Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

Code + Community
    0 0

    Women who love buying luxury heels–the kind of sparkly, expensive, Italian-made shoes worn to red carpet events and black tie galas–have, until now, had to accept a few harsh realities.

    First, the brands that specialize in this kind of footwear almost always bear the name of a man. (Think: Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, and Manolo Blahnik.) And second, the shoes are designed to be beautiful, rather than serve the purpose of, you know, walking. They have been known to cause blisters, chronic pain, and stumbles. Just ask Jennifer Lawrence, who has fallen at least three times at awards ceremonies.

    Marion Parke [Photo: courtesy Marion Parke]

    Marion Parke, a former podiatric surgeon, doesn’t believe women should have to suffer for their heels. Two years ago, she launched a shoe startup that makes the kind of fabulous $650 heels that are meant to be worn with ball gowns and cocktail dresses. And importantly, she took a page from male shoe designers and named the new brand after herself. She’s part of a small but growing trend in the startup world of female-led luxury shoe brands. In 2016, Tamara Mellon, Jimmy Choo’s co-founder, launched an eponymous luxury shoe brand, and in 2014, Maria Gangemi founded an Italian-made shoe company called M.Gemi, an abbreviated version of her name.


    Related: High heels, invented for the male gaze, get a feminist makeover


    On the surface, Marion Parke shoes are the stuff of fashion dreams. Parke has designed $650 3-inch rainbow glitter sandals, $665 open-toed booties with satin bows and mink trim, and $595 gold stilettos made from buttery nappa leather. But what you don’t see at first glance is that Parke has completely re-engineered the shoes from the ground up, to make them more comfortable and walkable.

    Before launching her first collection in Spring 2016, Parke spent a decade training and working in reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. But over the years, women who came into her office often brought up the topic of shoes, and Parke was happy to oblige them. “I love shoes,” she says. “They make me happy. A beautiful heel can make a woman feel taller and more confident.”

    But the problem, of course, is that heels cause pain. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) 87% of women have suffered due to uncomfortable shoes, as opposed to only 68% of men. Women also report blisters and heel pain in greater numbers than their male counterparts. Nearly half of all women wear high heels but 71% of these heel wearers report feeling pain from their shoes. In fact, some doctors recommend avoiding high heels altogether.

    [Photo: Marion Parke]
    But Parke believes the data doesn’t reveal the nuances of the problem. “It’s hard to draw a direct line between heels and particular kinds of foot pain,” Parke says. “No study has made a group of women wear heels for an extended period of time and compared them to sample of women wearing flats. And it’s also important to remember that poorly constructed flat shoes can also cause pain.” Moreover, Parke points out that women like herself actually enjoy wearing high heels. So rather than simply forcing women to give up a shoe that they like, she decided to design more orthopedically sound heels.

    As Parke spoke with her patients, it became clear to her that there were tweaks she could make to the fundamental design of the high heel to make them more comfortable and walkable. The insoles of heels, for instance, did not keep the foot in place, which created instability with every step, causing stress to the ankle. Heels often weren’t contoured to follow the shape of the bottom of the foot, which meant that they rarely provided arch support. And finally, it was possible to provide more padding throughout the shoe for comfort and to absorb impact, but in her market research, Parke noticed that most shoe brands did not do this.

    In her spare time, Parke began sketching out designs for shoes that were both beautiful and comfortable. She was spurred on by her mother, who happens to be an artist, and had encouraged her throughout her childhood to pursue her creative passions. “You’d be surprised,” Parke says. “Surgeons tend to be very good with their hands, so many of us enjoy doing art when we’re not working.” AW!!

    By 2015, Parke was ready to turn these shoe designs into reality. That year, she drove around Tuscany, Italy, with her sister to visit the factories where luxury shoe brands made their products. She visited workshops that make shoes for well-known brands like Gucci and Jimmy Choo. But observing the shoe manufacturing process closely made her realize how little attention many brands pay to making the shoes comfortable. “I was shocked,” Parker says. “The insole of heels is literally just a piece of cardboard that has been covered in a thin layer of leather.”

    It’s typically difficult for a startup to break into the expert Italian shoe factories that make shoes for top brands because these are small, family-run businesses that don’t want to risk taking on new production unless it is for an established brand. But Parke brought her sketches and ideas for redesigning the interior of the high heel, and several factory owners were excited about the prospect of bringing innovation to a product that had been made the same way for decades.

    [Photo: Marion Parke]

    Parke worked with the factory to create a patent-pending heel design that is shaped to follow the natural contour of a woman’s foot and supports the arch. There is cup under the heel that stabilizes the foot and ankle. And throughout the interior, there is padding both keep the foot in place and provide shock absorption. When you first see one of her heels, it looks virtually identical to any other pair you have in your closet. But upon closer inspection, each of the adjustment Parke has made becomes more obvious: The insole seems tailored to the shape of the human foot. Still, for all these comfortable features, Parke still encourages women to use common sense when wearing high heels. “I would recommend that women don’t wear heels for two days in a row,” she says. “You want to take pressure off your feet.”

    Over the last two years, Parke’s business has grown significantly. Until now, Parke has bootstrapped the brand, growing the company organically to demonstrate her proof of concept. But this year, she’s received an angel investment of an undisclosed amount from David and Jennifer Miller, who run the 72-year-old family-owned shoe company Minnetonka Moccasin. The Millers will also come on as advisors, sharing their extensive experience with scaling a footwear business, from the production to the distribution process.

    Before taking on this partnership, Jennifer Miller bought three pairs of Marion Parke shoes and pounded the pavement in them on a trip to Los Angeles. During this wear test, Miller noticed two things. First, people kept stopping her to ask her where she got her gorgeous shoes. And second, she didn’t end the day with painful, throbbing feet. And while Minnetonka Moccasin is a casual, affordable shoe brand, the Millers decided it was worth pouring some money into this innovative luxury heel brand, because it had the potential to yield major financial returns down the line–especially if they could provide guidance about how to turn Marion Parke into a household name. 

    Parke’s shoes are sold through her website, a network of high-end shoe boutiques, and larger retailers like Bloomingdale’s, goop, Moda Operandi, Farfetch, and Orchard Mile. While many of her counterparts, like Tamara Mellon and M.Gemi, have opted for a direct to consumer model to keep the price of the shoes lower, Parke believes that giving women the opportunity to try shoes on in person is crucial to helping her brand scale. “There are well-trained sales associates in these stores who can help women find the right size, which is crucial to the shoe fitting comfortably,” she says. “And I know that my customer enjoys buying luxury products and appreciates personalized service.”

    But, in the end, Parke isn’t just trying to be another high-end shoe brand; she’s hoping to rewrite the rules of the luxury shoe industry. After all, the ultimate luxury is being able to walk without pain.


    0 0

    Vermont has made history by electing Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman, to be the Democratic nominee for governor. This is the first time in the United States that an openly transgender person has been a major party nominee for governor. Hallquist is used to making waves, though, as she also lays claim to the title of being the first CEO in the country to transition while in office.

    “It’s always been important to me to live openly and honestly,” she said when announcing her candidacy earlier this year. “I chose to transition in a very public way because I felt I owed it to those at Vermont Electric Cooperative who put their trust in me.”

    While Democrat Danica Roem made history with her election to the Virginia House of Delegates, becoming its first transgender member, Hallquist’s nomination by the Democratic Party for this key leadership role is an important step for trans inclusion in the political process. She will face popular incumbent Republican Governor Phil Scott in November.

    Here are six things to know about Hallquist:

    • An engineering expert, she started working for Vermont Electric Coop in 1998 and became its CEO in 2005. She helped the energy company grow onto a financially stable national leader on renewable energy and a proponent of combatting climate change.
    • A Vermont resident since 1976, she has been active in local politics for years. She served as Hyde Park Town Meeting Day moderator for the past five years, spent 12 years on the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation Board, chaired the Sterling Area Services Mental Health Board, and served on the Hyde Park School Board. She is a member of United Community Church in Morrisville.
    • A parent, she has three children and two grandchildren.
    • Her son directed a documentary about herDenial, which encouraged her to transition. She told CNN in June, it was the public response to her transition that gave her the confidence to run for office.
    • She is backed by the Justice Democrats, the same group that helped launch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign in New York
    • Hallquist is one of more than 400 LGBTQ candidates running in this election cycle, a record according to political training group the Victory Institute.

    0 0

    Sustainable, meaningful, purpose-led.  However framed, when applied to organizations, these terms indicate to wider society that a company is committed to making a difference.  Evidence proves that purpose-led organizations are no longer a buzz word; they are fast becoming the norm because they can prove that they add real value to employees, shareholders and customers.  And it’s nothing new.  In a five-year old-study, “In 2013, meaningful brands connected to human well-being outperformed the stock market by 120%” while additional research showed that “purpose driven companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 10 times between 1996 and 2011.” The growing workforce of millennials–and Generation Z following fast on their heels–want to work for companies that share their values around responsibility to mankind and the planet.  Companies, therefore, have to fight for the best talent by transforming to a purpose-led business or risk losing the skills they need; “employees with a strong sense of purpose are at least four times more likely to be engaged in their jobs as other employees.”

