Latin America Roundup: Loft raises $175M, SoftBank invests in Mexico’s Alphacredit and Rappi pulls back

Brazil’s famously tricky real estate market has long drawn international investors to the region in search of tech solutions. This time, Brazilian startup Loft brought in a $175 million Series C from first-time investor in the region, Vulcan Capital (Paul Allen’s investment arm), alongside Andreessen Horowitz. Loft is also a16z’s first and only Brazilian investment. 

Co-founded by serial entrepreneurs and investors Mate Pencz and Florian Hagenbuch in 2018, Loft uses a proprietary algorithm to process transaction data and provide more transparent pricing for both buyers and sellers. The startup uses two models to help clients sell properties; either Loft will value the apartment for listing on the site, or they will offer to purchase the property from the buyer immediately. Many real estate platforms in the U.S. are shifting toward a similar iBuyer model; however, this system may be even more apt for the Latin American market, where property sales are notoriously untransparent, bureaucratic and tedious.

Loft will use the capital to expand to Rio de Janeiro in Q1 2020 and to Mexico City in Q2, bringing on at least 100 new employees in the process. It also plans to scale its financial products to include mortgages and insurance by the end of the year. 

AlphaCredit raises $125M from SoftBank

Mexican consumer lending startup AlphaCredit became SoftBank’s new Mexico bet this month, with a $125 million Series B round. AlphaCredit uses a programmed deduction system to provide rapid, online loans to individuals and small businesses in Mexico. To date, the startup has granted more than $1 billion in loans to small business clients in Mexico and Colombia, many of whom have never previously had access to financing. 

AlphaCredit’s programmed deductions system enables the startup to lower default rates, which in turn lowers interest rates. For more than eight years, AlphaCredit has encouraged financial inclusion in Mexico and Colombia through technology; this round of investment will enable the platform to consolidate its holding as one of the top lending platforms in the region. The investment is still subject to approval by Mexico’s competition authority, COFECE, which has previously blocked startup deals such as the Cornershop acquisition in 2019. 

SoftBank’s biggest bets back off in Latin America

While SoftBank is still rapidly deploying its Latin America-focused Innovation Fund, some of its largest companies are stepping on the brakes. In particular, SoftBank’s largest LatAm investment, Rappi, recently announced that it would lay off up to 6% of its workforce in an effort to cut costs and focus on their technology. The Colombian unicorn has been expanding at a breakneck pace throughout the region using a blitzscaling technique that has helped it reach nine countries, with 5,000 employees in just two years, including Ecuador in November 2019.

Rappi has stated that it will focus on technology and UX in 2020, explaining that the job cuts do not reflect its long-term growth strategy. However, Rappi is also facing legal action for alleged intellectual property theft. Mauricio Paba, José Mendoza and Jorge Uribe are suing Rappi CEO Simon Borrero and the company for stealing the idea for the Rappi platform while providing consulting for the three founders through his firm, Imaginamos. The case is currently being processed in Colombia and the U.S. 

One of SoftBank’s biggest bets in Asia, Oyo Rooms, is facing similar challenges. Just months after announcing their expansion into Mexico, Oyo fired thousands of employees in China and India. Oyo plans to be the largest hotel chain in Mexico by the end of 2020, according to a local spokesperson.

Argentina’s Agrofy breaks regional agtech records

With a $23 million Series B from SP Ventures, Fall Line Capital and Acre Venture Partners, Argentine agricultural supply marketplace Agrofy has raised the region’s largest round for an agtech startup to date. The platform provides transparency and ease for the agricultural industry, where users can buy everything from tractors to seeds. In four years, Agrofy has established itself as the market leader in agricultural e-commerce; it was also Fall Line Capital’s first investment outside of the U.S.

Agrofy is active in nine countries and receives more than five million visits per month, 60% of which come from Brazil. However, the startup faces the challenge of low connectivity in rural areas, where most of its customers live. The investment will go to improving the platform, as well as integrating new payment types directly into the site to help clients process their transactions more smoothly. 

