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Netflix to open a production hub in New York and invest up to $100 million in the city

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in California, E-Commerce, executive, Governor, Netflix, New York, Streaming Media, TC | 0 comments

Start spreading the news. Netflix is coming to New York City in a big way.

The streaming media service has committed to invest up to $100 million to build a production hub and hire hundreds of new staffers in the Big Apple, according to a statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Netflix’s new production hub will include an expanded Manhattan office and six sound stages in Brooklyn that could bring in hundreds of executive positions and thousands of production crew jobs to New York within the next five years, according to a statement from the Empire State Development Corp. 

“New York has created a film-friendly environment that’s home to some of the best creative and executive talent in the world, and we’re excited to provide a place for them at Netflix with our production hub,” said Jason Hariton, Director of Worldwide Studio Operations & Real Estate at Netflix, in a statement.

The new corporate offices Netflix has planned will occupy 100,000 square feet in Manhattan at 888 Broadway, housing 127 new executive content acquisition, development, production, legal, publicity and marketing positions. They’ll join the 32 employees Netflix currently has in New York.

Netflix already produces Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, She’s Gotta Have It, The Irishman, Someone Great, Private Life and Russian Doll in New York and has leased 161,000 square feet to build sound stages and support spaces in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood.

To sweeten the pot for Netflix, the Empire State Development Corp. has offered $4 million in performance-based Excelsior Tax Credits over ten years, which the corporation says are tied to real job creation. To receive the incentive, Netflix must create 127 jobs by 2024 at its executive production office and retain those jobs for another five years.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Amazon may be rethinking its New York City headquarters

Posted by on Feb 8, 2019 in Amazon, eCommerce, hq2, New York, Policy | 0 comments

Amazon’s decision to open HQ2 in New York City has been a controversial decision since day one. The company has been championing the estimated 25,000 jobs the move could bring to the metropolitan area, while citizens and local government officials have balked at promised tax breaks and the added strain on housing and an aging infrastructure.

The unexpected friction has apparently been enough to cause Amazon to reconsider its plans for Queens’ Long Island City neighborhood. That’s according to a new report from the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

The paper cites “people familiar with the matter,” including one who stated, anonymously, “The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming.”

After a months-long protracted campaign that had local governments falling over one another to be the site of the company’s second headquarters, Amazon no doubt expected minimal pushback here. And certainly New York City rolled out the red carpet for the company in closed-door meetings — much to chagrin of the city council and high-profile progressive politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Amazon has experienced much less pushback with its Virginia proposal, while plans to start hiring locally in New York have been delayed as city government reviews the plans and awaits feedback from constituents. 

Update: Amazon has responded with a comment, “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors – small business owners, educators, and community leaders. Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Showing the power of startup women’s health brands, P&G buys This is L

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in africa, Exit, India, Mergers and Acquisitions, New York, p&g, procter & gamble, San Francisco, Startups, TC, Uganda, Y Combinator | 0 comments

The P&G acquisition of This is L., a startup retailer of period products and prophylactics, shows just how profitable investing in women’s healthcare brands and products can be.

A person with knowledge of the investment put the price tag at roughly $100 million — a healthy outcome for investors and company founder Talia Frenkel. But just as important as the financial outcome is the deal’s implications for other mission-driven companies.

This is L. launched from Y Combinator in August 2015 with a service distributing condoms in New York and San Francisco and steadily expanded into feminine hygiene products.

Frenkel, a former photojournalist who worked for the United Nations and Red Cross, started the company in 2013 — roughly three years after an assignment in Africa revealed the toll that HIV/AIDs was taking on women and girls on the continent.

“I didn’t realize the No. 1 killer of women was completely preventable and I think that really inspired me to action,” Frenkel told TechCrunch at the time of the company’s launch.

Now the company has distributed roughly 250 million products to customers around the world.

