A new startup run by a former Citadel quant is trying to create a better way for farmers to protect their crops from climate change

farmer, american farmer

Summary List Placement

Blockchain. Machine learning. Alternative data. Climate change. 

It seems like Arbol Market, a new insure-tech platform, is hitting every buzzword, and the startup’s quick growth is proving there’s a market for its products. 

Arbol was founded by Sid Jha, a former quant at Ken Griffin’s Citadel who brought a machine-learning approach to trading commodities, and his brother Osho Jha, the firm’s chief data scientist who has worked at data shops like M Science and asset managers like BlackRock and J. Goldman & Co. The start-up began in 2019, after Sid and Osho left Citadel and J. Goldman & Co., respectively. 

The platform operates in a pretty straightforward way: It connects people and businesses, like farmers and cruise ship operators, most at risk of climate change hurting their bottom lines with investors like hedge funds and reinsurers willing to offer protection. Unlike most insurers here is no back-and-forth between the two parties, and Arbol never handles the money. Arbol is not technically an insurer yet, though it is in the process of becoming one so it can develop more products and expand to more jurisdictions.

See more: Billionaire Ken Griffin’s Citadel has a sprawling alumni network of more than 80 hedge funds. Take a look at our exclusive list.

Instead, policies are triggered if certain weather events — say not enough rain falls in a season to grow a certain crop — occur. Arbol uses smart contracts, or self-executing contracts, on blockchain technology, which cut out the middleman and automatically pays out money to the insured once a specified event occurs. 

For Sid Jha, the utility of this platform is obvious, and solves a big problem.Sid Jha

“The way traditional insurance works is someone goes to your business or farm and accesses the damage and determines if your claim is legitimate,” he said. “It’s lengthy and often leads to disputes.”

The firm’s products, all based on certain weather events, prevent any back-and-forth, and “we do not control the escrow, the escrow is locked in a smart contract between the two parties.”  

The platform is able to cater to smaller claims — they’ve had premiums as low as $500 — because it’s not as resource-intensive, giving smaller farmers a chance to protect their investment. Agricultural insurance is usually given by the acre, and in 2019 premiums for just corn alone amounted to more than $3 billion

Research from the American Farm Bureau Federation shows that a majority of staple crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat are insured, but Sid Jha said insurers focus on the big agriculture conglomerates and small farms often go unprotected. 

“When we looked at this landscape, we saw users that could use this product and weren’t being served.”

The explosion of data, particularly alternative datasets on weather, made Arbol possible though. When Sid Jha was trading commodities, he put these datasets to work to determine what the price of corn or soybeans should trade at, using machine-learning techniques to predict future changes. 

Without this granular data – Jha says he is able to see rainfall data down to three-mile tracts — a platform like this would be near impossible to bring to life.

The firm wrapped up its Series A fundraising round at the end of last year to give it $7 million in funding, and hopes to have $1 billion in risk capacity on the platform early this year. At the end of 2020, it had surpassed $15 million in notional risk. 

The next step is getting in front of industries other than agriculture, where it already has tens of thousands of users. Travel companies are the immediate thought for possible expansion, though Jha said all companies that have supply chains impacted by climate chain could be a target, mentioning coffee sellers and energy companies. 

“We can hedge any kind of weather or non weather risk as long as there is a dataset with a long enough history.”

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How to enable grid view in Google Meet and see every meeting participant at once

Summary List PlacementGrid view isn’t just for Zoom. Google Meet has made it easier than ever to view every participant in a meeting at once with their similar tiled layout feature. 
Part of an April 2020 rollout of highly-requested Google Meet upgrades, this tool expanded the visible number of participants on-screen simultaneously from four to 16 people. According to one Google support page, Tiled view can now accommodate up to 49 people at once. Before the update, users could access what used to be called “Grid view” through the Chrome extension “Google Meet Grid View.” 
Tiled view is one of a handful of other layout options Google has available for Google Meet users, including Auto, Spotlight, and Sidebar. Choosing a tiled layout might be useful for very large virtual meet-ups or those who prefer that the screen not change as speakers take turns. With a tiled layout, everyone in the meeting (up to 49 people) stays visible in one place. 
Here’s how to get a grid view in Google Meet. 
How to enable tiled view in Google Meet on desktop
1. Join a meeting in Google Meet. 
2. At the bottom right, click the icon with three vertical dots.

3. Click “Change layout.”

4. Select “Tiled” to see every participant in the meeting at the same time.

5. To adjust the number of tiles you see, use the slider at the bottom of the “Change layout” window. 
6. To include yourself as a tile with the other participants, click the button that looks like four squares at the top right.   

Enabling Google Meet’s grid view on mobile devices and tablets
Tiled view is not currently available for mobile devices or tablets, but users can work around this with two different approaches. The first is using a web browser on your phone instead of the app. Just enable desktop mode (or “Request desktop site”) within the browser, enter a Google meeting, and then change the layout in the same way as on desktop. 
The second approach is to participate in a meeting using the Google Meet app. If a participant on their desktop has enabled the “tiled” layout, ask that they share their screen with the rest of the meeting. 
Troubleshooting issues with Google Tiled View
If you’re experiencing problems with Google Meet after switching to a tiled layout, such as your video freezing, there are several fixes you can try. Start by closing any applications, windows, or browser tabs that you aren’t currently using, then try turning off your camera or reducing the number of visible tiles in your layout. You can find this last option where you found “Tiled” in “Change layout” at the bottom of the Meet screen.   
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Digital-lending startup Blend just nabbed $300 million from backers including Coatue and Tiger and is now valued at more than $3 billion. Here's how it's disrupting consumer banking.

