On 8 June, after a number of increasingly dangerous clashes between protesters and law enforcement, police officers in a popular area of downtown Seattle abandoned their precinct.
Hundreds of activists, who had been demonstrating against police brutality since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, then flocked to the neighbourhood and set up a peaceful occupied protest. There, they distributed free food and medical supplies, planted community gardens, and held film screenings and workshops. One small group painted a large, bright statement on a wall within the zone: “Black Lives Matter”.
The area was declared the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone – or Chaz, for short. It was to be a police-free, self-governing utopia. A few days later, in an interview with CNN on 11 June, the city’s Democratic mayor Jenny Durkan said the zone could herald a “summer of love”.
Protester Grace Morgan, from Portland, Oregon, told the BBC that she travelled up to the Chaz about a week after it had been established.
“It was absolutely astonishing,” she said. “There was a food co-op, as well as a full medics corner with actual doctors from around the city that had volunteered, and had their own ambulance. There were classes, lectures, speakers, poetry, lots of live music, huge works of art… It was really beautiful.”
Crucially, Chaz had the official backing of socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant.
“The idea of occupation isn’t a new one, and it’s an immensely powerful idea as a part of protest movements,” Ms Sawant told the BBC. “Not only social movements on the streets, but also in workplace actions through history.”
The initial success of Chaz, which later came to be known as Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Chop), inspired activists across the US. On 18 June another autonomous zone sprung up in Portland, Oregon. It was declared the Patrick Kimmons Autonomous Zone, or PKAZ, named after a 27-year-old black man who was killed by Portland police in September 2018.
“Sometime around midnight, more tents started to pop up on the street – and then word got around that we were building an autonomous zone right there and then,” Grace, who also saw PKAZ get set up, said. “Me and a few of my friends got rolling dumpsters from surrounding businesses and condos in the area, and somebody got a huge couch somehow. There are also quite a few construction sites nearby, so we got a lot of scaffolding from those to help reinforce the borders.”
The atmosphere that night, she said, was “pretty magical”.
“People were making beats and music just with the things we had around us… and a few spontaneous dance parties broke out,” she said. Police officers stayed away for most of the night, which Grace said felt “pretty suspect”: “Every other night, the cop presence had been very strong – they had been constantly breaking us up, tear-gassing us, and shooting us with rubber bullets, flash bangs and pepper balls.”
But the PKAZ only stood for about five hours. The police arrived at about 05:30, reportedly in full riot gear. “There were about 30 of them and they started dismantling the barriers and telling people to leave,” Grace said.
Another autonomous zone, this time on the other side of the country, suffered a similar fate. On 22 June, activists cordoned off an area just north of Lafayette Square in Washington DC. They set up tents and put up signs reading: Black House Autonomous Zone, or Bhaz. The name “Black House” was to place it in contrast to the nearby White House.
By the following morning, Bhaz had been dismantled by the police, and President Donald Trump had vowed in a tweet to meet protesters with “serious force” if they tried to rebuild the area – a threat so serious that Twitter placed a warning flag on it.
And later that week, in Philadelphia, protesters briefly brought a disused hospital back to life. On 27 June a crowd marched to Hahnemann Hospital, set up barricades, canopies, and tables, and nurses began treating patients on the spot. It lasted for less than an hour.
The occupation was led by a coalition of healthcare workers and community members called Care Not Cops, which calls for funding that currently goes to the local police force to be reinvested in preventative public services, such as healthcare and community centres.
Local residents say Hahnemann primarily served low-income and black communities before it was permanently closed by its owner, real estate developer Joel Freedman, in September last year. As the coronavirus started sweeping through the US with force earlier this year, Mr Freedman told local media he had offered to sell the hospital to the city, or lease it for almost $1 million a month – $60 per day per bed, plus utilities and other running costs. The city couldn’t afford it, and so despite the growing public health crisis the hospital has remained empty.
“The hospital shut last summer to immense local resistance, and the owner’s attempt at extracting a ransom during the pandemic made it a really potent symbol of privatised health,” local reporter Max Fox, who took part in the protest, told the BBC. “So there was a lot of pent up anger.”
