Kenshō, ‘the antithesis of Goop,’ launches a research-based guide to natural medicine – gpgmail


Goop is cashing in on pseudoscience and, in the process, giving natural health practices a bad name. Krista Berlincourt, the co-founder and chief executive officer of a new startup, Kenshō Health, hopes she can take back the narrative.

“We’re the antithesis of Goop,” Berlincourt, a fintech veteran who previously led marketing and product at Simple Finance, tells gpgmail. “What we are creating is less of a consumer magazine. We are a holistic health platform that approaches things as more of a holistic health medical journal — everything is backed by science.”

Kenshō, launching today, is an invite-only subscription-based platform for holistic healthcare providers to list their services and share knowledge. The startup has also collected information to construct a research-backed guide to holistic health, something the team believes has been missing from the natural health sector.

Berlincourt and Kenshō co-founder Danny Steiner, who previously worked at NBC Universal, Conde Nast and Hulu before pivoting to health and wellness, have raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Crosscut, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm, and Female Founders Fund. The pair, based in the LA area, have both suffered from chronic illnesses that had them in and out of doctor’s offices for years.

“I had two years of working with a team of incredible Western physicians and then I had a crash that landed me in the ER. That’s when I realized, OK, this isn’t working,” Berlincourt said. “When you’re caring for yourself or someone you love, there are standards. I am focused on elevating and creating those standards in a way that can be better advised.”

The global wellness economy represented a $4.2 trillion market in 2017, according to The Global Wellness Institute, as subcategories like personalized medicine, healthy eating and fitness/mind-body accelerate growth.

Kenshō, nestled in the personalized and complementary medicine category, says it ensures all of the care providers featured on its platform are 100% validated. Before being allowed to list their services, providers complete a background check and their provider credentials are verified. Kenshō then affirms the providers use research-backed methods and that they have vetted peer references and clients who can provide positive feedback.

Kenshō’s launch features providers from Stanford University, Harvard University, Columbia University and more.

“When you look at health as a whole today in the U.S., we only treat the physical,” Berlincourt explains. “The reason that is destructive is 70% of death is premature and lifestyle related. We are dying faster and people are dying more quickly, generally speaking, as the world turns.”

Many, of course, are skeptical of natural care practices because they can be untested or dependent on unscientific principles. Additionally, holistic care often forces patients to pay out-of-pocket. Nonetheless, patients across the globe are turning to non-traditional methods.

”There’s been a massive shift in the zeitgeist in the way people look at health,” she adds. “One in three people have paid for supplemental care out of pocket from a holistic health provider.”


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Workout app Fitplan adds Alex Rodriguez as a trainer… and an investor – gpgmail


Former New York Yankees all star Alex Rodriguez is racking up quite an impressive batting average in his new career as an investor and has added Fitplan to his roster of portfolio companies.

The Los Angeles-based workout app launched by Landon Hamilton and Cam Speck has closed on $4.5 million led by A-Rod and Corazon Capital, and has added new celebrity athlete trainers — including Rodriguez — to cover the needs of would-be sports stars and interested amateurs alike.

“One of the things we’re doing as a company is moving into sports-specific training,” says Speck. It’s an initiative that Rodriguez helped to lead as the company recruited a number of marquee players including Carolina Panthers running back, Christian McCaffrey; the controversial swimming superstar, Ryan Lochte; fitness model, Hattie Boydl; celebrity trainer, Corey Calliet; legal scholar and trainer Danni Bell; and fitness model, Sommer Ray. 

“The thing that differentiates us [from other fitness apps] is the talent,” says Speck. “We have diverse training plans that fulfill and serve people who are just getting to the gym to people who are college students playing football helping them get to the next level.”

Much of the cash coming from Rodriguez will help recruit new trainers.

Fitplan co-founders Cam Speck and Landon Hamilton (Image courtesy of Fitplan

The Fitplan workout app costs $15.99 per month or $83.99 per-year and includes step-by-step exercise demonstrations and training programs tailored to different sports. “Within those training programs we have everything laid out for a member. We’re defining what a workout plan is from the data we have on over 5 million workouts completed.”

An average Fitplan member is doing 2.7 workouts per-week and the average workout time is 58 minutes per-workout. Currently most of the company’s users are in the 18- to 35-year-old range and skews about 70% women, but Hamilton says they’re hoping the focused training regimes will help balance some of the gender disparity among the user base.

For the founders of Fitplan, bringing Rodriguez on board will allow them to move deeper into the tailored fitness vertical. The two men actually reached out to Rodriguez about the investment because they noticed him following fitness influencers specifically.

