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NEW YORKFeb. 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — ZitSticka, a tech-meets-skincare brand launches with a revolutionary approach to clearing zits. Today, ZitSticka debuts its hero product, the KILLA™, a breakthrough penetrative patch featuring microdart technology to effectively resolve newfound, upcoming and early-stage zits.

“Most existing acne solutions come with big promises, yet serious limitations as most address the uppermost layer of skin,” says Daniel Kaplan, co-founder of ZitSticka. “We set out to develop an active product that permeates beyond the epidermal layer, and into a zit’s nucleus. After countless hours of research, and trial and error, ZitSticka was born.”

When KILLA is pressed to the skin, the patch’s adhesive backing encloses the early-stage zit, keeping the area protected and sterile. Freeze-dried microdarts penetrate both the stratum corneum and epidermis then self-dissolve within two hours, depositing powerful acne-fighting ingredients directly inside the zit.

Dermatologist favored ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide (B3) and Salicylic Acid pair with Oligopeptide-76, a powerful but gentle peptide that kills acne-causing bacteria. In early trials, 89% of KILLA users noticed a visible reduction in both the size and redness of their zit after a single application.

“As a board-certified dermatologist and acne expert, I teach my patients that the backbone of treating acne is about not only clearing but also preventing acne from forming,” says Dr. Melissa K. Levin. “Since not all patients have access to a dermatologist, efficacious, over-the-counter solutions are needed but have been lacking. By harnessing transdermal technology, ZitSticka acne patches are a breakthrough in offering a gentle yet effective spot treatment to be used within a skincare regimen.”

The patch is designed to be transparent and discreet, giving wearers the confidence to go about their daily activities while KILLA combats their pesky “zituation”. Beyond its first-to-market products, ZitSticka intends to create space for conversation and community, where people can share their experiences with skincare issues and connect with people just like them.

“We are on a mission to de-stigmatize the conversation around acne as well as beautify the treatments themselves,” says Robbie Miller, co-founder of ZitSticka. “Where acne has traditionally been a taboo topic, it is something that affects everyone. We want to promote transparency and a sense of modern normalcy so people become more comfortable in their own skin.”

The KILLA kit is available online for $29.00, which includes eight KILLA patches and eight priming CLEANA swabs. To purchase the KILLA kit and learn more about ZitSticka, visit and follow @zitsticka on Instagram and Facebook.

About ZitSticka 
ZitSticka is an evidence-based skincare brand focused squarely on acne treatments that target every unique stage of a zit’s life cycle. ZitSticka’s debut product, the KILLA patch, contains proven acne-fighting ingredients, and is layered with self-dissolving microdarts that disrupt the progression of upcoming, early-stage zits.

ZitSticka upholds all FDA cosmetic regulatory standards. The company is founded by brothers-in-law and skincare experts, Robbie Miller and Daniel Kaplan, and is slated to launch in February 2019.



hen I was a teenager, I was one of the lucky few who made it through high school without any acne, so I kind of thought I’d be safe forever. But now that I’m in my early 30s (33 is still considered early, right?), my jaw has become a minefield of hormonal, cystic pimples that flare up at the first sign of PMS. Yay.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, though, because my zits so rarely come to a head—they just live deep inside, haunting me, so painful and hot that I sit there dreaming about cutting them out (dark, but true). Which is why I was stoked to hear about ZitSticka, a new acne patch specifically designed to treat below-the-surface pimples before they take over your face. And, to see if they were really worth the hype, I tested them out in the name of science clear skin.

The Patch Deets

“But I’m already obsessed with acne patches!” you cryAnd, hey, same. But these are different than the hydrocolloid bandages you’ve been using from, say, Peach & Lily or CosRx. Because unlike traditional patches, which only work on zits that have already “popped” (so they can absorb fluid from the pimple), ZitSticka’s patches treat unpopped, underground zits using itty-bitty, medication-filled micro-darts. Stay with me, here.

The patch—aptly named Killa—looks like a regular hydrocolloid bandage, but with one key difference: Its sticky surface is covered with 24 dissolvable micro-darts that gently penetrate the stratum corneum and epidermis (your top two layers of skin) to push medication into your pimple. Each dart is filled with acne-fighting and skin-healing ingredients, including hyaluronic acid (to moisturize), niacinamide (to calm inflammation), salicylic acid (to loosen and break down the pimple), and oligopeptide-76 (to kill bacteria).

