Curio Wellness launches $30M fund to help women and minorities own a cannabis dispensary

“We think of diversity as a keystone issue for the cannabis industry,” said Curio WMBE Fund managing director Jerel Registre in a conversation with TechCrunch. Registre’s conviction around this program is obvious as he explains the problem the fund is addressing.

The new fund, started by the Maryland-based medical cannabis company Curio Wellness, aims to help underserved entrepreneurs entering the cannabis market. With $ 30 million to invest, the Curio WMBE Fund is looking to invest in up to 50 women, minority and disabled veterans seeking to open and operate a Curio Wellness franchise with a path to 100% ownership in three years.

Registre tells TechCrunch the goal is to create more diverse ownership through a proven business model. Participants of this program gain access to capital and operational resources.

Curio made a name for itself in Maryland, where it’s the largest cannabis cultivator by market share. Founded in 2014, the family-owned business operates dispensaries rooted in a patient-centric approach. While a legally separate but affiliated entity from Curio Wellness, the Curio WMBE Fund aims to give franchisees access to Curio’s secret sauce.

“In looking at the systemic barriers that women, minorities and disabled veterans face in accessing capital, we decided to develop a solution that directly addresses this massive economic disparity,” said Michael Bronfein, CEO of Curio Wellness. “The Fund provides qualifying entrepreneurs with the investment capital they need to become a Curio Wellness Center franchisee while ensuring their success through our best in class business operations.”

“Let’s bottle the success we have,” Registre added. He likens the franchise model to McDonald’s, where the national corporation gives operators a proven standard operating procedure and ongoing support.

“Our fund is unlike any other in the industry,” Registre said, “as eligible entrepreneurs will have a clear path to 100% ownership in as little as three years. Many other funds rely on a model that utilizes minority entrepreneurs as a vehicle to achieve licenses: The Curio approach flips this model by empowering diverse entrepreneurs and supporting them along the way. If something happens and an investment-funded franchisee defaults, they must be replaced by another minority or woman owner. This ensures these licensees can get the financial support they need to launch while ensuring that the fund’s ultimate mission of supporting diverse entrepreneurs is achieved.”

Registre explained that diversity is central to Curio Wellness, too. Of the company’s 200 employees, 40% are female, and more than half are minorities. At the leadership level, 38% of management is female, and 44% identify as a member of a minority community.

“Diversity is a core asset that we recognize as integral to our success and our future, and that is why we decided to create this investment fund,” Registre said.

The fund provides two phases of support. The first provides capital to franchisees to open their Curio Wellness Center and assist them in obtaining licenses, selecting a location and hiring and training employees. Once the location is operational, the fund intends to provide ongoing support around managing, sales and marketing, store operations, and ensuring employees stay updated on product information.

Curio sees its locations as more than cannabis dispensaries. The company calls them Wellness Centers.

“Curio locations go beyond the traditional experience people have at a medical cannabis dispensary — they are total wellness destinations, under the leadership of a licensed pharmacist,” Registre explains. “Patient wellness is at the center of everything we do and is exemplified by a diverse array of holistic health products, services and educational programming we offer. While additive to the medical cannabis patient experience, these features open the store up to the entire community, not limiting the healthcare experience to only those with a medical cannabis card. This practice, of a patient-first mindset through a pharmacist-led model, allows us to truly lead the pursuit of wellness for everyone who walks in the front door.”

As of writing, the fund has raised half of its $ 30 million target. The company says the fund intentionally targeted, pitched and secured an investment pool that includes women and minorities. The fund expects to close by the end of 2020, and applications are expected to open in early 2021.

Startups – TechCrunch

Firstminute Capital launches second $111M fund, featuring a who’s-who of founders as LPs – TechCrunch

Firstminute Capital launches second $ 111M fund, featuring a who’s-who of founders as LPs  TechCrunch
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Kenya Space Agency Set to Pick Next DG, IAF Launches World Largest Digital Library on Space history, and More Stories Across the African Space Industry for November 2020 – Space in Africa

Kenya Space Agency Set to Pick Next DG, IAF Launches World Largest Digital Library on Space history, and More Stories Across the African Space Industry for November 2020  Space in Africa
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Amazon launches IP accelerator in Europe to help small businesses protect their brands & tackle counterfeit


A huge number of sellers on Amazon creates a breeding ground for intellectual property violations, counterfeiting and other illegal activities. As a result, the company has received a lot of flake about these issues, even in the media. 

However, to mitigate these problems, Amazon has introduced various programs like IP Accelerator, Brand Registry, and much more. Recently, Amazon expanded its Intellectual Property Accelerator (IP Accelerator) programme in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. 

IP Accelerator programme

This IP Accelerator makes it easy for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to obtain trademarks, protect their brands, and tackle counterfeit goods. Amazon launched the IP Accelerator programme last year keeping small business owners in mind in the United States. Since the launch, Amazon has connected SMBs with participating IP law firms, resulting in 6,000 trademark applications submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The e-commerce giant has selected participating IP law firms based on their experience, expertise, and customer service. Over one hundred trademark experts across Europe have signed up for the program.