News and Notes: Fanatiz, Pachama, Moons, Didi and IDB

The Miami-based sports-streaming platform Fanatiz raised $10 million in a Series A round from 777 Partners in January 2020 after registering 125% user growth since July 2019. Founded by Chilean Matias Rivera, Fanatiz provides legal international streaming of soccer and other sports through a personalized platform so that fans can follow their teams from anywhere in the world. The startup provided the Pope with an account so that he could follow his beloved team, San Lorenzo, from the Vatican. Fanatiz has previously received investment from Magma Partners and participated in 500 Startups’ Miami Scale program.

Conservation-tech startup Pachama raised $4.1 million from Silicon Valley investors to continue developing a carbon offset marketplace using drone and lidar data. Pachama was founded by Argentine entrepreneur Diego Saez-Gil in 2019 after he noticed the effects of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. After participating in Y Combinator in 2019, Pachama now has 23 sites in the U.S. and Latin America where scientists are working alongside the startup’s technology to certify forests for carbon sequestration projects. 

Mexico’s Moons, an orthodontics startup that provides low-cost invisible aligners, has raised $5 million from investors such as Jaguar Ventures, Tuesday Capital and Foundation Capital and was recently accepted into Y Combinator, bringing the startup to the U.S. Moons provides a free consultation and 3D scan to patients in Mexico to determine if they are a good fit for the program, then supplies them with a year-long invisible braces regime for around $1,200. With 18 locations in Mexico and two in Colombia, Moons is expanding rapidly across the region, with ambitions for providing low-cost healthcare across several verticals in Latin America. 

Chinese ride-hailing startup Didi Chuxing recently launched a sustainable fleet of over 700 electric and hybrid cars for its Mexico City operations. After two years operating in Mexico, Didi announced that it would establish its headquarters in the capital city to manage its new low-emissions fleet. The company will provide financing to help its drivers acquire and use the vehicles, in an effort to reduce Didi’s environmental impact.

The IDB Lab released a report on female entrepreneurs in Latin America, finding that 54% of female founders have raised capital and 80% plan to scale internationally in the next five years. The study, entitled “wX Insights 2020: The Rise of Women STEMpreneurs,” finds that female entrepreneurship is on the rise in Latin America, particularly in the areas of fintech, edtech, healthtech and biotech. Nonetheless, 59% of the 1,148 women surveyed still see access to capital as the most significant limitation for their companies. However, as women take center stage in Latin American VC, such as Antonia Rojas Eing joining ALLVP as Partner, we may see funding tilt toward female-founded firms.

This month has set 2020 on a course to continue the strong growth we saw in the Latin American ecosystem in 2019. It is always exciting to see international investors make their first bets in the region, and we expect to continue seeing new VCs entering the region over the coming year.

Trump to halt immigration from Africa’s top tech hub, Nigeria

The Trump administration announced Friday it would halt immigration from Nigeria Africa’s most populous nation with the continent’s largest economy and leading tech sector.

The restrictions would stop short of placing a full travel ban on the country of 200 million, but will suspend U.S. immigrant visas for Nigeria, along with Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar.

That applies to citizens from those countries looking to live permanently in the U.S. The latest restrictions are said not to apply to non-immigrant, temporary visas for tourist, business, and medical visits.

The news was first reported by the Associated Press, after a press briefing by Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. The Department of Homeland Security later provided TechCrunch with Wolf’s remarks and a summary on the measures.

The primary reason for the new restrictions, according to DHS, was that the countries did not “meet the Department’s stronger security standards.”

Secretary Wolf noted, “the restrictions are not permanent if the country commits to change.”

The move follows reporting over the last week that the Trump administration was considering adding Nigeria, and several additional African states, to the list of predominantly Muslim countries on its 2017 travel ban. That ban was delayed in the courts until being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Restricting immigration to the U.S. from Nigeria, in particular, could impact commercial tech relations between the two countries.

Nigeria is the U.S.’s second largest African trading partner and the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, according to USTR and State Department briefs.

Increasingly, the nature of the business relationship between the two countries is shifting to tech. Nigeria is steadily becoming Africa’s capital for VC, startups, rising founders and the entry of Silicon Valley companies.

Recent reporting by VC firm Partech shows Nigeria has become the number one country in Africa for venture investment.

Much of that funding is coming from American sources. The U.S. is arguably Nigeria’s strongest partner on tech and Nigeria, Silicon Valley’s chosen gateway for Africa expansion.

There are numerous examples of this new relationship.