Each Killa Kit contains eight individually packaged patches and eight pre-treat wipes (soaked with salicylic acid, vitamin E, tea tree oil, and alcohol to sanitize skin and add an extra acne-killing punch before you slap on the patch). Just dab the pimple with a wipe, let it dry for a few seconds, then stick on the patch and live your life.

See the tiny micro-darts on the sticky side of the patch?

WTF It Felt Like

If you’ve used hydrocolloid patches before, you know there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing it turn white from a pimple’s gunk. It’s one of the gross-but-amazing parts of skincare. Sadly, you’re not going to get that with Killa; the darts aren’t actually permeating the zit’s core (it’s impossible to pop cystic pimples from the surface), so they won’t really draw out any gunk overnight.

Still, I was surprised by how incredibly satisfying the patch felt when I applied it—like I was doing something productive for my pimple. After washing my face and wiping down my most painful cystic zit, I pressed on the Killa patch, holding it for 15 seconds, as recommended, to help it really adhere. The darts actually do feel prickly when you first press on the patch—kind of like a piece of velcro against your skin—but the whole thing is more uncomfortable than it is painful. The brand recommends leaving the patch on for at least two hours to allow the darts to fully dissolve, but I decided to apply it right before bed to give it a full seven hours to work.

The Results

Part of me didn’t expect this patch to work at all (I’ve seen too many gimmicks), but by the time I woke up and peeled it off, my zit was noticeably calmer. The warmth and redness that had been radiating from it the night before were diminished—it was now just a pink, barely painful bump. In fact, within 48 hours, the zit had cleared up completely, as if I had gotten a cortisone injection from my derm.

My underground zit before the sticker (left), and immediately after (right) I removed the sticker the following morning.

I was legitimately shocked these patches worked so well, so I went to experts to find out, well, why. Was I just a lucky case? According to dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale University (and not affiliated with ZitSticka), the niacinamide (vitamin B3) in each micro-dart was the “magic ingredient” for my cyst. “Niacinamide is a potent anti-inflammatory that’s sometimes prescribed as an oral medication because it’s so effective,” she says, noting that it becomes even more powerful when combined with hyaluronic acid, which “pushes in moisture to reduce irritation.” Basically, she’s not surprised Killa worked so well for me.


Will It Work for You?

Here’s the thing about Killa: It’s not an acne cure. Though the micro-darts are effective at penetrating the first two layers of skin, Dr. Gohara says the ingredients seem less effective at treating and healing pimples, and more effective at reducing the inflammation within a pimple—which, in turn, can help your body heal it faster on its own.

So what does all this mean for you? Killa patches won’t replace your skincare routine—you’ll still need a good cleanser and zit-fighting regimen—nor should they, considering a box of eight patches and wipes retails for $29, which, if you’re using them daily, will add up fast. Still, when you’ve got the occasional underground zit and don’t have the time (or money) to run to the derm for an injection, you can use these patches to help reduce the redness and swelling of a pimple fast. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is worth all of the micro-darts and money in the world.



Using technology that sounds like it comes straight out of Predator, Miku is a new baby monitor that watches and senses your baby’s vitals in real time. The system not only broadcasts a secure feed of your baby’s sleep time but it also analyzes the heart rate and breathing without wearables.

The system uses military technology to sense the baby’s vitals and it will store video even if the Wi-Fi goes out.

The Miku Baby Monitor uses patent-pending AI and machine learning technology called SensorFusion, which combines optical and wireless sensing to build a full and accurate picture of the baby’s critical health metrics with no wires or wearables. Beyond breathing and sleeping patterns, these sensors track temperature and humidity levels to ensure the baby’s environment is stable. Miku’s technology and corresponding app work with smartphones from anywhere in the world and sends instant alerts when it matters most, giving parents a tranquil peace of mind.

The app also records data over time, giving the parents a better understanding of sleep patterns and the like. Developed by CEO and new parent Eric White, the Miku builds on White’s experience building gear and software for the Department of Defense, ITT, L3 and Picatinny.

The team believes the monitor will also work with elder care as well, allowing worried children to keep an eye on their parents.

“The Miku Baby Monitor is only the beginning for us,” said White. “As a new father, I know there is a huge need for this level of technology and sophistication in a product people entrust to help care for their loved ones. The applications for Miku’s technology are limitless.”

The Miku is available for order now and costs $399.