Connected with European law firms with expertise in IP rights. 

According to the company, IP Accelerator, which is available to any brand selling in Amazon’s stores, connects entrepreneurs directly with a curated network of European law firms with expertise in IP rights. 

However, the participating law firms will charge fees to SMBs at competitive, pre-negotiated rates, giving sellers confidence and clarity about how much obtaining a trademark will cost them. Besides, SMBs can also seek general IP advice from these law firms as their brands and businesses grow.

Moreover, the company claims that the larger businesses are four times more likely than SMBs to register their Intellectual Property (IP) rights. Well, the reason behind this is the complexity of the process, particularly for entrepreneurs in the early stages of setting up a business.

IP rights are vital for businesses wanting to stop unauthorised parties from using their brands or copying their ideas. Notably, owning IP can also create new sources of revenue, in case if the entrepreneur wishes to license their goods or services to third parties.

Businesses using IP Accelerator will also get access to Amazon’s wider brand protection services months or even years before their trademark registration is officially issued. Amazon’s Brand Registry provides SMBs with powerful tools that help them manage and protect their brand and IP rights in Amazon stores. Brand Registry is a free service, and more than 350,000 brands are already enrolled.

Participants benefit from Amazon’s automated protections that use information about brands to proactively remove suspected infringing or inaccurate content.

Pippa Hall, director of Innovation and chief economist from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, says: “Great ideas are the core of every good business. Turning those ideas into a reality relies on IP. Understanding, protecting and getting the most out of your IP is a crucial ingredient of success. A good IP strategy should sit at the heart of every good business plan.”

Main image credit: Amazon

Startups – Silicon Canals

German challenger bank N26 launches new subscription plan for €4.90 per month; product offerings to evolve in coming months

Berlin-based challenger bank N26 has launched a premium subscription service called N26 Smart. The new monthly subscription combines a slew of premium features of the service and other benefits, including new functionalities that will help users organise their finances.

N26 Smart features detailed

N26 Smart, the new monthly premium subscription service, will be bundled on top of N26’s digital current account. It will include the following features at the cost of €4.90 per month. Firstly, there will be dedicated phone support along with in-app chat support, up to 5 free ATM withdrawals per month and global payments in any currently sans any fee, and curated benefits and offers from partners.

Users can access to up to 10 ‘Spaces’ – N26’s sub-accounts along with Shared Spaces – that will let users save, spend and manage money with a maximum of 10 people. There will be access to the new Round-Ups feature, which will round each purchase to the nearest Euro automatically and set the spare change to help users increase their savings with minimal effort. Finally, users can choose from five different colours for the N26 Smart Mastercard – Sand, Slate, Ocean, Aqua, and Rhubarb, to make a statement.

The subscribers of N26 Smart can access all intuitive features of the paperless and branchless banking experience offered by N26. These include 100% digital account opening, automatic categorisation of spending via the statistics feature, instant notifications, free global payments with Google Pay and Apple Pay, in-app access to N26 Mastercard’s digital version, and fund protection of up to €1M under the German Deposit Protection Scheme.

Notably, the benefits of N26 Smart premium monthly subscription will be available to both self-employed individuals and freelancers in the N26 Business Smart subscription. It will add 0.1% cashback on all card spends as well.

“Everybody should be empowered to manage their money in a way that makes sense for their priorities and way of life. With more and more customers turning to digital banking in these uncertain times, N26 Smart will put our most popular tools at our customers’ fingertips at a budget-conscious price point, helping anyone effortlessly manage their money digitally with confidence and ease,” says Valentin Stalf, co-founder and CEO of N26.

Other N26 updates coming soon

Notably, it is claimed that the launch of N26 Smart is one of the planned updates that will soon be brought to the company’s product portfolio. All the new updates are likely to be rolled out to the digital bank’s free and premium products over the coming months. There will be changes to N26 Standard, which will provide a 100% virtual payment experience to N26 digital card users, N26 You will become N26 International with borderless banking features, and N26 Metal will become N26 Unlimited offering the best digital banking experience, claims the company.

The startup announced securing over €92.29M in Series D funding extension, earlier in May this year. Series D round of funding for N26 commenced back in January 2019. The startup has now announced an extension of it to an overall value of €526M, while maintaining its valuation at €3.23B.

Main image picture credits: N26

Startups – Silicon Canals

Pacer Ventures partners Founder Institute, launches $3M fund for early-stage African startups – Benzinga

Pacer Ventures partners Founder Institute, launches $ 3M fund for early-stage African startups  Benzinga
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Marie Ekeland launches 2050, a new fund with radically ambitious, long-term goals

Marie Ekeland has unveiled her next act — and it’s a new fund called 2050. But it’s not your average French VC fund as it’s going to be an evergreen fund focused on building a better world. It sounds ambitious, but Ekeland isn’t just daydreaming as she has a detailed action plan.

If you’re not familiar with Marie Ekeland, she used to be an investor at French VC firm Elaia. She invested in adtech firm Criteo, which later became a public company in the U.S. She is also one of the founding members of France Digitale, the main startup lobby in France.