    Larry Fink, CEO of Black Rock, one of the biggest asset managers in the world, recently wrote a letter to global CEOs stating that “Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential; it will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders.” He goes on to state that companies must ask themselves: What role do we play in the community? How are we managing our impact on the environment? Are we working to create a diverse workforce…?” and so on. As others in the financial world follow, all sizes of business across the world will have no choice but to understand the value of being purpose-led deciding and then designing their own meaningful path.

    Where does this leave charities?  Does it make them redundant?  No. In the words of John Low, Chief Executive of Charities Aid Foundation, “Almost everyone… benefits from the work of a charity and the demand for their services and support shows no sign of abating.”

    [Source Image: Rogotanie/iStock]
    Charities exist for many reasons and will continue to, regardless–from the multi-issue global charities to those that are set up in memory of lost loved ones with a small, focused agenda, perhaps to fundraise for a hospital unit. “Purposeful” businesses will succeed most where profit and purpose align. We need them to create profit that allows society to prosper and for more good work to be done. The demand for the many services and support gaps that the charity sector fills now, will continue in years to come.

    A critical partner for advocacy and delivery

    We can only create the world we want for the future through collaboration with others. Where civil society, governments, companies and charities all come together, we make the most progress. We only have to look to the current plastics movement to see that. Something kick-started by the BBC’s Blue Planet series’ capture of the hearts and minds of the public is resulting in huge change; from the BBC immediately banning plastic cups and utensils before moving on to plastic containers in 2019 to the Queen giving up plastic all together. Changes in society’s appetite for plastics, driven by charities such as WRAP, WWW, and Greenpeace, are resulting in innovation in the field of plastic pollution and importantly, global giants changing their policies and approach to plastic.

    Charities are often the delivery partner for much of the good work that companies (and/or governments) want to do because they have the right skills, access and understanding of what works. For example, Virgin Group’s purpose is “changing business for good.” Virgin media aims to prove that digital makes good things happen–for people, businesses and communities across the UK and Ireland. As a digital infrastructure provider, they are enabling Scope’s new digital employment support service, with an ambition to reach one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020. This will help them get into work, stay in work and realize their career ambitions. The long term benefits of this activity are many; improving economic productivity, stigma busting, and fostering richer perspectives in the workplace.

    [Source Image: Rogotanie/iStock]

    A teacher of new skills

    As companies look to find their purpose, there are new skills they need to learn:

    Empathy: Companies, and many people within them, understand empathy, but it hasn’t necessarily been at the forefront of driving business success. Consumer-focused companies are always striving to understand what the customers want or need, how they think, what behaviors they demonstrate. This drives successful products. But empathy is also about sharing the feelings of another. What world (beyond your product) does the consumer want to see? How do they expect you as a company to act in order to create that world because you’re well placed to? Companies need to understand the issues facing society and the grass roots individuals blocked from achieving their potential by adversity every day, in order to truly understand what is needed to make change happen. They need to listen and empathize and empower those who know. The charity sector can teach companies to do non-commercial, non-judgemental listening.

    Movement/global campaigns: The nonprofit sector has traditionally been the heart of social change, giving voice to the voiceless and rights to those without. Companies have a history of successful campaigning and lobbying, often around economic agendas, but much less on driving the social agenda. Charities have long understood the need to collaborate and share a vision of a better world, how to work together and bring the necessary skills sets to the table. Advocacy and policy change for a better society are often their purpose. They are the experts.

    Helping the workforce to find meaning in work: It’s typically values based decisions that lead people to work in the charity sector. It’s hard work, but meaningful and where people get to live their own sense of purpose. Charities and those who work in the sector understand that. They suffer the low pay and unglamorous offices, take on the emotional burden of their work and continuously go the extra mile because it fulfills what drives them and moves one step closer to creating the world they want to see. Corporates want to unlock that purpose, discretionary effort, understanding of the right thing to do and the charity model can help them understand how to do that. For instance, telling stories about the “need,” closing the gap between employees and the people whose lives they aim to improve and understanding that the best workforces are also made up of the people in society that we want to enable.

    [Source Image: Rogotanie/iStock]

    A change of mindset

    However, for charities to operate successfully in the new purpose-led landscape, it will involve a change in mind-set with a focus on sharing long-term goals alongside corporate partners. This is the biggest opportunity; to see the corporate world not just as a funder or gift in kind provider, but as a genuine partner. Currently, many businesses look for “charity partner of the year” opportunities, which involves a beauty parade and staff vote with the most popular winning. These can be lucrative and help fundraising director breathe a massive sigh of relief about their targets. They raise awareness too, providing a critical route to marketing dollars that charities can’t afford. Charities also look for pro bono support to help them deliver infrastructure–it’s how the partnership between TV network BT and Comic Relief relationship started with the 1980’s the telethon. FTSE 100 businesses give around 2 billion pounds worth of money, time, gifts in kind and management services a year to charity.

    Many of the partnerships are driven by short term need. Charities struggle to imagine the long term; too often it’s an utter luxury given the firefighting every month. Pressures on funding as more and more income is restricted and state funding is drying up, are driving the exact opposite of what impact we want in society. It’s driving short-termism. The exact same disease that Larry Fink and others are trying to get the business world to move away from.

    So the opportunity for charities is to look for long term goals for society and work out who is best positioned to help achieve them. Share the vision with the business world–or even better create it with them. A world that works for us all needs all of us to sculpt it. Charities should ensure they have a seat at the table for those conversations and where they don’t, they should demand the seat or start a new table. Be brave and visionary and constructive enough to bite the hand that feeds you. The responsible business world should be asking you how to be more responsible.

    There is no first and second place for profit and purpose, the future demands that we drive for both, regardless of the sector. Perhaps we won’t even see the future in sectors: we’ll all be socially responsible enterprises. We need “more worthy” profit making entities and we need more long term, commercially thinking charities. We all have a role to play in building a sustainable society and the more we collaborate with each other, the greater the sense of purpose we can build throughout the entire world of work, unlocking individuals and organizations alike to build the society we want.


    Kate Adams is the operations director of Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre. She has spent half her career consulting in the private sector and half in the not-for-profit sector, including funders like Comic Relief and Nesta.  

    0 0

    Black Rock City, the temporary town that hosts Burning Man’s annual clusterf*ck of art, food, and parties, doesn’t just magically appear in the middle of the Nevada desert every year. Its planning and construction is a lot more mundane–and a lot more fun, according to a new mini-doc.

    In a new video, the San Francisco-based photographer and vlogger Shalaco follows the surveyors and builders who plan the city’s distinctive half-moon street grid.

    Everything starts with a quasi-magical-sounding element called the “Golden Spike,” which is hammered into the ground by the construction crew. That single point forms the basis for surveyors and workers who will lay out the radial grids of alleys that dictate where camps will be located.

    “You start your day on the Survey crew well before dawn, because when the heat of the day arrives, it becomes impossible to measure distances accurately because of the shimmering heat waves that emanate from the desert floor,” writes John Curley on the Burning Man Journal, where he’s documenting the survey process before Burning Man kicks off on August 26.

    [Image: Shalaco]
    A total of 21 surveyors live and sleep under the stars in a small, central camp that is always the very first structure of the city, encircling The Golden Spike, called the “Octagon” for its eight wooden walls. Then, over the course of the next week, they will lay down a 5.62-square-mile plan, drawing all the linear streets, the concentric circular streets, and the plots for the hundreds of camps that will be enjoyed by more than 65,000 visitors. As the surveyors complete their work, the rest of the 250-strong construction team begins the labor of laying down posts, fences, porta-potties, and other structures, like the Center Cafe or the Burning Man Commissary tent.

    Shalaco’s video, as well as Curley’s stories about this process, give a sense for an experience that’s nothing like the crowded, raucous event itself. Though the work is intense and the landscape is extreme, I kind of want to be there–building stuff, drinking beer under the sun, and sleeping under the stars. It seems a lot more fun than the actual festival.


    0 0

    Massey Morris: In the early stages of your career, you worked on a SWAT team. How did this experience build a foundation for your understanding of effective teams?

    Matt Sakaguchi: I was on an entry team, which meant that I relied heavily on the person in front of me, and the person behind me relied heavily on me. Our physical safety depended on each other and if we didn’t believe the other person could do their job, the whole thing would break down. We also had a unique leadership structure. For example, when our sergeant would come up with a plan he would always tell us by saying, “Here’s what I came up with, tell me what I missed.” That blew me away because instead of being told what to do, we were asked. So while physical danger had something to do with us being a tight-knit group, a lot of it had to do with the leadership.

    MM: You then transitioned your career into the tech industry. When you oversaw your first team at Google, how did you realize the team was not collaborating well?