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The 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) features more than 4,400 companies showing off their gadgets. It’s a huge event filled with robots, massive televisions, virtual reality rigs, and lots of cutting edge tech straight out of science fiction. There’s a lot to gawk at. This year was particularly big for parenting-focused tech. There was an 88 percent increase in applicants for the show’s baby tech award from last year, proving that parenting tech is a growing — and lucrative sector. From baby monitors to fertility trackers, these are the gadgets we think parents should know about.

Nanit Breathing Wear

Nanit, makers of a connected, overhead baby monitor, released two new garments, a Breathing Band and Swaddle. Both are adorned with special patterns of squares that allow the monitors to track a baby’s breathing rate and, most importantly, alert you when no breathing motion is detected. They’ll be available in single- and three-packs priced from $25, with a monitor, band, and swaddle bundle on sale for $379. They won’t hit the market until March, but you can sign up for the waitlist now on the company’s website.

Nurture by Imalac

A single day was all this breast massage system needed to hit its Kickstarter goal. It’s designed to mimic the hand expression technique commonly used to facilitate breastfeeding. The kit comes with a bra with special pockets for massaging cups that can be inserted before pumping. Moms can use the included controller or the Nurture by Imalac app to control the pressure, speed, and hold time of the massage. The company claims that its product can help women pump more milk more quickly and alleviate breast pain associated with pumping. It will be available in June for $299, but you can reserve one now with a free additional bra and a surprise item on Kickstarter for just $224.

Owlet Cam

Previously known for its smart sock, a wearable baby monitor that sends heart rate, oxygen levels, skin temperature, and sleep quality/position data to your phone, Owlet is back with a video baby monitor. It streams 1080p video, shot through a wide angle lens, and adds room temperature sensing and background audio to the Owlet app. The Cam ships on January 22 and will be available on its own for $149 and as part of a bundle with the Smart Sock for $399.

Coolpad Dyno

The blue and pink bands and whimsical UI on this smartwatch are designed to appeal to kids, but it’s been built with parents in mind. The watch’s integrated 4G-LTE connection works throughout the U.S. and Canada and enables parents to send and receive text and voice messages and create a list of other approved contacts who can do the same through the Dyno Companion app. There’s also a dedicated SOS button that’ll connect kids to an approved contact as well as GPS capabilities that lets parents see where their kids are and alert them when they leave customizable “safety zones.” The Dyno will be available for $149 on January 28.


Pinna is a digital library of ad-free content designed for kids 12 and under. It’s a mixture of licensed material and original content. Examples include “The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel,” a serial mystery story performed by kids for kids 8 and older and “Molly and the Sugar Monster,” a paean to healthy food aimed at a younger crowd. Unlimited access to Pinna’s content library through iOS devices will run you $8 a month or $80 a year.


Similar to the Nanit, this baby monitor is a contactless way to stream video to your kids and measure their vitals (breathing rate, temperature, sleep quality). It also logs sound and movement throughout the night and there’s also a clever feature that lets you choose music or white noise for specified lengths of time. All this is packed into a svelte, bare white unit that sits above your baby’s crib. It’s available now for the sizable sum of $399.


The first sonogram at the OBGYN’s office is a big moment in any pregnancy. With the Baby-Scan, you can perform ultrasounds at home. The remote control-sized device feeds live 3D scans to the companion app using WiFi and places them on a timeline so you can scroll through your baby’s in utero development. It’s not the most necessary item in the world, but being able to safely take your own ultrasounds whenever you want is undeniably cool. Unfortunately, the Baby-Scan has yet to hit the market and the only details of its availability are “after CES 2019.”


There were a good deal of fertility tracking devices released CES 2019. Among them was Tempdrop, an armband meant for women to wear at night that makes it less inconvenient way of knowing one’s stats. After two to three months, Tempdrop will have enough data to generate clear charts of a woman’s cycle to help trying parents make sure they’re maximizing your chances of getting pregnant. The Tempdrop will ship this month at a price of $149. This is bold: For an extra $40, buyers get a 12-month full refund guarantee if they don’t get pregnant in a year.

Ava Fertility Tracker 2.0

A new and improved version of Ava’s fertility tracking bracelet, the Ava tracker 2.0 is updated with a sleeker strap, better sensor performance, and a vibrating alarm. The company claims that, because it uses resting pulse rate, skin temperature, breathing rate, and other parameters instead of the traditional basal temperature method, it can let your wife know when she’s going to ovulate instead of when she just ovulated. The basic Ava is available now for $299, as is the plus version with online content and a one-year pregnancy guarantee, and a premium version that adds a consultation with a fertility coach for $699.



