Pitch us, Pittsburgh

We’re getting closer to putting our spotlight on Pittsburgh, and there’s quite a bit going on behind the scenes. We’ve been spending a ton of time chatting with folks who are on the ground in the city, and we’ve had a great time learning and listening, which we think will make this installment of our Spotlight series the most dynamic yet.

As we share more details on who will be participating, such as CMU’s President Farnam Jahanian, we still want to hear from those of you building companies in the ‘Burgh.

We’ve heard from nearly 50 companies focusing on things like digital health, small business loans, patent development, robotics and clean tech, and we’ll be picking three companies to pitch live during the event on June 29th.

Because we expect all types of attendees, including investors, this could be an opportunity to take things to the next level, be it through recruiting new employees or finding a new advisor. After all, anything can happen at a TechCrunch event.

Simply fill out this form and your company could be chosen to pitch during the event.

Additionally, and to learn more about who’s who and what’s what in Pittsburgh, we’re going to be hosting a conversation on Twitter Spaces tomorrow (Friday) at 4 p.m. ET. Co-hosting will be one of our favorite Yinzers, Kit Mueller. Expect a bit of trivia, updates on news and happenings in the city and more.

Register for the event today, come chat with us tomorrow and submit your company or pass the word along to someone who should!

Agenda

June 29, 2021

2:00 p.m. EDT
Building Pittsburgh. Speaker to be announced!

2:20 p.m. EDT
Developing Duolingo. Karin Tsai, head of engineering, is set to speak on the trade-offs between engagement and edtech, scale and satisfaction, and how a simple A/B test can help.

2:40 p.m. EDT
From Student to Startup. CMU President Farnam Jahanian will speak on the school’s cutting-edge robotics and automation research and how it’s keeping innovative startups in Pittsburgh.

3:10 p.m. EDT
Pittsburgh Pitch-off. Startups will have two minutes to deliver their pitch, and our speakers will have four minutes to give their feedback. Pittsburgh startups should apply here

 

Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian is speaking at TechCrunch City Spotlight: Pittsburgh

TechCrunch is thrilled to announce Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian is speaking at our Pittsburgh event on June 29. You can register here. It’s free to participate and hear President Jahanian’s interview.

President Jahanian is an outspoken advocate for science and innovation, making him perfect to headline our event focused on startup activity in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Speaking to a House committee in April, Jahanian identified recent trends shaping research and development throughout the United States. Among those mentioned was a widening opportunity gap and rising economic inequality — topics that are also fundamentally shaping startups in Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

“Carnegie Mellon’s decades-long leadership in research and education in AI and robotics has catalyzed an innovation ecosystem in the Pittsburgh region where entrepreneurship, creativity and placemaking intersect,” Jahanian told TechCrunch. “These emerging technologies are changing the way we farm, enabling millions to learn a new language, leading the race to develop self-driving vehicles, and even going to the moon. We are committed to empowering citizens across Pittsburgh to take part in the economic benefits of these innovations as they continue to transform our world.”

Pittsburgh is a fantastic startup ecosystem quickly growing by leveraging its incredible universities, a welcoming local government and experienced investors. Though thousands of miles away, Pittsburgh has long contributed to Silicon Valley’s success through research and development. To TechCrunch, Pittsburgh represents a city leveraging its local assets to help build companies in and out of the area. We recently published a deep profile on Duolingo that highlights how the local Pittsburgh ecosystem helped turn the startup into a billion-dollar company.

TechCrunch Hardware Editor Brian Heater will be interviewing Jahanian. Heater was key in shaping and programming TechCrunch’s past events, including TC Sessions: Robotics, a cornerstone discipline at CMU.

TechCrunch City Spotlight: Pittsburgh features talks from Jahanian, local startups and local leaders. More names will be announced in the coming weeks.

We’re still looking for startups to participate in the event. It’s free to register and participate in networking and watch the event (click here to register). It’s also free to apply to pitch your startup at the event (click here to apply). We’re looking for early-stage companies from the greater Pittsburgh area that can give a two-minute pitch to a panel of local venture capitalists in exchange for feedback.

Mint House claims top NYC hotel after COVID changed its hospitality business

What’s the top-rated hotel in New York City? According to Tripadvisor users, it’s Mint House at 70 Pine, and it’s easy to see why as you click through the photos. Throughout NYC, hotel rooms are essentially bento boxes, carefully constructed to contain all the necessary bits. But not Mint House rooms. Mint House rooms are virtually complete apartments, and travelers have taken notice.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way Mint House operates, and as the world starts to reopen, the company is well-positioned to serve business and pleasure travelers alike.

