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The Trump trade team plans to keep $360 billion worth of China tariffs in place despite phase-one deal

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 4:10pm

  • The Trump administration has no current plans to lift the more than $360 billion worth of tariffs it has levied against China since 2018.
  • "There is no agreement for future reduction in tariffs," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a joint statement to Business Insider.
  • The two sides are expected to sign an interim trade agreement on Wednesday. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage here.

The Trump administration has no current plans to lift the more than $360 billion worth of tariffs it has levied against China since 2018, despite an interim trade agreement that was expected to ease tensions between the two sides. 

"There are no other oral or written agreements between the United States and China on these matters, and there is no agreement for future reduction in tariffs," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a joint statement to Business Insider. "Any rumors to the contrary are categorically false."

The joint statement was first given to Bloomberg, which earlier reported that tariffs wouldn't be removed before the presidential election in November. The US could lower some tariffs after that point if China was found to be compliant with terms of the so-called phase-one agreement announced in October. 

The White House, Treasury, and USTR declined to confirm whether a review has been set for the fall. 

As part of the phase-one agreement, China said it would tighten intellectual property rules, increase agricultural purchases and open up its financial sector. 

In return, the Trump administration agreed to cut a 15% tariff rate in half for $110 billion worth of products targeted in September and delay planned escalations. The tariff rates of other tranches, with a total trade value of roughly $250 billion, will remain the same.

Mnuchin and Lighthizer said details of the phase-one trade agreement would be made public when the US and China sign the text at the White House on Wednesday. The only component of the agreement that won't be made public is a confidential annex with specific purchase amounts, they said, because it could influence market behavior.

Trade negotiators plan to begin efforts to reach a broader economic de-escalation immediately after the first stage is signed. But President Donald Trump has said he may prefer to wait until after the presidential election to finalize phase two, which could address thornier issues such as the large-scale subsidies China offers its companies. 

SEE ALSO: A cyberattack on a major US financial institution would affect more than a third of bank assets, New York Fed warns

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Your state tax refund may take longer to hit your bank account than your federal refund — here's how to find out when it's coming

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 3:47pm

  • You can file taxes as early as January 27, as long as you have all the required forms.
  • If you e-file and choose direct deposit, your federal tax refund should appear in your account within 21 days.
  • States that tax income also issue refunds, which may take longer to arrive. You can track your state tax refund on your state's government website.
  • Filers typically need two numbers to check the status of a refund: a Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), and the exact refund amount.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

The sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you'll get your refund if you're owed one.

While the IRS is pretty quick about processing tax returns and paying out refunds — if you e-file and choose direct deposit, you'll most likely see the money in your account within 21 days — each state handles taxes differently.

Tax-return processing times vary among states, and refunds can be issued any time between a few days and a few months after submitting your return.

Although federal and state tax refunds are issued separately, you can easily file your tax returns at the same time if you file electronically. The IRS Free File Lookup tool can help you find free online tax-filing options for those who qualify.

Forty US states and Washington, DC, impose either a flat or progressive income tax. Residents who have too much money withheld from their paychecks for taxes throughout the year are eligible for a tax refund, as is the case with federal taxes.

In order to track your state tax refund, you'll probably need at least two things: a Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), and your exact refund amount. Some states also ask for your date of birth, filing status, ZIP code, and the year of your return.

If you aren't quite ready to file yet, you can still find out how much you'll be refunded from the federal government and your state government. As soon as you have your W-2 or 1099 forms from every employer you had in 2019, you can estimate your tax refund (or tax bill, if you underpaid in taxes) with the help of an online tax preparer. H&R Block's refund tool takes just a few minutes to complete and you don't have to sign up for an account or pay for anything up front.

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Thousands of angry Indians are planning to disrupt a visit from Jeff Bezos by staging mass protests over Amazon's disruption of retail (AMZN)

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 1:46am

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is due to visit India this week to meet government officials and hold a huge Amazon event.
  • But many retailers in India who are being disrupted by Amazon want to make their displeasure felt.
  • A large Indian lobby group for retailers says it is rallying as many as 500,000 people to protest.
  • Visit Business Insiders home page for more stories.

Thousands — potentially hundreds of thousands — of Indian small-business people are planning to give Jeff Bezos an unpleasant welcome on an impending visit to the country.

Members of the a leading Indian small business group, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), say they will mobilize between 100,000 and 500,000 people to protest against the Amazon CEO.

Praveen Khandelwal, CAIT's secretary general, described his protest plans to Reuters and Bloomberg, saying that he expects people to demonstrate in as many as 300 cities around India.

The demonstrations are planned to hit on Wednesday, the same day Bezos is expected to attend a stadium-sized summit for small businesses being staged by Amazon in the capital, New Dehli.

CAIT members object to Amazon's efforts to expand into the Indian retail sector, which is dominated outside of cities by small players.

They say Amazon, worth close to $1 trillion, is using its economic muscle to offer deep discounts that smaller members cannot compete with.

Taking a nationalist tone, CAIT National Secretary Sumit Agarwal said on Twitter that his group "will fight this battle against foreign economic terrorists & invaders till the very end."

Enough of tolerance! @TEAMCAIT @AimraIndia will fight this battle against foreign economic terrorists & invaders till the very end and bring back peace & prosperity for our 70 million retailers. @narendramodi @rajnathsingh @PiyushGoyal @nsitharaman It’s now time for action!

— SUMIT AGARWAL (@sumitagarwal_82) January 12, 2020

Agarwal also posted protest imagery marked "Jeff Bezos Go Back!" It showed Bezos' face being crossed out, next to a backdrop of protesters.

@narendramodi @PMOIndia @rajnathsingh @AmitShah @PiyushGoyal @HardeepSPuri @smritiirani @nsitharaman @PrakashJavdekar @gopalkagarwal @nitin_gadkari @praveendel @BJP4India @amitabhk87 @TEAMCAIT @rsprasad @JPNadda @blsanthosh @Dippgoi @CimGOI @ArvindKejriwal @RSSorg #GOBACKBEZOS

— SUMIT AGARWAL (@sumitagarwal_82) January 13, 2020

According to India's CNBC-TV18 news network, citing unnamed sources who know the itinerary, Bezos is due to arrive in India on Wednesday, January 15.

The network says he will attend Smbhav, a summit run by Amazon for small businesspeople.

The event, at New Dehli's JLN sports stadium, features speakers including Amazon's top Indian executives as well as senior figures from firms like Google, Visa, HSBC, and Unilever.

Bezos is not listed as a speaker, but both CNBC-TV18 and Bloomberg reported that he would attend.

He is also said to be seeking a meeting with Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister, and to make an appearance at a celebrity event for Amazon's Prime Video service.

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Boeing's new CEO will get a $7 million payout if he successfully gets the troubled 737 Max flying again

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 1:31am

  • Boeing's new CEO David Calhoun took over the leadership position on Monday, after his predecessor Dennis Muilenburg was ousted over his handling of two fatal crashes involving the company's 737 Max aircraft. 
  • Calhoun stands to gain a bonus that is five times the rate of his base salary if he can ensure the 737 Max returns to service.
  • Returning the plane to service will be a challenging task, considering the plane has been grounded since March and has tarnished the company's safety reputation. 
  • Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.

Boeing's new CEO David Calhoun took over the leadership position on Monday, replacing former CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Calhoun is tasked with reviving the company's reputation, following two fatal crashes involving the company's newest aircraft the Boeing 737 Max jet.

But if Calhoun can manage to lift the troubled company up — specifically, ensuring a return to service for its best-selling 737 Max — he could stand to gain a bonus that is five times the rate of his base salary. 

Calhoun's pay package was disclosed by Boeing in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday evening. According to the filing, Calhoun will receive a base salary at an annual rate of $1.4 million. In addition, he is eligible to receive several bonuses, including at least $2.5 million as a guaranteed cash bonus, and a $7 million payout for the "full safe return to service" of the Max plane. 

And although Calhoun is referred to as a "turnaround specialist" within his industry, returning the plane to service will be a challenging task, considering the plane has been grounded since March after faulty software led to the deaths of a combined 346 people within a five-month period. The plane thus far has no firm return date and the company has stopped building new ones.

Two members of Congress investigating the 737 Max crisis recently accused Boeing of "deliberate concealment" of the aircraft's troubled new software, and last week the company was dealt another blow after damning internal emails released by Boeing to Congress revealed that employees within the company mocked the Federal Aviation Administration and discussed security concerns related to the 737 Max. 

"This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys," one employee wrote in an instant message," one employee wrote in a message about the 737 Max.

Payout conditions for Muilenburg, who lost his job for poor handling of the fatal crashes, were also detailed in the filing. And although Boeing stripped him of his bonus, any severance pay, and other incentives worth nearly $15 million, Muilenburg was given a payout package worth $62 million made up of Boeing stock, pension payments, and other deferred contributions.

The financial packages of both men were disclosed on the same day that Spirit AeroSystems, a Kansas-based manufacturer which received a significant portion of its revenue from the embattled 737 Max, announced layoffs for 2,800 workers at its Wichita facility.

Still, Calhoun remains confident that he was up to the task of reviving the 737 Max. In an email to employees on Monday, Calhoun said that the 737 Max's safe return was a "primary focus."

"We'll get it done, and we'll get it done right," he wrote.

