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‘There’s so much unknown’ — In small towns that host big events, timing is crucial for the recovery

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Willie the Wildcat fires up the fans in the first quarter of a Big 12 football game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and Kansas State Wildcats on November 16, 2019 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, KS.

Scott Winter | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

For Russ Loub and the Little Apple Brewing Co., the coronavirus shutdowns could not have come at a worse time.

Loub’s steakhouse, which he and his wife Kelly have owned since 1995, adopted the nickname of its surroundings — Manhattan, Kansas, a city of about 50,000 people that is roughly 100 miles west of Kansas City and home to Kansas State University.

Five key months — April and May in the spring with college graduation, and then September through November for football season — account for roughly 80% of the steakhouse’s annual profits, Loub estimated. With the restaurant forced to halt dine-in operations in March due to the pandemic, two of those months have already been wiped out for the year.

“As soon as the mandatory quarantine happened, we instantly lost probably close to 4,000 reservations. That was absolutely devastating,” the 61-year-old Loub said.

The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have wreaked havoc on cities large and small across the U.S., killing more than 100,000 and sending unemployment to levels not seen since before World War II. Over the past month, policymakers have slowly lifted restrictions on businesses and gatherings, attempting to learn what activities are possible before a vaccine arrives.

As spring turns into summer in Manhattan, the details of the fall semester, including whether the university will bring back its normal surge of more than 20,000 students and whether 50,000 fans will pack Bill Snyder Family Stadium for seven Saturdays, remain murky.

Victor Matheson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross who studies sports economics, said estimates of the impact from sporting events on local economies are often overblown because people are just substituting one set of purchases for another. But this fall, with the virus creating other economic restrictions, the damage could be more acute.

“If you’re not having football, you’re not having all sorts of other things. You’re not having big weddings, you’re not having restaurants that are packed anyway, you’re not having conferences, you’re not having parent weekend, you’re not having all of these other normal economic activities that happen,” Matheson said. “So not only do you not get the football game in the first place, you don’t even get the activity that would normally be crowded out by that.”

And for smaller college towns like Manhattan, that can be compounded by a lack of other economic attractions and that college football tends to bring in people from out of town, Matheson said, not to mention the hit from a potentially diminished student population.

The university announced plans to hold the fall semester, though students will report a week earlier in August and not return to campus after Thanksgiving break. Loub said that there is concern around town that the number of students that do come to campus will be down significantly from previous years.

Football season, with or without fans, remains an open question across the country, with Kansas State’s conference rival Iowa State announcing plans to limit its stadium capacity to 50% and University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel telling the Wall Street Journal that the school won’t play football if students aren’t on campus.

“There’s so much unknown. That’s really the most difficult part of it,” Loub said. “I’m sure if you talk to anyone else, they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s the unknown things that are the scariest.”

‘You count them in rallies around here’

Bikers ride down Main Street on the first day of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Andrew Cullen | Getty Images

On Monday in Sturgis, South Dakota, the City Council will decide what to do about the event that has defined the town for decades — the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

This year’s rally — the 80th edition — is currently scheduled for Aug. 7 to 16, potentially bringing hundreds of thousands of people to a town where, according to a Census Bureau estimate, fewer than 7,000 live.

Rod Bradley, a former council member who is now the vice chairman of the Meade County Board of Commissioners, said he expects people will come into town regardless of what city officials decide, but not on the scale of previous years. He said that international tourists and older or immunocompromised bikers likely won’t make the trip even if the rally officially happens.

“It was going to be an anniversary year. It was going to be a huge, banner year with a lot of excitement. But with the Covid-19 virus, it’s not going to look the same,” Bradley said.

Bradley, 52, and his wife Cassie own the Hotel Sturgis, which opened just before last year’s rally, and the Oasis bar, which opened in 2011.

“That’s eight rallies. You count them in rallies around here,” he said.

Between the two businesses, Bradley said he typically has eight employees but would hire roughly 20 more to handle the 10-day rally.

For the Oasis, the rally typically accounts for 40% of his annual revenue, and in an anniversary year it would be bigger, he said.

Bars and restaurants in the town will often hire out-of-towners to serve the wave of bikers rolling into a town that sits waiting for those crowds most of the year, Bradley said. Without the rally, the economics of downtown Sturgis don’t make much sense.

“Everybody’s got a building bigger than they need year-round. The value of the property is higher than year-round supports,” Bradley said.

Won’t be ‘business the way it was’

The federal government has soaked the economy with trillions of dollars of relief to support businesses and consumers during the shutdowns caused by the pandemic. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the Trump administration would like future relief packages to be more targeted at the most impacted industries.

“When we look at the next round … I think one of the things we’re really going to need to be very focused on is how do we help the industries that are especially impacted. And I would say hotels, travel, entertainment, [and] restaurants are right up there,” Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday.

But as the economy reopens at different speeds in different states, and as places like Sturgis and The Little Apple risk missing out on vital business periods, it’s not just certain business sectors that will be disproportionately impacted but different locations.

An expansion of the disaster loan program from the Small Business Administration that has proven effective after localized disasters, like hurricanes, could be useful in this situation, said Meri Davlasheridze, an assistant professor at Texas A&M at Galveston who studies disaster economics.

The SBA’s disaster loan program has already paid out roughly $80 billion to small businesses hurt by Covid-19, including Loub’s, but Davlasheridze said increasing the funding and ensuring businesses can use the money to reconfigure their businesses for social distancing would provide a boost.

“I think the SBA disaster loans are particularly potent for some small businesses impacted by Covid, particularly in this transitory period until their customers bounce back and they adjust their behavior,” Davlasheridze said.

Little Apple Brewing Co. has already started on a new path, with the Loubs rolling out an online retail operation during the pandemic. Loub said that the restaurant, which has about 250 seats and does roughly $2.2 million in annual sales, may reopen dine-in services in July as capacity restrictions are further loosened, if the health situation allows for it.

Still, the restaurant will likely no longer serve lunch or Sunday brunch, he said, and probably won’t ramp back up to its normal staffing level of between 40 and 50 workers.

“We’re realizing that we’re not going to be able to go back to our business the way it was,” Loub said.

Whenever the restaurant does reopen as close to normal as possible, this will be the final shot for Loeb, who says the shutdown has already cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“If there is another outbreak that threatened to close us down, that would actually be devastating for us, and I don’t think we could recover from that,” Loub said. “We have pretty much decided if we can’t make it this time, that’s going to be it,”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/13/coronavirus-restrictions-on-small-businesses-hoping-for-large-crowds.html

Crunchbase

The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

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.

Funding news

  • 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 $40MAnyscale, 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.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • 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.

Other news

  • 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.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Crunchbase

Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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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.

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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.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

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.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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Coinpedia

GenTech Proudly Secures Deal with TruLife Distribution to Drive Growth in SINFIT Digital Sales

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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.

Corporate Contact:
invest@gentech.group

www.gentechholdings.com

Source: https://otcprwire.com/gentech-proudly-secures-deal-with-trulife-distribution-to-drive-growth-in-sinfit-digital-sales/

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