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Our Startups and Films in the Press

Baltimore's Hungry Harvest has closed its Series A round of funding with $13.7 million in venture capital to show for it.

Hungry Harvest announced it had already raised about $7.25 million toward the Series A earlier this year. The oversubscribed round was led by Creadev, a firm based in Paris that invests in food, health care and sustainability ventures. Existing and new investors also participated, including New York's Danone Manifesto Ventures, Switzerland-based Quadia and Ohio's Maywic Select Investments.


The infusion brings the produce rescue and delivery business' total backing to more than $15 million to date.

After launching its peer-to-peer sports betting app internationally in March 2019, ZenSports has been on a fast growth trajectory. Over 25,000 bets have been accepted and over $12M in betting volume has been processed through the app. The company has continued to expand its product offering, including the launch of its own cryptocurrency token called SPORTS, the launch of its new enterprise product suite, and its expansion into Esports betting. 

Most importantly, the company signed a deal last month with Strategic Gaming Management for the option to purchase the Big Wheel Casino in Lovelock, Nevada, which will allow ZenSports to operate its peer-to-peer mobile sports betting app anywhere in the state once it gets licensed there.

Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, born Corey Woods, has gotten into the cannabis game. His project is as unprecedented as it is cool - and just.

The rapper turned entrepreneur has invested in CitizenGrown, a company that defines itself as “cannabis for the people, by the people.” With a unique business model, CitizenGrown’s mission is to provide households (in U.S. states where cultivation is legal) with automated cannabis grow boxes that allow people to reap the rewards of this ever-expanding industry.

Sanctuary Studios announced its new video on-demand app available for VIZIO Smartcast that features health and wellness content like meditation and yoga classes you can follow along with at home.

Based in Seattle, Sanctuary Studios, Inc. is an immersive yoga and meditation studio that launched an innovative virtual yoga retreat model streamed to independent studios where students could practice yoga, sound baths, and guided meditations taught by instructors in stunning locations around the world.

For Traveling Spoon, the coronavirus pandemic was a body blow to a business that organizes bespoke meals and cooking lessons for intrepid travelers at the homes of local hosts.

Then in April, they went virtual, tapping a network of hosts in 67 countries to offer online cooking classes. The initial six lessons quickly ballooned to 131, and with prices starting at $25, they are seen as a bargain. Some people are turning to Traveling Spoon in lieu of canceled holidays, while it’s also popular with travel enthusiasts who for health or financial reasons can’t move around as freely as they used to, she said.

Partnerships are also key in finding the most innovative packaging solutions that help the environment rather than damage it. One company already leading the way is Sana Packaging, a supplier of packaging made from 100% plant-based hemp plastic that just last year launched a line of packaging made from ocean plastics through a partnership with Oceanworks. 

The Fluent Forever smartphone app is a visual course that encourages you to associate words and phrases with images, using flashcards created from your own image library. So I now associate the Italian words for house, ice cream and kiss with pictures of my family and home. There are stock options if you don’t have time, but the personalization helped to jog my memory.

When the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page story on the team, movie director Brandon Eric Kamin saw it and was intrigued. He created a fictional story that became the film “The Nomads,” which recently won an award at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

In the sophomoric episode of Between Two Founders: Side Stories, host Sean Sutherland speaks with Patrick Rife, cofounder of Baltimore-based event technology services company Pixilated. 

Balloon is a platform that helps workers collaborate and contribute input to ideas in the workplace in an unbiased fashion and it’s just scored $2.1 million in seed funding. Amanda Greenberg, co-founder and CEO of Balloon, joined Cheddar to discuss.

Balloon has nothing to do with the sharing economy. Rather it is a workplace communication platform similar to Slack but anonymous so co-workers can share ideas without the fear of judgement or failure.

If you flew into/out of the San Jose Airport over the past Thanksgiving holiday — bummer! You just missed having a robot make and serve you a latte. Cafe X announced today that its latest automated coffee kiosk is now open for business at the San Jose Airport (SJC).

This is the fourth Cafe X location to open in the Bay Area and SJC is the company’s first airport location (the opening of Cafe X at the San Francisco airport has been delayed due to airport construction).

Entrepreneurs have created for-profit and nonprofit ventures across the country to address food waste and hunger. The startup Imperfect Produce, for example, buys produce that grocery stores don’t purchase from farmers because it is “ugly” or misshapen. Philadelphia’s Misfits Markets and Hungry Harvest in Baltimore are working to achieve similar goals.