    MS: I noticed that in meetings, some people would talk a lot and others wouldn’t talk at all. I knew it wasn’t just a personality thing because in one-on-one meetings they would talk and offer their ideas. I realized that when it came to peer groups, these individuals did not feel comfortable sharing. There was a lot of negativity around voicing ideas. Usually, if someone would present an idea, people on the team would comment on everything that was wrong with it and why it wouldn’t work. That also led to the theory that people didn’t want to speak up because they didn’t want to feel like their idea would be shut down.


    Related:These are the only meetings you should have for the next month


    MM: We’ve heard you mention that a team of all-stars doesn’t always lead to a championship performance. How so?

    MS: At Google, as is the case at many companies, you tend to hire the best and the brightest–and you should. But, if you don’t do any work on the team collaboration piece, you end up with a team of all-stars in performance mode. In performance mode, you don’t have the opportunity to learn because you feel like you are always on and can’t be vulnerable. At some point, you’re going to burn yourself out.

    With all-star teams, what also ends up happening is you have handpicked, cream of the crop people that don’t work well together. There are other key parts of building a team dynamic that leaders, or anyone on the team, should take note of.

    MM: Tell us about the “Project Aristotle” study at Google. What were the key findings of this study?

    MS: Everything we do at Google is data-driven. But when we looked at our metrics on teams, we found that they were all based on the experience of an individual. We were missing the teamwork aspect. Google embarked on a research project called “Project Aristotle” to find out what factors separate effective teams from the less effective teams. Over the course of two years Julia Rozovsky, who worked on the study, conducted over 200 interviews with 115 tech teams and about 85 sales pods. The researchers looked at all types of metrics and they found five things that stood out in order of importance.

    • Psychological safety. This is the idea that you can take a personal risk, and it won’t be held against you. You can make a mistake and won’t be ridiculed. That you can bring your whole self to work and be accepted.
    • Dependability. At Google, we have a very high standard of work. So, if I am collaborating on a project, I need to depend on my teammates to deliver that standard of work. Otherwise, I have to do everything myself. If you feel like you can’t depend on each other, that’s going to be a problem and you will have an undistributed amount of people on work.
    • Structure and Clarity. Not necessarily more, but enough. We found that when you add more structure and clarity to ineffective teams, meaning everyone understands their rules and responsibilities, their effectiveness increases. If you already have an effective team, adding more structure and clarity actually hinders effectiveness. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
    • Meaning. The job has to be meaningful to the person or to the company. You have to have a personal investment in the work or after a while, there’s no way you’re going to be a top contributor.
    • Impact. You want to be able to see the impact of what you’re doing. For example, if you’re on a sales team, you can see that you’re meeting quota. You want to be able to see the fruits of your labor.

    MM: After seeing the Project Aristotle research, how did you implement the necessary changes?

    MS: First, I gave my team a survey and took them to an offsite to discuss the results. I started with a sharing exercise, asking them to draw their life journey of how they got to where they are today with pictures only. I wanted it to be just like a resume, but more personal. So, I showed them my struggles. I have a huge health struggle of Stage 4 cancer, so I put that in there and explained the whole diagnosis. Each person after me opened up about their own experiences.

    My goal with that exercise was to see that once you hear what people have gone through, you can never look at them the same. You start seeing them as people first, not a co-worker who is making your job harder. At this new level of sharing, we were actually able to get some discussions going about how we can work better as a team. After about a month, the dynamics of the team had changed and it became one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with at Google.


    Related:These are the most important minutes of any meeting 


    MM: Oftentimes, leaders shy away from sharing their mistakes. Why is it important to admit your own fallibility?

    MS: As a manager, I model the behavior I want. At Google, we hire geniuses and they are all smarter than me. A lot of people won’t ask questions, but it’s easy for me, since I’m not an engineer, to ask for further explanation. Inevitably, when I ask a question in a larger group meeting, people will come up to me later and thank me for asking the question, because no one else wanted to.

    We also go through something I call “epic failures” where we all share failures that we’ve experienced and learned from. It allows people to see that we’re all human, we’re all fallible. There are certain things we’re good at and certain things we’re not–and that’s perfectly okay.

    MM: What is one important message you send to your team as a leader?

    MS: I will not email my team after working hours on the weekends. And it’s not because I’m not thinking about work, it’s because I don’t ever want to make them think they should be working on a Friday night. As a leader, you have to be cognizant of the little things that can affect your team.

    MM: How can leaders better evaluate the effectiveness of their teams?

    MS: If you need a mechanism to start the conversation on effectiveness with your team, there is a customizable survey on Google’s re:Work.com to get results similar to the ones I would have received on my team. You want to keep it to teams that work together, between 12 and 15 people, who are working collaboratively on a regular basis. You can customize and run different versions of the survey to see how it resonates with your company and track it over time.

    MM: What are two things leaders can do to build a psychologically safe environment?

    MS: The first thing is you need to be the one who is always championing being inclusive. The people on my team come from all different backgrounds, and I make sure to understand them and take this into consideration when I lead.

    The second thing is I insist that my team has work-life balance because while work is important, life is far more important than work. The time to do the things you love is right now. I will tell you that I would love to be able to ride my bike through Italy again, but I can’t do that anymore. So, I really try to instill in my folks that you’ve got one shot at this thing called life and you have to do those things that fulfill you. And they know I’m not just saying that, they know I really mean it.


    This article originally appeared on The Tory Burch Foundation and is reprinted with permission. 


    0 0

    Artificial intelligence isn’t known for its bedside manner, but that could be changing.

    In a paper published in Nature Medicine on Monday, Google’s DeepMind subsidiary, UCL, and researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital showed off their new AI system. The researchers used deep learning to create algorithm-driven software that can identify common patterns in data culled from dozens of common eye diseases from 3D scans. The result is an AI that can identify more than 50 diseases with incredible accuracy and can then refer patients to a specialist. Even more important, though, is that the AI can explain why a diagnosis was made, indicating which part of the scan prompted the outcome. It’s an important step in both medicine and in making AIs slightly more human.

    AIs typically work in a black box, absorbing data and spitting out an answer without spelling out the reasoning behind a certain outcome. That’s all well and good when an AI helps you cry at a movie or write a Yelp review, but when it comes to diagnosing medical conditions, patients (and doctors) would prefer a little more context.

    “Doctors and patients don’t want just a black box answer, they want to know why,” Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at MIT, told Stat. “There is a standard of care, and if the AI technique doesn’t follow that standard of care, people are going to be uncomfortable with it.”


    0 0

    We’re living in the era of VC-backed everything. These days, it can feel like every new startup is raising seven figures, or working toward a seed, A, B, or C round. To make a cheesy analogy, investors are the new black, and everyone is getting in on the million-dollar action and billion-dollar evaluations.

    As a business owner, I can tell you that those million-dollar investments aren’t the norm. For most of us (82%, according to a 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Report), that money comes from our family and friends, or out of our own pockets. And while some entrepreneurs might have access to million-dollar funding outside of venture capital, the majority of us don’t fit into that bucket.

    I’ve started two self-funded companies–one of which was eventually acquired–and one of the things I realized is that we don’t often get the notoriety of venture-backed companies. As a result, it’s easy to feel alone–even though we’re technically the majority. In my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve learned a few lessons that kept me sane during the uncertain (and lonely) times that come with starting something from scratch.

    1) I embraced getting my hands dirty

    When you’re a founder of a self-funded business (and your business is running on a not-so-large budget) you need to be an operator–at least at the beginning. It’s usually not wise to hire a large executive team and throw money at every problem. At various points, I’ve been the HR, finance, account manager, the coffee maker, and the deal-closer.

    Of course, when my company got to a point when we had the necessary momentum (and I needed to focus on scaling and growing the business rather than on entry-level, time consuming tasks), I started hiring. But I waited until my business saw more money coming in than what it was bleeding out. After all, I didn’t have the luxury of relying on a third-party for cash injection–it was all up to me to bring money to the company.


    Related:Your 90-day plan to becoming an entrepreneur 


    2) I hired employees who were entrepreneurially minded

    I discovered early on just how much of a roller-coaster starting a business can be. This means that you need to have a team around you to lean on. But you can’t have just anyone. You need to identify what kind of roles you need to fill to move your business forward, and be brutally honest about the kind of individuals who can fill those spots. Often, this requires you to look beyond pedigree and resumes.

    One of my first hires at my company was a Harvard grad (check), with internships at great companies (check) and a professional network in the Los Angeles area (check, check, check). She turned out to be a slow and methodical worker and a perfectionist. To be clear, these are not bad qualities to have–in fact, in some companies, they would be valuable assets. But at my fast-paced startup, one of our key differentiators was being nimble, quick, and accessible to our clients. At times, it was more critical for us to get something out the door rather than spend additional hours (or days) perfecting it.

