Founders of Canadian relationship app Couply talk gaining traction after winning Collision 2021 pitch competition

Couply founders Denesh Raymond (left) and Tim Johnson (right).

  • The Canadian relationship app Couply won the 2021 pitch competition hosted by Collision, a Toronto-based technology conference attended by thousands of industry giants.
  • Insider spoke to its founders, Tim Johnson and Denesh Raymond, to learn more about their vision for Couply and the events leading up to its inception.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Imagine this. You finally met that special someone-whether it be on a dating app or in real life-and everything is going great until you hit that post-honeymoon-phase slump. Naturally, you turn to the app store for some guidance, only to find that the selection of relationship apps is rather slim in comparison to dating apps.

That was the ideation process behind Canadian startup Couply, founded by Tim Johnson and Denesh Raymond. It’s a free relationship app designed to inspire couples to deepen their connection with fun features like personality quizzes, which then help aid the process of planning dates that are mutually enjoyable.

An example of a date idea proposed by Couply.

Couply’s vision was so successful that it won Collision 2021’s startup competition, PITCH, this past April. The bootstrapped company was one of 50 up-and-coming startups to pitch in front of a panel of judges, consisting of venture capitalists from B Capital Group, Salesforce Ventures, and Bessemer Venture Partners, to name a few.

The two founders crossed paths when they both worked at Wattpad, an online storytelling platform for writers. Johnson stills works on the business development side of Wattpad and is a published author with a strong background in the nonprofit sector. Raymond was a software engineer at Wattpad, where he specialized in iOS and Android development and was a member of the Wattpad Monetization team.

When Johnson came to Raymond with the idea for the app, Raymond was working as a tech lead at a product development company, building apps for companies like Bose and Peloton.

At first, Raymond had his doubts.

“I’m sort of taking it with a grain of salt because, being in the tech space, I’ve worked with different apps like this before,” Raymond told Insider.

Once Raymond came home that day and did his research, he realized that there weren’t any big players to compete with, aside from the Bumbles and Tinders in the dating space. From that point on, the duo “just got into a room and started cracking at it,” Raymond said.

Since its launch in December of 2020, Couply has grown from a few downloads a day to 1,000 downloads a week, with its daily download rate doubling each month as a result of word of mouth, Johnson told Insider. He and Raymond hope to grow their user base from their current total of 10,000+ to an audience of one million in a year from now.

Despite being developed in Canada, the app sees its biggest opportunity in the U.S. market, and this is where Johnson and Raymond plan to focus their efforts. Couply is also available for download globally and will eventually be accessible in different languages.

The foundation of Couply is rooted in its creators’ belief in the power of technology when used for good. Through research-based quizzes that are linked across both partners’ accounts, couples can better understand each other’s similarities and differences, as well as their own way of looking at the world.

Couply’s in-app personality quizzes.

This information guides Couply in providing personalized date ideas, gift suggestions, and relationship advice. In addition, the app’s integrated calendar allows users to set reminders for important relationship milestones and book thoughtful dates, which is Couply’s ultimate end goal for its users.

“This kind of drills into that core sentiment of Couply, which is to get out there and do things with your partner in the real world,” Johnson told Insider.

Even in the heat of the pandemic, Couply has fared well among its users with the help of the in-app feedback system. Through this feature, the creators are able to directly communicate with their audience and gauge the kinds of dates they’re interested in at a given time-not surprisingly, innovative ideas for a romantic night in have been highly requested.

The app also boasts a daily conversation starter tool, which is designed to help the flow of meaningful interaction beyond simple check-ins.

“You can use it as a fun thing at lunch or dinner,” Johnson said. “Or even just text it to your partner during the day to keep that journey going, so that you’re not only doing transactional conversations, you’re actually learning about each other and your internal maps of the world.”

Johnson added that he and Raymond were lucky to be able to tap into a diverse set of perspectives in Toronto’s tech community for feedback on their user experience and its accessibility for all members.

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How Raleigh-based nonprofit RIoT is boosting entrepreneurship and job growth in the city

Rachael Newberry, RIoT's program director, connecting virtually to a cohort of startups during pandemic gathering restrictions.
Rachael Newberry, RIoT’s program director, connecting virtually with a cohort of startups during the pandemic.

  • RIoT is a nonprofit organization driving innovation and entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area.
  • One program, RIoT Your Reality, is a competition where teams pitch AR ideas to improve the city.
  • Other initiatives include an accelerator program and a data-centric stormwater management project.
  • This article is part of a series focused on American cities building a better tomorrow called “Advancing Cities.”

In July, six teams will demonstrate their ideas for how augmented reality can help solve some of the challenges facing Raleigh, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas.

Through the program RIoT Your Reality, the teams are examining ways to improve diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in city programs, promote workforce development, and reinvent the Raleigh Convention Center to drive economic development.

Tom headshot
Tom Snyder.