In June 2019, Mastercard invested $50 million in Jumia — a Pan-African e-commerce company headquartered in Nigeria — before it became the first tech startup on the continent to IPO on a major exchange, the NYSE.

One of Jumia’s backers, Goldman Sachs, led a $20 million round into Nigerian trucking-logistics startup, Kobo360 in August.

Software engineer company Andela, with offices in the U.S. and Lagos, raised $100 million from American sources and employs 1000 engineers.

Facebook has senior management from Nigeria, such as Ime Archibong, and opened an innovation lab in Nigeria in 2018 called NG_Hub. Google launched its own developer space in Lagos last week.

Nigerian tech is also home to a growing number of startups with operations in U.S. Nigerian fintech startup Flutterwave, whose clients range from Uber to Cardi B, is headquartered in San Francisco, with operations in Lagos. The company maintains a developer team across both countries for its B2B payments platform that helps American companies operating in Africa get paid.

MallforAfrica — a Nigerian e-commerce company that enables partners such as Macy’s, Best Buy and Auto Parts Warehouse to sell in Africa — is led by Chris Folayan, a Nigerian who studied and worked in the U.S. The company now employs Nigerians in Lagos and Americans at its Portland, Oregon processing plant.

Africa’s leading VOD startup, iROKOtv maintains a New York office that lends to production of the Nigerian (aka Nollywood) content it creates and streams globally.

Similar to Trump’s first travel ban, the latest restrictions on Nigeria may end up in courts, which could delay implementation.

More immediately, the Trump administration’s moves could put a damper on its own executive branch initiatives with Nigeria.

Just today the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy — who was appointed by President Trump — posted a tweet welcoming Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama to the State Department hosted U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission Meeting, planned for Monday.

The theme listed for the event: “Innovation and Ingenuity, which reflects the entrepreneurial, inventive, and industrious spirit shared by the Nigerian and American people.”

Update: This article was updated to include information provided by Department of Homeland Security.

Maxar and NASA will demonstrate orbital spacecraft assembly with a new robotic arm

NASA has awarded Maxar an estimated $142 million contract to demonstrate in-orbit spacecraft refueling and assembly of new components using a custom robotic platform in space.

The space infrastructure dexterous robot, or SPIDER, program will be part of NASA’s Restore-L mission to demonstrate automation of proposed orbital tasks like reconfiguring or repairing a satellite or manufacturing new components from scratch.

The first thing the Restore-L spacecraft will do is show that it can synchronize with, capture, connect with and refuel a satellite in orbit, then release it into a new orbit. Afterwards the craft will use the Maxar-built robotic arm to assemble a multi-panel antenna reflector, then test it.

Last, a separate piece of hardware, Tethers Unlimited’s MakerSat, will extrude a beam some 10-20 meters long, which will be inspected by the parent satellite, then detached and reattached to demonstrate its robustness.

“We are continuing America’s global leadership in space technology by proving we can assemble spacecraft with larger and more powerful components, after launch,” said NASA’s Jim Reuter in a news post. “This technology demonstration will open up a new world of in-space robotic capabilities.”

There’s no hard timeline for the mission yet, but it’s intended to take off the mid 2020s. This isn’t a small-scale experiment that can fly up next week in an Electron — it’s a big, expensive one that will likely take up most of a large rocket’s payload.

Although it’s only a demonstration, a Maxar representative pointed out that it is very close to what would be an operational system on other satellites in the future. It has also been previously demoed on the ground, though of course that’s no substitute for the real thing.

Robotic arms are something of a specialty for Maxar, which has delivered six total for NASA, including the one on Insight (currently on the Red Planet) and the Mars 2020 Rover (due to receive its official, inspirational name any day now).

We’ll have Maxar’s head of space robotics onstage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI in March at UC Berkeley, so be sure to join us there if you’d like to hear more about the business of building space robots.

Customer feedback is a development opportunity

Online commerce accounted for nearly $518 billion in revenue in the United States alone last year. The growing number of online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay will command 40% of the global retail market in 2020. As the number of digital offerings — not only marketplaces but also online storefronts and company websites — available to consumers continues to grow, the primary challenge for any online platform lies in setting itself apart.

The central question for how to accomplish this: Where does differentiation matter most?