    My second employee was a state school grad who majored in English. Compared to the Harvard grad, her credentials didn’t look that impressive on paper. But it turned out that her fire, hustle, and eagerness was precisely what I needed, and she quickly became one of my most significant assets, and continued to be for over four years.

    When your business is in its early stages, you need to hire employees with an entrepreneurial spirit. Look for someone who is not afraid to wear many hats, who doesn’t believe that any task is beneath them, and who isn’t counting down the hours until 5 p.m. or their next vacation. You will face many struggles–but they’re easier to bear when you have someone who is experiencing them with you.


    Related:This Nordic company’s four secrets to hiring (and keeping) great talent 


    3) I learned to be comfortable making less than what I made at my previous full-time jobs

    Making less money is obviously not fun. But, when you’re trying to get a self-funded company off the ground–you’ll find that all of your blood, sweat, tears (and cold hard cash) will go into making the business work, especially in year one.

    When I became an entrepreneur–I had to pay myself significantly less than what I was earning in my corporate jobs. Fortunately, I was able to cover my day-to-day expenses, but I had to put aside life’s little luxuries on hold as I focused on growing my company.


    Related:Why this tech CEO keeps hiring humanities major 


    4) I taught myself how to be resilient

    Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is that being an entrepreneur of any kind requires resiliency. I learned this the hard way–from losing friends and clients, breaking up with a business partner to fighting for money I was owed (but not paid).

    When you’re in charge, these types of situations are inevitable. As a small self-funded business owner–you often need to take the brunt of every issue because you don’t have the luxury of an expensive legal team to back you up. Sometimes, your team will make mistakes–but you’ll end up paying the price. When it’s your business, this is a feeling that you just have to get used to.

    Starting a self-funded business–and seeing it grow–has been an exhilarating and rewarding process, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. But as my experience reveals–it’s been far from smooth sailing. If you’re a small, self-funded business owner–just remember that you’re not alone in your journey. These four lessons have helped me through my crazy ride, and they might help with yours too.


    Jaclyn Johnson is the CEO and founder of Create & Cultivate, and author of WorkParty


    0 0

    Twenty-five years ago this year, Disney Theatrical Productions launched in advance of its first project, Beauty & the Beast, which debuted on Broadway in 1994. The stage show breathed new life into the Walt Disney Company’s live-entertainment efforts, kicking off a decades-long string of popular musicals from The Lion King and Newsies to the more recent Frozen.

    Not all of its shows have gone the distance (Tarzan was a notable, um, swing and miss), but Disney has a pretty good track record of producing crowd-pleasing shows that run for years. The Lion King, which has been on the boards since 1997, has the distinction of being the highest-grossing Broadway show of all time, grossing about $2 million a week.

    Andrew Flatt [Photo: courtesy of Disney Theatrical Productions]
    It’s tempting to write off this success as a natural byproduct of the Disney hype machine and its virtually endless resources and brand equity. That’s obviously a big part of it–these musicals are all based on popular movies with built-in audiences, after all. But if you think it’s easy to create long-running stage shows on IP muscle alone, just ask Viacom’s Nickelodeon, whose first foray into Broadway–last season’s SpongeBob SquarePants musical–has already posted a closing date, despite earning 12 Tony nominations.

    Filling theater seats is hard. On any given week, Disney’s shows are facing off against the likes of WickedAnastasia, or Harry Potter, all of which compete heavily for the attention and dollars of tourists seeking family-friendly fare.

    To hedge its bets, Disney Theatrical has been increasingly trying to reach those audiences where they live–on social media and video sites like YouTube. As one example, Disney Theatrical ventured into VR in 2015, producing a 360 video of the Lion King’s legendary opening number. The experiment marked the first time a musical number was captured in VR in a Broadway theater.

    For Frozen, the company got even more aggressive, releasing 10 major pieces of related video content in the show’s first nine months–a strategy that attracted more than 30 million views across Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, according to Disney.

    Those are impressive numbers, but does any of this actually get people off their phones and into theaters? Andrew Flatt, the Disney Theatrical senior vice president who oversees marketing, says yes. Flatt recently spoke with Fast Company from his office over Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre about how viral videos and social marketing factor into Disney’s efforts to entice theatergoers.

    Below is an excerpt from our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

    Fast Company: If you read the Disney earnings reports, as I do almost religiously when they come out every quarter, you don’t see a whole lot about Disney Theatrical. You’ll see how the movies performed, and you’ll get broad numbers. But you guys are kind of like this hidden world.

    Andrew Flatt: Some of that is a reflection of the fact that we are a fairly consistent contributor to the overall piece of the studio pie. Once our shows are up and running, it tends to be perceived anyway, as a maintenance type of product. For us, we’re working on it eight shows a week to make sure that our audiences are full, but from the studio or the larger company point of view, there are eight, nine, 10 films a year that premiere, versus something like Frozen, which premiered on Broadway this year and is the first thing that we’ve opened on Broadway in almost five years. So 99% of our business is maintenance.

    FC: Getting into the multi-media stuff and some of the videos that you guys have produced, how does that type of media benefit Disney Theatrical, given that it is somewhat self-sustaining? Was there a certain line of thinking that you or someone else came to where you said, ‘This is what we need to be doing more of to attract a certain audience?’

    AF: Over the last five or six years, we’ve sort of evolved our thinking in terms of what substantiates the overall marketing mix. As consumers continue to absorb media in lots of different ways, we as marketers are having to come up with interesting and innovative ways to fill those new spaces that are being developed at any given time. I can’t imagine a universe where we will 100% go away from traditional types of media like billboards in the middle of Times Square. Part of what we’ve had to do is figure out where things like video content play a part in the overall marketing storytelling that needs to take place to continue to excite theater goers and inspire them to purchase tickets to see our shows.

    FC: So you said about five years ago. What were some of the early projects that you put on video?

    AF: I’ll be honest with you. Five years ago, our strategy was a bit more of a develop-a-strategy-as-you-go. As an organization, we needed to catch up with where consumers were already going in terms of self-generating their own content. So some of the early signs that led us to think differently about content strategy were actually videos that came out of cast members of our shows. I’m not sure if you’re familiar will the “Lion King on a plane” video?

    FC: No, I’ll have to look that up. Sounds awesome.

    AF: Our company of actors of the Lion King in Australia were moving from one city to another … and spontaneously, as they were sitting on an airplane, they all started singing “Circle of Life,” and one of those company members had the very, very smart forethought to start filming it. This was completely spontaneous, and it was not planned. That cast member, in turn, posted the video and it became a huge viral sensation. At this point … there’s 41 million views of that video, which is remarkable. So that was an early one.

    FC: Did your video strategy take any convincing? Because I’ve talked to old-school people in the business who still resist the idea of putting too much on YouTube or some other platform. You know, you’re not really getting paid for it being on YouTube, and you can’t really show a definitive return in that sense. But the other side of the argument, obviously, is that it’s good publicity, and it gets people thinking about the show and maybe going to see it when they’re in New York or wherever it’s playing.

    AF: The very clear answer to that question is, yes, there was some early resistance and some folks who needed reassurance–especially for a company like Disney that, historically, has been so precious about its brand, and about the content, and the IP itself. The ability to be able to go behind the curtain a little bit and reveal a bit was a bit of trial and error on our part. It took a collective effort to become comfortable with the notion of what is acceptable.

    FC: So now we fast forward a little to the Lion King video in 2015, the first 360 video. You basically put the whole opening number online.

    AF: That was a real strategic conversation about trying to be the first to market with something that we knew would break new ground. At that point in the Lion King’s life, to be able to get in front of new audiences and younger audiences and feel relevant–just the fact that something that’s been around for 20 years would do something in the 360 space, which in turn would open up publicity opportunities in media that would never even have thought of The Lion King as a part of its storytelling. Just the fact that we had intersected this archaic theatrical art form with a very of-the-moment piece of technology became a very appealing part of it for us.

    FC: How do you show results for something like this? Is there a way to show that this kind of stuff actually gets people into the theaters?

    AF: In the big picture, there’s not a specific means for us to be able to immediately track–someone has to see the video and track that person all the way through the purchase process. We don’t have that. But what we do have is … something that’s evolved over time and we’re really in the thick of at this moment. Upwards of 28 million people have seen our Frozen Tony Awards performance somewhere online. That 28 million has opened up a substantial retargeting pool for us to be able to, in turn, go back and serve advertising that they can then click through to purchase to see the show.


    0 0

    ClassPass is thinking way beyond your next workout or massage.

    The membership service announced today that members can soon book mini-vacations and “experiential events” on its wildly popular platform. Dubbed “Getaways,”the new feature relies on ClassPass credits to book day-long wellness experiences that will range from workouts to self-care services, in collaboration with boutique gyms and well-known spas.

    There’s certainly money to be made in this sector: Wellness travel, defined as vacationing while enhancing or maintaining one’s physical, mental, or spiritual well-being, is now a $563 billion global industry. The Global Wellness Institute reports that while overall tourism is growing at 6.9%, the wellness tourism sector grew 14% in the last two years and is now one of the fastest-growing tourism markets.

