Compass Pathways is hellbent on bringing magic mushrooms to mainstream medicine, but not everyone’s down with that trip.
Introducing Compass Pathways: the company behind ‘Big Shroom’
Compass Pathways, a controversial British company, is looking to turn psychedelic mushrooms into a pharmaceutical powerhouse and become the first legal provider of psilocybin, AKA the ‘magic’ in magic mushrooms.
After launching a massive clinical study across Europe and North America to test the drug as a treatment for depression, Compass’ psilocybin research received “breakthrough therapy designation” from the FDA — a notion both exciting and problematic for the psychedelic community.
The long, strange trip to mainstream magic
Psilocybin research has been on the precipice of serious medicine for decades, but recent studies have shown the “loss of ego” (breakdown of the sense of self) that occurs on mushrooms can also treat mental health conditions like addiction and PTSD.
In 2015, husband and wife George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia set up C.O.M.P.A.S.S., a nonprofit charity organization focused on the effects of shrooms on end-of-life anxiety.
Then the tweaking began
In 2016, Goldsmith and Malievskaia created a new for-profit business, Compass Pathways — without telling the 4 main experts collaborating with the original nonprofit.
Now, numerous past collaborators knock Compass for relying on conventional pharmaceutical-industry strategies that could help them dominate the industry — and the OG experts wonder if the couple simply used them to create a corporation in charity’s clothing.
The new Compass now requires highly restrictive contracts that give the company power over any research and block potential competitors’ purchasing abilities.
Literally the anti-spirit of psychedelics
According to Quartz, now that psilocybin is on the verge of legitimacy, Compass’ alleged maneuvering to monopolize the drug is causing a rift in the community.
104 individual experts and 12 psychedelic societies have signed an open statement urging the industry to share breakthroughs freely for the common good of humanity.
Guess who hasn’t signed?
(Hint: It’s Compass)
TripActions raises $154m to make travel easier for employees, cheaper for employers
TripActions, a business travel management startup, raised a $154m Series C at a $1.2B valuation — galloping to unicorn status in less than 3 years by targeting a lucrative niche segment: corporate travel.
The business of traveling for business
Turns out, employees aren’t satisfied sleeping on a friend of their boss’ sofa — and it’s created an entire industry.
Founded by Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig in 2015, TripActions offers a one-stop-shop for business travelers by integrating with HR and expense-tracking systems for flights, hotels bookings, and transportation.
Investors are packing their bags
TripActions picked a lucrative vertical: The online travel market is expected to grow to $817B by 2020. In 3 years, TripActions has attracted more than 1k corporate customers, growing 700% this past year.
Investors are also keen on the scene. TripActions has raised $231.5m so far, and as a part of this most recent round of funding Ben Horowitz (yes, that Horowitz) has joined the company’s board.
TripActions plans to use its funding to make its systems even smarter, investing heavily in R&D and machine-learning improvements.
[Disclaimer: TripActions is an advertiser with The Hustle. Our advertising and editorial teams operate independently and this does not impact our coverage.]
Yesterday, Netflix publicized two of the ‘features’ that came out of its biannual hackathon: facial-recognition that lets users control the app with their tongues and a ‘jump to shark’ button that lets viewers skip parts of movies that don’t include sharks.
These two features are absurd. But, hackathons are increasingly popular across all different types of companies. What’s even more absurd? They actually work.
A quick hack-story lesson
Hackathons are concentrated design workshops that challenge participants to create a working product in one sitting.
The events became popular in the first dot-com boom as a way for global programmers to gather in one room to build a product in one work session, thereby avoiding the legal challenges of sharing IP across borders.
But, hackathons have since evolved into a cultural phenomenon: Hack-style development is central to Facebook’s culture (the company’s address is 1 Hacker Way), and organizations like TechCrunch host annual hackathons with prizes as high as $250k.
The benefits of staying hack-tive
A surprising number of hackathons have resulted in success: Startup GroupMe spun out of a TechCrunch hackathon and was sold for $85m a year later.
Internal hackathons have also panned out: Many of Facebook’s most popular features (Facebook Chat and the ‘Like’ button we see across the internet) started out as hackathon ideas.
According to management consultants, hackathons are a great business practice for any kind of company because they inspire outside-the-box creativity and allow for quick, low-cost prototyping.
Vice Media tightens its belt, plans to cut staff by 15%
The alt-media titan’s new CEO, Nancy Dubuc (who replaced Shane Smith in March) ordered a companywide hiring freeze 6 weeks ago — now, The Wall Street Journal reports that she plans to trim staff by 10-15%.
Where has the audience gone?
Vice Media had 27m unique visitors in September, down from 49.1m in March of 2016, and is reportedly expected to make between $600m and $650m this year, on track to lose more than $50m (it also lost $100m in 2017).
At a board meeting on Tuesday, Dubuc suggested the company focus on areas of growth, like making more television shows and movies for third parties.
Dubuc also plans to consolidate to 3-5 verticals (it currently runs more than a dozen, including Munchies, Noisey, and Broadly).
Now Disney is covering its a**
Disney, who originally invested a reported $400m in Vice back in 2015, is taking a $157m write-down on its stake after the announcement.
The turmoil comes amid a broader drought in digital media, as media rivals like Vox Media and Refinery29 (which announced last month it would lay off about 10% of its workforce) missed revenue targets in recent months as well.
These two founders want corporate travel to be a “win-win” for companies and travelers
When Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig were traveling for their previous startup, they realized something: From airlines to hotels, the options for their employer’s travel suggestions didn’t match up with their preferences or their budgets.
That realization soon became a challenge: How could they bring employees the most rewarding travel experience possible, while still saving companies money?