Demand for high quality, sustainable coffee continues to rise, but supplying it fresh to customers on a regular basis can get costly, especially for small businesses. Bellwether, a new startup out of California, is aiming to limit that expense by renting out zero-emissions roasting equipment. Instead of investing in the infrastructure on their own, small and medium enterprises - from cafes to grocers and commercial office spaces - can keep customers and employees alike happy and alert for a reasonable monthly fee. Bellwether also gives subscribers access to its bean marketplace, so you know exactly where your coffee is coming from. You can even tip the farmers directly. Bellwether’s innovative approach, and added transparency to a global industry, earned them $10 million in funding this week. It’s a sign that customers are willing to pay extra to be one step closer to the creators of products they love.
Facebook’s assault on streaming giants such as YouTube and Netflix went global this week with the worldwide launch of its Watch service. The social media giant gave Watch an initial US roll-out a year ago and it has gained a steady following since then. In addition to YouTube-style video content, Watch will offer premier programming and live sports to rival services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Users who also create content for the platform will be able to monetize it, Facebook said, by allowing ad breaks in videos that meet specific criteria. The news brings another major player to the global video market, giving creators and advertisers alike a new arena in which to share their work.
When it comes to fixing your technology woes, over-the-phone support can only go so far. As the on-demand service industry continues to boom, one US startup saw an opportunity. Puls Technologies initially launched as an in-home mobile phone repair service but has now expanded to provide an array of personal and office support options. Its experts will show up within an hour, any day of the week, to help with everything from TVs and computers to security systems. Puls’ rapid expansion caught the eye of Singapore’s government-backed investment firm Temasek, which gave the company $50 million in funding this week. Puls said it plans to use the cash to realize its vision of transforming the global home repair industry, eventually offering services such as plumbing and AC installation.
Uber made a powerful friend this week with the news it was getting a $500 million investment from Toyota. The Japanese carmaker is set to take on a significant production role at the ride-hailing firm, supplying vehicles that can tap into Uber’s ever-expanding transportation network. Uber is planning to retrofit Toyota’s Sienna minivans with its self-driving technology and begin real world testing in 2021. And in another new step, Uber report that the minivans will be franchised out to an as yet unnamed third party.
For many farmers in rural Africa, purchasing a tractor can be prohibitively expensive. A new initiative announced this week aims to make large-scale agriculture a bit more accessible, however, by allowing farmers to order a tractor on-demand. John Deere is planning to sell 10,000 of its famous green work vehicles to contractors in Nigeria, who will pair them with farms in the country via the on-demand startup Hello Tractor. Farmers request a tractor via text message, a tech platform processes the order and the vehicle is then tracked while it’s put to use. The program eliminates the difficulties and expenses often associated with hiring manual labor and the work can be completed in a fraction of the time. Hello Tractor CEO Jehiel Oliver said the future success of businesses in Africa’s agricultural industry hinges on “the private sector, government and the public working together.”