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01.05.17 | 5:17 pm

Afternoon intel: Staples remover; subscribe to a Cadillac; are we ready for a cyberattack?

• At Fordham Law in New York this evening, our Marcus Baram will participate in a panel discussion about whether the United States is prepared for a cyberattack. (Spoiler alert: We're probably not.) Filmmaker Alex Gibney is one of the speakers. Check out the live-stream on the Fast Company Facebook page if you get a chance.

• Under pressure from unions, the United States Postal Service is halting its special arrangement with Staples that allowed private employees to provide postal services directly from the office supplier's retail stores. Bloomberg has more on what prompted the reversal.

Are you ready to subscribe to a Cadillac? The luxury car brand said today it is launching on-demand access to premium models at a flat monthly fee of $1,500 that "eliminates the hassles of car ownership." It's also great for people who just like that new-car smell. Read more about it here.  

• The Daily Beast has an odd little story about a 55-year-old comedian who keeps trying to pass himself off as a millennial. In case you're wondering what the cutoff dates are, we've covered that before.

• In a blow to the burgeoning world of fan-made productions, a federal judge has ruled that a Star Trek fan film does not fall under the Fair Use exception to copyright law. Paramount and CBS, which have been tolerant of fan material that doesn't turn a profit, sued the production after it raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Ars Technica reports.

04.26.17 | 7:44 pm

Kit and Ace closes all U.S. stores and cuts HQ staff

Kit and Ace, the high-end fashion brand launched by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, is drastically paring down its business. In September, it began closing a quarter of its 60 stores. Today, the Globe and Mail reported that the company is close all remaining U.S., stores. Fast Company has also discovered that it is closing all Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and U.K. stores. It appears that the 10 Canada-based ones will stay open. Last fall it fired 20% of its 280 head office staff. This year, it let go of 35 more. 

The brand is privately owned by Wilson, his wife, and his son. In a statement, Wilson said that Kit and Ace would focus on the digital side of the business. 

04.26.17 | 4:00 pm

This startup wants to make a personal air-quality tester that plugs into your iPhone

A Silicon Valley startup wants to make a personal air-quality tester a reality, and the perfect stocking stuffer for the next Erin Brockovich or Karen Silkwood in your life. Sprimo Labs, the air fanatics behind a personal air purifier that was unveiled at CES earlier this year, came up with a diminutive tester that plugs into your iPhone to give real-time air-quality scores. The tiny device reportedly checks the air for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in your office, home, or the back seat of the car where you're stuck with your brothers on a road trip. The product is currently over at Kickstarter, where it already blew way past its $15,000 funding goal. Check out the videos and decide for yourself if testing VOCs in every room you enter needs to be a part of your daily routine.

04.26.17 | 2:39 pm

IBM patents ability to transfer packages between drones

Big Blue thinks one of the sticking points for companies interested in drone delivery is the limited distance over which packages can be sent. Its solution? Develop technology that makes it possible to hand off packages from one drone to another.

Today, IBM announced a patent for technology that achieves just that. The idea, of course, is that with a series of drones ready to go when needed, packages could make their way through the skies, from a distribution center to their destination, traveling much further than is possible with a single drone. As for when this will manifest, the company isn't yet saying.

04.26.17 | 2:33 pm

Juno is terminating its stock program for drivers

Today, Gett confirmed that it is acquiring Juno for $200 million. In a letter to Juno drivers announcing the deal, Gett said it would be suspending the restricted stock units program and replacing it with cash bonuses. One Juno's early differentiators was that it offered drivers shares of the company based on the number of hours they worked. Half of the company's founding shares were reserved for drivers, so that even as the company eventually embraced automation, drivers would be taken care of. According to an email Juno sent to its drivers today, they're now only eligible to collect anywhere from $25 to "a four digit number," according to a Juno representative.   

Independent Drivers Guild isn't happy about it. In response, the group released the following statement: 

"Given the actions of driving apps to date, it comes as little surprise that Juno is cashing out, leaving the drivers who helped build the company with next to nothing. This latest bait-and-switch underscores the need for industry-wide protections to ensure a living wage for drivers in the face of deceptive tactics, empty promises and manipulation from ride-hail apps."

04.26.17 | 2:23 pm

FCC chair Pai proposes plan to reverse 2015 net neutrality ruling

Ajit Pai today introduced a proposed plan to roll back an Obama era ruling that broadband service be regulated like a public utility. The new ruling will be opened for public comment and voted on next month by the FCC commissioners. Pai decided not to immediately reverse the 2015 ruling: "This is not a declaratory ruling," Pai said. "This decision should be made in an open process."

The proposal suggests regulating broadband as a Title 1 information service, as it was before the FCC's 2015 ruling. It would also revoke the FCC's new power to impose an "internet conduct standard," which Pai says allowed the commission ad hoc authority to investigate things like zero-rating. Pai adds that unlike the 2015 proposal, the new proposal will be released in full to the public (tomorrow, actually), well before an FCC vote.

