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Monthly Archives: September 2020

Indonesian fintech startup BukuWarung gets new funding to add financial services for small merchants



A month after completing Y Combinator’s accelerator program, BukuWarung, an financial tech startup that serves small businesses in Indonesia, announced it has raised new funding from a roster of high-profile investors, including partners of DST Global, Soma Capital and 20VC.

The amount of the funding was undisclosed, but a source told TechCrunch that it was between $10 million to $15 million. The new capital will be used to hire for BukuWarung’s technology team. TechCrunch first profiled BukuWarung in July.

Angel investors in the round include several high-profile founders and executives: finance technology platform Plaid’s co-founder William Hockey; Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen; Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra; Adobe chief product officer Scott Belsky; Clearbit chairman and startup advisor Josh Buckley; former Uber chief product officer Manik Gupta; Spotify’s former head of new markets in Asia Sriram Krishnan; 20VC founder Harry Stebbings; Nancy Xiao, an investor with Bond Capital; and Fast co-founder Allison Barr Allen. Angel investors from WhatsApp, Square and Airbnb also participated.

Launched last year by co-founders Chinmay Chauhan and Abhinay Peddisetty, BukuWarung is targeted at the 60 million “micromerchants” in Indonesia, including neighborhood store (or warung) owners. The app was originally created as a replacement for pen and apper ledgers, but plans to introduce financial services including credit, savings and insurance. In August, the company integrated digital payments into its platform, enabling merchants to take customer payments from bank accounts and digital wallets like OVO and DANA. BukuWarung’s goal is to fill the same role for Indonesian merchants that KhataBook and OKCredit do in India.

 

One of the reasons BukuWarung launched digital payments was in response to customer demand for contactless transactions and instant payouts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since introducing the feature, the company said it has already processed several million U.S. dollars in total payment volume (TPV) on an annualized basis. The company says it now serves about 1.2 million merchants across 750 locations in Indonesia, focusing on tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

Digital payments is also the first step into building out BukuWarung’s financial services, which will help differentiate it from other bookkeeping. The payments features is currently free and BukuWarung is experimenting with different monetization models, including making a small margin on fees.

“The reason why we launched payments is also very strategic, because there is a lot of pull in the market. We have already seen several millions annualized TPV in less than a month, because the payments we offer are cost-efficient as well and cheaper than to get from a bank,” Chauhan told TechCrunch.

“If you look at the Indian players, like Khatabook, they have also launched digital payments. The reason for that is because it’s a very essential step for building a business and monetization,” he added. “If you don’t have payments, you can’t do anything like that.”

Chauhan added that building a financial services platform is the difference between providing a utility app that replaces bookkeeping ledgers, and becoming an essential service for merchants that will eventually include lending for working capital, savings and insurance products. The bookkeeping features on BukuWarung will feed into the financial services aspect by providing data to score creditworthiness, and help small merchants, who often have difficulty securing working capital from traditional banks, get access to lines of credit.

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Gillmor Gang: Over 2 U



The pandemic shook up our and virtually every other video news production process as Zoom became the focus of our daily lives; slowly but surely we’ve altered the production process to reflect Zoom’s easy on boarding and semi-casual approach to virtualized meetings and conversations.

We now use a series of interweaved services to broadcast the live Zoom recording session over ReStream, which in turn streams to Twitter/Periscope, YouTube, and Facebook Live. Some of the show’s regulars share the Facebook stream using Watch Party, aggregating comments and viewership metadata of their friends and cohorts. Once the session is over, we add music, titles, and pointers to the Gillmor Gang Telegram Backchannel, and embed the YouTube mix here on TechCrunch.

Much of this live-streaming strategy has been workshopped with people like Brent Leary who with his CRM Playaz partner Paul Greenberg produce a growing series of livestreams on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks. Brent joined the Gang in late 2019. On this Gillmor Gang episode, Brent switches gears from yet-another-TikToc segment to a new streaming target, Twitch. Just before he bails to co-host a Playaz show, I ask him to explain the latest project they’re cooking up. Here, in his own words, is more:

CRM Playaz Executive Roundtable Convo Livestream…Not Webinar….or Panel

We’re seeing broadcast media use streaming platforms to do their jobs while they shelter in place and social distance. And while some of this has the look and feel of a Zoom conference call we’re all experiencing way too much, as time goes on they also are beginning to make these livestreams look like regular broadcasts to a certain extent. Which means that if they can take cues from us amateurs to do their broadcasts, we can do the same, or at least attempt to, by making our “programming” more tv-like.

