Climate Change Refugees, Everlane Opens Up, and a Silicon Valley Giant Passes

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American Climate Refugees
It’s a terrible milestone: the first community in the U.S. to end due to climate change (Bloomberg). Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a small, atypical community — a few dozen houses, all on stilts — but it provides an early look at how local and state governments are trying to help doomed communities, in this case by moving the whole thing somewhere else.

Why Everlane Opened Up
Everlane is an iconoclastic fashion brand (no advertising, no discounting, no seasonal collections), but it’s also important for its emphasis on “radical transparency” before that became a buzzy term. For example, Everlane breaks down the individual costs for each product: materials, hardware, labor, duties, transport, etc. In Business of Fashion, founder Michael Preysman riffs on why that approach was a differentiator. “We didn’t have this notion of ‘radical transparency’ straight out of the gate. It emerged from helping customers understand who we were and why we were doing things in a certain way. We said, ‘Hey, we’re making a t-shirt that normally sells for $50 and we’re going to sell it for $15.’ But how do you actually explain that to customers in a way they get? How do you get them to understand that it’s a really high quality t-shirt and not a t-shirt that cost us $3 to make? So, we thought we’ve got nothing to hide. Why don’t we just tell people exactly what it costs us to make?”

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The Zika Virus and the World to Come

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Update: Shortly after this article was published the World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency due to the Zika virus and illnesses associated with the Zika virus.

Women in several Caribbean and South American nations are being urged to not get pregnant. It’s an unprecedented prescription to the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) warns could infect four million people by the end of the year.

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What Happens After the Gig Economy?

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People you may have seen recently on TV, in a theater, or at a pitch competition are driving for hire in Los Angeles.

The gig economy is replacing the jobs creatives take to supplement income while they follow their dreams. It’s a trend: Driving for Uber or Lyft has become the new waiting tables.

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Climate Change As Humungous Business Opportunity

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How One Carefully Crafted Sequence in the #SOTU Reframed The Climate Debate


President Obama’s final State of the Union address is currently trending on Medium, which is pretty much what you might expect given Medium is where the White House decided to release it (take that, Facebook! — though a piece about building Instagram has about twice as many recommendations, but I digress…).

I watched the speech last night while at a company retreat with 18 of my colleagues from NewCo. Over and over, the President hit on trends consistent with our thesis of fundamental change in business and culture. For example, he spoke of decoupling benefits such as healthcare from employers, because in the NewCo era, people move between jobs a lot more (or are self employed, or want to leap into a startup). Obama spoke of living in a time of extraordinary technological and social change, of a deepening and troubling social inequality, of optimism and hard work and a right to thrive in “this new economy.”

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An open letter to Paul Graham

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image wikimedia foundation

Dr. Mr Graham:

You’re a smart man. I would love to read a revised essay from you on income inequality that takes into account four facts you seem to have failed to include in your analysis of the situation:

  1. Literally no one in America, save for a very few on the fringe, is talking about “eliminating income inequality.” People are seeking to and talking about reducing income inequality. No one believes that there should not be rich people. They do not want to “kill” you, literally or metaphorically.
  2. What people are talking about is a progressive income tax to reduce inequality. Amazingly, your essay on inequality only uses the word “tax” in the body of the essay a single time. If a billionaire is taxed 80% on the year he or she earns that billion, they will still be worth $200 million. And they are still free to start businesses and pursue wealth. They are still rich. They have not been “hunted” or “killed.” The crux of your argument — that “Ending economic inequality would mean ending startups” — is both a straw man (no one’s advocating eliminating income inequality completely) and untrue (people can still pursue whatever they want — they just have to pay more taxes on it.) No one wants to take the money you have away. You could still pursue being rich, and, indeed, you could still get rich. I don’t know TONS about your wealth levels, but if I extrapolate them from my own, and the successes you’ve had, I am willing to wager a large amount of money that in the world these people (including myself) envision, you would still be very, very rich.
  3. People want to take that money from the taxes and provide services so that everyone in America can get the same public services that — to extend your example — Larry Page got growing up in East Lansing, Michigan. You are partially correct when you say that “It’s not economic inequality per se that’s blocking social mobility, but some specific combination of things that go wrong when kids grow up sufficiently poor.” The “specific combination” is no mystery. For many of them, it’s that they also live in areas that are poor, and have low tax bases, and cannot provide the education and services at the same level as rich neighborhoods. So by taxing the wealthy and spending it on services, we can better ensure that the level playing field you allude to continues to exist.
  4. The pie metaphor you speak of is not crazy. There are different ways of looking at the “pie:” National income accounts (growing), money supply/purchasing (the money supply’s gone up, sure, and the value of money is relatively stable,) and the GDP-based purchasing power parity. So by one measure — the one you are presumably speaking of — the pie is growing. By a GDP measure, however, it is growing less and less every year. We haven’t had 5% GDP growth in over a decade. It’s been over 30 years since it hit 10%. Most economists believe that high-level GDP growth is a thing of the past, and we’re looking at 2–3% growth from here on out. So, by this completely rational view of the “pie,” it is, in fact, trending towards a zero sum game. This is not an irrational view.
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