More recently, she co-founded Daphni, her own VC firm. While she’s no longer involved with Daphni’s day-to-day activities, she still follows her own investments in Daphni’s first fund. Her investments include Shine, Swile, Holberton School and Lifen.

With 2050, Ekeland is going back to the drawing board with a different vision when it comes to investment thesis, fund structure and the firm’s own values.

“Investment is self-fulfilling,” Ekeland told me. “When you invest in this company instead of that one, you’re shaping the future of society.”

During our lengthy discussion, it became quite clear that Ekeland both suffers from tech fatigue and also still believes she can have a positive impact through her investments.

Let’s start with the investment thesis. 2050 wants to focus on five fundamental areas — the future of food, better healthcare, improving education, shaping a sustainable lifestyle and fostering trust in the media and financial institutions.

As the name suggests, 2050 has a lot of time to think about these issues. The firm is willing to invest over the long haul. But if an entrepreneur wants to sell their company, that’s OK too. The idea is that there shouldn’t be any time frame pressure.

With traditional VC firms, limited partners invest in a fund and expects returns 10 years later. That’s why most VC funds have to sell their positions within eight to 10 years. It could lead to some pressure to go public, get acquired or find other investors to buy back previous investors.

So how do you remove short-term financial pressure from investment firms? 2050 is a fonds de pérennité, which works a bit like a trust fund, a mission-driven fund.

As an evergreen fund, investors in 2050 can invest whenever they want. Regularly, 2050 will open up liquidity distribution windows. It means that existing investors will be able to sell their positions in 2050. New investors will purchase those positions.

“What we’re doing is quite innovative, so we’re learning by doing,” Ekeland said. 2050 is still expecting regulatory approvals from France’s financial regulator AMF. In the meantime, 2050 has already participated in Withings’ latest funding round. Along with Ekeland, Anne-Lise Bance, Aicha Ben Dhia, Charly Berthet, Meyha Camara and Aude Duprat have already joined the team.

2050 also plans to dedicate 10% of investments in the fund and 50% of the team’s carried interest for digital commons. Arguably, this is the most interesting part of 2050. It proves that the team is committed to its vision beyond blog posts.

For instance, 2050 will contribute to Université Paris Dauphine’s class on the ecological challenges of the 21st century. The idea is to share that class as broadly as possible under an open license.

Some key concepts will be turned into actionable items for entrepreneurs. If you browse the business book section of your local bookshop, chances are you’ll see a ton of books about building a startup, growing as fast as possible and not paying attention to structural damage.

By investing in (often underfunded) knowledge, 2050 could share a different kind of actionable items with its portfolio companies and the tech ecosystem at large. Other investments in commons could include infrastructure investments that help everyone, or mutualized research.

Tech isn’t just about building companies. Public institutions, individuals and nonprofit organizations also have a say in the tech ecosystem. And I’m glad to see that 2050 understands that tech investment isn’t just about financing private companies. It’s such an important shift and I hope other investors will follow suit.

Startups – TechCrunch

CARMA, data marketplace announces early-stage venture funding and launches operations in Nigeria – Nairametrics

CARMA, data marketplace announces early-stage venture funding and launches operations in Nigeria  Nairametrics
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

N26 launches mid-tier subscription plan for €4.90 per month

Challenger bank N26 is adding a third subscription product called N26 Smart. N26 Smart is designed to be a mid-tier subscription plan with advanced banking features but without a travel insurance package.

In Europe, in addition to the free plan, N26 already provides two subscription tiers called N26 You and N26 Metal. N26 You costs €9.90 per month and comes with higher limits, such as five free ATM withdrawals instead of three and free withdrawals in foreign currencies.

With an N26 You account, you can create sub-accounts (N26 Spaces), share them with other N26 users or use them to save money. As an N26 You subscriber, you also get a travel insurance package with medical travel insurance, trip and flight insurance and more. You can also access some partner offers.

N26 Metal is the most expensive plan and costs €16.90 per month. In addition to everything in N26 You, you get car rental insurance when you’re abroad and phone insurance. As the name suggests, you also get a metal card.

The new N26 Smart subscription costs €4.90 and works well for people who don’t need travel insurance. With an N26 Smart subscription, you can create up to ten sub-accounts. You get five free ATM withdrawals per month. You can also call N26 support directly in addition to in-app support chat.

N26 is launching a new round-up feature for N26 Smart users. It lets you round each purchase up to the nearest Europe and save it in a separate sub-account. N26 Smart account also access colorful debit cards — the same colors as N26 You.

This is just a first step as N26 plans to revamp its subscription products altogether. In the near future, N26 You will become N26 International. There will be more features focused on borderless banking. N26 Metal will become N26 Unlimited.

As for the free N26 Standard account, the company wants to focus on digital cards. Some users are going to switch to the N26 Smart plan to keep some of the features that they’ve been using with a free account. That move should help the company’s bottom line.

Image Credits: N26

Startups – TechCrunch