So, Paul Greenberg and I, underneath the umbrella of our CRM Playaz video podcast, had an idea. To bring senior executives from the five leading vendors in the CRM industry – according to industry market share – together for a free flowing conversation about the state of the industry seven months into the pandemic. Kind of like what you might see on a cable news segment…but of course there’s no way you’d see a bunch of execs talking about CRM on CNN, Fox or MSNBC. But we’re gonna do it, complete with a post-roundtable show directly following the discussion with a number of rapid-fire panels of industry analysts and thought leaders sharing their thoughts and opinions on what they heard from executive convo.

Now we aren’t talking webinar here, or something stiff and controlled like you’d normally see from a traditional panel of high level execs. Not that there’s anything wrong with a traditional webinar or panel. But these streaming platforms give us the ability to put a different lens on things. Maybe create an environment for a less polished but just as substantive group convo which goes wherever it needs to – and goes with humor and flexibility and twists and turns…and comradery. And maybe there’s an audience of folks out there in their comfortable home office taking it all in and also participating with their own commentary that might also become a part of the conversation. And those are the cues we can take from the broadcast media – to make these business livestreams more comfortable, more communal, and more real… and less staged and sterile.

So we’ll see how it goes on October 8th at 1:30pm et, as we are excited to bring together a group of folks who are not only leaders at the leading vendors, but also people who have personalities and senses of humor to go with all the experience and smarts. Because when you get into what will no doubt have serious interactions on important subjects, we think you can do it in a way that allows us to be human – and possibly smile at seeing a dog or cat in the background – Anne Chen of Salesforce knows what I mean. Or laugh when a little kid of one of these high-powered execs come stomping into the room looking for his mom or dad. And maybe catch a glimpse of something you just wouldn’t experience in the traditional settings you’d normally see a panel made up of folks like:

  • Suresh Vittal, VP Experience Cloud Platform and Products, Adobe
  • Alysa Taylor, CVP Business Applications and Global Industry, Microsoft
  • Rob Tarkoff, EVP/GM of #CX, Oracle
  • Bill Patterson, EVP/GM #CRM Applications, Salesforce
  • Bob Stutz, President, CX, SAP

So if you’re into CRM, or just curious to see how this all comes off, you can register to join us for the livestream at https://www.linkedin.com/events/crmplayazexecutiveroundtableconversation/ (https://www.linkedin.com/events/crmplayazexecutiveroundtableconversation/). And let us know what you think in realtime…

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Friday, September 25, 2020.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

For more, subscribe to the Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the notification feed here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

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Daily Crunch: Judge delays TikTok ban



Americans can continue using TikTok for now, Google updates its developer policies and Uber gets approval to resume operations in London. This is your Daily Crunch for September 28, 2020.

The big story: Judge delays TikTok ban

The saga continues! The Trump administration’s ban on TikTok was scheduled to take effect today — but over the weekend, a federal court ruled that Americans can continue using the app while a legal challenge over the ban’s legality moves forward.

A federal judge had already put a similar injunction in place to prevent a ban on WeChat from moving forward.

Meanwhile, Oracle, Walmart and TikTok’s owner ByteDance have also reached a deal that’s been approved by the U.S. government and would allow the app to continue operating here. However, it seems like the various companies and governments involved in the deal aren’t exactly on the same page.

The tech giants

Google to better enforce Play Store in-app purchase policies, ease use of third-party app stores — Under threat of regulation, Google announced that it’s updating its Google Play billing policies to better clarify which types of transactions will be subject to Google’s commissions on in-app purchases.

Uber wins latest London licence appeal, but renewal is only for 18 months — The ride-sharing giant has faced a multi-year battle to have its license reinstated after the city’s transport regulator decided not to issue a renewal in 2017.

Roku introduces a new Ultra player, a 2-in-1 ‘Streambar’ and a new OS with support for AirPlay 2 — The Streambar combines 4K HDR streaming and premium audio into one product.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SoftBank will bring Bear’s serving robots to Japan, amid restaurant labor shortages — The investor detailed plans to bring Bear’s Servi robot to Japan in an effort to address restaurant labor issues.

GV bets on young team behind high school social app HAGS — The team is building an old-school social play focused on Gen Z high school socialization.

