Donald Daters, a dating app for Trump supporters, leaked its users’ data

A new dating app for Trump supporters that wants to “make America date again” has leaked its entire database of users — on the day of its launch. The app, called “Donald Daters,” is aimed at “American-based singles community connecting lovers, friends, and Trump supporters alike” and has already received rave reviews and coverage in […]

A new dating app for Trump supporters that wants to “make America date again” has leaked its entire database of users — on the day of its launch.

The app, called “Donald Daters,” is aimed at “American-based singles community connecting lovers, friends, and Trump supporters alike” and has already received rave reviews and coverage in Fox News, Daily Mail and The Hill.

On its launch day alone, the app had a little over 1,600 users and counting.

We know because a security researcher found issues with the app that made it possible to download the entire user database.

Elliot Alderson, a French security researcher, shared the database with TechCrunch, which included users’ names, profile pictures, device type, their private messages — and access tokens, which can be used to take over accounts.

The data was accessible from a public and exposed Firebase data repository, which was hardcoded in the app. Shortly after TechCrunch contacted the app maker, the data was pulled offline.

We reached out to Emily Moreno, the app’s founder and a former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio; she did not comment.

According to the app’s website, “all your personal information is kept private.” Except, as it happens, when it’s not.

VP Pence calls on Google to end work on a search engine for China

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence called for Google to end its development of a search engine custom built to accommodate China’s disposition for censorship. Pence gave the speech at a conservative think tank in D.C., dipping into a range of anti-Beijing sentiments, from intellectual property concerns to tariffs and the trade war. Pence didn’t […]

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence called for Google to end its development of a search engine custom built to accommodate China’s disposition for censorship.

Pence gave the speech at a conservative think tank in D.C., dipping into a range of anti-Beijing sentiments, from intellectual property concerns to tariffs and the trade war. Pence didn’t mince words, calling on Google to abandon its plans for a China-friendly mobile version of its otherwise ubiquitous search engine.

Pence accused any company with plans to work around Chinese internet restrictions of “abetting Beijing’s oppression” and didn’t hesitate to call the search giant out by name:

More business leaders are thinking beyond the next quarter, and thinking twice before diving into the Chinese market if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression. But more must follow suit. For example, Google should immediately end development of the “Dragonfly” app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers…

More journalists are reporting the truth without fear or favor, and digging deep to find where China is interfering in our society, and why – and we hope that more American, and global, news organizations will join in this effort.

More scholars are speaking out forcefully and defending academic freedom, and more universities and think tanks are mustering the courage to turn away Beijing’s easy money, recognizing that every dollar comes with a corresponding demand. We’re confident that more will join their ranks.

And across the nation, the American people are growing in vigilance, with a newfound appreciation for our administration’s actions to re-set America’s economic and strategic relationship with China, to finally put America First.

Pence’s full remarks are available on the Hudson Institute’s website.

Google’s covert project, known as Dragonfly, is reportedly a version of the search engine that blocks forbidden sites like Facebook and Twitter, censors search terms like the Tiananmen Square massacre and cuts out prominent Western news sources like the BBC and The New York Times. The project, first reported by the Intercept, sparked internal turmoil at the company and a letter of protest from employees who felt too in the dark to make “ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

Google drama aside, Pence’s tough talk on China might be politically expedient bluster, but it’s not without irony: The Trump administration has repeatedly expressed its outright contempt for a free press, a hallmark of an aggressively restrictive government like China. Pence’s derision of China’s “unparalleled surveillance state” is also fairly rich, given domestic policy on warrantless surveillance.

The vice president also took the opportunity to refresh controversial claims that China is “meddling” in the U.S. midterm elections, echoing language often used to describe Russia’s substantiated election interference efforts. President Trump suggested as much last week, claiming that China “has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration.” Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen declined to endorse the president’s unsubstantiated claims, noting that China pursues a “holistic approach” to cultivating a positive image in the U.S.

Presidential alerts we really hope Trump won’t send…

Move over Twitter, President Trump now has the power to send every phone in the land a simultaneous message — thanks to the new “presidential alert”, tested by FEMA yesterday. What’s it for? The idea is to enable the president of the United States to warn the nation of major threats — such as a natural […]

Move over Twitter, President Trump now has the power to send every phone in the land a simultaneous message — thanks to the new “presidential alert”, tested by FEMA yesterday.

