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Category: topSource: bizjournalsJun 23rd, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via Medium.com, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, www.instagram.com/upgradeur_life Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara

     Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Luana Lopes Lara, Kalshi, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ RITHOLTZ: This… Read More The post Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara appeared first on The Big Picture.      Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Luana Lopes Lara, Kalshi, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest, Luana Lopes Lara is a co-founder of Kalshi. They are a derivatives trading marketplace, where you can go and trade event contracts on such disparate occurrences such as COVID-19, economic outcomes, interest rates, Federal Reserve, politics, climate and weather, culture, the Oscars, the Grammys, science and technology, all sorts of really fascinating places. They are the only such marketplace that has been approved for the sort of events trading by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the CFTC, which makes them both fascinating and — and unique. There’s nothing else like them. This provides a way for individuals and institutions to hedge all sorts of really interesting events. And as opposed to having think about, well, if this happens, what’s the ramification in gold, or oil, or inflation, or interest rates, you can actually bet on that exact event and hedge your business or your portfolio. It’s really quite fascinating. I thought this was really interesting conversation, and I think you will also. So with no further ado, my conversation with Kalshi Co-Founder, Luana Lopes Lara. ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. RITHOLTZ: My special guest this week is Luana Lopes Lara. She is the co-founder of Kalshi, one of the only derivative trading marketplaces that allows the trading of event contracts in order to hedge against major business and political events. Kalshi is the only marketplace to receive approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who regulates the trillion-dollar derivatives industry. Luana Lopes Lara, welcome to Bloomberg. LARA: Thank you so much. I’m very happy to be here. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s start just with that unusual intro, you’re the only CFTC-approved way to trade on the outcome of events. Explain that a little bit. LARA: Right, exactly. Kalshi is a financial exchange that allows people to trade on the outcome of a lot of different events. So things from, will inflation keep going as high as it is right now, will the Fed raise rates to like, well, 2020 with the hottest year on record? And what really sets us apart is that we’re the only — the first and only ones regulated by the CFTC to do this in the United States. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s talk about that because I love the story about you guys. You and your co-founder, you start calling attorneys, and one day, you end up calling like 60 or 70 lawyers in a single day. And pretty much every one of them said, “People have been trying to do this since the 1980s. It’s never been approved. Just forget about it, it’s not happening.” Tell us about that. LARA: Right. So we really wanted to build Kalshi the right way. So to view the exchange that is sustainable and — and can be a pillar of the financial world, we wanted to make this really big, get the right partners on board, and really try to build something that’s going to outlast CME. You know, like, CME is around there for like 150 years. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: And the way to do that, for us, was to build a proper financial exchange, to build this right. And we knew that getting regulated was the first step and like figuring out how to do it right. But obviously, me and my co-founder were both computer scientists, we knew nothing about regulation. So we sat down and put on a spreadsheet the names and — and emails of – of 65 different lawyers that we thought maybe could be related to this, and we called one by one. I think we split who was going to call who. And all of them were just like, “That’s not going to happen. The CFTC won’t allow this. It has already — they already said no to this in the past.” But because of a friend of a friend of a friend, we ended up getting to Jeff Bandman, who works with us till today. He’s an ex-official of the CFTC, and he really understood the Commission and – and helped us — started — helping us start navigating the entire situation. And yeah, it was two years of — of — of that entire engagement and iteration of the CFTC with all their core principles and concerns that they had, to address them and — and really ended up getting regulated in November 2020. RITHOLTZ: So it sounds like it wasn’t so much that the CFTC was against the idea of event contracts in order to hedge on these circumstances. They just didn’t like what was presented them previously, over the previous 40 years, or — or did something change that they suddenly said, “Oh, we used to think this was a bad idea. Now, we think it’s a good idea.” LARA: I think it was — it’s more of the first. I think it was about presenting to them why we thought event contracts were so important, and how they could really be used for hedging. And every day hedging like — like retail, and Americans every day can hedge things like inflation, like rates, risks that we see and read about like in the news or on TV every day. And it was really like presenting to them and getting them to comfort with how these markets work, how they weren’t easy to manipulate, how the rules could — could operate. So really getting them to comfort with how the exchange, the markets, and all of our contracts could — could operate, and that’s what took that long. It wasn’t — in my opinion, it was more like explaining what we wanted to do. They were fantastic from the beginning to really listening and working with us. It wasn’t that they were just like, “No, we’re never going to do this.” RITHOLTZ: I — I think it’s interesting that it took people from outside of the world of finance to bring an idea into finance from a technology perspective and say, “Whatever the logistical hurdles we have to meet in order to receive regulatory approval,” that wasn’t like an ideological problem. To you, it was a, “Well, this is a logistical problem that we have to solve. And once we solve it, we can get this going.” So how long did the back and forth with the CFTC take to get approval? LARA: Yeah. No, it was two years or two years and a half. RITHOLTZ: Wow. LARA: And yeah, we used to say it’s like we were climbing a very high mountain, and then as we started climbing more, we would see it’s actually twice as high and it would keep – and it would keep multiplying. Because the thing is we would go to them and — and they would have concerns and issues, so we would go back and solve the issues. A lot of it, as you mentioned, was related to technology. We did analysis on similar markets on what we could do, and viewed the surveillance systems and all of those things, and going back to them, and then they were like, “Okay, that’s fine.” But we have all these other issues now, and then we would go back and — and figure them out and — and — and do that one by one. It was like walking in the desert a little bit. We didn’t know where — where the end was. But it ended up working out. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s talk a little bit about your platform. This is unlike futures and it’s unlike derivatives, and that when you are purchasing a contract, you are putting up the full dollar amount. It’s not like where you’re putting up 10 cents on the dollar, or one cent on the dollar. If you’re making a $1,000 bet, you are posting a $1,000. How much did that factor influenced the CFTC that this wasn’t just going to be reckless speculation and — and people fooling around, this was really hedging? LARA: Right. So we are fully cash collateralized. So every — as you said, every dollar that you can lose or every dollar that you — you trade, you have to have it with us before. And I think this really helps with the safety of the platform and it really started from us. We really want to start in a way that is very safe for everyone, and we can really understand the system before going like too far ahead. And we really see this as very important. So all the funds are fully cash collateralized. But obviously from — from the CFTC perspective, it adds to their comfort to the fact that there can’t be like leverage or margin or more risk added to the system, that all the money is collateralized, and the retail is protected because of that. RITHOLTZ: So equities, you can put up half the – the dollar amount, 2 to 1, futures or something like 10 to 1. Options, if you go out of — out of the money and far enough into the future, it’s — it’s a 100 to 1. Is there ever a plan to move away from the 1 to 1, dollar for dollar, maybe not option 100 to 1? But certainly, margin and equity market seems to be pretty reasonable at 2 to 1. LARA: At the moment, we’re really focused on retail and fully cash collateralization — fully cash — being fully cash collateralized. But at — in the future, I think our goal is to be like the New York Stock Exchange for events. So having — being really the — the central place of the ecosystem, and having like different brokers and institutions, hedge funds, market makers plugged into us, the exchange. At that point, it would make sense to start considering something like that. But right now, we’re completely focused on retail and having it fully cash collateralized as well. RITHOLTZ: Right. So once — once it becomes a big institutional exchange, then — then you can explore that. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: So since it’s retail, let’s talk a little bit about retail. Gamification is a real big issue. We’ve seen Robinhood do this. We’ve seen a number of other sports gambling platforms doing this. What are your thoughts about gamification when it comes to events trading? LARA: Yeah. I think the gamification question is a very interesting one, because I think it’s less about the asset class and more about the actual platform and the mechanics. So for example, you can trade equities on Robinhood, or Charles Schwab. The conversation about gamification is a lot more on Robinhood than on Charles Schwab, even though the underlying like is the same, you’re trading equities. So we really believe event contracts are — have a very big economic purpose and can be used for hedging and all of those things that we — we talked about. And the gamification would come only in the platform. But we’re very, very focused on building a platform that’s safe, easy to understand and to use, but not — not gamified. RITHOLTZ: So let’s go over some of the type of events that you guys trade. You could — you can make bets on COVID-19 and vaccination, on economics, inflation, mortgage rates, politics, climate and weather, world culture, science and technology. Let — let’s — let’s take some examples from this. I’d love the idea, will the 30-year fixed rate mortgage be above 3.9% on April 15? In other words, if I’m buying a house and closing on it, and concerned that rates might rise, I could take a trade against that and hedge that position. And I don’t have to be a billion-dollar hedge funds. I could just be someone buying a house. LARA: Exactly. I think all of our contracts have economics purpose, and they can really be used for hedging. For example, all of our COVID markets, during the Omicron wave, you could really see like even before the news started reporting it, the amount that it was taking up of. And then we’ve talked to the users, and they are, “Oh, wow, like I — I might not be able to go back to school. I want to hedge like that — that situation and all of that.” So a lot of the contracts I’m very interested in, for example, is the half point rate hike for — for March. I think it’s — it’s a market that went up a lot during, I think, one of the — there was some news that that it was going to go up … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … by that. And then it went down again. And — and other ones are GDP and inflation, really just getting into the economic situation we have nowadays. RITHOLTZ: Number of Americans — so these are all “yes or no” contracts that — that’s … LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: … pretty clearly determined. It’s black and white. Will 254 million Americans be vaccinated by May 1st? But I saw a contract, will America achieve herd immunity by September 1st? Who is the determiner of whether or not herd immunity — how do you define those terms? LARA: Yeah, that’s a great question. All of our markets are like legal binding documents. So they’re like 40 pages determining what the real rules are, to really make sure that there’s no room for indeterminacy or anything of the sort. So this market, specifically, I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s definitely the CDC or some number around there. But if you – like, all of our rules, if you go to our rulebook, it has very specifically defining where — which number we’re using, how we’re using, which target, if it has to be above or below a certain number, and it ends up being very determined. But for COVID markets, we’re using CDC numbers for — for some of our sources. RITHOLTZ: So I mentioned world culture, that’s kind of interesting. Is there a lot of activity in who’s going to win Best Picture or who’s going to be the Best Actress at the Oscars? How — is that a seasonal thing when — each year or how does that trade? LARA: Yeah. Launching the Oscar markets were – it was very important for us because they were the very – very first regulated derivatives, I guess, in the entertainment industry and Academy Awards. We have traded more than 150,000 contracts … Ryan Wyrtzen: Really? LARA: … in the Oscars so far. RITHOLTZ: Wow. LARA: … and it’s only been a couple of weeks. And we really expect the — the trading there to — to be a lot higher, closer to — to the ceremony … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … or during the ceremony. But it’s interesting, a lot of people say that the Oscars are — are dead or irrelevant. But the movie industry is so big too nowadays, that there’s so much — so many people that are so impacted by the results of these awards, and things of that sort. And yeah, on the seasonality point, I think that the interesting thing about the entertainment industry is that you have awards, for example, like the Oscars or the Grammys, and we also have markets on. But you have weekly things, for example, album, sales numbers … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … Billboard charts, and things like that, that we offer markets on every week and have a lot of room for like modeling and alpha, and things of that sort. RITHOLTZ: So — so I know studios spend a lot of money on marketing and promoting, leading up to the Oscars. Because if a — let’s say a small independent film wins Best Oscar, it seems a huge — it gets a huge uptick in subsequent box office and — and other sales or streaming rights. I’m wondering if part of their marketing plan is going to include hedging on Best Oscar. They can not only spend, you know, a million dollars on promotion, they could buy a contract that offsets not winning Best Oscar. LARA: Yeah, that’s our goal, is to get all of them to come and really hedge all this risk that they have. RITHOLTZ: So — so where’s the volume today? Where are you seeing the most amount of activity? Is it — is it inflation and Fed activity? Is it GDP? What — where — where’s all the money flowing in on your platform? LARA: Right. It’s actually interesting, because when we launched, we really expected it to be category specific or concentrated in specific categories or economics, entertainment, transportation, technology. But it really is about what — what the news are. So what’s top of the New York Times? What’s in the newspaper the whole day? And what’s in the news? And right now, as you mentioned, the Fed March meeting is — is very — is a very — it’s a market with a lot of … RITHOLTZ: It’s live. It’s hot. LARA: Right. It’s very hot. Yeah, for sure. But for us, we’ve — we’ve seen this, like news-based activity lot, like the Omicron wave, as I told you. When the infrastructure bill was passing, there was a lot of activity over there; or when Jay Powell was going to get renominated, there was a lot of activity in that market. So it’s really about what’s in the news and what people see their risks associated with, and where they think there’s most room to make money. And right now, the Fed rates, people are really disagreeing on that. And there’s a lot of volume and volatility on that market. RITHOLTZ: So — so you guys didn’t exist when Brexit had come up. That was before your time. But you have been around with Russia and Ukraine, and I noticed there’s not a lot of activity there. Why not do a futures contract on will Russia — it’s obviously too late today. But in January or December, you could have done a “Will Russia invade Ukraine by February 1st, March 1st, April 1st?” LARA: Right. We avoid any contract that’s related to war, terrorism, assassination or — or violence of any kind. We don’t want to have those — those markets on our platform. But we do have markets that are adjacent to that. So for example, markets on the price of ruble or — or the price of oil, natural gas in the U.S. and Europe. So we have markets that are adjacent. We just don’t want to have markets directly related to war, terrorism, assassination, or those things. RITHOLTZ: Makes sense. You don’t want to incentivize anybody to misbehave. LARA: Right. Exactly. RITHOLTZ: In the past, I’ve heard futures described as a marriage between hedgers and speculators. So if you’re an airline, you want to hedge the price of oil. But someone got to be on the other side of that trade, so incomes speculators. Are you seeing that same sort of relationship amongst Kalshi clients? LARA: Yeah. I think Kalshi is one of the most pure forms of exactly this hedging and speculation match. I think one – a very simple example to understand this, if you think of rain in New York City, right? Like, you can have like an ice cream truck buying – an ice cream truck will be really — really hit if — if it rains for like a lot of days, because people will buy less ice cream. So they can buy a “yes” contract to really hedge that offset that they have. On the other side, there can be someone that is going to speculate, and seeing there’s a forecast for 20% rain in the next couple of days and they are willing to take the — the “no” side because they think that there’s only a 20% chance it’s going to rain and — and it seems like they can make money. So then you can really have a match of like people that actually need to have a contract for hedging, almost like insurance, and people who – who because of forecasting and probability and — and what they think the fair value is, is going to take the other side. And then at the settlement, for example, if it does rain, it ends up being that everyone is happy because the speculator makes money, because they were correct. No. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: The — the hedger is protected against the event. LARA: Right. Yes. Right. RITHOLTZ: And the speculator won the trade. LARA: Right. Exactly. And exactly, you — you got it totally right. RITHOLTZ: So — so let – that raises a really interesting question. Who are your clients? Are they hedge funds and institutions? Are they retail investors, or is it a whole spectrum of people? LARA: We really focus now on — on retail. And our — our biggest amount of users right now is the traditional option trader, like informed retail options traders. But the way that we see this — this growing is we want to keep growing within the retail trading and options trading community. And then our next step is getting brokerages on board so that you can now go and trade on event contracts through your interactive brokers or e-trade account. And then after that, building enough liquidity to start bringing more prop shops in and — and smaller firms and then hedge funds and — and then institutions, and maybe we can have maybe a Burger King hedging, I don’t know, price of plastic straws or something like that. RITHOLTZ: So — so the platform eventually becomes an exchange? LARA: Exactly, exactly. I think we — we see it as a buildup of liquidity from — from retail that’s like smaller amounts, but — but — but higher velocity to — to hire bigger and bigger institutions, all the way to become like a full-fledged financial exchange like the New York Stock Exchange or CME. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about how you guys, you and your co-founder, created Kalshi. You kind of were the opposite of Facebook. You know, Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “Move fast and — and break things.” Companies like you and Coinbase and BlockFi spent a lot of time getting approval from the regulators. Tell us a bit about why you took that approach as opposed to moving fast and breaking things. LARA: Yeah. I think a lot of times people are making the short-term trade-off for speed. And in finance, I think it’s different. You can – obviously, you go to market faster if you choose the unregulated route. But with finance, there’s been like a lot of historical examples of unregulated platforms getting meaningful volume and then being shut down by regulators, because they weren’t properly regulated and doing things right from the start. We really think that the opportunity really shrinks if — if you don’t take regulation into account, because then you can’t get real money in the platform. You can’t get real good partners, as we just talked about brokers, market makers, hedge funds onboard. Sometimes you can’t even offer products to U.S. customers. It really boxes into something small, very quickly. And that’s — for us to be the New York Stock Exchange for events, because that’s our goal, the only way to do that was to do it right from the start, going through the regulated path, and — and eating on the cost of the two years and a half waiting, but — but making sure that we’re set for success. RITHOLTZ: So your — your co-founder, Tarek Mansour, he was an equity derivatives intern at Goldman Sachs in 2016. The same year you were a quantitative trader at Citadel Securities. So you guys both had a pretty bright career path. Had you not decided to go out and launch this whole new platform? Tell us what motivated you to say, “Goldman, Citadel, that looks too easy. Let’s — let’s launch a — a new startup.” LARA: Well, that — that’s funny because actually most of our MIT time, we were both very focused on just getting finance jobs and never even thought about starting a company. But yeah, we were both very interested in math, financial history, finance from — from the very start of — of our school years and — and we worked with various financial firms. As you mentioned, Tarek worked at Goldman. I worked at Bridgewater, Five Rings Capital, which is a small prop shop, and then Citadel Securities. At those internships, we really saw the behavior that we say is the Kalshi behavior over and over again. It’s like firms making trading decisions based on events. As we think the European Central Bank is going to raise rates, let’s take this massive position, or really find the structure to make that work. But the idea really crystallized in our heads when we were working, both together, at Five Rings. And there, we were playing this game almost the whole day. It’s called the “maker market” game that people — that everyone would be putting like bids and offers in the probability of something. And then the other person could only tighten the spread or — or trade against you. And there was a single — there was a day that we were just trading — playing this game the entire day. And then I — I don’t remember exactly what market it was, but I took a massive position on Trump doing something. I don’t remember exactly what it was. And everyone thought I was crazy and debated me a lot on that. But I ended up being right. And then when I was — we were walking back to — to where the interns were staying, it was stuck in my head, like why isn’t there a place for people to do this? Like, we love doing this? We do this the whole day. Like, we see in every place we work at, like very big positions, people are trading based on events. Like, why is there no place to do this? And then I sat down and started talking to Tarek about it. Like, why isn’t there — why don’t — why don’t we do it? And we stayed the whole night up talking about it. And it was just something we were so passionate about from the finance side, the product side, everything we always loved. And if there was going to be someone to figure it out, it was going to be us. It just then leaves us the idea for another six months, up until we were like, OK, like, this is a calling, we have to do it. RITHOLTZ: So — so when you say your desks are – and you guys are trading back in 2016, trading events, you couldn’t credibly bet any sort of volume on events like Kalshi does today. You had to go to secondary or tertiary markets. So you’re betting on gold if you’re thinking about inflation. LARA: Exactly. RITHOLTZ: You’re betting on oil if you’re concerned about war. It’s – it’s always once removed, which raises the issue. Even if you’re right, you may not express itself in a market the same way that the bet was supposed to go. LARA: Right. Exactly. I think that in the beginning of COVID, you had this exact thing happening with — with the economy and how you would think about the S&P. And the beauty about event contracts is that it’s direct exposure in what you think. There’s not like a lot of variables for you to keep track of or — or think about of things that can go wrong. That’s why we also think it’s very – it’s the most like natural way of investing, especially if you think for retail. They can’t like keep track or have full desks of people trying to understand what’s going on. It’s a lot easier to do when you have one opinion, and you have a very clear way to get exposure on what you believe in being right or wrong. RITHOLTZ: So — so you’ve spoken about the gambling industry and how incentives are somewhat cloudy. How does your platform correct for that? LARA: Right. The key part about gambling is that the house takes a position in the bets. So the house has an interest on the outcome of — of the bet or — or the market, if you want to call it that, but it’s more just the bet. We are just a financial exchange. So we — you can think of Kalshi a matching agent. We match people that believe something will happen with people that believe something will not happen. If they have equivalent prices, we match them. So we have no interest in whether the market will go away a certain way. We do have an affiliate trader that’s there to provide liquidity so that people can trade, especially as we start the exchange. But the exchange doesn’t take any positions ever. We’re simply matching other participant orders. So there’s no conflict of interest between us and our members. RITHOLTZ: So — so when you look at a racetrack and the odds are set on horses, those odds don’t quite add up and the shortfall is the house take. So it’s never quite 50/50. What does it cost to trade on this platform? What — what’s the — so in other words, if I’m betting a $100 that something is going to happen and I win, do I get $200 back or how — how does that work? LARA: Right? So — so the way that it works is that the “yes” and the “no” prices are from 1 to 99 cents, and whoever is right gets $1. So let’s say I’m buying a “yes” for 40 cents, it means there’s someone buying a “no” for 60 cents. And if I am correct, I make $1, which means I’m profiting 60 cents which is from my counterparty, RITHOLTZ: Right. What – what’s the cost of that trade? Meaning, how does Kalshi make money, and I assume since it’s fully collateralized, there’s a float. That’s going to be a good source of revenue over time. LARA: We don’t make money on float. All of our — our — all of them, user member funds are in a fully regulated CFTC Clearinghouse, which is FTX derivatives, the U.S. derivatives, they are clearinghouse. And we make money on a transaction fee. So we have a small transaction fee that varies on the price of the contract. RITHOLTZ: But what is it averaged ballpark? What does that cost? LARA: I think it’s less than 1%. RITHOLTZ: All right. So, we will have a conversation after we’re done, and I will show you that – I think it was Schwab. When they moved to free trading, their float became 57% of the revenue. So we’ll have a conversation. We’ll see if we can help raise your — your revenue target and – and we’ll go from there. Because especially — it’s one thing if you’re looking at events that are days and weeks out. But if you’re making bets on will 2020 be the hottest year in history, hey, you’re sitting with that money for 12, 11, 10 months. There’s a lot of top line to be gained from — from a little float. We’ll — we’ll work that out with the CFTC. That will be — that will be easy. You guys raised $36 million in a Series A. Sequoia Capital was the lead, probably the most storied venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Charles Schwab, not the entity I was talking earlier about Charles Schwab in the float. But Mr. Charles Schwab was an investor. Henry Kravis is an investor. Silicon Valley Angel is one of the early investors. And were you with Y Combinator when you were first launching? LARA: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: So — so that’s quite an esteemed list of — of people who said, “Hey, there’s some value here.” Tell us a little bit about the experience at Y Combinator and then doing an A round with some really boldface names. LARA: Yeah. Our experience at Y Combinator was actually very different from most of the other startups. Like, we were measuring regulatory traction, and other startups are measuring user growth, or revenue or — or things — things of that sort. Yeah, and about the Series A, getting a DCM was — was a key part of — of that Series A. I think Kashi is really one of those asymmetric type of investments. We are going to face obviously a lot of challenges and — but we — if we execute against those challenges, we’re going to have massive outlier potential. And we were really trying to find partners and investors that really understood the long-term vision of the company, and share that obsession that we have with event contracts and — and building this entire trading ecosystem. So Alfred from Sequoia is one of those people. He — he did a PhD in these types of markets. He really, really understands it and sees the potential. And obviously, it’s — it’s a Sequoia Sequoia, as you said. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: So that was – that was definitely something we thought about. But — but Alfred, specifically, has historically invested in a lot of like paradigm shifting companies like Airbnb and DoorDash. So we really thought it was a good — it was a good fit. And then after Sequoia was our lead investor, we were really trying to fill the round of – with Wall Street investors that could really help us navigate this industry. So yeah, Tarek, my co-founder, he’s obsessed with barbarians at the gate. So — so when … RITHOLTZ: Hence, Henry Kravis. LARA: Right. So when — when one of our seed investors, Ali Partovi, said he could intro and — and we could talk to Henry, I think Tarek was just like absolutely fascinated. And they had a fantastic conversation. He was very interested from — from the very beginning. And with — with Charles Schwab, it was something similar. It was also Ali Partovi introing us to — to him, also very interested in from the start, and he actually told us that our early days at Kalshi looked very similar to his early days starting Charles Schwab. So that was very exciting. And — and yeah, they help us so much till today so it’s fantastic. RITHOLTZ: The funny thing about Schwab is people don’t realize the guy you see with the gray hair in commercials, that’s Charles Schwab. That’s not an actor. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: He really exists and has been running the company. Now, I think he’s chairman. But that was really him for — for a long time. So — so let’s talk a little bit about event hedging. And I like this quote, “These markets are a little like an aggregator of public opinion in real time.” So — so what are the implications of this? And is that the sort of stuff your lead investor at Sequoia was studying when he went to school? LARA: Right. Yeah, this is a very important part of our vision. Over time, we really want Kalshi to become the source of truth for forecasting these events that we have markets on. Because of the prices at Kalshi go from 1 to 99 cents, they directly translate to the probability of the event happening. So let’s say the market might be saying there’s a 20% chance there’s a recession this year. It means that 20 cents means that there’s a 20% chance that the market believes there’s a 20% chance … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … that there will be a recession this year. And the amazing thing is that there’s a lot of theoretical and empirical evidence that they are the most effective and most accurate ways of forecasting the future. They’re way better than polls, way better than like pundits on — on the news, trying to say what’s going on. And it’s mainly for two reasons. I think the first one is because when people put money where their mouth is, they are more — more likely to say what they really think and actually do research and everything. And the second one is that markets really aggregate the wisdom of the crowds. You’re getting a lot of different people’s opinions, when they put money behind their opinion, and really aggregating data, and which makes this a very powerful tool. And I mean, any market lover understands what I’m saying. And yeah, making — and — and part of our — our vision and what we really want to do long — long term is make these forecasts core to people’s lives. It’s really part of our mission. With — with event contracts becoming more widespread, we really hope that people will use data in their lives to prepare better for the future, address uncertainty, inform themselves better, and like try to address a little bit of the very biased world and not very data-driven world that we live in nowadays. So we’re trying to get started with that. We’re really trying to get — we have market tickers like any other equity or things like that. We have tickers for all of our markets. So we’re trying to have tickers and prices to be used by news and things of that sort. So we really try to get this very important data, that we believe is very important data out there. But for Alfred specifically, I think he was doing more than like mathematical and like research. He was doing a stats PhD, so somewhat related to this, but not really on the — on the — on this side, but yeah. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s — let’s talk a little bit about prediction markets that are out there. Historically, they’ve only done a so-so job, partly because they’re not very broad. They’re not that very deep, and the dollar amounts that are traded had been modest. I saw an overlay of about half a dozen different prediction markets before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And you would think they would all be kind of similar, but they weren’t. They were all over the map. Do you have to get to a certain scale that will fix that problem of prediction markets being kind of thin and easily — I don’t want to say manipulated, but one big trade really has an impact on — on how those markets trade. LARA: Right. Exactly. I think we need a — a base level of liquidity and — and volume for — for the forecast to really work and be really useful. And a lot of these like other prediction markets out there, as — as we talked about, they’re unregulated. They have — they’re very new. They just pop up, especially the crypto ones every other day. And it’s hard to build liquidity and real proper volume like that. But we really think that prediction markets are the way to go to have these — these very good forecasts of — of events, but it needs liquidity and needs volume, and that’s what we’re working on. RITHOLTZ: Really kind of interesting, which raises the question, how are you going to scale this up? How are you going to get to 100 million and then a billion, and then who knows what from there? LARA: Right. We have a lot of ways to — to scale the exchange. It’s kind of what we talked about with — with building up liquidity. Right now, we’re really focused on retail. So getting — we have a lot of option traders, or like what we call informed retail traders in the platform, trying to go in more – deeper into different communities, and trying to get them in to test the platform, things of that sort. And then the next step for us is getting brokers in to offer our markets in their platform, so e-trade, interactive brokers, all of those. And then bringing up the volume, we can bring up like actual liquidity providers, prop shops, hedge funds, and then up until, I guess, insurance companies even offloading some risk or — or like actually big institutions, natural hedgers, bringing them in. So the way that we’re seeing it is really starting to build of retail with getting more and more of the current users that we have, which are option traders, and having more retail as we go to the — to the, I guess, brokers. RITHOLTZ: So — so how big can this get? I mean, is this ever a billion dollars a month? How — how large can this sort of event hedging scale up to? LARA: Right. So event contracts are a lot more like tangible, relatable and — and more direct, as we talked about, then all these other assets that — that preceded it. So we really think when we actually plug it in the financial ecosystem, it can properly scale. Obviously, it takes a lot of time to get there because we need to view the entire ecosystem around events. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: It’s a completely new thing. But once it’s properly plugged in the financial system, I can give you some numbers to give some idea, right? I think you mentioned that in the beginning of the CFTC regulating a trillion-dollar industry, like grain futures are $7 trillion industry. RITHOLTZ: Wow. LARA: Commodities, 20 trillion. Interest rate swaps are around, I think, $500 trillion. So not exactly how big the market is, but I think as we expand event contracts, it definitely has a potential to be one of these. RITHOLTZ: Right. Interest rate swaps are $500 billion or trillion? LARA: Trillion. RITHOLTZ: Really? LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: That’s the notational, nothing is going to get offered? LARA: Right. Yes. You got that point. RITHOLTZ: That — that’s a giant amount of money. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: So — so really, startups have a tendency to have this defining moment in their lifespans, where they sort of either pivot or just a moment of clarity, and you could see the whole roadmap laid out. Did you guys have that sort of defining moment at Kalshi? LARA: I would say the biggest — the earliest defining moment we had was actually — before we really started the company, we went to a Y Combinator hackathon. Because before we were like fascinated by it, but we didn’t think it was like going to work. It’s like — it seems so complicated, and like, are we crazy? I think that was the big question in our head, like are we going crazy over here? Then we went to Y Combinator for a hackathon. And there were like these teams with like bunch of servers, crazy computers like — and it was just me and Tarek with our like Macbooks, like try to — to code like a demo of what we were talking about. And then we first presented to Michael then, the CEO of YC and he really didn’t like what we were saying from the beginning. He cut us. Like the first five seconds, he’s like that, like “This is illegal,” like, “What are you doing?” And then we will get very upset. We went in like we – I think we — Tarek even started drinking beer. He’s like, “There’s no way we’re going to be in the Top 10,” which had to present again. And we ended up being in the Top 10. We presented again, and then we ended up being in the Top 3, which were the winners of the hackathon. And I remember that night, when we were going back to — to our friend’s place where we were staying in San Francisco for the hackathon, we were like, “Wow, like maybe we aren’t crazy. Like, we should — like maybe like people believe in what we’re doing.” And it was a very like happy moment for us. And I think right after that, we actually got into the Y Combinator batch. And it was one of the happiest moments we’ve — we’ve had — we’ve had of the company. So that was really like motivating and encouraging, because as I told you, we never thought about being founders. We thought about being like he was going to be — we were both going to be traders full time. So it was like a big shift for us. So that was a very exciting moment. RITHOLTZ: Really interesting. Let me throw a couple of curveballs at you. You and your co-founder, Tarek, both were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in — in the finance category. Tell us a little bit about that. What was that experience like? LARA: Yeah. No, it was very excited. We were very honored to be — to be — to be nominated, especially being like the head up of the — of the finance category. We were really excited after all the work we’ve done. And actually, a funny story is that because of the Forbes 30 Under 30, I went viral in Brazil for a little bit, because the Brazilian Forbes wrote a — wrote a piece about how a Brazilian was in the American Forbes 30 Under 30 and that — because it’s very rare to have Brazilians in the list here. So that was — that was — that was a funny story. But yeah, because of the Forbes 30 Under 30, we also ended up ringing the opening bell at the NASDAQ, which was very exciting. RITHOLTZ: Interesting. LARA: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: And one more — one more curveball. You were a ballet dancer with the Bolshoi. You studied ballet. Tell us about that. LARA: Right. So very different from what I do now, for sure. But I’m from Brazil, originally, and I just came to the U.S. for college. And most of my life before college, I was split between ballet and school. What — what I really loved about ballet was intensity of it all. It was extremely hard to get to the top. It’s extremely competitive. And there’s nowhere to hide, you need to be completely on, you need to give it your all. And yeah, and I — I studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School and it was extremely intense. And — and we had to be extremely disciplined, like measuring our food down to like a four puffs of strawberry before this rehearsal, to be able to get there. But that was –that was one part. And the other part, my — my parents are both engineers and have stem backgrounds. So I was surrounded by that outside of ballet, doing like Math Olympiad and all of that, I also had to get 100 on everything on the math and science side. So I used to do like normal school, I guess, from like 7:00 a.m. because Brazil school’s hours are different. so 7:00 a.m. to like 1:00 p.m., and then ballet from 1 – like 1:30 p.m. to like 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. And then I would actually go study. So that was a very intense part of my life, but I think it really set me up for — for being able to go to MIT and — and — and enjoy everything there. And it’s something that Tarek is very similar to me, he was actually a professional skier before going to college. And — and we have very similar backgrounds. And I think that level of intensity and — and discipline is really what helped us get through the regulatory process and be where we are today. So tough times, but it’s good now. RITHOLTZ: I — do the same thing. I measure my food input down to the quarter strawberry. And you could see it’s how I maintain my girls. So — so we only have certain amount of time left. Let me jump to my favorite questions that I asked all of our guests, starting with what kept you entertained during lockdown? What were you streaming, watching or — or listening to? LARA: Right. I listened to all and — and I’m very into American politics nowadays. So I’m finishing up the 10 American Presidents podcast. But on TV, I think I’m more mainstream. So I just love Succession, House of Cards, West Wing, and so on. RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about your mentors who helped shape your career. LARA: Right. So I think at MIT, I had two professors that were very impactful in my career and to me. I think the first one was Patrick Winston. He was my advisor and professor, a lot of artificial intelligence classes. He really helped me navigate MIT and set me up to — and set my mindset to where I wanted to be, to like really psychology. And the other great mentor was Peter Kempthorne. He’s also professor of stats, and really, I started being interested in finance in his glasses. And funnily enough, he’s actually one of directors of — of Kalshi nowadays, because we kept very close contact. And we talk a lot to him about like the dynamics of markets and all the stuff we talked about. And since we started the company, I think our biggest mentors have been Michael, the CEO of YC. Up until today, he’s helped us so much. And Ali Partovi, who’s — who runs Neo, he’s one of our seed investors. And they have been really instrumental in like making us better founders, not just like making the company succeed, but better founders and how to like deal with employees, growing — like growing pains, negotiation, all of those things that, you know, like MIT nerds didn’t really know what to do. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about books. What are some of your favorites and what are you reading right now? LARA: Right. Some of my favorite – my favorite book is this book called “Americana,” but it’s not the novel. It’s actually the 400-year history of American capitalism. But whenever I say Americana, everyone thinks is the novel. And the other one is this book called predict — “Predictably Irrational,” which is … RITHOLTZ: Dan — Dan Ariely? LARA: Right. Yeah. And it’s — it’s very — some — it has a lot to do with what Kalshi does and I think it’s one of the early books I read on — on prediction markets and decision-making, and I thought it was a fantastic book. And at the moment, I’m finally — Tarek will be very happy to hear this. I’m finally reading “Barbarians at the Gate” after he told me for years that I should, but I barely started, so yeah. RITHOLTZ: And Americana is a Bhu Srinivasan, am I pronouncing it right? LARA: Right. He’s that. RITHOLTZ: He was a guest here a couple of years ago. I love that book. That book is just amazing. LARA: That’s book is fantastic. Yeah, it – yeah. RITHOLTZ: Those people think that, oh, all these companies were, you know, freestanding. It was a public private partnership … LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: … for a long time. That — that is a fascinating book and I’m surprised someone, as young as you, has found it. It’s sort of off the beaten path. LARA: Yeah. No. It’s — it’s a fascinating book. It made me — especially not being American, I think it made me understand the country and how it works so well, I think, way better. RITHOLTZ: So — so this is the first time I’m going to ask this question of somebody who is so recently out of college, but you’re 25 now, is that right? LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: So what sort of advice would you give to a college student or a recent college grad who is interested in a career in either startups and technology, or finance and derivative training? LARA: Right. I think the finance industry is very — there’s a very traditional path that people can take. And what really helped me and — and Tarek understand and — and really come up with the Kalshi idea and — and — and understand it and work on it was that we got a lot of exposure to a lot of different types of firms and a lot of different types of roles as well, like we did. I did more of the engineering side, then a little bit of the trading, then a bit of research. And Tarek did like all types of different trainings, because he also worked at Citadel, and Five Rings, and Goldman. And I think that giving yourself a lot of breadth, especially when you’re in college is very important to just understand the industry as a whole, understand when there are gaps, and — and seeing — like finding patterns, like how we found the Kalshi behavior. So I really think it’s about putting yourself out there, trying to learn different things, do different things and — and trying to get a global vision of — of what the industry is and why you want to do, and — and not be too tied to like the traditional path of like entering as like this level and then going up in a big firm and — and things like that. RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what do you know about the world of trading, and hedging, and investing today that you didn’t know, what do I say, four years ago when you guys were first starting out? You’ve been doing it since 2016, so let’s call it six years ago. LARA: Right. Yeah. So what we’re really doing is — is enabling trading and investing. But if I were an investor, what I think I would have liked to know a couple of years ago is that bold bets are — I would take a lot of bold bets. I think generally that’s – the bets that seem ridiculous at first and there’s a lot of debate, then there’s no way that it’s going to work, are usually the ones that are achieved, like the large outlier results. Definitely, I’m biased because Kashi is hopefully one — is going to be one of those bets for a lot of our investors. But I really think it’s about seeing what the world can be in the future and — and taking bold bets to get there. I think a couple years ago, I’ll be very — if I were an investor a couple years ago, I would be very scared to do that. But now, I would think that’s the way to go to really do meaningful investing. RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. We have been speaking to Luana Lopes Lara. She is the co-founder of derivatives trading marketplace, Kalshi. If you enjoy this conversation, be sure and check out any of our previous 400 interviews we’ve done over the past eight years. You can find those at iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcast fix. We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Write to us at mibpodcast@bloomberg.net. You can sign up for my daily reads at ritholtz.com. Follow me on Twitter @ritholtz. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put these conversations together each week. Sean Russo is my research assistant. Mohamad Rimawi is my audio engineer. Paris Wald is my producer. Atika Valbrun is our project manager. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.   ~~~   The post Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara appeared first on The Big Picture......»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureApr 19th, 2022

Ten Great Lessons From “Some Like It Hot”