“It’s the intersection with government,” Tom Snyder, executive director at RIoT, a local nonprofit working to advance innovation, told Insider. “The city of Raleigh and town of Cary together posed a few problem statements that they’re looking for help on. And we’re running a challenge where people are developing new prototypes of augmented-reality applications to serve those challenges.”

RIoT Your Reality is a partnership with RIoT, the city of Raleigh, the town of Cary, Google Fiber, US Ignite, and Facebook Reality Labs. It kicked off in April with several teams pitching their AR ideas. Six were selected to receive $1,000 to build a prototype, which they’ll demo during an event on July 27. A final winner receives $40,000 and a spot in the RIoT Accelerator Program to launch a new startup.

Snyder said the goal is to create a municipal pilot project and learn how to scale a startup to assist cities beyond North Carolina.

The AR competition is just one of the ways that RIoT works to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area. Here’s a look at some of the organization’s other major programs.

Helping businesses create new tech jobs

RIoT was founded in 2014 as part of the larger nonprofit Wireless Research Center, located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which works to advance wireless technology innovation.

Originally, the name was an acronym for Raleigh Internet of Things, then Regional Internet of Things. Now it just goes by RIoT.

“Our grounding thesis is that the best new jobs are created at the forefront of emerging technology,” Snyder, who helped found the organization, said. RIoT’s programs help entrepreneurs start companies and established businesses grow through new technology adoption, all of which creates new jobs.

Being headquartered in Raleigh offers advantages, Snyder said. The area is home to several top universities, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, which fosters a talent pipeline. Several major tech and data companies, including IBM and SAS, have a presence in the region, creating a “great diversity of industry” within the tech sector, he said.

“There are just massive industries and a really nice balance here that makes it a more attractive place for people to be,” Snyder said. “You can’t just job hop during your career, but you can industry hop successfully. And that brings fresh ideas and really makes us a strong place to live.”

RIoT has another location in Wilson, North Carolina, though its presence extends beyond the state. The organization hosts events around the country and is planning to establish new offices in Colorado and Virginia.

Enabling startups to get off the ground

One of RIoT’s programs to boost economic development, the RIoT Accelerator Program, connects entrepreneurs with partners in their industries and gives them access to prototyping tools and other resources.

RIoT Accelerator winner Michael Bender, founder and CEO of Intake, a healthcare analytics company, holding the RIoT championship belt.

The accelerator is currently on its eighth cohort. Snyder said RIoT is purposeful in supporting underrepresented groups when selecting startups to participate, and about 60% of the companies involved have been run by women, minorities, and veterans.

Since 2014, the companies participating in the accelerator have created more than 200 jobs, generated more than $100 million in revenue, and earned millions in grant and venture funding, he said.

Growing the accelerator to help more startups is one of its goals. By the end of 2021, Snyder said the accelerator will be offered in multiple cities.

To help startups prototype and experiment with ideas without having to spend money on equipment, RIoT Labs offers hardware, wireless, and software prototyping tools, including a 3D printer, electronic equipment, soldering irons, and more.

“We can provide that equipment for you to go create your new connected device, do the performance testing on the front end, do the regulatory certification testing on the back end, and get it to market,” he said.

RIoT works with government and corporate partners, including Cisco and SAS. Snyder said the organization is always on the lookout for new ones willing to support the entrepreneurial community.

“We want Raleigh to be the place that anyone in the world who wants to participate knows if I come here, I can find the partners that I need to be successful,” he said.

Making Raleigh the center of the ‘data economy’

RIoT worked with Raleigh and the surrounding communities on a data-centric stormwater management project.

Partnering with local startup GreenStream Technologies, they used water-level monitoring sensors to better understand water movement and predict when to shut down a street before it floods or dispatch emergency responders before flooding reaches emergency levels.

Snyder said Raleigh has done a good job of thinking about how to make data collected at the city level accessible – and has the potential to be the “center of excellence of the data economy.” Processing and measuring data depends on the advancement of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and automation technologies.

“We’re moving from a world where the economy was driven by the internet to now one where it’s being driven by real-time data,” he said.

Through programs like RIoT Your Reality and the water management project, Raleigh serves as a testbed to experiment with new ideas and technologies.

“When we can do that successfully, not only are we solving the city’s needs in a way that they can remain focused on their day-to-day operations, but if it’s a local company that provides for those needs, we’re creating jobs here in the community,” Snyder said.

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A Lightspeed VC is bullish on retail investment apps like Robinhood and says they’ll continue to climb in popularity

Robinhood on cellphone
Robinhood app.

  • Mercedes Bent is a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and focuses on consumer, fintech, edtech investments.
  • The window for retail investing is not over, and we’re just now entering a new generation of retail investment products.
  • Apps like Robinhood help democratize the acquisition of wealth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Retail investing apps have been getting a bad rap lately. As the market leader, Robinhood has been a magnet for much of that criticism.