Sanctuary has raised $3.1 million from family offices and what Martin described as “a medley of dream team angel investors,” with backers such as Geoff Entress, Neil Patel, Andy Sack, Tihan Seale, and Jedd Canty. The company’s advisors include Bill Baxter, CTO of Vizio; Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp; Kate Harmer, group creative director at Amazon; and several others. Martin co-founded the company with Alex Benasuli.

While researching the effects of THC, I realized that cannabis was, as I previously mentioned, a drug development toolkit from which a wide range of “designer highs” and medicines could be formulated. Not only are there so many potential applications, but  the efficacy could be as good or better than alcohol and many of the pharmaceutical drugs out there, with less risk/harm. I realized that nobody was doing anything with this knowledge. And the people with the capability of doing it - pharmaceutical companies - couldn't really move into this space. So I pulled together a group of friends and we started doing some, some research to learn how we could formulate for a specific effect. After a couple of months of feasibility studies and market research, I launched LucidMood with Dave Georgis in November of 2015.

Sana Packaging, a startup that designs and develops cannabis packaging for a circular economy, launches its second line of cannabis packaging made from reclaimed ocean plastic.

The Sana Ocean Screw-Top lids and glass jars are available in a number of colors and sizes. The lids are child-resistant and made from 100 percent reclaimed ocean plastic in partnership with Oceanworks®.

Companies such as Sana Packaging are attempting to solve cannabis’ plastic waste problem by using 100 percent plant-based hemp plastic, 100 percent reclaimed ocean plastic, and other sustainable materials. Applying innovative packaging technology, creating eco-friendly packaging, and investing in sustainable practices such as the accordion, or peel-back labels that reduce the amount of waste created by product packaging, helps brands not only reach environmentally conscious consumers but also make an impact on a growing global issue.

“We saw a glaring unfairness in the cannabis industry and we wanted to be a part of the solution,” said CEO of CitizenGrown, Redg Snodgrass, in a press release. “We sometimes think it’s a foregone conclusion that the rich get richer but it doesn’t have to be that way.  We have the opportunity to architect how the business works, on a national level and from farm to table, so to speak, with an eye on fairness.”

Software is even helping cannabis companies find advertising space. Adistry, a Longmont-based company, developed software “that helps connect cannabis companies seeking to buy advertising space with media outlets and other businesses willing to sell advertising space to marijuana operators,” according to Marijuana Business Magazine. 

“Adistry, which also serves other regulated industries such as alcohol and gambling, isn’t just about introductions,” MJ Biz Mag wrote. “The software automates much of the ad-buying and -selling processes for clients, which is particularly useful for small businesses that may not have the time or expertise to manage ad buys.”

This year, Sana Packaging, one of the first green plastic cannabis packaging companies, announced it had removed four tons of plastic waste from the ocean with its first orders of reclaimed ocean plastic cannabis packaging, taking recycling to a new level.

This year, Sana Packaging, one of the first green plastic cannabis packaging companies, announced it had removed four tons of plastic waste from the ocean with its first orders of reclaimed ocean plastic cannabis packaging, taking recycling to a new level.

The push to get travelers to book tours and activities through mobile apps and websites has never been more vigorous. The majority of these day trips, unlike hotels and flights, are still booked offline, representing the next major growth opportunity for online travel companies. 

Traveling Spoon, with locals hosting cooking classes and making homemade meals, came on the scene in 2013.

Sana Packaging is an American startup that designs and develops sustainable, compliant packaging solutions for the cannabis industry using 100 percent chemical-free, plant-based hemp plastic and 100 percent reclaimed ocean plastic.

Travelers log onto Traveling Spoon to book in-home meals, cooking classes, or market tours in over 22 countries from China to Morocco for anywhere from $20 to $170. This summer, the company will launch in Europe. (Anyone up for learning how to make pasta from scratch in a true Tuscan kitchen?) “We wanted to disrupt that industry by offering local food experiences,” says Aashi. So they did.

Traveling Spoon also offers hosts the opportunity to make money doing what they love, all while learning new languages, and meeting people of different generations and from different parts of the world, Aashi explains. “They become micro entrepreneurs.”

There are moments in any journalists life where you know you’re going to be able to tell a fantastic anecdote for eternity, and this was one of them.

Sitting next to a crystal-clear pool in the blazing sunshine at SXSW in Austin this year, Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan, CitizenGrown’s CEO Redg Snodgrass, Resolute Consulting’s  Alan Solow and I sat down to discuss the cannabis startup’s mission, and what it means to democratize the growing and harvesting process in 2019.

“By eliminating the barista pushing buttons on a coffee machine, we can provide a very high-quality drink quickly at a lower price,” says Henry Hu, who came up with the idea for Café X five years ago while in college and now has three locations with another one coming to San Francisco’s airport.