A Series of Profiles of Innovators at the Forefront of Consumer Behavior and Business Transformation: Rob Royer, Founding CEO, Interior Define.

The digital direct-to-consumer model is transforming just about every category of the consumer retail industry. What Warby Parker, Bonobos, Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, Casper and other high-profile examples have popularized, Rob Royer and his team hope to emulate to redefine the unique category of custom furniture. Royer is the founder and CEO of Interior Define, a business changing the way consumers buy furniture.

So, why furniture? And more specifically, why sofas?

Furniture is a sizable, evolving market. According to Statista, furniture and furnishing sales reached over $110 billion in 2016 and sofas comprise one of the largest segments of that market. More importantly, it’s something Royer knows well and deeply cares about. “I grew up in a design-oriented family,” said Royer. “My mother and grandmother were interior designers and my father and grandfather were both architects.”

Perhaps as important, Royer was an early team member at men’s apparel startup Bonobos, the DTC innovator acquired by Walmart for $310 million in 2017.

“Reflecting back on it now, I think we share a common perspective; they were really a pioneering digitally native brand focused on solving what they found was a problem in men gaining access to well-fitting apparel,” recalls Royer. “As such, Interior Define was created to address the consumer pain-points in selecting and purchasing a sofa, which is an significant investment for any home.”


Royer was employed at Bonobos during its infancy in 2007. In that time, he witnessed the power of the customer community they were building around a singular category and they were tackling it from a customer experience perspective. It was around that time he reflects on sofa shopping for his first home in Chicago with his wife.

“I found that I actually really enjoyed furniture shopping,” he recalls fondly. “I appreciated the furniture consumer; which I think is unusual, but I enjoyed spending time in retail locations and I think I shopped nearly every option. Furniture is a significantly fragmented category and I began to recognize a common set of consumer pain points in the space,” says Royer.

He remembers being surprised that no other manufacturer was focused on building a singular, purpose-filled brand for the sofa consumer in the middle of the market. “It felt like a massive opportunity, but I frankly didn’t know how I was going to crack it at the time,” he recalls. Regardless of early uncertainty, he still procured the brand URL,, in 2008.

After his Bonobos tenure, Royer went to graduate school in Chicago and then on to an ad agency after that. During that time, he continued to recognize the potential and opportunity to disrupt this space. He began doing some further research into the market and connected with others familiar with how the supply chain worked in China. He then traveled there to gain a firsthand familiarity with the manufacturing landscape.

It became clear to him that the problem with consumer drawback centered on major brands focusing on everything for the home yet ignoring what he believed to be the most important category – sofas. These brands were hedging bets on what they believed consumers would buy. From there, they then prebuilt the product, warehoused it and showcased in a stale, retail-heavy environment, making the entire buying process unenjoyable and inefficient.

It took two years to create a supply chain and find the right partners when Royer finally launched the brand officially in January of 2014. “The plan from our perspective was to create a user experience online first that would enable shoppers to easily customize a piece,” said Royer.

Interior Define was not an instant success. They had very limited marketing dollars and had very little early web activity. This changed, however, when that web activity was nurtured through local brand recognition with a physical location in Chicago. Customers who learned about the brand online first, would then find their way to the store.

“It was initially difficult to find the right location. Our first store sat right underneath the ‘L’ [train] tracks in Wicker Park. It was then when we started evaluating a huge amount of valuable customer feedback,” recalled Royer. “We learned that our custom offering was greatly resonating with the right consumer, but we hadn’t merchandised the retail location in a way that really matched our web experience.”

Interior Define eventually upgraded to a different location in Chicago; the opportunistic Lincoln Park neighborhood. This popular community is also home to other large digitally native brands and proved to be a much more suitable site to nurture visibility. With that transition, Royer completely rethought how to merchandise the product in the new space. They evolved and used a fresher merchandising approach – they upgraded the visibility of the customization options by adding them to the walls; this way shoppers could engage and truly understand what the products and business were all about.

Today, the business in growing. Interior Define has opened several new guide shop locations around the country including the SoHo neighborhood of New York last year, followed by Los Angeles and Austin with San Francisco and Boston being added in the last half of 2018.

“We have essentially tripled the business every year for three years in a row,” said Royer. “We now have six physical retail locations and our team has grown to 85 employees today.” The business has attracted venture capital backing as well, securing a total of $27 million from Pritzker Ventures, Listen Ventures, Breakout Capital, Fifth Wall and Peterson Ventures.