The company got a black eye when it restricted trading during the height of the GameStop trading frenzy in January, and it has stumbled a few times since then.

But all that negative publicity may have actually helped Robinhood. Downloads of its trading app topped 2.1 million in February.

That’s significantly lower than at the height of GameStop mania, but still 55% higher than in February 2020.

Of course, retail investing is about a lot more than Robinhood.

There’s now a rich ecosystem of apps fulfilling a wide spectrum of niches. There are other mobile-first trading apps like Stash and WeBull, investment social networks like Public and Alinea, women-centric services like Ellevest, and so on.

Investment graphic by Mercedes Bent

The consumerization of investing has only just gotten started. And that’s a good thing.

The fact remains that retail investing is an immensely powerful tool for individuals to take control over their wealth. Millennials in particular are still woefully under-invested, relative to previous generations – just 3% of equities are owned by people born between 1981 and 1996.

People who choose to use Robinhood and apps like it are challenging the status quo and writing their own rules of what investing is all about.

Hype is not always irrational

Traditional investors like Warren Buffet warn against acquiring assets based on speculation and hype; they preach the gospel of “fundamentals.”

But hype is not always irrational; you can make a strong argument that it’s another indicator of perceived value. Do you know what other assets are based on perceived value? The money in your wallet.

As we watch our government lift our economy out of a recession simply by printing more money, it’s reasonable to ask, how much will fundamentals drive our economy moving forward?

At this point, we really have no idea.

Retail investors are saying, ‘We get to have a voice in determining what is and isn’t valuable.’ And as the recent surge of interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has shown, investing is about a lot more than just stocks and bonds.

Buying fractional shares in trading cards (Mythic Markets), fine wine (Vinovest), collectibles (Rally, Otis), and other lifestyle assets are all reasonable options for investment.

Investing is not always about retirement

Millennials invest for different reasons than their parents did. They’re not necessarily looking to earn enough money to retire to an island in the Bahamas. Many invest in order to live more fully now. For this generation, retail investment is just as much about experience, entertainment, and education.

Research has shown us that millennials value experiences over material goods. They’d rather backpack across the Andes than buy a yacht. Playing the market in a gamified way fits into this desire for new experiences. Like it or not, investing has become another form of entertainment.

More important, most people in my generation have very little practical experience in investing. As of 2019, only 37% of affluent millennials said they felt knowledgeable about investing; more than 40% owned no stock at all.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone bet their life savings on Tesla stock or convert their 401K to Dogecoin. Stock prices fluctuate over time; cryptocurrency is notoriously volatile.

But if people have the discretionary income to experiment and educate themselves about equities and cryptocurrencies, now is as good a time to start as any.

Investment apps are a solid investment

Robinhood changed how people invest and, as a result, how financial institutions respond to their customers. Some of the innovations it introduced – like commission-free trading, the ability to buy fractional shares, and its mobile-first mentality – are now table stakes for any new investment app that comes along.

Now the company is trying to change the rules again. Since the GameStop controversy, the company has been lobbying folks on Capitol Hill to advocate for real-time settlement. This would alter regulations about how much cash trading apps like Robinhood must keep on hand during settlement – the rules that led the company to suspend trading back in January.

I’m confident Robinhood will continue to challenge the norms of traditional investment, and that the company’s IPO later this year won’t be impacted negatively by the bad press it has received.

At Lightspeed Venture Partners, we’re bullish on the potential of retail investment apps. Just as apps like G-Suite, Rippling, and Gusto have made it much easier to start a small business and onboard employees, technology platforms like Alpaca and Galileo are making it easier for entrepreneurs to launch new investment startups.

Investing is going to become a much greater part of everyone’s consumer and entertainment experiences. People who’ve been reluctant or unable to invest in the past, such as women and people of color, will continue to participate in much greater numbers.

You can bet on it.

Mercedes Bent is a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and focuses on consumer, fintech, edtech investments.

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5 research-backed practices to help you grow through times of struggle, according to an ex-Navy SEAL

Brent Gleeson
Brent Gleeson.

In the early days of my entrepreneurial adventures, I felt a lot like Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest: adrift in uncharted waters; running low on supplies; safe return on investment doubtful; occasionally gnawing on raw seal meat. I’ll admit, it was very challenging and stressful. But it was also extremely fulfilling, because it was mine to own. It was suffering I chose once again. Startups have a similar failure rate as SEAL training, but I didn’t care. Because I’d already pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone beyond what I could have ever imagined, I knew that this path could be successful as well. Not without obstacles, anxiety, and failure, but ultimately successful.

So, it’s not just about being more thoughtful in choosing what you are willing to suffer for, but also how to engage in proper suffering. Almost every self-help book seems to be about how to be happy, how to be empowered and engage in positive self-talk, how to be in a fabulous relationship, how to build wealth . . . in other words, how to be anything other than the inevitable suffering human beings most of us are at some


point in our lives. But we all experience suffering, so why fight it? Better to embrace it, understand it, and learn to walk the path in harmony. Better to understand the steps we take to arrive at suffering and learn how to navigate these trying periods in our lives in a more healthy manner.