A customer’s ability to easily (and accurately) find a specific product or service with minimal barriers helps ensure they feel satisfied and confident with their choice of purchase. This ultimately becomes the differentiator that sets an online platform apart. It’s about coupling a stellar product with an exceptional experience. Often, that takes the form of simple, searchable access to a wide variety of products and services. Sometimes, it’s about surfacing a brand that meets an individual consumer’s needs or price point. In both cases, platforms are in a position to help customers avoid having to chase down a product or service through multiple clicks while offering a better way of comparing apples to apples.

To be successful, a company should adopt a consumer-first philosophy that informs its product ideation and development process. A successful consumer-first development resides in a company’s ability to expediently deliver fresh features that customers actually respond to, rather than prioritize the update that seems most profitable. The best way to inform both elements is to consistently collect and learn from customer feedback in a timely way — and sometimes, this will mean making decisions for the benefit of consumers versus what is in the best interest of companies.

Newly funded Legacy, a sperm testing and freezing service, conveys a message to men: get checked

Legacy, a male fertility startup, has just raised a fresh, $3.5 million in funding from Bill Maris’s San Diego-based venture firm, Section 32, along with Y Combinator and Bain Capital Ventures, which led a $1.5 million seed round for the Boston startup last year.

We talked earlier today with Legacy’s founder and CEO Khaled Kteily about his now two-year-old, five-person startup and its big ambitions to become the world’s preeminent male fertility center. Our biggest question was how Legacy and similar startups convince men — who are generally less concerned with their fertility than women — that they need the company’s at-home testing kits and services in the first place.

“They should be worried about [their fertility],” said Kteily, a former healthcare and life sciences consultant with a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. “Sperm counts have gone down 50 to 60% over the last 40 years.” More from our chat with Legacy, a former TechCrunch Battlefield winner, follows; it has been edited lightly for length.

TC: Why start this company?

KK: I didn’t grow up wanting to be the king of sperm [laughs]. But I had a pretty bad accident — a second-degree burn on my legs after having four hot Starbucks teas spill on my lap in a car — and between that and a colleague at the Kennedy School who’d been diagnosed with cancer and whose doctor suggested he freeze his sperm ahead of his radiation treatments, it just clicked for me that maybe I should also save my sperm. When I went into Cambridge to do this, the place was right next to the restaurant Dumpling House and it was just very awkward and expensive and I thought, there must be a better way of doing this.

TC: How do you get started on something like this?

KK: This was before Ro and Hims began taking off, but people were increasingly comfortable doing things from their own homes, so I started doing research around the idea. I joined the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. I started taking continuing education classes about sperm…

TC: Women are under so much pressure from the time they turn 30 to monitor their fertility. Aside from extreme circumstances, as with your friend, do men really think about testing their sperm? 

KK: Men should be worried about it, and they should be taking responsibility for it. What a lot of folks don’t know is for every one in seven couples that are actively trying to get pregnant, the man is equally responsible [for their fertility struggles]. Women are taught about their fertility but men aren’t, yet the quality of their sperm is degrading over the years. Sperm counts have gone down by 50 to 60% over the last 40 years, too.

TC: Wait, what? Why?

KK: [Likely culprits are] chemicals in plastics, chemicals in what we eat eat and drink, changes in lifestyle; we move less and eat more, and sperm health relates to overall health. I also think mobile phones are causing it. I will caveat this by saying there’s been mixed research, but I’m convinced that cell phones are the new smoking in that it wasn’t clear that smoking was as dangerous as it is when the research was being conducted by companies that benefited by [perpetuating cigarette use]. There’s also a generational decline in sperm quality [to consider]; it poses increased risk to the mother but also the child, as the risk of gestational diabetes goes up, as well as the rate of autism and other congenital conditions.

TC: You’re selling directly to consumers. Are you also working with companies to incorporate your tests in their overall wellness offerings?

KK: We’re investing heavily in business-to-business and expect that to be a huge acquisition channel for us. We can’t share any names yet, but we just signed a big company last week and have a few more in the works. These are mostly Bay Area companies right now; it’s an area where our experience as a YC alum was valuable because of the founders who’ve gone through and now run large companies of their own.

TC: When you’re talking with investors, how do you describe the market size? 