“We are really excited about the foundation that we’ve created and the brand awareness that we’ve built,” he concludes. “We consider ourselves the most innovative custom sofa retailer in the country and we are using this success to expand and redefine other categories in the home as well. We intend to be known as the pioneer in the digitally native home furnishing space.”


Food, Products

Ask Duncan Berry about the seafood industry, and you can expect him to get philosophical. Covering about 70 percent of the Earth, the ocean strikes him as another planet. “We get in our special suits, and get in our special craft, and blast off for it, and then we bring protein back from it,” he says. “These souls that go out there on the ocean are cowboys and cowgirls.”

Berry’s mission—and that of the company he co-founded, Fishpeople—is to change an industry that in many ways remains the Wild West, with murky supply chains and few worker protections.

The company launched in 2012, offering its seafood-based soups in 30 stores. Today, more than 6,000 stores sell its product lines, which have expanded to include frozen seafood meals, pre-cooked salmon and salmon jerky. The company expects to double its revenue this year, but Berry and others among Fishpeople’s leadership insist that the ultimate goal extends beyond financial metrics. “The whole reason that we set about to do what we did was we wanted a different relationship with the sea, and we wanted a different relationship with the communities that depend on the sea,” Berry says.


Business: Branded seafood products, including soups, meal kits and wholesale offerings

Founders: Duncan Berry and Michael “Kipp” Baratoff

Mission: Transform the seafood industry through sustainable practices and fair treatment of workers

Investor: Advantage Capital

Clockwise from top: Fishpeople Co-Founders Kipp Baratoff and Duncan Berry, and CEO Ken Plasse


Berry, 63, joined the seafood frontline when he was just 13 years old. On his family’s fishing vessel, he trolled for salmon in the Graveyard of the Pacific—an area at the mouth of the Columbia River that has wrecked hundreds of ships. At 16, he became a ship captain. After two years (and losing two boats at sea), he moved to the Caribbean, then returned to the states and launched a career away from the water. He founded two companies in the apparel industry, sold them in 2006 and moved back to the Oregon coast.

Soon after relocating, he was asked for input on a potential marine reserve in the state, which got him thinking about ocean life within supply chains. Berry discovered the United States imports about 91 percent of its seafood. He learned that a “significant portion” of that seafood is caught in U.S. waters, shipped overseas for processing, and then returned to the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That struck Berry as inefficient and potentially harmful to the environment and U.S. jobs.

In 2010, at a sustainability-focused roundtable with Oregon’s governor, Berry met Michael “Kipp” Baratoff, who co-founded a private equity firm focused on sustainable real asset investing with over $2 billion of assets under management.

Two years later, Berry and Baratoff, 41, banded together to launch Fishpeople.

“Duncan is the wild force of creative nature and Kipp is like a supercomputer,” says Ken Plasse, who joined Fishpeople as CEO in 2015. “You couldn’t find two more opposite people with the same heart to help our oceans, improve our local communities and make a difference to consumers.”

“The whole reason that we set about to do what we did was we wanted a different relationship with the sea, and we wanted a different relationship with the communities that depend on the sea.”

Co-Founder, Fishpeople


Berry and Baratoff had lofty goals for Fishpeople and they needed capital to achieve them. The company wanted to forge strong relationships with fishing captains, but building landings that their boats could use exclusively would cost millions of dollars. There were other sizable expenses, too, such as building a processing plant and supporting product innovation.

To finance those investments, the company raised $6 million in Series A funding in 2015 and sought additional capital two years later. That’s when Tyler Mayoras, a principal with investment firm Advantage Capital’s food and agriculture fund, first heard about Fishpeople. The company met his fund’s basic criteria, including its mandate to support rural job creation. Licensed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, the $150 million fund must invest at least 90 percent of its capital in rural areas. But Mayoras wasn’t hooked immediately. “We see a lot of food companies, and we’re trying to find things with uniqueness,” he says. “And on the surface, seafood didn’t seem interesting to me … I mean, fish sticks have been fish sticks forever.”

What ultimately convinced Mayoras was a detail included on all Fishpeople packaging: a traceability code. Mayoras plugged the code into the “Trace Your Fish” section of the company’s site “and up pops the picture of the boat and the captain that caught the fish,” he says. “It really kind of blew my mind.”

