San Francisco’s Cashless Ban Could Include Amazon Stores

Bans on cashless stores are popping up across the country as officials begin to weigh how they exclude certain groups of people from shopping at certain stores.

Now, San Francisco may be joining a host of other cities in passing similar legislation, but this time it could include Amazon Go Stores.

Last month, San Francisco’s District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown introduced a bill requiring “brick-and-mortar” businesses to accept cash. The original bill excluded Amazon Go stores because there aren’t any employees present to take cash.

However, Brown expanded the proposal to include Amazon’s stores on Tuesday. This is a bold move because Amazon isn’t the most graceful when it comes to the government trying to regulate its business practices. This was apparent when Seattle tried to propose a tax on big businesses to help the homeless.

This was also seen in Philadelphia, where a public fight between Amazon and city officials occurred after a bill was approved to ban stores from not accepting cash payments. According to the Associated Press, Amazon threatened to forgo plans to build a store in the city if the bill was passed.

Spoiler: the Philadelphia bill passed.

Amazon Go stores work by having cameras that follow people around. Ideally, you walk in, grab what you want, and a camera will register it and automatically charge your Amazon account once you leave.

The issue with cashless stores is that they’re exclusive by default. Not everyone has access to cashless payment options. In fact, studies have shown there’s a link between poverty and being unbanked.

In a memo, Brown cited the racial disparities between the unbanked and how cashless stores exclude Black and brown communities. She cited data from 2005, showing that 50 percent of African American and Latino households were unbanked.

“In this reality, not accepting cash payment is tantamount to systematically excluding segments of the population that are largely low-income people of color,” Brown said.

San Francisco’s proposal notes that although some may choose not to have a bank account, “Others may not be well situated to participate in the formal banking system, or may be excluded from that system against their will. In short, denying the ability to use cash as a payment method means excluding too many people.”

In a rush to modernize shopping, those who are already disenfranchised cannot be left behind. Amazon will probably take up a loud role in trying to lobby against the proposed bill, but it’s unclear how that will turn out.

The Wing and Time’s Up Announce New Partnership

Today, The Wing and Time’s Up announced their official partnership, as reported by Fast Company. The two organizations joining forces makes a lot of sense, because both aim to center women in their own ways.

With the new partnership, the two organizations will work on supporting each other. That includes hosting events and programming together and The Wing will provide regular meeting space to Time’s Up. In addition, Fast Company reported that The Wing is giving Time’s Up a “charitable gift of stock.”

Women have continued to face systemic issues in the workplace, such as the notorious pay gap. There’s also other issues, though, like how widespread sexual harassment is in for women in the workplace.

These factors can make work feel unsafe and limit women’s ability to thrive, but organizations like The Wing and Time’s Up are setting out to confront them.

The Wing co-founder and CEO Audrey Gelman said, according to Fast Company, “Both Time’s Up and The Wing believe that all women, across all industries and backgrounds, deserve safety, fairness, and dignity as they work and as we all shift the paradigm of workplace culture.”

The Wing was founded in 2016 to act as a sort of social club for women, where they could network, find community spaces, and feel empowered. Time’s Up was founded in 2018 to address systemic inequalities and injustices in the workplace.

This feels like a really natural partnership and it’s sure to help both organizations further amplify the work that they do. By bringing their networks together, the two organizations will definitely create a much stronger base.

Bumble Fund Announces Serena William As Newest Investor

Serena Williams is no stranger to the tech world and now it seems she’s focusing on strengthening her relationship with one app in particular. Today, Bumble announced that Williams will join Bumble Fund as an investor.

Launched in 2018, Bumble Fund helps women of color and other underrepresented groups who are largely ignored in venture capitalism. Bumble Fund focuses on giving businesses early-stage investments.

Although Bumble originally launched as an online-dating app that was unique for only allowing women to send the first message to a match, Bumble Fund is another example of how they’ve branched into other ventures.

In a statement about the new partnership, Williams said:

“I’ve learned how impactful one woman’s voice can be when given a platform to speak and be heard. I am passionate about building on this progress and opening doors for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, to share their message and trust in their potential to accomplish great things. By joining forces with the Bumble Fund, we will continue amplifying female entrepreneurs and creating a place for them to personally and professionally champion their growth.”

