Brolly, an ‘AI-driven’ insurance app, raises 1M seed round led by Valar Ventures and Pi Labs

Brolly, a U.K. ‘insurtech’ startup that offers an app to help you manage and purchase various insurance products, has raised 1 million in seed funding. Valar Ventures, the U.S.-based venture fund backed by Peter Thiel, led the round, with Pi Labs co-leading. Entrepreneur First (EF) also participated via the company builder’s 40 million Next Stage Fund. Read More

Mexico’s bloody drug-related violence has surged to a new record

Mexico homicide crime scene police Villahermosa TabascoREUTERS/Luis Manuel Lopez

The bloodshed related to Mexico’s decade-long fight against drugs and organized crime has surged to a new record.

The 2,566 homicides victims recorded in June were a 40% increase over the same month last year, and the most recorded in a month since the Mexican government started releasing that data in 2014.

June’s 2,234 homicide cases (a case can contain more than one victim) were the most registered in a month since the government started releasing crime data in 1997.

Over the first half of the year, Mexico saw 13,729 homicide victims nationwide, a 33% increase over the same period last year. The 12,155 homicide cases through June this year were a 31% increase over the first six months of 2016 and the most seen during the first half of a year in any year for which data is available.

Past periods of drug-related violence have generally been localized; between 2008 and 2012, Ciudad Juarez on the border with Texas was home to much of the country’s killing. The rise in killings in recent months appears to be taking place across a broader swath of the country.

In January, 25 of Mexico’s 32 states saw increases in comparison with January 2016. The surge has now spread to 27 of those states.

Mexico City marine soldier crime sceneREUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Killings remain high in places that have traditionally struggled with homicides.

Baja California state saw 210 homicides in June. That was 128 more than it saw in June last year, and, according to state data, 152 of June’s killings happened in Tijuana, a border city that is the subject of a turf war between the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

In Chihuahua – home to Ciudad Juarez, which is now reportedly being contested by the Sinaloa cartel, Jalisco New Generation cartel, and remnants of the Juarez cartel – the 220 homicides last month were more than double the 109 in June last year.

Mexico state level homicides June 2016 June 2017Christopher Woody/Mexican government data

Of the 970 homicides in the state from January to June, 365 took place in Ciudad Juarez, according to El Diario – though that includes both intentional homicides and incidental ones.

Farther south, Guerrero – 206 homicides last month – saw a 10% increase in homicides the first six months of this year over the same period last year.

Sinaloa state, ground zero of the fight for control of the Sinaloa cartel, saw a 68% increase in homicides from the first six months of 2016 to the same period this year.

Homicides nearly doubled in Veracruz, long a battleground for the Gulf and Zetas cartels, rising 97%.

The Gulf and Zetas cartels have also seen their own internal feuds flare up. Fighting between factions of the latter group has increased in Reynosa, a border city in northern Tamaulipas state, in recent months.

In Tamaulipas as a whole, homicides rose just under 6% between the first six months of last year and the first half of this year, but May and June were well above any other month this year.

But the bloodshed appears to have spread to areas that have been spared from the violence.

There were 25% more homicide victims in Mexico City over the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year. While the drug trade is present in the city, recent outbursts of violence point to the growing presence and militancy of organized-crime groups there, even if politicians avoid describing them as “cartels.”

In Quintana Roo in the southeast and Baja California Sur in the northwest – home to tourist havens of Cancun and Los Cabos, respectively – drug-related killings have gone up as well.

Mexico nightclub shooting Playa del Carmen blue parrot police(AP Photo)

In Quintana Roo, killings more than doubled, rising 106% over the first half of the year compared to the January-June period last year. Baja California Sur – where the Sinaloa cartel’s weakness is also believed to be driving the violence – saw a 342% jump in homicides from the first half of last year to the first half of this year.

While much of the violence is related to the drug trade – particularly competition over the heroin and synthetic-drug trade in western Mexico – other factors appear to have allowed it to fester. The fragmentation of criminal groups, wrought in part by the government’s “kingpin strategy” targeting cartel leadership, has led to more groups fighting over the same territory and products.

Deficiencies in the criminal-justice system have also contributed to the violence.