The information linked to the traceability code—including where the fish was caught, comments from the captain and the name of the boat—is intended to gain consumers’ trust. The seafood industry lost a fair bit of that in 2016, when a study from international nonprofit Oceana found that of 25,000 seafood samples tested worldwide, 1 in 5 were mislabeled as a different type of fish.

“If you just say traceability, people are like, eh, whatever. But when you actually see the picture of the boat and the captain, wow, that’s very different,” Mayoras says. “I thought, in this era of clean ingredients and understanding where your food comes from, that would be just a huge competitive advantage.”

Using traceability to differentiate itself in a crowded market is a “smart move” for Fishpeople, according to Ignacio Kleiman, managing partner and founding member of Antarctica Advisors, an investment bank focused on the seafood industry. “There’s a handful of large players, but there are many, many midsize players. It’s a pretty competitive industry,” he says.

There are other companies with the traceability technology, but it’s not always heavily used or made available directly to the consumer, he adds. And while U.S. consumers’ interest in tracking food sources hasn’t yet caught up to Europeans’, Kleiman expects that to change. “Sooner or later, it’s going to be more important—what we’re eating or where it is coming from.”

In 2017, Advantage led a $12 million round of Series B funding for Fishpeople. To persuade other potential investors, Mayoras sent out a traceability code and urged them to plug it into Fishpeople’s site. He credits the code with helping entice investors to meet the company’s team, which ultimately bore fruit. “They all ended up doing the deal,” he says.


To make food traceability meaningful, Fishpeople needs reliable, high-quality sources for its product. That requires the cowboys and cowgirls of the ocean.

Advantage’s investment helped pay for the three landings in small communities where Fishpeople’s independent fishermen dock: Ilwaco, Washington (population 929); Garibaldi, Oregon (population 801); and St. Mary’s, Alaska (population 550), its northern-most landing. The landings are used exclusively by boats that provide seafood for the company.

Captains want to get back on the water immediately, so Fishpeople treats boat docking like an Indy 500 pit stop—the landings’ general managers stay in contact with the captain before the boat heads in to ensure minimal time on the dock. While at the landing, boat crews have access to hot meals, groceries and plenty of washers and dryers to do laundry.

John Tinker Jr., a longtime fisherman who works along the Yukon River in Alaska, says he appreciates the company’s approach. “I’ve been fishing since I can remember—I would say I probably started when I was 10,” says the 42-year-old, who operates from two open skiffs, Winter and Skuzzi, both 24 feet long and 7 feet wide. Tinker began selling to Fishpeople in 2017 and the company, which has bought more than 8,000 pounds of coho and keta salmon from him, has become his preferred buyer. He only sells elsewhere when Fishpeople reaches its purchasing capacity.

Fishpeople’s landing is close to Tinker’s home—without it, he probably would need to take a two-hour boat ride down the river to sell his haul. That proximity is a draw for him, as is the company’s receptiveness to feedback.

“I gave Kipp some pointers on ways to improve operations, and he’s been working on them—that’s another thing you don’t see from most buyers,” Tinker says. “He respects us and our way of life. If you give respect to people, you’re going to get their respect back.”

“You couldn’t find two more opposite people with the same heart to help our oceans, improve our local communities and make a difference to consumers.”

CEO, Fishpeople

That philosophy extends to Fishpeople’s employees, too. Before Plasse joined the company, he toured its processing plant in Toledo, Oregon, a city with about 3,500 residents. The plant’s nine employees, along with the full-time employees who manage the landings, receive health insurance and are paid above the local minimum wage, benefits that Berry says aren’t typical in the industry.


Unlike chicken or pork, U.S. seafood consumption hasn’t increased much over the years. Cost is one factor—fish is a more difficult protein to source—but so is product innovation. “Compared to other sectors of the food industry, the seafood industry is a little behind,” says Antarctica Advisors’ Kleiman.

While researching consumer preferences prior to founding Fishpeople, Berry was surprised to learn that seafood intimidates many home cooks who fear they’ll screw it up. “It was sort of a blind spot for me. I can cook salmon 25 different ways,” says Berry, who helped develop recipes for all of Fishpeople’s products. According to one study he came across, 70 percent of U.S. seafood consumption happens in restaurants. That made him wonder, “How can we make that easier for them, so they stay home, watch Netflix, not pay a waiter, and have an amazing meal?”