Inflation is galloping but the best entertainment is still an affordable ride. For sixteen diminishing dollars anyone can enjoy, in perpetuity and ultra-high definition, the hands-down best-ever screen comedy, Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” (1959). Once reviled as tawdry, now honored as genius, taught in every film school in the nation, Wilder’s masterpiece has […] Inflation is galloping but the best entertainment is still an affordable ride. For sixteen diminishing dollars anyone can enjoy, in perpetuity and ultra-high definition, the hands-down best-ever screen comedy, Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” (1959). Once reviled as tawdry, now honored as genius, taught in every film school in the nation, Wilder’s masterpiece has it all: if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Charlie Munger in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q4 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Love & Death Sex & Money Blood & Milk Spills & Chills Wealth & Poverty Power & Weakness Cowardice & Bravery Truth & Deception Music & Song Crime & Comedy Never flags! Never stops! Never lets you feel your ass in the seat! Filmed more than 60 years ago, set nearly a century ago, in a world very much like our own: Inflated markets Yawning wealth gaps Burgeoning technology Unbridled sexuality Power-mad criminals Idle-rich roués All singing, all dancing on the precipice of a market crash, a Great Depression and another, even more disastrous, World War. “History Doesn’t Repeat Itself But It Often Rhymes”---Mark Twain Here are just ten great lessons from “Some Like It Hot.” Spoiler alerts apply…if you need ‘em. 1) Run For Your Life While We Laugh! “Some Like It Hot” is a Darwinian race for life: dodging bullets, questing for love! Blazing guns are not funny, yet comedy stars braving them are: witness Jack Lemmon’s bullet-riddled bull fiddle. “Nothing Is More Exhilarating Than To Be Shot At And Missed”---Winston Churchill “Fanfaren des Liebe” (1951) is a best-forgotten German comedy of two destitute musicians who pose as women to gig in an “all-girls” band. Ex-Vienna-crime-reporter Billy Wilder and veteran screenwriter Izzy Diamond jerry-rigged that simple premise with murder, money and sex to weld butts to the seats and glue eyeballs to the screen. The Wilder/Diamond fastball pitch: Penniless musicians fleeing Chicago mobsters disguise in drag to join an all-girls band, hop a train to Florida and vie for the love of the most alluring would-be gold-digger on earth! “Zowie!”---Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III in “Some Like It Hot” 2) Funny Talk English sounds funny if you can’t understand it. A dear friend, longtime expatriate in South Germany, spoke English to her toddlers and got an earful: “Mutti, don’t talk funny talk!” Immigrants to our blessed nation, Izzy Diamond and Billy Wilder first heard English as cacophony, wresting meaning slowly and effortfully. And that process left them with an appreciation for the goofy sounds of our difficult language. And what are the goofiest sounds in English? Aah! Oh! Ooh! Uh! Say them in a mirror and watch your face! Joe E. Brown’s “Osgood” pleads “Daphne!” and his huge mouth gapes mile-wide! Tony Curtis as “Joe” devilishly claims to share life-saving “blood type O” with Jack Lemmon as “Jerry,” echoed as an incredulous “Oh?” by his throwaway date, Barbara Drew as “Nellie Weinmeyer,” beginning a running gag which undercuts the horrors of this very bloody comedy. Two-timing “Toothpick Charlie’s” name resonates long after Mike Mazurki’s command invitation, “Yoo too, Tootpick!” and the wee snitch, played by veteran actor George E. Stone, trembles to his stoolie’s fate. At the big sit-down in Miami, Nehemiah Persoff’s “Little Bonaparte” points a deadly finger at George Raft’s “Spats Colombo” who has “gotten too big for his spats,” “gone too far” and is shortly gone for good. Spat’s parting, trademark remark: “Big joke!” Nellie Weinmeyer’s Hupmobile is the funniest of the two thousand nascent automotive brands of the Roaring Twenties. (Note to investors: only three have survived.) And the mule that lugs Nellie’s remains up the Grand Canyon in Joe qua Junior’s sympathy-seeking fantasy of near-sighted romance, as empathically envisioned by a cunningly credulous Marilyn Monroe, as the delicious “Sugar Cane,” is the funniest-named load-bearing creature extant. 3) Be Funny and Multiply Izzie Diamond won Math awards in school and practiced Applied Mathematics in “Some Like It Hot.” Thus one old codger ogling one young lovely is creepy. But a dozen doddering sugar daddies rocking on the porch of a seaside luxury hotel peering past Wall Street Journals to ogle Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators is a howl, especially as the youngest—Osgood---loses his heart to Jack Lemmon’s “Daphne” in drag. One deadly hitman isn’t funny. But four clueless hulking hitmen exultantly chanting “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” to their wary don---neither good nor jolly---on the occasion of their collective and well-earned assassinations, are funny. “Daphne” cuddled by Sugar in an upper berth might be too salacious for 1959, if not shortly invaded by a party of ten more blonde beauties---one proffering a formidable salami---who promptly shift the sin in the berth from forbidden lust to harmless gluttony, plus “a little bourbon.” Blood type “O” is exponentially funnier every time it’s pronounced. And talk about early product placement! Milk and milk products abound: “Mr. Mozzarella” “Buttermilk!” Sugar “used to sell kisses for the Milk Fund!” 4) Sax is Sexy Sugar Cane is a “pushover” for saxophonists, invoking more milky metaphors: “I don’t know what it is, but they just curdle me. All they have to do is play eight bars of ‘Come to Me My Melancholy Baby’ – and my spine turns to custard, and I get goose-pimply all over – and I come to them.” Long known as “the devil’s horn,” the saxophone, particularly as employed in jazz, is notoriously masculine and erotic. In jazz it is said: the sweeter the sax, the meaner the saxophonist. Sugar, sweet as her name for all but a moment of the film, angrily recalls the cruel, sexy saxophonists who ravish, exploit and summarily dump her. To Sugar’s point the sweetest sax in modern jazz belonged to Stan Getz, whose “Early Autumn” solo, recorded with the Woody Herman Orchestra when Getz was just twenty-one, skyrocketed him to stardom. You can delight in it here: Getz is best remembered, of course, for the heartrending figures surrounding Astrud Gilberto’s iconic 1964 recording of that Brazilian anthem of unrequited love, “The Girl From Ipanema” (1962). True to sax maxim, private Stan Getz, polyaddicted and irascible, acknowledged in a New York Times interview, not only could he be difficult, but “some said [a] monster.” Contrariwise, for jazz’ raunchiest sax hear the refined Earl Bostic, conservatory-educated and bespectacled (memo to Sugar!) Californian, sadly burdened with an earthquake phobia that destroyed his long marriage. Said to have outplayed even the great Charlie Parker in public, Bostic, doubly phobic, feared to record his best licks lest they be copied by competitors. Here’s his rousingly seductive version of “You Go To My Head,” surely applicable to the Society Syncopators, were it not penned a decade later in 1938: 5) Sociopaths See What Others Miss George Raft didn’t just play mobsters. He ran with them. Childhood friend of Bugsy Siegel and one-time mob wheelman, Raft confessed, had he not found his calling in Hollywood, after turns as boxer and dancer, he might have joined the criminal world for good…oops, bad. Thus Raft’s “Spats Colombo” was a creditable godfather long before “The Godfather” (1972). Compact, perfectly proportioned, Spats is beyond dapper in coiffure, dress and demeanor. Every move, every word is quick, spare and deliberate. His barest nod determines your fate. Spats never blinks, never breaks his stare of animal dominance—no one who experiences a mobster glance soon forgets it---and like a prey animal Spats perceives every visual cue, well before his dim-witted henchmen, Pat O’Brien as “Detective Mulligan” who tails him, and moviegoers who admire him. Spats fingers Joe and Jerry twice---once in civvies, then in drag---figures Toothpick Charlie for a rat, knows who’s packing heat and detects Little Bonaparte’s hit just before it arrives, but neither pleads for his life nor ducks, lest it mar his majesty. He merely murmurs his trademark, “Big joke!” as he is sprayed afresh with gunfire and dies like the don he is. Despite his preternatural perceptiveness, Spats, surrounded by yes-men qua hit men and insulated from self-doubt, Putin-esquely overplays his hand and ends life a loser. Similarly, in real life George Raft shunned lead roles in “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) and “Casablanca” (1942), awaiting “better” parts, while these star turns fell to Humphrey Bogart, who became an international icon as Raft drifted into marginality and sadly died broke. 6) Sugar is Sweet, Marilyn is Borderline Extensively interviewed on the bonus disc of this UHD reissue of “Some Like It Hot,” writer/director Billy Wilder recalls Marilyn Monroe flawlessly reciting two full pages of script, then flubbing two three-word lines: “It’s me, Sugar!” and “Where’s that bourbon?” Not just once, not twice, but for a full day’s shooting, each word on a placard in plain view. Thus Marilyn exasperated cast and crew, wasted precious time and money and risked the goodwill of the industry. Likewise her tardiness was legendary: Marilyn claimed she lost her way to the studio she knew so well, but declined a chauffeured ride. Many felt the star’s behavior was willful: Marilyn was not invited to the wrap party of this, her greatest screen triumph. But was Marilyn willful? Or a prisoner of her own psychopathology? Diagnosable with manic-depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, polysubstance dependence and, crucially, borderline personality disorder, Marilyn’s most intractable problem, was not yet a diagnosis in 1959. Borderline personality is characterized by unstable moods, intense love and anger, lies and manipulation, recurrent self-harm, suicidality, impulsivity and substance abuse. The paradox of borderline personalities is a desperate need for love coupled with intense fear of abandonment, frequently precipitated by difficult, even outrageous behavior, typically when enraged. And the most outrageous borderline behavior is flat-out, absolute and resolute refusal to cooperate, regardless of consequence: Behavior more typical of a horse, Nellie Weinmeyer’s fantastical mule or a two-year-old in need of a nap. Had Billy Wilder been raised on a farm or worked in daycare, he might have better understood his very precious, fragile and contrary star. In the entertainment world such behavior will get you shunned. In the wider world… 7) “Great Opportunities Are Rare…Seize Them!”---Charlie Munger “Some Like It Hot” features great stars and character actors of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. But two invitees are conspicuously absent: Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson. Frank Sinatra was the premiere entertainer of the twentieth century: singer and actor, he could even dance if he had to. “You didn’t know I couldn’t dance.”---Frank Sinatra But he was the least comedic of the Rat Pack he led. Dean Martin told him flat out he wasn’t funny. And Dean knew funny. Billy Wilder invited Sinatra to lunch to discuss a lead role in “Some Like It Hot.” Frank stood him up. Billy ruled Frank out. And Frank Sinatra never earned the comedy chops he longed for. Likewise, Edward G. Robinson, iconic gangster of “Little Caesar” (1931), declined the perfect reprise as Little Bonaparte, refusing to play opposite George Raft: remnants of an ancient grudge. By proxy it is Robinson’s son, Edward G. Robinson, Jr., as Johnny Paradise, who bursts from Spat’s death-day cake to “vulcanize” Spats & Company for all time. 8) “Ask Me The Secret of Comedy? Go Ahead, Ask Me!” “All right, what’s the secret…” “Timing!” Fast is funny. But not so fast. Abbott and Costello had to hit the brakes for more laughs. Their first screen appearance, comedy relief in “One Night in the Tropics” (1940), was so rapid-fire audiences could barely keep pace. So when Billy Wilder plotted Jack Lemmon’s late night reveal--- Daphne’s engagement to Sugar Daddy Osgood---Billy handed Jack a pair of maracas to punctuate the dialogue and leave time for any audience---quick-witted or not---to laugh and recover: Jerry: “I’m engaged!” Joe: “Congratulations! Who’s the lucky girl?” Jerry: “I am!” Shake-Shake! 9) “Leave The Gun, Take The Cannoli” Long before Richard Castellano as “Peter Clemenza” uttered this classic line in “The Godfather” (1972), Wilder and Diamond melded death, dessert and family values: In the kitchen at the big Miami sitdown, as young Johnny Paradise steps into Spat’s death-day cake, a capo delivers the submachine gun—“Easy!”---and cautions: “Don’t mess up the cake – I promised to bring a piece back to my kids.” 10) Sugar Is Sweet, Osgood is Good and Nobody’s Perfect So what makes “Some Like It Hot” AFI’s perennial number 1 comedy? Is it Marilyn Monroe? When Marilyn is in view all eyes are on her. But even the world’s greatest star could not render any comedy a classic. Is it jokes? Pacing? Timing? No, the secret sauce of “Some Like It Hot” was bottled long ago, deep within our primate brains. Game Theory Rules Wilder and Diamond created a letter-perfect application of classical game theory, which undergirds the impeccable thematic logic of “Some Like It Hot” and makes its incredible plot credible. Put simply, game theory teaches there are four possible human outcomes in any two-person interaction: Win-Win Win-Lose Lose-Win Lose-Lose Only “win-win” grants happy endings. The four lovable lovers of “Some Like It Hot”---Sugar, Joe, Jerry and Osgood---all aboard Osgood’s launch at the close of this riotous comedy---have, tragically, always played a losing game in life and love. Joe is win-lose: short-term gain, long-term lose: broke, on the run, living out the 1928 ballad “Just a Gigolo.” Joe exploits and abuses everyone: hapless Jerry, lonely Nellie, prissy Bienstock, charitable Osgood, adorable Sugar, and even little Junior at the beach, whose name and seashells he appropriates for his Shell Oil charade. (“Up, up, up,” Junior intones, as with present-day Shell Oil.) Jerry is lose-win: chronically abused by Joe, asking, “Why do I listen to you?” as if expecting an honest answer from a satisfied abuser. Sugar is lose-win as well: seduced and abandoned by every badass saxophonist she falls for, on the fast-track to bitterness despite peerless adorability. Osgood is lose-lose: divorced too many times to count, seeking love in all the wrong places, last married to an “exotic dancer,” fated to end life a childless, orphan mama’s boy. The Two-Hour Journey to Win-Win In this uniquely extended comedy, so smooth it flies by in a wink, each central character achieves a win-win: Joe’s pose as a millionaire brings forth humility and charity, displacing lust and greed. The poignancy of Sugar’s anguish at his rejection calls up the best of which he is capable, as Joe qua Josephine rushes the bandstand, embraces Sugar as she sings a heartfelt, “I’m Through With Love” (1931!), reveals his deceptions and runs for his life. Sugar, awakened to the Junior/Josephine charades, bicycles to the pier---“Wait for Sugar!!”---hops aboard Osgood’s launch, accepts Joe’s humble confession and these two beautiful people disappear from the screen in passionate embrace. And now Jerry, having escaped certain death through Osgood’s good graces, and always possessed of a conscience, is likewise obliged to confess his ruse, albeit in measured reveals, each of which calls forth Osgood’s love, acceptance and forgiveness. Osgood, insulated by wealth from the uncertainties and precariousness that plague his musical companions, seeks and offers the love and acceptance that wealth never assures. An aged roué, having exhausted other romantic possibilities, he is open to any novelty. Thus when Jerry reveals his true identity---“I’m a man!”---Osgood is nonplussed, mouthing the two words that have long defined this joyous ride: “Nobody’s Perfect!” Addendum: Taps for Spats The Chicago Mob springloads Joe and Jerry into the comedy adventure that is “Some Like It Hot.” But Wilder and Diamond did not omit to square the circle in the Mob subplot, which obeys game theory rules as well. At the sitdown in Miami “CEO” Little Bonaparte reports the continuing success of the organization: it is a cooperative win-win. But Spats’ “big noise” on St. Valentine’s Day, an unsanctioned megahit, is strictly win-lose and bodes poorly for Spats. Indeed, Spats has unwisely confided to his henchmen that Little Bonaparte and his fellow choirboy, Toothpick Charlie, may soon be “singing in the same choir again.” Whether Spats’ intentions reached Little Bonaparte’s ears or not, we will never know. But we can assume Bonaparte did not rise to this moniker by missing cues or lacking informants. So when Spats, who wants to have his cake and eat it too, gets just desserts, the Mob subplot goes game theory perfect. About the Author Mark Tobak, MD, is a general adult psychiatrist in private practice. He is the former chief of inpatient geriatric psychiatry and now an attending physician at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Harrison, NY. He graduated the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Columbia University School of General Studies. Dr. Tobak also has a law degree from Fordham University School of Law and was admitted to the NY State Bar. His work appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatric Times, and American Journal of Medicine and Pathology. He is the author of Anyone Can Be Rich! A Psychiatrist Provides the Mental Tools to Build Your Wealth, which received high praise from Warren Buffett. Updated on Apr 11, 2022, 3:47 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkApr 12th, 2022

Insiders say RAINN, the nation"s foremost organization for victims of sexual assault, is in crisis over allegations of racism and sexism

22 current and former staffers said that RAINN, which has deep ties to Hollywood and corporate America, is facing an internal reckoning. Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's co-founder and CEO, began his career in politics, advising former Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old.RAINN; Kris Connor/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider22 current and former staffers say the organization favored by Hollywood and corporate America is in crisis. 'How can RAINN be helping survivors externally, when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?'April Cisneros says the first time she was sexually assaulted at her private Christian college was in 2015, while she was playing piano in the school's conservatory. A music tutor came into the small practice room and began to touch her. The second time, one year later, she remembers waking up in a hotel room near campus after drinks with classmates. One man was forcing his hand into her pants while another ejaculated on top of her. The incidents were devastating, and further compounded by a conservative religious community that lacked empathy for her pain or a framework to understand it. "Maybe it's demons attached to you that attracted this fate," she recalls one pastor telling her. Others placed the blame on her, wondering if she set the right boundaries with men. While studying abroad at Oxford University in 2016, in an effort to get far away from what she suffered back home, Cisneros attempted to take her own life.Soon after, she Googled for help, and the website for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, flashed across her computer screen. RAINN, which was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit, bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence organization, operating a 24-hour hotline for victims and pushing for state and federal policies to punish sex offenders and support survivors. It has deep ties to corporate America and Hollywood, partnering with Google and TikTok and media like "I May Destroy You" and "Promising Young Woman," both of which center on sexual assault. (Insider itself utilizes RAINN's hotline; our publishing system automatically appends a referral link to RAINN at the bottom of every story about sexual assault.) In 2019, it reported nearly $16 million in revenue. It says its programs have helped 3.8 million people, and 301,455 people called its hotlines last year.The organization was a beacon in a difficult time, and Cisneros soon threw herself into supporting it. She cycled 1,500 miles across the country for a fundraising drive; later, after the Trump administration rolled back Title IX protections for campus-sexual-assault victims, she decided to get involved more directly. April Cisneros biked across the US to raise money for RAINN.April Cisneros"I was so angry," Cisneros told Insider. "I just remember thinking, 'Well, why don't I just, like, go try to be a part of the solution?'" She began working for RAINN in 2018 as a communications associate.But she soon discovered that it looked very different from the inside. Instead of the supportive, inclusive victims' advocacy organization that offered her hope in the depths of her depression, Cisneros found herself in a demoralizing workplace overrun by what she described as racism and sexism. She recalled that during the filming of a video about survivors' stories, her boss asked a participant to smile while recounting a sexual assault. "If you don't," Cisneros remembered her boss saying, "it'll look like you have a bitch face."Cisneros is among 22 current and former RAINN staffers who spoke to Insider and described a roiling crisis over race and gender in the over-200-person-strong nonprofit. These people described a culture in which a routine training was beset by racist caricaturing, executives ignored employees' requests for change, and people who were deemed political risks — including sexual-assault survivors — were silenced. According to these accounts, in one instance, a supervisor badgered an employee during the time she took off to recover from an abortion. In another, an Asian staffer was replaced on a project with a white man after their boss deemed him a better fit because of his race and gender. One staffer sent a resignation letter, obtained by Insider, in which she bemoaned "toxic managerial behavioral patterns" and worried that "young employees like myself, many of them survivors themselves, are currently being treated like their rights at work do not matter, like their comfort and security and health at work doesn't matter, like the skills they bring to work are worthless."RAINN declined to make its founder and president, Scott Berkowitz, available for an interview. In a statement, the group said it had made great strides in diversifying its workplace and addressing the concerns of its employees of color. It accused the current and former staffers who came forward to Insider of providing "incomplete, misleading, and defamatory" information about "a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.""RAINN is proud of the work our committed staff do, day in and day out, to support survivors of sexual violence," the statement read. "As an organization, we owe it to our committed staff to provide a work environment where they feel safe, appreciated, and heard … Over the last several years, like most organizations, RAINN has worked to expand and implement comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals. We regularly update staff on our progress toward achieving those goals, and solicit feedback on potential areas of improvement. While there is always room to build on our efforts, we are continually working to foster an open dialogue between employees and leadership to ensure ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed."RAINN hired Clare Locke LLP, a boutique libel law firm that has gained a reputation for representing clients facing #MeToo allegations, including Matt Lauer and the former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to Insider's inquiries. During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the firm's cofounder Libby Locke came to his defense, writing: "No wonder Judge Kavanaugh is angry. Any man falsely accused of sexual assault would be."When Insider asked RAINN whether Clare Locke's work was consistent with the organization's mission and values, the firm's partner Thomas Clare emailed a statement attributed to RAINN: "Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel. We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations."Some RAINN employees fear that the corporate dysfunction has poisoned the work of the largest sexual-violence organization in the country, which they continue to view as crucial, despite their own experiences. "How can RAINN be helping survivors externally when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?" Cisneros said.How RAINN became Hollywood and corporate America's go-to partner Through savvy marketing and hard work, RAINN has become to sexual assault what Planned Parenthood is to reproductive health: the premier, full-service resource for people struggling with a crisis and the ultimate destination for donations to help people who have been victimized.The global embrace of the #MeToo movement, and the contemporary focus on the depth and pervasiveness of sexual assault, has further aided RAINN's ascension. Companies in crisis often turn to the organization to telegraph their commitment to social responsibility. After dozens of women sued Lyft, claiming they were assaulted by its drivers, the company worked with RAINN to roll out extensive safety initiatives and contributed $1.5 million to its coffers.Hollywood has also embraced the organization. RAINN was cofounded by the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who promoted the organization's hotline at her concerts and sat on its advisory board. In 2018, Timotheé Chalamet pledged his earnings from Woody Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York" to groups including RAINN, as did Ben Affleck from productions affiliated with Harvey Weinstein. Christina Ricci, a star of Showtime's breakout hit "Yellowjackets," has served as an official spokesperson since 2007, and the platinum-selling pop artist Taylor Swift has donated to the organization, something it publicized from its social-media accounts.—RAINN (@RAINN) April 8, 2021 But Berkowitz has largely stayed out of the public eye. He began his career as a political wunderkind, advising Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old. A profile in his grandparents' hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania said he was personally responsible for collecting $100,000 in donations for Hart — a feat achieved in between classes at American University, where he was already a sophomore. After graduation, Berkowitz continued to work in and around politics. His experience in the field, he said in a 2019 interview with RAINN, taught him about the "extent of the problem" of sexual violence in the United States and the opportunity to fill this "service gap.""I knew next to nothing about the issue," Berkowitz said. "It just seemed like a good idea." Christina Ricci has been a RAINN spokeswoman since 2007.Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty ImagesEarly on, Berkowitz ran the day-to-day operations, and his early fundraising prowess served him well. After a series of sexual assaults at the infamous Woodstock '99 festival, promoters and record labels did damage control by giving RAINN 1% of the proceeds from the festival's CD and video releases. "In raw self-interest, the money and attention that would come from it would allow RAINN to promote the hotline better, provide more counseling, print more brochures," Berkowitz told the Village Voice. RAINN's budget swelled in tandem with its brand. Total revenue rocketed from more than $1.2 million in 2009 to nearly $16 million in 2019. Berkowitz's compensation grew from $168,000 to over $481,000 over the same period. Even though RAINN's tax returns list Berkowitz as its president and indicate that he was paid nearly a half a million dollars in the year ending in May 2020, RAINN says that he is not in fact an employee and does not receive a salary. Instead, for reasons that RAINN did not explain, he is paid through A&I Publishing, a company solely owned by Berkowitz that contracts with RAINN. "Scott Berkowitz is paid solely as an independent contractor through A&I Publishing and does not receive any salary or benefits," it said. "He has never received any employee compensation from RAINN."RAINN's tax records tell a slightly different story. The group has reported paying a total of $561,500 in consulting fees for "strategic and financial oversight" to A&I Publishing from 2001 to 2006, during which time Berkowitz drew no salary from RAINN. Since 2007, though, RAINN has reported directly paying Berkowitz a total of $3,529,000. (RAINN says he "is recused from all board consideration of his compensation.")Over the same period, RAINN also began reporting payments to A&I to service $288,000 in debt that it owed the consultancy at 5% interest. RAINN's tax records don't reflect that the organization ever received any cash from A&I; instead, the loan is described in its 2006 tax return as "issuance of debt for prior year services." RAINN says the loan, which has been repaid, stems from "deferred payment for fees" that RAINN owed A&I "for a number of years."'How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake?'With the Woodstock '99 deal, Berkowitz struck on a highly successful strategy — corporate penance — and he would often return to it. But he also looked to the public sector for funding opportunities.One of RAINN's largest sources of revenue — $2 million a year — is its contract to run the Department of Defense's Safe Helpline, which offers confidential, anonymous counseling to members of the military who have been affected by sexual violence. Multiple staffers who spoke with Insider said Berkowitz was exceedingly sensitive about maintaining the contract. They said that he had gone to great lengths to stay in the Department of Defense's good graces and that they believe RAINN has at times been overly deferential to its interests. Michael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder in February 2022.Evan Jenkins for InsiderMichael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, a former flight attendant and roller-rink operator who previously served in the Navy as a medic, said that in 1982, just months after he enlisted, a Navy physician raped him. The doctor, who outranked Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, threatened him with prison time if he came forward. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder said it was the first of multiple sexual assaults he suffered, all of which resulted in a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder stayed silent about the assault for nearly 30 years. He became depressed and experienced paranoid suspicions that the government was spying on him, ready to silence him if he ever told the truth about his assault.But decades of therapy empowered Wiedenhoeft-Wilder to eventually come forward. He discovered the Safe Helpline, which then led him to RAINN's Speakers Bureau, a roster of more than 4,000 volunteer survivors who share their stories with the media, student groups, and other organizations. When Wiedenhoeft-Wilder signed up with the bureau, his story was selected for publication on RAINN's website. In October 2019, he worked with April Cisneros, who helped manage the Speakers Bureau, to prepare the story.But the story was abruptly killed. Cisneros said Berkowitz decided to pull Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's account once he realized that it involved an officer assaulting an enlisted man."Once we actually wrote up his story, Scott was like, 'No, we're not even getting into this,'" Cisneros told Insider, adding that Berkowitz refused to send the story to the Department of Defense for review, as it routinely did with accounts of military sexual assault. Cisneros said Berkowitz told members of the communications team that promoting the testimony of a man who had been assaulted by one of his superiors could harm the military's reputation and upset the Department of Defense. Cisneros told Insider she believed that Berkowitz did not want to risk losing the government's funding.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder was shocked. He had spent time with Cisneros revisiting the details of an assault that haunted him for 30 years, all for nothing."I've spent the last several days trying to deal with the devastating news that the article about my military sexual trauma being canceled for someone else," he told Cisneros in an email on October 31 that Insider reviewed. "How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake? Do you have any idea how this mistake has affected me? It's absolutely devastating. Just one more failure for me.""I feel victimized all over again," he wrote. "What did I ever do to you people to deserve this!"Cisneros, worried about Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's mental health, forwarded the exchange to Berkowitz and Keeli Sorensen, then the vice president of victim services, she said. "Maybe you just tell him you made a mistake," Cisneros recalled Sorensen telling her. She felt Sorensen's suggestion was, in effect, to "[fall] on my sword for RAINN."Cisneros told Insider that she told Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a lie about a scheduling conflict and blamed the mix-up entirely on herself. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder didn't believe her. "I know she wasn't telling me the truth," he told Insider. "I knew it wasn't her fault. It was a really weird, very strange thing to do to someone."Cisneros was heartbroken. She felt that she'd betrayed Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's trust and was distressed because she felt an anti-sexual-violence organization had asked her to deceive a rape victim. "What's so sad is people treat him like he's so paranoid about being silenced by the military, but that paranoia is at least … legitimate," Cisneros said. "And it happened again at RAINN."Sorensen denied having any involvement in the incident and said she was "not authorized in any way to instruct Ms. Cisneros in this matter," adding that Berkowitz had "total authority" with respect to the publication of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story. She said she did not know why Berkowitz pulled the testimony."I had no part in the matter," Sorensen said, "but it's my recollection, based on my conversation with Ms. Cisneros, that she had promised Mr. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder that she would publish their story before having secured final approval from Mr. Berkowitz."RAINN also said that if Cisneros had promised Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a spot on its website, it had "no knowledge of that and she was not authorized to make that commitment."Cisneros disputed that. She said that she provided Berkowitz with details of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story before reaching out and that he approved. "Scott gave me the greenlight to move ahead with the process if [Wiedenhoeft-Wilder] expressed interest," Cisneros said."We have no recollection as to why this survivor's story did not run in the fall of 2019," RAINN said, adding that some isolated quotes from Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's interview — stripped of their military context — were shared on RAINN's social-media accounts. The statement pointed to other stories from survivors of sexual assault in the military that RAINN had published; none of those featured scenarios in which an attacker outranked their victim.Evan Jenkins for Insider"We are not aware of the Department of Defense expressing concern over RAINN's coverage of military survivors," RAINN said, "nor is it standard practice for RAINN to consult with [the department] regarding the material and resources it publishes unless they directly mention Safe Helpline. RAINN frequently publishes the stories of military survivors and will continue to do so as it works to carry out the organization's mission to eradicate sexual violence from every corner of society."Anxiety around RAINN's relationship with the Department of Defense came up again in 2019. Six former staffers said one RAINN employee felt compelled to frantically retract public comments she had made in support of Black trans victims of violence amid the Trump administration's efforts to expel trans people from the military. The woman suddenly and mysteriously departed the organization on the day her remarks were published.(The woman's identity is known to Insider, which is not naming her because doing so may expose her to professional harm. The woman declined to comment for the record.) On March 7, 2019, to mark International Women's Day, the employee was one of "8 everyday women" featured by The Lily, a women-focused website published by The Washington Post. The Lily post listed the woman's age, background, position at RAINN, and responses to a questionnaire about her favorite fast-food chains and movies. But she came to fear that her seemingly uncontroversial answer to one question could become a professional liability.InsiderThe answer came a few months after the Trump-era transgender military ban went into effect, reanimating debates over trans rights. Two sources told Insider that the woman told them that RAINN's leadership expressed alarm over her contribution to the article and was frustrated that the woman had spoken to the media without getting consent from leadership.One source told Insider that Jodi Omear, then RAINN's vice president of communications, said minutes after reading the article that it was "too controversial" and that she worried it "could jeopardize our contract with the Department of Defense." The source said Omear escalated the article to Berkowitz and the human-resources director, Claudia Kolmer, because she was confident they would feel the same.Omear told Insider that because the former staffer had been under her supervision, it would be "inappropriate" to comment on her exit from the organization.On the day the questionnaire was published, the woman called the reporter at The Lily who'd conducted the interview and asked her to remove the reference to RAINN, as well as her comments about trans people, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The writer agreed. Insider viewed an original version of the interview that contained the employee's affiliation and comments about trans rights; the version currently published online does not.Two former employees said the woman was escorted out of the office by human resources the day the story was published. RAINN said that "it is standard practice that an employee separating from the organization is accompanied by a RAINN human resources representative when leaving the premises in order to collect their office keys, security fob and other credentials," adding that it "reached a separation agreement" with the woman a week after the story was published.One staffer who sat near her described the woman as a "fabulous" employee who was heavily invested in the projects they were set to work on together."It was one of the reasons why it was so shocking," the staffer said. "Like, where'd she go?"In its statement, RAINN claimed that the woman's remarks were an unauthorized attempt to speak on behalf of the Pentagon. "[The RAINN staffer] spoke with a Washington Post reporter on-the-record, on behalf of RAINN and the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, which she was not authorized to do," the statement said. "Contractually RAINN is barred from speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense or Safe Helpline." The Lily billed the interview as an opportunity to "step inside the lives of 8 everyday women." Aside from identifying her employer and job description — a format applied to other women featured in the post — the woman's interview did not touch on RAINN or the Department of Defense. Instead, she answered questions about her favorite body part and what she would change about her upbringing if she could.Still, RAINN said, the woman broke the rules: "The issue at hand centered around a clear violation of RAINN policy. RAINN supports all transgender survivors and has worked to remove the barriers to reporting sexual violence in LGBTQ communities, and to elevate the stories of transgender survivors, particularly for transgender persons of color for whom sexual violence is all too prevalent."Asked why, if that were the case, the woman would ask The Lily specifically to remove her comments about trans victims, RAINN said it was "unaware of any evidence indicating [the woman] was pressured to retract or remove" the comments. "RAINN is always mindful of honoring its contractual obligations not to speak on behalf of the DoD and the Safe Helpline," it said. "The fact someone commented on other subject matter or issues was irrelevant."A white male staffer was deemed a better fitJackii Wang joined RAINN's public-policy team in 2019, hopeful that she could use her experience working in national congressional offices to advance legislation that would help sexual-assault survivors. But she said her boss, RAINN's vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper, instead saddled her with administrative responsibilities like writing greeting cards. Wang said Cooper regularly discounted her ideas and "berated" her when they disagreed on issues the younger staffer considered minor. It became "psychologically terrifying," Wang said. Wang didn't immediately view that as discriminatory — multiple staffers said many of Cooper's employees complained of similar treatment. But during a performance review in December 2019, Wang said, Cooper attempted to explain her perception of Wang as defiant by rattling off stereotypes that Wang felt were "very targeted towards my Asian identity.""Camille asked me questions like, you know, 'Is your family very strict?' 'Do they expect perfectionism from you?' ... 'What was your childhood like?' Do I have problems with authority because of my family background?" Wang told Insider. What started as an implication became explicit, Wang said, when Cooper announced she would pull Wang off a lobbying assignment.Jackii WangDaniel Diasgranados for InsiderAt the time, RAINN was working on a Florida bill that would close a loophole in the state's statute of limitations for teen survivors. Cooper called Wang and another staffer into her office and told the two women she had decided to send a white male colleague in Wang's place, Wang said. Wang asked why."And she was like, 'Well, you know, because he's a white male,'" Wang recalled.Wang was mortified. While she had experience working with Florida legislators, her male colleague wasn't even registered to lobby in the state. Wang and the other staffer said Cooper argued that he would connect better with white conservatives in the state."He can talk about baseball. He can really, like, connect with these men," Cooper said, according to Wang and the other staffer present. "And these men really hate women.""Her reasoning for picking a white man over me for the project is that he'll be received better," Wang said. "But if that's the logic that she's following, then, like, I guess I shouldn't work anywhere because white men are received better everywhere."Neither Cooper nor the man responded to requests for comment.Wang said she reported the incident to Kolmer, the human-resources director, and Berkowitz in March 2020, along with a detailed recounting of other complaints about Cooper's leadership. But Wang said Kolmer never took serious action. When Wang quit that June, she sent Berkowitz a blistering resignation letter. "As you know, she has harassed and bullied every single person on our team, including an intern, and has blatantly discriminated against me," Wang wrote.Berkowitz thanked Wang for her time and for informing him, and asked Kolmer to discuss the issues Wang raised. Cooper continues to serve as a vice president, the face of RAINN's policy arm.RAINN said that Wang was too junior a staffer to lead a statewide lobbying effort and called her claims of discrimination "false and defamatory.""RAINN took Wang's allegations seriously and investigated the matter thoroughly," the statement said. "Ultimately it was determined that the basis of Wang's claims of discrimination were unfounded."RAINN did not deny Wang's claim that Cooper told her a white man would connect better with conservative legislators.Cooper wasn't the only executive to receive complaints. One current staffer and one former staffer described a meeting in which Jessica Leslie, the vice president of victim services, defended Berkowitz's unwillingness to address the concerns of staffers of color."You have to understand where he's coming from," they remember Leslie saying. "I mean, he's a white man, and you're all people of color — like, he's really nervous around you."One of the staffers was furious. "We just wanted to have a conversation. We're not about to berate the man," she told Insider. "This is not true," RAINN said. Its statement said that at a Safe Helpline shift managers meeting, a group of managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz would meet with them. When Leslie asked them to craft an agenda first, RAINN said, the shift managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz wanted an agenda because he was "uncomfortable talking to women of color." "The shift managers created this narrative," RAINN said, "not Leslie."Through an attorney, Leslie said she agreed with RAINN's responses and called the allegations against her "demonstrably baseless."A racist training, a pay disparity, and an email uprisingStaffers of color told Insider that they were often underpaid compared with their white counterparts; one, a nonwhite Latina woman who asked to remain anonymous, said she made $35,000 a year and lived in public housing to keep her head above water. After she quit for a higher-paying opportunity, RAINN filled her job with a white staffer who earned roughly $20,000 more, Cisneros said, adding that the white staffer disclosed her salary. (Three additional sources with knowledge of her salary corroborated Cisneros' account.) RAINN said the salary discrepancy was a result of both the role being "restructured" to include "significantly more responsibility" and the fact that the white staffer had an advanced degree.Four current and former RAINN staffers recalled that after RAINN's white office manager left for a new job, her replacement, a Black woman named Valinshia Walker, was asked to perform janitorial tasks that were not in her predecessor's job description — including scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, washing dishes, and disinfecting conference rooms. "Let me be very clear: [Walker's predecessor] never washed dishes from the sink. Ever," one former staffer said. "Val? You would come in, and Ms. Walker was cleaning the conference room. Like, wiping down all the tables. Spraying down the chairs. Doing the kitchen, she's washing dishes from the sink … You would see her walking around with the mask on and gloves because she literally cleaned. Like a cleaning lady."Walker declined to comment for the record. "The beliefs of your sources are simply not true," RAINN said, adding that Walker was hired as the "office coordinator," which had a different set of responsibilities than the "office manager" she replaced. "Maintaining a clean office has always fallen under the responsibilities of the HR and admin staff as a whole, this includes the office manager and office coordinator," the statement said. "We are not aware of any instances where Walker was asked to handle cleaning responsibilities beyond those that were part of the office coordinator's regular duties."Staffers also recalled what became a notorious and hamfisted mandatory sexual-harassment training in early 2020 led by an outside employment attorney hired by RAINN. According to more than a dozen employees, the attorney used a series of racist stereotypes to illustrate examples during the training."So let's just say, you know, there's Nicki [Minaj] and Cardi B are employees, and they're at their desks, and they start twerking," Cisneros recalled the lawyer saying. "Is that inappropriate workplace behavior?"At one point, Cisneros said, the lawyer proposed a hypothetical scenario in which a Latino-coded man — participants recalled his name was "Jorgé" or "José"—  kissed a coworker. The lawyer asked if the behavior could be appropriate "because this is Latino culture." "Your information regarding this training is inaccurate," RAINN said. "The examples in this legal training were all past legal cases using fictitious names." It added that staff concerns "were immediately addressed and the training was subsequently modified based on their feedback."Sarcia Adkins, a shift manager for the Department of Defense Safe Helpline who attended the training, was furious. She wrote an email to multiple executives, including Sorensen, Kolmer, and Berkowitz, on March 5 demanding action from the organization. "I wanted to get up and walk out at various points and it was one of the more traumatic experiences I've had at RAINN as a woman of color," she wrote. Kolmer acknowledged her complaints and promised to meet with Adkins alongside Berkowitz and Sorensen to discuss changes to the training and her issues with the nonprofit's culture.Adkins said that Kolmer didn't follow up that March but that Sorensen did reach out to schedule a one-on-one meeting. RAINN said Adkins agreed to meet Sorensen but "did not show up, without notification or explanation," and "did not follow up after she skipped the meeting." Several months later, after a former colleague intervened, Adkins did meet with Berkowitz and Sorensen. Adkins told Insider she was underwhelmed. "They pick what they want you to talk about," she said.The dysfunction came to a head during the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd sparked a series of bitter internal conversations about RAINN's track record on race. In June 2020, Berkowitz sent an email with the subject line "A Note to the RAINN Family" to the entire staff. In it, he acknowledged the unrest and pledged to support the company's Black staffers.Sarcia Adkins replied to the email with a list of demands and copied the entire organization. She asked for mandatory cultural-competency training and a commitment to hiring Black employees for leadership positions. (RAINN says that 43% of its top seven staffers are people of color.) Adkins — who has been with RAINN since 2014 — asked Berkowitz why he hadn't reached out following the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and dozens of other victims of police violence."RAINN has never been a place [that] acknowledges or uplifts their black staff, not just people of color, and the injustices we face in the world and within the structure of RAINN," Adkins wrote.Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Scott Berkowitz sent an email to staffers acknowledging the resulting unrest and pledging to support the company's Black staffers. But employees at RAINN began responding en masse, including one person who asked why a similar message was not sent after other police killings of Black people.Provided to InsiderIn 2021, in response to the outrage over the George Floyd email, the organization began internally releasing draft proposals on diversity, equity, and inclusion with goals the organization planned to achieve or had already accomplished. The laundry list of objectives, which Insider reviewed, included a plan to "develop new relationships to ensure a diverse pool of internal and external candidates for all open positions" and "collect more data to identify the causes of turnover."But people working in the organization say little has been achieved, or even attempted."Hiring practices are not getting better," said a current RAINN staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. "There's been no management training. Turnover is horrendous." In its statement, RAINN recounted the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts it began implementing in 2021, including "expanded recruiting," "revised exit interviews," and "researched training on DEI-related issues.""The summer of 2020 sparked important cultural conversations in companies and organizations across the United States, RAINN among them," the statement said. "As we've seen nationwide, there is more work to be done. Over the past two years, RAINN worked with experts and garnered input from staff to develop and implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals … Changes implemented to date include increasing diversity within senior management to better reflect our staff diversity and the people we serve, implementing an anonymous third-party ethics hotline where employees can voice concerns without fear of reprisal, offering expanded professional development and internal promotion opportunities, and increasing health and mental health benefits for employees, the four top priorities identified by staff."As evidence of its success in addressing the concerns of its employees of color, RAINN provided Insider an email that Aniyah Carter, a staffer on the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, wrote to the vice president of communications, Heather Drevna, in June 2020. Carter, who is Black, had been one of the most outspoken staffers demanding change at RAINN after Berkowitz's George Floyd email fiasco. When Drevna sent a follow-up email to staff announcing an employee survey and more personal and sick days, Carter replied with a note of thanks."I just want to personally thank you and the senior team for this," she wrote. "It's one thing to listen to and hear us. It's another thing to take action. I am proud of the responses of my colleagues and I am grateful for the swift action from leadership. It is my sincere hope that we continue to make a necessary shift in the right direction. Please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance."Scott Berkowitz at the "Tina The Tina Turner Musical" Cocktail Reception, co-hosted by Anna Wintour in support of RAINN, on January 31, 2020.Tiffany Sage/BFA/ReutersWhen Insider asked Carter about the email, she said any movement in the right direction quickly stalled."They sent an email and that was it," Carter told Insider. "So my 'sincere hope' was crushed. It's so insulting for me. When this first happened and you were optimistic and gave us the benefit of the doubt, you say it here," she said, mocking RAINN's use of her email. "And it's like, OK, but two years later here we still are. And I've mentioned how I'm frustrated, but you're going to take words from two years ago feeling optimistic about the future and spin it as if that applies to today? Seriously? That was very upsetting because it makes me feel like this is more about optics than, like, how your staff really feels."'OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?'When April Cisneros arrived at RAINN, she began working for Jodi Omear. Cisneros said she quickly ran up against Omear's domineering management style, which often seemed dismissive of and belittling to other women. Besides the "bitch face" comment, Cisneros said, Omear joked about how office dress codes could reduce the risk of sexual assault by preventing people from wearing provacative outfits. "I understand we're not supposed to blame the victim," Cisneros recalled Omear saying, "but, like, what do you expect to happen if you're in a dimly lit room and people of the opposite sex [are] wearing pants with holes in them?" Omear did not deny making either comment but told Insider that when training people who lacked experience with on-camera work, she directed them to "over-exaggerate facial expressions." She also said she "advocated for casual professional attire across the organization."Cisneros' low point at RAINN occurred in January 2019, when she unexpectedly became pregnant. She decided to take a sick day to visit a doctor. She told Insider she informed Omear the day before and outlined when her unfinished work would be completed.Omear became angry, Cisneros said, demanding to know why she didn't give more notice and insisting on further details. Omear called Cisneros at 9 p.m. demanding answers. Cisneros broke down and told her boss about the surprise pregnancy. According to Cisneros, Omear replied, "OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?"The next day, as Cisneros met with her doctor, her phone buzzed with calls and texts from Omear. Between the stress of an unplanned pregnancy and Omear's incessant check-ins, Cisneros said, she "started bawling" under the stress.  A day later, Cisneros received a prescription for a two-day medical abortion. She requested an extra day off to recover, but Omear continued to pester her, texting and calling Cisneros for updates on RAINN's monthly marketing report. Cisneros said she finished the report from home while waiting for the bleeding to die down. (A RAINN staffer who was familiar with the incident corroborated Cisneros' version of events.)Omear told Insider that it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Cisneros specifically and did not directly answer a series of questions about Cisneros' allegations. "In general, when working with communications staff, especially in a fast-paced environment on such an important issue, it is/was important to ensure that other team members were able to cover assignments to meet any potential deadlines and organizational needs," she said in an emailed statement.RAINN said that it "was not aware of this incident happening in real time" and that it "supports employees taking time off and does not support managers encroaching on sick time."Omear's conduct was the final straw for Cisneros, and she wrote to human resources to complain. Cisneros said Claudia Kolmer told her in a meeting that the conflict "was a big misunderstanding" and that she should have come clean about her pregnancy sooner. (RAINN said that Kolmer told Cisneros that different managers have different preferences about how they should be notified of sick time and that "Cisneros was never asked to share sensitive personal or medical information.")Dissatisfied, Cisneros unloaded on Omear to Kolmer, accusing her boss of making inappropriate complaints about the loud breathing of a colleague who used a wheelchair and the habit of another colleague, who was blind, of walking into Omear's office by mistake, Cisneros said. (Another former RAINN employee corroborated the complaints to Insider.) Cisneros also said she told Kolmer that Omear made lewd remarks about the attractiveness of a sexual-assault victim set to make a public-service announcement. Omear denied making the lewd comments. She also denied complaining about disabled colleagues but said that she did recall "thanking one of my staff for helping" a blind colleague "when she couldn't find her way around the office."Cisneros rallied the entire RAINN communications department to put together a detailed list of other allegations of inappropriate behavior by Omear, which she collected in a memo for Kolmer and Berkowitz.Omear left RAINN that July, ostensibly to launch her own communications consulting firm. But Cisneros said Berkowitz told her that he had pushed Omear out in response to Cisneros' efforts. "We want you to know we're letting her spin her own story," Cisneros said Berkowitz told her. "But this is a direct result of the conversation you all have with us."The experience nonetheless angered staffers. Cisneros left RAINN the next year.Another colleague, Martha Durkee-Neuman, wrote a scathing resignation letter shortly after Omear announced her exit, addressing it to Omear, Berkowitz, and Kolmer."Jodi leaving of her own accord with no accountability is not justice," Durkee-Neuman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider. "It is not justice for the countless people that she has fired or driven from RAINN. It is not justice to pretend that nothing has happened, that staff were not forced to go to HR over and over and over until something was finally done." "I do not believe any of this work of justice or restoration will happen at RAINN, so unfortunately, this is no longer the right organization for me," she added."After the communications team raised concerns [about Omear] with Claudia Kolmer," RAINN said, "RAINN worked swiftly and diligently to investigate the staff's complaints. RAINN took appropriate action to address the findings of that investigation and Omear separated with RAINN shortly thereafter."Martha Durkee-Neuman's resignation letter.Martha Durkee-Neuman'What is left?' On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of charges related to the shooting deaths of two people at a civil-rights rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Some time later, Leslie, then the interim vice president of RAINN's victim-services department, addressed the organization's Black staffers. "I am deeply saddened by the pain and violence that has continued to plague our Black neighbors and communities," she wrote. "I want to recognize how this may be affecting you, as you navigate your day and the work you do at RAINN." She then touted the racial diversity of the victim-services department.Nearly 18 months had passed since the organization sent around its email about the death of George Floyd. Despite various promises and initiatives, in the eyes of many staffers, little had changed. But here it was again, another email promising to listen to staffers of color. Employees were enraged.Aniyah Carter, the Safe Helpline worker whose email RAINN provided to Insider, reminded her boss that nearly two weeks had passed since the verdict. "By now, we have already had to check in with ourselves so that we can continue our day-to-day lives," she wrote. "And while the opportunity to check in with managers is still absolutely available (and encouraged), the reminder to do so would have been more beneficial if it occurred when this took place." Carter also highlighted the gap she saw between leadership's stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its on-the-ground support of its employees of color, a sentiment echoed by other staffers who spoke to Insider.Daniel Diasgranados for InsiderFor Cisneros, the repeated failure of the organization to address the concerns of its staff speaks to something darker, and she is worried about how the culture at RAINN is affecting its ability to help abuse survivors."If church can't help, if school can't help, if the police can't help, if the hospital can't help, if my family can't help, my friends can't help — and now this nonprofit that is specifically saying that it's here to help people like me can't help?" she said."Like, what is left?"Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2022