    That’s partially because Americans are so stressed and vacation-deprived, they need something more than just a beach and margarita.

    “There is no end to work. You’re constantly stressed,” Beth McGroarty, research director at the Global Wellness Institute, previously told Fast Company.“It’s pushing people to want vacations that are restorative and actually make them feel better. They desperately need it.”

    While female travelers increasingly use their time off to reignite their health pursuits, many millennials seem to prefer the fitness retreat model. In a survey of nearly 5,000 Well+Good readers: 40% of respondents reported they’d rather go on a fitness retreat with their favorite instructor than attend a five-star resort like the esteemed Miraval in Arizona. (The findings were on par with a recent study conducted by SpaFinder).

    [Image: courtesy of ClassPass]
    The first ClassPass Getaway location will be revealed on August 29, with members able to book the vacation seven days prior to the event. The latest feature comes just weeks after the company announced it raised $85 million in series D financing, totaling $255 million raised.

    “At ClassPass we aim to provide stepping stones toward an active and inspired lifestyle, and ClassPass Getaways will do just that,” said ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia in a statement. “We’re thrilled to give members the opportunity to take a mini-escape from their day-to-day to try new things and explore unfamiliar places. It’s our hope that attendees will leave feeling energized and empowered to continue living life to their absolute fullest.”


    0 0

    Almost a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s already precarious infrastructure, Puerto Rico’s sole provider of electricity says power has been returned to all homes, although the reality may be more complicated.

    The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has been working since last September to restore power to the 1.5 million residents who lost electricity from Hurricane Maria. PREPA tweeted an image as it returned electricity to the final customer, a family in a rural area in the island’s south. A PREPA engineer told ABC News that bringing power to the rural area took “more than two weeks working to make roads and excavators bringing and raising electrical poles.”

    The blackout was one of the largest ever and it cost more than $3 billion to restore power to the island, money PREPA can not afford as the company is bankrupt and about $9 billion in debt. In January, Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced plans to sell the company, which has had five CEOs in the 11 months since Hurricane Maria. The most recent CEO, Rafael Diaz-Granados, and five of seven board members resigned in protest after Rosselló blasted the board for approving a $750,000 a year salary for Diaz-Granados.

    While great strides have been made to restore power to the island, some Puerto Ricans say PREPA’s claim that electricity has been restored across the island are not true. Residents in El Yunque National Forest, in the island’s northeast, told CNN that power has yet to be restored due to struggles between the U.S. Forest Service and PREPA.


    0 0

    Did you think Aerosmith would really lose its tour bus forever? Dream on.

    Recently, the hosts of the hit History Channel show American Pickerswalked this way to track down the legendary band’s original tour van, which disappeared in New England in the early 1970s. Because they didn’t want to miss a thing, the hosts were thorough, and they ended up coming across the van in a forest in Chesterfield, in Western Massachusetts. While the rusted, 1964 International Harvester Metro may be too decrepit at this point for the band to actually get back in the saddle again, its appearance has solved a long-standing mystery.

    The woodland property’s owner, identified only as Phil, told American Pickers hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz that the vehicle was already there, on permanent vacation, when he bought the land. Although the previous owner was affiliated with the band, the Pickers pumped him for information and found he was unable to confirm the van’s authenticity. For a while, it seemed the hosts were livin’ on the edge of getting closure. Finally, a game of phone tag that included Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, reached original Aerosmith member Ray Tabano, who helped the search reach its crazy conclusion. Once on the other side of this mystery, Aerosmith purchased the van from Phil for $25,000.

    The band may have once been cryin’ over their lost vehicle, but now it’s safe to say they are feeling sweet emotion. Truly, it’s a wonderful time to be honkin’ on bobo. (Okay, that last one made no sense.)


    0 0

    Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation featuring filmmaker and director Lauren Greenfield on Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, GooglePlay, or Stitcher.


    Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has been carefully examining worlds of excess, wealth, and addiction for more than two decades. Her 2006 documentary Thin took a harrowing look at young girls getting treatment at an anorexia and bulimia clinic. Her 2012 breakout hit The Queen of Versailles documented timeshare tycoon David Siegel and his wife Jackie as they were building what would’ve been the largest house in America had the country not slid into an economic free fall in 2008. Greenfield’s latest documentary, Generation Wealth, blends together much of her past photography and film work for a telling portrait of where society is headed–and the future isn’t looking too bright.

    “I started to think that maybe the work I had done since the early ’90s told a bigger story about how our culture had changed, and how the American dream had changed,” Greenfield said in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation. “How we have gone from a dream characterized by hard work and frugality and discipline, to a dream that was more about bling and celebrity and narcissism. And I started going back to the work and trying to connect the dots. What did it mean about us?”

    In the process of dissecting this new version of the American Dream, Greenfield turned the camera on herself for the first time in her career, creating what she calls her most personal and ambitious project she’s ever done.

    Below are some highlights from the episode:

    [Photo: courtesy of Lauren Greenfield/Amazon Studios]

    The empathic power of film

    “I started this by doing a book actually with no intention of making a film. And I really wanted to make the film, eventually, for a couple reasons. One was I wanted to be more emotional and empathic. When I’m doing the work, I really love the subjects. I really am affected by their highs and lows, and in this film there are a lot of tragic moments and I wanted the audience to feel that too. There’s something about photography that kind of keeps you on the surface and can be more of voyeuristic and less empathic. And I think for this project, it was really important for me that people can see themselves also in the characters, no matter how extreme they might be.”

    [Photo: courtesy of Lauren Greenfield/Amazon Studios]

    Gaining insight by losing objectivity

    “I really wanted to show how we’re all complicit in this story, and this isn’t about a bad guy over there. I also really want people to be able to stand in the shoes of the subjects and see that I’m not being judgmental and not pointing the finger. My work has always been about kind of what makes us tick and why people make the decisions they do. And what are the influences that are playing upon them.”

    [Photo: courtesy of Lauren Greenfield/Amazon Studios]

    How “wealth” is being redefined

    “By the end of it I realized that wealth wasn’t just about money. It was about fake it till you make it–posing as having it in a way that was as important as having it. It was about the currency of beauty, the currency of youth, the currency of sexuality, the currency of fame. And so each character’s story tells a different piece of that.”

    Subscribe to Creative Conversation and Fast Company‘s other podcast Secrets of the Most Productive People wherever you get your podcasts.


    0 0

    The Acceptable Ads Committee–the organization started by the parent company of Adblock Plus to determine which ads could be whitelisted–has released a new list of mobile ads it considers acceptable. The organization wrote a blog post two weeks ago, largely unnoticed until today, that detailed the criteria.

    Here’s a rundown of what it’s deemed worthy of whitelisting:

    • For static ads: Both 6×1 banners and 1×1 tiles without animations can be placed anywhere on a mobile site. The former are small, rectangular banners and the latter are larger square ones.
    • For sticky ads: Small ads that are 6×1 or smaller are allowed at the bottom of the screen–meaning any small banner can remain stuck to the bottom of the device. Any other formats, the post says, are “not allowed to stick.” These sticky ads are not allowed to take up more than 15% of the screen height, and must have an “easily-identifiable closing mechanism.”
    • For large ads: They can only be placed under the entire content. These are usually the big-tiled ones that feature content link-outs to other websites. The AAC adds that no ad can be taller than 100% of the screen height.
    • Ads that are on the “scrollable portion of the website,” that are either inside the main content or before it, cannot take up more than 50% of the page’s view.

    For the most part, these seem like pretty reasonable mobile ad standards. The organization has been deliberating over these criteria for a while. Now they’ve finally been decided. The post says that the next step is Adblock Plus beginning to incorporate these standards into its whitelist.

    You can read the full post here.


    0 0

    Mel Magazine, the publication extension of the Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club, is a website that defies definition, at least for me. It’s clearly aimed at men–its parent company has become almost a punchline of what it means to be an irreverently straight guy in America–but Mel’s editorial tone is not that of its overlord, and it doesn’t publish the usual stuff you’d imagine from a male lifestyle rag.

    On the contrary, Mel’s coverage spans the map. One 2016 piece, written by a trans person, interrogated what it means to perform masculinity, and another, this one from last year, asked the uncomfortable question of what it means to cover men’s issues in the age of #MeToo. Last month, it published a hard-hitting, first-person chronicle of a man hiring a coach to help make his penis bigger, while a recent explainer dove deep into how someone can cop a “trashy yet vibrant beach dirtbag look.” It’s as much a culture destination as it is a men’s-only website.