N26 hires Adrienne Gormley as its new chief operating officer — Gormley has spent the last six years working for Dropbox in Dublin.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

2 strategies for creating top-of-funnel marketing content — Even when you’re excellent at making the sale, you still need people to know you exist in the first place.

Deep Science: Robot perception, acoustic monitoring, using ML to detect arthritis — Devin Coldewey rounds up the latest research and discoveries.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Healthcare giant UHS hit by ransomware attack, sources say — The attack hit UHS systems early on Sunday morning, according to two people with direct knowledge of the incident.

Cannabis vape companies are experiencing a sales boom during the pandemic — From startups to major players, several leading manufacturers told TechCrunch that their companies are seeing a boom in sales since the start of the crisis.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Get a free Extra Crunch membership when you buy TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 tickets



TC Sessions: Mobility is coming up next week, and we’ve decided to sweeten the deal for what’s included with your event pass. Buy your ticket now and you’ll get a free annual membership to Extra Crunch, our membership program focused on startups, founders and investors with more than 100 exclusive articles published per month.

Extra Crunch unlocks access to our weekly investor surveys, private market analysis and in-depth interviews with experts on fundraising, growth, monetization and other core startup topics. Find answers to your burning questions about startups and investing through Extra Crunch Live, and stay informed with our members-only Extra Crunch newsletter. Other benefits include an improved TechCrunch.com experience, 20% discounts to future TechCrunch events and savings on software services from DocSend, Typeform, Crunchbase and more.

Here are samples of Extra Crunch mobility and transportation articles that TC Sessions: Mobility audience members will find appealing:

Learn more about Extra Crunch benefits here, and buy your TC Sessions: Mobility tickets here.  

What is TC Sessions: Mobility?

TC Sessions: Mobility is a two-day online event with the best founders, investors and technologists who are hell-bent on inventing a future Henry Ford never could have imagined. TechCrunch’s editors will break through the hype to help attendees understand the current state of the mobility revolution and try to see which technologies and players will own the future of transportation.

The event will take place October 6-7, and we’d love to have you join. Learn more about the event, including how to purchase tickets, here

Once you buy your TC Sessions: Mobility pass, you will be emailed a link and unique code you can use to claim the free year of Extra Crunch.

Already bought your TC Sessions: Mobility ticket?

Existing pass holders will be emailed information on how to claim the free year of Extra Crunch membership. All new ticket purchases will receive information over email immediately after the purchase is complete.

Please note that the free Extra Crunch membership will not be available for attendees that purchase a discounted student, government or nonprofit Disrupt pass. 

Already an Extra Crunch member?

If you are already an existing annual or two-year Extra Crunch member and have not yet bought a ticket to TC Sessions: Mobility, you can reach out to extracrunch@techcrunch.com to request a 20% discount. If you are an annual or two-year member and purchased a TC Sessions: Mobility ticket without the 20% discount, we’re happy to extend the length of your existing membership by 12 months for free by contacting extracrunch@techcrunch.com.

Alternatively, if you are an existing monthly Extra Crunch member, we’re happy to extend the length of your membership by a year for free; however, you won’t be able to claim the 20% discount for an event ticket for TC Sessions: Mobility. You will be eligible for the 20% off event tickets for other future TechCrunch events. Please contact extracrunch@techcrunch.com if you are an existing monthly customer and want to take advantage of the membership extension.

Learn more about Extra Crunch benefits here, and buy your TC Sessions: Mobility tickets here.  

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Amazon launches a $4.99-per-month ‘personal shopper’ service for men’s fashion



Amazon is introducing a personal shopping service for men’s fashion. The service, now available to Prime members, is an expansion of the existing Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe, a $4.99 per month Stitch Fix rival, originally aimed at women. With Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe, an Amazon stylist selects an assortment of fashion items that match a customer’s style and fit preferences. These are are then shipped to the customer on a monthly basis for home try-on. Whatever the customer doesn’t want to keep can be returned using the resealable package and the prepaid shipping label provided.

At launch, the new men’s personal shopping service will include brands like Scotch & Soda, Original Penguin, Adidas, Lacoste, Carhartt, Levi’s, Amazon Essentials, Goodthreads, and more — a mix of both Amazon’s own in-house brands and others. In total, Amazon says Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe will offer hundred of thousands of men’s styles across more than a thousand different brands.

The service itself is similar in many ways to Stitch Fix, as it also starts customers with a style quiz to personalize their monthly fashion selections. Also like competitive fashion subscription services, customers can reach out to their stylist with specific requests  — like if they need a professional outfit for job interview, for example, or some other occasion where they may want something outside their usual interests.