In addition to partnering with Bumble Fund and her own work, Williams is a board member of Poshmark and SurveyMonkey.

Through Serena Ventures, Williams has similarly sought to invest in founders of color. So, Williams’ decision to team up with Bumble Fund is perfectly on brand.

Williams’ relationship with Bumble originally started in January and she later appeared in a Super Bowl commercial. In addition to joining as an investor, Williams will lead the Bumble Fund pitch competition, along with Bumble’s founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.

If you’re interested in joining that competition, it launched today on Bumble Bizz. Any U.S.-based entrepreneurs who identify as women are free to enter. The deadline is March 27, 2019.

Amazon Now Accepts FSA and HSA Payments

If you’re buying medical supplies on Amazon, you’ll now be able to do so using your flexible savings account or health savings account to receive discounts, as reported by CNBC.

These programs are commonly known as FSA or HSA. People who have health insurance put aside part of their income before taxes to cover medical expenses that have to be paid for out-of-pocket, like prescriptions and medical supplies.

There wasn’t a huge announcement to share the new update when it originally rolled out earlier this month. Although outlets like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did spot it. Now, Amazon has officially confirmed the change.

“Customers now have the flexibility to use FSA/HSA cards on a wide range of eligible over-the-counter purchases, eliminating the need to pay out-of-pocket or submit receipts for reimbursement,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC.

This signals Amazon branching further out into the healthcare industry. It already started in 2018 with its acquisition of PillPack, an internet pharmacy company. Although PillPack still isn’t fully integrated into Amazon, the company saw promise in it.

According to Digital Commerce 360, Brian T. Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer said, “Recently, we’re looking for well-run companies with highly-differentiated customer experience, and a real sense of customer obsession that matches ours—we think PillPack has got all those traits, and we look forward to the deal closing and working with them.”

The company accepting FSA and HSA is another way for it to start learning all about the healthcare industry while it works on further developing PillPack.

Michael Yang, a health-tech investor with Omers Ventures, said, according to CNBC, “It’s a back end way for Amazon to learn about consumer purchasing behavior of health care products and services, as it moves more deeply into the space.”

It’ll be interesting to watch as Amazon starts to do more in the healthcare industry. The tech giant definitely changed the retail landscape, so it’s likely that it’ll switch things up in healthcare, too.

5 Small Business Grants Black Women Should Take Advantage Of

Looking to boost your business potential? As a Black woman entrepreneur, you’re in a unique position to take advantage of certain grants that can make your progress significantly faster and smoother. It can take some time to familiarize yourself with all the details properly, but once you’ve picked out a few grants that can work well for you, it should be easy to integrate them into your business and see good results.

1. Halstead Grant

The Halstead Grant is perfect for those interested in jewelry design and related activities. It provides up to $7,500 in cash as well as $1,000 worth of merchandise, making it a pretty good boost for most small businesses. It’s aimed at women entrepreneurs who are currently in the early stage of their work in jewelry. Specifically, your business should be less than three years old to be eligible.

2. Amber Grant

The Amber Grant can be given to anyone, regardless of the specific industry they operate in. It pays out $10,000 to 12 recipients each month, and the only criteria is that you should be a woman, 18 years old (or close to that) and of course, be involved in a business, even if it’s a work at home business. The specific line of work of your company is irrelevant here, making the Amber Grant one of the more attractive ones at the moment.

3. #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant

Another grant aimed at fashion and entertainment entrepreneurs, the #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant, can give you up to $15,000 if you’re involved in design, music, fashion or any artistic field. The main criteria is that you need to be a woman involved in any of these fields, but other than that, it’s up to you exactly what you’re going to do with the money. Keep in mind that you have to apply as an individual, though. Businesses and other similar entities are barred from entry.

4. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

One of the more powerful grants on the market right now, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is valid for any line of work and can provide you with up to $100,000. There’s also a $30,000 bonus delivered to 14 finalists in the process, while seven are awarded the full $100,000 prize. It’s a highly competitive grant and might not be very easy for you to get in, but once you’ve managed to, it’s a fantastic opportunity. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out the first time, though — as we mentioned, it’s something that many people apply for on a regular basis.