    Mel is not a sponsored content outfit, and everyone who works on the project wants to make that abundantly clear. Dollar Shave has its own separate original content program, which springboard’s off the company’s signature visual and voice aesthetic of humorous hypermasculinity masquerading as self-confidence. (Although Mel’s articles are frequently featured on DSC’s Original Content’s website.) Because Mel is an extension of this brand, which is owned by a $163 billion behemoth, questions about sustainability are out the window for the site (at least for the time being). Yet this brings up a slew of other more nebulous quandaries. I recently told a friend of mine I was writing about Mel, and they responded without a beat: “Oh, they’re spon con.” Someone else said, “it’s like The Wing, but for men.” Another had the opposite reaction, pointing to the interesting stories the site has been publishing of late, describing Mel as one of the best internet culture websites currently online.

    Spon-con or not, Mel’s model relies upon being a branded publisher. Unilever, one of the top five largest consumer goods companies in the world, purchased Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion. The parent company spent over $8.5 billion in 2017 on marketing alone. Mel lives quietly as a probably rarely accounted for blip inside that; It’s supposedly brand-building for Dollar Shave Club–members are mailed a physical magazine of Mel content as part of their subscription–while maintaining independence.

    How do Dollar Shave Club and Mel coexist to bring each other value? And does Mel’s innate reliance on its parent company present some bizarre new model for an endlessly troubled media industry? I recently chatted with top editors at the magazine, as well as Dollar Shave Club’s CEO, Michael Dubin, who described the publication’s future plans, as well as how it sees itself existing in the current media landscape.

    Mel has been around for over three years now, and it’s now ready to expand. With the continued blessing of its parent company, Mel is growing–hitting new traffic records, building its editorial team, and abandoning Medium, the publishing platform it’s been on since it launched.

    “We’re trying to do something different,” editor-in-chief Josh Schollmeyer tells me. This has paid off, he says. Over the last 10 months, traffic has grown consistently, in July hitting a record of 2.8 million unique visitors–about twice what it consistently attracted less than a year ago. “We’ve been growing at a steady increase since basically last summer.”

    The reason why Mel continues is because it learned to walk before it could run. It’s a “brick-by-brick approach,” Schollmeyer says. And now Mel is ready to build out the entire mansion.


    Mel first began in 2015 as a newsletter. “Twice a week we would send you an article,” explains Schollmeyer. He was hired by Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin to help build out a nebulous editorial project. Dubin had told him during their early conversations that he wanted an “Esquire meets Vice.”

    Schollmeyer was coming from Playboy, where he describes himself as the “change agent.” At that men’s outfit, he tried to build out the magazine’s digital presence. One project involved putting content on Gawker’s publishing software Kinja. This was an attempt to increase audience by using third-party platforms. At the time, Playboy was considered Kinja’s biggest customer. Schollmeyer calls it “one of the most fruitful” partnerships the magazine had done. “You can reach a lot of audience,” he says. But in 2014, as soon as Schollmeyer left the magazine, Playboydecided to end its Kinja partnership in an effort to centralize all its content to its Playboy.com website.

    For Schollmeyer, the idea of using someone else’s platform stuck with him. Thus, as he hired a team of writers in 2014 and figured out what Mel would ultimately become, he kept an eye out for other, similar programs to Kinja. Third-party publishing platforms, he says, “seemed like a good model if you wanted to launch something.” In Medium’s early days, “I thought there was something they could bring in terms of scale.” During this era of the Ev Williams-founded company, the plan was to try and grow a publishing engine with as many players as possible.

    “It seemed like an interesting place to incubate something,” says Schollmeyer. “It was going to have built-in audiences.”

    But that’s not what happened. “It just never got there,” he says. Perhaps it couldn’t get enough people to use it, or it was possibly that how people interfaced with the web changed drastically from 2015 to 2017, or maybe it was because Medium’s vision changed seemingly by the day. Whatever it was, Mel–along with pretty much every other publisher who signed on to work with it–never realized the vision they were pitched. On Kinja, Schollmeyer was able to publish a post and then use the network of other publishers to share it. On Medium, no dice. The promised built-in audience was nonexistent, and the platform’s one-size-fits-all architecture made it difficult to be both ambitious and differentiated. “The myriad editorial brands there couldn’t help each other out in the same way,” he writes to me a follow-up email.

    “In a lot of ways we’ve had to actively work around Medium’s shortcomings,” says Schollmeyer. “I think we just outgrew the platform.”

    Thus, for the last few months, Schollmeyer and his team have been plotting a move off the platform. It follows a years-long exodus of a bunch of websites, including The Ringer, Pacific Standard, and the now-defunct Awl. He sees this as an indication of a tectonic shift in how people find stories online. “It feels fine to be on our own,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where the content lives.” The publisher is now working with the design studio Postlight–which has helped build sites for big names like Vice and Bloomberg–to make a true Mel-only destination. The new site will launch in a few months.

    With this change comes a ramping up of talent. Mel just hired a new editor to build out its east coast bureau, as well as put a call out for part-time writers. Deputy editor Alana Levinson has been put in charge of a new investigations-focused editorial unit; it just published its first bonafide investigative deep dive, which looked into attractive ISIS soldiers wooing young women.

    But Schollmeyer insists that despite this new growth, the site has remained relatively the same. “The heartbeat, or north star, never changed much,” he says. Mel has always wanted to be a place that talks about stuff related to men, but not necessarily manly stuff–“a different men’s publication that was much more intellectually curious than it necessarily was consumer-based.” It wasn’t even other men’s publications that caught his eye as innovative, or what he wanted to improve upon, but the braver, smarter women’s ones. Says Schollmeyer, “I was really jealous of Jezebel, and The Hairpin, and Broadly. We really wanted to replicate that.”

    Part of his plan for the last few years was to grow slowly. Given Mel was being bankrolled by a brand, it was afforded this kind of luxury. Levinson explains that the publication’s strategy has been to slowly figure things out. “Having worked at a lot of digital media startups,” she says–which include Fusion and even Medium, the very company Mel is forgoing–they’ve all “grown super quickly and thrown insane amounts of money.” Mel, in its attempt to evolve over the last year-plus, has tried to “basically not do that.”


    While it’s true that it takes a lot of patience to grow, it’s also taken a lot of money. On Medium, Mel doesn’t host ads, and this new site doesn’t plan to do that either. Michael Dubin, Dollar Shave Club’s CEO, says he has always envisioned an independent content extension of his company. Before striking it big as a grooming entrepreneur, Dubin worked as a page at NBC, which turned into other roles at MSNBC.

    “I have a background in the content business to some degree,” he tells me. After his lowly page days, which turned into production PA work, Dubin entered the world of media marketing, working for places like Time and Sports Illustrated. Yes, he hails from a media background, but marketing is just as ingrained in his professional DNA as journalism.

    For Dubin, he sees Mel–or any content arm for a brand–as a way to “develop a deeper connection with its customer base, or member base in our case.” He also describes Mel’s contribution as not something monetary, but perhaps philosophical. “We are hoping to make a meaningful contribution to the evolution of men,” he says. That includes helping guys learn better grooming practices, say with Dollar Shave Club equipment they can buy at DollarShaveClub.com, but it also includes exposing these now-enlightened Dollar Shave Club-loving men to new ideas and concepts that make them even more open-minded and sophisticated.

    “Dollar Shave Club’s mission is to help guys take care of their minds and bodies so they can be their best selves,” says Dubin, always selling. He admits that his company is on a mission to build branded content that will help sell its products, but Mel is different from that–there’s Mel and there’s Dollar Shave Club Original Content (which some Mel employees do work on, but not all). “Those two entities are different vehicles driving that mission,” Dubin explains.

    But that glides over the big question of how Mel is expected to survive. Dubin proudly proclaims that Mel does not host ads, while saying in the same breath that the website is not intended to sell his products. There are other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to judge success, he tells me. (During our conversation, Dubin brings up the KPI acronym probably a half dozen times.)

    They are, as follows:

    1. Do Dollar Shave Club’s members value the inclusion of Mel‘s content as a part of their membership?
    2. Is the overall Dollar Shave Club content team able to produce sufficient content and quality for Dollar Shave Club Original Content, its branded content channel?
    3. Is Mel’s viewership and readership growing, and is the critical reception growing as well?

    In short, as long as the sponsored content part of Dollar Shave Club is healthy–which is separate from Mel, but, yes, there’s still a bit of overlap–Dubin is happy keeping Mel along for the ride. “We are building a sustainable alternative model to supporting a strong content brand,” he concludes.

    Which is to say that Mel is an independent editorial brand living under a branded content ecosystem umbrella. It’s a sebaceous cyst living inside a bigger animal that doesn’t much mind it–maybe the slight protrusion gives it character–but the object is still dependent on its host to survive.

    For Dubin, one of the big things Mel help does to the overall industry is demystify branded content. While he’s quick to explain that the publication doesn’t produce it, he still bemoans the stigma associated with the word pairing. “I think that branded content has always had a little bit of a negative connotation,” he says. “It’s maybe even a dirty word for a lot of people who think of themselves as strong editors, strong writers, strong journalists.”