SEE ALSO: Boeing's fired CEO got his $62 million payout confirmed the same day 2,800 people in the 737 Max supply chain were laid off

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Trump reportedly plans to divert more money from the US military to pay for the border wall

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 10:33pm

  • The Trump administration is preparing to divert $7.2 billion from the Pentagon's budget to fund the president's US-Mexico border wall this year, according to a Washington Post report published Monday.
  • The reported figure is five times greater than $1.4 billion Congress allotted for the project in the 2019 and 2020 federal budget.
  • The new plan suggests the administration will increase the amount taken from military construction projects to $3.7 billion.
  • According to the plan, the administration is also preparing to divert $3.5 billion from the military's counter-drug operations, which is $1 billion more than it took in 2019.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration is preparing to divert $7.2 billion from the Pentagon's budget to fund the president's US-Mexico border wall this year, according to a Washington Post report published Monday.

The reported figure is five times greater than $1.4 billion Congress allotted for the project in the 2019 and 2020 federal budget. The White House initially demanded $5 billion for the construction project in 2018, before it acquiesced to the lower figure from Democrats amid the longest-ever federal government shutdown.

If the tentative plan follows through, it would mark the second time that the administration siphoned funds from the Defense Department to pay for the project. The funds will reportedly be used to pay for 885 miles of fencing by 2022, far more than the roughly 100 miles of new barriers on the southern border.

Around $3.6 billion was redirected from military construction projects to pay for the border barrier last year, after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. Trump justified the construction of the wall after claiming the country was being flooded "with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs" across the southern border.

The new plan suggests the administration will increase the amount taken from military construction projects to $3.7 billion this year.

According to the plans, the administration is also preparing to divert $3.5 billion from the military's counter-drug operations, which is $1 billion more than it took in 2019.

The Defense Department referred inquiries on the matter to the White House. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on Monday evening.

The report comes days after the White House scored a crucial victory on Thursday. The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower-court's injunction that prevented the administration from spending the diverted $3.6 billion to pay for the border project.

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This startup founder requires investors to disclose whether they have a history of sexual harassment before investing, in an act that her investors say is a 'no brainer'

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 8:59pm

  • Startup founder Elizabeth Giorgi is hoping to trigger a chain reaction in startup due diligence by requiring potential investors to disclose all allegations of gender discrimination or sexual harassment in the company's fundraising documents. 
  • The CEO of the Denver-based Soona asked her lawyers draw up the requirement, dubbed the 'candor clause,' after a potential investor sent Giorgi unsolicited nudes. But she hopes other founders will use the open-source legal disclosure to also protect themselves. 
  • In an industry that has drawn scrutiny for longstanding gender discrimination and sexual harassment, Giorgi says that the clause has rapidly accelerated the pace of trust building with investors.
  • Investors in Giorgi's company also supported the clause, with one investor telling Business Insider that including such a provision was a "no brainer." 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Like many tech startups, Elizabeth Giorgi's media production firm recently raised venture capital funding. But before the funding deal closed, investors in Giorgi's startup had to fill out a special document disclosing any allegations of gender discrimination or sexual harassment. 

The so-called "candor clause" is something that Giorgi's startup, Soona, requires of all potential investors. It's similar to the criminal background disclosure that some employers put on job applications. But in the male-dominated world of venture capital, where the investor typically has the bargaining power, the candor clause is a bold step for a startup seeking money.

The effort was born out of need to better vet company investors, Giorgi told Business Insider. Several bad experiences in front of male investors - including one sending her unsolicited naked photos after expressing interest in her company - left the Denver-based CEO feeling the need to come up with a more comprehensive due diligence process. 

"What if we made this effort to do due diligence on investors? That was really how this was born," Giorgi said. After "multiple conversations and iterations" with Soona's lawyers, the candor clause came into being. 

Silicon Valley and the venture capital industry in particular, have drawn a great deal of scrutiny for an entrenched culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And while tech investors are increasingly including #MeToo clauses in deals with startups, as the Financial Times reported back in March 2019, Giorgi says it is more uncommon for founders to ask the same types of diligence questions from its investors. 

"It's not uncommon for investors to be able to ask us a lot of questions, but it's really unusual for a founder to ask about the background of an investor," Giorgi said. "We want to work with these people but we want to ask them to do the same kinds of diligence questions." 

To help founders address the power imbalance between founders and investors, Giorgi's candor clause is available online. And she says that both male and female founders have adopted the clause. At least 45 founders have reached out to say they included similar language in their fundraising documents, Giorgi said. 

Investor response

So far, Soona has secured about $1.5 million in funding from her investors, who have all included the candor clause in their contracts with the company. That was a relief to Giorgi, who said that she was initially very nervous telling investors about the new requirement. 

"I just felt like that this is going to be a scary conversation," Giorgi said. "I really hoped that this isn't gonna be a dealbreaker." 

2048 Ventures, which led a $1.2 million seed round for Soona, said that was very much not the case. Managing Partner Alex Iskold said that when Giorgi first told him about the clause, it immediately seemed like a "no brainer," and compared disclosing allegations of sexual harassment to disclosing a criminal record. 

"I thought it was a great idea, a no-brainer on my part," he said. "It's very clear to me that it makes a lot of sense to have in the document if both parties want that ... Just like you represent you're not a thief or criminal, that kind of disclosure can be really helpful." 

In fact, in an industry that has drawn scrutiny for gender discrimination and sexual harassment, Giorgi says that the clause has reaped advantages beyond just protecting founders.

"I think the candor clause has rapidly accelerated the pace of trust building and collaboration that I've been able to have with my investors," Giorgi said, citing an "ability to have really honest dialogue together," as a key reason. 

SEE ALSO: A private equity firm explains why it's spending $5 billion to acquire Veeam, a cloud software startup last valued at $1 billion

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Verily just presented for the first time at JPMorgan's big health conference. Here's how the CEO of Alphabet's life sciences firm laid out the unusual business to top investors.

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 8:37pm

When Verily CEO Andy Conrad was looking to hire someone to run clinical trials, he turned to Google. 

Typing the question "Who's running the biggest trial" led him to Jessica Mega, now Verily's chief medical officer, who leads the company's 10,000-person Project Baseline study.

Verily is Alphabet's life sciences company, making it a sister firm to Google, and Mega wasn't the only result of Google searching, Conrad told an audience of investors on Monday.

He was speaking in the company's first-ever presentation on the stage at the biggest healthcare conference of the year, the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Conrad told the investors he also used a Google search to find its partner Dexcom. Dexcom makes equipment for people with diabetes, and is working with Verily on a continuous glucose monitor.

Verily is involved in efforts such as robotics and addiction treatment

Verily has its hands in projects spanning robotics to blood-sugar-tracking devices to work on addiction treatment. It's struck up relationships with pharmaceutical companies to launch joint ventures such as diabetes-focused Onduo. Often, the work can seem like a collection of random projects. 

"Sometimes if you just read some of the press, it seems like we're doing a bunch of disparate projects, but that's not true," Conrad said. 

Conrad used the presentation as a chance to explain Verily's strategy. He also highlighted a recent hire, former Tesla chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja, who took Tesla public. Ahuja is now Verily's CFO.

He laid out Verily's three businesses: care solutions, like its work managing diabetes via Onduo; research solutions, in which Verily partners with hospitals and pharmaceutical organizations in how they conduct clinical trials; and innovation solutions, which is meant to fill in gaps found through the first two businesses.

Verily is focused on collecting and organizing data, then putting it to use

Through those businesses, Verily works to collect data, organize it, and use that to drive changes in behavior to help make people healthier. 

In the presentation, Conrad outlined data on how Onduo's working that was published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology in December. Verily was able to show that a virtual program incorporating blood sugar readings, taking pictures of food, and lifestyle monitoring, is helping people living with type 2 diabetes. 

Verily spun out of Google's Google X division as part of the creation of Alphabet in 2015.  The company has taken in $1.8 billion in outside investments. In 2019, it raised a $1 billion round from Silver Lake. And in 2017, the company raised $800 million from Singaporean investment firm Temasek. 

Read more: Here's everything we know about the patient search tool Google is building for doctors — and the internal documents that reveal what it's like to use in its early days

"They teach us how to behave like a business, not like a hobby," Conrad said. "They're mean and sometimes kind, but they're certainly thoughtful about an investment at that scale." 

Read more: A top hospital consultant just laid out what Google could do in healthcare over the next 5 years, from creating a medical-records system to helping form a more functional health system

Conrad finished the presentation discussing the company's approach to partnerships. Verily set up its relationships to hit certain milestones, through joint ventures, and by directly monetizing the products that come out of the partnership. 

"We are never doing any work for any of those partners in a fee for service basis," Conrad said. "We're never doing any of it just contractually." 

So far, the company has 32 partnerships, up from three the year it officially spun out. 

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Visa is set to acquire startup Plaid for $5.3 billion, but the payment giant's CEO hinted at the need to address 'concerns' Wall Street has about the buzzy fintech

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 7:57pm

  • Visa is set to pay $5.3 billion for Plaid, the buzzy startup that links fintechs with their customers' bank accounts.
  • On a call announcing the news Monday, Al Kelly, Visa's chairman and CEO, acknowledged some financial firms "would prefer Plaid operate differently in some cases."
  • He went on to say, "We intend to address those concerns."
  • Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase announced fintechs would need to access customer accounts via tokens as opposed to using their passwords, as first reported by the Financial Times, requiring startups like Yodlee and Plaid to adjust how they operate. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Visa is set to acquire one of the hottest fintechs on Wall Street, but the hardest work might still be ahead of it.

On Monday the payments giant announced it plans to buy Plaid for $5.3 billion. The startup serves as the connective glue between financial apps like Robinhood and Credit Karma and customers' bank accounts. Through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) the San Francisco-based fintech links the two sides, allowing financial data to flow between them.

Over 11,000 bank and financial services companies and more than 2,600 fintech developers use Plaid. The startup touches one in four people with a US bank account.