But unlike Stitch Fix, which charges a $20 “stylist fee” which is later credited towards any items you choose to keep, Amazon’s personal shopping service is a flat $4.99 per month. Another difference is that the Personal Shopper service will alert you ahead of your shipment to review their picks. You then choose the up to 8 items you want to receive, instead of waiting for the surprise of opening your box.

Image Credits: Amazon

Before today, Amazon had offered men’s fashion in its try-before-you-buy Prime Wardrobe product selection. But that service simply allows Amazon Prime members to request certain fashion items for home try-on, instead of paying for them upfront then returning what doesn’t work. To date, Prime Wardrobe’s biggest drawback has been that many of the fashion items found on Amazon aren’t eligible for home try-on, particularly many of those from the most in-demand brands.

However, Amazon claims it doesn’t stuff Prime Wardrobe with only its own brands. The company says less than 1% of its total selection of brands within Prime Wardrobe are Amazon-owned. (Of course, that percentage may be higher in the boxes customers receive from their personal shopper, at times.)

Amazon also says millions of customers have used the home try-on option provided by Prime Wardrobe and   “hundreds of thousands” of customers have created fashion profiles within Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe since its 2019 launch.

However, only “tens of thousands” of customers today use the Personal Shopper service on a monthly basis.

That means Prime Wardrobe is no real threat to Stitch Fix at this time, if making a comparison purely based on number of paying customers.

StitchFix has had longer to perfect its model and refine its insights which has allowed it to grow its active client base to 3.5 million. That figure is up 9% year-over-year, as of the company’s latest earnings reported earlier this month. More recently, Stitch Fix benefited from the pandemic — after it got through its initial backlogged orders — as customers sought to change their style from businesswear to activewear.

Men’s activewear had been particularly in demand, which is perhaps a trend Amazon had also seen ahead of the launch of its new service.

While home try-on via Prime Wardrobe is available today in the U.S., UK, Germany, Austria and Japan, the Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe subscription is currently available in the U.S. only. It’s also only available on mobile devices.

 

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Hear from Postmates, Refraction AI and FedEx about autonomous delivery at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020



Small startups and logistics giants alike are working on how to use automated vehicle technology and robotics for delivery. Some have even accelerated their efforts, with mixed results, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove up demand for delivery.

But is the world — or the tech — ready for the mainstream?

TechCrunch has tapped three experts from FedEx, Refraction AI and Postmates to join our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 to talk about the challenges and opportunities of using robots for delivery. TC Sessions: Mobility is a two-day conference scheduled for October 6 and October 7 that aims to bring together the best and brightest minds working on the future of transportation.

Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder of Refraction AI, Ali Kashani, the VP of Special Projects at Postmates and Rebecca Yeung, vice president of Advanced Technology & Innovation at FedEx will discuss the changing face of delivery, what it will take to make this technology commercially viable and whether the the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their strategy.

Johnson-Roberson’s company Refraction AI came out of stealth on our stage last year. The Midwest-based startup, which developed a delivery robot that uses the bike lane, and has been ramping up testing and operations in its home state of Michigan. Johnson-Roberson, has worked in robotic perception since the first DARPA grand challenge, is also associate professor of robotics at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Kashani has co-founded several startups, including Lox, which was acquired by Postmates in 2017. When Kashani joined the company he launched Postmates X, which aimed to solve the economic and environmental dilemma of using vehicles to deliver food. His team came up with Serve, the robot that is now used to deliver food in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Yeung’s primary responsibility as VP of advanced technology is to accelerate innovation in the autonomous vehicles and robotics space and use it to improve FedEx’s operations and customer experience. Yeung has more than 20 years of experience in emerging technology, strategy, marketing, and business development. She is the lead officer for FedEx’s same-day robot known as Roxo. She also oversees key autonomous vehicle and robotics initiatives at the enterprise level, evaluating emerging technologies to inform R&D investments.

In case you hadn’t heard, TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 is virtual this year. The virtual version of TC Sessions: Mobility will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events, from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and this year, even a pitch-off session. This year, we’re also holding Q&A sessions following several of the panels, allowing ticketholders to submit questions to the panelists.

We want TC Sessions: Mobility to be accessible to as many people as possible and so we’ve created a range of pass levels to fit just about every budget. Prices start at $25 for the Expo ticket and students can attend for $50. We also have discounts for groups. Or buy an Early-Stage Startup Exhibitor Package to claim a spot in our expo before we run out of space!