Summary List PlacementWhen it comes to consumer banking, the offerings and services involved run the gamut from the most basic of checking accounts to highly-personalized home loans and specialty vehicle auto loans. Accessing them all in one place via a seamless, online user experience, however, isn’t always easy.
That’s one of the new focuses of digital-lending startup Blend.
On Wednesday, San Francisco-based Blend announced a new fundraising round that brought the company’s valuation to $3.3 billion, a near doubling of its valuation since it last raised money five months ago in August.
See more: Machine-learning powered mortgage startup Blend overshot its expectations with a $130 million fundraise. Their CFO explains how they pulled it off.
Blend works with traditional lenders — such as Wells Fargo, US Bank, and Navy Federal Credit Union — to streamline their process of offering and managing mortgages and loans via digital channels. 
The $300 million Series G round was led by Coatue Management and Tiger Global, whose past experience investing in software companies like Hinge Health and Rapyd appealed to Blend’s founder and CEO, Nima Ghamsari.
Previous investors include Canapi, who joined the company’s Series F round in August. 
“We are a software company and so I wanted to get people who understood software. This was just the right round. It was a right time for somebody like that in the late enough stage,” Ghamsari told Insider. 
“We’re excited because they’re both very long-term oriented investors,” he added.
A common system
Ghamsari said that a key part of Blend’s growth since the startup was founded in 2012 has been the increasing success of digital strategies at fintechs and challenger banks, placing pressure on traditional banks and lending companies to upgrade their online experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, has only accelerated the “digital transformation banks and lenders are undergoing,” he said.
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Ghamsari said that the new capital will go primarily towards deepening existing customer relationships and further building out Blend’s suite of new consumer-banking tools used by banks like BMO Harris. 
“These banks are built product line by product, even fintechs are built product line by product line. We’re going to build this common platform that can underlie all those products.”
Blend said it added more than 200 employees in 2020, a 60% increase, and facilitated $1.4 trillion in mortgages through its online tools.
Mortgage roots
Even as Blend looks to develop what it calls its new end-to-end service for digital banking, it’s also remained true to its lending roots by continuing to innovate the online mortgage process.
Blend’s lending technology, specifically, is currently used by Wells Fargo – one of Blend’s first partnerships in the mortgage space – and US Bank, among others.
“We’ve gone really, really deep in the home buying and home-financing process,” Ghamsari said, including developing a new offering that tries to improve on the “closing table” stage of taking out a mortgage — when the borrower must sign page after page of paperwork and meet with their lender, an escrow agent, a real estate agent, and lawyers.  
Ghamsari also added that he believes Blends benefits from operating in the relatively confined industry of consumer banking and lending.
“One of the benefits of being in a vertical is that you have a small number of customers. We have a small number of customers that we can spend a lot of time on, and I want to spend more time on them, not less, as we become more successful,” Ghamsari said.
Read more: Smaller banks have been forced to evolve in the wake of the pandemic. Insiders explain how fintechs are playing a key role in the future plans of regional and community banks.SEE ALSO: Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management is at the center of a quarter-trillion-dollar web linking billionaires, the Pharma Bro, and a ‘Big Short’ main character
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Kenyan insurtech startup Pula raises $6M Series A to derisk smallholder farmers across Africa

Pula, a Kenyan insurtech startup that specialises in digital and agricultural insurance to derisk millions of smallholder farmers across Africa, has closed a Series A investment of $6 million. The round was led by Pan-African early-stage venture capital firm,  TLcom Capital, with participation from nonprofit Women’s World Banking. The raise comes after Pula closed $1 […]

See the pitch deck that landed startup Lacework $525 million in the largest investment round for a cybersecurity company in the last year

Summary List PlacementHow do you convince investors to give a startup $525 million? 
“You have to have a lot of proof points,” Lacework CEO Dan Hubbard told Insider, after his Silicon Valley startup raked in a half-billion-dollar round after previously raising a total of $74.4 million. 
The six-year-old Silicon Valley company addresses the booming area of providing cybersecurity to companies growing and moving their operations to public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
Perhaps the most important proof point is the total addressable market (TAM) that Lacework is tackling – a figure that gauges revenue opportunity – is climbing 20% year over year and reaching $13 billion in 2024. Analysts back that up.
Analyst Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wall Street analyst firm Wedbush Securities, told Insider on Friday that “there’s $200 billion up for grabs in the next five years in cloud security.”
“We have the right product in the right market at the right time,” Hubbard told Insider last week. “The problem has come to us.” 
The company says it has seen revenue triple each of the past two years as more businesses build and run applications on the major cloud platforms. The company did not disclose revenue or specific valuation, but says the latter is above $1 billion. 
PitchBook shows the funding round was the largest in the cybersecurity industry for the past year, and the 22nd largest in all US industries over that span. 
It could have been even larger, Hubbard said. “There was an incredible amount of interest. There are going to be some people who feel left out.” 
Mike Speiser, managing director at Sutter Hill Ventures, compared the startup to his firm’s runaway success investment Snowflake, which has rocketed to a market cap of some $76 billion after its September IPO. 
Here’s the pitch deck Lacework used to land the mammoth funding round. Some slides with customer and competitive data have been removed by the company to protect proprietary information.

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