Mint House launched in 2017 and raised $15M in 2019 as it expanded its offering. At the time Tige Savage, Revolution Venture managing partner and Mint House investor, described the company like this: “Mint House is the best of a hotel without the worst of a hotel and the best of an Airbnb without the worst of an Airbnb.”

The company is different from traditional hotels by offering products more similar to those rented by Airbnb, but while still offering similar features as a hotel. Another company called Lyric tried to walk this line, too, and raised $150m before ultimately shutting down.

Initially, Mint House targeted business travelers in secondary markets (read: not New York City). Pre-COVID Mint House rooms were primarily available in Indianapolis, Denver, Nashville, Miami, and Detroit. Mint House CEO Will Lucas explained at the time that there were opportunities in these markets as often accommodations are worse than in major markets.

COVID changed Mint House’s trajectory, Lucas explained in an interview with TechCrunch. At the beginning of the pandemic, the hospitality industry fell off. Mint House saw occupancy rates fall from 60% to single digits, and Mint House had to refund customers and furlough employees. Eventually, through new sales team members, Mint House discovered their product offering was well suited for the pandemic. Displaced workers needed a place to live and work. Traveling healthcare professionals needed a home away from home. Some university students were shut out of student housing but still required to attend school. Mint House’s apartment-like rooms presented a compelling alternative to a traditional hotel room where kitchens are often, at most, just an instant coffee pot and a mini-fridge. But with Mint House rooms, guests have in-room kitchens, living space, and recently rising in importance, an actual workspace.

As the pandemic settled in, Mint House saw a drastic change in length of stay. Before COVID-19, the average stay length was four nights. During COVID-19, the average stay length was 21 nights as the needs for travelers shifted. Instead of flying in for a quick meeting, workers and travelers needed a place to hunker down and work remotely. During the height of the pandemic, 81% of Mint House guests were working remotely.

Mint House’s key features seem purpose-built for social distancing, but they were in place before the pandemic. Guests do not have to check in with a front desk and there are no key cards. Guests can order groceries, and the room will be stocked before arrival — a service rarely found outside of business-centric hotels but now in demand even with leisure travelers too. Customer service for all of the properties is centralized, too.

While most of the hospitality industry languished throughout 2020, Mint House saw terrific growth. Several months into the pandemic, Mint House saw occupancy rates hit new highs. By June, 84% of Mint House’s rooms were booked, and the company averaged 80% over the rest of 2020. The company doubled down and grew its portfolio by over 50% in the last half of 2020, too.

Today, nearly a year after the bottom fell out, Mint House is in 24 buildings in 13 markets.

In New York City, Mint House is competing with giants. CEO Lucas explains.

“This year, in New York City, we have been earning on average 2.2x the RevPAR (revenue per available room),” he said. “Our CompSet (Competitive set, or rather, competing hotels) is incredibly formidable competition that includes two Thompson hotels, three Marriott Hotels, and Hilton Hotels. We are number one in occupancy, number one in ADR (Average Daily Rate), and putting them together, we’re more than double the CompSet.”

Lucas believes these rankings show Mint House’s strengths and how the company is different from traditional hospitality brands. And yet, Mint House turned to executives from classic hospitality brands to fuel growth.

Mint House recently announced the addition of several new executives. Jim Mrha, who previously worked at Domio, Hilton, MGM Hospitality, and Marriott, will serve as Mint House’s CFO. Paul Sacco, a former investment officer and executive at TPG Hotels & Resorts and Starwood, joined Mint House as Chief Development Officer. Jess Berkin, another former hospitality executive of the travel e-commerce startup Porter & Sail, is Mint House’s new marketing and communication executive.

“It feels like we’re about to really blast off,” Lucas said with a bit of pride.

Mint House is engaged in an aggressive growth strategy just as the world is set to reopen. The company is looking to double the number of available units and go international, starting with London in a month and eventually in South America.

Now, halfway through 2021, the pandemic is receding, and travel is starting to change again. Mint House is seeing the average stay drop back down from 21 nights in 2020 to something around six nights. According to Lucas, leisure travelers are increasing, and Mint House is seeing the return of short business stays. And then there’s the new type of business traveler who leaves behind their home office to work remotely from somewhere new, like Miami.