What’s it for? The idea is to enable the president of the United States to warn the nation of major threats — such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

FEMA did already have the power to mass text US phones, via the National Wireless Emergency Alert System devised by the Bush administration in 2006, which has been used for sending alerts about national emergencies like weather events or missing children at a local level.

But now the system has been expanded to allow for the White House to compose and send its own ‘presidential alert’ to all phones in a national emergency situation.

There is no opt-out.

Repeat: No opt-out.

Fortunately Congress did limit the substance of these alerts — to “natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters or threats to public safety”, further stipulating that:

Except to the extent necessary for testing the public alert and warning system, the public alert and warning system shall not be used to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety.

But bearing in mind the ‘rip it up’ record of the current holder of office of the president of the US, there are no copper-bottomed guarantees about how ‘threat to public safety’ might be interpreted by president Trump.

So it remains a slightly mind-bending concept that the president could, say after a 3am binge-watch of his favorite TV show, fire out an alert entirely of his framing to EVERY US PHONE.

Technology is indeed a double-edged sword.

Here are a few ideas of presidential alerts we really hope Trump won’t be sending…

  • an accidental photo of a body part after he couldn’t figure out how to use the system and hit send accidentally
  • a text message intended for his son-in-law
  • “Donald Trump”
  • covfefe
  • an even worse spelling mistake, e.g. mangling the name of another world leader — like French president “Manuel Macaroon”
  • actual insults directed at other world leaders, e.g. suggesting Emmanuel Macron has a dandruff problem
  • threats of thermonuclear war
  • an unfortunate spoonerism, e.g. ‘the rockets are cot numbing’
  • a love sonnet to president Kim Jong-Un
  • encouragement to Russia to hack political opponents’ emails
  • a recipe for a “beautiful” chocolate cake
  • his golf handicap
  • an affiliate link to a brochure of Trump Tower
  • US stock market numbers
  • investment advice
  • an affiliate link to buy The Art of The Deal
  • any other book recommendations at all
  • a love sonnet to Ivanka Trump
  • a claim that the hurricane isn’t actually as bad as FEMA’s alert says it is
  • #MAGA
  • “Lock her up”
  • “His testimony was very credible, very credible”
  • “You also had some very fine people on both sides”
  • any claim about the size of the crowds at his inauguration
  • any claim about historical precedence and what his administration has achieved
  • all forms of self congratulation
  • his thoughts on the UN
  • his thoughts on NATO
  • his thoughts on the EU
  • his thoughts on China
  • his thoughts on the Queen
  • anything at all about women
  • “Melanie”
  • all insults about “the failing New York Times”
  • a heart emoji + the words “Tucker Carlson”
  • any text that includes the words “Fox & Friends”
  • any text that includes the phrase “America first”
  • a photo of Melania reclining on gilt furniture, in a gilt room, with some gilt statues
  • a selfie with anyone, especially Nigel Farage
  • any text written in ALL CAPS
  • any text ending with the word “Sad!”
  • his travel itinerary for his next trip to the Winter White House
  • a love sonnet to president Putin
  • ‘exciting’ real estate opportunities
  • credit for Brexit
  • a threat to Twitter not to shadowban conservative voices
  • “You’re fired!”
  • “Build the wall!”
  • “Mission accomplished!”
  • anything at all about president Obama
  • all sports commentary
  • anything containing the word “winning”
  • his thoughts on climate change
  • his thoughts on environmental protection
  • his thoughts on the safety of radioactive substances
  • a list of reasons why the Iran deal was a mistake
  • his thoughts on anything at all to do with the rest of the world
  • a photoshopped picture of Justin Trudeau to make him look ugly
  • diet advice
  • travel advice
  • fashion advice
  • complaints that Google is biased
  • anything about tax — unless it’s his own tax returns
  • a message to Peter Thiel asking him to come back
  • a message asking where the nearest KFC is
  • a message asking where he left his last bucket of KFC
  • a really boring and slightly blurred photo of the inside of Air Force One
  • any message about anything at all he saw on TV last night
  • “Ha-ha you can’t opt out!”
  • “Genius”
  • his thoughts

Economist Tyler Cowen launches a fellowship and grant program for moon shot ideas

Tyler Cowen, who I interviewed here, is a fascinating economist. Part pragmatist and part dreamer, he has been researching and writing about the future for a long time in books and his blog, Marginal Revolution. Now he and his university, George Mason, are putting some money where his mouth is. Cowen and the team at […]

Tyler Cowen, who I interviewed here, is a fascinating economist. Part pragmatist and part dreamer, he has been researching and writing about the future for a long time in books and his blog, Marginal Revolution. Now he and his university, George Mason, are putting some money where his mouth is.