However, while speaking on a webcast announcing the deal, Visa chairman and CEO Al Kelly acknowledged the potential for the need to make changes to Plaid as a result of issues raised by some market participants. 

"We know there are financial institutions who would prefer Plaid operate differently in some cases, and we intend to address those concerns while not diminishing the value for developers, leveraging our global experience balancing a two-sided network," Kelly said.

Kelly did not elaborate on where Visa would potentially look to make changes. Visa declined to comment.

"Plaid has worked with thousands of banks to enable that freedom both securely and safely," said Sima Gandhi, head of business development and strategy for Plaid, via email. "Joining Visa will allow us to utilize their long history of working with financial institutions to deliver even stronger bank integrations that connect consumers with the apps they rely on across many more markets."

Earlier this year Plaid was among a group of fintechs that came into the spotlight regarding data security. JPMorgan Chase recently announced limitations around the data fintechs could use when interacting with customers' bank accounts, as first reported by the Financial Times. Instead, the bank would issue tokens, which it felt was more secure. 

At the time, Yodlee, a competitor of Plaid, agreed to use the tokens for all transactions with Chase. Plaid had also come to an agreement with the bank. 

Gordon Smith, co-president of JPMorgan Chase and CEO of consumer and community banking, was quoted supporting Visa's acquisition of Plaid in the release announcing the news Monday, while again stressing the importance of data security. 

"We believe Visa's acquisition of Plaid is an important development in giving consumers more security and control over how their financial data is used," Smith said. "Protecting customer data and helping them share that information safely has long been a top priority for Chase. We look forward to partnering with Visa to continue building a great experience for our shared customers."

Kelly's comments highlight the challenges that sometimes arise when looking to integrate a startup into an established player — particularly in the fast-changing and increasingly overlapping world of payments and e-commerce. 

In November, PayPal announced plans to buy rewards platform Honey for $4 billion, making it the largest acquisition in the company's history. 

But a month later Amazon, which does not directly accept PayPal for purchases, began issuing warnings on its site to customers to deactivate the browser extension, labeling it a "security risk" that collects and analyzed customer data. A Honey spokeswoman told Wired that Honey has never been a security risk. 

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SoftBank and Zume had letter of intent in December for a funding deal that never happened, leaving the pizza tech startup no choice but to cut hundreds of jobs and give up on robots

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 5:56pm

A SoftBank deal to invest a new round of funding in troubled robotics pizza startup Zume was scuttled in December, the latest example of the Japanese tech conglomerate's changing appetite for ambitious but money-losing Silicon Valley tech startups.

Zume and SoftBank had a letter of intent for equity financing when the deal was scrapped last month, according to an internal memo reviewed by Business Insider.

The memo does not specify why the deal fell through, or the financial terms of the deal. But the memo describes the loss of the deal as having precipitated the cost-cutting measures — which includes hundreds of layoffs — and the sharp strategy shift Zume announced last week. In its new strategy, Zume is abandoning its robotics efforts to focus entirely on the sustainable packaging business. 

The cancelled deal with Zume is the latest in a series of nixed funding deals by SoftBank and its $100 billion VisionFund in the wake of the implosion of WeWork, one of SoftBank's biggest bets. According to an Axios report from Dan Primack earlier this month, SoftBank has recently walked away from several other investments in startups that it had submitted term sheets to — including Honor, Seismic, and Creator — throwing its ambitious Vision Fund and its wide range of cash-burning portfolio companies into uncertain territory.

Zume was reported in November to be in talks with SoftBank for a funding round that would have valued the startup at $4 billion, a significant step up from the $1 billion valuation it fetched a year earlier, according to a report in Recode at the time.

SoftBank previously backed Zume to the tune of $375 million in funding in 2018. The memo reviewed by Business Insider stated that without the additional funding from SoftBank, Zume had about $150 million on hand from its 2018 funding. 

Representatives from Zume and SoftBank declined to comment. 

Zume is pivoting its entire business to a product it acquired seven months ago

Zume announced on Wednesday that 360 employees would be laid off across its San Francisco, Seattle, and Mountain View offices due to a shifting business strategy. That strategy change included shutting down Zume Pizza, the robotics division, in favor of growing the packaging business. Several sources attributed the abrupt change and layoffs to the lack of funding and subsequently high burn rate over the past year. One source said that the burn rate was cut in half after the layoffs, but declined to specify the exact amount.

Another source with knowledge of the original SoftBank deal told Business Insider that the Japanese fund pushed hard for Zume to pursue "global domination," far beyond cofounder and CEO Alex Garden's ambition to unseat traditional pizza chains like Domino's. The added pressure pushed Zume to adopt aggressive business strategies that are uncommon for young startups. 

One of those strategies included pursuing high-profile acquisitions of other startups, something the source said was unusual for a venture-backed startup. Zume's renewed focus on sustainable packaging, for instance, is the result of its acquisition of Pivot Packaging for an undisclosed amount in June. Zume partnered with Pivot Packaging to develop its "pizza pod" that is currently being used in a pilot program at a Pizza Hut location in Arizona before acquiring the company.

Multiple sources told Business Insider that Garden convened remaining employees on Friday to discuss the future of the company at an all-hands meeting streamed from its Mountain View headquarters. There, he reemphasized the focus on packaging as the company's best chance for profitability. 

He did not address previous goals that Zume would replace upwards of 1 billion styrofoam and plastic containers by 2020. 

Do you work at Zume or another SoftBank-backed startup and want to share your story? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (331) 625-2555 using a nonwork phone, email at, or Twitter DM at @megan_hernbroth.

SEE ALSO: Inside a chaotic week at Zume: Surprise layoffs, mishandled all-hands meetings, and an eerily quiet CEO

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Visa set to buy Plaid, the fintech that powers apps like Betterment and Venmo, for $5.3 billion

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 5:23pm

  • Visa announced on Monday it has agreed to buy fintech startup Plaid for $5.3 billion.
  • Plaid raised $250 million in a Series C in December 2018, which Visa participated in, at a reported valuation of $2.65 billion.
  • Visa CEO and chairman Al Kelly said in a statement that the deal "will position Visa to deliver even more value for developers, financial institutions and consumers."

Payments giant Visa announced on Monday it has agreed to buy fintech startup Plaid for $5.3 billion. 

Plaid serves as the link between financial apps such as Betterment and Venmo and customers' bank accounts. The company uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to share data between both two sides. 

In December 2018 the buzzy startup raised $250 million in a Series C that Visa participated in and valued it at $2.65 billion, according to TechCrunch

In January 2019, Plaid acquired competitor Quovo for an undisclosed amount. 

"We are extremely excited about our acquisition of Plaid and how it enhances the growth trajectory of our business," said Al Kelly, CEO and chairman of Visa, in a statement. "Plaid is a leader in the fast growing fintech world with best-in-class capabilities and talent. The acquisition, combined with our many fintech efforts already underway, will position Visa to deliver even more value for developers, financial institutions and consumers."

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NOW WATCH: WeWork went from a $47 billion valuation to a failed IPO. Here's how the company makes money.

Grocery giant Albertsons is reportedly preparing to go public after failing multiple times in the past

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:46pm

  • Albertsons is preparing to go public again, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The company will decide in coming weeks whether or not it will proceed.
  • An IPO could value the grocer around $19 billion, The Journal reported. It would also provide private-equity investor Cerberus Capital Management with an exit strategy. 
  • The grocery chain attempted to IPO in 2015, but pulled the offering amid a lackluster market for retail stocks. It also tried to go public through a deal with Rite Aid in 2018. The deal was abandoned due to investor pushback. 
  • Read more on Business Insider.

Albertsons, the grocery giant that also owns Safeway and Jewel-Osco, is preparing to go public again, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday citing people familiar with the matter. 

The company has been updating initial-public-offering documents that have been confidentially filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and will decide in coming weeks whether or not it will proceed with an IPO that could value it around $19 billion, The Journal reported. 

An IPO would help private-equity investor Cerberus Capital Management LP exit its 15-year-long investment in Albertsons, The Journal reported. The firm is rethinking an IPO given the grocery chain's improved performance as well as a strong market and positive economic indicators, the Journal reported. 

Albertsons has attempted to go public numerous times, according to The Journal. In 2018, the grocer struck a deal to go public by acquiring much of the drugstore chain Rite Aid in a $24 billion merger, according to The Journal. The deal didn't go through because of investor pushback, The Journal reported.

In 2015, Cerberus tried to take the company public through an IPO looking to raise as much as $1.6 billion, The Journal reported, but eventually the offering was pulled amid a lackluster market for retail stocks in late 2015. 

Since 2015, Albertsons has substantially reduced its debt, according to The Journal. At the end of November the company had about $8.34 billion in net debt excluding operating leases, down from $10.52 billion the year prior, The Journal reported.

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Amazon had its worst stock performance in 3 years and lagged other tech giants in 2019 — here's what Wall Street thinks is ahead for the company this year (AMZN)

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:36pm

  • 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for Amazon.
  • From cloud computing to same-day shipping, expectations and competition for Amazon are heating up.
  • Here are some of the key aspects of the business to watch this year.
  • Click here to read more stories on BI Prime

Amazon had a relatively tough year in 2019.

Investors grew concerned about Amazon's massive investments in faster delivery and its AWS cloud unit. The increasingly hostile regulatory environment and growing competition also dampened investor sentiment.

As a result, Amazon's stock went up just 23% in 2019 — its worst performance in three years and below the S&P 500's returns for the first time since 2014, according to the S&P Global Market Intelligence. Other tech giants, like Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, and Microsoft, all saw their shares do better than Amazon during the year.

We asked Wall Street analysts what's ahead for Amazon in 2020.