KK: There are four million couples that are facing fertility challenges and in all cases, we believe the man should be tested. So do [their significant others]. Almost half of purchases [of our kits] are by a female partner. We also see men in the military freezing their sperm before being deployed, same-sex couples who plan to use a surrogate at some point and transgender patients who are looking at a life-changing [moment] and want to preserve their fertility before they start the process. But we see this as something that every man might do as they go off to college, and investors see that bigger picture.

TC: How much do the kits and storage cost?

KK: The kit costs $195 up front, and if they choose to store their sperm, $145 a year. We offer different packages. You can also spend $1,995 for two deposits and 10 years of storage.

TC: Is one or two samples effective? According to the Mayo Clinic, sperm counts fluctuate meaningfully from one sample to the next, so they suggest semen analysis tests over a period of time to ensure accurate results.

KK: We encourage our clients to make multiple deposits. The scores will be variable, but they’ll gather around an average.

TC: But they are charged for these deposits separately?

KK: Yes.

TC: And what are you looking for?

KK: Volume, count, concentration, motility and morphology [meaning the shape of the sperm].

TC: Who, exactly, is doing the analysis and handling the storage?

KK: We partner with Andrology Labs in Chicago on analysis; it’s one of the top fertility labs in the country. For storage, we partner with a couple of cryo-storage providers in different geographies. We divide the samples into four, then store them in two different tanks within each of two locations. We want to make sure we’re never in a position where [the samples are accidentally destroyed, as has happened at clinics elsewhere].

TC: I can imagine fears about these samples being mishandled. How can you assure customers this won’t happen?

KK: Trust and legitimacy are core factors and a huge area of focus for us. We’re CPPA and HIPAA compliant. All [related data] is encrypted and anonymized and every customer receives a unique ID [which is a series of digits so that even the storage facilities don’t know whose sperm they are handling]. We have extreme redundancies and processes in place to ensure that we’re handling [samples] in the most scientifically rigorous way possible, as well as ensuring the safety and privacy of each [specimen].

TC: How long can sperm be frozen?

KK: Indefinitely.

TC: How will you use all the data you’ll be collecting?

KK: I could see us entering into partnerships with research institutions. What we won’t do is sell it like 23andMe.

True product-market fit is a minimum viable company

Hi, I’m Ann.

I was one of the first investors in Lyft, Refinery29 and Xamarin. I’ve been on the Midas List for the past three years and was recently named on The New York Times’ list of The Top 20 Venture Capitalists. In 2008, I co-founded Floodgate, one of the first seed-stage VC funds in Silicon Valley. Unlike most funds, we invest exclusively in seed, making us experts in finding product-market fit and building a minimum viable company. Seed is fundamentally different from later stages, so we’ve made it more than a specialty: It’s all we do. Each of our partners sees thousands of companies every year before electing to invest in only the top three or four.

For the past 11 years, I’ve invested at the inception phase of startups. We’ve seen startups go wildly right (Lyft, Refinery29, Twitch, Xamarin) and wildly wrong. When I reflect on the failures, the root cause inevitably stems from misconceptions around the nature of product-market fit.

True product-market fit is a minimum viable company

Before attempting to scale your minimum viable product, you should focus on cultivating your minimum viable company. Nail down your value proposition, find your place in the broader ecosystem and craft a business model that adds up. In other words, true product-market fit is actually the magical moment when three elements click together:

To have built a minimum viable company, these three elements must work in concert together:

  • People must value your product enough to be willing to pay for it. This value also determines how you package your product to the world (freemium versus free to pay versus enterprise sales).
  • Your business model and pricing must fit your ecosystem. They must also generate enough sales volume and revenue to sustain your business.
  • Your product’s value must satisfy the needs of the ecosystem and the ecosystem needs to accept your product.

Many entrepreneurs conceptualize product-market fit as the point where some subset of customers love their product’s features. This conceptualization is dangerous. Many failing companies have features that customers loved. Some even have multiple beloved features! Great features constitute only one-half of one-third of the whole puzzle. To have created a minimum viable company, a company needs all three of these elements — value propositions, business model and ecosystem — working in concert. 

So founders take heed…

Moving into “growth mode” while missing any of these elements is building your company on an unsound foundation.