Cowen and the team at GMU are working on Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program for moon shots. The goal is to give people with big ideas a little capital to help them build out their dreams.

“It has long been my view that risk-takers are not sufficiently rewarded in the world of ideas and that academic incentives are too conservative,” he said. “The intellectual scene should learn something from Silicon Valley and venture capital.”

Cowen is raising $4 million for the first fund. He announced the fund in a podcast on the Mercatus website.

“People such as Satoshi and Jordan Peterson have had huge impacts (regardless of one’s degree of enthusiasm for their ideas), and yet in terms of philanthropic funding the world just isn’t geared to seed their ambitions,” said Cowen.

The project is part of the GMU Mercatus Center, a “source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.” The fund has just opened applications and the amounts granted depend on the project and creator.

Cowen, for his part, is optimistic about the prospects of the future-focused fund.

“I expect to produce a better and freer world, some degree of human self-realization, a better climate for public intellectuals and other creators of ideas, more innovation, and to bring the intellectual side of America more in touch with the entrepreneurial side,” said Cowen.

Alibaba’s Ant Financial denies stealing from Equifax

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax — the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service. The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame […]

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service.

The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame Credit in China in 2015, and a report this week from The Wall Street Journal suggests that it leaned heavily on Equifax to do so. Ant Financial hired China-born Canadian David Zou from Equifax and the Journal claims that Zou looked up employee information to gauge potential hires and squirreled away confidential documents via his personal email account.

Ant was said to have offered Chinese staff at Equifax lucrative raises — reportedly tripling their salaries — with a focus on those who “provided instructions on specific Equifax information… if they jumped ship.” Apparently, however, only Zou did.

Zou, for this part, denies the claims. He said he looked up Equifax team members to help with work on his project in Canada, and forward information to his email account in order to continue his work when he went home.

Ant Financial went a step further with its own denial — from the firm’s statement:

Ant Financial did not use Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets, including code, algorithms or methodology in the development of our credit rating product. Ant Financial has found absolutely no evidence of Equifax software, data or code having been transferred to our systems.

We did not directly or indirectly encourage potential job applicants to obtain Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets. This would be a violation of Ant Financial’s Code of Business Conduct and we would take immediate action against any employee found engaging in this behavior. Further, we have specific agreements with our third-party recruiters that prohibit them from violating intellectual property rights of any parties. If any recruiter is found to have conducted such activities, we will stop accepting candidate referrals from them and may take legal action against them.

Ant said the Journal’s report is “full of innuendo based on disjointed facts and coincidence in timing.”

Beyond Ant, the report claims Equifax firm was also concerned when an unnamed Chinese firm swapped members of its delegation in the run-up to a meeting, a tactic that is apparently common among potential cases of espionage.

The company had been in contact with the FBI, but ultimately Equifax decided against pushing the matter. The Journal’s report also suggested that federal investigators backed down because they sensed that Equifax didn’t believe it had information that Chinese spies would be keen to get hold of. In addition, it hadn’t lost consumer information. Ultimately, of course, that leaked out when the firm was hacked last year.

“The story not only promotes hostility against a specific company, but also paints an overall narrative that maligns Chinese companies as a whole, and further promotes culturally divisive perceptions of ethnic Chinese people in America,” Ant said in its statement, which is attributed to the company’s general counsel, Leiming Chen.

Alibaba’s Ant Financial denies stealing from Equifax

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax — the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service. The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame […]

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service.

The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame Credit in China in 2015, and a report this week from The Wall Street Journal suggests that it leaned heavily on Equifax to do so. Ant Financial hired China-born Canadian David Zou from Equifax and the Journal claims that Zou looked up employee information to gauge potential hires and squirreled away confidential documents via his personal email account.

Ant was said to have offered Chinese staff at Equifax lucrative raises — reportedly tripling their salaries — with a focus on those who “provided instructions on specific Equifax information… if they jumped ship.” Apparently, however, only Zou did.

Zou, for this part, denies the claims. He said he looked up Equifax team members to help with work on his project in Canada, and forward information to his email account in order to continue his work when he went home.