At the time of his offer, a spokesman for Mr Freedman told US media that he had offered to sell the hospital to the city below market rates, and that he had “not only desired to be helpful to the city… but he was very reasonable”.
Although brief, the Hahnemann Hospital occupation touched on a crisis that has run parallel to these protests – access to healthcare, particularly as the US has the world’s highest number of coronavirus infections and the highest death toll.
Patrick Cline heads up an organisation called the Frontliners, which distributes medical supplies to protesters across the US through a network across different parts of the country, including Seattle. He told the BBC he started the organisation after seeing a police officer destroy medical supplies at a protest.
“He took his elbow and put it through a medic table – and all of the food and medical supplies spilled out onto the ground, and he stomped with his foot on the medical supplies,” he said. Later, he saw videos of other officers doing the same thing in other parts of the country. “[Medics] weren’t there to burn down buildings and whatnot, they were just there to help others being injured.”
Councilmember Sawant accused the police in Seattle of targeting medics, too.
“Early on in the Capitol Hill movement, when the protest movement was facing down police violence, it was not only that the police were targeting peaceful protesters with mace and tear gas – they were targeting the medic tents near the protest action,” she told the BBC. “I can tell you from personal experience how horrific it is. I was personally among the hundreds who were there. We were tear gassed and maced, and the number of flashbang grenades that were exploded… it looked like a war zone.”
Then, there were the shootings.
There were four shootings at the Chop in a 10-day period towards the end of June, two of which were fatal. The first shooting happened in the early hours of 20 June, killing 19-year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson and injuring a 33-year-old man. A second shooting the next day left a 17-year-old boy injured, and another person was wounded in a third shooting two days later. In the fourth shooting, on 29 June, a 16-year-old boy was shot and a 14-year-old boy was left critically injured. Allegations of sexual assault and mental health crises within the zone began to be reported, too.
Although protesters insisted the violence wasn’t directly connected to Chop, the atmosphere in the community began to change.
Some officials who had previously been supportive of the protest zone began to sour, too. Mayor Durkan walked back her “summer of love” comments, and at the end of June announced that the zone would be dismantled, claiming the movement’s message had “been undermined by violence”. On 1 July, Chop reached a violent end.
The Seattle Police Department tweeted that anyone who remained in the area, or returned to it, would be arrested. After the area was cleared, Police Chief Carmen Best tried to put a nail in the idea of a police-free society, telling reporters: “Enough is enough.”
Daniel Baryon, an anarchist YouTuber from Tulsa who spent a week in Chop towards the end of its existence, said the zone felt like it was on its “last legs” – and in contrast to the hopeful atmosphere when it was first established, negative coverage, a lack of democratic process and a toxic atmosphere all contributed to protesters feeling a “lack of enthusiasm” towards the end.
But the movement is looking to the future, he told the BBC.
“People are trying a tactic and seeing how it works, what the successes and the failures are, and how they should move forward,” he said. “I don’t want to get too specific, but the direction many people are going in is towards organising neighbourhoods, democratic structures that allow people to make decisions together, and to create an autonomous zone but the other way around – by building citizen power first, and then declaring autonomy, instead of seizing an autonomous zone in a spontaneous moment and then having to work through the chaos.”
This democracy, he adds, would be “a consensus process – it’s not electing representatives to decide for you, but it’s everybody sitting down, forming the path forward together through discussion, and voting as a direct democracy”.
For Grace, the autonomous zone was never meant to last forever. “I think it’s sad and symbolic, and the way the police dismantled it was really terrible,” she said. “But I don’t think it was meant to be a permanent thing… it was meant to be a moment in time, a piece de resistance – and in that way it served its purpose.”
Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.
Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.
BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
Anyscale inks $40M: Anyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.
Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.
Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.
Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.
This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.
Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.
Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.
“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”
Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.