Founders who tune out the latest tweet cycle on “the secrets to raising Series A” and focus instead on the intricacies of their own business will find that product-market fit is a predictable, achievable phenomenon. On the other hand, founders who prematurely focus on growth without knowing the basic ingredients of their minimum viable company often fuel an addictive and destructive cycle around their business’ fake growth, acquiring non-optimal users that contribute to their company’s destruction.

Read an extended version of this article on Extra Crunch.

You need a minimum viable company, not a minimum viable product

Having customers love the product is just part of product-market fit

Hi, I’m Ann.

I was one of the first investors in Lyft, Refinery29 and Xamarin. I’ve been on the Midas List for the past three years and was recently named on The New York Times’ list of The Top 20 Venture Capitalists. In 2008, I co-founded Floodgate, one of the first seed-stage VC funds in Silicon Valley. Unlike most funds, we invest exclusively in seed, making us experts in finding product-market fit and building a minimum viable company. Seed is fundamentally different from later stages, so we’ve made it more than a specialty: It’s all we do. Each of our partners sees thousands of companies every year before electing to invest in only the top three or four.

For the past 11 years, I’ve invested at the inception phase of startups. We’ve seen startups go wildly right (Lyft, Refinery29, Twitch, Xamarin) and wildly wrong. When I reflect on the failures, the root cause inevitably stems from misconceptions around the nature of product-market fit.

The magic of product-market fit

Most successful entrepreneurs and VCs agree that product-market fit is the defining quality of an early-stage startup. Getting to product-market fit allows you to succeed even if you aren’t optimized on other fronts.

Most entrepreneurs conceptualize product-market fit as the point where some subset of customers love their product’s features. At Floodgate, we forensically analyzed companies that died and concluded this conceptualization is wrong. Many failing companies had features that customers loved. Some of these companies even had multiple beloved features! We discovered that having customers love the product is merely a part of product-market fit, not the entire thing. This raises the question: What were they lacking?

Is a Vegan Diet Best for Athletes?

Photo: Shutterstock

A plant-based diet can be a fine way to eat, whether you’re an athlete or not. A Netflix documentary called Game Changers argues that it’s not just fine, but that it’s better and that meat is harmful in some way. That’s not what most nutrition experts say, so let’s take a look at the claims in Game Changers and what you should know about vegan nutrition and training.

True: You can get plenty of protein and nutrition from a plant-based diet

Early in the movie, experts appear and debunk a host of myths about vegetarian diets. If you came into this believing that a vegan or vegetarian diet cannot be healthy, this is valuable stuff (although I don’t know how common these misconceptions really are). A few things that the movie correctly points out are true:

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  • Protein doesn’t give you “energy” for endurance exercise (although it is helpful for building muscle)
  • Vegan diets can provide plenty of protein
  • You can get high quality protein from plants

These statements come with some caveats, but they’re true and the bottom line is that there are plenty of vegan athletes out there doing quite well.

Vegan protein sources will almost never match the protein-to-calorie ratio of meat, so you’ll need to eat more food to get your protein in. That’s fine if you’re a cyclist or ultra runner, because you’re consuming tons of calories to fuel your workouts. If you need a lower calorie intake, like if you’re losing weight or if you’re a strength athlete who needs a lot of protein relative to their calories, you’ll probably need a plant-based protein powder.

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The movie gives an example of four foods that it says contain roughly equivalent amounts of protein. Here are the numbers, and you can decide for yourself whether these are comparable food items (I think the comparison is a bit iffy):

  • 1 cup of cooked lentils: 18g
  • a peanut butter sandwich: 15g
  • 3 ounces of beef: 22g
  • three large eggs: 18g

If you take the approach that there are many ways to build an effective diet for athletes, and that sticking to plant-based foods is one of those many ways…none of this seems very surprising. And that is, in fact, the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine, and others. There is, however, no compelling evidence that vegan diets are better for athletes than omnivorous ones.

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False: we were “meant” to eat vegetables and not meat

Disappointingly, there’s a section in the movie that repeats some inaccurate and misleading tropes about how our bodies are built.

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Yes, we have longer digestive tracts that carnivorous animals; but we also have shorter digestive tracts than herbivores. Yes, we have molars that don’t match those of carnivores; but our teeth aren’t specialized to plants, either.

And sure, we have three-color vision while most mammal carnivores do not—but neither do most mammal herbivores. Humans are clearly equipped to eat both plants and animals, and that’s not even controversial among scientists. This segment was just silly.