“Our strong growth has enabled us to stand in solidarity with women in more than 20 countries,” said Frenkel in a statement following the acquisition. “Our support has ranged from partnering with organizations to send period products to Native communities in South Dakota, to supplying pad-making machines to a women-led business in Tamil Nadu. Pairing our purpose with P&G’s expertise, scale and resources provides an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to a more equitable world.”

The company is available in more than 5,000 stores across the U.S. and is working with women entrepreneurs in countries from Uganda to India and beyond.

“This acquisition is a perfect complement to our Always and Tampax portfolio, with its commitment to a shared mission to advocate for girls’ confidence and serve more women,” said Jennifer Davis, president, P&G Global Feminine Care. “We feel this is a strong union and together we can be a greater force for good.”

For investors with knowledge of the company, the P&G acquisition is a harbinger of things to come. The combination of a non-technical, female founder operating in the consumer packaged goods market with a mission-driven company was an anomaly in the Silicon Valley of four years ago, but Frenkel’s success shows what kind of opportunities exist in the market.

“With this acquisition investors need to update their patterns,” said one investor with knowledge of the company.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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New York cracks down on companies that sell fake followers

Posted by on Jan 31, 2019 in cybercrime, Government, New York, TC | 0 comments

On Wednesday New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office had reached a settlement with Devumi, a company that made millions selling fake followers to unsuspecting customers. The state of New York found that Devumi had engaged in illegal deception and illegal impersonation in the course of fluffing up social media profiles with its automated accounts.

First reported by CNN, the settlement follows a New York state probe into the company after reports of suspicious activity and potentially deceptive business practices first surfaced. Almost exactly a year ago, The New York Times reported a big feature on the company that prompted the state’s probe.

In that piece, the Times describes Devumi as “an obscure American company… that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud.” The reported detailed how the company used a stable of 3.5 million bots to fuel a business that boiled down to making people look important on platforms including Twitter. Like any bot worth its sticker price, those accounts often came with names and profile images culled from real people to help them blend in and appear legitimate.

Devumi shut down operations mid-last year in the face of the state probe and slack sales. While some customers of the company and its affiliates were aware they were buying fake followers, many others were not. That deception is central to the state’s case.

The AG’s actions set an interesting precedent for a newly defined category of potential cyber crime — one that may strike fear into the hearts of sketchy social media companies the web over.

“Bots and other fake accounts have been running rampant on social media platforms, often stealing real people’s identities to carry out fraud,” James said of the settlement. “As people and companies like Devumi continue to make a quick buck by lying to honest Americans, my office will continue to find and stop anyone who sells online deception.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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With its Greenlots acquisition, Shell is moving from gas stations to charging stations

Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in america, bp, California, ceo, ChargePoint, charging stations, Chevron Technology Ventures, chief executive officer, electric car, electric vehicle, electric vehicles, Energy, Greenlots, inductive charging, Los Angeles, managing partner, New Jersey, New York, Software, TC, Technology, Tesla, transport, United States, volkswagen | 0 comments

In a bid to show that it’s getting ready for the electrification of American roads, Royal Dutch Shell is buying Greenlots, a Los Angeles-based developer of electric vehicle charging and energy management technologies.

Shell, which is making the acquisition through its Shell New Energies US subsidiary, snatched the company from Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech-focused investment firm.

“As our customers’ needs evolve, we will increasingly offer a range of alternative energy sources, supported by digital technologies, to give people choice and the flexibility, wherever they need to go and whatever they drive,” said Mark Gainsborough, Executive Vice President, New Energies for Shell, in a statement. “This latest investment in meeting the low-carbon energy needs of US drivers today is part of our wider efforts to make a better tomorrow. It is a step towards making EV charging more accessible and more attractive to utilities, businesses and communities.”

Courtesy of Ed Robinson/Shell

Since Greenlots raised its cash from Energy Impact Partners, the company has become the partner of choice for utilities for electric vehicle charging, according to the firm. Greenlots was selected as the sole software provider for VolksWagen’s “Electrify America” charging program  last January.

