Washington city’s crackdown on ‘bikini baristas’ wins court blessing

Scantily clad “bikini baristas” in Everett, Washington, will have to cover up more of themselves after a federal appeals court on Wednesday freed the city to enforce a dress code requiring that they clothe “minimum body areas” when serving coffee to customers.

Pod Foods gets VC backing to reinvent grocery distribution

Larissa Russell and Fiona Lee founded a cookie startup called Green Pea Cookie in 2014. The cookies were 100% natural, vegan and “handcrafted with love.”

The company failed but not because the cookies weren’t selling. The business couldn’t keep up with the antiquated wholesale food distribution system’s steep costs. Two incumbent players, United Natural Foods Inc. and KeHE Distributors, essentially controlled its only pathway to grocery stores across the country. So the founders shut down Green Pea and focused their efforts on building the tool Green Pea had needed to survive: Pod Foods, a distribution and logistics platform for emerging food brands.

“We were like so many other young entrepreneurs,” Russell, Pod Foods’ chief executive officer, tells TechCrunch. “I had studied government and economics and did the cookie company because I wanted to create something better for the world but we realized there was a much bigger issue at hand and it wasn’t enough to solve for the end product, we needed to solve for the way the product reached consumers.”

fullsizeoutput ff

Pod Foods co-founders Fiona Lee (left) and Larissa Russell.

“The distribution system hasn’t evolved since World War II,” Lee adds. “For so many years, there’s been little evolution in this space, even since the advent of technology and the internet.”

Today, Pod Foods is announcing a $3 million seed round led by Moment Ventures, with participation from M12 and Unshackled Ventures to fuel the growth of its software and data-enabled platform. The capital follows a $250,000 pre-seed investment from Unshackled, a venture capital firm that invests in immigrant founders and, if necessary, helps them navigate the complex visa process.

Lee immigrated to the U.S. from Singapore five years ago to double down on Green Pea Cookie. Her business partner, Russell, had been handling operations in the U.S. while she helped build the business from her home country. With Pod Foods up and running, the founders now have the opportunity to bring Green Pea back from the dead. Instead, they tell me their focus and efforts are entirely on scaling their B2B software upstart. Green Pea is gone for good.

Pod Foods is an end-to-end platform that connects retailers with manufacturers, facilitating the overly-complex wholesale-food distribution market. The startup works with a third-party network that handles both fulfillment and logistics to create a tool beneficial to emerging brands, big retailers and consumers. The company charges retailers on a subscription basis and takes a cut of each transaction. The end goal is to simplify an age-old process, allow startup brands the opportunity to sell products inside big retailers and make great products accessible to customers at a lower price.

The San Francisco-based startup has launched in the Bay Area and Chicago. Currently, it’s working with 350 food brands and 100 retailers. With a fresh funding deal, Pod Foods plans to scale 10x in the next 12 months.

“We want to change the way food is distributed,” Russell said. “We want to turn [the system] on its head so the consumer can get what they would like to buy in retail stores at an affordable price.”

Lotus’ first electric hypercar finally has a name

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is shaping up to be a big moment for Lotus. The company is finally taking “some” of the wraps off of its first major model launch — and its first electric hypercar — under the new ownership of Geely.

And now, one day before attendees will get a glimpse, Lotus has given it a name. The vehicle, previously referred to as Type 130 electric hypercar, will be named the Lotus Evija. And in case you’re wondering, Lotus says it’s pronounced ‘ev-eye-a.’

The name means ‘the first in existence’ or ‘the living one,’ according to Lotus. And it’s certainly apt name for the vehicle.

There’s a lot riding on the success of this vehicle, which will have a limited production run. Lotus Cars CEO Phil Popham noted that the Evija “will re-establish our brand on the global automotive stage.” So, no pressure.

Lotus won’t fully reveal the Evija at Goodwood. No, a hypercar debut requires months of hints and teasers. But attendees who go to the Lotus stand will get to view what is being described as a “dramatic light show” that will show new details of the exterior design.

The Lotus Evija will be unveiled in full in London later this month.

Lotus is expected to start production of the Evija in 2020. Only 130 of the vehicles will be produced at at the Lotus factory in Hethel, Norfolk.

New U.S. census turmoil as Trump again pursues citizenship question

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was moving ahead with adding a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census, contradicting statements made a day earlier by his own administration including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the plan had been dropped.

Women’s World Cup 2019: Jackie Groenen scores extra-time winner for Netherlands against Sweden in the semi-final

Jackie Groenan’s excellent finish in extra time sees the Netherlands beat Sweden 1-0 in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup.

Earios is a new podcast network for women creators

It might seem like you’ve now got podcasts covering any and every conceivable topic, but comedy writer and actor Maria Blascucci argued that there’s still “this whole untapped market” — namely, podcasts created by women.

Certainly, some of the most successful shows are hosted by women — but if you look at list of popular podcasts, you’ll see a lot of men. Similarly, most of the major podcasting networks and companies (like Gimlet, Crooked Media and Earwolf) were founded by men.

So Blascucci teamed up with her friends Amanda Lund (also a writer and actor) and Priyanka Mattoo (a former agent at United Talent Agency and William Morris Endeavor) and created a new company called Earios. They raised $26,000 on Kickstarter last year, and launched their first shows this week.

“As we saw the landscape of podcasts changing and becoming more like television … we started to realize that we might as well carve out a space for ourselves, a community of funny women, instead of just letting it happen to us,” Lund told me.

The goal is to launch 12 shows this year, including four this week — Filling the Void (where “Love” creator Lesley Arfin talks to her friends about their passions and hobbies), Foxy Browns (with Mattoo and Camille Blackett discussing beauty and wellness from the perspective of women of color), Web Crawlers (where Melissa Stetten and Ali Segel explore strange and mysterious things on the web) and The Big Ones (where Blascucci and Lund discuss moral dilemmas).

Upcoming shows include titles from comedian Margaret Cho and musician Feist.

“What we have trying to do is just trying to do projects and [find] really interesting voices and perspectives that alone will make our shows stand out,” Lund said. “With podcasting, there is a template for it. It sounds like this, and your art looks like this, and we’re conscious of not necessarily falling into that same template. We’re still trying to do things outside of the box whenever possible and keep the medium cracked open, in a way.”

As for monetization, while there are startups exploring subscriptions and paywalls (with some hiccups), Earios is focused on running ads in partnership with Acast.

Mattoo suggested that there’s a similar untapped market here, recalling that as she talked to ad sales companies, “The refrain we heard over and over again was, ‘We have all these ads targeted at women and nowhere to put them.’”