Among the South Carolina-based films that will be presented at the festival is director Emily Harrold’s While I Breathe, I Hope, a documentary that follows former state representative and current CNN pundit Bakari Sellers during his 2014 push for lieutenant governor, and examines the politico’s struggles to improve race relations in a red state. 

CitizenGrown hosted a private Amsterdam themed Relaxation lounge with coffee, espresso, and mint green teas. A good time had by all — hanging with investors and cannabis industry executives.

They also had DJ appreciation sessions during the days. The DJs at SXSW came chilled out played what “they” wanted and unwound playing with Raekwon from Wu-Tang.

PLUS Products creates safe and delicious cannabis food products. PLUS’s mission is to make cannabis safe and approachable – that starts with high-quality products that deliver consistent experiences.

This is what you’ll want (or need) if you’re looking for a “light” reprieve from discomfort. Or if you’re trying a THC:CBD edible for the first time—without any of the unpleasant side effects. Or if you’re taking CBD on a daily basis as maintenance. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Plus’ pineapple and coconut gummies will do you no harm. It’s a safe bet for beginners.

It took about 5 minutes for an algorithm to putter through the vast complexities of my DNA and spit out 16 “personalized” strains of weed.

I’d relinquished my raw genetic data — some 560k+ single-nucleotide polymorphisms huddled together in a .txt file — to a platform called Strain Genie, which promised to “use [my] DNA to help [me] find the right cannabis products.”

Today Rethink Brands is announcing the launch of Rethink Juice Splash, the most meaningful innovation in the children’s juice category over the last 15 years.

The product line will be available in Walmart and Kroger locations across in the country starting in mid-March. Retail availability will continue to grow with seasonal resets achieving more than 8,000 points of distribution by August 2019.

A new map method opens up parking continuous-environment mapping for enhanced low-cost urban navigation. Collectively recorded context data by many identical platforms gather similar sensor readings when operating in a given area. Further processing integrates the data with a map and feeds the summarized results to a user.

The system is currently in prototype. Collection of the data populating the map was performed with two positioning boards designed by Parkofon Inc. and installed on the dashboard of a vehicle

Montreal-based startup Motorleaf has announced a partnership with Dutch greenhouse supplier Cultilene, to offer commercial greenhouses worldwide facilitated access to AI predictive technology. This announcement marks the launch of a global expansion campaign to connect large-scale producers of hydroponic tomatoes and peppers with new AI automation services.

While the arrival of 2019 could mean an influx of micro-entrepreneurs looking to start cottage food businesses with the passage of California’s AB 626 last year, there’s another potential side-hustle awaiting industrious types with room to spare: at-home cannabis farming.

That’s at least if a new startup called CitizenGrown gets its way. The San Francisco-based company plans to create a network of residential cannabis farmers by providing them with grow systems and handling the sale of the flower.

CitizenGrown would supply each home with a 5×5 hydroponic automated grow system at no cost to the home owner. The company would then manage and monitor the tech-enabled grow systems. Once weed is ready for harvest, CitizenGrown will sell it to local dispensaries and split the revenue with the home grower (to the tune of $1,000 to $3,000 per month).

Gotham Green Partners has invested $4 million in Chooze Corp, which owns the LucidMood brand of functional cannabis products. LucidMood produces disposable vape pens.

The Peak Beyond’s smart store technology allows dispensaries and brands to streamline operations, advertise products and increase sales by inviting shoppers to actively engage with products via large touchscreen displays. As shoppers place products on the Smart Shopping Display, the screen immediately animates, bringing to life the product’s story through real-time, in-depth product information — all without the assistance of a salesperson. The Smart Shopping Display responds to shoppers’ actions, collecting powerful customer data for brands and dispensaries.

Cafe X develops automated coffee preparation kiosks, but still staffs its booths with a human. This frees the worker to interact with customers and explain the offerings. It elevates the barista job from an automaton who fills cups to more of a coffee sommelier, said Cynthia Yeung, chief operating officer of Cafe X.

Pixilated's photo booths aren't just selfie machines. They also provide a marketing service for clients, as many of the individuals who pose for photos enter their email address or social media handles to obtain digital copies of their images. Pixilated clients can also put their logos on the digital images, essentially turning them into free advertisements when they're posted on social media.

PLUS is the largest edibles brand in California and has been focused on leading the largest edibles category: gummies. This acquisition represents a strategic entrance for PLUS into a second edibles category, baked goods, allowing for greater market share in the edibles market. The baked goods category accounted for 13% of the overall edibles market in 2018, excluding tinctures, according to BDS Analytics.

