Don’t have a cow…


August 5, 2019

Today, Scott Ball fights the red light, and not everyone thinks the idea for future 911 calls is very tight, but first…
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The alt-milk market is getting frothy. Here’s a dairy farmer’s guide to the competition

American dairy farmers, who are dealing with a 35% decrease in mammal-milk consumption over the past 4 decades, have new competition: Lab-grown milk.

Startups such as Perfect Day and Motif have raised big bucks ($61.5m and $90m, respectively) to develop cow-free dairy products. 

These companies use microbes to grow dairy proteins that make their milks taste like, well, milk — and they’re also working on developing cow-free cheese, yogurt, and sour cream.

But lab-grown milks are far from dairy farmers’ biggest problem…

Petri dishes may pose a threat to mainstream milk down the road, but plants are the biggest threat today. 

Plant-based milks now account for 13% of the entire milk market, and sales in the $16B plant-milk industry rose 6% last year. 

Almond milk still accounts for ⅔ of all plant milk sold. But as consumer thirst for “alt-milk” continues to grow, plant-milk startups are winning over an increased “share of mouth.”

Meet the mock milks (and their makers):

  • Oat milk: Oatly, which did $110m in 2018 sales and expects $230m this year, recently opened a US plant and sells at 7k US shops.
  • Macadamia nut milk: Milkadamia, an Australia-based nut milk company, distributes to 5k stores in the US (including Walmart).
  • Pea milk: Ripple, which has raised $108.6m, partnered with Whole Foods in 2016 and increased sales there 300% in their first year.
  • Banana milk: Mooala, which is currently available in 2k stores but plans to sell in 3k by year’s end, recently launched a creamer line.
  • Flax milk: Good Karma struck a distribution deal with America’s largest dairy company, Dean Foods, in 2018. 
“How now no cow”
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Katy Perry is being forced to pay up after borrowing elements from a Christian rap song

Katy Perry, her label Capitol Records, and 5 songwriters have been ordered to pay a total of $2.8m over a copyright dispute to a Christian rapper named Flame.

The jury found that 22.5% of the profits from the former No.1 jam on Billboard’s Hot 100 were imputable to Flame’s 2008 tune “Joyful Noise.”

Just another week for the music industry 

For decades, artists have “sampled” from other artists to no consequence. Yet, some borrowings are just too pitch perfect to deny.

In 2015, a jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams ripped off parts of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up,” on the collab-hit “Blurred Lines” — and were ordered to pay more than $5m to Gaye’s estate.

And, rockers wait with bated breath as a federal appeals court finally decides whether Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” copied the song, “Taurus” by the lesser known band, Spirit (hear for yourself).

Not exactly a ‘Teenage Dream’

Perry reportedly made over $3m on “Dark Horse” and, according to the verdict, has to personally cough up $550k of those earnings, leaving her label and collaborators with the rest of the bill.

Perry’s lawyers argue that the claims, specifically regarding the underlying beat of the 2 songs, were based off of generic musical elements that exist outside of copyright statutes.

Now, Perry’s team asks that the judge rule against the claim. If so, it could put the kibosh on Flame’s award.

» I stole a song and I liked it
This one’s for all the people out there who prefer absorbing stories through your ear-holes instead of your eyeballs. Click on a podcast episode below to start listening.

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Confronting: O.J. Simpson with Kim Goldman
What’s Your Son Worth?
In episode 8 of Confronting, Kim speaks with Palo Fenjves, a witness during the criminal trial who was later hired to ghostwrite Simpson’s book, If I Did It — a “hypothetical” account of the night of the murders.

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Interview with Aunt Bertha founder, Erine Gray
With his company Aunt Bertha — described as the Amazon for social services — Erine Gray is bringing technology to the nonprofit world, and he’s generating revenue while doing it.

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Root of Evil
Saved by the Ghetto
Fauna Hodel discovers that the profile of the infamous Black Dahlia killer eerily fits the description of her deceased father. This sends her down a rabbit hole of terrifying family history across many generations.

Tech companies build tools to bring 911 calls into the 21st century — but people are wary

In a world where our smartphone apps know our locations to within a few yards at any given moment, 911 responders still often have trouble pinpointing the locations of victims due to outdated technology.

To fix the problem, tech companies are developing systems to modernize 911 call systems — but not everyone’s comfortable putting Google and Amazon in charge.

Sometimes, 911 is a new feature

Google announced last week it will use text-to-speech tech to enable Pixel owners to relay the type and location of their emergency without speaking, extending a location-sharing 911 feature rolled out in 2017.

And Amazon’s smart-doorbell-turned-home-surveillance company, Ring, partners with local police departments to share emergency data back and forth, according to a Gizmodo report.

It’s not just Google and Amazon, either: A startup called Carbyne also raised $15m to expand its “next-gen 911 service.” 

But there’s a trade-off between speed and privacy…

And Amazon, in particular, has been criticized for positioning Ring as the gatekeeper of emergency information — and playing fast and loose with customer data by passing it on to police without explicit consent.

Ring’s “Neighbors” app accesses real-time 911 call data from local police departments (it currently partners with 225 across the US) and displays it in users’ feeds. It also lets users report “suspicious activity” publicly to neighbors and police.

» “This is Amazon, what’s your emergency?”

Small business of the week: Scott Ball, red light ticket attorney

Welcome to our new Small Business section. Every Monday, we feature a company started by one of our readers. Want your story told next? Fill out our Small Business Survey here.

In 2008, Scott Ball graduated from USC law school with $190k in student debt and no clear career job prospects.

Criminal defense was, in his mind, “the only area of law that [wasn’t] boring as hell” — but no firms were hiring. For several years, he “tread water” by picking up legal odd jobs, like defending friends’ DUIs.

Then, in 2011, Ball found his niche: Red light camera tickets.

“Cities would issue hundreds of $500+ tickets a month, and regularly send the tickets to the registered owner of the vehicle without first determining that the person driving the car was the same person,” he says. “[These were] easy cases to get dismissed.”

He launched a direct mail marketing campaign with a unique promise: If he lost a case, he’d offer a money-back guarantee; if he won, he’d charge $200-300 (~50% of the cost of the original ticket).

In his first year, Ball grossed $50k; 8 years later, he’s on track to make $675k in revenue.

Though other law firms have copied Ball’s direct mail marketing model and undercut his prices, he’s now the top-rated traffic ticket lawyer in Orange County, California. To date, he boasts a 60% dismissal rate and has saved clients $2.6m in ticket fines.

Stats at a glance:

  • Founder: Scott Ball, 37
  • Employees: 2
  • Years in business: 8
  • Cost to launch: $2k
  • Funding method(s): Personal savings
  • 1st year revenue: $50k
  • Current annual revenue: $675k
  • Current annual overhead: $200k
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