While most of them remain bullish, they said this is the year investors are hoping to see more concrete results from all the investments Amazon has been making, across shipping, cloud computing, and hardware devices. They're also keeping a close eye on how Amazon's competitive landscape will change in the cloud space, and whether its newer businesses, like advertising, will continue to show strong growth.

Here's what analysts think is ahead for Amazon in 2020:

SEE ALSO: Jeff Bezos said Amazon's third-party sellers are 'kicking butt' — these are the 7 most important issues for Amazon marketplace merchants in 2020, according to experts

Last year's underperformance comes after years of dramatic growth for Amazon. Almost all of the analysts who cover Amazon still recommend buying its stock.

The biggest drag on Amazon's stock last year was the huge investments in one-day shipping and AWS cloud, analysts say. Investors tend to have general skepticism until they see any payoff from the spending.

Still, Wall Street analysts remain more bullish than ever about Amazon. In fact, 47 of the 49 analysts that track Amazon's stock recommend buying it, according to Factset. That's more endorsements than any other S&P 500 company.

UBS's Eric Sheridan told Business Insider that there's been a lot of questions about Amazon's rate of investment over the past year. But he thinks those fears are "overdone" now, and that Amazon's stock is actually undervalued at the current price given its upside potential.

"We think the risk reward sets up very well," said Sheridan, who has a "buy" rating and a price target of $2,100 for Amazon.

Not all analysts are convinced by Amazon's investments yet. Andrew Murphy, an analyst for Loup Ventures, said Amazon's stock is "fairly valued" at its current levels, as there's still a lot of investor concern around its spending.

"Amazon is tightening its death-grip on retail, but the associated costs and the impact on margins may weigh on the stock in 2020," Murphy told Business Insider.

Amazon's one-day shipping initiative and its financial impact will continue to draw investor scrutiny this year. But most analysts believe it's the right investment that will lead to long-term growth.

Amazon spent roughly $3 billion in shortening its delivery time last year to make one-day shipping the default for all Prime members. Some investors were caught off guard by the size of the investment, which cut into Amazon's bottom line. 

But most analysts say the investment is the right move for Amazon's long-term success. For example, Amazon disclosed in its most recent earnings that people bought more products on its site after rolling out one-day shipping. It also said in late December that it had record holiday sales, driving its stock up by almost 5%.

Hari Srinivasan, an analyst at Neuberger Berman, told Business Insider that the investment in shipping was a big hit to Amazon's profitability and was the main reason for the stock's underperformance. But he believes it's the right move and the investments are already starting to pay off in increased sales.

"In the short-term, the profits are going to be depressed," Srinivasan said. "But the payback over the long-term is going to be very attractive."

Another area of concern is the AWS cloud unit's slowing growth. Some analysts believe it is due to the increased competition from Microsoft and Google.

Amazon's AWS cloud unit remains its biggest profit driver and one of its fastest growing segments. But the cloud unit's growth slowdown has been noticeable lately, as it dropped below the 40% rate for the first time last year.

Some analysts believe the deceleration is due to intensifying competition from Microsoft and Google. Dan Ives at Wedbush Securities told Business Insider that the two companies are "clearly narrowing the gap" with AWS, and that 2020 will be an "inflection year" for Amazon to defend its turf in the cloud.

Some analysts, however, argue it's simply a law of large numbers. AWS is generating over $35 billion in annual revenue, and at that scale, it's only natural to see its growth drop below the 40% threshold, said Neuberger Berman's Srinivasan.

"I think the growth rate will stabilize in the 30% to 35% range in 2020, and once it does that, people will become much more positive," he said.

The regulatory environment will remain a risk factor, but most analysts believe it won't have a material impact on Amazon this year.

Amazon, along with other tech giants, has faced unprecedented regulatory scrutiny in recent years. Everyone from presidential candidates to European lawmakers are scrutinizing Amazon's market power and business practices. President Trump has long been Amazon's biggest critic.

But the political pressure hasn't really damaged Amazon's business in any meaningful way yet. Amazon's sales continue to grow, and it still remains the market leader in both e-commerce and cloud computing. 

In a note published last month, Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Baird Equity Research, downplayed the regulatory risk, saying the bigger risk is "management distraction and/or slowing innovation" that could come as a result of the increased scrutiny. 

UBS's Sheridan said Amazon is less exposed to regulatory issues than other tech giants, and that the regulatory risk is no longer considered a top of mind issue for many investors compared to a year ago.

"I would say that it has receded a little bit as a fear or risk," Sheridan said.

Expect Amazon to open more physical stores as it looks to expand its grocery business.

It's no secret Amazon wants to grow its physical store footprint. In addition to the Whole Foods stores, Amazon now runs a variety of physical store formats, including bookstores, cashierless Go stores, and 4-star stores that only showcase highly-rated products. It's also planning to launch a new type of grocery chain that is separate from Whole Foods.

That expansion is likely going to accelerate this year, analysts say.

Murphy at Loup Ventures pointed out that Amazon doubled the number of physical retail stores, excluding Whole Foods, from 27 in 2018 to 54 by the end of 2019, while nearly tripling the number of its cashierless Amazon Go stores to 24 in total. He predicts Amazon to open 30 more Go stores in 2020, and to potentially launch a larger format store that runs on its cashierless technology.

RBC Capital's Mark Mahaney wrote in a recent note that he also sees a faster rollout of Amazon Go stores in 2020 as it could help drive more sales, especially for grocery products.

"In the long-term, we see the potential for a nation-wide distribution of grocery stores somewhat akin to its fulfillment center network," Mahaney wrote in the note.

Investors are starting to wonder how Amazon wants to monetize its massive Alexa voice assistant ecosystem.

Amazon has poured a lot of resources into its hardware business, especially following the success of its Echo and Alexa voice-assistant products. 

That's helped Amazon become the leader in the smart speaker market. But it now has to prove how it plans to make money off of its growing device ecosystem, says Loup Ventures's Murphy.

Murphy said investors will start looking for more evidence of the financial benefits of Amazon's hardware business, as the company doesn't disclose any meaningful sales figures for the segment. The bigger challenge, he said, is the fact that Amazon still doesn't have any presence in the broader smartphone space, making it more difficult to compete with Apple or Google.

"Amazon needs to prove how it will monetize the device ecosystem it has established with Ring, eero, and the slew of Alexa devices," Murphy said.

Newer segments, like advertising and shipping, will continue to grow.

While Amazon makes most of its money from its retail and cloud businesses, investors are equally interested in its newer businesses, like advertising and in-house shipping.

Baird's Sebastian wrote in his note that Amazon has "significant growth opportunities" in newer segments like shipping, advertising, and international marketplaces. He said those businesses could be bigger growth drivers for the company, as they are "widening the scope of operations and expanding market opportunities" for Amazon.

Advertising, in particular, continues to draw significant interest from investors, RBC's Mark Mahaney wrote in a note last month. He forecasts Amazon's advertising business to reach $30 billion in revenue by 2020, as it still has a lot of untapped opportunities within search and other platforms like Fire TV.

History suggests Amazon will bounce back this year.

If you believe in past data, Amazon will probably outperform the broader market this year. 

That's because Amazon's stock has never underperformed the market for two consecutive years in nearly two decades, according to Suntrust's analyst Youssef Squali. 

The only time it underperformed the market for two straight years was in 2000 and 2001, during the dotcom crash, he wrote in a note last week. 

"While past price performance is no guarantee of future results, we believe the stock's underperformance in 2019 creates a compelling set up for 2020," Squali wrote.

Squali also noted that, based on past results, Amazon's one-day shipping could reaccelerate its sales growth this year. When Amazon launched free two-day shipping in 2005, it saw strong revival in revenue, going from 22% year-over-year growth to a 32% compound annual growth rate over the next five years — and could have grown even faster had the 2008 recession hadn't happened, he wrote.

Most importantly, Wall Street seems to trust Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his leadership team to make the right long-term investment, given the company's track record.

Amazon's biggest strength may be the fact that Wall Street puts a lot of trust in its leadership team, including CEO Jeff Bezos, to make the right call when it comes to making long-term bets. It's why Amazon has been able to keep up its stock price even though it's run on thin profits for the most part.

Neuberger Berman's Srinivasan said the current investment cycle makes more sense because Amazon is not spending on some obscure moonshot project. They're more operational investments that have clear customer benefits, and the results are already starting to show, he said.

"Jeff Bezos is the most forward looking tech entrepreneur that's out there in the market," Srinivasan said.

The richest people in Singapore, ranked

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:22pm

Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the world, is home to an estimated 44 billionaires.

These ultra-wealthy individuals range from real-estate magnates and private investors to hot pot billionaires and even the cofounder of Facebook.

Singapore's richest person is Zhang Yong, a 50-year-old restaurateur who's worth $16.4 billion and chairs the popular Sichuan hot pot chain Haidilao, which has locations in China, the US, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, according to Forbes' Real-Time Billionaires list. His wife, Shu Ping, the director of the company, is also on Singapore's billionaires list, with a net worth of $3.3 billion.

Here are Singapore's richest people, who are worth a combined $95.7 billion.