    The editorial team agrees. “There are so many misconceptions about branded content and journalism and the way that they interact,” says Levinson. “I can tell you that the places that hardcore journalists think of as being totally separate would have [writers pursuing projects] that are going to have huge banner ads, and it’s going to say “Sponsored by X”–and they’re not going to be even told that.”

    Mel, however, thinks it’s figured this out. Says the CEO, “It’s really hard to build a thriving content team–and I think what we’ve been able to achieve here is that.”

    This is a revolutionary concept to Dubin. During our conversation, I try to understand how a supposedly independent media brand doesn’t have to think about, well, making money. “You use the words ‘monetization’ and ‘driving revenue,’ ” he says (it’s true! I do!), “but that’s the traditional model.” I simply need to dispel myself of this headspace–one that has dictated every job I’ve ever had in this industry.


    Over the years, Mel has published longer, deeply reported pieces about myriad topics that wouldn’t necessarily make the cover GQ or Esquire, yet its ownership schema still comes with baggage. It’s been seen as one of those fly-by-night websites started by the whim of someone with deep pockets, an outlet that may be around for now but could leave at anytime–all the while secretly serving the needs of its funder.

    And not without cause: Many of these branded media projects have been known to go by the wayside–Uber has launched and re-launched a few magazine projects; Casper had a sleep-focused media site for a while; Snapchat has a little-remembered (but still publishing!) blog, Real Life, that puts a liberal arts-y lit crit lens on technology questions.

    Media, likely because it’s volatile and generally unprofitable, is a bizarre industry where a publication’s business posture and cultural cachet is just as important as the actual content it produces. If a site gets a bad rap, it will take a long trudge to re-earn the trust of the critics in the wings (e.g. Newsweek, which has lost all trust and seems to be be considered a lost cause in media), and it will likely involve a complete rebranding along with the hiring of someone considered an industry savior. Over drinks or on Twitter, we media folks love to talk about how stupid our decision to work in this industry is, and how the hope of a sustainable company–just one, any–is diminishing with each passing day.

    And then we have Mel, which represents a media outlet suspiciously owned by an insanely large global brand. And it doesn’t seem to give a shit.

    With this latest chapter, that’s what Mel intends to do: grow, take more risks, not care. For Schollmeyer, this is precisely what he’s been trying to do for the last three years. The site has a distinct voice and a deep reserve of good writers who expand upon it. Mel is ready to interrogate masculinity in new and different ways, and hopefully attract more eyeballs along the way.

    Schollmeyer is thankful that Dollar Shave Club has given him this opportunity. “I have the most editorial freedom here than I’ve ever had in my life.” Mel has grown incrementally in an attempt to maintain its individuality and ability to subsist alongside the engines that keep it afloat. This model, he says, “really works for us–what that means for everyone else, I don’t know. Mike and I have been at this for four years.”

    And, of course, things could change. Just like advertisers may drop off, video impressions may plummet, things always change. “I’m not saying that our model won’t evolve,” says Dubin, “It will evolve over time. Right now, those KPIs are how we’re thinking about it.” Which is to say that so long as Dollar Shave Club continues growing and selling and being viewed as a favorable Unilever acquisition, the model is fine.

    After that, who knows?


    0 0

    What: An incendiary concert poster depicting a burned-down White House.

    Who: Pearl Jam.

    Why we care: Usually, the only time dead presidents make a cameo on concert posters is when those posters are graced with the image of dollar bills. Not so with the latest from Pearl Jam. When the venerable band staged a concert to benefit Democratic Senator Jon Tester on Monday, they promoted the show with an especially inflammatory image. Created by bassist Jeff Ament and artist Bobby Draws Skullz, the poster depicts the White House, along with other classic D.C. landmarks, ravaged by flames. Furthermore, a close read reveals a man who may be intended to represent President Donald J. Trump dead, on the ground, being worked over by a vulture-like bald eagle. If you can even believe it, this is not the first time the band has spoken out against this president. Stand back, Jim Carrey, there’s a new artistic polemicist in town.

    Have a look below at the image Fox News has deemed outrage-sparking.


    0 0

    Another day, another update on the drama surrounding Tesla. Citing sources, Fox Business reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed Tesla over tweets from CEO Elon Musk in which he said he had secured funding to take the company private.

    The reported subpoena from the SEC marks the beginning of a formal investigation into Tesla. The company’s stock is down nearly 3% as of this writing.

    ICYMI: On August 7, Musk tweeted that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share, “funding secured.” The tweet followed news that a Saudi investment fund had acquired a minority share in the business. That day, Tesla’s stock jumped up 11%. Since then questions have arisen about both the seriousness of the claim (one that Musk has stuck to despite evidence to the contrary) and whether Musk was intentionally trying to juice Tesla’s stock (thus thwarting short sellers).

    The following day, the SEC reached out to Tesla, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    Musk has since revealed vague plans to go private, mentioned that the Saudi fund might be interested in such a deal, and announced the formation of a special board committee to consider taking Tesla private, but no term sheet has emerged.

    The Saudi fund has still not commented on the matter.

    In the meantime, Tesla’s board is trying to mitigate the damage, according to the New York Times. Their first new rule for Musk? No more tweeting.


    0 0

    Across the small cities and towns across upstate New York, vacant and blighted buildings sit amid rows of residential homes and interrupt commercial corridors. Albany counts over 1,000 vacant properties, and Newburgh, a small city of 30,000 people on the Hudson River, has over 750.

    In regions struggling with economic stagnation–in many cases, like these towns, in the aftermath of an industrial bust–widespread vacancy only compounds the issues they’re confronting. Abandoned space gives the impression of disinvestment, which makes it difficult for cities to actually attract the investment they need to revive. And blighted homes create barriers to welcoming new residents, which would also help jump-start their economic engines.

    Addressing blight could be an avenue for cities like Albany and Newburgh to jump start their revival from the inside out. Recognizing this, New York’s former attorney general Eric Schneiderman (who vacated the office earlier this year amid charges of sexual misconduct) introduced a program in 2016 that would enable them to do so. Called Neighbors for Neighborhoods, the $4 million program, financed by a settlement paid by banks associated with the foreclosure crisis of 2008, helps people acquire vacant properties to rehabilitate and rent out as affordable units.

    [Photo: Flickr user Zach]

    In 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo authorized the creation of 25 local community land banks across the state. These land banks are nonprofits that acquire vacant, abandoned, foreclosed, or tax-delinquent properties, ideally to productively repurpose them. But land banks, like the one in Newburgh, often struggle with accessing funds to carry out rehabilitation of the properties under their control. Neighbors for Neighborhoods, which is administered by Enterprise Community Partners helps locals overcome some of those financial barriers. In Newburgh, according to Next City, the program has helped finance three redevelopment projects, and Rochester expects that five properties will be revived under this current round of funding.

    It may not seem like a lot, especially considering the widespread vacancy crisis in towns like those in upstate New York, but the program operates at an intentionally small scale to encourage considerate, sustainable development. Projects financed under Neighbors to Neighborhoods are intended to create rental properties of no more than four units, which have to be leased out at rates that are affordable to people making at or below 80% of the area median income. The person who decides to buy up and lease the property has to live near it, and can’t own more than two other rental properties already.

    These regulations are in place to ensure that the program functions at an equitable, hyperlocal level. The goal of the program was to develop some affordable rental housing in struggling neighborhoods and build local wealth at the same time, Elizabeth Zeldin, senior program director at Enterprise Community Partners, told Next City.

    People who buy and rehabilitate the properties with program funding will be able to bring in some extra income, but because the units have to be rented out at affordable rates, they won’t make a killing. And the restriction on the number of properties an owner can control ensure that a monopoly on ownership can’t take hold in a city.

    Neighbors to Neighborhoods also acts as a corollary to other state-funded affordable housing initiatives currently rolling out across New York. Last year, for instance, the state announced a $3.5 million grant–also funded through settlements reached by Schneiderman and administered through Enterprise Community Partners–to finance the development of community land trusts in four regions. CLTs, as they’re known, are a proven means of facilitating affordable homeownership. As nonprofits, they buy up publicly available land, and lease out whatever housing they build or rehabilitate on the property at rates collectively determined to be affordable for the community. When someone who buys a property on a CLT decides to sell it, they have to sell not at the market rate, but at a rate that remains affordable to the next tenant–the idea being to classify housing as a resource, not a means to generate excess wealth.

    Land banks often sell their properties to CLTs, Zeldin said in Next City, because “homeownership has really been the traditional stabilization strategy in communities, particularly the low-density ones.” With Neighbors to Neighborhoods, Enterprise Community Partners and the state wanted to demonstrate that equitable affordable rental projects could also act as a stabilizing force. A good and fair housing market presents residents with choices, and cities trying to address blight should be looking at ways to develop pathways for both affordable homeownership and rental options–and Neighbors to Neighborhoods could be a model for tackling the latter.


    0 0

    JetBlue Airways’ TrueBlue frequent flier program topped J.D. Power’s airline loyalty program customer satisfaction list for a second year in a row.