The Embrace the Suck model has five suffering practices that are backed by research to help you grow through times of struggle.

  1. Find safe relationships to process suffering. Suffering is meant to be dealt with in a relationship. We all need people to walk alongside us on the journey of suffering. We know from research and experience that social support plays a huge role in helping people cope with trials and eventually grow from them. You need people who provide a safe place for you to express your true feelings about your pain. Even though it’s difficult when you’re going through a hard time, you need to do your part in reaching out and being vulnerable. A deeper appreciation of vulnerability is one of the positive changes people tend to experience when they grow through suffering.
  2. Face and express your emotions. Once you find people to walk with you on this journey, you need to approach and express your emotions, rather than suppress and run from them. It’s commonly known that sharing your emotions related to suffering leads to positive outcomes. Conversely, research indicates that suppressing emotions leads to negative outcomes, like increased rates of anxiety and depression. You need emotionally safe relationships in order to do this. You have to trust that your vulnerable emotions will be handled with care and compassion. When you express your true emotions in the context of safe relationships, it sets in motion a series of positive processes. You connect more deeply to others, which is healing in itself. In addition, you begin to discover the meaning of your suffering in the context of your life story.
  3. Process the emotions of suffering all the way through. Once you start talking about and feeling the pain of your suffering, stay with the feelings until you get to the end of the emotional arc. This principle comes from what is sometimes called a functional theory of emotion, which suggests that emotions are fundamentally adaptive. Emotions are your automatic evaluation of the events in your life. They provide information that is crucial, and they orient you to what is important for your wellbeing. For example, sadness is adaptive because it helps you grieve a loss. Emotions have a natural arc, or progression, in terms of their intensity and clarity. As you begin to feel the impact of your trial, you may start off ruminating about the situation. It’s important that you don’t stop at this phase. You need to embrace your emotions more fully to experience their adaptive benefits. As you engage in this process with people you trust and continue the arc of the feeling, the meaning becomes clearer, and there is a sense of relief as you experience the full measure of your own emotional truth.
  4. Reflect on and reorder your priorities. Trials have a way of making you rethink your priorities in life. This can help you grow. But you must actively reflect on what is truly important to you and then be intentional about changing your routines, habits, and rhythms in ways that align with your revised priorities. That might mean spending more time with your spouse and kids and cherishing each present moment with them. It could mean accepting and even embracing your limitations. Maybe it’s leaving the next item on your to-do list undone when the time has come to do something else, and trusting that you will complete the work in order of priority. Or possibly it means finding your identity through relationships rather than accomplishments.
  5. Use your experiences of suffering to help others. Many people find an immense sense of meaning in helping others who’ve gone through similar trials. Even if others didn’t experience the same challenges as you, using your pain as the fuel for empathy and compassion for others is a way of redeeming your suffering. It helps you create meaning out of it. Many veterans suffering from PTSD find peace in serving fellow veterans. Research shows that volunteerism is one of the most powerful ways we can engage in our own healing. In the same way, this is a core reason grieving parents of fallen soldiers start foundations in their name. And frankly, that’s why I serve as a board member for the SEAL Family Foundation as well as mentor young men into and through the SEAL training program. So, get off your ass and go find a cause greater than yourself. Trust me, you’ll never regret it.

Great, so what now?

Whether the pain and emotional obstacles we experience are chosen or dealt to us, practicing purposeful suffering undoubtedly leads to a better life. It’s no different for elite athletes, successful entrepreneurs, or anyone who has chosen to expand their comfort zone in pursuit of something they are passionate about. It’s a willingness we all have if we just tap into it. If you just embrace the suck and the good problems that will undoubtedly follow, you’ll eventually find greatness – whatever your definition of that is. Challenge yourself to identify both the suffering you have chosen, the suffering you haven’t, and the meaning in it all. Consider how you can derive positive benefits from your most arduous and painful times. What perspective could be gained and applied to transforming your mind?

Excerpted from Embrace the Suck: The Navy Seal Way to an Extraordinary Life by Brent Gleeson. Copyright © 2020. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Brent Gleeson was a member of SEAL Team 5, some of the first SEALs deployed to Iraq in early 2003. He completed combat deployments in Iraq, Africa, and other theaters of war. He is the author of TakingPoint and has starred in several reality shows including Mark Burnett’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes.’

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Cybersecurity experts think the anonymity of a small Florida company managing a huge chunk of the internet could be part of the Pentagon’s plan – and masking a bigger company

The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA
The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA

  • A startup took over management of over 175 million Pentagon IP addresses in January.
  • The company has no real history and was only created 7 months ago.
  • Cybersecurity experts say the company is likely a shell organization, masking the Pentagon’s plans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

About three minutes before former President Donald Trump left office, a mysterious startup began managing nearly 175 million Pentagon Internet Protocol addresses.