“Utilities are playing a pivotal role in accelerating the transition to a future electric mobility system that is safer, cleaner and more efficient,” said Greenlots CEO Brett Hauser, adding, “We look forward to now working with the resources, scale and reach of Shell to further accelerate this transition.”

“Greenlots is on an incredible trajectory and, in the hands of a company with the resources such as Shell, will be able to advance the important electrification of transportation even faster,” said EIP managing partner Hans Kobler in a statement.

For Shell, the deal adds to a portfolio of electric charging assets including the Dutch-based company, NewMotion.

Across the board energy companies are spending more time and money backing and deploying electric charging technology companies. ChargePoint, a Greenlots competitor, raised $240 million in a November financing that included Chevron Technology Ventures, while BP bought the UK-based public charging network Chargemaster last year.

Despite pushback in some corners of America to the increasing electrification of U.S. highways and byways, the future of mobility needs to be electric if there’s any hope of slowing (and ideally halting and reversing) climate change globally.

Some signs of hope can be found in the latest earnings statement from Tesla, which points to increased uptake of its electric vehicles.  The teased release of an electric truck could potentially even help win converts among those drivers who like to “roll coal” in the presence of hybrids or electric cars.

 

States are already investing heavily in electric infrastructure themselves to promote the adoption of vehicles. California, New York, and New Jersey announced last June a total of $1.3 billion in new infrastructure projects focused on electric vehicle charging.

That’s still not enough to meet the goals necessary to reduce greenhouse gases significantly enough. In all, the U.S. needs to put roughly 13 million electric vehicles on the road in order to meet the targets put forward in the Paris Accords climate treaty (which the U.S. walked away from last year).

According to estimates from the Center for American Progress, the U.S. needs to spend $4.7 billion through 2025 to buy and install the 330,000 public charging outlets the nation will need to meet that electric demand.

“As power and mobility converge, there will be a seismic shift in how people and goods are transported,” said Brett Hauser, Chief Executive Officer of Greenlots. “Electrification will enable a more connected, autonomous and personalized experience. Our technology, backed by the resources, scale and reach of Shell, will accelerate this transition to a future mobility ecosystem that is safer, cleaner and more accessible.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Massive mortgage and loan data leak gets worse as original documents also exposed

Posted by on Jan 24, 2019 in Amazon-S3, cloud storage, computer security, data breach, data security, database, email, Finance, Government, New York, ocr, Prevention, Privacy, Security, texas, United States, web browser | 1 comment

Remember that massive data leak of mortgage and loan data we reported on Wednesday?

In case you missed it, millions of documents were found leaking after an exposed Elasticsearch server was found without a password. The data contained highly sensitive financial data on tens of thousands of individuals who took out loans or mortgages over the past decade with U.S. financial institutions. The documents were converted using a technology called OCR from their original paper documents to a computer readable format and stored in the database, but they weren’t easy to read. That said, it was possible to discern names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and other private financial data by anyone who knew where to find the server.

Independent security researcher Bob Diachenko and TechCrunch traced the source of the leaking database to a Texas-based data and analytics company, Ascension. When reached, the company said that one of its vendors, OpticsML, a New York-based document management startup, had mishandled the data and was to blame for the data leak.

It turns out that data was exposed again — but this time, it was the original documents.

Diachenko found the second trove of data in a separate exposed Amazon S3 storage server, which too was not protected with a password. Anyone who went to an easy-to-guess web address in their web browser could have accessed the storage server and see — and download — the files stored inside.

In a note to TechCrunch, Diachenko said he was “very surprised” to find the server in the first place, let alone open and accessible. Because Amazon storage servers are private by default and aren’t accessible to the web, someone would have made a conscious decision to set its permissions to public.