The Defenestration Of Dr. Robert Malone

The Defenestration Of Dr. Robert Malone Commentary authored by John Mac Ghlionn via The Epoch Times, Dr. Robert Malone is a U.S. virologist and immunologist who has dedicated his professional existence to the development of mRNA vaccines. In the 1980s, Malone worked as a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he conducted studies on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology. In the early 1990s, Malone collaborated with Jon A. Wolff and Dennis A. Carson, two eminent scientists, on a study that involved synthesization. In fact, Malone is the father of mRNA vaccines. He has served as an adjunct associate professor of biotechnology at Kennesaw State University, and he co-founded Atheric Pharmaceutical, a company that was contracted by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in 2016. As you can see, Malone is no ordinary man. In fact, he’s a rather extraordinary man. Before embarking on a distinguished career in science, Malone worked as a carpenter and as a farmhand. Becoming a doctor was a lofty aspiration, but through hard work and determination, his dream became a reality. Over the course of three decades, Malone has established himself as one of the most competent people in the fields of virology and immunology. Dr. Robert Malone (L) speaks at the Global Covid Summit in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 18, 2021. (Courtesy of Global Covid Summit/Screenshot via NTD) Why, then, is he considered “a pariah” (in his own words) by so many of his peers? Why did Twitter recently suspend his account? Malone is arguably the most qualified person in the world to speak on what we as a society should and shouldn’t be doing during the pandemic. Yet for reasons that will become abundantly clear, he finds himself ostracized, largely silenced, and cut off from the scientific community. Why? Two months before his Twitter account was suspended, Malone wrote a rather prophetic Twitter post: “I am going to speak bluntly,” he wrote. “Physicians who speak out are being actively hunted via medical boards and the press. They are trying to delegitimize us and pick us off one by one.” He finished by warning that this is “not a conspiracy theory” but “a fact.” He urged us all to “wake up.” Sadly, many of us are still asleep. In my research for this piece, it seems clear to me that Malone has been silenced, not because he’s some quack spouting nonsense, but because he challenged—and still challenges—the overarching narrative about vaccines and the lethality of COVID-19. Malone was recently interviewed by Joe Rogan. For the uninitiated, Rogan is the host of one of the most influential podcasts in the world. At one point during the three-hour interview, Malone referred to Dr. Anthony Fauci as Tony Fauci, a man he knows personally. Malone, in other words, knows where all the skeletons are hidden. The same is true for Dr. Peter McCullough, another world-renowned expert who has appeared on Rogan’s podcast. Prior to writing this piece, I consulted both Malone and McCullough. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a briefing at the White House on Dec. 1, 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo) Over the course of the past 18 months, Malone has been painted as some kind of anti-vax fringe scientist, a man of questionable merit who’s spouting nonsense. Well, he’s not. Malone happens to be vaccinated. All he has ever asked for is the chance to have frank and honest discussions on vaccines. In his own words, vaccines have “saved lives. Many lives.” “But it is also increasingly clear that there are some risks associated with these vaccines,” Malone said. “Various governments have attempted to deny that this is the case. But they are wrong. Vaccination-associated coagulation is a risk. Cardiotoxicity is a risk. Those are proven and discussed in official USG communications, as well as communications from a variety of other governments.” Malone isn’t a crazed conspiracy theorist: He’s a man who’s intimately familiar with the benefits and the risks of vaccines. He’s a proponent of informed consent. Perhaps before letting someone inject a vaccine into your body, you should be fully informed of the risks involved, he says. He isn’t an unreasonable man. Nevertheless, in this age of faux outrage and fabricated storylines, society needs a fall guy, a boogie man, a sacrificial lamb. Malone fits the bill. He knows too much. It’s much easier to discredit a decorated physician—who challenges the overarching narrative—than it is to actually debate him. Zero Degrees of Separation The story goes deeper. In 2019, the BBC established the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), a partnership that now includes organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, Reuters, and The Washington Post. We’re told that it was established to tackle “disinformation in real time.” TNI was ostensibly designed to wage a war on “fake news.” Upon closer inspection, however, it appears to have been designed to promote very specific narratives and to silence any dissenting voices, such as Malone’s. Instead of trusting the TNI, we should question the motives of its members. After all, The Washington Post recently published a piece asking people to stop criticizing President Joe Biden. The message is clear: Stop being mean to the president, even if the president is being mean to you (on more than one occasion). Then, there’s James C. Smith, chairman of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He sits on the board of directors for Pfizer, a company that’s responsible for the creation of vaccines with questionable efficacy and that has a history of manipulating data. In short, Pfizer is a company with a questionable reputation. Nevertheless, Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla was recently named CNN’s Business CEO of the Year. Make of that what you will. When one thinks of TNI (and the mainstream media in general), various terms instantly spring to mind. “Objectivity” isn’t one of them. “Highly compromised” and “conflict of interest” do come to mind, however. Speaking of objectivity, or the lack thereof, in August 2021, The Atlantic ran a much-cited hit piece on Malone, which was high on accusations, but low on actual evidence. It attacked his character and credibility—repeatedly. Rather intriguingly, the article, like all of The Atlantic’s COVID-19 articles, was funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The former is an organization established and owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation owns stock in Johnson & Johnson, a company whose vaccine has been associated with the development of blood clots—the very thing Malone has been warning us about for the better part of two years. People might scoff. But contrary to popular belief, democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies in broad daylight. Its death is slow and protracted, one by a thousand cuts rather than by one fatal stab. As author Steve Levitsky once wrote, democracies don’t often die at the hands of military generals, “but of elected leaders—presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power.” “One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion,” he wrote. “Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats—wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks—to justify antidemocratic measures.” Apply these lines to the pandemic, and Levitsky’s words carry more weight than ever before. In the United States, one must not question the efficacy of masks, vaccines for kids, the logic (or lack thereof) of lockdowns, or the unconstitutional nature of vaccine mandates. What about the little matter of vaccine breakthrough deaths? Don’t ask any questions. But wait, if science can’t be questioned, doesn’t this make it propaganda? Hush now. Don’t you love America? Don’t you want people to live, rather than die? Then shut up and get the vaccine, then the booster shot, then the booster-booster shot. We, the arbiters of truth, know what’s best for you. Somewhat ironically, these self-appointed arbiters of truth spout no shortage of lies. Is it any surprise, then, that more and more Americans continue to lose faith in the mainstream media and the government? Yet here we are, being condescended to by the likes of CNN’s Don Lemon and MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace. Worse still, we’re supposed to take orders from Fauci, a man who supposedly represents science, yet goes out of his way to smear scientists. Why would a man of science attack the very thing that he’s supposed to represent? A stock photo of social media platform icons in a mobile device. (Pixabay/Pexels) According to numerous reports, Fauci has repeatedly deceived the American people. It’s important to remember that Fauci is, first and foremost, a talking head for the U.S. government. In reality, he’s a politician with a medical degree. To quote the author Gillian Flynn, the author of “Gone Girl”: “The truth is malleable; you just need to pick the right expert.” Who better than Fauci, a highly qualified individual with his own fan club? But don’t be fooled. Fauci might act like he answers to no one, but he does. He answers to the U.S. government. Who, then, does the government answer to? Big Pharma, it seems. In 2019, the Roosevelt Institute published a fascinating report, “The Cost of Capture: How the Pharmaceutical Industry has Corrupted Policy Makers and Harmed Patients.” The report outlines the many ways in which the pharmaceutical industry has shaped policies through corporate capture. This is a phenomenon that sees private industries use their significant financial and political influence to manipulate a state’s decision-making apparatus. The report warned about the dangers of lobbying and of deeply flawed medical research. What we’re seeing is the convergence of Big Pharma, Big Tech, and Big Government. Let’s call it the unholy trinity, with Big Tech doing the bidding of Big Government, and Big Government doing the bidding of Big Pharma. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, YouTube has removed the Joe Rogan episodes featuring Robert Malone and Peter McCullough. Why? Because when it comes to viruses and vaccines, these are among the most notable and accomplished experts in the world. They appear to know things that the government doesn’t want us to know. Additionally, Google, the owner of YouTube, appears to be closely involved with the U.S. government. What we’re left with is the equivalent of a digital dictatorship, with even the most qualified people being silenced, ostracized, and, in some cases, defenestrated. Robert Malone is a wise man, an honest man, and a highly credible man. The grief that has come his way—and continues to come his way to this day—is unwarranted. But as he knows only too well, this is the price one must pay for challenging the unholy trinity. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Tyler Durden Wed, 01/05/2022 - 19:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 5th, 2022

Why Bill Gates Is Pivoting On Existing COVID Vaccines

Why Bill Gates Is Pivoting On Existing COVID Vaccines Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute, Does Bill Gates understand the difference between a computer virus and a human virus? In a surprising interview, Bill Gates said the following: “We didn’t have vaccines that block transmission. We got vaccines that help you with your health, but they only slightly reduce the transmission. We need new ways of doing vaccines.” It’s odd how he speaks of medicines as if they are like software. Try it out, observe how it works. When you find a problem, put the technicians to work. Every new iteration is an experiment. Free to try until you finally buy. Surely over time, we’ll find the answer to the problem of blocking or blotting out pathogens.  Software. Hardware. Applications. Subscriptions! This is how he thinks, as if the human body and its deadly dance with viruses is a recent problem and we are only at the very beginning of finding solutions, without realizing that this reality has been present for the whole of human existence and that we had tremendous success in the course of the 20th century minimizing bad pathogenic outcomes without his guidance and benefaction.  Essentially, he has long promoted the idea that traditional public health praxis was for the analog age; in the digital age, we need government planning, advanced technology, mass surveillance, and the ability to control human beings the way a software company manages personal computers.  Most people have no idea how such a rich and smart person could be so dim on essential matters of complex cell biology. Hacking the human body, improving it with uploads and downloads, is surely a more ominous challenge than inventing and managing man-made computers. So herein I try to present the reasons for Gates’s way of thinking.  The relative deficiencies of this vaccine to stop infection and transmission are now well known. There is some reason to believe that they achieve that much at least for the vulnerable population. What can we make of Gates’s passing statement: “We need a new way of doing vaccines”? Let’s travel back in time to examine his career at Microsoft and his shepherding into existence the Windows operating system. By the early 1990s, it was being billed as the essential brain of the personal computer. Security considerations against viruses were not part of its design, however, simply because not that many people were using the internet so the threat level was low. The browser was not invented until 1995. Security of personal computers was not really a question that Microsoft had dealt with.  The neglect of this consideration turned into a disaster. By the early 2000s, there were thousands of versions of malware (also called bugs) floating around the internet and infecting computers running Windows worldwide. They ate hard drive. They sucked out data. They forced ads on people. They invaded your space with strange popups. They were wrecking the user experience and threatening the future of an entire industry.  The problem of malware was dubbed viruses. It was a metaphor. Not real. It’s not clear that Gates ever really understood that. Computer viruses aren’t anything like biological viruses. To maintain a clean and functioning hard drive, you want to avoid and block a computer virus at all costs. Any exposure is bad exposure. The fix is always avoidance until eradication.  With biological viruses, we have evolved to confront them through exposure and let our immune system develop to take them on. A body that blocks all pathogens without immunity is a weak one that will die at the first exposure, which will certainly come at some point in a modern society. An immune system that confronts most viruses and recovers grows stronger. That’s a gigantic difference that Gates never understood.  Regardless, the advent of the army of computer pathogens fundamentally threatened his proudest achievement. Microsoft frantically searched for a solution, but the creativity of the malware army moved too fast for its engineers.  Others sensed an opportunity. Companies specializing in anti-virus software had been doing business since the 1990s but grew more sophisticated in the early 2000s. Once the internet became fast enough, these software packages could be updated daily. There were ever newer companies, each with a different method and a different marketing and pricing model.  Eventually, the problem was mostly solved on the personal computer, but it took ten years. Even now, Microsoft’s products are less protected than Apple’s, and Microsoft has yet to come close to mitigating the problem of spam on its own native email client.  In short, keeping viruses out of computers constitutes the single biggest professional struggle in Gates’ life. The lesson he learned was that pathogen blocking and eradication was always the path forward. What he never really understood is that the word virus was merely a metaphor for unwanted and unwelcome computer code. The analogy breaks down in real life.  After finally stepping back from Microsoft’s operations, Gates started dabbling in other areas, as newly rich people tend to do. They often imagine themselves especially competent at taking on challenges that others have failed at simply because of their professional successes. Also by this point in his career, he was only surrounded by sycophants who would not interrupt his descent into crankiness.  And what subject did he pounce on? He would do to the world of pathogens what he did at Microsoft: he would stamp them out! He began with malaria and other issues and eventually decided to take on them all. And what was his solution? Of course: antivirus software. What is that? It is vaccines. Your body is the hard drive that he would save with his software-style solution.  At the beginning of the pandemic, I noted that Gates was pushing hard for lockdowns. His foundation was now funding research labs the world over with billions of dollars, plus universities and direct grants to scientists. He was also investing heavily in vaccine companies.  Early on in the pandemic, to get a sense of Gates’s views, I watched his TED talks. I began to realize something astonishing. He knew much less than anyone could discover by reading a book on cell biology from Amazon. He couldn’t even give a basic 9th-grade-level explanation of viruses and their interaction with the human body. And yet here he was lecturing the world about the coming pathogen and what should be done about it. His answer is always the same: more surveillance, more control, more technology. Once you understand the simplicity of his core confusions, everything else he says makes sense from his point of view. He seems forever stuck in the fallacy that the human being is a cog in a massive machine called society that cries out for his managerial and technological leadership to improve to the point of operational perfection.  The rich, their pretenses, their influence: sometimes charming, sometimes beneficent, sometimes deeply malicious. Gates’s influence over epidemiology has been tremendously baneful, but it’s unclear whether he even knows it. In fact, I don’t think that he does. In some ways, that’s even more dangerous.  Readers might be quick to point out that Gates has benefited enormously from lockdowns and vaccine mandates, both seeing his former company grow to enormous size and from his stock ownership in vaccine makers. So yes, his ignorance has been rewarded handsomely. As for his influence on the world, history will not likely be forgiving. Tyler Durden Wed, 11/17/2021 - 00:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 17th, 2021

My coworkers refused to get vaccinated. So, I quit.

Veterinarians are part of the public-health system, which is designed to protect from disease - and ignorance. My coworkers lost sight of that. iStock; Skye Gould/Insider I recently quit my job as a veterinarian because many of my coworkers chose not to get vaccinated. Veterinarians are part of the public-health system, which is designed to protect from disease. My coworkers' decisions gave me a choice: stay and risk my health, or leave a job I loved. I left. This story was written by a veterinarian in the US. Their employment has been verified by Insider, but their byline is anonymous to prevent professional repercussions.On the day of the first lockdown in March 2020, I was in surgery, performing a spay on a large dog. The office manager broke the news, and for a minute, I stopped working - because at that moment, the world seemed to change. But while worlds change, they don't stand still. By the time I was out of surgery, I learned that veterinarians and vet techs were considered essential workers. Work would continue for us, limited to sick patients for the time being. We adapted our practice, instituting curbside service and devising ways to communicate with pet owners that did not require face-to-face contact.In the veterinary world, social distancing is impossible. Taking a blood sample from a nine-pound chihuahua requires at least two people, our heads often only six inches apart. Trimming the nails of a 90-pound dog is impossible if you cannot be closer than six feet from your assistant. Getty Images Looking back, those were golden days. Everyone at our clinic seemed to be part of the same team, working together for the good of our patients. In the wider world, I cheered as epidemiologists discovered the secrets to COVID-19 transmission and scientists turned new knowledge into safe, effective vaccines. I was awed by the bravery of my healthcare colleagues who risked their lives to treat COVID-19 patients firsthand. We had several COVID-19 exposure scares within the hospital. No vaccine was available then, and the county public-health department had us close the hospital each time while we were all tested and quarantined. While our hospital was closed, our concern was for the health of our coworkers, with text chains checking up on everyone and their families - at least, that's how it seemed to me. Veterinarians are part of the public-health system and must study public health as part of our veterinary education. We learn about epidemiology, infection statistics, vaccinations, testing, and the value of "herd health." We are part of a system designed to protect people from disease - and often from their own ignorance. For instance, I had a client who thought rabies merely causes drooling. Despite this misconception, she can safely live her life without knowing the horror of rabies because vaccination mandates for pets reduce her exposure to virtually nil. Getty Images Public-health efforts succeed when a group is united and seeks a unified goal. A population with a high vaccination rate - whether dogs, cattle, or humans - offers a wall of defense against a virus. There are fewer places for it to hide and fewer targets to infect. That wall is extremely important because breakthrough infections are possible, and there are members of our community who cannot yet be vaccinated (children under 5 years old) or who have increased risk for infection (immunocompromised people, the elderly, or those with other diseases). This is especially true in a work environment where one spends all day in close contact with colleagues and staff. That's why I felt such relief when vaccines were approved, and when, in January 2021, veterinarians and veterinary staff were added to the list of healthcare workers approved for vaccinations. Finally, we could see a glimmer of hope after so many months working with very little protection. Finally, there was a suit of armor to help us do our jobs with less risk. Finally, we could continue to provide care despite the pandemic around us. Some among us were quickly vaccinated and then eagerly shared vaccination info with co-workers so they could set up appointments. It took me about two months to realize that many of our staff who said they were having "difficulty getting the vaccine" actually had no intention of getting it. Before long, unvaccinated staff began spouting unscientific propaganda to justify why they refused the vaccine, and it became clear that I was not given the authority even to criticize their ignorance. Getty Images The inevitable happened, of course. We incurred more COVID-19 cases on staff. Unvaccinated staff were sent home while vaccinated staff continued to work, severely short-handed. At the same time, I repeatedly asked about the hospital's future vaccination plans and testing requirements, and I repeatedly received the same answer: There were no plans. No vaccination mandate, no testing requirement. Management was afraid unvaccinated staff would quit. So, I quit. The lack of COVID-19 vaccination or even testing requirements was not compatible with my training. If I wouldn't send a dog to a kennel where vaccinations were optional, why would I stay at my work? I have small children who cannot yet be vaccinated and older parents who help tend to them. Close and consistent exposure to unvaccinated staff puts my family at increased risk. I love my profession and my patients, and that love sustained me as an essential worker through the early COVID-19 lockdown. But I could not remain in a place with no intention of using the effective, available tools to insure a safer workplace. COVID-19 vaccinations and testing are part of workplace safety and public health. Allowing them to become politicized or opting out as part of an expression of political identity is a slippery slope. Getty Images No one wants to see rabies return as a widespread health hazard - nor measles, polio, mumps, diphtheria. We are able to ignore these diseases in our everyday lives because of public-health measures taken over the years to eradicate them. This requires a country united in effort and understanding, which is something I worry America has lost.Like many workers, I joined the Great Resignation. When evaluating current or future employment, everyone weighs the pros and cons: pay, benefits, childcare, commute time, career growth - and now, COVID-19 exposure. Pay is an issue for most job-seekers. But many employers may underestimate the role COVID-19 exposure plays in this evaluation. So many of us have loved ones who are at higher risk if they catch COVID-19 even while vaccinated. We love them a million times more than any job, and working in close proximity to unvaccinated coworkers increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. That's a major negative when looking at a job's overall appeal. Currently, the United States has lost more than 750,000 people to COVID-19. That equates to many grieving families. A majority of Americans are doing their part to end this pandemic by getting vaccinated. The Delta variant made it clear that, although the risks were significantly reduced for the vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated, the risks are not gone.When we look at our workplaces and see unvaccinated coworkers - some who don't even wear a mask properly - and hear management consistently refuse to require vaccinations or testing, the question becomes: Do I stay or go? I know what I chose.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 13th, 2021

Medical Research Rapidly Adopts "Systemic Racism" As Truth, Risking Scientific Credibility, Part 1

Medical Research Rapidly Adopts "Systemic Racism" As Truth, Risking Scientific Credibility, Part 1 By John Murawski of RealClearInvestigations, Part 1 of 2 Rejection used to be common for medical sociologist Thomas LaVeist when he tried to get his research published on the effects of racism on the health of black people. “Now,” said the 60-year-old dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, “I have those same journals asking me to write articles for them.” LaVeist’s experience illustrates the dramatic transformation in medical research, accelerating in the past few years. While few would dispute that black Americans are more prone to chronic health problems and have shorter life expectancies than whites, the medical community generally sought answers in biology, genetics and lifestyle. Research, like LaVeist’s, that focused on racism was frowned upon as lacking rigor or relevance, an amateurish detour from serious intellectual inquiry. Thomas LaVeist: His work focused on racism was once frowned upon as lacking rigor or relevance. Not any more. Today medical journal editors are clamoring for a racial lens and apologizing for what they call their past moral blindness. In recent years, and especially since Black Lives Matter protests erupted last year, systemic racism has been transformed from a fringe theory to a canonical truth. Medical researchers are now able to offer a sweeping socio-political explanation for racial health disparities by citing the hundreds of peer-reviewed articles authored by LaVeist and a host of others, thus conferring upon the study of systemic racism the imprimatur of scholarly authority and even settled science. This year, top officials at the National Institutes of Health issued an apology to all who have suffered from structural racism in biomedical research. The NIH, the nation’s largest funder of biomedical research, announced that it is dedicating $90 million to the study of health disparities and structural racism, engaging in more than 60 diversity and inclusion initiatives, and committing “every tool at our disposal to remediate the chronic problem of structural racism.” In an August special issue dedicated to racial health disparities, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association stated that systemic racism is a scientific fact beyond dispute, and disagreeing on this point is “wrong,” “misguided” and “uninformed.” Systemic racism is a reality to be assumed in medical research rather than a sociological hypothesis to be tested by skeptical researchers.  Deemed incontestable, systemic racism provides the political rationale for “dismantling” — in the words of no less an authority than the National Institutes of Health — the social institutions and cultural standards that, according to the framework’s advocates, were constructed and are maintained to uphold white supremacy.  The consequences of ignoring this new prime directive for racially focused research were made abundantly clear this year when the top two editors of JAMA were pressured to resign after the organization ran a podcast that questioned whether systemic racism explains health disparities between blacks and other Americans. “When JAMA sends a call for paper on structural racism, when the NIH director sends out an apology letter for racism in the NIH and when the CDC for the first time uses the term ‘racism,’ these are highest-level determinants of what research will be done in coming years in this country,” said Shervin Assari, an associate professor of family medicine and urban public health at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, one of four historically black medical schools in the nation. Shervin Assari: Now the feds are "paying good money to the best researchers in this country who are competing to understand how structural racism works, rather than if it exists.” “This is the first time the NIH has issued a call for research on structural racism. This is the first time JAMA fires an editor who said something wrong about racism,” said Assari, who has published more than 350 papers on race, social determinants and health equity. “Now NIH is paying good money to the best researchers in this country who are competing to understand how structural racism works, rather than if it exists.” Systemic racism, generally unseen but known by its perceived effects, doesn’t directly cause diabetes, hypertension or depression, but it purportedly creates the living conditions in which chronic conditions opportunistically thrive, advocates say. Such living conditions include unsafe neighborhoods, aggressive policing, substandard schools, discriminatory workplaces, inferior medical care and the resulting stress, despair and self-destructive behavior, the theory states.  To institutionalize its new policy, JAMA is revising its peer review standards and diversifying its ranks to advance health care equity, a term that refers to narrowing or even eliminating racial health disparities in chronic conditions and life expectancies. Similar steps are being adopted throughout the medical profession — by the cluster-hiring of minority applicants, hiring of diversity and equity officers, and training staff on “white privilege,” implicit bias, microaggressions, and allyship. A lead editorial in the August special issue, co-signed by 15 people, including JAMA’s newly installed executive editor and executive managing editor, along with other JAMA leaders, said all medical journals are morally obligated to assume systemic racism as a fact and document this fact in their research. “At this point in the arc of medicine and scientific publication,” JAMA stated, “it is crucial for all journals to fulfill renewed editorial and journal missions that include a heightened and appropriate emphasis on equity and publication of information that addresses structural racism with the goal of overcoming its effects in medicine and health care.” This rapid turn of events has blindsided traditional doctors, who are put off by the intense focus on race and the strong rhetoric. “The spectacle of the gatekeepers of medical publications announcing a political blueprint that medical authors must follow — or else — is pretty breathtaking,” Thomas Huddle, who retired this year as professor at the medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said by email. Thomas Huddle, dissenter: “The medical gatekeepers are in the grip of a moral panic.” “The medical gatekeepers are in the grip of a moral panic,” said Huddle, who has published on medical ethics and edited several medical journals. “The JAMA convulsion over the podcast was positively Maoist in its fervor for achieving moral correctness and purging the impure.” It's an open secret that some find the systemic explanation to be nothing more than leftist polemic, while others are skeptical it convincingly explains everything it claims to explain. These skeptics worry about the career implications of publicly dissenting from the new orthodoxy, but it's not inconceivable that blaming an entire national culture for racial disparities will prompt independent scholars and conservative think tanks to produce opposing research that explores black-on-black murder, racial disparities in IQ testing and other taboo subjects.  The dramatic transformation sweeping through the health care profession is not happening in a vacuum. It mirrors social justice movements committed to exposing structural racism that allegedly pervades education, criminal justice, the arts, hard sciences and other domains of U.S. society. Activists in those fields, as well as medicine, talk of dismantling white supremacy and other “structures” that operate by means of race-neutral laws and colorblind norms that cause racial and gender power imbalances and harm non-white groups. Skeptical physicians say that medical journal editors are essentially replacing the scientific method with a political ideology, namely critical race theory, and leaving little room for alternative explanations — such as personal agency or cultural differences. “There’s a tremendous amount of groupthink,” said Stanley Goldfarb, a former dean for curriculum who taught about kidney disease at the University of Pennsylvania medical school before retiring this summer. “If you don’t agree with all that, you’re a bad person.” “This is an argument that you’re not allowed to have — that’s the problem here,” said Goldfarb, who has served on the editorial boards of three medical journals and was editor-in-chief of a nephrology journal. Racial health disparities underlie the four-year gap in black-white life expectancy in the United States. The factors that contribute to this disparity include chronic conditions, unintentional injuries, suicide and homicide, which is the leading cause of death for black males aged 44 and younger. Scholars committed to the systemic racism explanation blame the disproportionately high crime rates in poor black neighborhoods on discrimination, substandard schools and other manifestations of systemic racism.  The body of research into racial health disparities has broken into the mainstream after establishing credibility through the time-honored system of academic citations and referrals. Since LaVeist began his work in the 1990s, a small stream of articles has swelled into a critical mass that now allows medical researchers to assume systemic racism as a proven fact and cite the evidence in footnotes, as established knowledge, instead of arguing the case each time. “When the weight of the evidence becomes so overwhelming that we reach consensus, we no longer continue to question whether or not [it is true],” LaVeist said. “We don’t question gravity anymore because the consensus is that gravity is a thing.” One of the JAMA articles in the August special issue found that the major health care spending disparity is that whites spend more on dental, pharmaceutical, and outpatient care, while blacks spend more on emergency room and inpatient hospital care, suggesting that black people are more likely to be uninsured and otherwise lack access to routine medical care. Instead of detailing the precise reasons that may explain this gap, the authors invoke previous articles: “There are many mechanisms that have already been identified that explain how structural racism shapes health and healthcare.” In a phone interview, the lead author, Joseph Dieleman, associate professor of health metric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said: “These are taken as a given by us. These are not to be debated, or being tested, in our analysis.”  Health Affairs, dubbed by a Washington Post columnist as “the bible of health policy,” is redoubling its focus on systemic racism, anti-racism, and equity, not only in its published content but also in attending to the racial makeup of its published authors and reviewers. “We acknowledge that the dominant voices in our work are those with power and privilege,” Editor-in-Chief Alan Weil wrote in January. “Even as we have dramatically increased the volume of our content focused on equity, the narrative has primarily been written by those in power. We vow to change this.” Weil, who was trained in critical legal theory, a precursor to critical race theory, as a Harvard law student in the 1980s, said in a phone interview that the concepts of merit and quality are often used to maintain power and privilege, and these structures must be examined for bias. “We’re just talking about — forgive the language that is used by the believers — interrogating ourselves,” Weil said. Systemic racism, a core tenet of critical race theory, doesn’t have a settled definition but it has broad applicability. One of the peculiar features of systemic racism is that the mechanism is not evident to those who are not initiated into the theory, but ubiquitous to its acolytes. For best-selling and award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi, whose writings are considered essential reading at some medical schools, any disparity can signify racism. The concept can refer to all manner of disparate outcomes —  in murder rates, arrest rates, life expectancies, education levels, school discipline, household income, standardized tests scores and grades — even in the fact that black people are nowhere to be seen in the corridor portraits of medical school dignitaries and are underrepresented in symphony orchestras. Ibram X Kendi: Any disparity can signify racism. “There is no ‘official’ definition of structural racism,” states a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine.  “All definitions make clear that racism is not simply the result of private prejudices held by individuals, but is also produced and reproduced by laws, rules, and practices, sanctioned and even implemented by various levels of government, and embedded in the economic system as well as in cultural and societal norms.” One line of attack against the status quo is the movement to eliminate long-accepted practices to promote merit and excellence that, according to activists, operate as colorblind mechanisms to produce unequal outcomes: gifted and talented programs, gifted schools, and admissions tests for elite high schools, as well as standardized test scores for university admission. In medicine, the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination test is changing from a graded score to pass/fail to help minority students, while Northwestern University and its Feinberg School of Medicine are promoting diversity by eliminating a six-decade-old Honors Program in Medical Education. Still, the concept provides special challenges for medicine. Unlike bacteria, for instance, systemic racism is an invisible force that can only be measured indirectly, by its perceived effects. Nevertheless, LaVeist is convinced that systemic racism is the best explanation for racial health disparities because the correlation of race and health is consistent across numerous studies for multiple chronic conditions. “We cannot make direct causal inferences. The best we can do is look at plausible causality,” LaVeist said. “What we have is a case where once you’ve ruled out all of the plausible explanations, the only thing left is systemic racism.” LaVeist and Weil agree that health and other disparities can have other causes than systemic racism, and good scholarship should be cognizant of other potential variables. LaVeist said that without allowing for other factors, people of color would have no free will, but it is important to note that African American culture is also shaped by white racism. One of LaVeist’s early co-authored papers that was rejected by several journals before finding a publisher concluded that black people who experience rudeness at the hands of white people have longer life expectancies if they blame systemic racism, or some other external factor, for being treated disrespectfully. An implication of the study: Even if the rude behavior by the white person isn’t caused by racism or an external factor, it’s strategically beneficial for black people to attribute the rudeness to someone else’s racism, boorishness or insensitivity, rather than blaming themselves. “Yes — racism, or some other external attribution,” LaVeist said. “If you make an external attribution, that is going to be healthier than you thinking, ‘Oh they’re right, I am a bad person, I deserve to be mistreated.’” Assari specializes in the study of “diminished returns” in quality of life and health that black people and other marginalized groups experience as they gain education and income in U.S. society. His research contends that black people reap fewer benefits — such as income and health — as they rise in education, compared to white people, which he attributes to structural racism. He has written half of the 300-some academic papers on that subject cited by the National Library of Medicine. He makes connections that would not be self-evident to someone who lacks training in his specialty. One of his recent papers, published in the Journal of Health Economics, says that Americans are less likely to smoke as their income level rises. But that rule doesn’t hold for high-income Chinese Americans, who are more likely to smoke as they generate more income.  So Assari postulates that upwardly mobile Chinese Americans resort to nicotine as a means of coping with the anti-Asian bias they encounter in this country’s elite institutions.   Yet, he also said that even though the anti-racist movement seems invincible now, overweening claims about systemic racism will eventually invite scholarly criticism, especially if equity policies and interventions now being implemented fail to deliver results. “I think there will be a very strong backlash against critical race theory very soon,” Assari said. “I don’t think it is sustainable. And it is falsifiable. So there would be an anti-CRT movement among other group of social scientists.” Nevertheless, Assari said systemic racism is a reliable theoretical framework because it parsimoniously explains the marginalization of many racial groups. “This is one model which explains many of our observations,” Assari said. “A theory is [reliable] when an observation or assumption holds regardless of the context, setting, place, population, design, sample. It is replicated many times across a diverse group of settings, age groups, resources, and outcomes.” LaVeist said segregation, much of it rooted in historical practices such as redlining and Jim Crow, is the primary driver of disparities. Poor neighborhoods are generally more polluted, closer to highways and industrial zones, and have less access to quality restaurants, grocery stores, public schools, and green spaces. Such environments tend to breed despair, which leads to crime and an overly aggressive police response. The constant stress of dealing with these hassles and micro-aggressions wears on the body, research into health disparities says, echoing arguments made by critical race theorists in the 1980s. One medical paper, published in The Lancet in 2017 and cited more than 1,500 times as of November, says that residential segregation is the foundation of structural racism, and notes that “growing research is linking interpersonal racism to various biomarkers of disease and well-being, including allostatic load, inflammatory markers, and hormonal dysregulation.” There are those who say the medical establishment is not going far enough in this research direction. The STAT News health information website reported in September that anti-racism and equity have become so trendy that “white scholars are colonizing research on health disparities.” According to the STAT investigation, white researchers are caught up in “a gold rush mentality” and “rushing to scoop up grants and publish papers.” The white scholars are replicating work done by black researchers without giving sufficient credit, a new form of exploitation practiced by “health equity tourists” and “opportunistic scientific carpetbaggers.” One of the worst offenders: JAMA’s August special issue on health disparities. “Not one of the five research papers published in the issue included a Black lead or corresponding author, and just one lead author was Hispanic,” STAT reported. Weil sympathizes with these concerns and said Health Affairs is creating a mentorship program to help scholars of color get their papers published in the journal. Weil, who said about 5% of submitted papers are accepted for publication at Health Affairs, is confident that dismantling power and privilege won’t necessitate compromising standards of excellence, and he considers such criticisms to be “generally false and intentionally inflammatory.” “Equitable representation should be the outcome of an equitable process, not the jerry-rigged result of a change of standards for one group — that is not where we want to be,” Weil said. “So if the fix here is an equitable outcome by lowering standards for a certain group, our readers will notice, and that’s not the end point I’m looking for.” Weil’s biggest concern is not that the anti-racist movement in medical research will go too far, but that the momentum and resolve will fizzle out. “I think it’s very hard to tell where you are on a swinging pendulum when you’re in the middle of it,” he said. “I am much more concerned that this will become a rote exercise where everyone genuflects to anti-racism but does nothing about it, than I am that this is an overcorrection.” Tyler Durden Fri, 11/12/2021 - 21:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 12th, 2021

