged to the Japanese yen.

GMO Internet, an internet conglomerate that offers a large array of services, including domain hosting, online advertising and what it claims is the world’s largest foreign exchange trading platform, will set up GMO-Z.com Trust Company (GMO Trust) to issue GYEN and ZUSD, a USD-pegged stablecoin. Both will start selling outside of Japan next month.

In a press announcement, GMO Trust said it had also made strategic partnerships with global digital asset exchanges to ensure the liquidity of the virtual currencies. Began developing GYEN in 2018.

GMO Trust joins about two dozen other companies that have received virtual currency licenses, also called BitLicenses, from the NYSDFS. BitLicenses, which went into effect in June 2015, are required to engage in virtual currency business activities in New York. Other companies based in Asia that hold BitLicenses include Japan’s bitflyer, a Bitcoin exchange, and Hong Kong-based digital wallet Xapo.