Chipotle is launching a food and farm tech accelerator program

Chipotle announced the launch of an accelerator program today designed to find new and innovative companies in the food and farming space, primarily ones that focus on technology-focused solutions to problems in the agriculture industry. The program, called the Chipotle Aluminaries Project and sponsored by the company’s foundation, will last seven months and fund growth-stage companies “with a shared vision to cultivate a better world.”

“Chipotle has been committed to the future of food with integrity since opening our first restaurant 25 years ago,” said Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol in a statement. Niccol joined the company in February from Taco Bell, where he helped architect the fast food chain’s resurgence over the last decade. “By sponsoring the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, we’re looking to advance the work of the next generation of entrepreneurs who are disrupting the food landscape,” Niccol added.

Chipotle is looking for non- and for-profit ventures to join the program, and its working with Uncharted, a non-profit partner that will help Chipotle host the program and select its first eight participants. Entrepreneur and restaurant owner Kimbal Musk, the brother of SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a board member of Chipotle, will be one of the mentors alongside Top Chef star Richard Blais. According to BuzzFeed, Chipotle’s foundation is investing $200,000 into the program, and the company said it’s open to acquiring any of the participating ventures or in some way integrate their technology into its existing supply chain.

For Chipotle, it’s not clear how the accelerator program will help its ongoing issues, including declining popularity and an repeated food safety crises — the most of recent of which occurred in Ohio last week — that’s crippled the companies sales and stock price since its 2015 high. Chipotle’s Caitlin Leibert, its director of sustainability, told BuzzFeed that it anticipates seeing at least some applicants for the program that are focused on food safety, but that it’s not a core focus. It’s also a possibility that investing in technology could help Chipotle rethink solutions to problems that eventually lead to food safety issues, like more sustainable agriculture practices and plant-based foods that are more resistant to bacteria.

Brookstone will close all its US mall stores after second bankruptcy in four years

Brookstone, the chain best known as “that place you go while waiting for your airplane to board,” has filed its second bankruptcy in four years, and it will close all 102 of its mall locations across the US, the company said on Thursday. The remaining 35 airport stores will stay open as it attempts to find a buyer.

In 2014, Brookstone sold to Chinese conglomerate Sanpower for $173 million in a bankruptcy auction, and it has now secured an additional $30 million loan to continue operation during this second sale. Its bankruptcy filing declares debts of up to $500 million and assets between $50 million and $100 million.

“The decision to close our mall stores was difficult,” Brookstone chief executive Piau Phang Foo said in a statement, citing it as an “extremely challenging retail environment.” The company says it will focus on operating in airports and online where revenue is still being generated.

Brookstone adds to a growing list of mall chains that have struggled in the advent of online shopping; according to The Washington Post, Nine West, Claire’s, and Gymboree have also filed for bankruptcy over the past year while Toys R Us has liquidated its entire intellectual assets, including domain names.

Square is helping businesses develop contracts to prevent chargebacks from their customers

Back in mid-May, Square quietly launched a landing page for a feature that helps small business owners create contracts that protect them from buyer chargebacks and other credit card disputes. It hasn’t publicly announced them yet, but in an interview, Square told The Verge why it launched these contracts, which will be promoted to business owners starting in August.

Kay Feker, Square’s risk program manager, noticed earlier this year that customers were increasingly asking for money back after a successful transaction. Even if they were satisfied with several home repairs, for instance, they would protest the final transaction and the business owner would have no real choice but to return their money as a result.

“These days with the increase in online purchases, you lose that sense of human interaction, so you’re more willing to send chargebacks along for all these purchases,” says Feker, explaining the uptick in transaction disputes over the last few years.

Square says that business owners who are taken advantage of by customers charging back on goods and services could easily save money with a contract that details the terms of a transaction. The chances of winning a credit card dispute are nearly twice as high when contracts are used, according to Square. But the agreements aren’t supposed to help in the case of credit card fraud, when the affected customer generally holds no responsibility.

The landing page, which is also open to non-Square users, lets owners make custom contracts that follow specific state guidelines and a variety of templates depending on the service. Square says business owners can give customers contracts before the transaction is fully completed to ensure that if the item or service is delivered to satisfaction, the customer can’t just chargeback or insist the product never showed up.

“Now you can’t just say ‘I bought this T-shirt, paid them, but I don’t like the color. I want my money back, I expected something different,’” Feker says as an example. “The business owner will now prove it: here’s the color, it was indeed delivered as described.”

Square doesn’t make sellers pay it chargeback fees, which is standard practice for many payment platforms, including PayPal and Stripe. But it does offer sellers up to $250 of chargeback protection per month, so it’s likely that these contracts will help Square’s finances even indirectly. “We’re not looking to profit off this,” says Feker, “But we’re a business, too, so if the seller loses, Square loses as well. This insures we protect our relationship.”

Qualcomm will pay $2 billion to end failed acquisition of NXP

Qualcomm has finally given up on buying NXP Semiconductors, a Dutch company known for automotive and IoT chips, which it’s been trying to acquire for nearly two years. The deal has long been held up by the Chinese government, and now, Qualcomm has said it will scrap the agreement altogether rather than continue the uncertain fight toward a completed acquisition. In doing so, it’ll have to pay a breakup fee of $2 billion.

The two companies initially entered into a deal in October 2016, with Qualcomm agreeing to pay $47 billion for NXP. The deadline to close the deal has been extended many times since then, as the companies wait for China to approve or deny the merger; every other country reviewing the acquisition granted its approval.

With no answer from China, the deal will once again hit its deadline tonight, but this time Qualcomm doesn’t plan to extend it. The agreement is still valid until midnight ET, so it’s possible the acquisition will still go through; but China would have to approve the transaction within the next six and a half hours for that to happen. “We intend to terminate our purchase agreement to acquire NXP when the agreement expires at the end of the day today, pending any new material developments,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said in a statement announcing the company’s third quarter earnings today.

Though Qualcomm will have to pay a breakup fee for letting the acquisition fall through, it also frees up the cash it had set aside to pay for the NXP deal. It plans to put $30 billion toward a stock repurchase program.

The bigger downside for the company is that, without NXP, Qualcomm is even more reliant on its existing product portfolio at a time when it’s under a legal assault across the globe for allegedly anti-competitive patent licensing practices. The company maintains a commanding lead in the mobile processor and modem space, but the IoT and automotive markets — both of which Qualcomm competes in, too — are still taking off, and the breakup of this deal means fewer ready-to-go resources for Qualcomm.