There are a lot of good ideas in AOL founder Steve Case’s new book The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. The guy really does have a vision of the future. I wish he’d spent more time on it. This should be a book of ideas but instead it’s a hybrid, full of stories about his rise, the rise of AOL, and his company’s historically unfortunate merger with Time Warner. None of the memoir parts, even the deeply felt ones, come across with particularly insight, all covered better by other writers years ago. For a much more efficient and engaging tour through Case’s vision, check out an interview he did with lean startup stalwart Eric Ries. That Q&A is rare for both what it offers (intelligence and agility on both sides) and what it eschews (there’s no silly “Internet 3.0” stuff in here). Prodded by Ries, Case rattles off insight after insight: policy will be more important, disruption will increase the need to partner with incumbents, a heyday of regional entrepreneurship is coming. Hey, he should write a book about that. A whole book.
We want to know where our food comes from. The evidence is seen on foods labeled organic, in the rise of farmer’s markets, even in Ikea products. Our shifting attitudes are reshaping the business of growing food, and Freight Farms is rethinking the way we produce our produce. Founder Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman are selling hydroponics farms built from old shipping containers that growers can monitor through an app. They want to provide communities, neighborhoods, and schools an alternative way to grow food and know where it comes from.
Founded in 2011, Freight Farms has sold roughly 60 farms worldwide, 20 in the United States. Of those, McNamara says nearly 30 have been sold to food startups. At Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY, students use a freight farm to produce food for roughly 1,000 students at least once a week. A Boston husband-wife team purchased four freight farms in 2013, and now sell produce at local farmer markets for a living.
For $82,000, plus another $20,000 of annual operating costs, a freight farm can grow up to 800 heads of lettuce at a time. The 40-foot long, eight-foot wide containers, dubbed “Leafy Green Machines,” are essentially year-round farms capable of producing the same amount of produce as an acre of farmland on just 10 gallons of water a day. The company claims its mobile farms can create access to food in areas where the climate cannot support traditional farming methods. “When you start to look at the food system as a whole,” McNamara says, “there’s just so much to it. There are so many different ways to attack this problem. It’s an exciting space between technology, design, community, and empowerment.”
IndieBio, a San Francisco-based biotech accelerator, believes biology is our most powerful technology — powerful enough to begin a “second domestication,” in which meat is grown in a lab and not on the farm — and flexible enough to put neurons on a chip. IndieBio also believes it can help scientists become entrepreneurs. The accelerator funds startups with at least two co-founders that utilize biology and technology to impact humanity’s most pressing problems. It’s providing startups with a space to help them develop those solutions faster and “make something that matters.”
IndieBio sees the application of biology extending beyond traditional biomedical applications. “Our aim is to accelerate biology as a technology. So, not just limited to the bio-medical vertical,” says Ryan Bethencourt, program director and venture partner at IndieBio. “We view biology as a technology that can be applied in multiple different verticals, across many different industries, including consumer, biomaterials, tools, medical, diagnostic, and therapeutic as well.”
Detroit Experience Factory believes the best way to revitalize its city is to engage its people. It’s doing that with experiential tours. Last year the company took 17,000 people across the city to show them what small businesses are doing, how the city’s past is affecting its future, and what the city already has to offer.
“People hear the word ‘tour’ and think double decker bus. That is not what we do,” Jeanette Pierce, Detroit Experience Factory’s executive director, tells NewCo. Its tours are interactive, focused on meeting local business owners, visiting city landmarks, and providing historical context and meaning for what’s happening in the city today. “We want to help people understand the history, the culture, the communities, the neighborhoods, and have an economic impact on the city of Detroit,” Pierce says.
In May 2015, people watched from the India Street dock in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as The Revolution, a World War II Yard Patrol boat, approached. After boarding, they set course for the city’s lesser-known islands, those that once housed undesirables: criminals, the diseased (“Typhoid” Mary), and what we then called lunatics. Those on the boat paid for the privilege. Between visiting the forgotten ruins of prison camps, psychiatric institutions, and sanatoriums within view of Manhattan and Brooklyn, they drank beer and had lunch while ferrying down the East River. The tour was just one of 150 events in 39 states and 25 countries, that took place on Obscura Day.
Organized byAtlas Obscura, more than 35,000 people have turned out for its events. The events, however, are just a small part of what they company does. Working off the premise that you haven’t seen anything yet, Atlas Obscura is creating an online compendium of “the world’s most curious and awe-inspiring places.” Think of it asNational Geographic for the millennial generation.
The wealthiest corporation in the world and the most powerful government in the world are fighting over a single smartphone. And the future of our social compact with both corporations and government may hang in the balance.
While the U.S. government says it cares about just one phone — an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists that it wants decrypted — Apple says a judicial order to create a special operating system for the government creates a backdoor that threatens all of its customers’ privacy. It maintains it’s challenging an order from a federal judge to protect “tens of millions of American citizens.”