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Deep Science: Robot perception, acoustic monitoring, using ML to detect arthritis



Research papers come out far too rapidly for anyone to read them all, especially in the field of machine learning, which now affects (and produces papers in) practically every industry and company. This column aims to collect the most relevant recent discoveries and papers — particularly in but not limited to artificial intelligence — and explain why they matter.

The topics in this week’s Deep Science column are a real grab bag that range from planetary science to whale tracking. There are also some interesting insights from tracking how social media is used and some work that attempts to shift computer vision systems closer to human perception (good luck with that).

ML model detects arthritis early

Image Credits: UC San Diego

One of machine learning’s most reliable use cases is training a model on a target pattern, say a particular shape or radio signal, and setting it loose on a huge body of noisy data to find possible hits that humans might struggle to perceive. This has proven useful in the medical field, where early indications of serious conditions can be spotted with enough confidence to recommend further testing.

This arthritis detection model looks at X-rays, same as doctors who do that kind of work. But by the time it’s visible to human perception, the damage is already done. A long-running project tracking thousands of people for seven years made for a great training set, making the nearly imperceptible early signs of osteoarthritis visible to the AI model, which predicted it with 78% accuracy three years out.

The bad news is that knowing early doesn’t necessarily mean it can be avoided, as there’s no effective treatment. But that knowledge can be put to other uses — for example, much more effective testing of potential treatments. “Instead of recruiting 10,000 people and following them for 10 years, we can just enroll 50 people who we know are going to be getting osteoarthritis … Then we can give them the experimental drug and see whether it stops the disease from developing,” said co-author Kenneth Urish. The study appeared in PNAS.

Using acoustic monitoring to preemptively save the whales

It’s amazing to think that ships still collide with and kill large whales on a regular basis, but it’s true. Voluntary speed reductions haven’t been much help, but a smart, multisource system called Whale Safe is being put in play in the Santa Barbara channel that could hopefully give everyone a better idea of where the creatures are in real-time.

Image Credits: UW/UC Santa Barbara

The system uses underwater acoustic monitoring, near-real-time forecasting of likely feeding areas, actual sightings and a dash of machine learning (to identify whale calls quickly) to produce a prediction for whale presence along a given course. Large container ships can then make small adjustments well-ahead of time instead of trying to avoid a pod at the last minute.

“Predictive models like this give us a clue for what lies ahead, much like a daily weather forecast,” said Briana Abrahms, who led the effort from the University of Washington. “We’re harnessing the best and most current data to understand what habitats whales use in the ocean, and therefore where whales are most likely to be as their habitats shift on a daily basis.”

Incidentally, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne helped establish the UC Santa Barbara center that made this possible.

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Cannabis vape companies are experiencing a sales boom during the pandemic



The global pandemic is driving interest toward cannabis, and device makers are recording record sales. From startups to major players, several leading manufacturers told TechCrunch that their companies are seeing a boom in sales since the start of the crisis. Coupled with supply constraints, consumers are now seeing limited supply on some top models as makers try to keep up.

Some company CEOs see the pandemic driving consumer acceptance and pushing legalization at the national level. With legalization, new consumers enter the market, and companies such as Canopy Growth, PAX and Grenco Science look to benefit as makers of some of the best vaporizers on the market — that is if consumers can find them in stock.

Supply chain issues are partly to blame, and cannabis products are not alone in facing short supply. For the U.S.-market, many products, from bicycles to kayaks, are hard to find right now. And like those products, increased demand is straining the already stressed supply. 

Grenco Science was founded in 2012 and was an early mover in the dry herb vaporizer market. In 2019, the company raised a Series A for an undisclosed amount to develop and release innovative products. And in early 2020, the company was ready to launch the inexpensive Dash and the Roam, a portable water-filtered concentrate vaporizer. 

Then COVID-19 hit.

CEO and co-founder Chris Folkerts says product launches were pushed back, yet the company was still able to launch the Roam and Dash. 

“We’ve still been able to see growth and expand the product pipeline significantly,” Folkerts said. “There are still releases slated for later this year and we’ll be able to launch the redesigned Stundenglass after the company’s acquisition.”

Indeed, Grenco had a busy pandemic, launching two new products and acquiring the maker of another. And they’re not done. Folkerts says interest in dry herb vaporizers is spiking and could be due to the Dash vape launch. Grenco has three more new dry herb vaporizers in its release pipeline.