Fishpeople has tried to address the intimidation factor with easy-to-prepare products. The company’s frozen seafood kit, introduced in 2014, includes two filets, ingredients to add before baking (like Meyer lemon and fresh herb panko), a foil pan and tin foil, and a topping (such as parmesan cheese) to add before serving. The kit also comes with instructions that promise a meal in 20 minutes.

The meal kits have played a key role in driving Fishpeople’s revenue, which tripled from 2015 to 2017. Part of the revenue growth came as the company’s soups expanded from specialty stores to large chains such as Kroger and online retailers such as Amazon Fresh and Thrive Market, but much of it derived from club stores like Sam’s Club, which picked up the frozen seafood kit in 2016.

By year-end, Fishpeople plans to introduce two more products: salmon jerky in four flavors (including ancho chile and lime) and pre-cooked salmon chunks for the refrigerated grocery section, for use in salads or pasta.

For a retailer like Whole Foods, which has stocked Fishpeople’s soups since 2012, the company’s supply chain was a powerful draw.

Fishpeople launched in 2012, selling its seafood-based soups

“They work directly with fishermen. They are on the docks, and so that right there gives them a huge opportunity to have an amazing quality product,” says Wesley Rose, global executive coordinator of seafood for Whole Foods Market. He adds that the traceability of Fishpeople’s products aligns with the grocery retailer’s ethos. “Obviously when sourcing, we are looking for a product that is quality first and foremost. And we want it to be transparent, we want it to be sustainable.”

Before Whole Foods began carrying the meal kits, it requested several changes, including a box with smaller dimensions to better fit the limited real estate on its store shelves. CEO Plasse says that kind of buyer feedback strengthens the company’s innovation efforts. And unlike in its early days, Fishpeople now has buyers who want to provide feedback even before a product goes to market.

“That’s partly because now we’re a brand that is recognized for doing innovation and we’ve got enough distribution,” Plasse says. “Before it was just, ‘OK, you’ve got 10 minutes to pitch by phone. Don’t even fly out here. Send me the samples and I’ll taste it and let you know.’”

About 65 percent of Fishpeople’s revenue today comes from wholesale offerings, including fish sold at Whole Foods’ seafood counter. But Mayoras expects the majority of sales to shift in the coming years to consumer packaged goods, which have better margins. That’s likely to improve the bottom line, but financial metrics are just one benchmark of the company’s success. The overarching goal is improved treatment of fish and the people who pull them out of the water and process them. That means more sustainable practices for fishing and a better livelihood for seafood industry workers—and not just the ones at Fishpeople.

“If we can create a brand that helps people get the fish they deserve in a simple format and people vote for that brand, our industry will change because it’s a profit-based system,” Plasse says. “That’s the change I really think and hope we can make.”

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If you want to teach a billion kids to code, you’re going to need some funding.

Children’s coding school Codeverse announced on Thursday that it has raised a $10 million seed round. The company operates studios where children ages six to 13 learn KidScript, a language the startup developed to teach the fundamentals of coding.

“The goal was to start in Chicago and then expand to around 40 studios across the country,” said co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Katy Lynch. “This round is going straight into our expansion plans, starting with Naperville and Wilmette. In 2019 we’ll be looking to launch in an additional market.”

“A big part of this round is the expansion of the brick and mortar, but also to invest in KidScript.”

Lynch, the former CEO of Techweek, and her husband, Belly co-founder Craig Ulliott, opened Codeverse’s first brick-and-mortar location in 2017 in Lincoln Park. Lynch said expanding to Wilmette and Naperville “just makes sense” given the demand for Codeverse — both new locations currently have wait lists — and the support the company has received from the communities.

“Prior to launching our studio in Lincoln Park, we spent some time in the North Shore and west suburbs demoing KidScript at schools,” said Lynch. “The chambers of commerce, city officials and schools there have been very supportive of our mission since day one.”

At the company’s studios, children build mobile games and applications that give them control over everything from the facility’s lights to its 3D printers and drones. Powering all this play is KidScript, which is designed to teach children the core concepts of popular coding languages like JavaScript, Ruby and Python.

In addition to growing its physical footprint, Lynch said the company’s seed round will be used to accelerate the development of its kid-friendly coding language.

“A big part of this round is the expansion of the brick and mortar, but also to invest in KidScript,” said Lynch. “Right now, KidScript is only available to students at our studios, but in the future it will be available as a standalone service.”

To support its growth the buildout of KidScript, Codeverse will do some serious hiring. The company will make over 100 new hires in the next 12 months, the majority of which will be studio managers, assistants and instructors. The hiring spree will drastically increase its headcount, which currently sits at 34 full-time employees.