SEE ALSO: What it's like living as a billionaire in Singapore, the most expensive city in the world, where wealthy residents are worth a combined $1 trillion and limited land makes owning a house the ultimate 'status symbol'

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T15. Zhao Tao

Net worth: $2.0 billion

Age: 55

Source of wealth: pharmaceuticals

T15. Sam Goi

Net worth: $2.0 billion

Age: 72

Source of wealth: frozen foods

T15. Asok Kumar Hiranandani

Net worth: $2.0 billion

Age: 66

Source of wealth: real estate

14. Peter Lim

Net worth: $2.1 billion

Age: 67

Source of wealth: investments

T12. Kuok Khoon Hong

Net worth: $2.9 billion

Age: 71

Source of wealth: palm oil

T12. Richard Chandler

Net worth: $2.9 billion

Age: 61

Source of wealth: investments

11. Raj Kumar and Kishin RK

Net worth: $3.1 billion

Age: 66

Source of wealth: real estate

T9. Choo Chong Ngen

Net worth: $3.3 billion

Age: 67

Source of wealth: hotels

T9. Shu Ping

Net worth: $3.3 billion

Age: unknown

Source of wealth: restaurants

8. Jason Chang

Net worth: $3.4 billion

Age: 76

Source of wealth: electronics

7. Kwek Leng Beng

Net worth: $3.7 billion

Age: 80

Source of wealth: real estate

6. Kwee brothers

Net worth: $6.5 billion

Age: unknown

Source of wealth: real estate

5. Wee Cho Yaw

Net worth: $7.1 billion

Age: 91

Source of wealth: banking

4. Goh Cheng Liang

Net worth: $10.5 billion

Age: 93

Source of wealth: paints

3. Robert and Philip Ng

Net worth: $12.2 billion

Age: unknown

Source of wealth: real estate

2. Eduardo Saverin

Net worth: $12.3 billion

Age: 38

Source of wealth: Facebook

1. Zhang Yong

Net worth: $16.4 billion

Age: 50

Source of wealth: restaurants

Jeffrey Epstein set Elon Musk's brother up with a girlfriend in effort to get close to the Tesla founder, sources say

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:10pm

  • Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire sex criminal, introduced Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk's brother, to a woman in his entourage, two sources told Business Insider.
  • The woman, who had previously dated Epstein and lived in an apartment building where he was known to house models, dated Kimbal Musk from 2011 to 2012.
  • Though the relationship was by all accounts genuine, the sources said Epstein hoped it would open doors to Elon Musk and his companies.
  • Epstein and his entourage were granted a private tour of Elon Musk's SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California, in 2012.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When word got out last year that disgraced multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein had been known to fraternize with Silicon Valley moguls, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk was quick to release a statement minimizing their relationship: He had attended a dinner organized by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman where Epstein was present, he said, and "was at his house in Manhattan for about 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon" at the urging of his then-wife, Talulah Riley, who wanted to meet him "for a novel she was writing." He was "obviously a creep," Musk told Vanity Fair.

But the social connection between Epstein and Musk may be more complicated than that, Business Insider has learned. Jeffrey Epstein was in regular contact with Elon's brother Kimbal Musk, the tech millionaire turned restaurateur who serves on the boards of his older brother's companies Tesla and SpaceX, according to two people familiar with their relationship. 

It's unclear how Epstein and Kimbal Musk met initially, but they saw each other occasionally because Kimbal was dating a woman in Epstein's entourage at the time, the people said. The woman had previously dated Epstein and lived in an apartment building that Epstein's brother owned, which Epstein had used to house people close to him, including models from Eastern Europe.

Do you have a story to share about Epstein or Musk? Contact Business Insider's tip line via encrypted messaging app Signal at (646) 768-4744 using a nonwork phone, or email at or Twitter DM at @beckpeterson.

The couple, who dated from 2011 to 2012, were set up by Epstein, the sources said. Their relationship brought Epstein into contact with the Musk family and its businesses, and it highlights how the convicted sex offender may have used the women in his inner circle to develop strategic relationships with prominent people in the world of tech and business.

"It almost seemed a little more transactional. The rumor has always been that Epstein facilitated introductions to beautiful women, looking for deal flow or access to capital," one source familiar with the couple said.

"And the provenance of it was right down the path of that," the source added, referring to Kimbal Musk's relationship to the woman.

By all appearances, Kimbal Musk's relationship with the woman was genuine despite her continued financial ties to Epstein and his role in their introduction. The woman was going through an emotional rough patch before she met Kimbal, one of the people said, and the pair had shared interests.

Kimbal Musk made his millions in the dot-com boom alongside his brother by selling their online-city-guide company, Zip2, to Compaq for $300 million in 1999. He served as CEO of the adtech company OneRiot until 2010, when he broke his neck in a snow-tubing accident and resigned to focus on the food industry.

By 2011, he was a full-time restaurateur and the head of what would eventually become Big Green, a nonprofit that teaches students about healthy eating and gardening. 

Representatives for Kimbal Musk did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The woman, an American, was in one of the three couples that sources said Epstein directed to enter into same-sex marriages as part of a scheme to keep some of Epstein's foreign-born girlfriends inside the country, Business Insider reported in August. She was also named as a beneficiary of an irrevocable trust created by Epstein that at one point totaled $50 million, Business Insider reported in December.

The woman has not come forward publicly, and because she may be a sex-trafficking victim, Business Insider is not naming her. She could not be reached for comment for this story. 

Epstein was found dead in a Manhattan jail cell last year while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. His death was ruled a suicide. Epstein's lawyers could not be reached for comment.

At least one other Epstein ex-girlfriend ended up in a relationship with a powerful man that Epstein was interested in financially: Eva Andersson, who was once Miss Sweden and dated Epstein in the 1980s, married Glenn Dubin, a hedge-fund billionaire who Epstein invested with, in 1994. Epstein told associates that he introduced the couple, a claim that Dubin's attorney calls "demonstrably false" (the Wall Street Journal reported last year that Dubin and Andersson were already together when Dubin met Epstein.) Epstein also told associates that he had considered marrying their daughter Celina Dubin, so that she could inherit his fortune, Business Insider reported in December. Celina Dubin was also briefly named as a beneficiary of the same trust as the woman who dated Kimbal Musk. (Celina Dubin was unaware of the trust's existence, according to a spokesperson, and she never received any payments from it. There is no indication that Epstein and Celina Dubin had a romantic relationship.)"

A birthday party with a banker's daughter

The relationship gave Epstein an opportunity to get close to both Kimbal Musk and his more successful brother. Epstein was invited to attend Kimbal's 40th birthday party in New York City in September 2012, according to one of the sources familiar with the relationship. Epstein ultimately did not attend that party, though members of his entourage did.

It was the day after the birthday party that Elon Musk and his then-wife, Riley, visited Epstein at his home in New York City, the person said.

According to emails reviewed by Business Insider, one of the people who was invited to the party at Epstein's request was Alexa Staley, the daughter of Barclays CEO James E. "Jes" Staley. She was 23 at the time and working on her Ph.D. in physics at Columbia University.

Her father was a longtime business associate of Epstein. When Jes Staley worked in the personal-banking division of JPMorgan, according to The New York Times, Epstein referred dozens of wealthy clients to him. After Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to soliciting a minor in 2008, Jes Staley visited the Palm Beach, Florida, office where Epstein spent his days while out on work release.

The Staleys, through a spokesperson for Barclays, declined to comment.

Epstein took an exclusive tour of SpaceX

A few days before the birthday party, the source said, Kimbal Musk had arranged for Epstein and members of his entourage to receive a private tour of the Hawthorne, California, factory for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk.

It's unclear whether Elon or Kimbal Musk were present for the tour.

The week of the tour, Epstein was in Los Angeles to attend the WWW conference, a onetime event organized by Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED conference and symposium franchise. 

The WWW conference featured music from cellist Yo-Yo Ma and several speakers who have been previously linked to Epstein, including "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, scientists Steven Pinker and Lisa Randall, and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, who faced criticism for urging his successor Joi Ito to take funding from Epstein. 

Epstein was listed as a sponsor for the conference, which took place from September 18 to 20, 2012, alongside General Electric and William Hearst III, according to the captions on YouTube videos of talks from the event. The captions were edited to remove Epstein's name after Business Insider reached out to RadicalMedia, which produced the videos under contract for WWW, for comment.

Epstein's involvement with the WWW conference has not been previously reported.

Elon Musk denies that Epstein advised Tesla

It's unclear whether Epstein had any business with Tesla or SpaceX or invested in the companies. Epstein told the New York Times reporter James B. Stewart, who met with him in 2018 to discuss a rumor that Epstein was creating a list of possible new board members for Tesla, that he had advised Elon Musk but couldn't discuss it publicly because his reputation was "radioactive." 

A spokesman for Elon Musk told The Times that it was "incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon on anything." 

The men have dined together at least twice: In addition to the dinner organized by Hoffman that Musk and Epstein both attended, BuzzFeed uncovered photos from a 2011 dinner in Long Beach, California, as part of Edge, an exclusive dinner club for intellectuals founded by literary agent John Brockman. 

Among the guests at that dinner were Elon Musk and Epstein, as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who were all in town for the TED conference, according to the report. It's unclear whether Wurman, who is listed as a member on, was present at that dinner. Wurman did not respond to a request for comment.

Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment.

This post has been updated to include a comment from Glenn Dubin's attorney denying that Epstein introduced Dubin to his wife, Eva Andersson-Dubin.

SEE ALSO: 'Uncle Jeff': Jeffrey Epstein's relationship with the 24-year-old daughter of billionaire hedge-fund founder Glenn Dubin is more complex than previously known

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Former top US Army official's staff said they were running 'personal' errands for him at CVS, report says

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:02pm

  • The US military's former top enlisted official had a pattern of using his soldiers "to perform services for his personal convenience," according to a report by the US Army's inspector general, which said these staffers "felt obliged" to help him with these personal favors.
  • Documents obtained by the military-news website Task & Purpose revealed details of the ethics violations of former Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, who retired in December.
  • The investigation said the 19-year military veteran instructed staffers to purchase goods for him at CVS.
  • He was also accused of endorsing fitness products on his social-media accounts, including in an exercise video posted on his official Facebook page in which he appeared to endorse the training-equipment company TRX.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US military's former top enlisted official had a pattern of using his soldiers "to perform services for his personal convenience," according to a previous report by the US Army's inspector general. Documents recently obtained by the military news website Task & Purpose said Sgt. Maj. John Troxell violated ethics rules through these favors and an apparent endorsement of fitness equipment on his official Facebook account. 