Ant Financial went a step further with its own denial — from the firm’s statement:

Ant Financial did not use Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets, including code, algorithms or methodology in the development of our credit rating product. Ant Financial has found absolutely no evidence of Equifax software, data or code having been transferred to our systems.

We did not directly or indirectly encourage potential job applicants to obtain Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets. This would be a violation of Ant Financial’s Code of Business Conduct and we would take immediate action against any employee found engaging in this behavior. Further, we have specific agreements with our third-party recruiters that prohibit them from violating intellectual property rights of any parties. If any recruiter is found to have conducted such activities, we will stop accepting candidate referrals from them and may take legal action against them.

Ant said the Journal’s report is “full of innuendo based on disjointed facts and coincidence in timing.”

Beyond Ant, the report claims Equifax firm was also concerned when an unnamed Chinese firm swapped members of its delegation in the run-up to a meeting, a tactic that is apparently common among potential cases of espionage.

The company had been in contact with the FBI, but ultimately Equifax decided against pushing the matter. The Journal’s report also suggested that federal investigators backed down because they sensed that Equifax didn’t believe it had information that Chinese spies would be keen to get hold of. In addition, it hadn’t lost consumer information. Ultimately, of course, that leaked out when the firm was hacked last year.

“The story not only promotes hostility against a specific company, but also paints an overall narrative that maligns Chinese companies as a whole, and further promotes culturally divisive perceptions of ethnic Chinese people in America,” Ant said in its statement, which is attributed to the company’s general counsel, Leiming Chen.

Canters restaurant royalty raises $9.5 million for Ordermark, a takeout order management service

Alex Canter knows the restaurant business. The scion of Los Angeles’ famous first family of the deli business — the owners of the eponymous Canters restaurant — Canter has been in the food business longer than many seasoned restauranteurs twice his age. While some people had a Bar Mitzvah party, the thirteen year old Canter […]

Alex Canter knows the restaurant business.

The scion of Los Angeles’ famous first family of the deli business — the owners of the eponymous Canters restaurant — Canter has been in the food business longer than many seasoned restauranteurs twice his age.

While some people had a Bar Mitzvah party, the thirteen year old Canter had section four of his family’s restaurant. But as technology started making its way inside the restaurant business, Canter realized that the delicatessen on Fairfax would need to upgrade to keep up with the times.

The younger Canter upgraded the menu, brought in a point of sale system and renovated the bar. “I was the guy in the restaurant to pitch whenever there was a service or product,” Canter says. “All of a sudden online ordering started up. All of these different ordering services began to pop up and each one added more customers and incremental revenue, but each one brought challenges into our staff.”

At one point, Canters had nine tablets, two laptops and a fax machine, all managing incoming delivery orders. “It was a complete train wreck and I realized restaurants shouldn’t have to work like that” says Canter. Indeed, his staff was begging Canter to shut down online ordering, but given that online delivery orders had become a third of Canters business, that was an impossibility.

The answer came when Canter met Mike Jacobs, a former federal investigator turned entrepreneur who had launched a company called TapInto which was managing mobile orders for stadium concession stands and food trucks.

Jacobs pitched Canter on the idea of a single unified hardware system that would aggregate all of a restaurant’s online orders in a single place and Canter bought in immediately. Thus, Ordermark was born. The deli proprietor also knew which place would be a great first beta test for the software.

After rolling out in Canters, the company reached out to other mom and pop restaurants in the Los Angeles area. “What’s crazy is that when we were first building this business i had gone out to my own network of restaurants and my friends. The first ten restaurants that i approached all want to sign up immediately,” said Canter.

The next stop for the company was capital to build out the technology. Ordermark raised from local Los Angeles investors including Mucker Capital, TenOneTen Ventures and Act One Ventures. After securing that $3.1 million in funding Ordermark moved to the big leagues — the Western Food Service and Hospitality Expo.

“It was an expo that i had grown up going to every year. It was interesting to be on the other side of the table,” says Canter. “One of the first restaurants to sign up was a franchisee of Johnny Rockets… that’s when we decided that we needed to ramp up our tech.”

So Canter went back out to the market. This time securing $9.5 million from the company’s previous investor and new lead investor Nosara Capital. Additional new investors included Vertical Venture Partners, RiverPark Ventures (an investment firm from the founder of Seamless, Andy Appelbaum), Techstars Ventures, and Matchstick Ventures.