Mint House straddles an interesting line between hotels and short-term rentals like those offered by Airbnb. On one side, they offer the convenience and trust found in a hotel with the style and comfort of a short-term rental. If the company can execute its plan and its recent executive hires should help, the company is well suited to compete with the Hilton and Marriotts in NYC and throughout the States and world.

Amazon to stop screening employees for marijuana

Amazon in brief blog post announced it will no longer include marijuana on its drug screening program. In short, the company is now treating weed like alcohol, which means off-work employees can partake in a beer or a spliff without fear of repercussions. Of course, just like with alcohol, Amazon says it will continue to do impairment checks and screen for drugs after on-the-job incidents. 

The only exception mentioned involves positions regulated by the Department of Transportation — read: truck drivers and heavy equipment operators. Applicants for those jobs will still be screened for the marijuana. 

This change comes as America is quickly warming to federal legalization of cannabis. Voters across the country, including conservative strongholds, are increasing passing measures granting citizens access to the plant. From medical to recreational use, America is waking up to legal pot and Amazon doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history.

Amazon, in its statement written by Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon, acknowledges the changing political landscape, which is opening doors to legal weed and criminal expungement.

And because we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)—federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities. We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law.

This updated policy is one of the latest steps Amazon is making as its workforce is drawing closer to unionization.

Airspace Link raises $10m to make drones safer for both operators and communities

Airspace Link is today announcing it raised a $10 million Series A from Altos Ventures, Thales, and others. The Detroit, Michigan-based startup anticipates using the additional funds to expand its domestic offering and expand overseas.

CEO Michael Healander explains to TechCrunch that the company sees airspaces as digital infrastructure lacking critical regulations. “Today you have rules and regulations on the road,” he says, explaining that the company is building digital roads and management for drones. Airspace Link’s novel platform addresses drone operators’ and communities’ concerns, enabling pilots to safely fly while complying with local airspace restrictions.

Airspace Link’s AirHub™ is the first cloud-based drone platform focused exclusively on merging the needs of state & local government with the operational planning tools pilots already use.

Airspace Links offers drone operation planning tools, including API access that allows developers to incorporate Airspace Link’s data into third-party platforms. The company’s system complies with the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), enabling drone pilots to submit operations while flying in controlled airspace. The company is one of seven FAA-approved companies to provide this service.

With the Series A funding, Healander says the goal is to integrate with as many transportation groups as possible.

Founded in 2018 by Michael Healander, Daniel Bradshaw, and Ana Healander, the Detroit-based startup employs 20 full-time staff. The company says in a press release that it has partnerships with over 40 government agencies and municipalities in the United States. Going forward, the company is looking to expand to Australia and Canada.

According to Healander, what distinguishes Airspace Link from the other competitors in the market is its integration with mapping tools used by municipal governments to provide information on ground-based risk.

“Our core purpose is to safely integrate drones into the national airspace and our communities at scale,” said Healander. “We thank Altos Ventures and Thales for joining our vision of paving the way for the drone economy with shared, neutral, and affordable UAS infrastructure.”

For Healander, Airspace Link is only the latest entrepreneurial venture. He previously founded GeoMetri, an indoor GPS tracking company, which was acquired by Acuity Brands.

Altos Ventures led Airspace Link’s Series A round, with participation from Thales, a global leader of air traffic management systems.

“As Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) usage continues to grow, for safe, low altitude operations around communities, airspace management must combine both air and ground insights,” said Todd Donovan, Thales Vice President, Airspace Mobility Solutions Americas. “Our deep knowledge of airspace management and Airspace Link’s expertise in geospatial intelligence are the perfect combination to address this complex challenge.”

Axle raises $10m Series A to advance its freight financing services

Axle recently announced it raised $10m in Series A financing after a stellar year of growth. The round was led by Crosslink Capital with participation from FJ Labs, Flexport, Tribeca Early Stage Partners, and others including existing investors Anthemis Group, Techstars, and Plug and Play Ventures.

In a press release, the company points to the past 12 months of operations where it saw volume grow 850% on its payments and financing platform designed specifically for freight brokers and carriers. The company’s services allows incumbent operators to quickly modernize and compete against new startups. Axle says its solutions also automates carrier payments, involving, and collections, which allows operators to connect all aspects of their fright operations.

Axle anticipates using the new capital to expand operations, develop new services, and strength the company’s payment and financing platform.

Co-founders Bharath Krishnamoorthy and Shawn Vo founded the company in 2019. The company raised a $1.4 million pre-seed round from Trucks VC in 2020, followed by a $2.7m seed round from Techstars and Anthemis Group and a $27.7 million debt and equity round later that year.