    J.D. Power tallied up 3,025 responses from rewards program members, and people really like JetBlue. Its program has a fiercely loyal traveler base, thanks to its easy-to-earn miles that result in flights with plenty of legroom, free snacks, and free Wi-Fi. Once they earn Mosaic status, members enjoy even more perks like waived fees, free booze on board, and two free checked bags. People like JetBlue so much that its score rose slightly from last year where it also topped the list.

    Here’s the full list:

    • JetBlue True Blue (812 points)
    • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (798 points)
    • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (791 points)
    • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles (786 points)
    • American Airlines AAdvantage (749 points)
    • United Airlines MileagePlus (747 points)

    There were a few other interesting factoids to come out of the survey. For example, roughly half of airline loyalty program members do not know how to either earn points/miles or redeem the points/miles they managed to earn. Unfortunately, the onus will most likely remain with the customers to unlock the secrets of frequent-flier miles as airlines are unlikely to help customers figure out their often complex systems. Why would they give away seats if they don’t have to?

    In short, add frequent-flier tutorials to your to-do list the next time you’re visiting your parents or grandparents.


    0 0

    Last winter, unforgettable video footage online showed a starving polar bear, struggling in its Arctic hunting grounds. Because of global warming, the ice was thin and the food supply was scarce. The video generated a wellspring of sympathy for the plight of this poor creature, and invigorated calls for stronger efforts to combat climate change–and rightly so.

    Such advocacy on behalf of wildlife usually focuses on species and the effects of human-caused climate change on their survival and well-being as the ecosystems on which they depend undergo drastic changes. Thus, we should act to save the polar bear–that is, the polar bear species–by doing what we can to preserve its natural ecosystem. I am fully behind this kind of advocacy. Anybody who cares about the future of our planet and its occupants should be.

    But I would also like to make a plea not simply for polar bears at large, but for this particular polar bear–the one in the video.

    In his book Animal Liberation (1975), the philosopher Peter Singer argues that it is morally wrong to treat non-human animals in certain inhumane ways. To be precise, they should not be treated in ways that make them suffer. As sentient beings–beings capable of experiencing pleasure and pain–they have a defensible, prima facie interest in being spared unnecessary pain and suffering. Discussing who and what should be included within the sphere of our moral concern, Singer quotes the 19th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham to ask: ‘The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?’ Countering what he calls ‘speciesist’ assumptions, Singer argues that there can be no moral justification for regarding the pain that animals feel as less important than the same amount of pain felt by humans. There might, he concedes, be other reasons to give preference to a human life over an animal life. But in the absence of such compelling principled considerations, we must avoid causing suffering in all creatures that are capable of experiencing it.

    [Source Image: Blake Guidry/Unsplash]

    It seems to me clear that, in light of global warming, Singer’s arguments need to be amended. According to his application of the utilitarian doctrine to the welfare of non-human animals, their suffering must be considered when weighing the utility values of various actions and practices. But the implications of climate change mean that the scope of actions that are proscribed–and, especially, prescribed–by a consideration of animal suffering should be broadened. It would seem to follow from Singer’s use of that doctrine not only that we must not positively treat non-human animals in certain ways, but also that we are morally bound to relieve their suffering where we can do so without a comparable loss on our part. As far as I know, Singer does not explicitly make this extension to non-human animals, but his principles imply it. In the essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” (1972), he proposes that we are morally obliged to provide aid to human beings living in poverty and to the victims of natural and man-made disasters, regardless of their geographical distance from us, provided that our contribution does not entail a significant loss to ourselves (for example, you are not obliged to impoverish yourself to relieve the poverty of others):

    If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. By ‘without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance’ I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent.

    This “uncontroversial” principle of altruism, Singer says, ‘requires us only to prevent what is bad … and it requires this of us only when we can do it without sacrificing anything that is, from the moral point of view, comparably important’. Thus, all things being equal, there is no moral excuse for not doing what we can to alleviate the suffering of people who are dying from lack of food, shelter and medical care, regardless of geographical proximity or distance. Just because they might be thousands of kilometers away, for example, doesn’t mean that we are not obliged to take the money that we would have spent on a luxury item and instead donate it to an international relief agency.

    In light of Singer’s general views on the moral consideration due to the suffering of non-human animals, the extension of the principle of altruism to such creatures–not species, but individual animals–seems to be trivial. After all, once again, there is no morally relevant difference in terms of the capacity to suffer. In other words, we are obliged to help that starving polar bear.

    What happened to this animal? Did the witnesses of its suffering intervene? Did the videographer and his crew take any steps to save it? Usually such efforts on behalf of this or that particular animal meet resistance, even discouragement, on the grounds that we should not intervene as nature “takes its course.”

    Now put aside the fact that nature is taking such a course only because it has been altered, perhaps irrevocably, by irresponsible human activity, to the detriment of the members of other species (not to mention our own). Even so, how much weight should we give to this “leave nature alone” argument? Here is an animal that is suffering. Should we (or the people who take such videos) do anything to help it?

    From an ethical perspective, the answer seems to me to be clear: yes, absolutely. Moreover, Singer’s brand of utilitarianism and its extension to non-human animals, demands this answer. Anyone who accepts Singer’s arguments that we are morally obliged both (a) not to treat animals in a certain way, because of their capacity to suffer (similar to ours), and (b) to relieve the suffering of human beings (as long as it does not involve a comparable loss on our part) must also grant (c) that we are morally obliged also to relieve the suffering of non-human animals when it is possible to do so and without comparable loss on our part.

    Of course, we do often acknowledge such a duty to help animals that suffer, especially when it is clear that such suffering is directly related to human activity. We typically come to the aid of waterfowl harmed by oil spills, sea mammals incapacitated by plastic floating in the oceans, and animals injured by vehicles. But here is the sticking point: why should it be any different with animals whose suffering is less obviously or directly related–and perhaps not related at all–to human activity, suffering for which we less clearly bear responsibility, or for which we bear no responsibility at all?

    A failure to help that polar bear–or any individual animal in a comparable condition, regardless of our responsibility (direct or indirect) for that suffering–is callous and morally wrong. Nor can lack of action be defended by some alleged concern for the course of nature (“We must not interfere!”) or the gene pool of the species (“Let the weak die!”). Consider someone who would use those same arguments to justify not intervening to help relieve the suffering of particular human beings during a famine or after a tsunami, or someone who would use such arguments to say that we should not give antibiotics to a child with pneumonia. Such an attitude, reminiscent of various Charles Dickens characters, would be rejected out of hand as immoral. If the only morally relevant factor is “can they suffer?” there is no relevant moral difference when animals suffer pain that we can alleviate.Aeon counter – do not remove


    Steven Nadler is the William H Hay II professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Spinoza: A Life (1999), A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (2011), The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes (2013), Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy (with Ben Nadler). His biographyMenasseh ben Israel: Rabbi of Amsterdam(2018) has just been published. 

    This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


    0 0

    Crypto investor Michael Terpin filed a $224 million lawsuit against AT&T in California federal court Wednesday alleging that the phone company’s negligence let hackers steal nearly $24 million in cryptocurrency from him, Reuters reports. He’s also seeking punitive damages.

    Terpin says hackers were twice able to convince AT&T to connect his phone number to a SIM card they controlled, routing his calls and messages to them and enabling them to defeat two-factor authentication protections on his accounts. In one case, he says hackers also took control of his Skype account and convinced one of this clients to send money to them rather than Terpin.

    The second hack came even after AT&T agreed to put an additional passcode on his account, when a fraudster visited an AT&T store in Connecticut and managed to hijack Terpin’s account without providing the code or a “scannable ID” as AT&T requires, he says.

    “We dispute these allegations and look forward to presenting our case in court,” AT&T told Reuters.

    The trouble is, experts have said, it’s often relatively simple to trick phone company employees into reassigning numbers to thieves in what’s called a “SIM swap” scam. Once they control the number, they can intercept texts for two-factor authentication programs and password resets, quickly hijacking other accounts. The victim sometimes even struggles to contact the phone company, since his or her phone is disabled once the new SIM card is activated. Crypto investors have been a particular target, presumably since stolen digital funds are relatively hard to trace. Victims have included Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson.

    Last week, security journalist Brian Krebs reported that a 25-year-old Florida man was arrested for being part of a multistate SIM swap scam ring, using the technique to steal bank accounts. Police were allegedly first alerted by a worried mom who heard one of the conspirators on the phone pretending to be an AT&T employee.

    Protect yourself: Experts recommend using a non-phone-based two-factor-authentication system when it’s available, such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator. If you do have a service that requires phone authentication, one possibility is to connect it with a number that’s not widely associated with you, even if that means getting a separate number just for that purpose.

    You can also ask your phone company to put additional passwords on your account, though that may not always help if an employee doesn’t follow procedures or is even in cahoots with the criminals.