Currently, with the fundraising in hand, Canter’s business has managed to sign up 500 restaurant brands including Sonic, Qdoba, and TGIFridays. The company has 35 people on staff and is looking to hire more.

“We built a standalone independent online ordering fulfillment solution. Rather than integrating with the POS service we started by building a fully standalone system. So that we can work with any restaurant of any shape at any size including restaurants that have robust older point of sale systems that don’t integrate very well with others,” said Canter. 

With the new capital the company is looking to expand into most of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Ordermark’s system is already live in 20 states — including Hawaii .

Ordermark isn’t alone in its quest to ease restaurants’ online ordering pain. Companies like Chowly in Chicago, and Checkmate in New York that are both competing for restaurant owners’ hearts and minds.

Canter isn’t too worried about the competition. “Right now we’re just laser focused on making as much of an impact on restaurants across America,” Canter says. 

Porter Road was to herd the meat industry in a new direction

Down a two lane road on the outskirts of Princeton, Ky., next to a cemetery and past the Light of Truth Church is the Porter Road Butcher Meat Co. facility — a staging ground for what the Nashville-based startup Porter Road hopes will be a revolution in the American meatpacking industry. For the company’s co-founders, […]

Down a two lane road on the outskirts of Princeton, Ky., next to a cemetery and past the Light of Truth Church is the Porter Road Butcher Meat Co. facility — a staging ground for what the Nashville-based startup Porter Road hopes will be a revolution in the American meatpacking industry.

For the company’s co-founders, James Peisker and Chris Carter, the refashioning of the meat business in America is the next step in a nearly decade-long journey since the former chefs first met working in the restaurant of Nashville’s historic Hermitage Hotel. 

The two men started their butcher business, selling locally sourced meat from the East Nashville Farmer’s Market in 2010 and eventually moved to a storefront in the same neighborhood a year later.

“We ended up going around and raising funds and opened the brick and mortar shop in 2011,” Peisker said. “Chris worked a job at a friend of ours’ deli in the morning and I worked at a restaurant at night.”

But from the beginning the two men had bigger ambitions, and as the business became increasingly successful, they began thinking about how to bring their approach to the meat industry to the entire country.

“What we see the future is is being able to reach as many people as we can in the country and offer them the best quality most sustainably raised products,” said Carter in an interview. 

As they began building the business in earnest, the two men realized that there was a critical part of the process over which they had no control — the meat processing itself.

“I would love to be Omaha Steaks,” said Carter. “But I would love to bring change to the system that Omaha Steaks buys into.” To do that meant not just sourcing from sustainable farms, but making sure that their slaughterhouse and processing facility was operating to standards that the two co-founders set for themselves.

“They put up the curtain to hide what’s happening,” said Peisker of the meat industry — although the dirty side of industrial animal husbandry is well known. “99% of the meat is coming from these really disgusting places where the animals are near death and kept alive with injections… Tyson can say they get their chickens from family farm but] they sell the farmers feed, and chicks… small family farms are raising these animals but are doing it in a way that harms the animal. And our beef is born in the same matter. It’s how they spend the end of their lives. They’re force fed chickenshit, chicken feathers, scrap and harvested in a manner that’s doing 60,000 head a day.”

Peisker and Carter envision a different path, one that’s decentralizing the commodity meat industry. Instead of industrial farms producing thousands of head, smaller sustainable farms could raise livestock in the hundreds. Those sustainably raised animals could then be sent to local processing plants and slaughtered in facilities that are better for workers and (more) humane for animals.

“One of the first things we did was to take away the electric prod sticks and cattle paddles,” said Peisker. Ultimately the men recognize that there’s only so much that can be done to make the industry operate more efficiently and humanely, but every little bit helps.

The alternative is continuing to operate at scales that are toxic for the entire country. For example, earlier this month a jury in North Carolina awarded residents near a Smithfield Farms hog farm $470 million to address their complaints about the stench and the industrial pollution coming from the farm.

In all, industrial animal farms operated by just four companies produce 80% of the meat U.S. consumers eat. And the environmental impact of these industrial farms is well understood.

For Ryan Darnell, a managing partner of Max Ventures (and childhood friend of Carter’s), the Porter Road business makes good business sense beyond its social and environmental benefits.

