The best podcasts are based on personal, highly vulnerable stories, and Gimlet Media, a bellwether podcasting company, has taken that insight to an extreme. As its grown to 45 employees in less than two years, the company has been basically naked from the start. After all, the company’s first hit was the ongoing StartUp podcast, a self-referential show about Gimlet itself.
Gimlet wants listeners of their podcasts to feel like they stopped by a friend’s house, said co-founder Matt Lieber, so its tendency to overshare is not an accident. “We’re definitely an unreasonably transparent company,” Lieber told NewCo. “It’s how we got our start, and we found that being transparent and including the ugly parts helped us build our audience. It’s created a community of people who really care about what we’re doing and want to see the company succeed.”
Between the incredible music, a week-long indie film festival, and hundreds of forward-thinking companies and startups, the chill in Austin will be high in the coming week.
SXSW is not a NewCo festival, but it kind of feels like that cousin you get along with at family gatherings (and SXSW the organization is a NewCo!). Dozens of NewCos will participate in SXSW Interactive, focusing on topics you might expect to hear at a NewCo event while having a good time.
NewCo follows the story of and brings people inside new kinds of companies reshaping work, cities, and the world. At SXSW Interactive, you can see more than two dozen NewCos from Austin onstage. Here are 10 thoughtful sessions that feature NewCos.
Most accelerators have a set date range (typically a few months) and workspace, trade funding for equity, offer mentorship, and end with a Demo Day. It’s an intense process intended to speed the learning and funding curve for entrepreneurs.
Watching Zenefits slide down the business end of the Valley hype cycle, it’s easy to write off the company as one more smug unicorn shorn of its rainbow valuation: Schadenfreude’s a bitch, let’s move on. But the truth is more complicated. We’re entering an era of unicorn rationalization, so now the hard work begins. Making a company that can last is far more difficult than making one built to grow without regard for burn rate or regulatory frameworks.
Once “the largest SaaS company in history,” Zenefits successfully disrupted the human resources industry. Now it’s being treated as a cautionary tale, the kind of company elected officials bring up as the worst examples of “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” right up there with Uber or Airbnb.
By the company’s own account, problems run deeper than that. In the heady fast growth phase of Zenefits’ ascent, it lost control of its culture and its ethics. “The problem goes much deeper than just process,” new CEO David Sacks said in a blog post criticizing his predecessor Parker Conrad. One of the first changes made by Sacks: No more alcohol in the office. Sex in the building stairwell was an issue, too.
There are also petitions floating around the Internet to do things like have the comic-book character Deadpool host Saturday Night Live or deport Donald Trump to Mexico but those petitions aren’t binding. In California, where there are ballot propositions, this could become law. So far, 40,000 signatures have been collected. 365,880 are needed by June 28 to get the petition onto the ballot this fall.
Industry and authorities have used drones for decades for things like pipe inspection, ship hull inspection, dam and bridge inspection, and search and rescue. The U.S. Navy has big plans for them to work alongside robot boats and crewless ships.
A new job title has emerged in cities around the world to advocate for night owls and young creatives. Night mayors encourages drunk people to keep it down, nurture the arts, and instigate neighborhood revitalization. Some appointed, some elected, night mayors act as an intermediary between nightlife industries and government.
Last summer a City Council-appointed committee in Los Angeles ruled that tiny homes are illegal on public or private land in LA and can be destroyed by public works officials. One city councilman went so far as to call them doghouses. Despite that, GoFundMe campaigns by a man named Elvis to build more such homes have raised more than $100,000 in the last 10 months.
The tiny home movement started in LA in the 1990s as a way for people to live a simpler lives but it’s now being touted as a way to curb homelessness. These homes typically lack running water and electricity but they offer a roof and place to sleep and store personal items.