The bucket contained 21 files containing 23,000 pages of PDF documents stitched together — or about 1.3 gigabytes in size. Diachenko said that portions of the data in the exposed Elasticsearch database on Wednesday matched data found in the Amazon S3 bucket, confirming that some or all of the data is the same as what was previously discovered. Like in Wednesday’s report, the server contained documents from banks and financial institutions across the U.S., including loans and mortgage agreements. We also found documents from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as W-2 tax forms, loan repayment schedules, and other sensitive financial information.

Two of the files — redacted — found on the exposed storage server. (Image: TechCrunch)

Many of the files also contained names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers, and more.

When we tried to reach OpticsML on Wednesday, its website had been pulled offline and the listed phone number was disconnected. After scouring through old cached version of the site, we found an email address.

TechCrunch emailed chief executive Sean Lanning, and the bucket was secured within the hour.

Lanning acknowledged our email but did not comment. Instead, OpticsML chief technology officer John Brozena confirmed the breach in a separate email, but declined to answer several questions about the exposed data — including how long the bucket was open and why it was set to public.

“We are working with the appropriate authorities and a forensic team to analyze the full extent of the situation regarding the exposed Elasticsearch server,” said Brozena. “As part of this investigation we learned that 21 documents used for testing were made identifiable by the previously discussed Elasticsearch leak. These documents were taken offline promptly.”

He added that OpticsML is “working to notify all affected parties” when asked about informing customers and state regulators, as per state data breach notification laws.

But Diachenko said there was no telling how many times the bucket might have been accessed before it was discovered.

“I would assume that after such publicity like these guys had, first thing you would do is to check if your cloud storage is down or, at least, password-protected,” he said.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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HQ2 fight continues as New York City and Seattle officials hold anti-Amazon summit

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 in Amazon, amazon hq2, big tech, Cloud, Drama, eCommerce, Economic Development, Enterprise, Finance, Government, headquarters, Hiring, hq2, New York, New York City, New York Enterprise, Policy, Real Estate, tax breaks, TC | 0 comments

The heated debate around Amazon’s recently announced Long Island City “HQ2” is showing no signs of cooling down.

On Monday morning, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) hosted a briefing in which labor officials, economic development analysts, Amazon employees and elected New York State and City representatives further underlined concerns around the HQ2 process, the awarded incentives, and the potential impacts Amazon’s presence would have on city workers and residents.

While many of the arguments posed at the Summit weren’t necessarily new, the wide variety of stakeholders that showed up to express concern looked to contextualize the far-reaching risks associated with the deal.

The day began with representatives from New York union groups recounting Amazon’s shaky history with employee working conditions and questioning how the city’s working standards will be impacted if the 50,000 promised jobs do actually show up.

Two current employees working in an existing Amazon New York City warehouse in Staten Island provided poignant examples of improper factory conditions and promised employee benefits that never came to fruition. According to the workers, Amazon has yet to follow through on shuttle services and ride-sharing services that were promised to ease worker commutes, forcing the workers to resort to overcrowded and unreliable public transportation. One of the workers detailed that with his now four-hour commute to get to and from work, coupled with his meaningfully long shifts, he’s been unable to see his daughter for weeks.

Various economic development groups and elected officials including, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, and New York State Senator Mike Gianaris supported the labor arguments with spirited teardowns of the economic terms of the deal.

Like many critics of the HQ2 process, the speakers’ expressed their beliefs that Amazon knew where it wanted to bring its second quarters throughout the entirety of its auction process, given the talent pool and resources in the chosen locations, and that the entire undertaking was meant to squeeze out the best economic terms possible. And according to City Council Speaker Johnson, New York City “got played”.

Comptroller Stringer argued that Amazon is taking advantage of New York’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP) and Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP), which Stringer described as outdated and in need of reform, to receive the majority of the $2 billion-plus in promised economic incentives that made it the fourth largest corporate incentive deal in US history.