“In this category there’s roughly $55 billion of revenue tied up in the traditional supply chain,” Darnell wrote in an email. “Porter Road isn’t just selling meat online. They are rearchitecting the back-end system to eliminate a lot of the things we don’t like (and aren’t good for us). They are building an entirely new meat company from the ground up.”

Companies like CrowdCow and ButcherBox offer organic meat for sale, but Darnell said that the vertical integration that Porter Road has built makes it a fundamentally different company from those startups.

“Most of the competitors in this space have a digital storefront (for distribution) and buy out of the existing supply chain. A few will try to backwards integrate, but it’s difficult to learn how to accurately evaluate farmers and implement best practices in a processing facility,” Darnell wrote.

All of this attention to detail in the process is also reflected in the price of Porter Road’s meats (they aren’t cheap). But the notion for Peisker is that people can eat fewer, higher quality meat meals with Porter Road products (which may also be better for the environment too).

You should eat less meat but better meat,” said Peisker. “There’s a movement across the country of people who want flavor back in their food…. And people who want to make a choice with their dollar about what they buy.”

Porter Road’s evolution — which culminated in the company launching an online presence in 2017 — is coming at a time when shifting consumption patterns are changing the ways Americans shop and eat.

The Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods has changed the organic market as the once-mighty grocery chain becomes more incorporated into the Seattle e-commerce giant’s commercial operations. That’s opened the doors for direct to consumer competitors to come in — including companies like Thrive Market, Crowd Cow and Porter Road.

“Whole Foods, post-Amazon is just another grocery store now,” said Peisker. 

And Americans continue to love organic foods. Sales of organic food products hit a record $45.2 billion in 2017, according to the Organic Trade Association. While growth slowed to 6.7% from 9% in 2016, the overall numbers are still surpassing the anemic 1% growth of the U.S. food business overall, according to the report.

Porter Road’s founders say those numbers are reflected in its own business. “We get busier every day,” said Carter. Over the summer the company was averaging 60 boxes shipped per-day with roughly 5-8 pounds of meat in a box.

With the boost from the $3.7 million in venture funding it received earlier in the year backed by investors including Max Ventures, Slow Ventures, BoxGroup, Tribeca Venture Partners, Collaborative Fund, and Great Oaks VC, Porter Road is hoping to expand its operations.

“Our plan is to build,” Carter said. “We’ve built this amazing model in this location. We have a year or two before we see ourselves busting at the seams here. And we will move to communities across the country.”

The co-founders of Porter Road see opportunities to open a similar processing facility to the one already operating in Princeton — and ideally will be able to build a network of abattoirs around the country. “If we can make a better life for the animals that go into our food system and better food for consumers why wouldn’t we do it?” said Peisker. 

Kencko wants to help you eat more fruit and vegetables

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 […]

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 sachets 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 has a 180-day shelf live. 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 sachets packages, $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.

RideAlong is helping police officers de-escalate 911 calls with data designed for the field

RideAlong keeps people in mind, and that’s a good thing. The company, founded by Meredith Hitchcock (COO) and Katherine Nammacher (CEO), aims to make streets safer, not with expansive surveillance systems or high-tech weaponry but with simple software focused on the people being policed. That distinction sounds small, but it’s surprisingly revelatory. Tech so oftens […]

RideAlong keeps people in mind, and that’s a good thing. The company, founded by Meredith Hitchcock (COO) and Katherine Nammacher (CEO), aims to make streets safer, not with expansive surveillance systems or high-tech weaponry but with simple software focused on the people being policed. That distinction sounds small, but it’s surprisingly revelatory. Tech so oftens forgets the people that it’s ostensibly trying to serve, but with RideAlong they’re front and center.

“The thing about law enforcement is they are interacting with individuals who have been failed by the rest of society and social support networks,” Nammacher told TechCrunch in an interview. “We want to help create a dialogue toward a more perfect future for people who are having some really rough things happen to them. Police officers also want that future.”

Ridealong is specifically focused on serving populations that have frequent interactions with law enforcement. Those individuals are often affected by complex forces that require special care — particularly chemical dependence, mental illness and homelessness.

“I think it is universally understood if someone has a severe mental illness… putting them through the criminal justice system and housing them in a jail is not the right thing to do,” Nammacher said. For RideAlong, the question is how to help those individuals obtain long-term support from a system that isn’t really designed to adequately serve them.