A bit of research into the portfolio of investments Rodriguez had amassed revealed that he hadn’t made a specific bet on a fitness app yet, so Hamilton reached out to a mutual friend and asked for a meeting.

The founders then spent the next two months in intermittent meetings with Rodriguez while the former Yankee dug into their app.

“He came into the platform and became a user himself,” says Speck.

Since its launch in 2016, Fitplan didn’t take any outside investment, relying on the money that Hamilton and Speck had accrued as nightlife entrepreneurs in Canada.

“You’re looking at an explosive media company, when you collectively have over a billion followers on social media,” between all of the trainers on the app, Rodriguez says.

“We are invested heavily in health and wellness brick and mortar companies,” he says. “It just drills in perfectly to our portfolio.”




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Launching from beta, ProGuides is making money ensuring that gamers never play alone – gpgmail


When ProGuides pulled the covers off of its service earlier this year, the young Los Angeles-based startup intended to give gamers a way to train with professional and semi-pro esports players from around the world.

But as users signed on to the service, it became clear that they weren’t looking for training necessarily… Instead what players wanted was a ringer.

“After we launched the beta, we found some interesting user behavior,” says Sam Wang. “We found that gamers who were experienced already and wanted experienced players who are better than [the matches] the game can provide… At the end of the day you do get to play with someone pretty awesome and is something that i think  can make games better.

That’s right, ProGuides is pitching a marketplace for experienced gamers so that its customers aren’t randomly matched with some noob if they can’t game with their usual partners.

“Our tagline is ‘Play with pros’ now,” says Wang. “We already have over 5,000 sessions that were played in the last two months.”

The professional gamers who list their services on the site charge an average of $10 per session and ProGuides takes about a 25% cut. The company lowers its rates for popular gamers or gamers who are willing to spend more time on the platform either selling their services or actually coaching esports players.

Wang says that that pros on the platform are making anywhere from $750 to $2500 per month and that there are currently 250 coaches on the platform.

A typical session on ProGuides lasts around 45 minutes and players are available for Fortnite, League of Legends.  Super Smash Brothers, CS:GO and Hearthstone

ProGuides raised $1.9 million in pre-seed funding last June. The company is backed by Amplify, an LA-based early stage investor and company accelerator, Quest Venture Partners, Greycroft Tracker fund and the GFR Fund.

The LA-based company also has some venture-backed competition on the East Coast. Gamer Sensei, which has raised roughly $6 million (according to CrunchBase) has a similar proposition. It’s backed by Accomplice and Advancit Capital.


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Through crowdsourcing, Cerberus Interactive wants to take location based gaming to the masses – gpgmail


Sami Khan began his work in the startup world by marketing mobile-based investment services like Acorns.

Now the marketer who helped grow that business to a nearly $1 billion valuation is turning his attention to location based gaming in the hopes that he can take on leading contender, Niantic, with a faster, more flexible, and fan driven approach to game development with his new startup, Cerberus Interactive.

Khan’s pitch is that he’s taking the skills he’d honed building up services like Acorns or the browser extension for bargain hunters, Honey, to game development to make games more viral from their inception.

The biggest thing is how do you de-risk what is perceived as a hit driven industry?” Khan asks. “Games are closer to digital apps than back in the days of the console and companies should ship it like an ecommerce concept… If adoption of the game is going to be the decision factor of whether a game fails or succeeds…why isn’t the adoption fo the game tested before the title is built or while the game is being conceived?”

So for his first foray into gaming, Khan is combining a crowd-sourced approach to the development of the game and applying it to what many people think is gaming’s next big frontier —  the location based game phenomenon that hit its stride with Niantic’s Pokemon GO.

Right now in location based games you have the behemoth which is Niantic,” says Khan. “Right now the gaming industry looks at location based games as its own sub genre. But when we look at location based games, we believe that location based games have an aspect that it is a game mechanic within other games.” 

The first game that Cerberus is developing is a base building simulator akin to a title like “Age of Empires” but based on real-world locations. “Simulation games or casual games with location built in will have a bonus or an advantage over the stationary games that we play today,” says Khan.

The “Atlas Empires” title that Cerberus is currently developing is being made in concert with the gamers who might want to play it. So far, an undisclosed number of customers are already paying to have a say in certain aspects of the game’s development — kind of like a premiere tier within a crowdfunding campaign.

Khan, a New Orleans native who splits his time between Los Angeles and Austin, has enlisted some marquee investors in his bid to challenge both the traditional ways in which games have been developed and the current industry leader.