The speakers continued to argue that the unprecedented level of incentives will be nearly impossible to recoup and that New York will also face economic damages from lower sales tax revenue as improved Amazon service in the city cannibalizes local brick & mortar retail.

Fears over how Amazon’s presence will impact the future of New York were given more credibility with the presence of Seattle City Council members Lisa Herbold & Teresa Mosqueda, who had flown to New York from Seattle to discuss lessons learned from having Amazon’s Headquarters in the city and to warn the city about the negative externalities that have come with it.

Herbold and Mosqueda focused less on an outright rejection of the deal but instead emphasized that New York was in a position to negotiate for better terms focused on equality and corporate social responsibility, which could help the city avoid the socioeconomic turnover that has plagued Seattle and could create a new standard for public-private partnerships.

While the New York City Council noted it was looking into legal avenues, the opposition seemed to have limited leverage to push back or meaningfully negotiate the deal. According to state officials, the most clear path to fight the deal would be through votes by the state legislature and through the state Public Authorities Control Board who has to unanimously approve the subsidy package.

With the significant turnout seen at Monday’s summit, which included several high-ranking state and city officials, it seems clear that we’re still in the early innings of what’s likely to be a long battle ahead to close the HQ2 deal.

Amazon did not return requests for immediate comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Equifax, Western Union, Priceline settle with New York attorney general over insecure mobile apps

Posted by on Dec 18, 2018 in Bank, Banking, computer security, computing, credit scoring, E-Commerce, mobile app, New York, Priceline, Security, wi-fi | 0 comments

New York’s attorney general has settled with five tech and financial giants, requiring each company to implement basic security on their mobile apps.

The settlements force Credit Sesame, Equifax (yes, that Equifax), Priceline, Spark Networks and Western Union to ensure data sent between the app and their servers are encrypted. Specifically, the attorney general said their apps “could have allowed sensitive information entered by users — such as passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers — to be intercepted by eavesdroppers employing simple and well-publicized techniques.”

In other words, their mobile apps “all failed” to properly roll out and implement HTTPS, one of the barest minimum security measures in any modern app’s security.

HTTPS certificates (also known as SSL/TLS certificates) encrypt data between a device, like your phone or computer, and a website or app server, ensuring any sensitive data, like credit card numbers or passwords, can’t be intercepted as it travels over the internet — whether that’s someone on the same coffee shop Wi-Fi network or your nearest federal intelligence agency.

These certificates are more common than ever, not least because when they’re not incredibly cheap, they’re completely free — and most modern browsers these days will bluntly tell you when a website is “not secure.” Apps are no different, but without a green padlock in your browser window, there’s often very little to know for sure on the face of it that your data is traversing the internet securely.

At least, with financial, banking and dating apps — you’d just assume, right? Bzzt, wrong.

“Although each company represented to users that it used reasonable security measures to protect their information, the companies failed to sufficiently test whether their mobile apps had this vulnerability,” the office of attorney general Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Today’s settlements require each company to implement comprehensive security programs to protect user information.”

The apps were picked out after an extensive batch of app testing in an effort to find security issues before incidents happen. Underwood’s office follows in the footsteps of federal enforcement in recent years by the Federal Trade Commission, which brought action against several app makers — including Credit Karma and Fandango — for failing to properly implement HTTPS certificates.

In taking action, the attorney general gets to keep closer tabs on the companies going forward to make sure they’re not flouting their data security responsibilities.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Apple plans major US expansion including a new $1 billion campus in Austin

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 in Apple, apple inc, apple store, austin, boston, boulder, Colorado, computing, cupertino, Electronic Arts, Energy, Governor, iPhone, Los Angeles, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, pittsburgh, Portland, san diego, Seattle, Steve Jobs, TC, Technology, texas, United States | 0 comments

Apple has announced a major expansion that will see it open a new campus in North Austin and open new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles as it bids to increase its workforce in the U.S. The firm said it intends also to significantly expand its presence in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado over the next three years.