The company that is managing about 6% of usable internet space was identified as Global Resource Systems LLC. The 7-month old Florida company has no internet history or prior contracts with the government, but cybersecurity experts told Insider the startup may not what be it seems.

Four experts said the Pentagon is likely using the company’s lack of history as a shield for its plans and Global Resource Systems could be operating as a shell to hide a much larger organization.

The anonymity is likely key to the Pentagon’s plan

Cybersecurity experts say the mystery shrouding Global Resource Systems is not surprising.

The company has no real history, but the people behind the company undoubtedly have government connections, Morgan Wright, the chief security officer of SentinelOne, told Insider.

The name on the company’s incorporation documents, Raymond Saulino, matches the name of a managing member of the cybersecurity firm Packet Forensics, a company that has worked with the government before, according to the company’s legal filings. The company has had nearly $40 million in federal contracts over the past decade and currently sells lawful intercept equipment – a process that allows law enforcement agencies to selectively wiretap individuals via a court order.

A spokesperson for Packet Forensics did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Read more: The Pentagon’s mysterious move to start using inactive internet space could help it see into the networks of big companies

The company also bears the same name as a firm that shut down over 10 years ago and was sending out email spam, internet-fraud researcher Ron Guilmette told The Washington Post. That company had the same office address and used the same internet routing identifier. The only difference between the two companies is that the newer one operates as a limited liability corporation.

Mike Hamilton, former CISO of Seattle and CISO of cybersecurity firm CI Security, told Insider the company’s anonymity provides an extra layer of protection for the government and makes it even easier to hide what the Pentagon is planning to do with its IP addresses.

“Global Resource Systems can function as an extension of the government without direct connection allowing them to monitor activities without the overwhelming presence of the Pentagon nor the scrutiny of public opinion,” Scott Schober, CEO of cybersecurity firm Berkeley Varitronics Systems, told Insider.

The company provides an extra layer of security for the Pentagon

The company also provides the government with plausible deniability, according to Hamilton. The government would be able to launch cyber attacks, obtain data, and create faulty gateways on the internet without having to take responsibility for the actions. The attacks could easily be attributed to mistakes by a new and unrecognized third-party company, according to Hamilton.

Global Resource Systems LLC provides a layer of disguise for the project, according to Wright. He told Insider if the company was recognizable it would be easy for hackers to avoid detection and the US government would tip its hand.

“If it’s obvious where the information is going it gives them an idea of what we’re looking for,” Wright said. “We don’t want to telegraph to them too early what it is we’re doing and how we’re looking at the problem.”

The mysterious company could be a shell for a bigger organization

Wirght and Hamilton agreed that the company’s anonymity was not only beneficial but that it was likely hiding a major company. They pointed out that the company would need significant telecommuting power in order to process information from nearly 175 million IP addresses – more than AT&T or Comcast.

“It would be like trying to eat an elephant,” Wright said. “Not many companies can do that.”

Hamilton said Google is one of few companies that could process that much information at the moment. A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request to questions about whether the company had any ties to Global Resource Systems.

In contrast, founder of cyber analytics company ExtraHop, Jesse Rothstein, told Insider that Global Resource Systems could still be building up its system and would not necessarily need tremendous telecommuting power for the formerly dormant addresses, though it would still need to have significant financial resources.

Despite the layer of confusion behind the Pentagon’s decision, most cybersecurity experts agree that the move to put the dormant addresses to use makes sense.

“I think any academic institution or research institution would love to be able to conduct that type of research on such a large scale,” Rothstein told Insider, “This block of IP addresses is very valuable, and I’m sure many countries would prefer the DoD relinquish it, but it’s better to do something with it and use it for research than nothing at all.”

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The CEO of a $2 billion startup reportedly said he was fired after taking LSD during work

Iterable cofounders headshot
Justin Zhu and Andrew Boni, Iterable cofounders

  • The founder of marketing startup Iterable was reportedly fired for a violation of company policy.
  • Justin Zhu said he was terminated after he micro-dosed LSD on the job, Bloomberg reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The CEO of email marketing startup Iterable said he was fired after using LSD on the job, Bloomberg reported.

Justin Zhu told Bloomberg that the primary reason for his firing was that he took a small amount of the psychedelic drug prior to a meeting in 2019, with the intention of improving his focus. Zhu’s firing was announced to Iterable staffers on Monday, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.

“Micro-dosing” with small amounts of LSD and other psychedelics is a growing trend in Silicon Valley, with many users saying the drugs can help with creativity and focus. LSD is illegal in the US.

Iterable co-founder Andrew Boni announced Zhu’s ouster in an email to staff on Monday and said that he would be taking over the chief executive role, according to Bloomberg.

The email, which Bloomberg obtained, said Zhu had violated the company’s policies, values, and employee handbook. It did not provide any further details on what led to his ouster.