CEO and co-founder, Bharath Krishnamoorthy, says in a released statement “Axle’s proprietary technology levels the playing field, so our customers can compete in a highly competitive market. With our financial platform, we’re empowering freight intermediaries to rapidly grow and differentiate their businesses in a cutthroat industry. We’re excited to partner with Crosslink to transform the freight and logistics industry.”

Crosslink Capital partner David Silverman says Krishnamoorthy and Vo established themselves as an industry leader in freight factoring and payment processing, and points to the company’s previous 12 month as being impressive. “We look forward to helping them scale operations,” he says.

Credit Karma reinvents cash-back rewards with instant payback

Credit Karma Money, a new checking and savings account from the company best known for its credit monitoring service, recently launched a significant new feature. Called Instant Karma, the program rewards users by randomly refunding purchases or adding money to cash deposits. So far, since launching the feature, Credit Karma says it has rewarded 100,000 transactions, worth $5 million.

I spoke to Poulomi Damany, general manager at Credit Karma, who said the idea behind Credit Karma Money is to “change people’s relationship with money.” Credit Karma Instant Karma is an extension of that goal.

The process works differently from other cash-back offers. For one, this product is linked to a debt card rather than a credit card. Credit Karma Product Manger Kyle Thibaut says that’s by design, as their target demographic tends to stay away from credit cards. Second, the refund, though random, happens instantly. Swipe your card at a grocery store, and if selected, the money spent on the transaction is refunded instantly.

“Gen Z do not necessarily like credit cards,” Thibaut said. “When you talk to them, they like debit cards and debit cards are the way they spend. Debit card usage is higher than credit cards in the U.S., and it’s actually growing while credit card usage is declining.”

According to Damany and Thibaut, a large portion of Credit Karma’s 110 million members are millennials and this product, along with Credit Karma Money, are targeted at this demographic. They say this model lines up better with the spending habits of this generation, who are generally not optimizing their spending to maximize credit card rewards.

At this time, the company is unwilling to share user numbers for Credit Karma Money and the amount of users who received a refund from Instant Karma. The company says it is saving those numbers for an upcoming earnings release — Credit Karma is owned by TurboTax maker, Intuit.

Comms expert and VC Caryn Marooney will detail how to get attention at TC Early Stage

We’re thrilled to announce Caryn Marooney is speaking at our upcoming TechCrunch Early Stage virtual event in July. She spoke with us last year and we had to have her back.

Just look at her resume. She was the co-founder and CEO of The Outcast Agency, one of Silicon Valley’s best-regarded public relations firms. She left her company to serve as VP of Global Communication at Facebook, which she did for eight years, overseeing communication for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus. In 2019 she joined Coatue Management as a general partner, where she went on to invest in Startburst, Supabase, Defined Networks and others.

Needless to say, Marooney is one of the Valley’s experts on getting people’s attention — a skill that’s critical when running a startup, nonprofit or school bake sale.

She said it best last year: “People just fundamentally aren’t walking around caring about this new startup — actually, nobody does.” So how do you get people to care? That’s the trick and why we’re having her back to speak on this evergreen topic.

Watch her presentation from 2020 here. It’s fantastic.

One of the great things about TC Early Stage is that the show is designed around breakout sessions, with each speaker leading a chat around a specific startup core competency (like fundraising, designing a brand, mastering the art of PR and more). Moreover, there is plenty of time for audience Q&A in each session.

Pick up your ticket for the event, which goes down July 8 and 9, right here. And if you do it today, you’ll save a cool $100 off of your registration.

 

Jim Belushi is chasing the magic in cannabis

I don’t think Jim Belushi was high while we talked on Zoom this week. Instead of a joint, he was puffing on a cigar, but he was still happy and smiling.

“I have my brother’s face on it. I have the Blues Brothers brand. It’s got to be good shit, man.”

Jim Belushi was telling me about his weed, specifically about the small 0.7 gram pre-rolls he sells — the perfect size for the post-Covid era, when passing a joint to a friend is likely discouraged. Belushi started his farm with 48 cannabis plants in 2015. Now, six years and one pandemic later, there are 200 plants in each of his four high-tech greenhouses along the Rogue River in southern Oregon.

“I’m always chasing magic,” Belushi said.

We were talking about his new greenhouses supplied in part by GrowGeneration, but Belushi cannot stop gushing about the benefits of cannabis. More than just a celebrity with a weed brand, Belushi is a fully-committed cannabis advocate.