Mexico Sinaloa Culiacan crime scene soldier military(AP Photo/Rashide Frias)

Some officials claim the country’s new justice system, under which people caught with illegal weapons are sent jailed automatically ahead of trial, allows criminals to stay on the streets.

Others, like Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope, attribute the wave of killings to impunity, blaming officials who say the rising body counts come from fighting between criminals and allow them to go unpunished.

Many security officials and politicians have also been found to be complicit in organized crime, allowing it operate or even participating in it.

Even police who aren’t on the take may not be equipped to deal with cartels and gangs. A considerable number of police and other members of Mexico’s security forces have failed tests of their competency in recent years. In Sinaloa in particular, more than half of police failed such exams this year but continued working.

Sinaloa state’s deputy security secretary has admitted that the state doesn’t have the resources it needs to fight criminal groups there and that local police are insufficiently trained.

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How a little-known frozen food startup is boosting its footprint through Instagram


Frozen food has traditionally had a bad rap, making one think of sloppy pizzas and microwavable TV dinners- not nutritious fruits and vegetables.

But soup and smoothie subscription service Daily Harvest has been able to successfully counter that perception, by putting its organic smoothies, overnight oats, chia puddings and sundaes front and center on Instagram.

A little over a year since it went national, the startup has managed to surpass 1 million smoothie sales, attract high-profile investors like Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams and amass a significant number of social media followers, particularly on Instagram.

“Instagram has absolutely helped us build our brand,” Rachel Drori, Daily Harvest’s founder and CEO, told Business Insider. “Both our packaging and products are visually vibrant, and lend themselves perfectly to Instagram.”

Instagram is the biggest driver of Daily Harvest’s marketing. The startup has sidestepped traditional advertising to focus on social media, with Instagram forming the bulk of its efforts. A majority of Daily Harvest’s marketing efforts on the platform have been organic posts, sprinkled with with paid ads here and there.

The brand’s Instagram strategy involves highlighting its bright and colorful ingredients and boxes, usually pitted against a white backdrop so that the colors pop even more. It frequently posts both images and GIFs that play up and tap into the food porn aspect of the platform.

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An extra dose of color is added to its shots whenever there is a new product launch. Daily Harvest, for example, just launched its range of healthy sundaes, turning its Instagram page into a mosaic of pink and yellow.

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The brand has also relied on partnering with influencers, includingAli Mafucci of Inspiralized, who most recently took overits Instagram Stories forthe sundae launch.

Daily Harvest is hardly unique. A legion of new health-focused brands, from meal plans like Whole30 and delivery services like Sakara Life, have built their businesses on Instagram. They have managed to elbow their way into the mainstream by catering to evolving priorities in health and fitness, as well as by employing smart and creative approaches to marketing on Instagram.

A major reason for the rise of these brands is the paradigm shift in American attitudes toward diet and fitness in general. The definition of health and fitness is no longer focused on fixing what is wrong and losing weight but rather on overall wellness, nutrition and betterment, said Joanne McKinney, chief strategy officer at the Burns Group.

“This attitude and new level of intrinsic motivation has set the stage for brands like Daily Harvest to emerge,” she said. “Companies that enable small, positive actions towards this enhanced state of betterment, are very relevant today.”

Drori admitted that Daily Harvest’s success can be also be attributed to the fact that it built itself on the back of a lifestyle, rather than products. It focuses on pitching itself as a helpful friend, rather than a company selling products, she said. A lot of this involves educating its customers frozen produce that the brand uses is apparently more nutritious than fresh produce, as it is picked at peak ripeness and frozen within hours to maintain its nutrients.

“Our target consumer is one who subscribes to a healthy lifestyle, but is busy and has time restrictions,” she said. “We have differentiated ourselves by not thinking of ourselves as a CPG brand, we’re more about debunking all the myths around frozen food and being your health hack in the freezer.”

Daily Harvest is also at the forefront of another hot trend in the food industry: the proliferation of e-commerce and subscription-based services for the grocery category. Its business model brings fresh frozen food directly to consumers, avoiding the freezer aisle in the grocery store which, to millennials, feels more like a location for processed foods, said McKinney.

“By going direct-to-consumer via their subscription model, they are able to define their own positive take on frozen and bring this perspective to life via all their social channels,” she said.

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