Strategic investor MobilityWare has signed on to back the company along with individual investors like Steve Huffman, the co-founder and chief executive of Reddit, and Blake Chandler, the chief business officer of the runaway social network hit, TikTok.

Khan traces his love of games to his time visiting his cousins in Bangladesh and playing “Prince of Persia” on an early Toshiba laptop. “I remember sitting around the computer, watching my oldest cousin play because my dad didn’t want any of the kids touching the laptop,” Khan says.

So far the beta version of “Atlas Empires” has had 50,000 downloads and has about 1,000 daily players, Khan says. The commercial version of the game is expected to go live in the first quarter of 2020, says Khan.

 


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LA-based gaming company, Scopely, expands in Spain and Ireland – gpgmail


The Los Angeles-based gaming company, Scopely is expanding its geographical footprint in Spain and Ireland.

The company is building out its Barcelona offices tripling its office space and planning to significantly expand its 100-person-strong team in the city. Meanwhile, Scopely is also planning to invest heavily in expanding its strategy-focused game studio, DIGIT, in Dublin.

Scopely didn’t say how many jobs it would be adding in either location.

The company has now hit lifetime revenue of over $1 billion across its franchises and recently launched Star Trek Fleet Command” and “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem”. Scopely also has licenses to develop games for World Wrestling Entertainment and The Walking Dead franchise.

“We are thrilled to expand our European footprint to accommodate our exponential growth,” said Javier Ferreira, Co-CEO of Scopely, in a statement. “I am excited to further lean in to the Barcelona market, which has top-quality talent. The same is true in Dublin with top tech talent flocking to the area, and both offices have amassed impressive highly-specialized expertise. Our Dublin and Barcelona teams play a critical role in the Scopely journey, and we are actively hiring across both markets.”

The company also plans to double its footprint in its hometown of Los Angeles in 2020.

The company has raised more than $250 million in financing to date from investors including Greenspring Associates, Greycroft Partners, Revolution Growth, Evolution Media Partners, Highland Capital Partners, Horizons Ventures, Sands Capital Ventures, The Chernin Group, Take-Two Interactive, Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Guber, Jimmy Iovine, and Brendan Iribe.


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Shell’s first electric vehicle fast charger lands in Singapore – gpgmail


Royal Dutch Shell, the energy giant known for its fossil fuel production and hundreds of Shell gas stations, is creeping into the electric vehicle-power business.

The company’s first DC fast charger launched Monday at a Shell gas station in Singapore. Greenlots, an EV charging startup acquired by Shell in January, installed the charger. This is the first of 10 DC fast chargers that Greenlots plans to bring to Shell service stations in Singapore over the next several months.

The decision to target Singapore is part of Greenlots’ broader strategy to provide EV charging solutions across all applications throughout Asia and North America, the company said. Both Shell and Greenlots have a presence in Singapore. Greenlots, which based in Los Angeles, was founded in Singapore; and Shell is one of Singapore’s largest foreign investors.

Singapore has been promoting the use of electric vehicles, particularly for car-sharing and ride-hailing platforms. The island city-state has been building up its EV infrastructure to meet anticipated demand as ride-hailing drivers and commercial fleets switch to electric vehicles.

Greenlots was backed by Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech investment firm, before it was acquired by Shell. The company, which combines its management software with the EV charging hardware, has landed some significant customers in recent years, notably Volkswagen. Greenlots is the sole software provider to Electrify America, the the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.


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Earbuds lets audiences stream the playlists of athletes, entertainers and each other – gpgmail


Earbuds, a new startup from Austin founded by former Detroit Lions lineman Jason Fox, wants to bring the power of social media to your eardrums.

The company is one of a growing number of startups trying to rejuvenate the music streaming market by combining it with social networking so that audiences can listen to the playlists of their favorite athletes and entertainers… and their friends.

For Fox, the idea for Earbuds sprung from his experiences in the NFL, watching how other players interacted with crowds and hearing about the things fans wanted to know about their favorite players’ routines.

“We were playing Caroline in the first game of the season and Cam Newton was warming up right next to me,” Fox recalled. “He was jamming. Getting the crowd into it. And I was thinking there’re 85,000 people here and millions of more people watching at home…  And I thought… how many people would love to be in his headphones right now?”

Earbuds founder Jason Fox

It wasn’t just Cam Newton who received attention. Fox said at every press conference one or two questions would be about what songs teammates played before games. On social media, players would take screenshots of their playlists and post them to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, Fox said.

The company has been out in the market in a beta version since February and has focused on lining up potential Earbuds devotees from among Fox’s friends in the NFL and entertainers from music and media.

“We made a decision to tweak something and make it very very heavily around influencers because that’s what’s really driving traffic for us,” Fox says. 