Inside the New Basketball League Paying High Schoolers Six-Figure Salaries

A lot is riding on Overtime Elite’s fate Most high school hoops players across America—if they’re lucky—travel to their games in a yellow school bus. They might—if they’re lucky—compete in front of the local junior college scout. But members of Overtime Elite, the new professional basketball league for 16-to-19-year old stars, arrive in style, to play before a far more influential audience. On a crisp autumn morning in Atlanta, more than two dozen Overtime Elite (OTE) pros, who make at least six-figure salaries, stepped off a stretch limo bus, one by one. The players entered the brand-new 103,000 sq.-ft. facility built by Overtime, a five-year-old digital sports media startup that developed a huge following after posting Zion Williamson’s high school dunks on Instagram. Waiting for them at OTE’s inaugural “pro day”: some 60 pro scouts, including reps from 29 out of 30 NBA teams, sitting along the sideline and behind the baskets. They leafed through the scouting packet provided by OTE, which included information like the wingspan and hand width of each player plus advanced statistics on their performances during preseason scrimmages, whispering to one another about which ones they were excited to see. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Andrew Hetherington for TIMEEmmanuel Maldonado, Ryan Bewley, Bryce Griggs, Jalen Lewis of Overtime Elite taking a quick break from warm ups at the practice courts at the OTE arena. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEPlayers stretch next to practice courts at the OTE arena. As the league’s coaching staff led players through NBA-style drills, the scouts eyed Amen and Ausar Thompson, a set of rangy 6-ft. 7-in. twins from Florida who skipped their senior year of high school to join OTE. The brothers made clever dribble moves, before driving down the lane to throw down thunderous dunks. “The Thompson twins are obviously top talents,” says ESPN draft guru Jonathan Givony, who was also in Atlanta for the OTE pro day. “Those guys are ready to be seriously considered as NBA draft picks.” OTE made a strong first impression, but the evaluators universally agreed that not all of the 26 OTE players in the gym were bound for the NBA. Given the supply of global talent chasing that dream, and the precious few spots available, elementary math suggests such an outcome is all but impossible. The coaching came across as high-level. Anton Marshand, a scout for the Cleveland Cavaliers, expects to make frequent trips to Atlanta this season. “For us to be able to evaluate them now and see their growth over time, that’s the key,” says Marshand. “It’s a pro environment.” Andrew Hetherington for TIMEAmen Thompson (#1) of Team OTE on the show court at the OTE arena. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEAusur Thompson and Amen Thompson chat after practice. OTE is launching at a landmark moment in the history of American sports. For decades, talented teenagers in fields like acting and music could monetize their unique gifts by signing lucrative, life-changing financial agreements. But archaic rules and attitudes largely kept athletes from doing the same, preventing them from cashing in until they reached major pro leagues like the NFL or the NBA. Those restrictions are now going the way of the peach basket. In June, the Supreme Court captured these shifting assumptions concerning athletic amateurism in a ruling that prevents the NCAA from capping education-related benefits. In a scathing concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the business model of the NCAA, an organization that has long kept college athletes from being paid—despite the millions in revenue many of them generate for their institutions—would be “flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.” About a week later, the NCAA, with public opinion and the highest court in the land turning against its outdated notions of amateurism, relented, and allowed college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses. Read More: Why The NCAA Should Be Terrified Of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh’s Concurrence Naturally, businesses—many of them upstart tech platforms—have stepped into the fray, hoping to turn a profit by helping young athletes cash in on new opportunities. Brands like Icon Source, INFLCR and PWRFWD are promising to open up sponsorship opportunities, build social media presence and sell the merchandise of college athletes. A company called Opendorse aims to connect athletes with sponsorship opportunities—not unlike, say, how Uber connects drivers with riders, or Airbnb matches hosts and vacationers. With the loosening of name, image and likeness, or NIL, restrictions, Opendorse expects to quadruple its annual revenue in 2021 to more than $20 million. Tim Derdenger, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, estimates that the NIL market for college athletes alone could reach more than $1 billion in five years. But by betting on the popularity of high school basketball players, Overtime is taking a more radical, and potentially transformative, approach. Overtime’s pitch to players: forget college basketball. OTE promises to pay six-figure salaries and offer access to high-level coaching and skill development in a sports-academy setting, to prepare athletes for a pro career. OTE has also hired teachers and academic administrators so that players can secure their high school diplomas. The operation has financial backing from an All-Star investor lineup, which includes Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions fund, Drake, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and a slew of NBA players like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Trae Young. In March, Overtime raised $80 million. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEPlayers take classes at a WeWork space in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEBryce Griggs and TJ Clark leave the locker room on to the OTE practice courts in Atlanta. Signing with OTE isn’t a decision players take lightly. Under current NCAA rules, athletes with OTE contracts are classified as professional players who have forfeited any eligibility to play college basketball, an enterprise that, despite all its flaws, is a proven path to lifelong educational benefits and the NBA. If an OTE player does not make it to the NBA or secure a professional gig overseas, Overtime is pledging to kick in $100,000 to pay for a student’s college education. “You can’t beat that,” says Bryson Warren, a would-be high school junior from Arkansas who’s eligible for the 2024 NBA draft. “At the end of the day, I can still be a doctor and make NBA money.” For some, however, the OTE deal sounds almost too good to be true. At pro day, the same scouts who looked up to the ceiling of OTE’s airplane-hangar-size structure in wonder, asked the same question: How is OTE going to survive? The sports landscape is littered with failed professional leagues. Overtime has spent millions on a school, a coaching and basketball operations and performance staff rivaling that of NBA teams, not to mention salaries and housing for its players and a massive new structure. Dan Porter, Overtime’s CEO and co-founder, has heard all the skepticism. “Everyone wonders, What’s the business model?” he says. Porter points to OTE’s late-October opening weekend of games as a sign of the league’s promise: he says OTE content generated 23 million views, and 8.8 million total engagements, across social media. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEJai Smith of Team Elite makes his pre-game entrance on the inaugural night of games at the show court at the OTE arena. What’s more, now that top prospects can sign lucrative sponsorship deals while at proven collegiate powers like Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas, OTE may have to increase salary offers, further driving up its costs. And if Overtime’s marketing prowess helps the players build enough of a social media following to make OTE profitable, will that focus on building brands deter from their athletic development? OTE’s bottom line alone can’t thrive; the company needs to produce NBA draft picks. “We told kids when we recruited them,” says OTE director of scouting Tim Fuller, “our national championship is when you shake [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver’s hand.” A lot is riding on OTE’s fate. Success has potential to create economic empowerment and more options for young, mostly Black athletes who for far too long have been funneled into a system that mostly enriches white coaches and administrators, but not them. It could spawn copycats across sports (with the unintended consequence of further igniting the hyperspecialized, hypercompetitive $19 billion youth sports feeder system that often offers parents a false sense of their kids’ pro potential). OTE’s failure, however, might not cost just Bezos and Drake a rounding error of their overall wealth. Much worse, this disruptive idea could derail dreams. A new model OTE placed its recruiting call to Troy Thompson in the spring, at a fortuitous time. Troy’s twin sons, Amen and Ausar, had just played nearly 30 games over five weeks on the AAU circuit, where overuse injuries are becoming more common. The boys, who were based in Florida, had traveled to Illinois, Wisconsin, Arizona, Missouri and Georgia during this swing. They were able to showcase their ability, but the twins barely had time to practice on the all too common travel sports grind. Were they actually improving? “OTE called right when my mind was going, ‘O.K., I’ve got to find a way to slow this thing down,’” says Troy. The OTE offer—a six-figure salary, plus the emphasis on player development in an academy setting—sounded attractive. “It’s like we’re getting to fast-forward their dreams,” says Troy, who works in security. Ausar was on board. Amen, however, took a little more convincing. “He’s hardheaded,” Ausar says of his twin brother, who was sitting next to him during an OTE post–pro day brunch of pancakes, shrimp, lobster, grits and potatoes, served at a Georgia Tech off-campus apartment complex that houses the OTE players. (It abuts a golf course, and includes a leafy courtyard and a pool.) Amen was looking forward to chasing another high school state title. He had always dreamed of playing college basketball, even as a “one-and-done” player who enters the NBA draft after freshman year. Kansas, Florida, Auburn and Alabama had already offered the twins basketball scholarships, and Kentucky had reached out with interest. “It’s just what I’ve known,” Amen says of college basketball. “And it’s shown to be proven.” After “a million conversations,” says Amen, he was on board. He ultimately thought he had outgrown scholastic competition. In Atlanta, the Thompsons mention to TIME that they have just missed their final high school homecoming. But Amen insists he’s still going to prom. “I’m just going to walk in,” says Amen. He quickly realizes party crashing won’t be so simple. “As soon as I left the school, they didn’t let me shoot in the gym anymore,” says Amen. “So, actually, I will need to have a date [from the school] to prom.” Adjusting to Atlanta took some time. At first, Troy says, his sons complained about the OTE curfew. According to OTE’s dean of athlete experience and culture, former 10-year NBA veteran Damien Wilkins, during the week players must be in the residence building at 10 p.m., and in their apartments at 11 p.m. But Amen and Ausar have gotten accustomed to the rules, and they insist they have no regrets about forgoing their senior year of high school, and the potential to win a national championship in college, to join OTE. Troy believes them. “I guess they’re loving it where they are,” he says. “Because, guess what? Dad hardly ever gets a phone call.” The OTE weekday starts around 9 a.m. when the players arrive—on the limo bus—at school. (Starting in early November, classes will be held at the OTE facility; before then, while building construction was being completed, the classes took place at a WeWork space in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.) On an October day, one group of students are solving radical expressions in math; in social studies, a trio of players listen to a lecture about English colonial labor systems. A skeleton stands in a common area: the science teacher is reviewing anatomy. Students work on their “persuasive essays,” which they must turn into a 30–60 second commercial spot. Ausar, reading from a marble notebook, touts the benefits of water aerobics: “Who doesn’t love fun times in the pool?” Amen has picked stretching. “Remember, stretching over stress,” Amen says, snapping his fingers and pointing to the camera. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEPlayers take classes at a WeWork space in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEOvertime Elite players relax between classes at the WeWork space. Academics last around 3.5 to 4 hours a day, before the players grab lunch and head to basketball practice. Class sizes are small: the student-teacher ratio rarely exceeds 4 to 1. OTE’s academic head, Maisha Riddlesprigger—Washington, D.C’s. 2019 principal of the year—has heard too many times for her liking the assumption that OTE’s academic component serves as window dressing. “I think that comes from this deficit mindset that you can’t be an athlete and a scholar at the same time,” says Riddlesprigger. Veteran educator Marcus Harden, OTE’s senior administrator for academics and development, admits he worried that these high school juniors and seniors with healthy bank accounts and pro basketball ambitions would tune out classwork. And while some OTE players are more invested in school than others—fighting student phone-scrolling habits in class is an ongoing battle—Harden insists that overall, the students have exceeded expectations. “We would be negligent if we sent them out into the world with fake diplomas,” says Harden. “Even with the short day, I can say we’re doing this with integrity.” For the sake of students who might not make it in basketball, OTE must deliver on this promise. Still, former NBA player Len Elmore, a Harvard Law School grad and current senior lecturer at Columbia University’s sports management program, worries that even if the players who get injured or don’t pan out do return to college, they still might be worse off—savings accounts notwithstanding. “Come on, we’re talking about 17- and 18-year-olds who now have fizzled out at their dream,” says Elmore. “And now you expect them to go to a college that they were recruited by, or that they could have been recruited by, and enroll and go to class and watch other guys playing college basketball, knowing that they could have done that? That to me could also create some mental health issues.” ‘It’s lit’ When Porter, the OTE CEO, was head of digital at superagency WME in 2016, he spotted a shift in the way Gen-Z and younger millennials consumed sports content. Young people were less interested in sitting in front of a TV to watch live basketball or football games. They craved stories, personalities and highlights. They wanted it on demand, on their mobile devices, specifically on the social media platforms that spoke best to them, like Instagram. Porter co-founded Overtime late that year, focusing at first on high school basketball. A proprietary technology allowed videographers to shoot clips in gyms across the country and upload them to the cloud; the company’s social media editors fired off their favorite highlights. Williamson, who despite being built like an offensive lineman could throw down 360-degree slams on his comically inferior schoolboy competition, emerged as Overtime’s first star. The company built a young digitally-native cult following that has grown to more than 50 million followers across Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and other platforms. “If you are an ESPN or a traditional publisher, you can’t appeal to a young audience with a bunch of traditional sports programming,” says Porter. “You also can’t go on your accounts, and be like, ‘It’s lit,’ and a bunch of 50-year-old guys who are looking to figure out who they are going to start on their fantasy team are like, ‘I don’t understand what this is.’” Read more: As College Athletes Finally Start Cashing In, Entrepreneurs Big And Small Also Look To Score Overtime has since branched out into e-commerce, as well as longer-form programming, like a documentary about current Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields that lives on YouTube (and attracted some 426,000 views). Blue-chip companies like Gatorade, McDonald’s and Nike have advertised on the platform; Rocket Mortgage sponsored a post in which Miami Dolphins rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle looks for houses in South Florida. When Overtime was recruiting former Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers exec Brandon Williams to run OTE’s basketball operations, Williams, who was previously unfamiliar with the brand, knew he needed to consider the offer when his 10-year-old son gushed over the Overtime stickers that were sitting on his desk—he told Dad Overtime was kind of a big deal. Later, when some little kid spotted Williams wearing an Overtime shirt at an airport, the boy curved his hands into an “O”—a reference to the Overtime logo—as if approving Williams’ youth cred. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEBryce Griggs of OTE with the ball during the inaugural night of games in the show court at the OTE arena. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEThe OTE bench watches the game at the show court at the OTE arena A few factors coalesced to give birth to Overtime Elite. For one thing, Porter got weary of hearing feedback from college basketball programs that they appreciated Overtime giving their recruits exposure on the high school level, since the schools could then capitalize on their popularity. “I’m like, ‘That’s good for you, but that’s not very good for me,’” says Porter. An Overtime-branded league could keep personalities in the company’s ecosystem and give the startup a valuable piece of intellectual property. And the experience of another early Overtime star, current Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, opened Porter’s eyes. Ball spent one of his high school years—and part of the season he would have typically spent in college before becoming eligible for the NBA draft—playing overseas in Lithuania and Australia. He became the third overall pick of the 2020 NBA draft, and won last season’s rookie of the year honors. To Porter, Ball’s experience proved that talented players were willing to try a different path to the NBA. Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who passed away in January 2020, initially told Porter and Overtime’s other co-founder, Zack Weiner, that they were crazy. Overtime already had a compelling core business, and Stern knew from experience the hassles of running a sports league. But Stern eventually came around to the idea; his son, Eric, is one of OTE’s investors. Overtime Elite has signed multiyear, multimillion-dollar sponsorship agreements with Gatorade and State Farm. Both companies have prominent signage at the 1,100-seat “OTE Arena,” which is also part of the 103,000-sq.- ft. structure in Atlanta. OTE’s showcase court, which hosted its first set of games on Oct. 29, features LED lights and a Jumbotron. Topps is producing trading cards for OTE players; Porter says that “hundreds of thousands of dollars’” worth of cards have already sold, and that they should start appearing in Walmart, and hopefully Target, in December or January. Some NFT initiatives are sure to follow. OTE is not live-streaming games yet—Porter wants to create scarcity and buzz—but the content team is creating a mix of highlight packages and an episodic behind-the-scenes docuseries on the players. Overtime—which has yet to turn a profit—expects annual revenue to reach up to $300 million in five years, with Overtime Elite bringing in about a third of that haul. The company, and its investors, are betting that Overtime’s built-in brand notoriety and audience will differentiate OTE from other upstart sports leagues that have failed. “We don’t have that same kind of cold-start problem,” says Porter. ‘Dunk lines for content’ But the high stakes aren’t limited to Overtime’s bottom line. Players are placing their futures in the company’s hands, which puts the onus on OTE’s basketball development staff to ensure that, at worst, each player receives at least a lucrative pro offer overseas. The players do have impressive tools at their disposal. During one practice, for example, a biomechanical engineering Ph.D. rushes to tuck a microchip into the shorts of a few players: this technology allows OTE’s four-person analytics and data science team, led by applied math PhD. and former Philadelphia 76ers researcher Ivana Seric, to track how far and fast players move during practices. This information allows the coaches to better control wear and tear. Cameras atop each shot clock on the OTE practice courts can show, for example, how far to the left or right players are missing their shots. They can adjust accordingly. A 10-person on-court coaching staff, led by former UConn coach Kevin Ollie (who won the 2014 men’s national championship with the Huskies) fans out at four different baskets during practice, allowing players to work on team concepts, like defending screens and pick-and-rolls, and individual skills (they take ample corner threes and floaters, both key tricks of the NBA trade). Like any upstart, however, OTE has experienced hiccups. When Porter came to visit the academic session, a couple of players were unafraid to point out to him that the flimsy boxed roast beef and cheese sandwiches served for lunch—they may have fit it at the Fyre Festival—were subpar nourishment before practice. “This looks scary,” Porter admitted, eyeing the sandwich. “I wouldn’t eat it.” OTE launched in March, and settled on Atlanta as its home in May, meaning the facility, which comes chock-full of amenities like two oversize bathtubs for recovery and a players’ lounge and NFL-size weight room—as well as classroom and office space—needed to be constructed in five months. A few days before OTE’s opening games Halloween weekend, Ollie shouted instructions at practice over hardhats’ drilling; construction detritus forced one door to remain open, allowing a cool Georgia draft to accompany the players on the practice floor. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEKevin Ollie, Head Coach and Director of Player Development of the OTE coaches Team Elite during the inaugural night of games at the show court at the OTE arena. Andrew Hetherington for TIMEYoung fans in the stands watch the action at the OTE arena. While OTE deserves credit for executing its vision so quickly, it could be trying too much too soon. “They’re kind of building the parachute after they jumped out of the plane here,” says Dr. Marcus Elliott, founder and director of P3, a southern California-based sports science institute that provides advanced biomechanical analyses of elite athletes. Ollie was unhappy with this team’s effort at the first practice after pro day—and let the players know it. The energy was far from NBA-level, he told them. This scolding didn’t stop some of the players from lining up near a basket afterward, to show off their leaping ability for Overtime’s ubiquitous cameras. “Dunk lines for content,” said an OTE staffer who was looking on. Dunk lines for content. You probably couldn’t find a more fitting phrase to encapsulate the year 2021 in sports media and culture. Or a more spot-on reminder that kids are placing their basketball gifts in the hands of a digital marketing juggernaut. “I see the potential of this disruption to lead to a much more just and better world for these young athletes,” says Elliott. “But I also see lots of peril. It’s not about getting paid 100 grand to play as a 16- or 17-year-old. It’s about getting your second or third contract in the NBA. And those are challenging and sophisticated blueprints to put together. And so the fact that their DNA has nothing to do with development, that’s concerning.” Andrew Hetherington for TIMEA player hangs onto the net at the OTE practice courts. Overtime insists all incentives align. The company has hired experts like Ollie and the data scientists because the growth of OTE’s business hinges on the Thompson twins, and others, achieving their basketball dreams. After practice, Amen watches film with an OTE assistant coach; Ausar takes part in a small group shooting session that ends at 6 p.m. They both know that to make it to the next level, they must improve on their outside shooting. “I’m going to be in the gym,” says Ausar. “I have nothing better to do. I don’t do anything in Atlanta. I just chill in my room and watch basketball.” Amen and Ausar have talked to each other about backup careers; they both believe they’d be solid hoops commentators. But that can wait. When asked where they both see themselves in two years, neither brother hesitates. Nor do any of the OTE players when asked about their futures. “The NBA.”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 9th, 2021

Babies are increasingly dying of syphilis in the US - but it"s 100% preventable

Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. A newborn baby rests at the Ana Betancourt de Mora Hospital in Camaguey, Cuba, on June 19, 2015. Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters The number of US babies born with syphilis quadrupled from 2015 to 2019. Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. Routine testing and penicillin shots for pregnant women could prevent these cases. This story was originally published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, in collaboration with NPR News. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.When Mai Yang is looking for a patient, she travels light. She dresses deliberately - not too formal, so she won't be mistaken for a police officer; not too casual, so people will look past her tiny 4-foot-10 stature and youthful face and trust her with sensitive health information. Always, she wears closed-toed shoes, "just in case I need to run."Yang carries a stack of cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show what happens when the Treponema pallidum bacteria invades a patient's body. There's a photo of an angry red sore on a penis. There's one of a tongue, marred by mucus-lined lesions. And there's one of a newborn baby, its belly, torso and thighs dotted in a rash, its mouth open, as if caught midcry.It was because of the prospect of one such baby that Yang found herself walking through a homeless encampment on a blazing July day in Huron, California, an hour's drive southwest of her office at the Fresno County Department of Public Health. She was looking for a pregnant woman named Angelica, whose visit to a community clinic had triggered a report to the health department's sexually transmitted disease program. Angelica had tested positive for syphilis. If she was not treated, her baby could end up like the one in the picture or worse - there was a 40% chance the baby would die.Yang knew, though, that if she helped Angelica get treated with three weekly shots of penicillin at least 30 days before she gave birth, it was likely that the infection would be wiped out and her baby would be born without any symptoms at all. Every case of congenital syphilis, when a baby is born with the disease, is avoidable. Each is considered a "sentinel event," a warning that the public health system is failing.The alarms are now clamoring. In the United States, more than 129,800 syphilis cases were recorded in 2019, double the case count of five years prior. In the same time period, cases of congenital syphilis quadrupled: 1,870 babies were born with the disease; 128 died. Case counts from 2020 are still being finalized, but the CDC has said that reported cases of congenital syphilis have already exceeded the prior year. Black, Hispanic, and Native American babies are disproportionately at risk.There was a time, not too long ago, when CDC officials thought they could eliminate the centuries-old scourge from the United States, for adults and babies. But the effort lost steam and cases soon crept up again. Syphilis is not an outlier. The United States goes through what former CDC director Tom Frieden calls "a deadly cycle of panic and neglect" in which emergencies propel officials to scramble and throw money at a problem - whether that's Ebola, Zika, or COVID-19. Then, as fear ebbs, so does the attention and motivation to finish the task.The last fraction of cases can be the hardest to solve, whether that's eradicating a bug or getting vaccines into arms, yet too often, that's exactly when political attention gets diverted to the next alarm. The result: The hardest to reach and most vulnerable populations are the ones left suffering, after everyone else looks away.Yang first received Angelica's lab report on June 17. The address listed was a P.O. box, and the phone number belonged to her sister, who said Angelica was living in Huron. That was a piece of luck: Huron is tiny; the city spans just 1.6 square miles. On her first visit, a worker at the Alamo Motel said she knew Angelica and directed Yang to a nearby homeless encampment. Angelica wasn't there, so Yang returned a second time, bringing one of the health department nurses who could serve as an interpreter.They made their way to the barren patch of land behind Huron Valley Foods, the local grocery store, where people took shelter in makeshift lean-tos composed of cardboard boxes, scrap wood, and scavenged furniture, draped with sheets that served as ceilings and curtains. Yang stopped outside one of the structures, calling a greeting."Hi, I'm from the health department, I'm looking for Angelica."The nurse echoed her in Spanish.Angelica emerged, squinting in the sunlight. Yang couldn't tell if she was visibly pregnant yet, as her body was obscured by an oversized shirt. The two women were about the same age: Yang 26 and Angelica 27. Yang led her away from the tent, so they could speak privately. Angelica seemed reticent, surprised by the sudden appearance of the two health officers. "You're not in trouble," Yang said, before revealing the results of her blood test.Angelica had never heard of syphilis."Have you been to prenatal care?"Angelica shook her head. The local clinic had referred her to an obstetrician in Hanford, a 30-minute drive away. She had no car. She also mentioned that she didn't intend to raise her baby; her two oldest children lived with her mother, and this one likely would, too.Yang pulled out the CDC cards, showing them to Angelica and asking if she had experienced any of the symptoms illustrated. No, Angelica said, her lips pursed with disgust."Right now you still feel healthy, but this bacteria is still in your body," Yang pressed. "You need to get the infection treated to prevent further health complications to yourself and your baby."The community clinic was just across the street. "Can we walk you over to the clinic and make sure you get seen so we can get this taken care of?"Angelica demurred. She said she hadn't showered for a week and wanted to wash up first. She said she'd go later.Yang tried once more to extract a promise: "What time do you think you'll go?""Today, for sure."The CDC tried and failed to eradicate syphilis - twiceSyphilis is called The Great Imitator: It can look like any number of diseases. In its first stage, the only evidence of infection is a painless sore at the bacteria's point of entry. Weeks later, as the bacteria multiplies, skin rashes bloom on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Other traits of this stage include fever, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and fatigue. These symptoms eventually disappear and the patient progresses into the latent phase, which betrays no external signs. But if left untreated, after a decade or more, syphilis will reemerge in up to 30% of patients, capable of wreaking horror on a wide range of organ systems. Marion Sims, president of the American Medical Association in 1876, called it a "terrible scourge, which begins with lamb-like mildness and ends with lion-like rage that ruthlessly destroys everything in its way."The corkscrew-shaped bacteria can infiltrate the nervous system at any stage of the infection. Yang is haunted by her memory of interviewing a young man whose dementia was so severe that he didn't know why he was in the hospital or how old he was. And regardless of symptoms or stage, the bacteria can penetrate the placenta to infect a fetus. Even in these cases the infection is unpredictable: Many babies are born with normal physical features, but others can have deformed bones or damaged brains, and they can struggle to hear, see, or breathe.From its earliest days, syphilis has been shrouded in stigma. The first recorded outbreak was in the late 15th century, when Charles VIII led the French army to invade Naples. Italian physicians described French soldiers covered with pustules, dying from a sexually transmitted disease. As the affliction spread, Italians called it the French Disease. The French blamed the Neopolitans. It was also called the German, Polish, or Spanish disease, depending on which neighbor one wanted to blame. Even its name bears the taint of divine judgement: It comes from a 16th-century poem that tells of a shepherd, Syphilus, who offended the god Apollo and was punished with a hideous disease.By 1937 in America, when former Surgeon General Thomas Parran wrote the book "Shadow on the Land," he estimated some 680,000 people were under treatment for syphilis; about 60,000 babies were being born annually with congenital syphilis. There was no cure, and the stigma was so strong that public-health officials feared even properly documenting cases.Thanks to Parran's ardent advocacy, Congress in 1938 passed the National Venereal Disease Control Act, which created grants for states to set up clinics and support testing and treatment. Other than a short-lived funding effort during World War I, this was the first coordinated federal push to respond to the disease.Around the same time, the Public Health Service launched an effort to record the natural history of syphilis. Situated in Tuskegee, Alabama, the infamous study recruited 600 black men. By the early 1940s, penicillin became widely available and was found to be a reliable cure, but the treatment was withheld from the study participants. Outrage over the ethical violations would cast a stain across syphilis research for decades to come and fuel generations of mistrust in the medical system among Black Americans that continues to this day. People attend a ceremony near Tuskegee, Alabama, on April 3, 2017, to commemorate the roughly 600 men who were subjects in the Tuskegee syphilis study. Jay Reeves/AP Photo With the introduction of penicillin, cases began to plummet. Twice, the CDC has announced efforts to wipe out the disease - once in the 1960s and again in 1999.In the latest effort, the CDC announced that the United States had "a unique opportunity to eliminate syphilis within its borders," thanks to historically low rates, with 80% of counties reporting zero cases. The concentration of cases in the South "identifies communities in which there is a fundamental failure of public health capacity," the agency noted, adding that elimination - which it defined as fewer than 1,000 cases a year - would "decrease one of our most glaring racial disparities in health."Two years after the campaign began, cases started climbing, first among gay men and, later, heterosexuals. Cases in women started accelerating in 2013, followed shortly by increasing numbers of babies born with syphilis. The reasons for failure are complex: People relaxed safer sex practices after the advent of potent HIV combination therapies, increased methamphetamine use drove riskier behavior, and an explosion of online dating made it hard to track and test sexual partners, according to Ina Park, medical director of the California Prevention Training Center at the University of California San Francisco.But federal and state public-health efforts were hamstrung from the get-go. In 1999, the CDC said it would need about $35 million to $39 million in new federal funds annually for at least five years to eliminate syphilis. The agency got less than half of what it asked for, according to Jo Valentine, former program coordinator of the CDC's Syphilis Elimination Effort. As cases rose, the CDC modified its goals in 2006 from 0.4 primary and secondary syphilis cases per 100,000 in population to 2.2 cases per 100,000. By 2013, as elimination seemed less and less viable, the CDC changed its focus to ending congenital syphilis only.Since then, funding has remained anemic. From 2015 to 2020, the CDC's budget for preventing sexually transmitted infections grew by 2.2%. Taking inflation into account, that's a 7.4% reduction in purchasing power. In the same period, cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia - the three STDs that have federally funded control programs - increased by nearly 30%."We have a long history of nearly eradicating something, then changing our attention, and seeing a resurgence in numbers," David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said. "We have more congenital syphilis cases today in America than we ever had pediatric AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It's heartbreaking."Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, warns that the US should not be surprised to see case counts continue to climb."The bugs don't go away," she said. "They're just waiting for the next opportunity, when you're not paying attention."Syphilis has fewer poster children than HIV or cancerYang waited until the end of the day, then called the clinic to see if Angelica had gone for her shot. She had not. Yang would have to block off another half day to visit Huron again, but she had three dozen other cases to deal with.States in the South and West have seen the highest syphilis rates in recent years. In 2017, 64 babies in Fresno County were born with syphilis at a rate of 440 babies per 100,000 live births - about 19 times the national rate. While the county had managed to lower case counts in the two years that followed, the pandemic threatened to unravel that progress, forcing STD staffers to do COVID-19 contact tracing, pausing field visits to find infected people, and scaring patients from seeking care. Yang's colleague handled three cases of stillbirth in 2020; in each, the woman was never diagnosed with syphilis because she feared catching the coronavirus and skipped prenatal care.Yang, whose caseload peaked at 70 during a COVID-19 surge, knew she would not be able handle them all as thoroughly as she'd like to."When I was being mentored by another investigator, he said: 'You're not a superhero. You can't save everybody,'" she said.She prioritizes men who have sex with men, because there's a higher prevalence of syphilis in that population, and pregnant people, because of the horrific consequences for babies.The job of a disease intervention specialist isn't for everyone: It means meeting patients whenever and wherever they are available - in the mop closet of a bus station, in a quiet parking lot - to inform them about the disease, to extract names of sex partners, and to encourage treatment. Patients are often reluctant to talk. They can get belligerent, upset that "the government" has their personal information, or shattered at the thought that a partner is likely cheating on them. Salaries typically start in the low $40,000s.Jena Adams, Yang's supervisor, has eight investigators working on HIV and syphilis. In the middle of 2020, she lost two and replaced them only recently."It's been exhausting," Adams said.She has only one specialist who is trained to take blood samples in the field, crucial for guaranteeing that the partners of those who test positive for syphilis also get tested. Adams wants to get phlebotomy training for the rest of her staff, but it's $2,000 per person. The department also doesn't have anyone who can administer penicillin injections in the field; that would have been key when Yang met Angelica. For a while, a nurse who worked in the tuberculosis program would ride along to give penicillin shots on a volunteer basis. Then he, too, left the health department.Much of the resources in public health trickle down from the CDC, which distributes money to states, which then parcel it out to counties. The CDC gets its budget from Congress, which tells the agency, by line item, exactly how much money it can spend to fight a disease or virus, in an uncommonly specific manner not seen in many other agencies. The decisions are often politically driven and can be detached from actual health needs.When the House and Senate appropriations committees meet to decide how much the CDC will get for each line item, they are barraged by lobbyists for individual disease interests. Stephanie Arnold Pang, senior director of policy and government relations at the National Coalition of STD Directors, can pick out the groups by sight: breast cancer wears pink, Alzheimer's goes in purple, multiple sclerosis comes in orange, HIV in red. STD prevention advocates, like herself, don a green ribbon, but they're far outnumbered.And unlike diseases that might already be familiar to lawmakers, or have patient and family spokespeople who can tell their own powerful stories, syphilis doesn't have many willing poster children. Breast Cancer survivors hold up a check for the amount raised at The Congressional Womens Softball Game at Watkins Recreation Center in Capitol Hill on June 20, 2018. Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call "Congressmen don't wake up one day and say, 'Oh hey, there's congenital syphilis in my jurisdiction.' You have to raise awareness," Arnold Pang said. It can be hard jockeying for a meeting. "Some offices might say, 'I don't have time for you because we've just seen HIV.' ... Sometimes, it feels like you're talking into a void."The consequences of the political nature of public-health funding have become more obvious during the coronavirus pandemic. The 2014 Ebola epidemic was seen as a "global wakeup call" that the world wasn't prepared for a major pandemic, yet in 2018, the CDC scaled back its epidemic prevention work as money ran out."If you've got to choose between Alzheimer's research and stopping an outbreak that may not happen? Stopping an outbreak that might not happen doesn't do well," Frieden, the former CDC director, said. "The CDC needs to have more money and more flexible money. Otherwise, we're going to be in this situation long term."In May 2021, President Joe Biden's administration announced it would set aside $7.4 billion over the next five years to hire and train public health workers, including $1.1 billion for more disease intervention specialists like Yang. Public health officials are thrilled to have the chance to expand their workforce, but some worry the time horizon may be too short."We've seen this movie before, right?" Frieden said. "Everyone gets concerned when there's an outbreak, and when that outbreak stops, the headlines stop, and an economic downturn happens, the budget gets cut."Fresno's STD clinic was shuttered in 2010 amid the Great Recession. Many others have vanished since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.Health leaders thought "by magically beefing up the primary care system, that we would do a better job of catching STIs and treating them," Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said.That hasn't worked out; people want access to anonymous services, and primary care doctors often don't have STDs top of mind. The coalition is lobbying Congress for funding to support STD clinical services, proposing a three-year demonstration project funded at $600 million.It's one of Adams' dreams to see Fresno's STD clinic restored as it was."You could come in for an HIV test and get other STDs checked," she said. "And if a patient is positive, you can give a first injection on the spot."'I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die'On August 12, Yang set out for Huron again, speeding past groves of almond trees and fields of grapes in the department's white Chevy Cruze. She brought along a colleague, Jorge Sevilla, who had recently transferred to the STD program from COVID-19 contact tracing. Yang was anxious to find Angelica again."She's probably in her second trimester now," she said.They found her outside of a pale yellow house a few blocks from the homeless encampment; the owner was letting her stay in a shed tucked in the corner of the dirt yard. This time, it was evident that she was pregnant. Yang noted that Angelica was wearing a wig; hair loss is a symptom of syphilis."Do you remember me?" Yang asked.Angelica nodded. She didn't seem surprised to see Yang again. (I came along, and Sevilla explained who I was and that I was writing about syphilis and the people affected by it. Angelica signed a release for me to report about her case, and she said she had no problem with me writing about her or even using her full name. ProPublica chose to only print her first name.)"How are you doing? How's the baby?""Bien.""So the last time we talked, we were going to have you go to United Healthcare Center to get treatment. Have you gone since?"Angelica shook her head."We brought some gift cards..." Sevilla started in Spanish. The department uses them as incentives for completing injections. But Angelica was already shaking her head. The nearest Walmart was the next town over.Yang turned to her partner. "Tell her: So the reason why we're coming out here again is because we really need her to go in for treatment. [...] We really are concerned for the baby's health especially since she's had the infection for quite a while."Angelica listened while Sevilla interpreted, her eyes on the ground. Then she looked up. "Orita?" she asked. Right now?"I'll walk with you," Yang offered. Angelica shook her head."She said she wants to shower first before she goes over there," Sevilla said.Yang made a face. "She said that to me last time." Yang offered to wait, but Angelica didn't want the health officers to linger by the house. She said she would meet them by the clinic in 15 minutes.Yang was reluctant to let her go but again had no other option. She and Sevilla drove to the clinic, then stood on the corner of the parking lot, staring down the road.Talk to the pediatricians, obstetricians, and families on the front lines of the congenital syphilis surge and it becomes clear why Yang and others are trying so desperately to prevent cases. J.B. Cantey, associate professor in pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, remembers a baby girl born at 25 weeks gestation who weighed a pound and a half. Syphilis had spread through her bones and lungs. She spent five months in the neonatal intensive care unit, breathing through a ventilator, and was still eating through a tube when she was discharged.Then, there are the miscarriages, the stillbirths, and the inconsolable parents. Irene Stafford, an associate professor and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UT Health in Houston, cannot forget a patient who came in at 36 weeks for a routine checkup, pregnant with her first child. Stafford realized that there was no heartbeat."She could see on my face that something was really wrong," Stafford recalled. She had to let the patient know that syphilis had killed her baby."She was hysterical, just bawling," Stafford said. "I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die." Fewer than 10% of patients who experience a stillbirth are tested for syphilis, suggesting that cases are underdiagnosed.A Texas grandmother named Solidad Odunuga offers a glimpse into what the future could hold for Angelica's mother, who may wind up raising her baby.In February of last year, Odunuga got a call from the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston. A nurse told her that her daughter was about to give birth and that child protective services had been called. Odunuga had lost contact with her daughter, who struggled with homelessness and substance abuse. She arrived in time to see her grandson delivered, premature at 30 weeks old, weighing 2.7 pounds. He tested positive for syphilis.When a child protective worker asked Odunuga to take custody of the infant, she felt a wave of dread."I was in denial," she recalled. "I did not plan to be a mom again." The baby's medical problems were daunting: "Global developmental delays [...] concerns for visual impairments [...] high risk of cerebral palsy," read a note from the doctor at the time.Still, Odunuga visited her grandson every day for three months, driving to the NICU from her job at the University of Houston. "I'd put him in my shirt to keep him warm and hold him there." She fell in love. She named him Emmanuel.Once Emmanuel was discharged, Odunuga realized she had no choice but to quit her job. While Medicaid covered the costs of Emmanuel's treatment, it was on her to care for him. From infancy, Emmanuel's life has been a whirlwind of constant therapy. Today, at 20 months old, Odunuga brings him to physical, occupational, speech, and developmental therapy, each a different appointment on a different day of the week.Emmanuel has thrived beyond what his doctors predicted, toddling so fast that Odunuga can't look away for a minute and beaming as he waves his favorite toy phone. Yet he still suffers from gagging issues, which means Odunuga can't feed him any solid foods. Liquid gets into his lungs when he aspirates; it has led to pneumonia three times. Emmanuel has a special stroller that helps keep his head in a position that won't aggravate his persistent reflux, but Odunuga said she still has to pull over on the side of the road sometimes when she hears him projectile vomiting from the backseat.The days are endless. Once she puts Emmanuel to bed, Odunuga starts planning the next day's appointments."I've had to cry alone, scream out alone," she said. "Sometimes I wake up and think, 'Is this real?' And then I hear him in the next room."There's no vaccine for syphilis A health worker tests a migrant from Haiti for HIV and syphilis to in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, on September 25, 2021. Daniel Becerril/Reuters Putting aside the challenge of eliminating syphilis entirely, everyone agrees it's both doable and necessary to prevent newborn cases."There was a crisis in perinatal HIV almost 30 years ago and people stood up and said this is not OK - it's not acceptable for babies to be born in that condition. [...We] brought it down from 1,700 babies born each year with perinatal HIV to less than 40 per year today," Virginia Bowen, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said. "Now here we are with a slightly different condition. We can also stand up and say, 'This is not acceptable.'" Belarus, Bermuda, Cuba, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are among countries recognized by the World Health Organization for eliminating congenital syphilis.Success starts with filling gaps across the health care system.For almost a century, public health experts have advocated for testing pregnant patients more than once for syphilis in order to catch the infection. But policies nationwide still don't reflect this best practice. Six states have no prenatal screening requirement at all. Even in states that require three tests, public-health officials say that many physicians aren't aware of the requirements. Stafford, the maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Houston, says she's tired of hearing her own peers in medicine tell her, "Oh, syphilis is a problem?"It costs public health departments less than 25 cents a dose to buy penicillin, but for a private practice, it's more than $1,000, according to Park of the University of California San Francisco."There's no incentive for a private physician to stock a dose that could expire before it's used, so they often don't have it," she said. "So a woman comes in, they say, 'We'll send you to the emergency department or health department to get it,' then [the patients] don't show up."A vaccine would be invaluable for preventing spread among people at high risk for reinfection. But there is none. Scientists only recently figured out how to grow the bacteria in the lab, prompting grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund research into a vaccine. Justin Radolf, a researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said he hopes his team will have a vaccine candidate by the end of its five-year grant. But it'll likely take years more to find a manufacturer and run human trials.Public-health agencies also need to recognize that many of the hurdles to getting pregnant people treated involve access to care, economic stability, safe housing, and transportation. In Fresno, Adams has been working on ways her department can collaborate with mental health services. Recently, one of her disease intervention specialists managed to get a pregnant woman treated with penicillin shots and, at the patient's request, connected her with an addiction treatment center.Gaining a patient's cooperation means seeing them as complex humans instead of just a case to solve."There may be past traumas with the healthcare system," Cynthia Deverson, project manager of the Houston Fetal Infant Morbidity Review, said. "There's the fear of being discovered if she's doing something illegal to survive. [...] She may need to be in a certain place at a certain time so she can get something to eat, or maybe it's the only time of the day that's safe for her to sleep. They're not going to tell you that. Yes, they understand there's a problem, but it's not an immediate threat, maybe they don't feel bad yet, so obviously this is not urgent.""What helps to gain trust is consistency," she added. "Literally, it's seeing that [disease specialist] constantly, daily. [...] The woman can see that you're not going to harm her, you're saying, 'I'm here at this time if you need me.'"Yang stood outside the clinic, waiting for Angelica to show up, baking in the 90-degree heat. Her feelings ranged from irritation - Why didn't she just go? I'd have more energy for other cases - to an appreciation for the parts of Angelica's story that she didn't know - She's in survival mode. I need to be more patient.Fifteen minutes ticked by, then 20."OK," Yang announced. "We're going back."She asked Sevilla if he would be OK if they drove Angelica to the clinic; they technically weren't supposed to because of coronavirus precautions, but Yang wasn't sure she could convince Angelica to walk. Sevilla gave her the thumbs up.When they pulled up, they saw Angelica sitting in the backyard, chatting with a friend. She now wore a fresh T-shirt and had shoes on her feet. Angelica sat silently in the back seat as Yang drove to the clinic. A few minutes later, they pulled up to the parking lot.Finally, Yang thought. We got her here.The clinic was packed with people waiting for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. A worker there had previously told Yang that a walk-in would be fine, but a receptionist now said they were too busy to treat Angelica. She would have to return.Yang felt a surge of frustration, sensing that her hard-fought opportunity was slipping away. She tried to talk to the nurse supervisor, but he wasn't available. She tried to leave the gift cards at the office to reward Angelica if she came, but the receptionist said she couldn't hold them. While Yang negotiated, Sevilla sat with Angelica in the car, waiting.Finally, Yang accepted this was yet another thing she couldn't control.She drove Angelica back to the yellow house. As they arrived, she tried once more to impress on her just how important it was to get treated, asking Sevilla to interpret. "We don't want it to get any more serious, because she can go blind, she could go deaf, she could lose her baby."Angelica already had the door halfway open."So on a scale from one to 10, how important is this to get treated?" Yang asked."Ten," Angelica said. Yang reminded her of the appointment that afternoon. Then Angelica stepped out and returned to the dusty yard.Yang lingered for a moment, watching Angelica go. Then she turned the car back onto the highway and set off toward Fresno, knowing, already, that she'd be back.Postscript: A reporter visited Huron twice more in the months that followed, including once independently to try to interview Angelica, but she wasn't in town. Yang has visited Huron twice more as well - six times in total thus far. In October, a couple of men at the yellow house said Angelica was still in town, still pregnant. Yang and Sevilla spent an hour driving around, talking to residents, hoping to catch Angelica. But she was nowhere to be found.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 2nd, 2021