“It’s magic when I do the Blues Brothers,” he said. “And I chase magic on a film set when I’m acting, and chase magic when I’m singing. I mean, I’m always chasing magic, and I’m going to do this cannabis business because there’s magic here.”

Belushi is among a recent group of celebrities diving deep into the world of cannabis. And he’s not shy about it. Look at his social media footprint. Belushi’s Twitter name is ‘Cannabis Farmer: Jim Belushi‘. His TikTok and Instagram feeds are full of clips from his farm. He even has a TV series on Discovery about his farm: “Growing Belushi.”

Cannabis is Belushi’s life right now. He even recently turned down a movie role because filming would take place in the fall, during harvest time. His agent didn’t approve of passing on the opportunity, and told Belushi he represents actors, not farmers. But according to Jim, cannabis farming is more important than acting.

“I’m a cross between Elmer Fudd and Bill Murray,” Belushi confesses. Like Murray in Caddyshack, Belushi is just good enough to be dangerous. According to Belushi, he’s been on the farm more than 200 days during the last year. In his eyes, this is what sets his apart from other celebrity cannabis operations.

Growing cannabis is more than a branding play for Belushi. It’s clear he’s not just trading his credibility and body of work for a hefty check; he’s on the farm, working the land, and tending to the bud he’s dealing.

“My hand is in the soil,” he said, explaining he works the land, ensuring the pH is correct, and that the soil is at the right temperature. He’s curing, smelling, testing, and tasting his crop.

“You know, my name is on it, my brother’s name is on it, and I’m not just throwing it out there,” Belushi said. “I’m really farming, and I’m loving this profession.”

Image Credits: Belushi’s Farm

Helping Mother Nature

Like many cultivators, Belushi turned to technology to combat pests and increase yields. A team from GrowGeneration outfitted his farm with the goods to mitigate pests and improve the quality. He says what they were selling for $1,000 a pound a year ago is now going for $2,200 a pound, and points to the improved growing facility as a significant factor.

Jeremy Corrao, VP of Commercial Operations at GrowGeneration, says the cannabis industry benefits from a range of new technologies that enable operators to see a faster return on their investments. He points to new lighting technology as an example.

“We’re seeing the most movement in people moving from energy-inefficient solutions into energy-efficient solutions,” Corrao said, explaining that the industry still has doubters who are hesitant of new technology. Yet, he says it’s lowering the cost of goods and improving ROI.

Corrao explains that functions and practices found throughout the agriculture industry are finally making their way to cannabis cultivators such as Belushi.

Yet even with new greenhouses complete with automated systems, some growers like Jim Belushi still rely on nature for help.

“[Belushi’s Farm] is in Southern Oregon with 192 days of sun,” Belushi said, stressing his love for the area. Moreover, his new greenhouses rely on the Oregon sun and still offer localized climate control, and pest management, which means he can have four growth cycles per year. This hybrid approach forgoes a closed climate system in favor of something that works within Belushi’s world.

More than branding

As legalization draws closer, cultivators are constantly look for an edge amid more competition — better soil, quicker harvest cycles, new strains — and Belushi has his name.

“Has the Belushi name always been associated with pot?” I ask Jim. I’m thinking back to the days of his departed brother, John Belushi, the always-on, always-authentic star of the 1970’s and ’80s. After all, substances were imbibed, smoked, and regularly snorted in those days, and John Belushi was a manic presence in much of 1980s comedy.

“Not pot, but fun”, he says after some thought. Jim gives credit to his brother John for starting the Belushi brand in 1975. To him, the Belushi brand represents “trying to make people feel good with a sense of humor or entertainment.”

Look at the brands from Belushi’s Farm: Blues Brothers, Belushi’s Secret Stash, and Captain Jack, named after the O.G. weed dealer of the early days of Saturday Night Live. Each of these brands offers strains true to Jim Belushi’s perspective on his name, too. There’s hardly anything offered with THC levels that would be considered gas (aka, stuff that gets you really high), but each offers respectable characteristics. That’s by design.

“My stuff has more to do with great blends of terpenes and THC,” Belushi said. “[This is] to create more of a medicinal effect that sends someone on a pathway to healing.” He added, laughingly, he has a couple of strains hasn’t smoked. He’s scared of them. Likewise, he looks at some of the strains offered by other celebrities as ready to rip and roar thanks to sky-high levels of THC. He hasn’t tried those either.