GOOD is a premium edibles brand focused on creating delicious cannabis-infused brownies and baked goods. Committed to offering the best taste, flavor profile and quality without using additives or preservatives, GOOD’s products, including bite size brownies and pumpkin spice blondies, have been featured in Fortune, Vice Magazine and Eater.

The clearest example of outside investment locally is Hashstoria, a marijuana store in Uniontown. The business is registered to Charles Delvalle from Eugene and Canty Ventures, an angel investment firm from Florida embracing nontraditional, emergent industries from cannabis to cryptocurrency. Hashstoria's ownership was not immediately available for comment. On his Instagram profile, Canty founder Jedd Canty announced the company would be establishing a second location in Springfield.

LucidMood makes a variety of vape pens that are named for their desired effect: Energy, Chill, Party, Bliss, Relax, Calm, Relief, Focus, Sleep and Lift. The only thing they all have in common: they all contain 40 percent THC, 40 percent CBD and 20 percent terpenes.

To the growing agritech industry, the food system is filled with problems best solved by the latest technology. That includes food waste, a problem agritech insiders argue is ripe for a blockchain solution, while critics say blockchain is no magic bullet. 


But it turns out food waste can already be tackled with existing tech solutions: Hungry Harvest began with nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet.

LucidMood is not like other marijuana ventures. The company isn’t trying to sell to stoners. In fact, its mild-potency products are specifically designed for the roughly 160 million Americans who never got into smoking weed -- maybe because it left them too paranoid, too withdrawn or too cloudy.

Attorney Bakari Sellers became the U.S.' youngest black elected official when he entered the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2006. Eight years later, he vacated his seat to run for lieutenant governor in the state. His campaign, although ultimately unsuccessful, is the focus of While I Breathe, I Hope, which examines the challenges facing Democrats, and particularly black politicians, in the South.

Hashstoria confidently puts their hash where their name is, I was also impressed by their flower menu, which dares to take chances on lesser-known strains and uncommon terpene expressions, while padding out these adventurous flowers with an array of crowd pleasers.

In San Francisco, Cafe X uses robot baristas to serve you specialty coffee in no time. 

Sometimes a sign in a window can be a sign of the times. And the one emblazoned outside Cafe X in San Francisco says it all: "Robotic Coffeebar."


Now we've heard for years that robots are coming for our jobs, eventually, and maybe that's why no one here seemed particularly surprised at being handed their machine-made macchiato.

RETHINK Brands, the innovative boxed water company disrupting the children's beverage industry with the creation of RETHINK Kids Water, the first zero calorie, zero sodium, and zero sugar boxed water line for kids, announces today it has received a $6.7 million investment for growth and expansion.


The latest round of funding was led by AccelFoods, investors in high-growth, natural food & beverage companies.

Mike Canty deployed to war zones three times before co-founding Armaments Research Company (A.R.C.) which is developing technology that traces weapons usage in real time including location and firing direction. 

Toby De Simone of Livonia is determined to reduce food waste in her community. 

So every weekend, a Hungry Harvest delivery driver drops off a box of fresh fruits and vegetables to her house that local farmers or wholesalers would have otherwise thrown away.

Founded in 2015 by Alastair Monk and Ramen Dutta, Montreal, Quebec-based Motorleaf, Inc. has developed a system that acquires data from indoor growing operations and applies artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms to identify growing patterns.

The baristas at Cafe X can make two drinks in under a minute and will get your order right every time. They're also not human.

The robotic coffee bar employs assembly line-style robots to build your coffee orders for you, making Cafe X a player in San Francisco's automated eatery scene that's also gaining traction across the country.

Panda  has built the next silly social feature Snapchat and Instagram  will want to steal. Today the startup launches its video messaging app that fills the screen with augmented reality effects based on the words you speak. 

Motorleaf’s platform promises to predict accurate harvest amounts, allowing producers to stay on top of contractual obligations and plan operations like the amount of labour to hire per week in anticipation of decreased or increased crop yields.

A robot barista can whip up 120 drinks an hour — and it reveals a growing trend that is transforming the restaurant industry.

Trendy coffee roasters including Intelligentsia, Ritual, and Equator have partnered with Café X Technologies to create a $25,000 robot barista, CNBC reports.

Doug Guy doesn’t consume cannabis — but he believes in its power to heal. A friend who wanted to grow marijuana in Massachusetts got him thinking about the plant for the first time.

“My friend was talking about putting tents in people’s yards and then doing a co-op grow and splitting the yield,” Guy says. “I told him it was a brilliant idea, but also illegal.”

The conversation inspired Guy to seek out legal alternatives, which led him to Cloudponics — one of several companies offering home-grow boxes intended to replace rudimentary tent and closet grows