Anthony Fauci says one line from "The Godfather" has shaped his career

In the documentary "Fauci," Dr. Anthony Fauci reveals that a line from "The Godfather" shaped his career: "It's not personal. It's strictly business." The line "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business," comes from the 1972 film "The Godfather." IMDb/Paramount Pictures In a new documentary, called "Fauci," Dr. Anthony Fauci reveals that a line from the movie "The Godfather" has guided his career. It's a classic quote: "It's not personal. It's strictly business." See more stories on Insider's business page. "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."The deadpan line, delivered by a young Al Pacino in the iconic 1972 film "The Godfather," has been a guiding principle for a different type of leader: Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fauci, an even-keeled public servant, leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has served under six presidents, including Joe Biden and Donald Trump. He explains why "The Godfather" line has stuck with him in a new National Geographic documentary, titled "Fauci," which is now streaming on Disney Plus. Dr. Anthony Fauci during an interview at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. National Geographic for Disney+/Visko Hatfield "When someone attacks, I don't immediately fight back. That's not my style. You don't get into the fray," Fauci says in the film. "And over the years, which became decades, that became the mantra, using 'The Godfather' as the great book of philosophy: 'It's nothing person, it's strictly business.'" Anthony Fauci has served under six US presidents. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Fauci's long tenure in Washington may be a testament to his mantra's power."Tony Fauci doesn't come in the Oval Office to say, 'I'm going to make you look good politically.' He's not a politician," former President George W. Bush explains in the documentary. "Tony Fauci says, 'I think we can solve this problem. Here are the facts. And here's my recommendation for a way forward.'" President Joe Biden receives a briefing from Fauci on February 11, 2021, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz During Fauci's 50-plus-year career, he has worked on infectious-disease threats including Ebola, Zika, and anthrax, as well as the epidemic that first put him in the crosshairs of activists in the 1980s and 1990s: HIV/AIDS.The documentary depicts how, as deaths mounted during the HIV/AIDS crisis, Fauci met with representatives from the group Act Up to hear their concerns. The activists peppered Fauci with targeted questions about the slow pace of scientific research into HIV/AIDS treatment and accused him of causing their friends' deaths. Members of the activist group Act Up march through Times Square in New York on April 6, 1992. AP Photo/Andrew Savulich "The criticism, the hostility, it didn't really seem to faze him," David Barr, an AIDS activist, recalls in the documentary.Peter Staley, an AIDS activist and early member of Act Up, adds: "My first impression is that we're dealing with Brooklyn here. He got a complete grilling and continued the conversation."The documentary shows footage from those early meetings, in which Fauci responds to the accusations from Barr, Stanley, and others."This is where I disagree with you," Fauci told them at the time. "This is nothing personal, strictly business."In reflecting on that moment, present-day Fauci says in the film: "We didn't agree on everything in that first meeting. But their instincts were right, and that started a series of dialogues that did not stop the demonstrations." Fauci sits behind his desk in his office in Bethesda, Maryland, 1988. Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images Archival footage shows what those demonstrations looked like. Protestors surrounded the NIH - Fauci's workplace - with signs and banners, shouting, "Typical day at the NIH, watching people die!" and "The NIH is lying. Women with AIDS are dying!" "I started to feel - and my staff thought I was completely nuts - almost an affinity to them," Fauci recalls of the demonstrators."I started to put myself into their shoes," he adds. People with AIDS were being told they had months to live, but scientific research was expected to take years. Fauci summed up the activists' point of view about the slow pace of research as, "Thank you very much, but I'm going to be dead." Fauci lectures President Ronald Reagan (left) and other members of the President's Commission on AIDS. Photo by Diana Walker/Getty Images The documentary also shows how Fauci brought scientists and AIDS activists together to work on clinical research and drug development, forging a patient-scientist relationship that has since extended beyond AIDS research.In a speech Fauci gave at the time, which is depicted in the film, he said: "Activists are mistaken when they assume that scientists do not care about them. This is devastating to a physician scientist who has devoted years to AIDS research, particularly when they themselves see so many of their own patients suffering and dying. On the other hand, scientists cannot dismiss activists merely on the basis of the fact that they are not trained scientists ... We must join together."Fauci watches footage of that speech in the documentary."During that speech, I'm saying something and you have the activists clap. Then then I say something, and the scientists clap. The beauty of it is that at the end of it, everybody was clapping," he says.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 7th, 2021

These 46 pitch decks helped fintechs disrupting trading, investing, and banking raise millions in funding

Looking for examples of real fintech pitch decks? Check out pitch decks that Qolo, Lance, and other startups used to raise money from VCs. Check out these pitch decks for examples of fintech founders sold their vision.Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images Insider has been tracking the next wave of hot new startups that are blending finance and tech.  Check out these pitch decks to see how fintech founders sold their vision. See more stories on Insider's business page. Fintech funding has been on a tear.In 2021, fintech funding hit a record $132 billion globally, according to CB Insights, more than double 2020's mark.Insider has been tracking the next wave of hot new startups that are blending finance and tech. Check out these pitch decks to see how fintech founders are selling their vision and nabbing big bucks in the process. You'll see new financial tech geared at freelancers, fresh twists on digital banking, and innovation aimed at streamlining customer onboarding. New twists on digital bankingZach Bruhnke, cofounder and CEO of HMBradleyHMBradleyConsumers are getting used to the idea of branch-less banking, a trend that startup digital-only banks like Chime, N26, and Varo have benefited from. The majority of these fintechs target those who are underbanked, and rely on usage of their debit cards to make money off interchange. But fellow startup HMBradley has a different business model. "Our thesis going in was that we don't swipe our debit cards all that often, and we don't think the customer base that we're focusing on does either," Zach Bruhnke, cofounder and CEO of HMBradley, told Insider. "A lot of our customer base uses credit cards on a daily basis."Instead, the startup is aiming to build clientele with stable deposits. As a result, the bank is offering interest-rate tiers depending on how much a customer saves of their direct deposit.Notably, the rate tiers are dependent on the percentage of savings, not the net amount. "We'll pay you more when you save more of what comes in," Bruhnke said. "We didn't want to segment customers by how much money they had. So it was always going to be about a percentage of income. That was really important to us."Check out the 14-page pitch deck fintech HMBradley, a neobank offering interest rates as high as 3%, used to raise an $18.25 million Series APersonal finance is only a text awayYinon Ravid, the chief executive and cofounder of Albert.AlbertThe COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the growing preference of mobile banking as customers get comfortable managing their finances online.The financial app Albert has seen a similar jump in activity. Currently counting more than six million members, deposits in Albert's savings offering doubled from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to May of this year, from $350 million to $700 million, according to new numbers released by the company. Founded in 2015, Albert offers automated budgeting and savings tools alongside guided investment portfolios. It's looked to differentiate itself through personalized features, like the ability for customers to text human financial experts.Budgeting and saving features are free on Albert. But for more tailored financial advice, customers pay a subscription fee that's a pay-what-you-can model, between $4 and $14 a month. And Albert's now banking on a new tool to bring together its investing, savings, and budgeting tools.Fintech Albert used this 10-page pitch deck to raise a $100 million Series C from General Atlantic and CapitalG 'A bank for immigrants'Priyank Singh and Rohit Mittal are the cofounders of Stilt.StiltRohit Mittal remembers the difficulties he faced when he first arrived in the United States a decade ago as a master's student at Columbia University.As an immigrant from India, Mittal had no credit score in the US and had difficulty integrating into the financial system. Mittal even struggled to get approved to rent an apartment and couch-surfed until he found a roommate willing to offer him space in his apartment in the New York neighborhood Morningside Heights.That roommate was Priyank Singh, who would go on to become Mittal's cofounder when the two started Stilt, a financial-technology company designed to address the problems Mittal faced when he arrived in the US.Stilt, which calls itself "a bank for immigrants," does not require a social security number or credit history to access its offerings, including unsecured personal loans.Instead of relying on traditional metrics like a credit score, Stilt uses data such as education and employment to predict an individual's future income stability and cash flow before issuing a loan. Stilt has seen its loan volume grow by 500% in the past 12 months, and the startup has loaned to immigrants from 160 countries since its launch. Here are the 15 slides Stilt, which calls itself 'a bank for immigrants,' used to raise a $14 million Series AAn IRA for alternativesHenry Yoshida is the co-founder and CEO of retirement fintech startup Rocket Dollar.Rocket DollarFintech startup Rocket Dollar, which helps users invest their individual retirement account (IRA) dollars into alternative assets, just raised $8 million for its Series A round, the company announced on Thursday.Park West Asset Management led the round, with participation from investors including Hyphen Capital, which focuses on backing Asian American entrepreneurs, and crypto exchange Kraken's venture arm. Co-founded in 2018 by CEO Henry Yoshida, CTO Rick Dude, and VP of marketing Thomas Young, Rocket Dollar now has over $350 million in assets under management on its platform. Yoshida sold his first startup, a roboadvisor called Honest Dollar, to Goldman Sachs' investment management division for an estimated $20 million.Yoshida told Insider that while ultra-high net worth investors have been investing self-directed retirement account dollars into alternative assets like real estate, private equity, and cryptocurrency, average investors have not historically been able to access the same opportunities to invest IRA dollars in alternative assets through traditional platforms.Here's the 34-page pitch deck a fintech that helps users invest their retirement savings in crypto and real estate assets used to nab $8 millionA trading app for activismAntoine Argouges, CEO and founder of TulipshareTulipshareAn up-and-coming fintech is taking aim at some of the world's largest corporations by empowering retail investors to push for social and environmental change by pooling their shareholder rights.London-based Tulipshare lets individuals in the UK invest as little as one pound in publicly-traded company stocks. The upstart combines individuals' shareholder rights with other like-minded investors to advocate for environmental, social, and corporate governance change at firms like JPMorgan, Apple, and Amazon.The goal is to achieve a higher number of shares to maximize the number of votes that can be submitted at shareholder meetings. Already a regulated broker-dealer in the UK, Tulipshare recently applied for registration as a broker-dealer in the US. "If you ask your friends and family if they've ever voted on shareholder resolutions, the answer will probably be close to zero," CEO and founder Antoine Argouges told Insider. "I started Tulipshare to utilize shareholder rights to bring about positive corporate change that has an impact on people's lives and our planet — what's more powerful than money to change the system we live in?"Check out the 14-page pitch deck from Tulipshare, a trading app that lets users pool their shareholder votes for activism campaignsDigital tools for independent financial advisorsJason Wenk, founder and CEO of AltruistAltruistJason Wenk started his career at Morgan Stanley in investment research over 20 years ago. Now, he's running a company that is hoping to broaden access to financial advice for less-wealthy individuals. The startup raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Insight Partners with participation from investors Vanguard and Venrock. The round brings the Los Angeles-based startup's total funding to just under $67 million.Founded in 2018, Altruist is a digital brokerage built for independent financial advisors, intended to be an "all-in-one" platform that unites custodial functions, portfolio accounting, and a client-facing portal. It allows advisors to open accounts, invest, build models, report, trade (including fractional shares), and bill clients through an interface that can advisors time by eliminating mundane operational tasks.Altruist aims to make personalized financial advice less expensive, more efficient, and more inclusive through the platform, which is designed for registered investment advisors (RIAs), a growing segment of the wealth management industry. Here's the pitch deck for Altruist, a wealth tech challenging custodians Fidelity and Charles Schwab, that raised $50 million from Vanguard and InsightRethinking debt collection Jason Saltzman, founder and CEO of ReliefReliefFor lenders, debt collection is largely automated. But for people who owe money on their credit cards, it can be a confusing and stressful process.  Relief is looking to change that. Its app automates the credit-card debt collection process for users, negotiating with lenders and collectors to settle outstanding balances on their behalf. The fintech just launched and closed a $2 million seed round led by Collaborative Ventures. Relief's fundraising experience was a bit different to most. Its pitch deck, which it shared with one investor via Google Slides, went viral. It set out to raise a $1 million seed round, but ended up doubling that and giving some investors money back to make room for others.Check out a 15-page pitch deck that went viral and helped a credit-card debt collection startup land a $2 million seed roundHelping small banks lendTKCollateralEdgeFor large corporations with a track record of tapping the credit markets, taking out debt is a well-structured and clear process handled by the nation's biggest investment banks and teams of accountants. But smaller, middle-market companies — typically those with annual revenues ranging up to $1 billion — are typically served by regional and community banks that don't always have the capacity to adequately measure the risk of loans or price them competitively. Per the National Center for the Middle Market, 200,000 companies fall into this range, accounting for roughly 33% of US private sector GDP and employment.Dallas-based fintech CollateralEdge works with these banks — typically those with between $1 billion and $50 billion in assets — to help analyze and price slices of commercial and industrial loans that previously might have gone unserved by smaller lenders.On October 20th, CollateralEdge announced a $3.5 million seed round led by Dallas venture fund Perot Jain with participation from Kneeland Youngblood (a founder of the healthcare-focused private-equity firm Pharos Capital) and other individual investors.Here's the 10-page deck CollateralEdge, a fintech streamlining how small banks lend to businesses, used to raise a $3.5 million seed roundA new way to assess creditworthinessPinwheel founders Curtis Lee, Kurt Lin, and Anish Basu.PinwheelGrowing up, Kurt Lin never saw his father get frustrated. A "traditional, stoic figure," Lin said his father immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. Becoming part of the financial system proved even more difficult than assimilating into a new culture.Lin recalled visiting bank after bank with his father as a child, watching as his father's applications for a mortgage were denied due to his lack of credit history. "That was the first time in my life I really saw him crack," Lin told Insider. "The system doesn't work for a lot of people — including my dad," he added. Lin would find a solution to his father's problem years later while working with Anish Basu, and Curtis Lee on an automated health savings account. The trio realized the payroll data integrations they were working on could be the basis of a product that would help lenders work with consumers without strong credit histories."That's when the lightbulb hit," said Lin, Pinwheel's CEO.In 2018, Lin, Basu, and Lee founded Pinwheel, an application-programming interface that shares payroll data to help both fintechs and traditional lenders serve consumers with limited or poor credit, who have historically struggled to access financial products. Here's the 9-page deck that Pinwheel, a fintech helping lenders tap into payroll data to serve consumers with little to no credit, used to raise a $50 million Series BAn alternative auto lenderTricolorAn alternative auto lender that caters to thin- and no-credit Hispanic borrowers is planning a national expansion after scoring a $90 million investment from BlackRock-managed funds. Tricolor is a Dallas-based auto lender that is a community development financial institution. It uses a proprietary artificial-intelligence engine that decisions each customer based on more than 100 data points, such as proof of income. Half of Tricolor's customers have a FICO score, and less than 12% have scores above 650, yet the average customer has lived in the US for 15 years, according to the deck.A 2017 survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found 31.5% of Hispanic households had no mainstream credit compared to 14.4% of white households. "For decades, the deck has been stacked against low income or credit invisible Hispanics in the United States when it comes to the purchase and financing of a used vehicle," Daniel Chu, founder and CEO of Tricolor, said in a statement announcing the raise.An auto lender that caters to underbanked Hispanics used this 25-page deck to raise $90 million from BlackRock investors A new way to access credit The TomoCredit teamTomoCreditKristy Kim knows first-hand the challenge of obtaining credit in the US without an established credit history. Kim, who came to the US from South Korea, couldn't initially get access to credit despite having a job in investment banking after graduating college. "I was in my early twenties, I had a good income, my job was in investment banking but I could not get approved for anything," Kim told Insider. "Many young professionals like me, we deserve an opportunity to be considered but just because we didn't have a Fico, we weren't given a chance to even apply," she added.Kim started TomoCredit in 2018 to help others like herself gain access to consumer credit. TomoCredit spent three years building an internal algorithm to underwrite customers based on cash flow, rather than a credit score.TomoCredit, a fintech that lends to thin- and no-credit borrowers, used this 17-page pitch deck to raise its $10 million Series AHelping streamline how debts are repaidMethod Financial cofounders Jose Bethancourt and Marco del Carmen.Method FinancialWhen Jose Bethancourt graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2019, he faced the same question that confronts over 43 million Americans: How would he repay his student loans?The problem led Bethancourt on a nearly two-year journey that culminated in the creation of a startup aimed at making it easier for consumers to more seamlessly pay off all kinds of debt.  Initially, Bethancourt and fellow UT grad Marco del Carmen built GradJoy, an app that helped users better understand how to manage student loan repayment and other financial habits. GradJoy was accepted into Y Combinator in the summer of 2019. But the duo quickly realized the real benefit to users would be helping them move money to make payments instead of simply offering recommendations."When we started GradJoy, we thought, 'Oh, we'll just give advice — we don't think people are comfortable with us touching their student loans,' and then we realized that people were saying, 'Hey, just move the money — if you think I should pay extra, then I'll pay extra.' So that's kind of the movement that we've seen, just, everybody's more comfortable with fintechs doing what's best for them," Bethancourt told Insider. Here is the 11-slide pitch deck Method Financial, a Y Combinator-backed fintech making debt repayment easier, used to raise $2.5 million in pre-seed fundingQuantum computing made easyQC Ware CEO Matt Johnson.QC WareEven though banks and hedge funds are still several years out from adding quantum computing to their tech arsenals, that hasn't stopped Wall Street giants from investing time and money into the emerging technology class. And momentum for QC Ware, a startup looking to cut the time and resources it takes to use quantum computing, is accelerating. The fintech secured a $25 million Series B on September 29 co-led by Koch Disruptive Technologies and Covestro with participation from D.E. Shaw, Citi, and Samsung Ventures.QC Ware, founded in 2014, builds quantum algorithms for the likes of Goldman Sachs (which led the fintech's Series A), Airbus, and BMW Group. The algorithms, which are effectively code bases that include quantum processing elements, can run on any of the four main public-cloud providers.Quantum computing allows companies to do complex calculations faster than traditional computers by using a form of physics that runs on quantum bits as opposed to the traditional 1s and 0s that computers use. This is especially helpful in banking for risk analytics or algorithmic trading, where executing calculations milliseconds faster than the competition can give firms a leg up. Here's the 20-page deck QC Ware, a fintech making quantum computing more accessible, used to raised its $25 million Series BSimplifying quant modelsKirat Singh and Mark Higgins, Beacon's cofounders.BeaconA fintech that helps financial institutions use quantitative models to streamline their businesses and improve risk management is catching the attention, and capital, of some of the country's biggest investment managers.Beacon Platform, founded in 2014, is a fintech that builds applications and tools to help banks, asset managers, and trading firms quickly integrate quantitative models that can help with analyzing risk, ensuring compliance, and improving operational efficiency. The company raised its Series C on Wednesday, scoring a $56 million investment led by Warburg Pincus with support from Blackstone Innovations Investments, PIMCO, and Global Atlantic. Blackstone, PIMCO, and Global Atlantic are also users of Beacon's tech, as are the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Shell New Energies, a division of Royal Dutch Shell, among others.The fintech provides a shortcut for firms looking to use quantitative modelling and data science across various aspects of their businesses, a process that can often take considerable resources if done solo.Here's the 20-page pitch deck Beacon, a fintech helping Wall Street better analyze risk and data, used to raise $56 million from Warburg Pincus, Blackstone, and PIMCOSussing out bad actorsFrom left to right: Cofounders CTO David Movshovitz, CEO Doron Hendler, and chief architect Adi DeGaniRevealSecurityAn encounter with an impersonation hacker led Doron Hendler to found RevealSecurity, a Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity startup that monitors for insider threats.Two years ago, a woman impersonating an insurance-agency representative called Hendler and convinced him that he made a mistake with his recent health insurance policy upgrade. She got him to share his login information for his insurer's website, even getting him to give the one-time passcode sent to his phone. Once the hacker got what she needed, she disconnected the call, prompting Hendler to call back. When no one picked up the phone, he realized he had been conned.He immediately called his insurance company to check on his account. Nothing seemed out of place to the representative. But Hendler, who was previously a vice president of a software company, suspected something intangible could have been collected, so he reset his credentials."The chief of information security, who was on the call, he asked me, 'So, how do you want me to identify you? You gave your credentials; you gave your ID; you gave the one time password. How the hell can I identify that it's not you?' And I told him, 'But I never behave like this,'" Hendler recalled of the conversation.RevealSecurity, a Tel Aviv-based cyber startup that tracks user behavior for abnormalities, used this 27-page deck to raise its Series AA new data feed for bond tradingMark Lennihan/APFor years, the only way investors could figure out the going price of a corporate bond was calling up a dealer on the phone. The rise of electronic trading has streamlined that process, but data can still be hard to come by sometimes. A startup founded by a former Goldman Sachs exec has big plans to change that. BondCliQ is a fintech that provides a data feed of pre-trade pricing quotes for the corporate bond market. Founded by Chris White, the creator of Goldman Sachs' defunct corporate-bond-trading system, BondCliQ strives to bring transparency to a market that has traditionally kept such data close to the vest. Banks, which typically serve as the dealers of corporate bonds, have historically kept pre-trade quotes hidden from other dealers to maintain a competitive advantage.But tech advancements and the rise of electronic marketplaces have shifted power dynamics into the hands of buy-side firms, like hedge funds and asset managers. The investors are now able to get a fuller picture of the market by aggregating price quotes directly from dealers or via vendors.Here's the 9-page pitch deck that BondCliQ, a fintech looking to bring more data and transparency to bond trading, used to raise its Series AFraud prevention for lenders and insurersFiordaliso/Getty ImagesOnboarding new customers with ease is key for any financial institution or retailer. The more friction you add, the more likely consumers are to abandon the entire process.But preventing fraud is also a priority, and that's where Neuro-ID comes in. The startup analyzes what it calls "digital body language," or, the way users scroll, type, and tap. Using that data, Neuro-ID can identify fraudulent users before they create an account. It's built for banks, lenders, insurers, and e-commerce players."The train has left the station for digital transformation, but there's a massive opportunity to try to replicate all those communications that we used to have when we did business in-person, all those tells that we would get verbally and non-verbally on whether or not someone was trustworthy," Neuro-ID CEO Jack Alton told Insider.Founded in 2014, the startup's pitch is twofold: Neuro-ID can save companies money by identifying fraud early, and help increase user conversion by making the onboarding process more seamless. In December Neuro-ID closed a $7 million Series A, co-led by Fin VC and TTV Capital, with participation from Canapi Ventures. With 30 employees, Neuro-ID is using the fresh funding to grow its team and create additional tools to be more self-serving for customers.Here's the 11-slide pitch deck a startup that analyzes consumers' digital behavior to fight fraud used to raise a $7 million Series AAI-powered tools to spot phony online reviews FakespotMarketplaces like Amazon and eBay host millions of third-party sellers, and their algorithms will often boost items in search based on consumer sentiment, which is largely based on reviews. But many third-party sellers use fake reviews often bought from click farms to boost their items, some of which are counterfeit or misrepresented to consumers.That's where Fakespot comes in. With its Chrome extension, it warns users of sellers using potentially fake reviews to boost sales and can identify fraudulent sellers. Fakespot is currently compatible with Amazon, BestBuy, eBay, Sephora, Steam, and Walmart."There are promotional reviews written by humans and bot-generated reviews written by robots or review farms," Fakespot founder and CEO Saoud Khalifah told Insider. "Our AI system has been built to detect both categories with very high accuracy."Fakespot's AI learns via reviews data available on marketplace websites, and uses natural-language processing to identify if reviews are genuine. Fakespot also looks at things like whether the number of positive reviews are plausible given how long a seller has been active.Fakespot, a startup that helps shoppers detect robot-generated reviews and phony sellers on Amazon and Shopify, used this pitch deck to nab a $4 million Series AHelping fintechs manage dataProper Finance co-founders Travis Gibson (left) and Kyle MaloneyProper FinanceAs the flow of data becomes evermore crucial for fintechs, from the strappy startup to the established powerhouse, a thorny issue in the back office is becoming increasingly complex.Even though fintechs are known for their sleek front ends, the back end is often quite the opposite. Behind that streamlined interface can be a mosaic of different partner integrations — be it with banks, payments players and networks, or software vendors — with a channel of data running between them. Two people who know that better than the average are Kyle Maloney and Travis Gibson, two former employees of Marqeta, a fintech that provides other fintechs with payments processing and card issuance. "Take an established neobank for example. They'll likely have one or two card issuers, two to three bank partners, ACH processing for direct deposits and payouts, mobile check deposits, peer-to-peer payments, and lending," Gibson told Insider. Here's the 12-page pitch deck a startup helping fintechs manage their data used to score a $4.3 million seed from investors like Redpoint Ventures and Y CombinatorE-commerce focused business bankingMichael Rangel, cofounder and CEO, and Tyler McIntyre, cofounder and CTO of Novo.Kristelle Boulos PhotographyBusiness banking is a hot market in fintech. And it seems investors can't get enough.Novo, the digital banking fintech aimed at small e-commerce businesses, raised a $40.7 million Series A led by Valar Ventures in June. Since its launch in 2018, Novo has signed up 100,000 small businesses. Beyond bank accounts, it offers expense management, a corporate card, and integrates with e-commerce infrastructure players like Shopify, Stripe, and Wise.Founded in 2018, Novo was based in New York City, but has since moved its headquarters to Miami. Here's the 12-page pitch deck e-commerce banking startup Novo used to raise its $40 million Series AShopify for embedded financeProductfy CEO and founder, Duy VoProductfyProductfy is looking to break into embedded finance by becoming the Shopify of back-end banking services.Embedded finance — integrating banking services in non-financial settings — has taken hold in the e-commerce world. But Productfy is going after a different kind of customer in churches, universities, and nonprofits.The San Jose, Calif.-based upstart aims to help non-finance companies offer their own banking products. Productfy can help customers launch finance features in as little as a week and without additional engineering resources or background knowledge of banking compliance or legal requirements, Productfy founder and CEO Duy Vo told Insider. "You don't need an engineer to stand up Shopify, right? You can be someone who's just creating art and you can use Shopify to build your own online store," Vo said, adding that Productfy is looking to take that user experience and replicate it for banking services.Here's the 15-page pitch deck Productfy, a fintech looking to be the Shopify of embedded finance, used to nab a $16 million Series ADeploying algorithms and automation to small-business financingJustin Straight and Bernard Worthy, LoanWell co-foundersLoanWellBernard Worthy and Justin Straight, the founders of LoanWell, want to break down barriers to financing for small and medium-size businesses — and they've got algorithms and automation in their tech arsenals that they hope will do it.Worthy, the company's CEO, and Straight, its chief operating and financial officer, are powering community-focused lenders to fill a gap in the SMB financing world by boosting access to loans under $100,000. And the upstart is known for catching the attention, and dollars, of mission-driven investors. LoanWell closed a $3 million seed financing round in December led by Impact America Fund with participation from SoftBank's SB Opportunity Fund and Collab Capital.LoanWell automates the financing process — from underwriting and origination, to money movement and servicing — which shaves down an up-to-90-day process to 30 days or even same-day with some LoanWell lenders, Worthy said. SMBs rely on these loans to process quickly after two years of financial uncertainty. But the pandemic illustrated how time-consuming and expensive SMB financing can be, highlighted by efforts like the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program.Community banks, once the lifeline to capital for many local businesses, continue to shutter. And demands for smaller loan amounts remain largely unmet. More than half of business-loan applicants sought $100,000 or less, according to 2018 data from the Federal Reserve. But the average small-business bank loan was closer to six times that amount, according to the latest data from a now discontinued Federal Reserve survey.Here's the 14-page pitch deck LoanWell used to raise $3 million from investors like SoftBank.Branded cards for SMBsJennifer Glaspie-Lundstrom is the cofounder and CEO of Tandym.TandymJennifer Glaspie-Lundstrom is no stranger to the private-label credit-card business. As a former Capital One exec, she worked in both the card giant's co-brand partnerships division and its tech organization during her seven years at the company.Now, Glaspie-Lundstrom is hoping to use that experience to innovate a sector that was initially created in malls decades ago.Glaspie-Lundstrom is the cofounder and CEO of Tandym, which offers private-label digital credit cards to merchants. Store and private-label credit cards aren't a new concept, but Tandym is targeting small- and medium-sized merchants with less than $1 billion in annual revenue. Glaspie-Lundstrom said that group often struggles to offer private-label credit due to the expense of working with legacy players."What you have is this example of a very valuable product type that merchants love and their customers love, but a huge, untapped market that has heretofore been unserved, and so that's what we're doing with Tandym," Glaspi-Lundstrom told Insider.A former Capital One exec used this deck to raise $60 million for a startup helping SMBs launch their own branded credit cardsCatering to 'micro businesses'Stefanie Sample is the founder and CEO of FundidFundidStartups aiming to simplify the often-complex world of corporate cards have boomed in recent years.Business-finance management startup Brex was last valued at $12.3 billion after raising $300 million last year. Startup card provider Ramp announced an $8.1 billion valuation in March after growing its revenue nearly 10x in 2021. Divvy, a small business card provider, was acquired by Bill.com in May 2021 for approximately $2.5 billion.But despite how hot the market has gotten, Stefanie Sample said she ended up working in the space by accident. Sample is the founder and CEO of Fundid, a new fintech that provides credit and lending products to small businesses.This May, Fundid announced a $3.25 million seed round led by Nevcaut Ventures. Additional investors include the Artemis Fund and Builders and Backers. The funding announcement capped off the company's first year: Sample introduced the Fundid concept in April 2021, launched its website in May, and began raising capital in August."I never meant to do Fundid," Sample told Insider. "I never meant to do something that was venture-backed."Read the 12-page deck used by Fundid, a fintech offering credit and lending tools for 'micro businesses'Embedded payments for SMBsThe Highnote teamHighnoteBranded cards have long been a way for merchants with the appropriate bank relationships to create additional revenue and build customer loyalty. The rise of embedded payments, or the ability to shop and pay in a seamless experience within a single app, has broadened the number of companies looking to launch branded cards.Highnote is a startup that helps small to mid-sized merchants roll out their own debit and pre-paid digital cards. The fintech emerged from stealth on Tuesday to announce it raised $54 million in seed and Series A funding.Here's the 12-page deck Highnote, a startup helping SMBs embed payments, used to raise $54 million in seed and Series A fundingSpeeding up loans for government contractors OppZo cofounders Warren Reed and Randy GarrettOppZoThe massive market for federal government contracts approached $700 billion in 2020, and it's likely to grow as spending accelerates amid an ongoing push for investment in the nation's infrastructure. Many of those dollars flow to small-and-medium sized businesses, even though larger corporations are awarded the bulk of contracts by volume. Of the roughly $680 billion in federal contracts awarded in 2020, roughly a quarter, according to federal guidelines, or some $146 billion that year, went to smaller businesses.But peeking under the hood of the procurement process, the cofounders of OppZo — Randy Garrett and Warren Reed — saw an opportunity to streamline how smaller-sized businesses can leverage those contracts to tap in to capital.  Securing a deal is "a government contractor's best day and their worst day," as Garrett, OppZo's president, likes to put it."At that point they need to pay vendors and hire folks to start the contract. And they may not get their first contract payment from the government for as long as 120 days," Reed, the startup's CEO,  told Insider. Check out the 12-page pitch deck OppZo, a fintech that has figured out how to speed up loans to small government contractors, used to raise $260 million in equity and debtHelping small businesses manage their taxesComplYant's founder Shiloh Jackson wants to help people be present in their bookkeeping.ComplYantAfter 14 years in tax accounting, Shiloh Johnson had formed a core philosophy around corporate accounting: everyone deserves to understand their business's money and business owners need to be present in their bookkeeping process.She wanted to help small businesses understand "this is why you need to do what you're doing and why you have to change the way you think about tax and be present in your bookkeeping process," she told Insider. The Los Angeles native wanted small businesses to not only understand business tax no matter their size but also to find the tools they needed to prepare their taxes in one spot. So Johnson developed a software platform that provides just that.The 13-page pitch deck ComplYant used to nab $4 million that details the tax startup's plan to be Turbotax, Quickbooks, and Xero rolled into one for small business ownersAutomating accounting ops for SMBsDecimal CEO Matt Tait.DecimalSmall- and medium-sized businesses can rely on any number of payroll, expense management, bill pay, and corporate-card startups promising to automate parts of their financial workflow. Smaller firms have adopted this corporate-financial software en masse, boosting growth throughout the pandemic for relatively new entrants like Ramp and massive, industry stalwarts like Intuit. But it's no easy task to connect all of those tools into one, seamless process. And while accounting operations might be far from where many startup founders want to focus their time, having efficient back-end finances does mean time — and capital — freed up to spend elsewhere. For Decimal CEO Matt Tait, there's ample opportunity in "the boring stuff you have to do to survive as a company," he told Insider. Launched in 2020, Decimal provides a back-end tech layer that small- and medium-sized businesses can use to integrate their accounting and business-management software tools in one place.On Wednesday, Decimal announced a $9 million seed fundraising round led by Minneapolis-based Arthur Ventures, alongside Service Providers Capital and other angel investors. See the 13-page pitch deck for Decimal, a startup automating accounting ops for small businessesInvoice financing for SMBsStacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson, Now co-foundersNowAbout a decade ago, politician Stacey Abrams and entrepreneur Lara Hodgson were forced to fold their startup because of a kink in the supply chain — but not in the traditional sense.Nourish, which made spill-proof bottled water for children, had grown quickly from selling to small retailers to national ones. And while that may sound like a feather in the small business' cap, there was a hang-up."It was taking longer and longer to get paid, and as you can imagine, you deliver the product and then you wait and you wait, but meanwhile you have to pay your employees and you have to pay your vendors," Hodgson told Insider. "Waiting to get paid was constraining our ability to grow."While it's not unusual for small businesses to grapple with working capital issues, the dust was still settling from the Great Recession. Abrams and Hodgson couldn't secure a line of credit or use financing tools like factoring to solve their problem. The two entrepreneurs were forced to close Nourish in 2012, but along the way they recognized a disconnect in the system.  "Why are we the ones borrowing money, when in fact we're the lender here because every time you send an invoice to a customer, you've essentially extended a free loan to that customer by letting them pay later," Hodgson said. "And the only reason why we were going to need to possibly borrow money was because we had just given ours away for free to Whole Foods," she added.Check out the 7-page deck that Now, Stacey Abrams' fintech that wants to help small businesses 'grow fearlessly', used to raise $29 millionCheckout made easyRyan Breslow.Ryan BreslowAmazon has long dominated e-commerce with its one-click checkout flows, offering easier ways for consumers to shop online than its small-business competitors.Bolt gives small merchants tools to offer the same easy checkouts so they can compete with the likes of Amazon.The startup raised its $393 million Series D to continue adding its one-click checkout feature to merchants' own websites in October.Bolt markets to merchants themselves. But a big part of Bolt's pitch is its growing network of consumers — currently over 5.6 million — that use its features across multiple Bolt merchant customers. Roughly 5% of Bolt's transactions were network-driven in May, meaning users that signed up for a Bolt account on another retailer's website used it elsewhere. The network effects were even more pronounced in verticals like furniture, where 49% of transactions were driven by the Bolt network."The network effect is now unleashed with Bolt in full fury, and that triggered the raise," Bolt's founder and CEO Ryan Breslow told Insider.Here's the 12-page deck that one-click checkout Bolt used to outline its network of 5.6 million consumers and raise its Series DPayments infrastructure for fintechsQolo CEO and co-founder Patricia MontesiQoloThree years ago, Patricia Montesi realized there was a disconnect in the payments world. "A lot of new economy companies or fintech companies were looking to mesh up a lot of payment modalities that they weren't able to," Montesi, CEO and co-founder of Qolo, told Insider.Integrating various payment capabilities often meant tapping several different providers that had specializations in one product or service, she added, like debit card issuance or cross-border payments. "The way people were getting around that was that they were creating this spider web of fintech," she said, adding that "at the end of it all, they had this mess of suppliers and integrations and bank accounts."The 20-year payments veteran rounded up a group of three other co-founders — who together had more than a century of combined industry experience — to start Qolo, a business-to-business fintech that sought out to bundle back-end payment rails for other fintechs.Here's the 11-slide pitch deck a startup that provides payments infrastructure for other fintechs used to raise a $15 million Series ABetter use of payroll dataAtomic's Head of Markets, Lindsay DavisAtomicEmployees at companies large and small know the importance — and limitations — of how firms manage their payrolls. A new crop of startups are building the API pipes that connect companies and their employees to offer a greater level of visibility and flexibility when it comes to payroll data and employee verification. On Thursday, one of those names, Atomic, announced a $40 million Series B fundraising round co-led by Mercato Partners and Greylock, alongside Core Innovation Capital, Portage, and ATX Capital. The round follows Atomic's Series A round announced in October, when the startup raised a $22 million Series A from investors including Core Innovation Capital, Portage, and Greylock.Payroll startup Atomic just raised a $40 million Series B. Here's an internal deck detailing the fintech's approach to the red-hot payments space.Saving on vendor invoicesHoward Katzenberg, Glean's CEO and cofounderGleanWhen it comes to high-flying tech startups, headlines and investors typically tend to focus on industry "disruption" and the total addressable market a company is hoping to reach. Expense cutting as a way to boost growth typically isn't part of the conversation early on, and finance teams are viewed as cost centers relative to sales teams. But one fast-growing area of business payments has turned its focus to managing those costs. Startups like Ramp and established names like Bill.com have made their name offering automated expense-management systems. Now, one new fintech competitor, Glean, is looking to take that further by offering both automated payment services and tailored line-item accounts-payable insights driven by machine-learning models. Glean's CFO and founder, Howard Katzenberg, told Insider that the genesis of Glean was driven by his own personal experience managing the finance teams of startups, including mortgage lender Better.com, which Katzenberg left in 2019, and online small-business lender OnDeck. "As a CFO of high-growth companies, I spent a lot of time focused on revenue and I had amazing dashboards in real time where I could see what is going on top of the funnel, what's going on with conversion rates, what's going on in terms of pricing and attrition," Katzenberg told Insider. See the 15-slide pitch deck Glean, a startup using machine learning to find savings in vendor invoices, used to raise $10.8 million in seed fundingReal-estate management made easyAgora founders Noam Kahan, CTO, Bar Mor, CEO, and Lior Dolinski, CPOAgoraFor alternative asset managers of any type, the operations underpinning sales and investor communications are a crucial but often overlooked part of the business. Fund managers love to make bets on markets, not coordinate hundreds of wire transfers to clients each quarter or organize customer-relationship-management databases.Within the $10.6 trillion global market for professionally managed real-estate investing, that's where Tel Aviv and New York-based startup Agora hopes to make its mark.Founded in 2019, Agora offers a set of back-office, investor relations, and sales software tools that real-estate investment managers can plug into their workflows. On Wednesday, Agora announced a $9 million seed round, led by Israel-based venture firm Aleph, with participation from River Park Ventures and Maccabee Ventures. The funding comes on the heels of an October 2020 pre-seed fund raise worth $890,000, in which Maccabee also participated.Here's the 15-slide pitch deck that Agora, a startup helping real-estate investors manage communications and sales with their clients, used to raise a $9 million seed roundAccess to commercial real-estate investing LEX Markets cofounders and co-CEOs Drew Sterrett and Jesse Daugherty.LEX MarketsDrew Sterrett was structuring real-estate deals while working in private equity when he realized the inefficiencies that existed in the market. Only high-net worth individuals or accredited investors could participate in commercial real-estate deals. If they ever wanted to leave a partnership or sell their stake in a property, it was difficult to find another investor to replace them. Owners also struggled to sell minority stakes in their properties and didn't have many good options to recapitalize an asset if necessary.In short, the market had a high barrier to entry despite the fact it didn't always have enough participants to get deals done quickly. "Most investors don't have access to high-quality commercial real-estate investments. How do we have the oldest and largest asset class in the world and one of the largest wealth creators with no public and liquid market?" Sterrett told Insider. "It sort of seems like a no-brainer, and that this should have existed 50 or 60 years ago."This 15-page pitch deck helped LEX Markets, a startup making investing in commercial real estate more accessible, raise $15 millionInsurance goes digitalJamie Hale, CEO and cofounder of LadderLadderFintechs looking to transform how insurance policies are underwritten, issued, and experienced by customers have grown as new technology driven by digital trends and artificial intelligence shape the market. And while verticals like auto, homeowner's, and renter's insurance have seen their fair share of innovation from forward-thinking fintechs, one company has taken on the massive life-insurance market. Founded in 2017, Ladder uses a tech-driven approach to offer life insurance with a digital, end-to-end service that it says is more flexible, faster, and cost-effective than incumbent players.Life, annuity, and accident and health insurance within the US comprise a big chunk of the broader market. In 2020, premiums written on those policies totaled some $767 billion, compared to $144 billion for auto policies and $97 billion for homeowner's insurance.Here's the 12-page deck that Ladder, a startup disrupting the 'crown jewel' of the insurance market, used to nab $100 millionData science for commercial insuranceTanner Hackett, founder and CEO of CounterpartCounterpartThere's been no shortage of funds flowing into insurance-technology companies over the past few years. Private-market funding to insurtechs soared to $15.4 billion in 2021, a 90% increase compared to 2020. Some of the most well-known consumer insurtech names — from Oscar (which focuses on health insurance) to Metromile (which focuses on auto) — launched on the public markets last year, only to fall over time or be acquired as investors questioned the sustainability of their business models. In the commercial arena, however, the head of one insurtech company thinks there is still room to grow — especially for those catering to small businesses operating in an entirely new, pandemic-defined environment. "The bigger opportunity is in commercial lines," Tanner Hackett, the CEO of management liability insurer Counterpart, told Insider."Everywhere I poke, I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, we're still in 1.0, and all the other businesses I've built were on version three.' Insurance is still in 1.0, still managing from spreadsheets and PDFs," added Hackett, who also previously co-founded Button, which focuses on mobile marketing. See the 8-page pitch deck Counterpart, a startup disrupting commercial insurance with data science, used to raise a $30 million Series BSmarter insurance for multifamily propertiesItai Ben-Zaken, cofounder and CEO of Honeycomb.HoneycombA veteran of the online-insurance world is looking to revolutionize the way the industry prices risk for commercial properties with the help of artificial intelligence.Insurance companies typically send inspectors to properties before issuing policies to better understand how the building is maintained and identify potential risks or issues with it. It's a process that can be time-consuming, expensive, and inefficient, making it hard to justify for smaller commercial properties, like apartment and condo buildings.Insurtech Honeycomb is looking to fix that by using AI to analyze a combination of third-party data and photos submitted by customers through the startup's app to quickly identify any potential risks at a property and more accurately price policies."That whole physical inspection thing had really good things in it, but it wasn't really something that is scalable and, it's also expensive," Itai Ben-Zaken, Honeycomb's cofounder and CEO, told Insider. "The best way to see a property right now is Google street view. Google street view is usually two years old."Here's the 10-page Series A pitch deck used by Honeycomb, a startup that wants to revolutionize the $26 billion market for multifamily property insuranceHelping freelancers with their taxesJaideep Singh is the CEO and co-founder of FlyFin, an AI-driven tax preparation software program for freelancers.FlyFinSome people, particularly those with families or freelancing businesses, spend days searching for receipts for tax season, making tax preparation a time consuming and, at times, taxing experience. That's why in 2020 Jaideep Singh founded FlyFin, an artificial-intelligence tax preparation program for freelancers that helps people, as he puts it, "fly through their finances." FlyFin is set up to connect to a person's bank accounts, allowing the AI program to help users monitor for certain expenses that can be claimed on their taxes like business expenditures, the interest on mortgages, property taxes, or whatever else that might apply. "For most individuals, people have expenses distributed over multiple financial institutions. So we built an AI platform that is able to look at expenses, understand the individual, understand your profession, understand the freelance population at large, and start the categorization," Singh told Insider.Check out the 7-page pitch deck a startup helping freelancers manage their taxes used to nab $8 million in fundingDigital banking for freelancersJGalione/Getty ImagesLance is a new digital bank hoping to simplify the life of those workers by offering what it calls an "active" approach to business banking. "We found that every time we sat down with the existing tools and resources of our accountants and QuickBooks and spreadsheets, we just ended up getting tangled up in the whole experience of it," Lance cofounder and CEO Oona Rokyta told Insider. Lance offers subaccounts for personal salaries, withholdings, and savings to which freelancers can automatically allocate funds according to custom preset levels. It also offers an expense balance that's connected to automated tax withholdings.In May, Lance announced the closing of a $2.8 million seed round that saw participation from Barclays, BDMI, Great Oaks Capital, Imagination Capital, Techstars, DFJ Frontier, and others.Here's the 21-page pitch deck Lance, a digital bank for freelancers, used to raise a $2.8 million seed round from investors including BarclaysSoftware for managing freelancersWorksome cofounder and CEO Morten Petersen.WorksomeThe way people work has fundamentally changed over the past year, with more flexibility and many workers opting to freelance to maintain their work-from-home lifestyles.But managing a freelance or contractor workforce is often an administrative headache for employers. Worksome is a startup looking to eliminate all the extra work required for employers to adapt to more flexible working norms.Worksome started as a freelancer marketplace automating the process of matching qualified workers with the right jobs. But the team ultimately pivoted to a full suite of workforce management software, automating administrative burdens required to hire, pay, and account for contract workers.In May, Worksome closed a $13 million Series A backed by European angel investor Tommy Ahlers and Danish firm Lind & Risør.Here's the 21-slide pitch deck used by a startup that helps firms like Carlsberg and Deloitte manage freelancersPayments and operations support HoneyBook cofounders Dror Shimoni, Oz Alon, and Naama Alon.HoneyBookWhile countless small businesses have been harmed by the pandemic, self-employment and entrepreneurship have found ways to blossom as Americans started new ventures.Half of the US population may be freelance by 2027, according to a study commissioned by remote-work hiring platform Upwork. HoneyBook, a fintech startup that provides payment and operations support for freelancers, in May raised $155 million in funding and achieved unicorn status with its $1 billion-plus valuation.Durable Capital Partners led the Series D funding with other new investors including renowned hedge fund Tiger Global, Battery Ventures, Zeev Ventures, and 01 Advisors. Citi Ventures, Citigroup's startup investment arm that also backs fintech robo-advisor Betterment, participated as an existing investor in the round alongside Norwest Venture partners. The latest round brings the company's fundraising total to $227 million to date.Here's the 21-page pitch deck a Citi-backed fintech for freelancers used to raise $155 million from investors like hedge fund Tiger GlobalPay-as-you-go compliance for banks, fintechs, and crypto startupsNeepa Patel, Themis' founder and CEOThemisWhen Themis founder and CEO Neepa Patel set out to build a new compliance tool for banks, fintech startups, and crypto companies, she tapped into her own experience managing risk at some of the nation's biggest financial firms. Having worked as a bank regulator at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and in compliance at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, and the enterprise blockchain company R3, Patel was well-placed to assess the shortcomings in financial compliance software. But Patel, who left the corporate world to begin work on Themis in 2020, drew on more than just her own experience and frustrations to build the startup."It's not just me building a tool based on my personal pain points. I reached out to regulators. I reached out to bank compliance officers and members in the fintech community just to make sure that we're building it exactly how they do their work," Patel told Insider. "That was the biggest problem: No one built a tool that was reflective of how people do their work."Check out the 9-page pitch deck Themis, which offers pay-as-you-go compliance for banks, fintechs, and crypto startups, used to raise $9 million in seed fundingConnecting startups and investorsHum Capital cofounder and CEO Blair SilverbergHum CapitalBlair Silverberg is no stranger to fundraising.For six years, Silverberg was a venture capitalist at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Private Credit Investments making bets on startups."I was meeting with thousands of founders in person each year, watching them one at a time go through this friction where they're meeting a ton of investors, and the investors are all asking the same questions," Silverberg told Insider. He switched gears about three years ago, moving to the opposite side of the metaphorical table, to start Hum Capital, which uses artificial intelligence to match investors with startups looking to fundraise.On August 31, the New York-based fintech announced its $9 million Series A. The round was led by Future Ventures with participation from Webb Investment Network, Wavemaker Partners, and Partech. This 11-page pitch deck helped Hum Capital, a fintech using AI to match investors with startups, raise a $9 million Series A.Helping LatAm startups get up to speedKamino cofounders Gut Fragoso, Rodrigo Perenha, Benjamin Gleason, and Gonzalo ParejoKaminoThere's more venture capital flowing into Latin America than ever before, but getting the funds in founders' hands is not exactly a simple process.In 2021, investors funneled $15.3 billion into Latin American companies, more than tripling the previous record of $4.9 billion in 2019. Fintech and e-commerce sectors drove funding, accounting for 39% and 25% of total funding, respectively.  However, for many startup founders in the region who have successfully sold their ideas and gotten investors on board, there's a patchwork of corporate structuring that's needed to access the funds, according to Benjamin Gleason, who was the chief financial officer at Groupon LatAm prior to cofounding Brazil-based fintech Kamino.It's a process Gleason and his three fellow Kamino cofounders have been through before as entrepreneurs and startup execs themselves. Most often, startups have to set up offshore financial accounts outside of Brazil, which "entails creating a Cayman [Islands] holding company, a Delaware LLC, and then connecting it to a local entity here and also opening US bank accounts for the Cayman entity, which is not trivial from a KYC perspective," said Gleason, who founded open-banking fintech Guiabolso in Sao Paulo. His partner, Gonzalo Parejo, experienced the same toils when he founded insurtech Bidu."Pretty much any international investor will usually ask for that," Gleason said, adding that investors typically cite liability issues."It's just a massive amount of bureaucracy, complexity, a lot of time from the founders. All of this just to get the money from the investor that wants to give them the money," he added.Here's the 8-page pitch deck Kamino, a fintech helping LatAm startups with everything from financing to corporate credit cards, used to raise a $6.1M pre-seed roundThe back-end tech for beautyDanielle Cohen-Shohet, CEO and founder of GlossGeniusGlossGeniusDanielle Cohen-Shohet might have started as a Goldman Sachs investment analyst, but at her core she was always a coder.After about three years at Goldman Sachs, Cohen-Shohet left the world of traditional finance to code her way into starting her own company in 2016. "There was a period of time where I did nothing, but eat, sleep, and code for a few weeks," Cohen-Shohet told Insider. Her technical edge and knowledge of the point-of-sale payment space led her to launch a software company focused on providing behind-the-scenes tech for beauty and wellness small businesses.Cohen-Shohet launched GlossGenius in 2017 to provide payments tech for hair stylists, nail technicians, blow-out bars, and other small businesses in the space.Here's the 11-page deck GlossGenius, a startup that provides back-end tech for the beauty industry, used to raise $16 millionRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsider3 hr. 21 min. ago