Made for field work, RideAlong is a mobile responsive web app that presents relevant information on individuals who frequently use emergency services. It collects data that might otherwise only live in an officer’s personal notebook or a police report, presenting it on a call so that officers can use it to determine if an individual is in crisis and if they are, the best way to de-escalate their situation and provide support. With a simple interface and a no-frills design, RideAlong works everywhere from a precinct laptop to a smartphone in the field to a patrol car’s dash computer.

Nammacher explains that any police officer could easily think of the five people they interact with most often, recalling key details about them like their dog’s name and whether they are close to a known family member. That information is very valuable for responding to a crisis but it often isn’t accessible when it needs to be.

“They’ve come up with some really smart manual workarounds for how to deal with that,” Nammacher says, but it isn’t always enough. That real-time information gap is where RideAlong comes in.

How RideAlong works

RideAlong is designed so that police officers and other first responders can search its database by name and location but also by gender, height, weight, ethnicity and age. When a search hits a result in the system, RideAlong can help officers detect subtle shifts from a known baseline behavior. The hope is that even very basic contextual information can provide clues that mean a big difference in outcomes.

So far, it seems to be working. RideAlong has been live in Seattle for a year, with the Seattle Police Department’s 1,300 sworn officers using the software every day. Over the course of six months with RideAlong, Seattle and King County saw a 35% reduction in 911 calls. That decrease, interpreted as a sign of more efficient policing, translated into $407,000 in deferred costs for the city.

“It really assists with decision making, especially when it comes to crisis calls,” Seattle Police Sergeant Daniel Nelson told TechCrunch. Officers have a lot of discretion to do what they think is best based on the information available. “There is so much gray space.”

Ridealong has also partnered with the San Francisco Department of Public Health where a street medicine team is putting it to use in a pilot. West of Seattle, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is looking at RideAlong for its team of 300 officers.

What this looks like in practice: An officer responds to a call involving a person they known named Suzanne. They might remember that normally if they ask her about Suzanne’s dog it calms her down, but today it makes her upset. Rather than assuming that her agitated behavior is coming out of the blue, the responding officer could address concerns around Suzanne’s dog and help de-escalate the situation.

In another example, an officer responds to someone on the street who they perceive to be yelling and agitated. Checking contextual information in RideAlong could clarify that an individual just speaks loudly because they are hard of hearing, not in crisis. If someone is actually agitated and drawing helps them calm down, RideAlong will note that.

“RideAlong visualizes that data, so when somebody is using the app they can see, ‘okay this person has 50 contacts, they’ve been depressed, sad, crying,’” Nelson said. “Cops are really good at seeing behavior and describing behavior so that’s what we’re asking of them.”

The idea is that making personalized data like this easy to see can reduce the use of force in the field, calm someone down and open the door to connecting them social services and any existing support network.

“I’ve known all along that we’ve got incredible data, but it’s not getting out to the people on the streets,” said Maria X. Martinez, Director of Whole Person Care at San Francisco Department of Public Health. RideAlong worked directly with her department’s street medicine on a pilot program that gave clinicians access to key data while providing medical care in to the city’s homeless population.

Traditionally, street medicine workers go do their work in the field and return to look up the records for the people they interacted with. Now, those processes are combined and 15 different sets of relevant data gets pulled together and presented in the field, where workers can add to and annotate it. “It’s one thing to tell people to come back and enter their data… you sort of hope that that does happen,” Martinez said. With RideAlong, “You’ve already done both things: documented and given them the info.”

Forming RideAlong

The small team at RideAlong began when the co-founders met during a Code for America fellowship in 2016. They built the app in 2016 under the banner of a data-driven justice program during the Obama administration. Interest was immediate. The next year, Nammacher and Hitchcock spun the project out into its own company, became part of Y Combinator’s summer batch of startups and by July they launched a pilot program with the entire Seattle police department.

Neither co-founder planned on starting a company, but they were inspired by what they describe as a “real-time information gap” between people experiencing mental health crises and the people dispatched to help them and the level of interest from “agencies across the country, big and small” who wanted to buy their product.

“There’s been more of a push recently for quantitative data to be a more central force for decision making,” Nammacher said. The agencies RideAlong has worked with so far like how user friendly the software is and how it surfaces the data they already collect to make it more useful.

“At the end of the day, our users are both the city staff member and the person that they’re serving. We see them as equally valid and important.”