"These unofficial duties included the subordinates going to CVS for him, driving after hours during [temporary duty] to unofficial events, dining with them, and provided unnecessary support to him and his wife," the documents said, according to Task & Purpose.

According to the investigation, the 19-year military veteran instructed staffers to purchase goods for him at CVS.

"No, dude, you are not an indentured servant," Troxell said in response a staffer who attempted to give him $10 back in change, according to the investigation.

While Troxell did not "encourage" his staff to perform unofficial duties, the inspector general's report said they "felt obliged to provide him unofficial support."

"They recognized they were working for the highest ranking NCO in the DOD, they respected him, and they wanted to do their best to help CSM Troxell succeed," the investigation said, Task & Purpose reported.

Troxell, who was the senior enlisted adviser to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford at the time, was temporarily suspended last year amid the investigation into the allegations of misconduct.

The allegations also included reports that he endorsed fitness products on his social-media accounts. In a video posted on his official military Facebook page, Troxell appeared to endorse the training-equipment company TRX by wearing a shirt and shorts with a TRX logo while exercising on its equipment. Troxell said he was wearing the company-branded clothing because he did not have other clean clothes at the time.

While Troxell did not mention the company's name explicitly in the videos, investigators still said "the unmistakable presence of TRX material in the video, the apparel worn by ... Troxell, the signage, and the equipment used present an unmistakable focus on the TRX brand" and had "implied an endorsement."

Troxell was allowed back on duty in March after the military found he "received no personal or monetary gain from these endorsements."

"But I will tell you, what I've learned is, you know, self-reflection is important, especially as a senior enlisted leader," Troxell said at his retirement ceremony in December, according to the Military Times.

"Be cognizant of your environment at all times," he added. "When you serve as the senior enlisted adviser to the [chairman] and your job is to gain the pulse of the force ... that suggests that you're out with the troops. You can get so focused on the operational environment and providing that pulse that you forget about being back here at the Pentagon and what your role is back here."

Other Pentagon officials were accused of using their staffers to perform personal errands. In July, the Defense Department's inspector general said Dana White, a former Pentagon spokeswoman, had instructed her subordinates to acquire food, schedule her personal trips, and pick up her dry cleaning. White abruptly resigned in January 2019.

According to the inspector general's report, White's attorney denied the findings and said the allegations had "no basis in fact or law."

SEE ALSO: Fake text messages about a military draft are being sent to Americans, the US Army warns

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: We can thank the US military for the smelliest weapon in the world

Biopharma firm Adaptimmune spikes 330% after posting positive results for 4 tumor indicators

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 3:57pm

  • Biopharma company Adaptimmune spiked as much as 338% in Monday trading after announcing "partial responses" (PRs) in four tumor indicators.
  • The company's SPEAR T-cell platform delivered two confirmed PRs in patients with liver cancer and melanoma, according to a Monday statement.
  • The platform also boasted two unconfirmed PRs in patients with gastro-esophageal junction cancer and head and neck cancer.
  • The responses show the platform "is clearly active and can overcome the challenges of treating a range of solid tumors," CEO Adrian Rawcliffe said.
  • Watch Adaptimmune trade live here.

Biopharmaceutical company Adaptimmune rocketed as much as 338% in Monday trading after announcing "partial responses" (PRs) for four tumor indicators.

The company's SPEAR T-cell platform delivered two confirmed PRs in patients with liver cancer and melanoma, according to a Monday statement. The platform also boasted two unconfirmed PRs in patients with gastro-esophageal junction cancer and head and neck cancer. A partial response is defined as a 30% or greater reduction in tumor size. 

"These responses demonstrate that our proprietary SPEAR T-cell platform is clearly active and can overcome the challenges of treating a range of solid tumors with a T-cell therapy product," CEO Adrian Rawcliffe, said in the statement. 

The confirmed PR in the liver cancer patient involved a 100% decrease in targeted lesions, the company said, while the confirmed PR in the melanoma patient involved a 42% decrease in lesions. The unconfirmed PRs included a 42% reduction in target legions in the gastro-esophageal junction cancer patient and a 36% decrease in the target legions in the head-and-neck cancer patient.

The most adverse effects for those utilizing the T-cell platform are "consistent with those typically experienced by cancer patients under cytotoxic chemotherapy or other cancer immunotherapies," Adaptimmune said. Additional trials and durability information is required to confirm which therapies are best suited for further development, the company added.

Both Roth Capital Partners and Cowen initiated coverage on Adaptimmune on Monday, issuing buy and outperform ratings, respectively. 

Adaptimmune stock traded at $4.40 per share as of 2:55 p.m. ET Monday, up roughly 288% year-to-date.

The company has three "buy" ratings, four "hold" ratings, and no "sell" ratings from analysts, with a consensus price target of $5.25, according to Bloomberg data.

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The 6 most surprising and unusual takeaways from Casper's IPO filing

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 3:54pm

  • Mattress startup Casper filed to go public last week.
  • Its IPO paperwork contained a few surprising takeaways about how Casper views its business and the sleep market in general.
  • For example, the company hinted that it may invest in other categories like medical devices or pajamas. 
  • It also lists social media influencers as a risk factor to its business. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Buzzy online mattress startup Casper has officially filed to go public — but its IPO filing contains a few surprises. 

Last week, the company publicly filed its S-1 paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission ahead of a planned listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As is customary, the filing included a variety of information, including the health of Casper's business and factors it perceives as being a risk to the company. 

But the filing contained some eccentric and unusual nuggets of information, like the fact that Casper lists Instagram influencers as a risk factor or that the company could develop its own sleep apnea machine. 

Here are some of the most surprising takeaways from Casper's IPO paperwork. 

SEE ALSO: Jeff Bezos just turned 56. Here's how he built Amazon into a nearly $1 trillion company and became the world's richest man.

Casper warned that influencers could cause its business to take a hit.

Casper listed a number of risk factors in its S-1 filing, but perhaps most unusual was the one that involved influencers.

The startup relies on the influencer economy in part to market its products — Casper can pay or offer up free products to social media stars to advertise on Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. If any of these influencers says or does something that "reflects poorly" on the brand, it could damage the company's reputation and IPO price. Alternatively, if an influencer shares a bad review, the company said, that could affect the business as well.

"Influencers with whom we maintain relationships could also engage in behavior or use their platforms to communicate directly with our customers in a manner that reflects poorly on our brand and may be attributed to us or otherwise adversely affect us," Casper wrote in the filing. "It is not possible to prevent such behavior, and the precautions we take to detect this activity may not be effective in all cases."

Casper views itself as a major player in the "sleep economy," not just the mattress market.

Casper's company ethos isn't defined by being a mattress company — it describes itself as being part of the "sleep economy," which encompasses everything that happens before, during, and after sleep. Casper calls this the "sleep arc" in its IPO paperwork.

But the company isn't just focused on the sleep of human adults: it wrote in its filing that it wants to understand and serve the sleep economy "in a holistic way" for babies and dogs, too.

It expects the global sleep market will grow at twice the rate of the global economy.

In one of the slides in Casper's filing, it valued the global sleep market at $432 billion, and projects that market will grow at an annual rate of 6.3% over the next five years, which is nearly twice as fast as the global economy grew in 2019.

Casper wrote that it expects the global sleep market to be worth $585 billion by 2024. 

Casper is diving into other product categories, including potentially building its own sleep apnea machine.

"Our approach is to offer products and services across the entirety of the Sleep Arc under one brand," Casper wrote in its filing.

Beyond mattresses, the company's product lineup currently includes pillows, bedding, bed frames, weighted blankets, lamps, and more. But it plans to extend its wares significantly, mentioning these products in the filing: 

  • White noise machines
  • Room diffusers
  • Humidifiers
  • Sleep trackers
  • Bedside clocks
  • Sleep apps
  • Meditation apps
  • Counseling apps
  • Supplements

Casper also hinted that it could get into the medical devices market. In a chart in the filing, the company lists the market for continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, devices as being worth $25 billion. The machines help people who have sleep apnea breath more easily. 

Casper may want to disrupt the pajamas market.

In the same graphic in its filing, Casper noted the "$32 billion" pajama market as being part of the global sleep economy. 

It's a hint that the company may be considering its own line of pajamas in the future, which isn't much of a surprise: Casper already provides pajamas for American Airlines passengers to wear on long international flights.

And at its Dreamery space in Manhattan — where guests can enjoy a 45-minute nap on a Casper mattress inside a nap pod — the company supplies pajamas to wear during your visit. But when Business Insider visited in 2018, the provided set were made by pajama company Sleepy Jones and cost $178. 

It's eyeing the $5 billion pet market, too.

Casper noted that there are opportunities in the $5 billion pet market as well. It lists mattresses, furniture, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements for cats and dogs as part of the $432 billion global sleep economy. 

Casper already dabbles in the pet market: it's been selling a memory-foam dog bed that comes in three sizes since 2018.

The best and worst states to retire in the US

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 3:34pm

  • When deciding the best place to retire, it's important to consider affordability, quality of life, and health care.
  • Minnesota is the best for quality of life and health care but has low affordability for retirees.
  • Florida is the best state for retirees, not surprising considering it has the second-most senior citizens and high scores for affordability and quality of life.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On a global scale, the United States is 24th on the list of the best countries for retirement.

However, the US is very large and experiences can vary drastically within the country.