Field Trip Health Ltd. Reports Fiscal Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2022 Financial Results and Provides Business Update Including Corporate Reorganization

Completed strategic review and announced intention to separate the Field Trip Discovery and Field Trip Health divisions into two independent public companies. Earned patient services revenues of $1.7 million in fiscal fourth quarter, an increase of 26.7% over the prior quarter and 228% year over year. Full year patient services revenue was $4.9 million, up from $0.96 million in the same period of the prior year. At March 31, 2022, Field Trip had approximately $63.7 million in unrestricted cash and cash equivalents. On April 5, 2022, granted U.S Patent for the first novel psychedelic molecule in development, molecule FT-104, for exclusive rights for the composition of matter, use and manufacturing of a family of hemi-ester compounds of hydroxytryptamines, including FT-104 until 2040. In May, 2022, launched Field Trip at Home Powered by Nue Life, an advanced wellness platform for personalized, at-home psychedelic care. The program's ketamine treatments, interactive companion app, and virtual aftercare programs, provides an alternative to in-clinic care for those seeking treatment, but who are unable to travel to one of Field Trip's existing locations. TORONTO, June 29, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Field Trip Health Ltd. (TSX:FTRP, FTRP.WT, NASDAQ:FTRP) ("Field Trip"), a leader in the development and delivery of psychedelic therapies, reported fiscal fourth quarter and full year 2022 results for the period ended March 31, 2022 and provided a business update. All results are reported under International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS") and in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise specified. Corporate Reorganization Post quarter end, Field Trip announced the completion of its previously announced strategic review and the intention to complete a reorganization that will separate the Field Trip Discovery and Field Trip Health Divisions into two independent public companies (the Spinout Transaction). The reorganization will be completed by way of a Plan of Arrangement (the Arrangement). Field Trip Discovery will be renamed Reunion Neuroscience Inc. (Reunion) and continue to focus on the research and development of novel psychedelic molecules such as FT-104. Field Trip Health will be renamed Field Trip Health & Wellness Ltd. (Field Trip H&W) and will continue its focus on developing proprietary, competitive and differentiated psychedelic-assisted therapies (PAT) through innovation in therapeutic protocols, with a view of achieving the best patient outcomes in the treatment of mental health and mood disorders. Pursuant to the terms of the Arrangement, each share of the Company will be exchanged for one common share of Reunion and approximately 0.86 common shares of Field Trip H&W. Following the completion of the Arrangement, Reunion will remain listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market and Toronto Stock Exchange, and Field Trip H&W, subject to exchange approval, will list on the TSX Venture Exchange. Concurrent with closing of the Arrangement, Field Trip H&W is expected to complete a series of private placement financings (the Concurrent Financing) for gross proceeds of $20.0 million, led by Oasis Management Company and Field Trip. Following board approval on June 14, 2022, Field Trip announced that it will increase its initial investment from $5.0 million to $9.8 million for a 21.79% equity interest in Field Trip H&W. On June 27, 2022, the Company announced its shareholders had approved the Arrangement and Concurrent Financing (thereby approving the Spinout Transaction), at a special meeting of shareholders. In addition, subject to completion of the Arrangement, shareholders approved the Field Trip H&W equity incentive plan and authorized Field Trip H&W to reserve and allot for issuance, and issue, upon the exercise of options, up to 10% of the number of common shares in Field Trip H&W issued and outstanding from time to time, on a non-diluted basis. On June 29, 2022, the Company received final court approval for the Spinout Transaction by way of the Arrangement. The closing of the Arrangement remains subject to regulatory approvals, including conditional listing approval by the TSX Venture Exchange. It is expected that the closing of the arrangement will occur on or around August 2022. The Company's management team and the Board believe that the separation of the two business divisions will establish two independent, leading businesses in their respective areas in the psychedelics sector and ultimately result in maximized long-term value for the Company's shareholders. Joseph del Moral, Field Trip's Co-founder and CEO, said, "Now that the strategic review has concluded, we are focused on the future for the separate drug development and clinics businesses and allowing them to execute on their respective strategic priorities. We are pleased that we were able to secure the financing to execute on our plan in the current challenging market environment, and we are confident that we are setting the companies up for long-term success and increased shareholder value." Key Highlights and Recent Developments During the fiscal fourth quarter, Field Trip continued to advance its drug discovery work which is focused on the research and development of its novel molecule, FT-104, as well as other molecules under development, specifically the FT-200 series. The Field Trip Health clinics business achieved operational efficiencies and increased customer reach as well as announcing innovative strategic partnerships to offer new psychedelic-assisted treatment options. Field Trip Discovery FT-104 Field Trip Discovery is leading the development of the next generation of custom synthetic molecules targeting serotonin 5HT2A receptors. FT-104 is the first drug candidate in development by the Company. FT-104, given the name "Isoprocin Gutarate", is anticipated to produce a psychedelic trip of about 2-3 hours. The structure of FT-104 is based on classical serotonin 2A psychedelics, like psilocybin, which have been reported to be useful in treating a variety of mood disorders, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. FT-104 completed Phase 1 enabling studies in early 2022 and is now entering the clinical stage of development in 2022. In late 2021, FT Discovery entered an agreement with an Australian Clinical Research Organization (CRO) to perform a Phase 1 trial with the objective to study the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of single, escalating doses of FT-104 in healthy human volunteer participants. Exploratory objectives include characterization of the intensity, duration and subjective feeling of the psychoactive experience produced by the study drug. The Phase 1 protocol was developed in collaboration with our CRO and our clinical advisory team, was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee and is being implemented at the clinical trial site where screening and recruitment have begun. Dosing of participants in the study is expected to begin shortly. On April 5, 2022, the Company was granted a patent for claims related to FT-104. The patent application entitled, "Tryptamine Prodrugs," grants exclusive rights to Field Trip for the composition of matter, formulations, methods of use and methods of manufacture for a family of hemi-ester compounds of hydroxytryptamines, including Isoprocin. Patent protection will extend to at least mid-2040. FT-200 Group During the quarter, Field Trip continued to progress research and development of its FT-200 molecule group. Research so far is showing that candidates in the FT-200 Group are demonstrating interesting pharmacological differences with classical psychedelics that might make them safer serotonin 2A (5HT-2A or "2A") agonists with a broader use potential in mental healthcare. The aim of the work is to reduce or eliminate the potential for cardiovascular related harm by decreasing the relative activity at the serotonin 2B (5HT-2B or "2B") receptor. Early stage candidates are under continued investigations. Dr. Nathan Bryson, Field Trip's Chief Scientific Officer, said, "Field Trip Discovery has benefited greatly from our association with the clinics division over the past 2 years to better understand the responsible use and enormous potential of psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy to produce durable relief for patients. As Reunion Neuroscience, we feel we bring a unique perspective to the development of the next generation, regulated psychedelic medicines, such as FT-104, a proprietary clinical-stage prodrug designed to produce a short duration experience, and FT-200, a family of molecules with potentially reduced cardiovascular risk profiles." Field Trip Health Centers Throughout the fiscal fourth quarter, the Company continued to implement operational improvements to reduce costs and increase throughput at its Field Trip Health Centers. In addition, the clinics saw an improvement in marketing efficiency and revenue growth as a result of improved marketing and digital client acquisition strategies that have increased conversion of new clients to the clinics. Consequently, Field Trip Health Centers achieved fiscal fourth quarter revenue of $1.72 million, representing an increase of 26.7% over the prior quarter and more than three times higher than the same period of the prior year. During the quarter, the Company announced the opening of its Vancouver, BC and Washington, DC locations. Coming out of the strategic review, and with the increased emphasis on client acquisition through its digital platforms, Trip and Field Trip at Home™, as well as ongoing efficiency improvements of its in-center offerings, Field Trip has deferred the opening of additional new clinics. Subsequent to quarter end, Field Trip launched its Field Trip at Home™ Powered by Nue Life platform, which provides ketamine treatments from the comfort of a person's home, providing an alternative to in-clinic care. Through this arrangement, Field Trip offers increased accessibility and convenience for those interested in pursuing the powerful treatment outcomes of ketamine therapy outside of a clinic setting through Nue Life's at-home and telehealth offerings. Ronan Levy, Field Trip's Co-founder and Executive Chairman, commented, "Our Field Trip Health centers have played an important role in enabling access to ketamine and psilocybin assisted treatments that have helped change the lives of those living with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. With the future separation of the clinics business, we will be uniquely focused to build upon this strong foundation and direct our efforts into growth in client numbers, while also implementing operational improvements to scale efficiently, continuing the momentum of revenue growth we achieved during the fourth quarter. Furthermore, we will increase our focus on using digital platforms, such as Trip and Field Trip at Home™, to increase our reach. We will work to leverage our existing Field Trip Health Centers to maximize their impact while reducing capital requirements going forward." Financial Highlights For the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, 2022, the Company earned patient services revenues of $1,724,102 from its twelve clinics in operation, an ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzinga17 hr. 37 min. ago

Target"s competing Prime Day sale kicks off on July 11 — here"s what we know about the retailer"s "Deal Days" event

Amazon Prime Day is set for July 12 and 13, and Target will compete with its own sale called "Deal Days" from July 11 to 13. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Shopping carts sit inside a Target store on May 23, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois.Scott Olson/Getty Images Target's Deal Days event will take place on July 11-13 to compete with Prime Day on July 12-13.  You can expect tons of great deals which often match those offered by Amazon. Below, we'll answer questions about the event and highlight what type of deals you can expect. Amazon Prime Day, the retail giant's annual sales event, takes place July 12 through 13 — but it won't be alone. Amazon will be competing against sales from several other retailers, including Target. This year's Target Deal Days sales event will run online for three days from July 11-13. That's one day longer than Prime Day.Based on what we saw last year, we expect tons of great deals on pretty much everything, from smart home speakers to air fryers. So whether you're shopping for the latest tech or want to save on essentials, you can find bargains during Deal Days. We'll answer some frequently asked questions below and will highlight some of the best deals you can shop from Target as they become available.Related: See Insider's picks for the best credit cards to use on Amazon purchases.The best early Target Prime Day dealsSeveral early Target Deal Days discounts, including a deal of the day promotion, are now live. These daily deals offer deep savings on different categories of products. Ahead of the event, we're seeing deals on all sorts of items, including 30% off select AirPods and up to 40% off floor care items like vacuums. If you're looking to shop now, you can also snag a handful of early Amazon Prime Day deals.Shop the same prices from Walmart's Deals for Days and other competing salesWe're still weeks away from Prime Day. We'll update this post with other competing deals as they become available. We're also tracking Walmart's alternative Prime Day deals.When is Target's competing Amazon Prime Day 2022 sale?The 2022 Target Deal Days event will take place from July 11 to 13. Amazon announced that Prime Day 2022 will run from July 12 to 13, so Target's sale will start one day earlier.What deals will Target have during Amazon Prime Day?Target's competing Prime Day sale will feature deals on a ton of product categories, including up to $70 off Apple products, up to 50% off top tech products, and deep discounts on personal care products, clothing, robot vacuums, upright vacuums, and more. There will also be a sale on Target gift cards; if you buy one online during Target Deal Days, you'll get 5% off.Target will also be running a promotion for shoppers who use their same-day services, including in-store pickup and drive-up; if you spend $50 on food and beverage products, you'll receive a $10 Target gift card to use at a later date.What are the benefits of shopping at Target during Amazon Prime Day?The main draw for shopping at Target during Prime Day is that the deals are accessible to everyone, not just Prime members. Prime Day is one of the many benefits to being an Amazon Prime member, meaning that those without a membership are out of luck. Shopping Target's Prime Day deals are also a good idea if you're in a rush to get your order, since in-store pickup is often available for many items.When is Amazon Prime Day 2022?Amazon Prime Day 2022 will run from July 12 to 13.Will RedCard members get extra discounts during Target Deal Days?Target has not announced any exclusive deals or promotions for RedCard holders. Regardless, Target RedCard members will enjoy the same benefits during the competing sale they enjoy year-round, including free shipping with no order minimums and an extra 5% off at checkout.Will the Target Circle program offer exclusive deals during Target's competing sale?Target Circle, the namesake's rewards program, will likely be full of coupons and offers during Target's competing Amazon Prime Day 2022. It's free to join and unlocks discounts for Target shoppers year-round. Can anyone shop from Target's competing Amazon Prime Day deals?Unlike Amazon Prime Day, which is famously an exclusive event for Amazon Prime subscribers, anyone can take advantage of Target's competing sale. From what we've seen in the past, Target tends to price match many of Amazon's doorbuster-style offers. Of course, Target can't replicate the breadth of Amazon's deals, but it's a worthy alternative for those who don't want to pay for an Amazon Prime subscription.If you have yet to become an Amazon Prime member, it's free to try it out. The 30-day trial also grants you access to Prime Day. You'll want to wait until you have the exact dates of Prime Day to make sure you don't miss it if you plan to cancel. How do I prepare for Target's sale?To get the best prices, download the Target App and enroll in the company's free loyalty program, Target Circle, to reap extra discounts. Having these handy will not only save you money during Target's Prime Day sale but also year-round.Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 22nd, 2022

Trump trashes bipartisan Senate bill as the "first step" to taking away guns — even though he once supported one of its key parts

Trump may trash Republicans' efforts now, but he has pulled a 180 on the views he once held on restricting gun rights. Former President Donald Trump (L) speaks during Pennsylvania rally on May 6, 2022. Mitch McConnell (R) is pictured on May 3, 2022.Getty Images Trump blasted a bipartisan Senate gun bill, calling it "the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY." But Trump once supported state "red flag" laws that are incentivized in the bill. In fact, nothing in the legislation remotely resembles what Trump is saying. Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday slammed a bipartisan Senate effort to respond to a series of mass shootings, arguing without evidence that the proposal backed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the first step to "TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY.""The deal on "Gun Control" currently being structured and pushed in the Senate by the Radical Left Democrats, with the help of Mitch McConnell, RINO Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and others, will go down in history as the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY. Republicans, be careful what you wish for!!!" Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth.Trump's opposition to the proposal comes after senators cleared an early hurdle for advancing the gun safety legislation on Tuesday. Fourteen Republicans, including McConnell, voted to advance the bill that includes incentives for more states to pass so-called red flag laws, a provision that closes the "boyfriend loophole" in background checks, and roughly $15 billion in funding for mental health and school security measures.A spokesperson for McConnell pointed to the top Republican's defense of his record on protecting law-abiding gun owners. In discussing his support for the bill, McConnell said that Republicans brushed back previous attempts to "take massive bites out of the Second Amendment" and that Democrats "came our way" in advancing the current legislation."It does not so much as touch the rights of the overwhelming majority of American gun owners who are law-abiding citizens of sound mind," McConnell said of the bill on the Senate floor on Wednesday. "I've spent my career, supporting, defending, and expanding law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights: the right to bear arms, the right to defend oneself and one's family is a core civil liberty."A spokesperson for Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who led his party's negotiations over the plan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The former president's statement also underlines the vast and often abrupt changes Trump has made to his views on guns throughout his public life and even his presidency. After deadly shootings, he expressed an openness to expanded federal background checks, an age limit to buy AR-15s and similar firearms, and even privately mused about reining in so-called assault-style weapons."What are we going to do about assault rifles?" Trump reportedly asked White House aides in 2019 after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, according to The New York Times.Most Republicans have strongly opposed a renewed assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. In 2000, Trump, who was once a registered Democrat, called for such an action in his book "The America We Deserve."Trump once even supported the "red flag" provisions that are a key piece of this legislation."We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that, if they do, those firearms can be taken by rapid due process," Trump said in 2019. "That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders."The bipartisan bill would not create a federal red flag law, as some Democrats once hoped, rather it would simply create grants to encourage officials to join the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have a version of such a law — those laws can give the authorities the right to temporarily confiscate someone's firearm if they pose an immediate threat to themselves or others. As NPR points out, the grants aren't even restricted to states that pass a red flag law.The former president's opposition is notable as it comes amid a flurry of speculation on whether he will announce a presidential campaign. GOP officials and pundits are closely watching how Republican voters respond to his efforts to shape the party's future through endorsements and other statements.Now out of office, Trump's declaration is not a guarantee that a bill will fail. The former president repeatedly attacked President Joe Biden's bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure plan and went after McConnell and House GOP lawmakers who supported it.But his efforts failed. Biden signed the plan into law in November 2021.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 22nd, 2022