I ask why he thinks it’s exciting and newsworthy when celebrities launch a cannabis brand. Belushi is hardly the only one doing it. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg just launched Houseplant in the U.S., a cannabis brand offering dried flower and house goods. There’s Jay-Z with his upscale cannabis brand, Monogram. Even Martha Stewart is hawking cannabis, albeit in CBD gummy form.

Belushi is hesitant to compare his product to his celebrity competitors (probably related to his self-identification as a cultivator), but points to Snoop and Willy’s original celebrity pot brands as paving the way for him and others.

The failed war on drugs

New regulations are quickly changing the cannabis industry. As more states decriminalize and regulate cannabis, different industry segments are looking to the federal government to loosen its hold on the cannabis business.

For Belushi, access to traditional banking services would immediately impact him and the industry as a whole. And it could be coming soon: Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a banking bill with broad bipartisan support.

“This is a very exciting time in the cannabis world,” Belushi said. “People have seen changes in others [who partake in cannabis]. Tumors are shrinking, seizures are stopping, people are sleeping, and people are getting better. It’s interesting because, no matter if you’re conservative or liberal or old or young, everybody knows someone that has suffered deeply.”

“Cannabis is not a gateway to drugs,” Belushi said. “It’s a pathway to healing.”

And yet, there are countless individuals in prison because of this so-called pathway to healing. Jim Belushi is working on that, too.

“Get them out,” Jim shouted when I talked about the Last Prisoner Project’s current goals. He’s referring to those incarcerated for crimes involving cannabis. To Belushi, who helps the cannabis activist group, this is a serious effort.

“It’s time to shift some energy to real justice,” Belushi said with deep passion. “Look at the Last Prisoner Project. It’s really a symbol that the war on drugs is over. It’s done. It’s ruined. The war on drugs ruined us. It ruined black and brown communities, which were especially hard hit.”

“Don’t get me started,” Belushi warned, as he laughed and calmed down.

The Last Prisoner Project was founded in 2019 by Steve DeAngelo and seeks cannabis criminal justice reform. The organization is made up of activists, attorneys, advocates, and others, including Belushi, who is an advisor. It’s clear he has a deep respect for the Last Prisoner Project’s founder and leader, Steve DeAngelo. “There’s no better hustler in the world than Steve DeAngelo,” he said. “Man, he’s just relentless, and it’s beautiful to watch.”

Belushi says the project is riding a wave right now, and they’re finding more states’ Attorneys General are answering their calls. But there are still needs, he says. The project can always use capital, as a lot of the work is done pro bono. And there’s a constant need for people to write letters and sign petitions — all of which are readily available on the project’s website here.

“And it would be great if people in the [cannabis] industry hire those that get out,” Belushi said, calling on the industry to lean in and help “these men and women who have been incarcerated for so long.”

He’s not just suggesting it as a course of action for others; he’s actively helping raise capital, too. The Blues Brothers is hosting a fundraiser at M.J. Unpacked this coming October in Las Vegas. Belushi, actor, comedian, weed farmer, and a member of the Blues Brothers beamed as he spoke about performing for the Last Prisoner Project.

“We’re gonna have a big party there,” he said, “and we’re going to raise lots of funds, too.”

Because everybody needs someone to love.

The M1 iMac’s power supply sports magnetic connector, Ethernet port

Apple just announced the new iMac powered by Apple’s own M1 silicon. Among the numerous updates and upgrades is a new power brick that sports something special to Apple’s lineup: an Ethernet port. On the surface, this seems like a silly placement of a critical I/O port, but there’s a good chance this feature could hit future Apple laptops where it makes much more sense.

The M1 iMac sports a new design that’s much thinner than the last generation and Apple likely didn’t want to make room for the Ethernet port. The only I/O ports appear to be a 3.5mm jack and several USB-C ports. The power adapter itself has a new magnetic connector and doesn’t use one of the computer’s USB-C ports. The Ethernet port was relegated to the power supply.

There are several advantages for this placement. It reduces clutter on the back of the computer and streamlines connectivity — items that are even more critical in a portable computer.

Apple famously shares components and accessories across its product line, making it very likely this power brick will come to other products. Apple started removing the magnetic MagSafe power connector when its laptops adopted USB-C in 2016, and it would be fantastic to see a similar product return to the product line. Apple removed the Ethernet port on the MacBook Pro in 2012.

Several companies offer add-ons for Apple power adapters. These, like the Twelve South PlugBug Duo, add  USB ports to the adapters, but none have yet to offer Ethernet.