Codeverse also made several leadership hires over the past few months, including a director of programming, VP of North America and VP of product.

“The new talent we’ve brought on, including leaders from the STEAM and education space, is a testament to our commitment to our students, providing the best on-site support to enable their education,” said Lynch in a statement.




Codeverse, the Chicago-based startup that launched last year to teach children to code, has raised a new round of funding to help it open two new learning studios in Chicago’s suburbs.

The tech company announced Thursday that it has raised more than $10 million in venture capital funding in a round that closed at the end of July. Katy Lynch, the co-founder and chief marketing officer at Codeverse, declined to disclose who the investors were, but said they are from a range of areas, including the Midwest, some coastal cities and even overseas.

With the new funds, Codeverse is opening two new studios by the end of this year, one in Wilmette and one in Naperville. The expansion is part of a larger initiative to operate 40 studios throughout the country.

“It’s super exciting,” said Lynch, who is also the founder of Social Katy, which was acquired by Manifest Digital. “Our big mission ultimately is to teach 1 billion kids to code, starting in Chicago.”

Children at Codeverse’s learning studio in Lincoln Park. (Photo via Codeverse)

Codeverse already has one learning studio in Lincoln Park, at 819 W. Eastman St., which opened in July 2017. Using Codeverse’s proprietary coding language Kidscript, kids can begin writing code in as little as 15 minutes.

“They’re able to build their own apps and games based on what they are learning in our curriculum,” Lynch said.

The classes, which last for 75 minutes and can accommodate up to 32 students, are designed for children ages six to 12. A four-month commitment for weekly classes costs $175 per month, and paying month-to-month costs $225.

Lynch said though Codeverse’s programs are targeted toward all children, the company understands that not all can afford it. To help make Codeverse accessible to as many students as possible, it has partnered with charities and nonprofits that financially assist students who need it most.

Lynch said Codeverse’s instructors range from certified teachers to working professionals with design and coding backgrounds. The startup also hires those with backgrounds in the arts, Lynch said.

Right now, Codeverse has about 40 full-time employees, 21 of which are instructors at the company’s studios. But over the next three months, Lynch said Codeverse plans to hire 60 more people.

Just recently, Codeverse has made significant leadership hires, including Chris Bordeaux, the former COO at Techweek, who is serving as its vice president of partnerships, and Priya Mathew, a former product developer at Google, who is now Codeverse’s senior vice president of product.

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“We’re dedicated to bringing our students the absolute best experience to enable them to learn code through our platform,” Lynch said. “The new talent we’ve brought on including leaders from the STEAM and education space is a testament to our commitment to our students, providing the best on-site support to enable their education.”



The direct-to-consumer space has some stand-out players, both in newcomers like Brooklinen and old-timers like Warby Parker. But one company, Interior Define, has maintained a low profile over the four years of its existence.

The company offers fully customizable furniture, including couches, dining sets and bed frames, to customers through an online showroom. But ID also has guide shops in Chicago (its home market), LA, New York, and Austin.

Interior Define has also just opened up its biggest retail location yet, right in the middle of Hayes Valley in San Francisco. And this time, the store has a twist.

In the back of the showroom, Interior Define has built out a fully furnished two-story home called Studio ID. Alongside its own pieces, Studio ID includes pieces and products from other digitally native partners including Wright Bedding, Gantri, Snowe Home, Barn & Willow, 57st Design, Revival Rugs, Minted, Fireclay Tile, and Sonos.

The idea here is to show off ID’s pieces in their most natural setting, alongside offering partner companies better exposure via offline retail.

According to Interior Define cofounder and CEO Rob Royer, there is no exchange of cash for these partnerships.

Royer also told TechCrunch that San Francisco has been a priority market for the company for a while, but that the startup insisted on finding a great place within Hayes Valley, and waited until they found this newest location to move into the market.

When Interior Define first launched, the company simply sold customizable sofas. Users could choose the upholstery, the measurements, and the accents like sofa legs. The company has since expanded into dining sets and bed frames, but has also enhanced the overall experience with an Interior Define app.

The app lets users scan the floor of their home and place the item they’re customizing into the home via augmented reality. Interior Define also took a page out of the Warby Parker playbook, offering a free swatch program for users interested in purchasing online.

Interior Define has raised a total of $27.2 million from investors such as Fifth Wall, Pritzker Group, Breakout Capital, and Great Oaks.