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 5.44.50 PM

Image courtesy of Earbuds

At its core, the app is just about making music more social, according to Fox. “There’s a social platform for everything, but in the days of terrestrial media distribution music has remain isolated,” he says. 

Logging on is easy. Users can create a login for the app or use their Google or Facebook accounts. One more step to link the Earbuds app with Spotify or Apple Music (the company offers one month free of the premium versions of either service to new users) and then a user can look for friends or browse popular playlists.

A leaderboard indicates which users on the app have streamed the most music and users can create their own streams by adding songs from their libraries to build in-app playlists.

Earbuds isn’t the first company to take a shot at socializing the music listening experience. The olds may remember services like Turntable.fm, which took a stab at making music social but shut down back in 2013. Newer services, like Playlist, are also combining social networking features with music streaming. That site focuses on connecting people with similar musical tastes.

Fox thinks that the ability to attract entertainers like Nelly (who’s on the app) and athletes could be transformative for listeners. Basically these artists and athletes can become their own online radio station, he says.

Fox spent nearly a year meeting with streaming services, music labels, athletes, artists and college students (the app’s initial target market) before even working with developers on a single line of code. The initial work was done out of Los Angeles, but after a year Fox moved the company down to Austin and rebuilt the app from the ground up to focus more on the user experience.

Early partnerships with Burton on an activation had snowboarders streaming their music as they rode a halfpipe proved that there was an audience, Fox said. Now the company is working on integrations across different sports and even esports.

Fox raised a small friends and family round of $630,000 before putting together a $1.5 million seed to get the app out into the market. Now the company is looking for $3 million to scale even more as it looks to integrations with sports teams and other streaming services like Twitch (to capture the gaming audience).

The company currently has seven employees.

Earbuds is available on iOS.

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 5.51.32 PM


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PodcastOne is launching LaunchpadDM, a free hosting platform for independent podcasters – gpgmail


PodcastOne, the celebrity podcasting network from the founder of radio powerhouse WestwoodOne, is launching a free hosting platform for podcasters.

The Los Angeles-based syndicated podcasting platform, which counts athletes, politicians, talk radio, and reality television stars like Adam Carolla, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Austin, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Dan Patrick, Spencer and Heidi Pratt, Jim Harbaugh, Ladygang, Dr. Drew, Chael Sonnen, Rich Eisen, Barbara Boxer, is angling to get insight into potential new talent through the venture. 

We will see which podcasts are performing well and offer them the opportunity to partner and grow with PodcastOne, and provide them with all the resources the network offers, including production, talent booking, promotion, a dedicated sales team and more,” said PodcastOne chief executive, Peter Morris, in a statement. “As the leading ad-supported podcast network, we are embracing the over 700,000 podcasts out there, and are here to support the long-term growth of independent podcasters.”

Called Launchpad Digital Media, the new hosting service is pitching podcasters a free platform including unlimited hosting; access to analytics including listenership, geography, and device data; total ownership of direct monetization channels for a podcast’s subscriber base, and complete control over how podcasts are distributed via Apple, Spotify or other services.

The company is also billing itself as a discovery platform, offering free promotion for the services various podcasts across its own network of popular podcasting talent.

“Over the years, people have shared with us how hard it can be out there in the desert of independent podcasting: you have to pay to host and get your podcast heard; you get no help in discoverability; you’re scared to leave and stop paying your hosting platform because you might lose your subscribers; and it’s virtually impossible to get noticed by a major podcast network who can help you take your hard work to the next level,” said Morris, in a statement. “Launchpad was built with the independent podcaster in mind. We wanted to help solve these problems… for free.”

Since nothing is actually free, and since PodcastOne wants to get paid, the catch is the company’s own ability to insert pre- and mid-roll advertising into podcasts that are hosted on the new service.

So podcasters can manage their direct advertising, but they give PodcastOne the ability to slot in ads that the company chooses across any of the podcasts that agree to be hosted on the service. It gives the company access to both marquee talent for high value, big spending advertisers, and a way to flood other podcasts with whatever ads the company wants.

Ads that LaunchpadDM inserts won’t be longer than two total minutes per episode and podcasters can determine the location of the midroll spot when uploading the episode.


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Mobile messaging financial advisory service, Stackin, adds banking features and raises cash – gpgmail


When Stackin initially pitched itself as part of Techstars Los Angeles accelerator program two years ago, the company was a video platform for financial advice targeting a millennial audience too savvy for traditional advisory services.

Now, nearly two years later, the company has pivoted from video to text-based financial advice for its millennial audience and is offering a new spin on lead generation for digital banks.