If you decide to stay in America when you are done working, you might want to know which state is best for retirement. WalletHub recently released its 2020 retirement rankings. Using 47 metrics in three broad categories, they were able to rank every state to find the best and worst places to retire.

The three main categories used were affordability, quality of life, and health care. WalletHub weighted the affordability section 40% and the other two areas were given equal weight of 30%.

Florida tends to be the first state that comes to mind when retirement communities are brought up, and for good reason. Florida came in first in the overall ranking. The Sunshine State also has the second-highest percentage of residents 65 years and older, WalletHub says, topped only by Maine. 

Where you decide to live during retirement depends on what you value. Residents of Hawaii have the highest life expectancy, while the lowest is found in Mississippi. On the other hand, the cost of living is totally flipped with Mississippi coming in first and Hawaii ranked last.

If you are looking to be entertained in retirement, New York might be a good option. Despite the state's lackluster overall rating for retirement, WalletHub's analysis found that the Empire State has the most museums and theaters per capita.

Check out how your home state ranks overall, as well as for each of the three categories: affordability, quality of life, and health care. 

Matthew Michaels contributed to a previous version of this article.

SEE ALSO: The cheapest states to get gas, ranked

50. Kentucky

Affordability rank: 32

Quality of life rank: 46

Health care rank: 48

49. New Mexico

Affordability rank: 37

Quality of life rank: 45

Health care rank: 38

48. Rhode Island

Affordability rank: 47

Quality of life rank: 38

Health care rank: 25

47. New Jersey

Affordability rank: 48

Quality of life rank: 31

Health care rank: 23

46. West Virginia

Affordability rank: 19

Quality of life rank: 40

Health care rank: 50

45. Tennessee

Affordability rank: 14

Quality of life rank: 48

Health care rank: 46

44. Arkansas

Affordability rank: 9

Quality of life rank: 50

Health care rank: 45

43. Mississippi

Affordability rank: 5

Quality of life rank: 49

Health care rank: 47

42. New York

Affordability rank: 37

Quality of life rank: 45

Health care rank: 38

41. Louisiana

Affordability rank: 10

Quality of life rank: 44

Health care rank: 43

40. Maryland

Affordability rank: 43

Quality of life rank: 29

Health care rank: 20

39. Alabama

Affordability rank: 1

Quality of life rank: 47

Health care rank: 49

38. Oregon

Affordability rank: 41

Quality of life rank: 24

Health care rank: 21

37. Oklahoma

Affordability rank: 6

Quality of life rank: 43

Health care rank: 44

36. Vermont

Affordability rank: 49

Quality of life rank: 6

Health care rank: 9

35. Nevada

Affordability rank: 8

Quality of life rank: 42

Health care rank: 42

34. Indiana

Affordability rank: 23

Quality of life rank: 33

Health care rank: 41

33. Connecticut

Affordability rank: 44

Quality of life rank: 23

Health care rank: 5

32. California

Affordability rank: 38

Quality of life rank: 25

Health care rank: 19

31. Alaska

Affordability rank: 36

Quality of life rank: 34

Health care rank: 11

30. Georgia

Affordability rank: 12

Quality of life rank: 41

Health care rank: 40

29. Hawaii

Affordability rank: 45

Quality of life rank: 32

Health care rank: 2

28. Maine

Affordability rank: 42

Quality of life rank: 10

Health care rank: 15

27. Washington

Affordability rank: 34

Quality of life rank: 14

Health care rank: 32

26. North Carolina

Affordability rank: 21

Quality of life rank: 30

Health care rank: 39

25. Nebraska

Affordability rank: 39

Quality of life rank: 20

Health care rank: 10

24. Kansas

Affordability rank: 25

Quality of life rank: 26

Health care rank: 35

23. Illinois

Affordability rank: 35

Quality of life rank: 21

Health care rank: 16

22. Arizona

Affordability rank: 30

Quality of life rank: 36

Health care rank: 12

21. Michigan

Affordability rank: 28

Quality of life rank: 16

Health care rank: 31

20. Missouri

Affordability rank: 22

Quality of life rank: 28

Health care rank: 29

19. North Dakota

Affordability rank: 33

Quality of life rank: 22

Health care rank: 8

18. South Carolina

Affordability rank: 37

Quality of life rank: 45

Health care rank: 38

17. Texas

Affordability rank: 3

Quality of life rank: 37

Health care rank: 37

16. Minnesota

Affordability rank: 46

Quality of life rank: 1

Health care rank: 1

15. Ohio

Affordability rank: 16

Quality of life rank: 17

Health care rank: 34

14. Massachusetts

Affordability rank: 40

Quality of life rank: 2

Health care rank: 3

13. Pennsylvania

Affordability rank: 29

Quality of life rank: 3

Health care rank: 27

12. Montana

Affordability rank: 20

Quality of life rank: 15

Health care rank: 28

11. South Dakota

Affordability rank: 26

Quality of life rank: 27

Health care rank: 7

10. Iowa

Affordability rank: 31

Quality of life rank: 7

Health care rank: 13

9. Idaho

Affordability rank: 13

Quality of life rank: 19

Health care rank: 30

8. Wisconsin

Affordability rank: 24

Quality of life rank: 8

Health care rank: 22

7. Virginia

Affordability rank: 18

Quality of life rank: 13

Health care rank: 24

6. Delaware

Affordability rank: 7

Quality of life rank: 35

Health care rank: 18

5. Wyoming

Affordability rank: 11

Quality of life rank: 12

Health care rank: 33

4. Utah

Affordability rank: 15

Quality of life rank: 18

Health care rank: 17

3. New Hampshire

Affordability rank: 27

Quality of life rank: 4

Health care rank: 6

2. Colorado

Affordability rank: 17

Quality of life rank: 11

Health care rank: 4

1. Florida

Affordability rank: 2

Quality of life rank: 5

Health care rank: 26

Financial Services: 6 Key Attributes to Attract Gen Z

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 1:01am

Now the largest generation worldwide, Gen Z accounts for nearly 68 million people in the US alone. As Gen Zers age, financial services providers will be increasingly pressed to shift focus to the burgeoning demographic.

As digital natives, Gen Zers are more receptive to influence from friends and family than traditional advertising. For marketers, strategists, and developers, understanding Gen Z's unique needs — and creating and marketing products accordingly — will be critical to reaping their value.

In Financial Services: 6 Key Attributes to Attract Gen Z, Business Insider Intelligence provides a six-point framework that highlights core traits of the demographic, which banks and payments firms can use to attract, engage, and retain Gen Zers.

This exclusive report can be yours for FREE today.

As an added bonus, you'll receive a free preview of our Banking Pro Briefing.

Join the conversation about this story »

Cannabis companies have slashed over 1,000 jobs in recent weeks as the industry contends with a 'toxic' landscape. We're keeping track of all the cuts here.

Sun, 01/12/2020 - 3:42pm

The once red-hot cannabis industry is coming back down to earth. 

In recent weeks, cannabis companies — including venture-backed startups like Pax and giants like MedMen — have announced a series of job cuts, amounting to over 1000 laid-off workers in the sector as a whole.

There are unique reasons for the job cuts at each company, but industry analysts and experts say the operating environment for cannabis companies has entered a uniquely challenging phase. Headwinds include illnesses linked to vaping, lower-than-expected retail revenues in Canada and states like California, and legislative and regulatory hurdles that make accessing capital much more expensive than in other industries.

It has also become much more difficult for companies to raise money, thanks to cratering share prices for public companies and a shortage of investors for private firms.

The Marijuana Index, a composite of cannabis and cannabis-related stocks in the US and Canada, lost about half its value last year. CannTrust has seen its value crater since its high in March after the company was found to be illegally growing cannabis following an investigation by Health Canada, the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing legal cannabis.

The decline in valuations has also made big cannabis megamergers harder to close, with companies like the dispensary operator MedMen pulling out of deals altogether. MedMen laid off 190 employees in November and divested stakes in a number of brands it invested in as part of its push to become cash-flow positive. 

An analyst at the investment bank Stifel summed it all up as a "toxic" operating environment. 

Business Insider is tracking these job cuts here and will keep updating as we learn more:

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email, or Twitter DM @jfberke. Encrypted messaging app Signal number available upon request. 

This article was published on October 25 and has been updated with new information.

Hexo Corp - 200 layoffs

Company: Hexo Corp

What it does: Cannabis producer based in Gatineau, Quebec.

Layoffs: 200 workers on October 28, or a quarter of workforce. Chief Marketing Officer Nick Davies and Chief Manufacturing Officer Arno Groll were among those laid off.

What went wrong: The company cited the slow rollout of retail stores in Canada, delays in government approval for cannabis derivative products, and early signs of pricing pressure on cannabis as reasons for the layoffs and stock declines. 

The company said it was shutting down several facilities as well.

"The actions taken this week are about rightsizing the organization to the revenue we expect to achieve in 2020," CEO Sebastian St-Louis said in a statement.

On November 15, Hexo released a statement saying there was a "limited amount" of unlicensed cannabis grown at a cultivation facility the company acquired from Newstrike Brands, and some of that illicit cannabis made its way into the regulated market.


CannTrust - 140 layoffs

Company: CannTrust

What it does: Cannabis producer based in Ontario, Canada.

Layoffs: Laid off 140 employees on October 27, or a quarter of its remaining workforce. In August, the company laid off 180 employees, or 20% of its workforce. 

What went wrong: The company is seeking to pare back expenses following the revelations that it was growing illicit cannabis in one of its facilities. In July, Health Canada opened an investigation into the illicit growing. The federal agency suspended CannTrust's growing license in September.

The company's former CEO, Peter Aceto, stepped down amid the fallout as well. Earlier this month, CannTrust was forced to destroy $77 million worth of cannabis in order to regain regulatory approval in Canada. 




