GETTING GREEN: Investors think chewable food is overrated. Or at least that is what can be gleaned from the news that downtown L.A. food tech company Soylent raised $20 million in a Series A funding round, led by Andreessen Horowitz, to expand operations. Soylent makes a functional powder out of vitamins and nutrients that can be used to replace actual food. It has thrived in the tech sector, where coders loathe leaving their machines for distractions such as chewing. Orders of Soylent have been subject to notoriously long delays, so the company plans to use its new green to improve its manufacturing operations.
DIS-HONEST: Jessica Alba’s $1 billion non-toxic beauty company Honest Co. received a cease and desist letter from Cosmedicine of Sherman Oaks, claiming that Honest Co.’s face and body lotion was suspiciously similar to Cosmedicine’s “Honest Face” tinted moisturizer. Cosmedicine demanded that Honest Co. stop operating under its brand name. The Santa Monica company responded by taking the dispute to court, claiming the two products would never be confused since they target different consumers with their price points. Honest Co.’s lotion retails for $9.95 while Cosmedicine’s moisturizer sells for $75. Honest Co.’s suit also pointed out that Cosmedicine had ceased sales in late 2012, and only re-launched its line after Honest Co.’s brand was established. Honest Co. also stressed that while Cosmedicine holds a trademark for “Honest Face,” the mark only applies to skin “moisturizer,” and its product is marketed as a “lotion.”
ACQUIRED: Plaza Bank in Irvine reached an agreement to acquire El Segundo lender Bank of Manhattan in the region’s first bank merger of 2015. Manhattan shareholders will have the right to receive either $5.59 in cash or 1.2 shares of Plaza stock in exchange for each Manhattan share. The cash consideration will apply to up to 3.8 million Manhattan shares. Both Plaza Bank and Bank of Manhattan are controlled by Carpenter & Co., a bank-focused private equity firm in Irvine.
SNAPPED UP: West Hollywood dating app Tinder made its first acquisition, scooping up startup Chill, the maker of Snapchat-like mobile messaging app Tappy. Chill and Tappy will shut down as part of the deal, meaning Tinder’s purchase probably has less to do with the actual app than it does the software and the team behind it. That team includes co-founders Dan Gould and Brian Norgard, who are buddies and former colleagues of Sean Rad, Tinder’s chief executive who will soon be stepping back to serve as president. The acquisition will likely build out Tinder’s photo posting feature, called Moments, allowing users to start conversations with their matches by sending them real-time photos. This will prevent Tinder users from toggling between the Tinder app and Snapchat when they want to send potential companions bathroom selfies.
MANN ENOUGH: There will be less Mann in MannKind Corp., now that 89-year-old founder Alfred Mann is stepping back. Mann appointed Hakan Edstrom, the company’s president and a member of the board, to take over as of chief executive of the Valencia inhaled insulin company. The change comes as French pharmaceutical company Sanofi prepares to begin selling MannKind’s inhaled insulin drug, Afrezza, this year.
THE LOO: A West Hollywood law took effect that requires all single-stall restrooms in businesses and public places to be gender-neutral, meaning they cannot be restricted to a specific sex by “signage, design or installation of fixtures.” Businesses will have 60 days to comply by replacing existing signs. The law is intended to making restrooms more welcoming to transgender and gender nonconforming people, people with disabilities who require personal attendants, and parents with children of a different gender.
BIG FINE: State Insurance Commissioner David Jones fined Mercury Insurance $27.5 million for collecting illegal auto insurance fees from consumers. Between 1999 and 2004, the company’s insurance agents charged unapproved fees on more than 180,000 transactions, violating Proposition 103, which requires auto insurers to get approval from the insurance commissioner on all rates, the California Department of Insurance said. Mercury, part of Los Angeles insurer Mercury General Corp., responded that it intends to challenge the fine in court. It is one of the largest fines ever levied against an auto or home insurer in California.
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