Iterable did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zhu’s firing or the specific reasons that led to his termination. Insider reached out to two different email accounts for Zhu on Tuesday and tried to contact him through Twitter. He did not immediately respond.

PitchBook data values Iterable at $2.1 billion as of March of this year.

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Employees wear ‘no quinoa’ shirts at Travis Kalanick’s startup to stave off a coddled work culture

Travis Kalanick
Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. Reuters

  • The phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on T-shirts and laptop stickers at CloudKitchens.
  • The phrase comes from CloudKitchens CEO Travis Kalanick’s days at Uber.
  • Kalanick has mimicked some of the aspects of Uber’s work culture at the startup, Insider reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick once got upset at an employee for asking why the company’s cafeteria no longer served quinoa.

Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO at the time, was annoyed that the employee would complain about quinoa in the midst of an all-hands meeting instead of focusing on work.

The story lingered for Kalanick, according to an exclusive report by Insider’s Meghan Morris. Now at his $5 billion startup CloudKitchens, the phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on some employees’ T-shirts and laptop stickers, sources told Morris. Some new hires are also told the “No Quinoa” tale as a warning to stay focused on the company’s mission.

The culture at Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens mimics that at Uber during Kalanick’s time at the ride-hailing company. CloudKitchens doesn’t offer many of the posh perks, like laundry service and nap pods, that have become common among other Silicon Valley companies. Kalanick wants employees’ focus to instead remain on company’s core work – a sentiment that is expressed in phrases like “no quinoa.”

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

CloudKitchens declined to comment on Insider’s investigation.

CloudKitchens, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, operates as a ghost kitchen company that rents commercial space and turns it into shared kitchens for restaurateurs.

In 2018, Kalanick invested in City Storage Systems, renamed it, and took over as CEO. Since then, it has expanded to at least 29 cities in the US and brought on customers including Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s.

Read more about the culture at CloudKitchens here.

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Travis Kalanick’s startup refused to change ‘Happy Ending’ branding for an Asian restaurant menu item, saying it wouldn’t cave to woke culture, employees said

Travis Kalanick
Travis Kalanick, founder of CloudKitchens and former CEO of Uber, dismissed internal employee complaints over what they felt was racist branding, Insider reported.

  • Travis Kalanick ignored employee complaints over what they felt was racist branding, sources told Insider.
  • Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, now leads commercial kitchen startup CloudKitchens.
  • Kalanick reportedly said the startup did not want to accommodate woke culture.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

CloudKitchens founder Travis Kalanick refused to change controversial customer branding, despite internal employee complaints over perceived racism and misogyny, sources told Insider.

Kalanick’s startup rents commercial kitchen space to restaurant brands that focus on food delivery and pickup. Through its Future Foods arm, the company also creates and licenses food brands to local entrepreneurs looking to get into the booming business of food delivery. Former employees told Insider that they spoke to Kalanick and others about their concerns over Future Foods branding, like “Happy Ending” for dessert at an Asian restaurant.

When employees complained, they said Kalanick’s response was that his startup did not seek to accommodate the press or woke culture.

Insider’s Meghan Morris reported the branding concerns as part of a larger investigation into CloudKitchens’ culture and recent employee departures.

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup CloudKitchens is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros’

CloudKitchens operates “ghost kitchens,” or commercial kitchen space focused on food delivery and pickup. The pandemic has helped the budding industry take off, as consumers cut back on restaurant dining and ordered more food for delivery.

In some CloudKitchens meetings, former employees told Insider that Kalanick lambasted headlines about himself. During an all-staff meeting in 2020, he called a report that he owns a $43 million mansion “fake news.” The CEO also apparently told employees not to trust people who trust the news.

More than 300 corporate executives have left the startup since the start of the year, Insider reported. CloudKitchens was not immediately available for comment for this story and declined to comment or to make executives at the company available for interviews for the larger investigation into CloudKitchens.

Read the full investigation: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

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Billie vs. Flamingo razors – how 2 popular startups trying to change women’s shaving compare

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Billie Vs. Flamingo 4x3
  • Billie and Flamingo are two women’s shaving startups making sharp and affordable razors.
  • Billie is a subscription service, while Flamingo is not. Both sell a $9 razor with $9 refills.
  • We compared the two companies so you can decide which is better for your shaving needs.

Shaving, if you choose to do it, is usually an inefficient and time-intensive process. It’s also one of those personal-care habits that quietly sucks the money out of your wallet (for some, more quickly than others depending on how often you shave).

Online startups like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club brought fresh changes to the shaving industry by making sharp, high-quality razors and sending them to your door for less. Not only men used their products. Women did, too, but there was always the sense the razor designs and skincare products could be better tailored to women’s needs.

Two startups, Billie and Flamingo, are finally making women’s lives easier with their affordable shaving solutions. As the two biggest disruptors of the women’s shaving scene, they’re often compared – which is better, Billie or Flamingo?