Weedmaps - 100 layoffs

Company: Weedmaps

What it does: Online cannabis dispensary director based in Southern California. 

Layoffs: 100 employees, or a quarter of its workforce in October. 

What went wrong: Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals said in a Medium post the layoffs were the result of the slow rollout of legal cannabis dispensaries in California and other legal states like Massachusetts.

"Additionally, both the overall tech and cannabis capital markets have experienced tightening through 2019 that has limited the ability to predictably leverage outside capital to fuel growth during rapid expansion periods," Beals said. 

Weedmaps has faced regulatory scrutiny over listing illicit cannabis dispensary and delivery services on its site and app. In September, the company released a plan to remove all unlicensed dispensaries from its database by requiring them to provide their state license numbers.


Pax Labs - 65 layoffs

Company: Pax Labs

What it does: Maker of cannabis vaporizers, based in San Francisco. 

Layoffs: 65 workers, or 25% of its workforce in October. 

What went wrong: Fallout from the spate of vape-related lung injuries — which have caused 34 fatalities in the US so far — has affected the cannabis industry. 

Prior to that, Pax had been something of an investor darling this year, landing a $420 million funding round in April from a range of institutional investors including Fidelity and Tiger Global Management. The round, first reported by The Information, pushed the company into unicorn territory, valuing it at $1.7 billion.

Pax in September let go of its CEO, Bharat Vasan, after a little over a year on the job.

In an interview with Business Insider in January, Vasan said the company was talking to bankers about a potential IPO in 2020. That seems to not be the case anymore, according to statement Pax gave to Crunchbase News.

"[A]ny talk of an IPO timeline was premature," Pax's head of communications, Dianne Gleason, said.



Eaze - 36 layoffs

Company: Eaze

What it does: Cannabis delivery platform, based in San Francisco. 

Layoffs: 36 workers or 20% of its staff in October. The company also replaced its longtime CEO, Jim Patterson, with Rogelio Choy, formerly the startup's COO. 

What went wrong: Eaze is facing a protracted legal battle with Toronto-based cannabis company DionyMed, after DionyMed alleged Eaze was using shell companies to hide credit card charges for cannabis products. 

In August, Business Insider broke the news that Eaze was seeking to raise another $50-75 million at a $300-400 million valuation on top of the $65 million the company had raised in December. 

The startup has been forced to scale back its lofty ambitions of delivering $1 billion worth of cannabis. The company said in documents obtained by MarketWatch that it would sell about $412 million worth of cannabis products on its platform in 2020. 


MedMen — over 190 layoffs

Company: MedMen

What it does: Cannabis cultivator and retail chain

Layoffs: 190, or 20% of its employees, on November 15. An additional 20% were laid off on December 11, amounting to more than 40% of its corporate workforce over the course of a month. 

What went wrong: The hits keep coming for the cash-starved MedMen. The company announced it will be laying off 190 employees in November, including 80 corporate-level employees, in a push to be cash-flow positive by the end of 2020. The company laid off an additional 20% December 11, amounting to 40% of its corporate workforce over the past month. It's not yet clear the exact number of employees affected in the most recent round of layoffs. 

MedMen is also planning to sell off stakes it bought in cannabis brands — which it says will net the company $8 million – and has engaged Canaccord Genuity to "explore strategic alternatives" for cultivation licenses and stores "not deemed critical to the company's retail footprint."

MedMen also plans to limit new store openings and delay investments in the medical marijuana markets in New York and Arizona.

On top of all that, MedMen announced earlier in November that it was selling its stake in Treehouse, a cannabis real estate investment trust.

In the past few months, MedMen has been hit with a litany of lawsuits and top executives departing, including David Dancer, the former CMO, and Michael Kramer, the former CFO. 

Flow Kana — 20% of employees

Company: Flow Kana

What it does: California cannabis distributor

Layoffs: 20% of employees (number of employees not disclosed).

What went wrong: Flow Kana, a California cannabis distributor, announced it was laying off 20% of its workforce on Thursday, November 14. The company did not disclose the exact number of employees affected.

Flow Kana blamed the lack of retail cannabis stores in California and said the "realities and size of the market" has proven to be much smaller than initially anticipated.

In a statement provided to the Sacramento Bee, Flow Kana CEO Mikey Steinmetz said the "alarm bell is ringing" for California cannabis companies and urged the state to help remedy the situation. 


Grupo Flor – 30 layoffs

Company: Grupo Flor

What it does: California cannabis cultivator and retailer

Layoffs: 30 employees or 35% of its workforce.

What went wrong: Grupo Flor laid off 30 employees earlier in November after a planned investment fell through. The company also put its plans to invest in a Colombia cultivation center on hold.

"It's not the end of the world. It's just a difficult time in the industry for everybody," Grupo Flor CEO Gavin Kogan told Marijuana Business Daily. 

CannaCraft —40 layoffs

Company: CannaCraft

What it does: California cannabis cultivator and retailer 

Layoffs: 40 employees or 16% of its workforce.

What went wrong: CannaCraft laid off 40 employees or 16% of its staff in November. The company cited "slower-than-anticipated growth" of the legal cannabis market in California, per Marijuana Business Daily.

Founded in 2014, CannaCraft raised a $34.9 million Series A funding round in April. 



Emerald Health Therapeutics — 65 layoffs

Company: Emerald Health Therapeutics

What it does: Canadian licensed cannabis producers

Layoffs: 65 employees or 33% of its workforce, since August 1.

What went wrong: The Vancouver-based cannabis cultivator announced on October 30 that it had laid off 20 employees, bringing its total number of laid off employees to 65 since August 1.

The staff reductions included the company's CFO, Rob Hill and COO, Sean Rathbone. 

"Although such decisions are difficult, we will evolve our strategy, structure, and capabilities as necessary to be able to capitalize on key trends in the changing cannabis sector," Dr. Avtar Dillon, the executive chairman of Emerald Health's board, said in a statement

Canndescent — 16 layoffs

Company: Canndescent

What it does: California cannabis retail brand

Layoffs: 16 layoffs on September 5

What went wrong: The California cannabis company Canndescent quietly laid off 16 employees and froze hiring for six open positions just before closing a funding round in September, according to a memo obtained by Business Insider.

The memo, written by Canndescent's chief people officer, Kerry Arnold, was sent on the evening of September 5.

Five days after the memo went out, Canndescent closed a $27.5 million Series C funding round that gave the startup a valuation of $200 million to $300 million, Business Insider reported at the time.

"Sadly we too have been impacted by the drying up of capital markets," Sedlin said in an emailed statement to Business Insider. "As a result we've had to make difficult decisions with regards to valued personnel. These decisions are never easy. We remain hopeful California regulators will act swiftly and partner with our industry to preserve as many jobs as possible through sensible public policy.

Pasha Brands — 12 layoffs

Company: Pasha Brands

What it does: Canadian cannabis brand 

Layoffs: 12 layoffs on November 21, or 24% of the workforce.

What went wrong: Vancouver-based Pasha Brands in December announced it is laying off a dozen employees across its communications and client services divisions.

"Yesterday the company made the difficult, but necessary choice, to lay off some of its employees in both its communications and client services divisions. At the same time as letting some go, it has repurposed other employees, who will focus on commercializing these iconic pre-legalization brands," Pasha Brands CEO Jason Longden said in a statement.



Zenabis — 40 layoffs

Company: Zenabis

What it does: Canadian cannabis producer

Layoffs: 40 layoffs on January 7, or 10% of the workforce

What went wrong: Vancouver-based cannabis producer Zenabis laid off 40 workers, or roughly 10% of its workforce on Tuesday, reports BNN Bloomberg.

Zenabis is completing its ramp-up phase of major financing and construction, and is now a significant cultivator of cannabis," Jonathan Anthony, director of corporate communications for Zenabis, told BNN Bloomberg. "Now, in 2020, Zenabis is shifting its attention to supply chain efficiency and execution. We have the right team to make Zenabis a profitable, viable long-term industry leader."

Like other cannabis companies, Zenabis has struggled to turn a profit in Canada's retail cannabis market. 

GenCanna — 65 layoffs

Company: GenCanna 

What it does: Kentucky-based hemp and CBD producer

Layoffs: 65 layoffs in December

What went wrong: GenCanna was an early entrant to the hemp market. Founded in 2014, the company has remained private but hired Goldman Sachs in September to advise on a potential initial public offering or other "strategic alternatives."

The company started 2019 with 162 employees and ended the year with 224 employees after the layoffs, excluding seasonal farmworkers, Business Insider reported

"With hemp at the intersection and cutting edge of federally legal cannabis and agriculture, ebbs and flows are to be expected," Steve Bevan, the company's president and executive chair, said. "During 2019, pricing for products declined across the industry, due to less-than-predicted demand while constraints — common in new agriculture — were greater than expected." 

Bevan pointed to increasing automation of the hemp and CBD supply chain as one of the reasons for the layoffs.

"Because of significant advances in technology, we need fewer people to do more," Bevan said.

Mile High Labs — 20 layoffs

Company: Mile High Labs

What it does: Colorado-based CBD manufacturer

Layoffs: 20 staffers in January, or roughly 10% of total workforce

What went wrong: Mile High Labs laid off 20 staffers on Thursday, concentrated among entry-level sales roles, the Colorado-based CBD manufacturer's chief financial officer, Jon Hilley, told Business Insider in an interview

"It's part of the learning process as you go from a company of 30 people to 250 people in under a year," Hilley said. "The business has to evolve."

Mile High Labs purchased an $18 million CBD manufacturing facility in Broomfield, Colorado, and relocated the company's operations there last fall.


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