Folkerts admits that there were troubles along the way, primarily around customer support and shipping products. The company saw an influx of orders through online sales and distributors that the company was not prepared to handle. He says the company had to repurpose “a decent portion” of its staff to speak directly to online consumers to address product and shipping concerns. 

Canopy Growth’s marquee vaporizer company Storz & Bickel is also experiencing increased customer support issues. Browse any user forum and it’s clear the company cannot keep up with customer relations. Buyers are reporting delayed shipping and inconsistent customer support. Most items on storz-bickel.com carry a “low inventory” warning, though most are available through official distributors.

Andy Lytwynec, VP, Global Vape Business at Canopy Growth, says Storz & Bickel’s sudden growth is outpacing forecasts, and the company accelerated production expansion. Thirty new employees were added to its German factory through a heightened sense of urgency, he said.

In 2000, Storz & Bickel released the Volcano, arguable the first worthwhile desktop dry herb vaporizer. The company now sells two versions of the Volcano and a handful of handheld devices that use the same underlying technology, all of which are certified for medical use. In 2018, Canopy Growth acquired Storz & Bickel, where it joined the conglomerate’s other vaporizer brands.

Lytwynec points to Storz & Bickle as a barometer of sorts in judging the impact of COVID-19. The German-based vaporizer company saw an uptick in sales, as reported in Canopy Growth’s latest quarterly report. The company reported a 71% increase during the first quarter ending on June 30. The financial report pointed to Storz & Bickel’s increased sales and distribution expansion as a primary reason for the increase. 

During the pandemic, consumers are not just turning to dry herbs. Makers of concentrate vaporizers also see an increase in sales.

Puffco, maker of the fantastic Puffco Peak e-rig, tells TechCrunch it has also seen an explosion in sales. Puffco founder Roger Volodarsky says, “Since the pandemic hit, it seems like many new users have joined the cannabis space. Puffco has seen historic sales during this time. We’re thankful to see our growth continue despite the challenges that we’ve been faced with.”

Instead of using ground flower, Puffco’s products are designed to be used with concentrates, which many see as the next big cannabis inhalation market. It sits between dried flower and portable so-called vape pens.

Jupiter Research is the largest distributor of CCELL vaporization hardware and sells into all regulated cannabis markets globally, including across the United States. For this market, namely the pre-packaged, self-contained THC cartridges, Jupiter Research has seen little effect from COVID-19.

“There hasn’t been a material increase or decrease in the vape market as a whole due to COVID-19,” Tim Conder, COO and president said, adding, “at least from what our data tells us. In fact, Jupiter has continued to gain market share in the vape category as a whole. Vape remains the second largest category in cannabis henna flour. The third is edibles.”

Conder sees COVID-19 potentially changing the government’s stance on cannabis. As he told TechCrunch, it feels like cannabis legalization is gaining more traction at a federal level. He hopes state and federal governments are looking at the fiscal benefits of a nationwide legal cannabis market.

Other cannabis hardware manufacturers agree COVID-19 is pushing the United States government to look at cannabis through a different light.

DynaVap, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer, says the public perception of cannabis has remained consistent with continual movement into positive public acceptance. Eric Olson, founder, and CFO of DynaVap, notes that he feels the cannabis plant has even had positive effects and eases the impact from COVID-19.

“The post-pandemic outlook for the cannabis plant will be an impactful positive public movement assuming the industry can continue the legalization momentum on the federal and state levels in the U.S.,” Olson told TechCrunch.

DyanVap, which employs 50 people in Wisconsin, says it started increasing staffing in May and recently launched several new products, including a portable induction heater called “the Orion.”

Now, six months out from the start of the global crisis, the cannabis market seems to have gained significant traction as such manufacturers have ramped up production and increased staffing to keep up with demand.

Canopy Growth’s Lytwynec sees the past few months as a turning point around cannabis. And not just for the economic impact for legalization (and taxing) cannabis. He says he sees consumers waking up to the level of sophistication around cannabis. 

“People are spending their dollars, not on baggies of illicit weed, but they’re spending their money on higher-end products, and it’s nice to see the category mature in the middle of a pandemic. We see people investing in [devices] and the quality of consumables. It speaks to the health of the category, and I’m hopeful the industry picks up tailwinds, and we exit this dystopian period sooner than later.”

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