“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”
Denver, CO, October 21, 2020 – OTC PR WIRE – GenTech Holdings, Inc. (OTC PINK: GTEH) (“GenTech” or the “Company”), an emerging leader in the high-end Premium Coffee (www.secretjavas.com), Hemp Wellness (www.hakunasupply.com) and Functional Foods (www.SINFITnutrition.com) marketplaces, along with its SINFIT Nutrition brand (“SINFIT”), is excited to announce that the Company has signed a new marketing, sales, and distribution agreement (the “Agreement”) with TruLife Distribution (“TruLife”) (TruLifeDist.com), a leader in marketing, distribution, compliance, e-commerce, and advisory services in the Functional Foods marketplace. The main focus of the new Agreement will be to accelerate the growth of e-commerce sales of SINFIT products, particularly over the Amazon.com platform.
TruLife provides direct access to sales on Amazon, Walmart, Rakuten, Wish, TopHatter, and other top e-commerce platforms, allowing clients to instantly list, ship, and sell products through any major platform, with an experienced team of experts and a proven track record of success in brand placement and digital sales strategies.
“We have already demonstrated a significant & expansive growth curve since taking control of the SINFIT brand in June,” commented Harold Vaca, VP Domestic Sales of SINFIT. “But the vast majority of that growth has been driven by large purchase orders from major distribution partners, both domestic and international. We are also committed to aggressively pursuing end-market consumer direct purchases through our e-commerce footprint, which will provide additional growth and diversify our cash flow ecosystem, making our overall strategy less dependent upon any one source of demand, while driving further growth in total sales.”
Management notes that e-commerce sales represent a sizeable portion of overall retail sales growth worldwide, with more than $3.5 trillion in online sales accounting for over 14% of total pre-pandemic global retail sales. Since the onset of the global health crisis, that ratio has shifted decisively further in favor of e-commerce sales, which is not likely to entirely revert back upon the advent of a viable and widely accessible vaccine.
Vaca added, “We have seen an epic process of market penetration for e-commerce platforms this year as major online retailers have begun to reach a much wider base of consumers – people who haven’t ever shopped much online, but have been forced to during recent months out of personal health concerns. Many of them will almost certainly continue to make use of e-commerce now that they have tried it out, at least to some extent, making e-commerce an essential sales channel for SINFIT products. TruLife has the network, team, experience, and resources to dramatically augment our e-commerce performance.”
SINFIT branded products registered over $2.2 million in global sales in 2019, and are now approved for sale and available for purchase on the Walmart.com and Amazon.com e-commerce platforms as well as in over 2,500 GNC locations in North America and over 10,000 global physical and e-commerce stores across more than 10 countries around the world.
SINFIT products as well-positioned relative to peers and to the long-term macro tailwind defining the functional foods market, which saw sales top $267 billion in February of this year on a global basis, with sales in the US reaching $63 billion, according to Euromonitor 2020. This trend is part of a larger supportive momentum in the general category, with global sales of organic food and drink topping $105 billion in 2018 (Ecovia 2019). U.S. organic food sales also reached $47.9 billion, up 5.9% in 2018 (OTA 2019). In 2019, 77% of U.S. adults used dietary supplements, an all-time high (CRN 2019). U.S. supplement sales are estimated to have reached $49.3 billion in 2019, up 6.2% (NBJ 2019).
About GenTech Holdings, Inc.:
GenTech Holdings, Inc. is a publicly traded company under the symbol GTEH. The Company launched a high-end Coffee Subscription service in early 2020 called Secret Javas, owns a Functional Food company, SINFIT Nutrition and recently closed its acquisition on Products-Groups’ “Hakuna Supply”.
Forward-Looking Statements This press release may contain forward-looking statements, including information about management’s view of GenTech, Inc.’s future expectations, plans and prospects. In particular, when used in the preceding discussion, the words “believes,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” or “may,” and similar conditional expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Any statements made in this news release other than those of historical fact, about an action, event or development, are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause the results of GenTech, its subsidiaries and concepts to be materially different than those expressed or implied in such statements. Unknown or unpredictable factors also could have material adverse effects on GenTech’s future results. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only as of the date hereof. GenTech cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Finally, GenTech undertakes no obligation to update these statements after the date of this release, except as required by law, and also takes no obligation to update or correct information prepared by third parties that are not paid for by GenTech.