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Written by Jonathan Shieber

Gaming network Venn will launch with 20 hours of live programming on August 5, 2020

Venn, the company looking to be gaming’s answer to 80s era MTV, has revealed the first slate of shows to premier on the network when it launches August 5th, 2020.

Working out of studios in Playa Vista in Los Angeles and New York’s World Trade Center (coming in 2021), Venn intends to use 1,000 square feet and 30 million pixels of LED walls and floors to create its interactive shows and narratives.

The company is planning a slate of news and talk shows, game shows and documentaries, accoring to a statement.

“From conception, VENN has been laser-focused on elevating the creators of this generation with production leadership, a chance to flex new creative muscles and grow their audiences via our broad distribution” said Ariel Horn, co-chief executive of VENN. “As we close in on our August launch, we’re thrilled to pull back the curtain on the first wave of programming – and the unique blend of talent curated from the worlds of gaming and cutting edge digital storytelling.”

The first slate of shows from the company include:

  • VENN ARCADE LIVE – A daily variety show centered on gaming themes (and unfortunately not inspired by the seminal Hüsker Dü album, “Zen Arcade”) to be hosted by James ‘Dash’ Patterson, Venn Arcade will feature guest appearances, live performances, interactive gameplay and audience participation from the hottest gamers, streamers, celebrities, athletes, musicians and rising stars.
  • DARE PACKAGE – An extreme challenge version of unboxing where loot crates filled with mystery challenges are delivered to streamers’ homes hosted by @AustinOnTwitter.
  • GUEST HOUSE – On weekday afternoons celebrity guests will take over the Venn studios to craft their own streaming show for live audiences..
  • THE SUSHIDRAGON SHOW – Hosted by the eclectic and eccentric performance artist and streamer, The SushiDragon Show will feature interviews, performances, and entertainers alongside SushiDragon’s own signature dancing set against digital backdrops and avatars.
  • LOOKING FOR GAINS – Hosted by the entertainer known as CashNasty this show will be an interactive fitness show designed to showcase guest’s ultimate quarantine workout.

“We’re disrupting the traditional television business model and giving birth to a powerful voice in GenZ and Millennial entertainment. We identify and curate fan favorite talent, develop and elevate their content with a world class TV production infrastructure, then rapidly scale it all via our universally distributed network”, said Ben Kusin, Venn’s other co-chief executive, in a statement. “There’s a currency in generational talents and a currency in generational movements, and that timeliness can’t wait for traditional TV to adapt. The time for VENN is now.”

Nuggs rebrands as Simulate with new cash, a new CTO and an expanded line of faux-meat foods

Nuggs, the alternative-meat company founded by serial entrepreneur Ben Pasternak (who previously co-founded the social media app Monkey), has raised $4.1 million and gotten itself a new name and a new CTO as it looks to move beyond chicken nuggets.

Now called Simulate, Pasternak’s startup is readying the launch of new products including spicy nuggets, a “chicken burger product” and, eventually, a hot dog, that required a branding change to befit its newly broadened ambitions in the ultra-competitive industry out to reform consumers’ carnivorous impulses.

Since Pasternak first began pitching his direct to consumer chicken nugget replacements a bit over a year ago, the company has sold 1 million pounds of nuggets. Over the next week, Simulate’s frozen nuggets will make their debut in around 30 Gelson’s supermarkets in California. The company has plans to release its chicken patty within the next few months and a hot dog replacement, DOGGS, in the fourth quarter.

Pasternak began to rebrand earlier this summer when his company launched the second iteration of its nuggets in June.

In addition to his new brand, and new investors including Lerer Hippeau, style=”font-weight: 400;”> AgFunder, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian; former Whole Foods chief executive Walter Robb, and model Jasmine Tookes; Pasternak also has a new chief technology officer. 

Bringing Thierry Saint-Denis, the former senior director of research and innovation at Danone, on as CTO is a coup for the company. As a business Nuggs seemed to be more of a marketing play backed by a savvy founder and a frozen food giant that wanted to make a play for the burgeoning market for meat substitutes and replacements. Now, with Saint-Denis, the company brings on a developer of food products that have reached nearly $1 billion in sales who holds over 14 patents related to functional ingredients, probiotics, and enzymes. 

With the new executive in place, new and previous investors like McCain Foods, Rainfall Ventures, Maven Ventures, NOMO Ventures, MTV founder Bob Pittman, and Casper founder Neil Parikh are now backing a company with a bit more technical heft behind it.  

Not that Nuggs wasn’t improving its product line over the past year. Pasternak touts the company’s iterative approach to product development, embodied in its different “release notes” as the company toyed with different formulations.

That software driven approach may also yield other sales options, like a subscription service, Pasternak said. “We have seen this core community of people obsessively purchasing the new versions. We are looking at launching some kind of beta testing subscription thing shortly.”

Raising $22.5 million, Liftit looks to expand its logistics services in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Ecuador

The Colombian trucking and logistics services startup Liftit has raised $22.5 million in a new round of funding to capitalize on its newfound traction in markets across Latin America as responses to the COVID-19 epidemic bring changes to the industry across the region.

“We’re focusing on the five countries that we’re already in,” says Liftit chief executive Brian York.

The company recently hired a head of operations for Mexico and a head of operations for Brazil as it looks to double down on its success in both regions.

Funding for the round was led by Cambridge Capital and included investments from the new Latin American focused firm H20 Capital along with AC Ventures, the venture arm of the 2nd largest coca-cola bottler in Latam; 10x Capital, Banyan Tree Ventures, Alpha4 Ventures, the lingerie brand Leonisa; and Mexico’s largest long haul trucking company, Grupo Transportes Monterrey. Individual investor, Jason Radisson the former chief operating officer of the on-demand ride hailing startup 99, also invested.

The new capital comes on top of Tripit’s $14.3 million Series A from some of the region’s top local investors. Firms like Monashees, Jaguar Ventures and NXTP Ventures all joined the International Finance Corp. in financing the company previously and all returned to back the company again with its new funding.

Investors likely responded to the company’s strong performance in its core markets. Already profitable in Chile and Colombia, Liftit expects to reach profitability across all of its operations before the end of the year. That’s despite the global pandemic.

Of the 220 contracts the company had with shippers half of them went to zero and the other half spiked significantly, York said. While Liftit’s major Colombian customer stumbled, new business, like Walmart, saw huge spikes in deliveries and usage.

“Managing truck drivers is incredibly difficult, and trucking, in our opinion, is not on demand,” said York. “At the end of the day the trucking market in all of Latin America is a majority of independent owners. They’re not looking for on-demand work… they’re looking for full time work.”

Less than one percent of the company’s deliveries come from on-demand orders, instead, it’s a service comprised of scheduled shipments with optimized routes and efficiencies that are bringing customers to Liftit’s virtual door. 

“We do scheduled trucking delivery so we integrate with existing systems that shippers have and start planning how many trucks they’re going to need and the routes they’re going to take and … tee it up exactly what is going to happen regardless what the traffic conditions are so we have been able to reduce the delivery times for the trucks,” said York.