These 44 pitch decks helped fintechs disrupting trading, investing, and banking raise millions in funding

Looking for examples of real fintech pitch decks? Check out pitch decks that Qolo, Lance, and other startups used to raise money from VCs. Check out these pitch decks for examples of fintech founders sold their vision.Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images Insider has been tracking the next wave of hot new startups that are blending finance and tech.  Check out these pitch decks to see how fintech founders sold their vision. See more stories on Insider's business page. Fintech funding has been on a tear.In 2021, fintech funding hit a record $132 billion globally, according to CB Insights, more than double 2020's mark.Insider has been tracking the next wave of hot new startups that are blending finance and tech. Check out these pitch decks to see how fintech founders are selling their vision and nabbing big bucks in the process. You'll see new financial tech geared at freelancers, fresh twists on digital banking, and innovation aimed at streamlining customer onboarding. New twists on digital bankingZach Bruhnke, cofounder and CEO of HMBradleyHMBradleyConsumers are getting used to the idea of branch-less banking, a trend that startup digital-only banks like Chime, N26, and Varo have benefited from. The majority of these fintechs target those who are underbanked, and rely on usage of their debit cards to make money off interchange. But fellow startup HMBradley has a different business model. "Our thesis going in was that we don't swipe our debit cards all that often, and we don't think the customer base that we're focusing on does either," Zach Bruhnke, cofounder and CEO of HMBradley, told Insider. "A lot of our customer base uses credit cards on a daily basis."Instead, the startup is aiming to build clientele with stable deposits. As a result, the bank is offering interest-rate tiers depending on how much a customer saves of their direct deposit.Notably, the rate tiers are dependent on the percentage of savings, not the net amount. "We'll pay you more when you save more of what comes in," Bruhnke said. "We didn't want to segment customers by how much money they had. So it was always going to be about a percentage of income. That was really important to us."Check out the 14-page pitch deck fintech HMBradley, a neobank offering interest rates as high as 3%, used to raise an $18.25 million Series APersonal finance is only a text awayYinon Ravid, the chief executive and cofounder of Albert.AlbertThe COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the growing preference of mobile banking as customers get comfortable managing their finances online.The financial app Albert has seen a similar jump in activity. Currently counting more than six million members, deposits in Albert's savings offering doubled from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to May of this year, from $350 million to $700 million, according to new numbers released by the company. Founded in 2015, Albert offers automated budgeting and savings tools alongside guided investment portfolios. It's looked to differentiate itself through personalized features, like the ability for customers to text human financial experts.Budgeting and saving features are free on Albert. But for more tailored financial advice, customers pay a subscription fee that's a pay-what-you-can model, between $4 and $14 a month. And Albert's now banking on a new tool to bring together its investing, savings, and budgeting tools.Fintech Albert used this 10-page pitch deck to raise a $100 million Series C from General Atlantic and CapitalG 'A bank for immigrants'Priyank Singh and Rohit Mittal are the cofounders of Stilt.StiltRohit Mittal remembers the difficulties he faced when he first arrived in the United States a decade ago as a master's student at Columbia University.As an immigrant from India, Mittal had no credit score in the US and had difficulty integrating into the financial system. Mittal even struggled to get approved to rent an apartment and couch-surfed until he found a roommate willing to offer him space in his apartment in the New York neighborhood Morningside Heights.That roommate was Priyank Singh, who would go on to become Mittal's cofounder when the two started Stilt, a financial-technology company designed to address the problems Mittal faced when he arrived in the US.Stilt, which calls itself "a bank for immigrants," does not require a social security number or credit history to access its offerings, including unsecured personal loans.Instead of relying on traditional metrics like a credit score, Stilt uses data such as education and employment to predict an individual's future income stability and cash flow before issuing a loan. Stilt has seen its loan volume grow by 500% in the past 12 months, and the startup has loaned to immigrants from 160 countries since its launch. Here are the 15 slides Stilt, which calls itself 'a bank for immigrants,' used to raise a $14 million Series AAn IRA for alternativesHenry Yoshida is the co-founder and CEO of retirement fintech startup Rocket Dollar.Rocket DollarFintech startup Rocket Dollar, which helps users invest their individual retirement account (IRA) dollars into alternative assets, just raised $8 million for its Series A round, the company announced on Thursday.Park West Asset Management led the round, with participation from investors including Hyphen Capital, which focuses on backing Asian American entrepreneurs, and crypto exchange Kraken's venture arm. Co-founded in 2018 by CEO Henry Yoshida, CTO Rick Dude, and VP of marketing Thomas Young, Rocket Dollar now has over $350 million in assets under management on its platform. Yoshida sold his first startup, a roboadvisor called Honest Dollar, to Goldman Sachs' investment management division for an estimated $20 million.Yoshida told Insider that while ultra-high net worth investors have been investing self-directed retirement account dollars into alternative assets like real estate, private equity, and cryptocurrency, average investors have not historically been able to access the same opportunities to invest IRA dollars in alternative assets through traditional platforms.Here's the 34-page pitch deck a fintech that helps users invest their retirement savings in crypto and real estate assets used to nab $8 millionA trading app for activismAntoine Argouges, CEO and founder of TulipshareTulipshareAn up-and-coming fintech is taking aim at some of the world's largest corporations by empowering retail investors to push for social and environmental change by pooling their shareholder rights.London-based Tulipshare lets individuals in the UK invest as little as one pound in publicly-traded company stocks. The upstart combines individuals' shareholder rights with other like-minded investors to advocate for environmental, social, and corporate governance change at firms like JPMorgan, Apple, and Amazon.The goal is to achieve a higher number of shares to maximize the number of votes that can be submitted at shareholder meetings. Already a regulated broker-dealer in the UK, Tulipshare recently applied for registration as a broker-dealer in the US. "If you ask your friends and family if they've ever voted on shareholder resolutions, the answer will probably be close to zero," CEO and founder Antoine Argouges told Insider. "I started Tulipshare to utilize shareholder rights to bring about positive corporate change that has an impact on people's lives and our planet — what's more powerful than money to change the system we live in?"Check out the 14-page pitch deck from Tulipshare, a trading app that lets users pool their shareholder votes for activism campaignsDigital tools for independent financial advisorsJason Wenk, founder and CEO of AltruistAltruistJason Wenk started his career at Morgan Stanley in investment research over 20 years ago. Now, he's running a company that is hoping to broaden access to financial advice for less-wealthy individuals. The startup raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Insight Partners with participation from investors Vanguard and Venrock. The round brings the Los Angeles-based startup's total funding to just under $67 million.Founded in 2018, Altruist is a digital brokerage built for independent financial advisors, intended to be an "all-in-one" platform that unites custodial functions, portfolio accounting, and a client-facing portal. It allows advisors to open accounts, invest, build models, report, trade (including fractional shares), and bill clients through an interface that can advisors time by eliminating mundane operational tasks.Altruist aims to make personalized financial advice less expensive, more efficient, and more inclusive through the platform, which is designed for registered investment advisors (RIAs), a growing segment of the wealth management industry. Here's the pitch deck for Altruist, a wealth tech challenging custodians Fidelity and Charles Schwab, that raised $50 million from Vanguard and InsightRethinking debt collection Jason Saltzman, founder and CEO of ReliefReliefFor lenders, debt collection is largely automated. But for people who owe money on their credit cards, it can be a confusing and stressful process.  Relief is looking to change that. Its app automates the credit-card debt collection process for users, negotiating with lenders and collectors to settle outstanding balances on their behalf. The fintech just launched and closed a $2 million seed round led by Collaborative Ventures. Relief's fundraising experience was a bit different to most. Its pitch deck, which it shared with one investor via Google Slides, went viral. It set out to raise a $1 million seed round, but ended up doubling that and giving some investors money back to make room for others.Check out a 15-page pitch deck that went viral and helped a credit-card debt collection startup land a $2 million seed roundHelping small banks lendTKCollateralEdgeFor large corporations with a track record of tapping the credit markets, taking out debt is a well-structured and clear process handled by the nation's biggest investment banks and teams of accountants. But smaller, middle-market companies — typically those with annual revenues ranging up to $1 billion — are typically served by regional and community banks that don't always have the capacity to adequately measure the risk of loans or price them competitively. Per the National Center for the Middle Market, 200,000 companies fall into this range, accounting for roughly 33% of US private sector GDP and employment.Dallas-based fintech CollateralEdge works with these banks — typically those with between $1 billion and $50 billion in assets — to help analyze and price slices of commercial and industrial loans that previously might have gone unserved by smaller lenders.On October 20th, CollateralEdge announced a $3.5 million seed round led by Dallas venture fund Perot Jain with participation from Kneeland Youngblood (a founder of the healthcare-focused private-equity firm Pharos Capital) and other individual investors.Here's the 10-page deck CollateralEdge, a fintech streamlining how small banks lend to businesses, used to raise a $3.5 million seed roundA new way to assess creditworthinessPinwheel founders Curtis Lee, Kurt Lin, and Anish Basu.PinwheelGrowing up, Kurt Lin never saw his father get frustrated. A "traditional, stoic figure," Lin said his father immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. Becoming part of the financial system proved even more difficult than assimilating into a new culture.Lin recalled visiting bank after bank with his father as a child, watching as his father's applications for a mortgage were denied due to his lack of credit history. "That was the first time in my life I really saw him crack," Lin told Insider. "The system doesn't work for a lot of people — including my dad," he added. Lin would find a solution to his father's problem years later while working with Anish Basu, and Curtis Lee on an automated health savings account. The trio realized the payroll data integrations they were working on could be the basis of a product that would help lenders work with consumers without strong credit histories."That's when the lightbulb hit," said Lin, Pinwheel's CEO.In 2018, Lin, Basu, and Lee founded Pinwheel, an application-programming interface that shares payroll data to help both fintechs and traditional lenders serve consumers with limited or poor credit, who have historically struggled to access financial products. Here's the 9-page deck that Pinwheel, a fintech helping lenders tap into payroll data to serve consumers with little to no credit, used to raise a $50 million Series BAn alternative auto lenderTricolorAn alternative auto lender that caters to thin- and no-credit Hispanic borrowers is planning a national expansion after scoring a $90 million investment from BlackRock-managed funds. Tricolor is a Dallas-based auto lender that is a community development financial institution. It uses a proprietary artificial-intelligence engine that decisions each customer based on more than 100 data points, such as proof of income. Half of Tricolor's customers have a FICO score, and less than 12% have scores above 650, yet the average customer has lived in the US for 15 years, according to the deck.A 2017 survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found 31.5% of Hispanic households had no mainstream credit compared to 14.4% of white households. "For decades, the deck has been stacked against low income or credit invisible Hispanics in the United States when it comes to the purchase and financing of a used vehicle," Daniel Chu, founder and CEO of Tricolor, said in a statement announcing the raise.An auto lender that caters to underbanked Hispanics used this 25-page deck to raise $90 million from BlackRock investors A new way to access credit The TomoCredit teamTomoCreditKristy Kim knows first-hand the challenge of obtaining credit in the US without an established credit history. Kim, who came to the US from South Korea, couldn't initially get access to credit despite having a job in investment banking after graduating college. "I was in my early twenties, I had a good income, my job was in investment banking but I could not get approved for anything," Kim told Insider. "Many young professionals like me, we deserve an opportunity to be considered but just because we didn't have a Fico, we weren't given a chance to even apply," she added.Kim started TomoCredit in 2018 to help others like herself gain access to consumer credit. TomoCredit spent three years building an internal algorithm to underwrite customers based on cash flow, rather than a credit score.TomoCredit, a fintech that lends to thin- and no-credit borrowers, used this 17-page pitch deck to raise its $10 million Series AHelping streamline how debts are repaidMethod Financial cofounders Jose Bethancourt and Marco del Carmen.Method FinancialWhen Jose Bethancourt graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2019, he faced the same question that confronts over 43 million Americans: How would he repay his student loans?The problem led Bethancourt on a nearly two-year journey that culminated in the creation of a startup aimed at making it easier for consumers to more seamlessly pay off all kinds of debt.  Initially, Bethancourt and fellow UT grad Marco del Carmen built GradJoy, an app that helped users better understand how to manage student loan repayment and other financial habits. GradJoy was accepted into Y Combinator in the summer of 2019. But the duo quickly realized the real benefit to users would be helping them move money to make payments instead of simply offering recommendations."When we started GradJoy, we thought, 'Oh, we'll just give advice — we don't think people are comfortable with us touching their student loans,' and then we realized that people were saying, 'Hey, just move the money — if you think I should pay extra, then I'll pay extra.' So that's kind of the movement that we've seen, just, everybody's more comfortable with fintechs doing what's best for them," Bethancourt told Insider. Here is the 11-slide pitch deck Method Financial, a Y Combinator-backed fintech making debt repayment easier, used to raise $2.5 million in pre-seed fundingQuantum computing made easyQC Ware CEO Matt Johnson.QC WareEven though banks and hedge funds are still several years out from adding quantum computing to their tech arsenals, that hasn't stopped Wall Street giants from investing time and money into the emerging technology class. And momentum for QC Ware, a startup looking to cut the time and resources it takes to use quantum computing, is accelerating. The fintech secured a $25 million Series B on September 29 co-led by Koch Disruptive Technologies and Covestro with participation from D.E. Shaw, Citi, and Samsung Ventures.QC Ware, founded in 2014, builds quantum algorithms for the likes of Goldman Sachs (which led the fintech's Series A), Airbus, and BMW Group. The algorithms, which are effectively code bases that include quantum processing elements, can run on any of the four main public-cloud providers.Quantum computing allows companies to do complex calculations faster than traditional computers by using a form of physics that runs on quantum bits as opposed to the traditional 1s and 0s that computers use. This is especially helpful in banking for risk analytics or algorithmic trading, where executing calculations milliseconds faster than the competition can give firms a leg up. Here's the 20-page deck QC Ware, a fintech making quantum computing more accessible, used to raised its $25 million Series BSimplifying quant modelsKirat Singh and Mark Higgins, Beacon's cofounders.BeaconA fintech that helps financial institutions use quantitative models to streamline their businesses and improve risk management is catching the attention, and capital, of some of the country's biggest investment managers.Beacon Platform, founded in 2014, is a fintech that builds applications and tools to help banks, asset managers, and trading firms quickly integrate quantitative models that can help with analyzing risk, ensuring compliance, and improving operational efficiency. The company raised its Series C on Wednesday, scoring a $56 million investment led by Warburg Pincus with support from Blackstone Innovations Investments, PIMCO, and Global Atlantic. Blackstone, PIMCO, and Global Atlantic are also users of Beacon's tech, as are the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Shell New Energies, a division of Royal Dutch Shell, among others.The fintech provides a shortcut for firms looking to use quantitative modelling and data science across various aspects of their businesses, a process that can often take considerable resources if done solo.Here's the 20-page pitch deck Beacon, a fintech helping Wall Street better analyze risk and data, used to raise $56 million from Warburg Pincus, Blackstone, and PIMCOA new data feed for bond tradingMark Lennihan/APFor years, the only way investors could figure out the going price of a corporate bond was calling up a dealer on the phone. The rise of electronic trading has streamlined that process, but data can still be hard to come by sometimes. A startup founded by a former Goldman Sachs exec has big plans to change that. BondCliQ is a fintech that provides a data feed of pre-trade pricing quotes for the corporate bond market. Founded by Chris White, the creator of Goldman Sachs' defunct corporate-bond-trading system, BondCliQ strives to bring transparency to a market that has traditionally kept such data close to the vest. Banks, which typically serve as the dealers of corporate bonds, have historically kept pre-trade quotes hidden from other dealers to maintain a competitive advantage.But tech advancements and the rise of electronic marketplaces have shifted power dynamics into the hands of buy-side firms, like hedge funds and asset managers. The investors are now able to get a fuller picture of the market by aggregating price quotes directly from dealers or via vendors.Here's the 9-page pitch deck that BondCliQ, a fintech looking to bring more data and transparency to bond trading, used to raise its Series AFraud prevention for lenders and insurersFiordaliso/Getty ImagesOnboarding new customers with ease is key for any financial institution or retailer. The more friction you add, the more likely consumers are to abandon the entire process.But preventing fraud is also a priority, and that's where Neuro-ID comes in. The startup analyzes what it calls "digital body language," or, the way users scroll, type, and tap. Using that data, Neuro-ID can identify fraudulent users before they create an account. It's built for banks, lenders, insurers, and e-commerce players."The train has left the station for digital transformation, but there's a massive opportunity to try to replicate all those communications that we used to have when we did business in-person, all those tells that we would get verbally and non-verbally on whether or not someone was trustworthy," Neuro-ID CEO Jack Alton told Insider.Founded in 2014, the startup's pitch is twofold: Neuro-ID can save companies money by identifying fraud early, and help increase user conversion by making the onboarding process more seamless. In December Neuro-ID closed a $7 million Series A, co-led by Fin VC and TTV Capital, with participation from Canapi Ventures. With 30 employees, Neuro-ID is using the fresh funding to grow its team and create additional tools to be more self-serving for customers.Here's the 11-slide pitch deck a startup that analyzes consumers' digital behavior to fight fraud used to raise a $7 million Series AAI-powered tools to spot phony online reviews FakespotMarketplaces like Amazon and eBay host millions of third-party sellers, and their algorithms will often boost items in search based on consumer sentiment, which is largely based on reviews. But many third-party sellers use fake reviews often bought from click farms to boost their items, some of which are counterfeit or misrepresented to consumers.That's where Fakespot comes in. With its Chrome extension, it warns users of sellers using potentially fake reviews to boost sales and can identify fraudulent sellers. Fakespot is currently compatible with Amazon, BestBuy, eBay, Sephora, Steam, and Walmart."There are promotional reviews written by humans and bot-generated reviews written by robots or review farms," Fakespot founder and CEO Saoud Khalifah told Insider. "Our AI system has been built to detect both categories with very high accuracy."Fakespot's AI learns via reviews data available on marketplace websites, and uses natural-language processing to identify if reviews are genuine. Fakespot also looks at things like whether the number of positive reviews are plausible given how long a seller has been active.Fakespot, a startup that helps shoppers detect robot-generated reviews and phony sellers on Amazon and Shopify, used this pitch deck to nab a $4 million Series AHelping fintechs manage dataProper Finance co-founders Travis Gibson (left) and Kyle MaloneyProper FinanceAs the flow of data becomes evermore crucial for fintechs, from the strappy startup to the established powerhouse, a thorny issue in the back office is becoming increasingly complex.Even though fintechs are known for their sleek front ends, the back end is often quite the opposite. Behind that streamlined interface can be a mosaic of different partner integrations — be it with banks, payments players and networks, or software vendors — with a channel of data running between them. Two people who know that better than the average are Kyle Maloney and Travis Gibson, two former employees of Marqeta, a fintech that provides other fintechs with payments processing and card issuance. "Take an established neobank for example. They'll likely have one or two card issuers, two to three bank partners, ACH processing for direct deposits and payouts, mobile check deposits, peer-to-peer payments, and lending," Gibson told Insider. Here's the 12-page pitch deck a startup helping fintechs manage their data used to score a $4.3 million seed from investors like Redpoint Ventures and Y CombinatorE-commerce focused business bankingMichael Rangel, cofounder and CEO, and Tyler McIntyre, cofounder and CTO of Novo.Kristelle Boulos PhotographyBusiness banking is a hot market in fintech. And it seems investors can't get enough.Novo, the digital banking fintech aimed at small e-commerce businesses, raised a $40.7 million Series A led by Valar Ventures in June. Since its launch in 2018, Novo has signed up 100,000 small businesses. Beyond bank accounts, it offers expense management, a corporate card, and integrates with e-commerce infrastructure players like Shopify, Stripe, and Wise.Founded in 2018, Novo was based in New York City, but has since moved its headquarters to Miami. Here's the 12-page pitch deck e-commerce banking startup Novo used to raise its $40 million Series AShopify for embedded financeProductfy CEO and founder, Duy VoProductfyProductfy is looking to break into embedded finance by becoming the Shopify of back-end banking services.Embedded finance — integrating banking services in non-financial settings — has taken hold in the e-commerce world. But Productfy is going after a different kind of customer in churches, universities, and nonprofits.The San Jose, Calif.-based upstart aims to help non-finance companies offer their own banking products. Productfy can help customers launch finance features in as little as a week and without additional engineering resources or background knowledge of banking compliance or legal requirements, Productfy founder and CEO Duy Vo told Insider. "You don't need an engineer to stand up Shopify, right? You can be someone who's just creating art and you can use Shopify to build your own online store," Vo said, adding that Productfy is looking to take that user experience and replicate it for banking services.Here's the 15-page pitch deck Productfy, a fintech looking to be the Shopify of embedded finance, used to nab a $16 million Series ADeploying algorithms and automation to small-business financingJustin Straight and Bernard Worthy, LoanWell co-foundersLoanWellBernard Worthy and Justin Straight, the founders of LoanWell, want to break down barriers to financing for small and medium-size businesses — and they've got algorithms and automation in their tech arsenals that they hope will do it.Worthy, the company's CEO, and Straight, its chief operating and financial officer, are powering community-focused lenders to fill a gap in the SMB financing world by boosting access to loans under $100,000. And the upstart is known for catching the attention, and dollars, of mission-driven investors. LoanWell closed a $3 million seed financing round in December led by Impact America Fund with participation from SoftBank's SB Opportunity Fund and Collab Capital.LoanWell automates the financing process — from underwriting and origination, to money movement and servicing — which shaves down an up-to-90-day process to 30 days or even same-day with some LoanWell lenders, Worthy said. SMBs rely on these loans to process quickly after two years of financial uncertainty. But the pandemic illustrated how time-consuming and expensive SMB financing can be, highlighted by efforts like the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program.Community banks, once the lifeline to capital for many local businesses, continue to shutter. And demands for smaller loan amounts remain largely unmet. More than half of business-loan applicants sought $100,000 or less, according to 2018 data from the Federal Reserve. But the average small-business bank loan was closer to six times that amount, according to the latest data from a now discontinued Federal Reserve survey.Here's the 14-page pitch deck LoanWell used to raise $3 million from investors like SoftBank.Branded cards for SMBsJennifer Glaspie-Lundstrom is the cofounder and CEO of Tandym.TandymJennifer Glaspie-Lundstrom is no stranger to the private-label credit-card business. As a former Capital One exec, she worked in both the card giant's co-brand partnerships division and its tech organization during her seven years at the company.Now, Glaspie-Lundstrom is hoping to use that experience to innovate a sector that was initially created in malls decades ago.Glaspie-Lundstrom is the cofounder and CEO of Tandym, which offers private-label digital credit cards to merchants. Store and private-label credit cards aren't a new concept, but Tandym is targeting small- and medium-sized merchants with less than $1 billion in annual revenue. Glaspie-Lundstrom said that group often struggles to offer private-label credit due to the expense of working with legacy players."What you have is this example of a very valuable product type that merchants love and their customers love, but a huge, untapped market that has heretofore been unserved, and so that's what we're doing with Tandym," Glaspi-Lundstrom told Insider.A former Capital One exec used this deck to raise $60 million for a startup helping SMBs launch their own branded credit cardsCatering to 'micro businesses'Stefanie Sample is the founder and CEO of FundidFundidStartups aiming to simplify the often-complex world of corporate cards have boomed in recent years.Business-finance management startup Brex was last valued at $12.3 billion after raising $300 million last year. Startup card provider Ramp announced an $8.1 billion valuation in March after growing its revenue nearly 10x in 2021. Divvy, a small business card provider, was acquired by Bill.com in May 2021 for approximately $2.5 billion.But despite how hot the market has gotten, Stefanie Sample said she ended up working in the space by accident. Sample is the founder and CEO of Fundid, a new fintech that provides credit and lending products to small businesses.This May, Fundid announced a $3.25 million seed round led by Nevcaut Ventures. Additional investors include the Artemis Fund and Builders and Backers. The funding announcement capped off the company's first year: Sample introduced the Fundid concept in April 2021, launched its website in May, and began raising capital in August."I never meant to do Fundid," Sample told Insider. "I never meant to do something that was venture-backed."Read the 12-page deck used by Fundid, a fintech offering credit and lending tools for 'micro businesses'Embedded payments for SMBsThe Highnote teamHighnoteBranded cards have long been a way for merchants with the appropriate bank relationships to create additional revenue and build customer loyalty. The rise of embedded payments, or the ability to shop and pay in a seamless experience within a single app, has broadened the number of companies looking to launch branded cards.Highnote is a startup that helps small to mid-sized merchants roll out their own debit and pre-paid digital cards. The fintech emerged from stealth on Tuesday to announce it raised $54 million in seed and Series A funding.Here's the 12-page deck Highnote, a startup helping SMBs embed payments, used to raise $54 million in seed and Series A fundingHelping small businesses manage their taxesComplYant's founder Shiloh Jackson wants to help people be present in their bookkeeping.ComplYantAfter 14 years in tax accounting, Shiloh Johnson had formed a core philosophy around corporate accounting: everyone deserves to understand their business's money and business owners need to be present in their bookkeeping process.She wanted to help small businesses understand "this is why you need to do what you're doing and why you have to change the way you think about tax and be present in your bookkeeping process," she told Insider. The Los Angeles native wanted small businesses to not only understand business tax no matter their size but also to find the tools they needed to prepare their taxes in one spot. So Johnson developed a software platform that provides just that.The 13-page pitch deck ComplYant used to nab $4 million that details the tax startup's plan to be Turbotax, Quickbooks, and Xero rolled into one for small business ownersAutomating accounting ops for SMBsDecimal CEO Matt Tait.DecimalSmall- and medium-sized businesses can rely on any number of payroll, expense management, bill pay, and corporate-card startups promising to automate parts of their financial workflow. Smaller firms have adopted this corporate-financial software en masse, boosting growth throughout the pandemic for relatively new entrants like Ramp and massive, industry stalwarts like Intuit. But it's no easy task to connect all of those tools into one, seamless process. And while accounting operations might be far from where many startup founders want to focus their time, having efficient back-end finances does mean time — and capital — freed up to spend elsewhere. For Decimal CEO Matt Tait, there's ample opportunity in "the boring stuff you have to do to survive as a company," he told Insider. Launched in 2020, Decimal provides a back-end tech layer that small- and medium-sized businesses can use to integrate their accounting and business-management software tools in one place.On Wednesday, Decimal announced a $9 million seed fundraising round led by Minneapolis-based Arthur Ventures, alongside Service Providers Capital and other angel investors. See the 13-page pitch deck for Decimal, a startup automating accounting ops for small businessesInvoice financing for SMBsStacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson, Now co-foundersNowAbout a decade ago, politician Stacey Abrams and entrepreneur Lara Hodgson were forced to fold their startup because of a kink in the supply chain — but not in the traditional sense.Nourish, which made spill-proof bottled water for children, had grown quickly from selling to small retailers to national ones. And while that may sound like a feather in the small business' cap, there was a hang-up."It was taking longer and longer to get paid, and as you can imagine, you deliver the product and then you wait and you wait, but meanwhile you have to pay your employees and you have to pay your vendors," Hodgson told Insider. "Waiting to get paid was constraining our ability to grow."While it's not unusual for small businesses to grapple with working capital issues, the dust was still settling from the Great Recession. Abrams and Hodgson couldn't secure a line of credit or use financing tools like factoring to solve their problem. The two entrepreneurs were forced to close Nourish in 2012, but along the way they recognized a disconnect in the system.  "Why are we the ones borrowing money, when in fact we're the lender here because every time you send an invoice to a customer, you've essentially extended a free loan to that customer by letting them pay later," Hodgson said. "And the only reason why we were going to need to possibly borrow money was because we had just given ours away for free to Whole Foods," she added.Check out the 7-page deck that Now, Stacey Abrams' fintech that wants to help small businesses 'grow fearlessly', used to raise $29 millionCheckout made easyRyan Breslow.Ryan BreslowAmazon has long dominated e-commerce with its one-click checkout flows, offering easier ways for consumers to shop online than its small-business competitors.Bolt gives small merchants tools to offer the same easy checkouts so they can compete with the likes of Amazon.The startup raised its $393 million Series D to continue adding its one-click checkout feature to merchants' own websites in October.Bolt markets to merchants themselves. But a big part of Bolt's pitch is its growing network of consumers — currently over 5.6 million — that use its features across multiple Bolt merchant customers. Roughly 5% of Bolt's transactions were network-driven in May, meaning users that signed up for a Bolt account on another retailer's website used it elsewhere. The network effects were even more pronounced in verticals like furniture, where 49% of transactions were driven by the Bolt network."The network effect is now unleashed with Bolt in full fury, and that triggered the raise," Bolt's founder and CEO Ryan Breslow told Insider.Here's the 12-page deck that one-click checkout Bolt used to outline its network of 5.6 million consumers and raise its Series DPayments infrastructure for fintechsQolo CEO and co-founder Patricia MontesiQoloThree years ago, Patricia Montesi realized there was a disconnect in the payments world. "A lot of new economy companies or fintech companies were looking to mesh up a lot of payment modalities that they weren't able to," Montesi, CEO and co-founder of Qolo, told Insider.Integrating various payment capabilities often meant tapping several different providers that had specializations in one product or service, she added, like debit card issuance or cross-border payments. "The way people were getting around that was that they were creating this spider web of fintech," she said, adding that "at the end of it all, they had this mess of suppliers and integrations and bank accounts."The 20-year payments veteran rounded up a group of three other co-founders — who together had more than a century of combined industry experience — to start Qolo, a business-to-business fintech that sought out to bundle back-end payment rails for other fintechs.Here's the 11-slide pitch deck a startup that provides payments infrastructure for other fintechs used to raise a $15 million Series ABetter use of payroll dataAtomic's Head of Markets, Lindsay DavisAtomicEmployees at companies large and small know the importance — and limitations — of how firms manage their payrolls. A new crop of startups are building the API pipes that connect companies and their employees to offer a greater level of visibility and flexibility when it comes to payroll data and employee verification. On Thursday, one of those names, Atomic, announced a $40 million Series B fundraising round co-led by Mercato Partners and Greylock, alongside Core Innovation Capital, Portage, and ATX Capital. The round follows Atomic's Series A round announced in October, when the startup raised a $22 million Series A from investors including Core Innovation Capital, Portage, and Greylock.Payroll startup Atomic just raised a $40 million Series B. Here's an internal deck detailing the fintech's approach to the red-hot payments space.Saving on vendor invoicesHoward Katzenberg, Glean's CEO and cofounderGleanWhen it comes to high-flying tech startups, headlines and investors typically tend to focus on industry "disruption" and the total addressable market a company is hoping to reach. Expense cutting as a way to boost growth typically isn't part of the conversation early on, and finance teams are viewed as cost centers relative to sales teams. But one fast-growing area of business payments has turned its focus to managing those costs. Startups like Ramp and established names like Bill.com have made their name offering automated expense-management systems. Now, one new fintech competitor, Glean, is looking to take that further by offering both automated payment services and tailored line-item accounts-payable insights driven by machine-learning models. Glean's CFO and founder, Howard Katzenberg, told Insider that the genesis of Glean was driven by his own personal experience managing the finance teams of startups, including mortgage lender Better.com, which Katzenberg left in 2019, and online small-business lender OnDeck. "As a CFO of high-growth companies, I spent a lot of time focused on revenue and I had amazing dashboards in real time where I could see what is going on top of the funnel, what's going on with conversion rates, what's going on in terms of pricing and attrition," Katzenberg told Insider. See the 15-slide pitch deck Glean, a startup using machine learning to find savings in vendor invoices, used to raise $10.8 million in seed fundingReal-estate management made easyAgora founders Noam Kahan, CTO, Bar Mor, CEO, and Lior Dolinski, CPOAgoraFor alternative asset managers of any type, the operations underpinning sales and investor communications are a crucial but often overlooked part of the business. Fund managers love to make bets on markets, not coordinate hundreds of wire transfers to clients each quarter or organize customer-relationship-management databases.Within the $10.6 trillion global market for professionally managed real-estate investing, that's where Tel Aviv and New York-based startup Agora hopes to make its mark.Founded in 2019, Agora offers a set of back-office, investor relations, and sales software tools that real-estate investment managers can plug into their workflows. On Wednesday, Agora announced a $9 million seed round, led by Israel-based venture firm Aleph, with participation from River Park Ventures and Maccabee Ventures. The funding comes on the heels of an October 2020 pre-seed fund raise worth $890,000, in which Maccabee also participated.Here's the 15-slide pitch deck that Agora, a startup helping real-estate investors manage communications and sales with their clients, used to raise a $9 million seed roundAccess to commercial real-estate investing LEX Markets cofounders and co-CEOs Drew Sterrett and Jesse Daugherty.LEX MarketsDrew Sterrett was structuring real-estate deals while working in private equity when he realized the inefficiencies that existed in the market. Only high-net worth individuals or accredited investors could participate in commercial real-estate deals. If they ever wanted to leave a partnership or sell their stake in a property, it was difficult to find another investor to replace them. Owners also struggled to sell minority stakes in their properties and didn't have many good options to recapitalize an asset if necessary.In short, the market had a high barrier to entry despite the fact it didn't always have enough participants to get deals done quickly. "Most investors don't have access to high-quality commercial real-estate investments. How do we have the oldest and largest asset class in the world and one of the largest wealth creators with no public and liquid market?" Sterrett told Insider. "It sort of seems like a no-brainer, and that this should have existed 50 or 60 years ago."This 15-page pitch deck helped LEX Markets, a startup making investing in commercial real estate more accessible, raise $15 millionInsurance goes digitalJamie Hale, CEO and cofounder of LadderLadderFintechs looking to transform how insurance policies are underwritten, issued, and experienced by customers have grown as new technology driven by digital trends and artificial intelligence shape the market. And while verticals like auto, homeowner's, and renter's insurance have seen their fair share of innovation from forward-thinking fintechs, one company has taken on the massive life-insurance market. Founded in 2017, Ladder uses a tech-driven approach to offer life insurance with a digital, end-to-end service that it says is more flexible, faster, and cost-effective than incumbent players.Life, annuity, and accident and health insurance within the US comprise a big chunk of the broader market. In 2020, premiums written on those policies totaled some $767 billion, compared to $144 billion for auto policies and $97 billion for homeowner's insurance.Here's the 12-page deck that Ladder, a startup disrupting the 'crown jewel' of the insurance market, used to nab $100 millionData science for commercial insuranceTanner Hackett, founder and CEO of CounterpartCounterpartThere's been no shortage of funds flowing into insurance-technology companies over the past few years. Private-market funding to insurtechs soared to $15.4 billion in 2021, a 90% increase compared to 2020. Some of the most well-known consumer insurtech names — from Oscar (which focuses on health insurance) to Metromile (which focuses on auto) — launched on the public markets last year, only to fall over time or be acquired as investors questioned the sustainability of their business models. In the commercial arena, however, the head of one insurtech company thinks there is still room to grow — especially for those catering to small businesses operating in an entirely new, pandemic-defined environment. "The bigger opportunity is in commercial lines," Tanner Hackett, the CEO of management liability insurer Counterpart, told Insider."Everywhere I poke, I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, we're still in 1.0, and all the other businesses I've built were on version three.' Insurance is still in 1.0, still managing from spreadsheets and PDFs," added Hackett, who also previously co-founded Button, which focuses on mobile marketing. See the 8-page pitch deck Counterpart, a startup disrupting commercial insurance with data science, used to raise a $30 million Series BSmarter insurance for multifamily propertiesItai Ben-Zaken, cofounder and CEO of Honeycomb.HoneycombA veteran of the online-insurance world is looking to revolutionize the way the industry prices risk for commercial properties with the help of artificial intelligence.Insurance companies typically send inspectors to properties before issuing policies to better understand how the building is maintained and identify potential risks or issues with it. It's a process that can be time-consuming, expensive, and inefficient, making it hard to justify for smaller commercial properties, like apartment and condo buildings.Insurtech Honeycomb is looking to fix that by using AI to analyze a combination of third-party data and photos submitted by customers through the startup's app to quickly identify any potential risks at a property and more accurately price policies."That whole physical inspection thing had really good things in it, but it wasn't really something that is scalable and, it's also expensive," Itai Ben-Zaken, Honeycomb's cofounder and CEO, told Insider. "The best way to see a property right now is Google street view. Google street view is usually two years old."Here's the 10-page Series A pitch deck used by Honeycomb, a startup that wants to revolutionize the $26 billion market for multifamily property insuranceHelping freelancers with their taxesJaideep Singh is the CEO and co-founder of FlyFin, an AI-driven tax preparation software program for freelancers.FlyFinSome people, particularly those with families or freelancing businesses, spend days searching for receipts for tax season, making tax preparation a time consuming and, at times, taxing experience. That's why in 2020 Jaideep Singh founded FlyFin, an artificial-intelligence tax preparation program for freelancers that helps people, as he puts it, "fly through their finances." FlyFin is set up to connect to a person's bank accounts, allowing the AI program to help users monitor for certain expenses that can be claimed on their taxes like business expenditures, the interest on mortgages, property taxes, or whatever else that might apply. "For most individuals, people have expenses distributed over multiple financial institutions. So we built an AI platform that is able to look at expenses, understand the individual, understand your profession, understand the freelance population at large, and start the categorization," Singh told Insider.Check out the 7-page pitch deck a startup helping freelancers manage their taxes used to nab $8 million in fundingDigital banking for freelancersJGalione/Getty ImagesLance is a new digital bank hoping to simplify the life of those workers by offering what it calls an "active" approach to business banking. "We found that every time we sat down with the existing tools and resources of our accountants and QuickBooks and spreadsheets, we just ended up getting tangled up in the whole experience of it," Lance cofounder and CEO Oona Rokyta told Insider. Lance offers subaccounts for personal salaries, withholdings, and savings to which freelancers can automatically allocate funds according to custom preset levels. It also offers an expense balance that's connected to automated tax withholdings.In May, Lance announced the closing of a $2.8 million seed round that saw participation from Barclays, BDMI, Great Oaks Capital, Imagination Capital, Techstars, DFJ Frontier, and others.Here's the 21-page pitch deck Lance, a digital bank for freelancers, used to raise a $2.8 million seed round from investors including BarclaysSoftware for managing freelancersWorksome cofounder and CEO Morten Petersen.WorksomeThe way people work has fundamentally changed over the past year, with more flexibility and many workers opting to freelance to maintain their work-from-home lifestyles.But managing a freelance or contractor workforce is often an administrative headache for employers. Worksome is a startup looking to eliminate all the extra work required for employers to adapt to more flexible working norms.Worksome started as a freelancer marketplace automating the process of matching qualified workers with the right jobs. But the team ultimately pivoted to a full suite of workforce management software, automating administrative burdens required to hire, pay, and account for contract workers.In May, Worksome closed a $13 million Series A backed by European angel investor Tommy Ahlers and Danish firm Lind & Risør.Here's the 21-slide pitch deck used by a startup that helps firms like Carlsberg and Deloitte manage freelancersPayments and operations support HoneyBook cofounders Dror Shimoni, Oz Alon, and Naama Alon.HoneyBookWhile countless small businesses have been harmed by the pandemic, self-employment and entrepreneurship have found ways to blossom as Americans started new ventures.Half of the US population may be freelance by 2027, according to a study commissioned by remote-work hiring platform Upwork. HoneyBook, a fintech startup that provides payment and operations support for freelancers, in May raised $155 million in funding and achieved unicorn status with its $1 billion-plus valuation.Durable Capital Partners led the Series D funding with other new investors including renowned hedge fund Tiger Global, Battery Ventures, Zeev Ventures, and 01 Advisors. Citi Ventures, Citigroup's startup investment arm that also backs fintech robo-advisor Betterment, participated as an existing investor in the round alongside Norwest Venture partners. The latest round brings the company's fundraising total to $227 million to date.Here's the 21-page pitch deck a Citi-backed fintech for freelancers used to raise $155 million from investors like hedge fund Tiger GlobalPay-as-you-go compliance for banks, fintechs, and crypto startupsNeepa Patel, Themis' founder and CEOThemisWhen Themis founder and CEO Neepa Patel set out to build a new compliance tool for banks, fintech startups, and crypto companies, she tapped into her own experience managing risk at some of the nation's biggest financial firms. Having worked as a bank regulator at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and in compliance at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, and the enterprise blockchain company R3, Patel was well-placed to assess the shortcomings in financial compliance software. But Patel, who left the corporate world to begin work on Themis in 2020, drew on more than just her own experience and frustrations to build the startup."It's not just me building a tool based on my personal pain points. I reached out to regulators. I reached out to bank compliance officers and members in the fintech community just to make sure that we're building it exactly how they do their work," Patel told Insider. "That was the biggest problem: No one built a tool that was reflective of how people do their work."Check out the 9-page pitch deck Themis, which offers pay-as-you-go compliance for banks, fintechs, and crypto startups, used to raise $9 million in seed fundingConnecting startups and investorsHum Capital cofounder and CEO Blair SilverbergHum CapitalBlair Silverberg is no stranger to fundraising.For six years, Silverberg was a venture capitalist at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Private Credit Investments making bets on startups."I was meeting with thousands of founders in person each year, watching them one at a time go through this friction where they're meeting a ton of investors, and the investors are all asking the same questions," Silverberg told Insider. He switched gears about three years ago, moving to the opposite side of the metaphorical table, to start Hum Capital, which uses artificial intelligence to match investors with startups looking to fundraise.On August 31, the New York-based fintech announced its $9 million Series A. The round was led by Future Ventures with participation from Webb Investment Network, Wavemaker Partners, and Partech. This 11-page pitch deck helped Hum Capital, a fintech using AI to match investors with startups, raise a $9 million Series A.Helping LatAm startups get up to speedKamino cofounders Gut Fragoso, Rodrigo Perenha, Benjamin Gleason, and Gonzalo ParejoKaminoThere's more venture capital flowing into Latin America than ever before, but getting the funds in founders' hands is not exactly a simple process.In 2021, investors funneled $15.3 billion into Latin American companies, more than tripling the previous record of $4.9 billion in 2019. Fintech and e-commerce sectors drove funding, accounting for 39% and 25% of total funding, respectively.  However, for many startup founders in the region who have successfully sold their ideas and gotten investors on board, there's a patchwork of corporate structuring that's needed to access the funds, according to Benjamin Gleason, who was the chief financial officer at Groupon LatAm prior to cofounding Brazil-based fintech Kamino.It's a process Gleason and his three fellow Kamino cofounders have been through before as entrepreneurs and startup execs themselves. Most often, startups have to set up offshore financial accounts outside of Brazil, which "entails creating a Cayman [Islands] holding company, a Delaware LLC, and then connecting it to a local entity here and also opening US bank accounts for the Cayman entity, which is not trivial from a KYC perspective," said Gleason, who founded open-banking fintech Guiabolso in Sao Paulo. His partner, Gonzalo Parejo, experienced the same toils when he founded insurtech Bidu."Pretty much any international investor will usually ask for that," Gleason said, adding that investors typically cite liability issues."It's just a massive amount of bureaucracy, complexity, a lot of time from the founders. All of this just to get the money from the investor that wants to give them the money," he added.Here's the 8-page pitch deck Kamino, a fintech helping LatAm startups with everything from financing to corporate credit cards, used to raise a $6.1M pre-seed roundThe back-end tech for beautyDanielle Cohen-Shohet, CEO and founder of GlossGeniusGlossGeniusDanielle Cohen-Shohet might have started as a Goldman Sachs investment analyst, but at her core she was always a coder.After about three years at Goldman Sachs, Cohen-Shohet left the world of traditional finance to code her way into starting her own company in 2016. "There was a period of time where I did nothing, but eat, sleep, and code for a few weeks," Cohen-Shohet told Insider. Her technical edge and knowledge of the point-of-sale payment space led her to launch a software company focused on providing behind-the-scenes tech for beauty and wellness small businesses.Cohen-Shohet launched GlossGenius in 2017 to provide payments tech for hair stylists, nail technicians, blow-out bars, and other small businesses in the space.Here's the 11-page deck GlossGenius, a startup that provides back-end tech for the beauty industry, used to raise $16 millionRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJun 22nd, 2022