To help you decide which new women’s shaving brand is for you, we put them side by side and looked more closely at what products they sell, how much you’ll pay, and the shaving experiences themselves.

We’ve tried the razors and bodycare products from both companies (you can read our Billie review here and our Flamingo review here), so we can offer our personal takes alongside the factual details.

Learn about the similarities and differences between these two leading women’s shaving startups below.

Shop razors and shaving products at Billie here

Shop razors and shaving products at Flamingo here

How Billie and Flamingo came into existence

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Billie, founded in 2017, is taking a stand against the pink tax — which upcharges women’s personal-care products — by creating a razor priced in line with affordable men’s razors. It offers realistic portrayals of body hair in its ads and images, and it donates 1% of all revenue to women’s causes around the world. 

Flamingo was introduced in 2018 by Harry’s, the men’s grooming brand that first launched its subscription-based razor products in 2013. Though more than a million women were using Harry’s products for themselves, the Harry’s team knew that they could be better optimized for how women shave their legs, armpits, and bikini lines. Flamingo is led by two Harry’s veterans who have been with the company since its start, and it uses the same blades as Harry’s razors. 

How the services and products work

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Billie is a subscription service that sells shaving and body products. After getting its $9 Starter Kit, you’ll receive four replacement cartridges for $9 on an ongoing basis. 

To get started, you’ll choose your favorite handle color and how often you’d like to receive the replacement cartridges. If you shave every day, Billie will deliver once a month; a few times a week, every two months; and once a week, every three months. You can change this frequency at any point later. Then, add an optional shave cream ($8), lotion ($12), makeup wipes ($9), or travel case ($5) to your order. 

Flamingo lets you buy all of its shaving, waxing, and body products a la carte. There is no subscription plan, so you can buy refills whenever you need them. Most new customers start with the $16 Shave Set.

Taking a closer look at their starter shave kits

billie vs flamingo razor

Billie‘s Starter Kit costs $9 and includes a handle, two five-blade cartridges, and a magnetic holder. 

Flamingo‘s Shave Set costs $16 and includes a handle, two five-blade cartridges, 1 oz. foaming shave gel, 3 oz. body lotion, a shower hook, and a reusable pouch. 

What the razor looks like

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The Billie razor handle comes in six colors, in various shades of pink and blue. It has a five-blade cartridge made with USA-sharpened and assembled steel. The blades are encased in a charcoal shave soap and the cartridge has rounded edges. 

The Flamingo razor handle comes in three colors, with metallic accents. Its five-blade cartridge features German-engineered blades (Harry’s owns the German factory where the blades are made), a hydrating strip formulated with aloe vera, rounded edges, and a flexible hinge. 

I shaved with both Billie’s and Flamingo’s products to compare the experiences. Both gave me a smooth, close shave but in different ways.

billie vs flamingo razor

I used the Billie razor with the Shave Cream ($8), a non-aerosol cream made with soothing and gentle ingredients like aloe, sage, shea butter, and grapefruit and free from synthetic fragrances, parabens, and sulfates. I’m a sucker for anything grapefruit-flavored or scented, so right away I loved the cream. It’s not super thick, but since the blades already have soap built into them, you don’t need to use a lot of cream. 

The Billie razor felt comfortable in my hand. Though the cartridge has a hinge, I thought the angle and design didn’t allow it to go as far back as I would’ve liked. I was still able to tackle every inch of hair on my legs and armpits thanks to its sharp blades — I just had to be more careful and intentional. 

Meanwhile, the Flamingo razor pairs with a Foaming Shave Gel ($5), which comes in an aerosol can. Its key ingredients include aloe vera as well as conditioning emollients. Its gel is also paraben- and sulfate-free. This thick gel foamed up nicely and felt luxuriously smooth on my skin. 

I found the Flamingo razor handle, with its textured rubber grip, was easier to hold and less likely to slip from my fingers. The flexible hinge also helped me better get into tricky curves and corners. Like my experience with Billie, the sharp blades were ultimately the most impressive and important feature of the razor. 

The accessories and other bodycare products are also factors worth considering.

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Both Billie and Flamingo razors come with a wall accessory to hold it and keep it within reach in your shower. Billie‘s is a triangular magnetic holder that your razor sticks to, while Flamingo‘s is a circular suction grip that your razor clicks into. 

Whether because my shower wall was too wet when I stuck these holders to it, or these accessories simply weren’t strong enough, either the holder or the razor often fell off. While the idea is great, I wouldn’t rely too much on these holders. 

To supplement your body-care routine, I do recommend trying both companies’ lotions and body washes. The Billie Sudsy Body Wash ($9), made with grapefruit, coconut, rosa canina, and aloe vera, cleanses and preps your skin before you shave, and the Dry-Bye Body Lotion ($12) is formulated with grape seed, chamomile, shea butter, and aloe vera for perfect post-shave moisturization.