The Austin campus alone will cost the company $1 billion, but Apple said that the 133-acre space will generate an initial 5,000 jobs across a broad range of roles with the potential to add 10,000 more. The company claims to have 6,200 employees in Austin — its largest enclave outside of Cupertino — and it said that the addition of these new roles will make it the largest private employer in the city.

Beyond a lot of new faces, the new campus will include more than 50 acres of open space and — as is standard with Apple’s operations these days — it will run entirely on renewable energy.

Apple already has 6,200 employees in Austin, but its new campus could add up to 15,000 more

The investment was lauded by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“Their decision to expand operations in our state is a testament to the high-quality workforce and unmatched economic environment that Texas offers. I thank Apple for this tremendous investment in Texas, and I look forward to building upon our strong partnership to create an even brighter future for the Lone Star State,” he said in a statement shared by Apple.

But Austin isn’t the only focal point for Apple growth in the U.S.

Outside of the Austin development, the iPhone-maker plans to expand to over 1,000 staff Seattle, San Diego and LA over the next three years, while adding “hundreds” of staff in Pittsburgh, New York, Boulder, Boston and Portland, Oregon.

More broadly, Apple said it added 6,000 jobs to its U.S. workforce this year to take its total in the country to 90,000. It said it remains on track to create 20,000 new jobs in the U.S. by 2023.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Kencko wants to help you eat more fruit and vegetables

Posted by on Aug 26, 2018 in america, Apple Watch, bangkok, Blue Apron, Canada, China, Diets, eCommerce, Food, Fruit, Health, iOS, juice, London, New York, organic food, Portugal, Prevention, public health, TC, TechStars, United Kingdom, United States | 0 comments

People don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, that’s despite an embarrassment of options today that include fast grocery delivery and takeout services with a focus on health.

A study from the U.S-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released last November found that just one in ten adults in America “meet the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations” each day. The bar isn’t that high. The recommendation is just 1.5-2 cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables per day, but failing to meet it can put people at risk of chronic diseases, the CDC said.

The problem is universal the world over, but perhaps most acute in the U.S, where finding healthy food is easier than ever. Amazon’s same-day grocery deliveries, make-it-at-home services like Blue Apron and various healthy takeout services have helped some people, but no doubt there’s much more to be done for standards to be raised across the nation and beyond.

That’s where one early-stage startup, Kencko, is aiming to make a difference by making fruit and vegetable more accessible. Its thesis is that wholly organic diets are daunting to most, but packaging the good parts in new ways can make it easier for anyone to be more healthy.

The company’s first offering is a fruit drink that can be made in minutes using just a sachet, water and its mixer bottle.

Kencko currently offers five different organic fruit and vegetable mixes

Just add water

Unlike other ‘instant’ mixer options, Kencko uses freeze-drying to turn fruit and vegetable mixes into powder without compromising on health. That process — which is similar to how NASA develops food for astronauts — retains minerals, protein, vitamins and all the other good stuff typically lost in healthy drinks, the startup said. The fruit and vegetables used are organic and sourced from across the world — that’s broken down into more details on the Kencko website — while the mixes don’t contain sugar or other additives.

Kencko customers make their drink by mixing the sachet with water and shaking for one minute. Each sachet is 20g and, when combined with water, that gets you a 160g serving. That’s around two daily portions, and it  has a 180-day shelf live so it can keep. There are six different combinations, each one is a mixture of six fruit and vegetables.

Unlike others that pair with water, Kencko actually includes fruit pieces and seeds — I tested a batch. That’s pretty unique, although it is worth noting that some of the more berry fruit heavy combinations mix less efficiently than the plant-based ones, at least from my experience. As someone who lives in a city where fresh fruit and vegetables are easily found — thank you, Bangkok — I’m not the target customer. But I can readily recall living the busy 9-6 office life in London a decade ago, and back then I’d have been curious enough to at least take Kencko for a spin in my quest to be a little healthier.