5. Open Meadows Foundation

You have to be involved in a non-profit organization to be eligible for the Open Meadows Foundation grant, but if you pass the requirements, you can be awarded $75,000. It’s not a small sum for all things considered, but the criteria for applying is also somewhat stricter than with other grants. You should do plenty of research before applying for this one, as there are many small details which might disqualify you if you’re not careful. Even some experienced organizations regularly face trouble trying to navigate the requirements of the Open Meadows Foundation grant.

There are also other options on the market that are worth exploring. You should pay attention to any new grants being announced that might be relevant to you, as well. The business world is highly dynamic and moves at a rapid pace, requiring you to stay on your toes on a regular basis.

On the bright side, if you’re the kind of person who knows how to do research, you can reap some serious benefits by finding good grants and taking advantage of them. It doesn’t even take that much effort to familiarize yourself with how the system works, so get started!

Amazon Just Removed a Major Restriction on its Sellers

On Monday, Amazon announced its decision to remove a restriction that was previously criticized as “anti-competitive,” a source told CNBC.

The restriction made it so third-party sellers on Amazon.com couldn’t offer lower prices on any competing websites.  Business Insider reported the source gave no further details on the decision.

The move comes after Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simmons and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim arguing that the practice would “stifle market competition and artificially inflate prices,” as reported by CNBC. He went on to say Amazon has enforced the policy by threatening to remove any merchants who violated it.

Blumenthal’s concerns are reminiscent of investigations in Germany and Great Britain a few years ago. According to The Verge, regulators looked into Amazon’s practice, and it was abandoned in Europe.

Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest market. Therefore the company probably realized that if its policy was overturned there, it may not stand up to continued scrutiny in the United States.

“Amazon’s wise and welcome decision comes only after aggressive advocacy and attention that compelled Amazon to abandon its abusive contract clause,” Blumenthal said on Monday, according to The Verge. “I remain deeply troubled that federal regulators responsible for cracking down on anti-competitive practices seem asleep at the wheel, at great cost to American innovation and consumers.”

Recently, the FTC launched a Technology Task Force that’s supposed to look into anti-competitive behavior. When announcing the task force, Simmons said, “As I’ve noted in the past, it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”

Although it’s possible that Amazon still changed its contract because it wanted to avoid scrutiny from the new task force, the FTC should be making transparent actions.

It’s a sentiment shared by Blumenthal who said, according to The Verge, “The DOJ and FTC must begin aggressively investigating Big Tech’s potential antitrust violations and take necessary enforcement actions to deter more harmful behavior.”

Study: Tech Companies Founded By Men Rarely Hire Women

Tech’s lack of diversity can easily show up in the products companies build and their programming. If you need an example, consider the study of self-driving cars possibly not being able to recognize darker-skin. When you only have one group of people building an app or algorithm, it’s going to have glaring gaps.

In an ideal world, tech would be diverse and those problems would go away — right? According to a study conducted by Stellares, the make up of a company’s founders says a lot about how it’ll grow.

For their study, Stellares took data from 13,000 companies. One thing they found was that male tech founders rarely hire women. When all the founders of a company are male, fewer than a fifth of leadership (which they define as vice president and above) are female. If the founders are women, then that flips to leadership that’s about 50 percent male.

None of that influences racial diversity. In their blog post, Stellares wrote, “When we looked in the data, the proportion of female founders did not significantly influence the proportion of racial/ethnic diversity in the leadership of the company.”

There are some questions raised here about how Stellares is defining “diversity.” Since data isn’t broken down by race (like white female founders compared to Black female founders), there’s no way to tell how that statement holds up across the board.

The study found what impacts racial diversity the most in a company is who’s in human resources. If a company’s HR department has more people of color, then racial diversity across the company — from leadership to everywhere else — increased.

This study may not come as a total surprise to a lot of people, but it helps combat a dangerous idea that companies naturally diversify as they grow.

“It’s very typical in Silicon Valley to say something like, ‘When you’re very small, there’s so many things to deal with, you can’t really take care of diversity, you can do it later,’” Roi Chobadi, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Stellares, told Bloomberg. “What we saw is that it doesn’t come later.”

Perhaps, the tech industry needs a little less talking and more “doing,” now more than later.

Study: Small Business Owners Often Skip Paying Themselves

When you own your own business, there’s a lot of different challenges that may come up, especially when it comes to money. According to a new survey by Kabbage, small business owners often skip paying themselves in order to control cash flow.