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False: a vegan diet alone can make a good athlete into a great one

Movies are stories, carefully scripted and edited, even if they are non-fiction. Think about reality shows: they’re “real,” but you know the producers have put a lot of effort into constructing a storyline based on what they want the finished product to convey.

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So, think about that when you see the movie’s stories about plant-based athletes. Maybe they switched from eating a lot of fried chicken to eating vegan meals, but is that responsible for their success? Probably not. It’s great that Kendrick Farris went to the Olympics, but so did tons of meat-eating weightlifters.

Anytime an athlete goes from struggling to successful, it’s a safe bet that they changed many things about their life and training, not just one. If you’re motivated enough to change up your diet, you’re probably motivated enough to question your coaching, your training time, your rest days, your weight class, and everything else that could potentially affect your success. Not to mention, when athletes in untested sports talk about how they got “stronger and bigger”…there’s always the possibility they are taking more than just plant-based protein powder.

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False: the studies cited at the bottom of the screen provide solid support for what the narrator is saying

I couldn’t go down every rabbit hole of scientific sources for this movie, but the dives I took were always very unsatisfying.

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For example, there’s an “experiment” (more of a demonstration) in which three athletes eat meat-based or plant-based burritos, supposedly to demonstrate that meat inhibits endothelial function in the blood vessels.

When the narrator talks about what this means, seven studies appear at the bottom of the screen.Rather than comparing the effects of beef and chicken versus beans and avocados on blood triglycerides, they include studies about grape juice, chokeberry juice, blueberry flavonoids, cocoa, and tea. Meanwhile, a quick google finds studies like this one showing a beneficial effect of ham on endothelial function. Meanwhile, the study they claimed shows a beneficial effect of avocado on blood lipids actually compared hamburgers with and without avocado, rather than a meat versus a plant-based meal.

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Layne Norton, a bodybuilding coach with a doctorate in nutritional sciences, sums up the demonstration this way:

[the scientist who conducted the demonstration] spoke at length about the endothelium and vasodilation but then did not measure ANYTHING pertaining to vasodilation or endothelial function. The reason the serum from the meat eaters was cloudy was likely because those burritos contained more total fat. Fats from the diet are packaged into chylomicrons which cause the serum to appear cloudy after a high fat meal.

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In another typical example, the movie claims that ancient Roman gladiators ate a plant based diet of mainly beans and barley. But the actual research on which that claim is based states that the analysis cannot say for sure how much meat the gladiators ate.

True: there is an undeserved relationship between meat and manliness

This is a stereotype that has always bugged me. People of any gender can eat meat, or eat vegetables. People of any gender can be strong. So I applaud the film for its work breaking down the stereotype and letting men just eat some freaking vegetables in peace. If you need to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger say it before you’ll believe it, then the Game Changers has you covered.

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What’s Coming to Amazon Prime Video in February 2020

Image: A24

February is going to bring with it a ton of new programming for Amazon Prime customers. The month kicks off on February 1 with the addition of a ton of movies including Bridget Jones’ Diary, Judgement Day, Magic Mike, and The Spy Next Door.

Later in the month, on February 12th, Sundance favorite The Farewell arrives on the platform. Starring Awkwafina, it’s the story of a family that stages a fake wedding in order to have a chance to say goodbye to the family matriarch who doesn’t know she only has a few weeks to live. On February 8, Super 8 arrives and on February 25th the fourth season of Grantchester arrives along with Run the Race.

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Interested in what else is coming to Amazon Prime Video in February? Here’s the full list:

February 1

  • Beat the Devil
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Buffalo ‘66
  • Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
  • Cheech & Chong’s Still Smokin’
  • Counterpart, Seasons 1 and 2
  • Crashing Through Danger
  • Dick Tracy
  • Earth Girls Are Easy
  • Emergency Landing
  • Escape at Dannemora, Season 1
  • Father Steps Out
  • Ghost
  • Guess What We Learned In School Today?
  • High Voltage
  • Judgment Day
  • Little Tough Guy
  • Lord of War
  • Magic Mike
  • National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie
  • National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2
  • North of The Border
  • People Are Funny
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  • The Last Stand
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February 2

