Bad Urban Planning, Less Risky Innovation, and SXSW Rocks On


Take Me to the River
Urban planning can do bad things to communities. For example, some New York suburbs feature low bridges intended to keep out busses and the poor people who ride them. And, The Nation reports, the revitalization of Los Angeles’s neglected 51-mile riverfront “has gone from social-justice crusade to money-soaked land grab.” Will the Los Angeles River Become a Playground for the Rich? answers its own question with a resounding “It’s already happening.” Reclaiming the riverfront is a beautiful and beautifying idea, but according to this report, it’s happening in a top-down fashion that threatens to upend communities closest to the gentrifying area. There’s still time to get it right, and the Mayor’s office has already reacted to community pressure by hiring consultants to help them give affected communities “a sense of ownership” in the project, but more than “a sense” is required when projects of this scope are considered.

Managing the Risk of Innovation
If necessity is the mother of invention, could the father be … insurance? The romantic conventional wisdom about innovation is that it’s more likely when you’ve got your back to the wall, but Robert J. Shiller, in How Wage Insurance Could Spur Innovation (NYT), argues that wage insurance, now focused on Americans who have lost their jobs to foreign workers, should be expanded and could help “spur innovation in the economy.” Shiller continues: “Rational people would want to pay for this benefit so that they could take promising but risky employment opportunities.” There are potential downsides (moral hazard, anyone?) but there are many, many people stuck in BigCos who are afraid to take a risk. This might even the playing field and let these people loose. And before you argue, let’s remember that Shiller’s a Nobel Laureate who called two of the last two downturns — and we’re not.

SXSW Rocks On
We’re excited to be at SXSW Interactive this week. Don’t miss our session tomorrow when our founder and CEO John Battelle shares stories of purpose-driven companies from the founders and CEOs of Earnest, Embrace Innovations, and Nuna Health. Also see our two roundups of sessions this week (1, 2). We’re particularly pleased that the conference devoted all day Saturday to a series of sessions on online sexual harassment (New York Times), a topic at the front of our minds after our belated reading of the Stanford “Elephant in the Valley” report, which finds that 60 percent of women in tech report unwanted sexual advances. And unfortunately, it’s not just tech.

WeWork Outside Silicon Valley, Too
Local unicorn watchers often privately deride WeWork as an overvalued real estate play dressed up as a millennial workplace party play, but even as valuations for many NewCo sectors are slumping, WeWork just raised $430 million at a whopping 60% premium over its last valuation. It’s worth remembering that there’s office space needed outside the Valley.

Please Stand By
Don’t worry; your YouTube video will start playing. It’s just that your software thinks the preroll ad is an error. Considering the quality of many YouTube prerolls, it’s hard to disagree.

Photo: Ryan Stavely

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