Dartmouth is stripping student loans from its financial aid packages to allow students to "prepare for lives of impact with fewer constraints"

Dartmouth joins the growing list of schools, like Harvard and Yale, in replacing student loans with grants that undergraduates don't need to pay back. Baker-Berry Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Dartmouth announced it's removing federal student loans from its financial aid packages. Instead, it will expand grant and scholarship options that do not need to be paid back. It joined a growing number of schools that have removed loans to decrease debt burdens post-grad. Dartmouth College just joined the growing number of schools in the US working to remove the student debt burden that accompanies a higher education.On Monday, Dartmouth — a private New Hampshire college with about 4,100 undergraduate students — announced it would be eliminating federal and institutional student loans from its financial aid packages, replacing them with scholarship grants, according to a Dartmouth article. The shift was made possible by more than $80 million in gifts to the school's endowment from 65 families, and it will go into effect on June 23, when the 2022 summer term begins."Thanks to this extraordinary investment by our community, students can prepare for lives of impact with fewer constraints," Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon said in a statement. "Eliminating loans from financial aid packages will allow Dartmouth undergraduates to seek their purpose and passion in the broadest possible range of career possibilities." Prior to this announcement, Dartmouth offered students from families with incomes under $125,000 need-based financial aid without requiring federal student loans. Now the benefit is available for all students, which the school estimates will decrease debt burdens for "hundreds of middle-income Dartmouth students" by an average of $22,000 over four years — and $5,500 in borrowing for each student that would have had to take out loans per year. "Dartmouth already offers generous assistance to students from low-income backgrounds, and this move to a universal no-loan policy will help middle-income families who often have to stretch their budgets to meet the cost of higher education," Director of Financial Aid Dino Koff said in a statement.Insider previously reported on the schools in the US that are working to ease the student debt burden that currently falls on over 40 million Americans. Princeton became the first university in the US to replace loans with grants that do not need to be repaid in 2001, with schools like Amherst, Harvard, and Yale launching similar initiatives in the following years. And private, smaller schools like Colgate University in New York and Smith College in Massachusetts adopted the same policy last year.This also comes as President Joe Biden is working on ways to reduce the student debt burden himself with an executive order. Recent reports have suggested he is considering $10,000 in relief for borrowers making under $150,000 a year, and while the White House has not publicly confirmed any plans, Biden told reporters over the weekend a decision on relief is near, and a further extension of the over two-year pause on loan payments is "on the table."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJun 21st, 2022

Target"s competing Prime Day sale is expected to start in July — here"s what we know about the retailer"s "Deal Days" event

Amazon Prime Day is set for July 12 and 13, and we expect Target to compete with its own sale called "Deal Days." When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Shopping carts sit inside a Target store on May 23, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois.Scott Olson/Getty Images Target's Deal Days event will likely take place in July to coincide with Prime Day on July 12 and 13.  You can expect tons of great deals which often match those offered by Amazon. Below we'll answer questions about the event and highlight what type of deals you can expect. Amazon Prime Day, the retail giant's annual sales event, takes place July 12 through 13 — but it won't be alone. Amazon will likely be competing against sales from several other retailers, including Target. In 2021, the Target Deal Days event was longer than Prime Day but shorter than Walmart's Deals for Days sale.From what we saw last year, we expect tons of great deals on pretty much everything, from smart home speakers to air fryers. So whether you're shopping for the latest tech or want to save on essentials, you can find bargains during Deal Days. We'll answer some frequently asked questions below and will highlight some of the best deals you can shop from Target as they become available.The best early Target Prime Day dealsTarget's Deal Days sale isn't live yet. We'll add specific deals to this post as we learn more about the event. If you're looking to shop now, you can already snag a handful of early Amazon Prime Day deals.Shop the same prices from Walmart's Deals for Days and other competing salesWe're still weeks away from Prime Day. We'll update this post with competing deals as they become available. We're also tracking Walmart's competing Prime Day deals.When is Target's competing Amazon Prime Day 2022 sale?The Target Deal Days event will likely happen in July. Amazon announced that Prime Day 2022 will officially run from July 12 to 13, and we expect Target's sale to last as long or a slightly longer.What deals will Target have during Amazon Prime Day?Last year, Target's competing Prime Day sale featured solid deals on a ton of product categories, including gaming, smart home, audio, personal care, robot vacuums, upright vacuums, and more. In 2021, Target's Deal Days brought deep discounts on brands like JBL, Instant Pot, Nintendo, Braun, and Shark.What are the benefits of shopping at Target during Amazon Prime Day?The main draw for shopping at Target during Prime Day is that the deals are accessible to everyone, not just Prime members. Prime Day is one of the many benefits to being an Amazon Prime member, meaning that those without a membership are out of luck. Shopping Target's Prime Day deals are also a good idea if you're in a rush to get your order, since in-store pickup is often available for many items.When is Amazon Prime Day 2022?Amazon Prime Day 2022 will run from July 12 to 13.Will RedCard members get extra discounts during Target Deal Days?In past years, Target offered no exclusive deals or promotions for RedCard holders. While it remains to be seen if that trend continues, the chances of additional promotions are slim. Regardless, Target RedCard holders will enjoy the same benefits during the competing sale they enjoy year-round, including free shipping with no order minimums and an extra 5% off at checkout.Will the Target Circle program offer exclusive deals during Target's competing sale?Target Circle, the namesake's rewards program, will likely be full of coupons and offers during Target's competing Amazon Prime Day 2022. It's free to join and unlocks discounts for Target shoppers year-round. Can anyone shop from Target's competing Amazon Prime Day deals?Unlike Amazon Prime Day, which is famously an exclusive event for Amazon Prime subscribers, anyone can take advantage of Target's competing sale. From what we've seen in the past, Target tends to price match many of Amazon's doorbuster-style offers. Of course, Target can't replicate the breadth of Amazon's deals, but it's a worthy alternative for those who don't want to pay for an Amazon Prime subscription.If you have yet to become an Amazon Prime member, it's free to try it out. The 30-day trial also grants you access to Prime Day. You'll want to wait until you have the exact dates of Prime Day to make sure you don't miss it if you plan to cancel. How do I prepare for Target's sale?To get the best prices, download the Target App and enroll in the company's free loyalty program, Target Circle, to reap extra discounts. Having these handy will not only save you money during Target's Prime Day sale but also year-round.Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 16th, 2022

The Bill Gurley Chronicles: Part I

The Bill Gurley Chronicles: Part I By Alex of the Macro Ops Substack What if there was a way to distill all the knowledge that someone’s written over the last 25 years into one, easy-to-read document? And what if that person was a famous venture capital investor known for betting big on companies like Uber, Snapchat, Twitter, Discord, Dropbox, Instagram, and Zillow (to name a few)?  Well, that’s what I’ve done with Bill Gurley’s blog Above The Crowd.  Gurley is a legendary venture capital investor and partner at Benchmark Capital. His blog oozes valuable insights on VC investing, valuations, growth, and marketplace businesses.  This document is a one-stop-shop summary of every blog post Gurley’s ever written.  Here’s how it’ll look. Each summary will contain the following:  Date, title, and link to blog post One paragraph summary My favorite quote This piece allows anyone to absorb all of Gurley’s knowledge bombs in the fraction of the time it took me to do it. I hope this piece brings you as much value as it did to me.  Let’s get after it. Years: 1996 -1999 October 21, 1996: Backhoes Don’t Obey Moore’s Law: A Story Of Convergence (Link) Summary: The backhoe improved at an annual rate of 4.4%, falling short of Moore’s Law equivalent improvement of 59.7%. Computers are dependent on telecom to deliver the internet. But telecom is dependent on Moore’s Law failing-backhoes. This means we’re building computer-centric solutions to Internet-based problems without addressing the core problem: laying fiber cables with obsolete backhoes.  Favorite Quote: “Backhoe dependency is really just the simple side of our message. It is our impression that the majority of the players in the computer industry bring a “computer centric viewpoint” (CCV) when analyzing the issues that exist with the Internet. This computer-centric view could prove hazardous. Not only will it lead to disappointed expectations, but it may also lead to a less than accurate vision of the future.” April 20, 1998: How To Succeed In Advertising (Link) Summary: There are three reasons why success-based advertising wins the day on the internet:  Customers want it: Advertisers can quickly see if their programs work and easily predict margins using COGS + “bounty fee” model Solves excess inventory problems: The best way to reduce inventory is through direct-selling, success-based advertising (think 1-800 ads on cable TV) Unsold Ad-Space on Internet: As internet population increases, it reduces the CPM per pageview. This causes an inventory glut of internet space and a perfect place for performance-based ads Also, you can use a DCF to find the LTV of a customer. It’s simply: $ in FCF per customer/year divided by the discount rate.  Favorite Quote: “The lifetime value of the customer is equal to the future cash flows (not revenue!) expected over the life cycle of the customer, discounted back by a reasonable discount rate. What we are really doing is treating the customer acquisition as an investment and the lifetime cash flows of the customer as the yield on that investment.” May 5, 1998: Standards: Open For Business (Link) Summary: Open standards is the idea that companies in an industry operate within a specified set of rules (or parameters). Think of printers and PCs. It makes sense for all PCs and printers to be compatible with one another. This reduces time to market for most products. The issue, however, arises when open standards are applied to tech-heavy businesses without distribution advantages. Software is a perfect example. Distribution is effortless, so the only way to gain an edge in open standards is through sales teams and technical support. And who has the lead in that? Large companies.  Favorite Quote: “Theoretically, you could have a better sales force or better service and support, but these are not typically assets that small innovative companies possess. This means that competing with a completely “open” strategy would offer very little room for differentiation, and there is almost a necessity to have some closed proprietary advantage. It is difficult to criticize companies for trying to innovate in a proprietary manner. After all, survival is instinctive.” August 17, 1998: Internet Investors: Beware Of The Proxy Valuation (Link)  Summary: Investors use proxy valuations to value companies without hard free cash flows (NOPAT – capex). Proxy valuations come in all shapes and sizes, including: P/Revenues, Market Cap / Subscriber, Market Cap / Unique Page View, etc. While proxy valuations are better than blindly picking stocks — it’s not the end goal. Businesses must generate cash flow to survive. This brings us to a few dangers of proxy valuations:  Symmetry Risk: Not all proxies are created equal (e.g., Price/Sub not the same as Price/Page View) Assumption Risk: A customer’s value changes. We can’t assume a company will generate $X from each customer over its lifetime Arbitrage Risk: Companies IPO based on # of customers, revenue stats or subscribers … not cash flows or profitability Favorite Quote: “Another reason to be skeptical of proxy valuations is arbitrage. If Wall Street comes to believe that customers, or visitors, or page views, or even revenues are uniquely valuable (regardless of profitability), than entrepreneurs are likely to rush to market with companies that can achieve these targets quite handily, but may have little chance at producing real value in terms of cash flow. With no focus on costs, it is easy to reach non-financial targets. This is the great thing about cash flow-based valuation, it’s hard to sweep costs under the rug.” October 16, 1998: The Continued Evolution Of Advertising Or How To Succeed In Advertising Part II (Link)  Summary: Traditional advertising is squeezed out of the value chain as ad buyers recognize the difference between pay-per-impression and pay-per-click through. Further, the invention of TiVO (recording shows & content) increased demand for a direct-to-consumer content delivery system. Ideas like pay-per-view TV were born from the idea that you can cut the middleman (networks & advertisers) and directly charge your customer.  Favorite Quote:  “While this is possible, it ignores the fact that the viewer now has a choice, and that these devices will allow the content provider to push content directly to the end-user, potentially on a pay-per-view basis. If the consumer is willing to pay $5 to watch Seinfeld commercial-free, why should they be denied?” July 12, 1999: The Rising Impact Of Open Source (Link)  Summary: There are six things to know about open source (OS) code. One, open source works. Two, OS can produce business-quality code. Three, OS business models are emerging. Four, OS is a tough competitor (hard to beat free!). Five, OS models are entering the content generation space. Six, OS may be as helpful as a defensive mechanism than an offensive weapon.  Favorite Quote: “Open source as a production model should be appreciated in the same light as Henry Ford’s assembly line or Demming’s Just-In-Time manufacturing process. By taking advantage of the electronic communication medium of the Internet as well as the distributed skills of its volunteers, the open-source community has uncovered a leveraged development methodology that is faster and produces more reliable code than traditional internal development. You can pan it, doubt it, or ignore it, but you are unlikely to stop it. Open source is here to stay.” October 18, 1999: The Rising Importance Of The Great Art Of Storytelling (Link) Summary: Storytelling is one of the most underappreciated business skills. Bill Gates admired a man (Craig McCaw) because he was able to convince investors to invest in a capital-heavy infrastructure business. McCaw created new (proxy) valuations to sell the story the company was trying to deliver. Storytelling also gets a bad rap because it’s associated with “hype” — overpromising and under delivering. Recognizing a good story from a bad one helps investors avoid dreams and invest in the future.  Favorite Quote: “As public market investors begin to evaluate younger and younger companies, their valuation tools become limited to subjective notions such as quality of the team and the uniqueness and boldness of the idea.  In other words, if there isn’t enough proof that a business already exists, then they must make a judgment as to whether one will.” Years: 2000 – 2002 March 6, 2000: The Most Powerful Internet Metric Of All (Link)  Summary: Conversion rate is the most important metric for internet-based companies. Why? Conversion rate captures total user engagement. It also boasts high leverage. Here’s the big idea: as conversion increases, revenue rises and marketing costs decline. There are five things that affect conversion rate: 1) user interface, 2) performance (slow v. fast), 3) convenience, 4) effective advertising and 5) word of mouth.  Favorite Quote: “Let’s assume you spend $10,000 to drive 5,000 people to your site, and your conversion rate is 2 percent. This means that 100 transactions cost you $10,000, or $100 per transaction. Now let’s assume your conversion rate rises to 4 percent. The same $10,000 buys you 200 transactions at a cost of $50 per transaction. An 8 percent rate gives you 400 transactions at a cost of $25 per transaction. As conversion rate goes up, revenue rises while marketing costs as a percentage of sales fall – that’s leverage.” April 17, 2000: Can Napster Be Stopped? NO! (Link) Summary: Napster paved the way for the free digital music we enjoy today. Here’s how. The software leveraged each user’s computer files and shared music freely between PC devices, not the internet. Napster’s popularity grew, and within six months the software had 9 million users. It took AOL 12 years to get to that figure. There are two important lessons from Napster: 1) the power of community-building and 2) information wants to be free. Connect those two lessons and you have an incredible community-based business.  Favorite Quote: “Remember that the amount of bits it takes to represent high-quality audio is finite. Until the past few years, the amount of space on a hard drive, as well as the bandwidth required to transfer an MP3 file, was prohibitive for widespread usage. However, both bandwidth and storage space are susceptible to Moore’s Law. This means that within six years, the amount of drive space or bandwidth needed to trade high-quality music will be unnoticeably negligible. Emailing an entire album of music to a friend will be no different than forwarding a Microsoft Word document today.” May 15, 2000: A Return To Demand-Driven Capital (Link) Summary: There is a huge difference between demand-driven and supply-driven start-ups. Demand-driven start-ups see an area of the market where a need doesn’t have a solution. Then, they create a company to fill that need. Supply-driven start-ups conceive companies on the idea that one day consumers will need their solutions to problems that might not exist yet. The intellectual satisfaction of creating solutions is more appealing than bottom-fishing for long-standing consumer problems. At the end of the day, it’s better to start (and invest in) demand-driven businesses.   Favorite Quote (emphasis mine): “I suspect what’s at work is that Plato-esque idea that creation is much more intellectually appealing than combing the earth for steadfast problems to solve. But keep this in mind: Even a sexy Internet company like eBay was born of demand instead of supply. Founder Pierre Omidyar’s girlfriend wanted a place to trade Pez dispensers online. The company rose after the market voted. I suspect that entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike would be well-served to return to the boring, but perhaps more successful, world of demand-driven capitalism.” June 12, 2000: Like It Or Not, Every Startup Is Now Global (Link) Summary: The rising prevalence of start-up infrastructure overseas poses a threat to US-based start-up companies. US start-ups face two main threats: 1) imitation from overseas competitors and 2) expanding too quickly. Faced with growing competition, US companies might go global before establishing a solid footprint on their home turf. This has devastating consequences as they’ll burn more cash and lose focus on their core markets. There are three solutions: 1) Joint ventures, 2) acquisitions and 3) start-up your own global market. Favorite Quote: “Ironically, the same courage that leads a start-up to look overseas could cause failure if the company moves too quickly and aggressively or assumes it can get by without local partners. When considering such alternatives, it is important to keep one fact in mind: 50 percent of something is worth a lot more than 100 percent of nothing.” July 10, 2000: The End Of CPM (Link) Summary: Echoing Gurley’s 1998 article, 2000 saw the rise of performance-based advertising. The catalyst for such rapid adoption was the outflow of capital to money-losing internet companies. With tight budgets, companies needed ad campaigns that worked. The other catalyst is the proliferation of customer behavior data on company websites. Management can see exactly who is on their site, how long they stay, and if they convert.  Favorite Quote: “Of course, the biggest catalyst in the past 90 days has been the closing of the IPO market and the subsequent focus in the start-up world on profits and cost controls. This abrupt and refreshing change is a major accelerator that immediately tightens the belt of most Internet marketing departments and targets their spending on the most efficient forms of advertising they can find. Gone are the days when companies indiscriminately bought the “anchor tenancy” on the favorite portal just as a branding event.” February 19, 2001: The Next Big Thing: 802.11b? (Link) Summary: WiFi will revolutionize the way we conduct business and where we choose to interact online. While there are critics of the technology, there is no denying its potential to reach critical mass and spread nationwide. The real catalyst for WiFi’s adoption is the move from corporate offices to homes, then to public places like colleges.  Favorite Quote: “Like other dislocating technologies, Wi-Fi is now working its way from the office into the home. While home networks are still in their infancy, the benefits of a wireless architecture may be even higher than at the office. Who has the capability to rewire their whole house? And although less obvious, the interest in aesthetics at home heightens the benefit of not stringing wires halfway across the room. Also, as we integrate the home entertainment center with the PC, a wireless link is particularly appropriate. Lastly, what if I could carry my laptop home from work, lay it on the kitchen counter and be online instantly? You can today with Wi-Fi.” June 25, 2001: The Smartest Price War Ever (Link) Summary: Dell engaged in the smartest price war ever. Their business model, which focused on just-in-time inventory, resulted in positive cash-flows even under income statement compressions. Through five-day inventory, 59-day average payables and 30 days receivables, Dell generated a negative cash conversion cycle. This allowed them to cut prices while their competitors’ models couldn’t allow such maneuvers. Competitors were forced into a lose-lose situation (cut prices and lose margin or not participate and lose market share).  Favorite Quote: “Much has been written about Dell’s direct model, which removes the middleman, along with his margin, from the sales process. And others have noted that Dell’s incredible five days of inventory allow it to pass on component price declines faster than anyone else in the industry. But perhaps the unique aspect of Dell’s business advantage is its negative cash conversion cycle. Because it keeps only five days of inventories, manages receivables to 30 days, and pushes payables out to 59 days, the Dell model will generate cash—even if the company were to report no profit whatsoever.” August 13, 2001: Bye, Bye, Bluetooth (Link)  Summary: WiFi will eliminate the need for Bluetooth. In its simplest explanation, WiFi works for the internet model whereas Bluetooth works for walkie-talkies. That’s a huge difference. It also shows the power of companies that can quickly cut products/ideas that fail despite tremendous sunken-costs. Bluetooth was a three-year push designed to revolutionize the way computers and devices interacted. Then WiFi came along. Those that quit Bluetooth early not only had a head start on their stubborn competition, they also saved thousands in wasted R&D.  Favorite Quote: “Even without competition from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth would have major challenges. That’s because the very concept of a cable replacement like Bluetooth is flawed. In a world where every device is connected to a single network (read: Internet), there is no need to connect individual devices on an ad hoc basis. Consider this – a walkie-talkie is a device that supports communication directly between two nodes. A cell phone is a device that supports communications between “any” two nodes because they are all connected to a common network and they all have unique addresses. Blue-tooth is to a walkie-talkie whereas 802.11 connected to the Internet is more analogous to the cell-phone model.” October 1, 2001: Tapping The Internet (Link) Summary: After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, many government officials sprang forward, calling for increased surveillance and backdoors on many privacy networks. The main argument was that these terrorists had access to high level technology and software. The reality was less cinematic. Osama Bin Laden used Steganography to spread information amongst his followers. Unfortunately for senators, Steganography uses every day files like images to transmit messages. So it’s not as simple as allowing backdoor access to private channels.  Favorite Quote: “The government should not give up on computer surveillance. In fact, as a tool that is used to track down a particular offender after isolation and identification, these technologies can be extremely effective. However, we should not be unrealistic about what type of “magic” spy technologies are at our disposal. We are only going to spend a lot of money, waste a lot of time, and create a false sense of security.” October 29, 2001: When It Comes To Pricing Software, The Greener Grass Is Hard To Find (Link)  Summary: The internet allowed software companies to price their product as a subscription service (SaaS) right when companies were facing hardship. The SaaS model eliminates the high-dollar upfront sales pitch and allows the company to generate predictable revenue during the year. However, stretching revenues over months (not upfront) increases short-term operating losses. Those that can withstand the short-term negativity should reap the long-term rewards of the SaaS model.  Favorite Quote: “About this same time, the rise of the Internet gave birth to the idea of an ASP – a model where software would be delivered as a service over the web, and customers would “subscribe” to the software. Analysts raved at the genius of the idea. With this model, the customer would pay an incremental fee each month, therefore eliminating the “start from zero” sales game inherent in the software model. Assuming no loss of customers, the revenue from last quarter is already booked for this quarter – all new sales theoretically represent incremental growth.” April 3, 2002: It’s Time To Put A Stop To Spam (Link) Summary: Hackers and spammers always find a way to exploit new technology. Spammers were so bad in 2002 that Gurley had to write about it. The problem lies in time spent deleting spam messages. Time that should garner more productive activities like business. This creates incentives for start-ups to solve such problems. But, the biggest risk facing these spam software companies is a false positive. False positives could delete an email that was legit — potentially costing companies millions in lost revenues.  Favorite Quote: “Email is fast becoming the preferred communication medium for many corporations. Moreover, email is also the baseline for many new cross-company workflow applications. We simply cannot allow a bunch of Viagra ads to put a dent in the evolution of the global economy.” Years: 2003 – 2005 January 6, 2003: 802.11 & Cellular: Competitor Or Complement? (Link) Summary: Gurley explains that WiFi is to 3G as the personal computer was to the mainframe. By understanding the mainframe/personal computing industry, you could “see” the future of WiFi and cellular data. No-one envisioned personal computers operating hundreds of websites or ERP systems. Yet technologists built products on top of the standardized mainframe. WiFi is no different. At the time, a ~$30 WiFi radio and a Pringles can could get you high-speed connectivity at a 10 mile distance. To Gurley, WiFi and cellular data are complementary. Like chips and salsa, with WiFi stealing incremental market opportunities over time.  Favorite Quote: “This exact thing is currently happening with 802.11. This tiny, and increasingly inexpensive radio is already shockingly versatile. The same $30 radio can be used to serve wireless connectivity in your office, connect both you PCs and your multimedia in your home, and provide coverage to a police force across an entire downtown area. Add a Pringles can as a directional antenna (no kidding!), and this $30 radio is capable of providing high-speed line-of-sight connectivity at a distance of 10 miles. In fact, the majority of the volume in the line-of-sight fixed wireless market has shifted almost entirely to low-cost 802.11 radios.” February 10, 2003: Software In A Box: The Comeback Of The Hardware Based Business Model (Link) Summary: Software companies might pitch their product inside a hardware offering, going against conventional Silicon-Valley logic. Gurley notes that while pure software businesses generate higher margins with lower capital intensity, it comes at a cost: software-only business models are harder to execute. Gurley saw the software-in-a-box path as the easier option because it addressed seven key issues:  Development complexity/Quality Assurance Performance Security Provisioning Reliability/Stability/Customer Service Pricing Distribution Favorite Quote: “There is a silver lining. The industry has changed in ways that improve the “business model” elements of selling hardware. The key driver is the standardization and general availability of hardware components, particularly those used in generic Intel-based 1U servers. As a result, the hardware is not a proprietary design, but rather a type of packaging. Think of it as an alternative to a cardboard box.” March 18, 2003: Pay Attention To BPM (Link) Summary: Business Process Management, or BPM, will change all of business. Gurley was so excited about BPM because it solved four main sticking points in an enterprise’s day-to-day process:  Codifying current processes Automating execution Monitoring current performance Making on-the-fly changes to improve current processes For the first time, employees could “hand off” applications to other employees inside the firm. This allowed for faster improvement and implementation of better processes throughout the organization.  Favorite Quote: “Of course, the real winners here will be customers that embrace BPM to further automate, enhance, streamline, and optimize their core business processes. These processes are the core intellectual property of most businesses. And just as the level of competition in manufacturing increased with JIT, the level of competition with respect to non-manufacturing business processes will increase with BPM. Companies that lead will succeed.” April 23, 2003: Dot-Com Double Take (Link) Summary: Many investors threw all “Internet Based” businesses out with the bathwater during the Dot-Com bubble. According to Gurley, that was clearly the wrong approach. Underneath the grime of pump-and-dump schemes, the Dot-com Bubble created durable, profitable businesses (like AMZN, GOOGL, Verisign, etc.).  Gurley saw four reasons why these left-for-dead Internet companies worked:  They weren’t bad ideas. Rationality set in first.  Quick capacity reduction.  Internet usage growth is systematic, not cyclical.  Favorite Quote: “Consumer spending may be down 5%, but online spending is still such a small percentage of overall consumer spending that growth results from the continued increase in online usage. With IT expenditures already at 50% of corporate capital expenditures, the opposite is true for traditional information technology spending.” June 10, 2003: In Search Of The Perfect Business Model: Increasing Marginal Utility (Link) Summary: Increased marginal utility (IMU) is the holy grail of capitalism. It’s also easier than ever to attempt IMU in our internet-based world. IMU means that for each incremental time a customer uses your product/service, they receive more value than the previous time they used it. You don’t need switching costs in an increasing marginal utility ecosystem. Why? Because switching costs lock in a customer in an “I win, you lose” scenario. In an IMU world, the customer feels left out if they don’t use your product or service. The goal: find companies that produce increased marginal utility for their customers.  Favorite Quote: “This may be the nirvana of capitalism – increased marginal customer utility. Imagine the customer finding more value with each incremental use. Some may suggest that this concept already exists in the form of volume discounts. However, this offers a vendor no real competitive advantage, as all of its competitors are likely to offer the same discount to large purchasers. Others may feel this is just a buffed-up version of “high switching costs.” On the contrary, increased marginal customer utility preempts the need to impose switching costs, which can be seen as “trapping” or “tricking” the customer. Instead, the customer who abandons increasing marginal customer utility would experience ‘switching loss.’” July 16, 2003: The Comeback Of The Mobile Internet (Link)  Summary: Mobile internet flourished thanks to the growth in cell phones. With cell phones, billions of people could access the internet, purchase items, and engage in content. In fact, cell phones will dominate the war against PCs. There are a few reasons Gurley believes this claim. First, cell phones are everywhere. Billions of people have them. Second, they’re portable, allowing users to kill time on apps and games. Third, people are more likely to purchase over the internet on their phones. Finally, IP addresses make it easy for billions of users to connect simultaneously.  Favorite Quote: “While a more carrier-friendly split may be good for the carrier’s bottom line, it could drive content providers to more generous carriers, rendering the greedy carriers’ offerings less attractive to users. Interestingly, one of the most successful content platforms, Japan’s DoCoMo service, is built around an extremely generous 91%-9% split, which is more favorable than all U.S. and European carriers’ current deals. The carriers are all walking a fine line between driving revenues and creating a viable ecosystem to encourage publishers to invest in content.” August 23, 2003: Much Ado About Options (Link) Summary: People worry too much about stock options and their impact on bottom-line earnings. Yes, there are certain instances where stock options balloon to large percentages of pre-tax earnings. But those are few and far between. Also, it doesn’t really matter whether a company grants options or restricted stock. Both offer employees skin in the game, and both cost the company roughly equal equity. That said, restricted stock incentivizes value retention. Whereas options incentivize value creation.  Favorite Quote: “In addition, restricted stock grants could encourage a form of widespread corporate conservatism. If an executive is granted $2MM worth of stock, he or she might have incentive to help increase the price to say $2.3MM, or 15%. That said, the incremental $300K is peanuts when it comes to protecting the value of the $2MM already on the table. There is a huge difference between corporate sustainability and corporate value creation. GM traded at $38 per share in 1994, and since it is $38 per share today, it has “sustained” value for the past nine years. Is this the type of behavior we hope to encourage?” October 7, 2003: Beware The Digital Hand (Link)  Summary: Digitization is great for consumers, but awful for consumer electronics producers. Semiconductors make electronics faster, cheaper and more powerful. Who reaps the rewards? The semiconductor industry. That’s where differentiation happens. Consumer electronics (CE) companies commoditize, forced to differentiate another way: supply chain. The CE leaders will be the ones with the shortest distance between their product and the customer.  Favorite Quote: “Digitization is creeping its way across the entire consumer electronics industry, as we slowly remove analog media and components from our lives. While this is good news for consumers who benefit from the low prices that the digital hand ensures, the quid pro quo for businesses is brutal competition.” December 18, 2003: Cleaning Up After The Ninth Circuit In An Attempt To Save The Internet (Link)  Summary: A regulated internet disproportionately hurts these four groups: consumers, IT businesses, American competitiveness, and RBOCs. Regulation hurts consumers in the form of higher prices to compensate for increased taxes. IT businesses hurt because if you slow the speed of internet adoption, you remove the runway for the IT industry. This translates into competitiveness issues as places like South Korea see 60%+ internet adoption. Finally, RBOC’s hurt because it would be a repeat of DSL regulations, which slashed growth and prompted the switch to cable modems.  Favorite Quote: “We should all know by now that rather than increasing competition, regulation typically reinforces monopolies and oligopolies. Startups will not and cannot prevail in heavily regulated industries. They lack the required resources and capital to manage fifty different utility commissions on a hundred different regulatory issues. For this same reason, you will never see a startup deliver an automobile in the U.S. as the regulatory red tape swamps all efforts. Increased regulation will do nothing more than ensure that new competitors and innovative solutions are permanently locked out of the market.” * * * That’s about where Substack cuts us off! Stay tuned next week for the next part of our Bill Gurley Chronicles Series! Tyler Durden Sun, 06/12/2022 - 15:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJun 12th, 2022

Staying Ahead of the Change

Dean A. deTonnancourt President and CEO HomeSmart Professionals Real Estate Warwick, Rhode Island homesmart.com/real-estate-office/rhode-island/warwick/33-homesmart-professionals-real-estate Region served: Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut Years in real estate: 33 Number of offices: 3 Number of agents: 240 Who has most influenced your success? Prior to owning my own brokerages, I was fortunate to be affiliated with incredibly respected… The post Staying Ahead of the Change appeared first on RISMedia. Dean A. deTonnancourt President and CEO HomeSmart Professionals Real Estate Warwick, Rhode Island homesmart.com/real-estate-office/rhode-island/warwick/33-homesmart-professionals-real-estate Region served: Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut Years in real estate: 33 Number of offices: 3 Number of agents: 240 Who has most influenced your success? Prior to owning my own brokerages, I was fortunate to be affiliated with incredibly respected brokers who encouraged me to not only seek opportunity, but to create the determination needed to act upon it. What do you like most about the region in which you work?  Born and raised in Rhode Island, I appreciate the four seasons that we enjoy here in New England. With almost 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island offers fantastic purchase opportunities for primary and second-home buyers alike. Even if someone doesn’t wish to live near the water, most water access points can be enjoyed within a 30 minute drive. What major changes have you witnessed over the course of your real estate career?  Involvement in the industry has afforded me the opportunity to not only witness change, but direct that change. With 33 years of experience, client representation has evolved significantly since I got my license, including the inception and evolution of buyer representation. Through participation in the National Association of REALTORS®’ Board of Directors, I have been part of national conversations surrounding our REALTOR® Code of Ethics as it relates to fair housing as well as protections for practitioners. An early adopter of the team concept, I was engaged in the evolution of local laws surrounding best practices in ensuring consumer protection while encouraging and supporting the professional growth of team practitioners. I encourage all REALTORS® to become involved locally, statewide and/or nationally, and to be the change they wish to see in this industry. What is your top strategy for closing a transaction?  Representing the best interests of the client and ensuring proper communication between all parties will always be a minimum standard in ensuring a successful closing. How does being affiliated with HomeSmart allow you to stay ahead of the competition?  At HomeSmart Professionals, we recognize our associates as business partners who are all working within a collaborative environment built upon a foundation of mutual respect and support. This collaboration and support—along with technology, tools and education—ultimately leads to unlimited success in the marketplace. In a technology-driven marketplace, our associates need as many tech advantages as possible in order to ensure individual success, and HomeSmart’s emphasis on cutting-edge technology is a true advantage for our agents. Having opened our doors in 2014, we’re proud to have been HomeSmart International’s first East Coast location. How does your company encourage individual growth within the brokerage?  Our associates make our company what it is today. Not only are we recognized as a company for sales success in the marketplace, but our associates are also highly regarded by both the consumer and their REALTOR® colleagues. Our mission statement, “To empower our business family to succeed both personally and professionally,” is not simply a tagline, but rather, a belief system. We recognize our associates’ accomplishments at every opportunity and provide the tools, education and overall support needed to thrive in an ever-evolving industry. For more information, visit www.homesmart.com. The post Staying Ahead of the Change appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaJun 9th, 2022