  • Tyler Perry’s a Madea Family Funeral

February 3

  • The Cabin in The Woods

February 4

  • Jallikattu

February 5

February 6

  • Disaster Movie

February 7

  • All or Nothing: The Philadelphia Eagles
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February 12

  • The Farewell

February 15

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February 25

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  • Run the Race

There’s a Reason the Super Bowl Is Being Broadcast in Fake 4K

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo), Kevin C. Cox (Getty Images)

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and while I will be busy calling loved ones during the game to deeply irritate them, you may actually be watching and perhaps you might be excited that the game will be streaming in 4K and HDR (depending on your TV provider). But the 4K is fake 4K, and, according to Digital Trend’s interview with one of the men producing the Bowl, there’s a good reason for that.

Super Bowl LIV (54 if you don’t read Roman numerals) will be the first Super Bowl broadcast in 4K, and the first Super Bowl broadcast in HDR, but it won’t be the first sporting event broadcast in either 4K or HDR. Fox has been testing 4K HDR broadcasts since last year, and multiple NFL and MLB games have already been broadcast.

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But the Super Bowl is the big one. Just over 100 million people tuned in last year. An average game gets only a fraction of that kind of audience. Thus the Super Bowl will be a big test for Fox’s 4K HDR broadcasting apparatus.

But what Fox has been broadcasting, and will be broadcasting on Super Bowl Sunday, isn’t 4K. Instead, it will be a 1080p HDR broadcast upscaled to 4K.

The reason is that 4K is still really, really data intensive. A 4K video is often twice the size of a 1080p video. It’s full of twice as much data which means storage drives need to be twice as big. It also means data pipelines need to be bigger, and processors need to be faster.

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That’s pretty easy to do if you’re handling a single 4K stream. But the Super Bowl broadcast will have to handle data coming from a hundred different sources, from cameras on the field, to drones, to big broadcast cameras pointed at the commentators.

“When we’re doing a football game that is somewhere north of 100 cameras, there’s no possible way we can do this in 4K,” Michael Drazin, a broadcast engineering consultant working for Fox, told Digital Trends.

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Drazin’s explanation is the same one Mike Davies, SVP of field operations for Fox Sports, gave the Verge last year. “A lot of the broadcast equipment that does specialty things, like super-slow-motion and replay and those types of things, are technically possible in 4K,” he said in an interview ahead of Fox’s first big 4K HDR football game. “But at the volume that we have for a Thursday Night Football game, which is upwards of 40 cameras, you just can’t pack that in yet in terms of a 4K broadcast.”

Instead, nearly all the cameras will shoot in 1080p HDR. A few cameras will shoot in 4K and 8K, giving the broadcast’s directors the ability to crop and zoom in and without needing a big zoom lens. Then it will all be converted to a 4K HDR stream for 4K broadcasts, and a 720p SDR stream for terrestrial channel broadcasts.

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So if you tune in with an antenna you’ll get the normal 720p broadcast. For a 4K broadcast you’ll need to have a 4K HDR-capable cable box. You’ll have to check with your local TV provider to see if they’ll be putting out a 4K stream. According to Consumer Reports Altice/Optimum, Comcast, DirecTV, and Verizon FiOS have all promised 4K streams for at least some customers.

Remember 4K streams require a lot of data to get a sharp and clear picture, so if you live in the middle of nowhere and struggle with reception currently you’ll almost certainly be out of luck.

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If you have exceptional internet speeds you should also be able to stream. Fubo TV has promised a 4K stream, and Fox will be streaming for at least the Fox Sports and Fox Now apps.

As Consumer Reports has also noted there will be one challenge for people hoping to appreciate the game in HDR. Depending on the TV or stream provider the game will be streaming in either HDR10 or HLG. Currently all TVs that support HDR support HDR10, but HLG, an HDR format developed by the BBC and NHK specifically for television broadcasts, doesn’t have quite as wide support in television sets.

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If you’re streaming via an app it will likely be HDR10, so you’ll be fine. However most feeds coming through your cable or satellite box will be HLG, so definitely double check before you sit down.

As for Roku users hoping to stream the Super Bowl. You’ll want to invest in Fubo TV, or another streaming TV provider because the Fox apps are all being pulled from Roku devices and won’t return until Fox and Roku strike a deal.

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