The company has launched a new, no-fee, checking and savings account feature in partnership with Radius Bank, which offers users a 1% annual percentage yield on deposits.

And Stackin has raised $4 million in new cash from Experian Ventures, Dig Ventures and Cherry Tree Investments, along with supplemental commitments from new and previous investors including Social Leverage, Wavemaker Partners, and Mucker Capital.

“Stackin’ has a unique and highly effective approach to connect and communicate with an entire generation of younger consumers around finance,” said Ty Taylor, Group President of Global Consumer Services at Experian, in a statement.

Founded two years ago by Scott Grimes, the former founder of Uproxx Media, and Kyle Arbaugh, who served as a senior vice president at Uproxx, Stackin initially billed itself as the Uproxx of personal finance.

It turns out that consumers didn’t want another video platform.

“Stackin’ is fundamentally changing the shape and context of what a financial relationship means by creating a fun, inclusive and judgement free environment that empowers our users to learn and take action through messaging,” said Scott Grimes, CEO and co-founder of Stackin’, in a statement. “This funding allows us to build out new features around banking and investing that will enhance the relationship with our customers.”

Later this fall the company said it would launch a new investment feature that will encourage Stackin users to participate in the stock market. It’s likely that this feature will look something like the Acorns model, which encourages users to invest in diversified financial vehicles to get them acquainted with the stock market before enabling individual trades on stocks.

According to Grimes, the company made the switch from video to text in March 2018 and built a custom messaging platform on Twilio to service the company’s 500,000 users.

“In a short time, we have built a large customer base with a demographic that is typically hard to reach. Having financial institutions like Experian come on board as an investor is a testament that this model is working,” Grimes wrote in an email.


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Fortnite World Cup has handed out $30 million in prizes, and cemented its spot in the culture – gpgmail


The Fortnite phenomenon — the wildly popular battle royale game from Epic Games — has manifested itself in concerned articles, cultural shoutouts and now has sealed its place in the cultural firmament by wrapping up its first “World Cup” which saw the company give away $30 million in prizes.

The big winner in today’s solo challenge was sixteen year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who won $3 million for beating out the competition in the solo tournament. And, as sports writer Darren Rovell noted on Twitter, Giersdorf’s prize pool is only $800,000 smaller than the pot for the winner of the U.S. Open, which is set to begin in a few weeks at the same stadium.

Indeed, the esports prize pool is one of the biggest awards for a popular competitive event. Wimbledon winners will take home less than $3 million and Tiger Woods won $2 million for besting the field of competitors at the Masters.

Fortnite’s big moment is also a big deal for competitive esports in the U.S. The biggest prize pool for an esports event in the U.S. was likely meant to plant a flag and show that competitive gaming is something that can capture the attention of a younger audience that has drifted away from watching more traditional pastimes and watching less sports, according to a McKinsey study.

Courtesy of McKinseys

Giersdorf, who hails from Pennsylvania and plays professionally for the Los Angeles-based esports team, the Sentinels, became the inaugural Fortnite World Cup solo champion by putting in a dominant performance over the entire weekend of competition.

For folks who’ve never played the game (or had it explained to them) Fortnite involves dropping 100 players onto an island where they have to find weapons, build bases and try and eliminate the competition until only one player’s left standing.

It’s a cartoon version of the Hunger Games with no bloodshed, a lot of victory dances, and hours of social networking.

The game has turned its publisher, Epic Games into a multi-billion dollar business. Certainly it’s one that can afford to front a $30 million prize purse for a few days of competition.

The tournament wasn’t just about solo-play. The company had different rounds for the duos competition featuring two-player teams. That competition, which ended on Saturday, also featured a $3 million prize pool and was won by the European duo of Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen and David “Aqua” W.

Epic pulled out all of the stops it could for the multi-day event at Arthur Ashe stadium. In addition to pulling in some of the top names in livestreaming and competitive esports to participate in the event, the company also brought in the DJ Marshmello for a performance.

The tournament pulled in nearly 9 million viewers for the final day of the competition on YouTube alone. Over 40 million people tried out for a slot in the World Cup finals.

And while the prize pot takes a significant chunk out of the $100 million that Epic has committed to spend on competitions this year, the returns in terms of the social capital and cache’ that Epic has given to the esports world can’t be underestimated.

It’s certainly going to change the life of its first World Cup champion. A fact that Giersdorf knows all too well himself.

“Emotionally, right now, I don’t feel too much, except I know that this could pretty much change my life forever,” Giersdorf said in an interview with ESPN. “It’s just absolutely unreal.”




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