Flamingo doesn’t have a body wash, but its Body Lotion ($8) features the key ingredients of white willowbark extract and papaya fruit extract (for hydration) and a derivative of sugar cane (for moisturization). 

Overall, the pricing is similar – and affordable.

flamingo razor review



Which company’s razors should you shave with? Here’s the bottom line.

My Billie Starter Kit

The best women’s shaving brand for you depends on your shaving habits and preferences. With both Billie and Flamingo, you’re getting sharp blades that will get rid of your body hair efficiently, at an affordable price. 

If you shave at a consistent schedule, Billie will be better for you because of its convenient and automatic subscription service. It’s easy to add on supplementary products to your order, and subscribing is also the only way to get replacement cartridges. 

If you’re on less of a schedule and want to order refills as you go, you’ll be better off with Flamingo. Its Shave Set offers a good introduction to its products, and it’s affordable at less than $20. You should also shop Flamingo if you’ve used and liked Harry’s razors in the past but want a design better suited to your body. 

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How Tribe Capital selected and ranked Insider’s Seed 100 and Seed 25 lists of the best seed VCs

Jake Ellowitz
Jake Ellowitz, a partner at Tribe Capital.

  • Tribe Capital developed a model to discover the best seed-stage VCs.
  • It was designed to notice investors with consistent extraordinary skill.
  • Tribe used it internally to find partners, and it became the basis of Insider’s lists of top VCs.
  • Read the Seed 100 list of the best seed VCs and the Seed 25 list of the best female seed VCs.

There are tens of thousands of institutions and people who are early-stage investors in the US.

Despite such vastness, seed investors are a tight-knit, interwoven community. They work together to find and support young startups, work that we see as a highly skilled vocation: From our research, we know that the best VCs perform a lot better than the average ones, and they have repeat success.

Our team at Tribe Capital is a group of technologists and engineers who harness data science every day to identify the most significant companies of our generation. We look for what we call the “N of 1” opportunities, where a company is capturing a new atomic-size unit of value – such as oil, idle cars, equity, or the friend graph – that, when captured, has the potential to catalyze an immense wave of innovation. These opportunities are easy to spot in retrospect, but very difficult to predict.

So, we wondered, out of all the investing partners available, which ones consistently spot those “N of 1” opportunities? Those are the relationships we should develop and how we should spend our time. But how do we find them?

These questions drove us to develop a model for ranking the performance of the seed community. This methodology is how we determined the Seed 100 and Seed 25 lists.

We sought out VCs whose seed investments:

  • have performed well as indicated by initial public offerings or exits meaningfully above liquidation preference, meaning returns were achieved because the companies became more valuable, not because they raised a lot of money.
  • showed early signs of future success because their portfolios have cured well at the early stage, but have not yet exited.
  • tended to reach growth stage as indicated by Series B+ follow-up rounds.
  • had well-rounded success, showing well across all attributes we measured even if they didn’t have a single strength.

Our search began with a review of Crunchbase and PitchBook, two representative databases that track venture deals. The model analyzed each person’s performance in about 25 areas. The total population of people who met our criteria was about 1,000. (We excluded all members of the Tribe Capital investing team.)

Of the 1,000, about 450 had enough indicators across many areas of our criteria to produce a strong level of confidence in their estimated investing proficiency.

Then, once we narrowed the list, we did our own due diligence.

Everyone has different strengths, and our model is designed to notice when an investor possesses extraordinary skill and shows a high likelihood of continuing to be outstanding.

That said, many great investors aren’t on either list.

Because our model looks at funding and exits, it typically takes a few years to gauge the quality of seed investments. So we eliminated from contention any investor who is no longer active and those who had fewer than five investments between 2007 and 2020.

Women and diversity

Venture capital has historically been entirely driven by who you know, not what you know. That’s one of the problems our models are designed to change. (Read: How Tribe Capital’s Arjun Sethi uses data, not feelings, to choose the startups his fund backs.)

For that reason, the venture industry has been, for decades, dominated by men and has largely overlooked people of color. As a result, historical data on the performance of investors by gender or racial diversity has been difficult to measure.

By including historical analysis in our model, our list reflects the still somewhat lacking diversity in the industry today, which we expect may evolve over time. In the set of 450 people who met our criteria, the ratio of male to female was about 12-to-1. Racial data on investors was not available.

There are many excellent seed investors, particularly from a growing rank of newly funded investors from diverse backgrounds, who simply didn’t have a long enough track record as of yet on enough deals, with data that could be validated, to be in contention. In future years, these successes could be expressed in our model, and we expect our list to grow more diverse over time.

All of this motivated us to share our work so that entrepreneurs at the early stage have more resources and guidance when choosing whom to partner with.

We’re excited to see how the entire industry engages with the Seed 100 and Seed 25, as well as for the partnerships that are created by what we have to share with you.

Jake Ellowitz is a partner at Tribe Capital and the data scientist who pioneered Tribe’s startup- and venture-capital-industry mathematical models.

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