Kencko is also affordable when compared to most health food options, which tend to be positioned as premium.

Packs are priced at $29.90 for ten sachets, $74.50 for 30 and $123.50 for 60. The startup offers a ‘Lifetime Founding Member’ package that gives 30 percent off those prices for an initial charge. That’s $32 for those wanting 10 servinggs, $79.90 for 30 and $129 for 60.

Two of my Kencko mixes

More than pressed juice

Kencko — which means health in Japanese — is the brainchild of Tomás Froes, a former tech worker who got into veganism after being diagnosed with acute gastritis.

Froes, who is from Portugal and once ran an artisanal hot dog brand in China, was told that his ailment was treatable but that it would require a cocktail of pills for the rest of his life. Seeking an alternative, he threw himself into the world of alternative health and, after settling on a 90 percent fruit and vegetable diet, found that his condition had cleared without medicine.

Keen to help others enjoy the benefits of his journey, he began talking to nutritionists and experts whilst trying to figure out possible business options. In an interview with TechCrunch, Froes said he settled on a new take on the existing ‘health drink’ space that he maintains is inadequate in a number of ways.

“The end goal is to help consumers reach the recommendation of five servings/portions of fruit a day,” he explained. “That would be impossible to do if we excluded the seeds and bits of fruits like cold-pressed juice companies do. They press the juice out of the fruits, leaving the most nutritional part from pulp and the seeds out.”

“We blast freeze fruit and vegetables at -40 degrees which allows us to maintain the same nutritional properties as fresh fruit for longer periods. We then use a slow heat process of 60 degrees to evaporate only take the water-based parts without damaging nutrition,” Froes added.

Added that, Froes said, Kencko helps cut down on the use of plastic by using the same mixer, return customers only require new sachets.

As proof of Kencko’s versatility, he brought his mixer and sachets along to the vegan cafe we met at earlier this year when I visited London, putting me to shame for buying the cold pressed option — which was no doubt more expensive, to boot.

Kencko is based in New York but with a processing facility in Lisbon, Portugal. It is heavily focused on the U.S. market where it offers delivery in 24-48 hours, but it also covers the UK and Canada. There are plans to increase support, particularly in Asia.

Kencko’s Apple Watch app is in beta with selected users

Building a health food brand

Kencko was formed in 2017 and, after landing undisclosed seed funding, it launched its product in March of this year. Already it has seen progress; the startup recently entered the TechStars accelerator program in London as one of a batch of ten companies.

“I’m excited to work with Tomas and the Kencko team,” Eamonn Carey, who leads TechStars in London, told TechCrunch. “I first read about them on ProductHunt and bought into their mission straight away. Once I tasted the product for the first time, I was sold — both as a subscriber and an investor.”

Froes told TechCrunch that drinks are just the first phase of what Kencko hopes to offer consumers. He explained that he wants to move into other types of food and consumables in the future to help give people more options to get their daily portion of fruit and vegetables.

Up next could be Apple-based snacks. Foes shared — quite literally — a new batch of snack that’s currently in development and is made from the fruit. He believes it could be marketed a healthier option than crisps and other nibbles people turn to between meals. Further down the pipeline, he said, will be other kinds of food that maintain the 100 percent organic approach.

Beyond food, Kencko wants to build a close bond with its customers. It is developing iOS and Apple Watch apps that help its users to track their fruit and vegetable consumption, and more generally make their diet and routine healthier.

With the membership package and apps, it becomes clear that Kencko aspires to build a brand and not just sell a product online. That’s double the challenge (at least), and that makes the company one to watch.

Already it has found some success within tech circles such as TechStar’s Carey — people who aspire to eat and drink better but are pushed for time — but if Froes is to even begin to deliver on his mission then Kencko will need to go beyond the tech industry niche and attract mainstream consumers. For now though, the product is worth close inspection if you think your lifestyle is in need of a fruit boost.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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