Founded in 2008Kabbage is an online financial services platform, where small businesses can receive access to automated funding in minutes. For the survey, Kabbage ended up polling 500 successful entrepreneurs.

The survey revealed that many small business owners will go multiple months in a row without paying themselves. According to Kabbage, 26 percent of business owners went two to six months without paying themselves, while another 25 percent went more than six months without a paycheck.

“Having owned multiple small businesses before founding Kabbage, I am intimately familiar with cash flow challenges,” Kabbage’s CEO Rob Frohwein said. “Sleepless nights were my reality when waiting on customer checks and thinking through needed expenditures.”

While the results of the survey might be unsurprising to some entrepreneurs, it still speaks to the unique challenges people face when trying to launch a small business.

In fact, a survey from small business financing firm Guidant Financial found that 80 percent of Black entrepreneurs said lack of capital was the most challenging part of running a business, as reported by Black Enterprise.

What’s important to note about Kabbage’s survey is that these aren’t people whose businesses are brand new or already struggling. On average, the participants have run successful companies for 10.5 years.

The CDC Has Launched Its First Investigation Into E-Scooter Injuries

Scooter sharing systems have become increasingly popular across the United States as people look for efficient ways to get around. Companies like Bird, JUMP, and Lime all boast dockless e-scooters that make travel simple — but, how safe are they?

At the request of Austin Public Health and the Austin Transportation Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched the first-ever investigation into e-scooter injuries, as reported by CNBC

“We want to identify the risk factors for those who get injured, how severe the injuries are, and why they’re getting hurt,” Jeff Taylor, manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with Austin Public Health, told CNBC.

Taylor will be overseeing the study, along with three epidemiologists from the CDC. They’ve actually collected their data already, so the study is now being summarized for its final report, according to Engadget.

Most people know that new technology always has kinks to work out and the e-scooter industry is still in its infancy. Although the sharing of scooters started in 2012 when Scoot Networks launched in San Francisco. Dockless e-scooters only started popping up in 2017, as reported by CityLab.

Since then, dockless scooter companies have expanded to more than 100 U.S. cities and at least half a dozen other countries, according to CNBC. In that time, officials at trauma centers in cities like Austin, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. have all seen a rise in scooter-related injuries.

Recently, Consumer Reports released a study that found at least 1,500 e-scooter injuries across the United States. For their study, Consumer Reports talked to 110 hospitals and five agencies in 47 cities where at least Bird or Lime — who make up the two biggest scooter companies — operates.

Many people expressed concern about the availability of helmets. The medical director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s trauma ICU, Oscar Guillamondegui, expressed his concern in particular in the  Consumer Report study:

“Who’s carrying a helmet with them? I have only seen one person wearing a helmet. And that was my son, because I demanded it.”

-Consumer Report, E-Scooter Ride-Share Industry Leaves Injuries and Angered Cities in its Path

These concerns seem to be backed up by the CDC’s study. According to CNBC, 98 percent of people injured weren’t wearing a helmet, 48 percent of people had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, and 52 percent tested for an illicit substance.

As e-scooters continue to spread, the CDC’s study could impact policies and regulation put in place. It may also lead to some individual changes with each company — especially when it comes to helmets and using a scooter while intoxicated.

The CDC will release its study and recommendations in the spring.

Harlem Capital Invests in Logistics Tech Startup Sudu

Harlem Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm, yesterday announced its investment in Sudu, a logistics technology startup founded by Amari Ruff in 2015.

The Georgia Tech engineering grad launched the company to connect smaller trucking companies to large corporations that ship goods. The Atlanta-based startup now supports a broader network of 300,000 carriers.

“Amari embodies the type of founder that Harlem Capital wants to invest in,” Jarrid Tingle, managing partner at Harlem Capital said in a statement. “He is solving an important problem and tackling a massive market opportunity while helping to create more wealth for women and minority business owners.”

Sudu leverages machine learning and voice technology to helps customers like Walmart and UPS increase supply-chain efficiency and lower carbon footprints.

The company previously raised $1 million in seed round funding led by Plug and Play and Engage Ventures.

Other investors include Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, UPS, Georgia Pacific, and Cox Enterprises.