Pai says the result of all this will be greater availability of internet service to poor and rural communities, more jobs for building out new broadband infrastructure, and a better path toward protecting the privacy of web users. 

04.26.17 | 1:54 pm

Alphabet Earnings preview: How did YouTube TV, Pixel, Daydream, and AI do in Q1?

Tomorrow, Google parent Alphabet announces its first-quarter earnings, which are expected to be quite good. Analysts are predicting the tech giant to report earnings of $7.40 per share on revenues of $24.19 billion

Here's what we're looking for tomorrow: It would be great if Google CEO Sundar Pichai gives us any insight (as in, subscriber numbers) into how its brand-new YouTube TV service has done since launch, although it may be too soon for that, given that it only launched at the beginning of the month. We'd also like to hear more about how Google's Pixel phone has been selling, how its Home service has been doing, and any further thoughts on how the company plans on making money from its many artificial intelligence efforts. Further, are there any signs that Alphabet's Other Bets initiatives (among them, Nest, Waymo, and Verily) are producing more than just rounding-error revenues?

[Photo: SEASTOCK/iStock]

04.26.17 | 1:15 pm

Report: Chinese ride-hailing company Didi is raising $5 billion

Not quite a year after acquiring Uber's China business, ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing is said to be raising between $5 billion and $6 billion in funding. The new round will help the company expand and brings its valuation to $50 billion, according to Bloomberg. Didi has grown rapidly since merging with competitor Kuadi Dache in 2015, extending its reach through partnerships with local ride-hailing providers in foreign markets. Now it's poised to not only put money behind market growth, but new technologies—like those being tested in its recently launched Mountain View lab. Read more here

04.26.17 | 12:44 pm

$3 billion has been pledged to Kickstarter projects

One of cool things about Kickstarter is the way it lets anyone help out a creative project with a minor investment of money. In fact, the most common pledge is just $25. But those small signs of support add up: The company is announcing that a total of $3 billion has been pledged over its eight-year history.

Of that figure, $2.68 billion in pledges were made to projects that met their campaign goal, which means that the creators got the dough. Another $338 million was for campaigns that fell short and weren't funded. And a third of the $3 billion was for campaigns launched by repeat creators—a sign that the site is having an ongoing impact on the way inventive types turn their ideas into reality.

04.26.17 | 11:52 am

Muji wants to sell you a tiny house to fill with Muji products

The Muji Hut is a minimalist's dream, at least until it's filled to the brim with all those adorable Muji products. The Japanese retailer has just unveiled the diminutive house, which clocks in at less than 100 square feet (or roughly the same size as one of their body fit cushions). The Muji Hut is priced at ¥ 3,000,000 (USD $27,000) and, sadly, will only be for sale in Japan.

The very tiny house features sliding glass windows, plywood interiors, a corrugated roof, and a "Shou Sugi Ban" wood exterior, sourced from Japan. It does not have plumbing, heating, or exhaust, though, so plan accordingly (as in, put it next to a real house that has all of those things). As Core 77 points out, the Muji Hut does not include plans for electricity, despite the fact that a (Muji) lamp is featured in the photos. Ponder that mystery as you sit in your minimalist and chic tiny hut in the backyard. 

[Photo: Muji]

04.26.17 | 11:50 am

Amazon’s Echo Look is a smart selfie cam for deciding what to wear

Amazon has a new Echo device on the way, and this time it has a camera. The $199 Echo Look sits on a table or dresser, and can snap photos and videos with Alexa voice controls. Results then appear in a companion app, where users can check themselves out and share photos. The app also taps fashion experts and algorithms to help users choose between outfits, and provides recommendations on more clothing to buy. For now, the Echo Look is available to Amazon Prime customers by invitation only.

Online clothing sales have been booming in recent years, and became the top online shopping category in late 2015, according to ComScore. The Echo Look could motivate users to build their wardrobes through Amazon, while potentially spreading Amazon's Alexa assistant to more rooms of the house. Amazon isn't the only company building algorithms to help you pick out your next outfit: fashion's quickly becoming an emerging focus in artificial intelligence.

[Photo: Amazon]

04.26.17 | 11:41 am

J.Crew’s longtime head of menswear is out, amid widespread cuts

Frank Muytjens, who has been the head of J.Crew's menswear design since 2008, is leaving the company amid 250 job cuts, Business of Fashion reports. He's had a central role in shaping the look of the men's collections, helping to mainstream pieces like heavy boots and lumberjack shirts in urban environments. He also made the slimmer suit fashionable with the popular Ludlow line. 

Three weeks ago, it was announced that Jenna Lyons, the company's president and creative director, would also be leaving. Somsack Sikhounmuong was named the chief design officer and will be overseeing men's, women's, and children's. 

[Photo: Wendell Teodoro / Contributor/Getty Images]

04.26.17 | 10:51 am

Uber just updated its rating system to make nice with drivers

Uber today announced changes to the way customers can rate drivers. Those who ride with UberPool now have more ways of describing what went wrong—because a bad experience is very often not the driver's fault. Poor route, bad co-rider behavior, and problems with navigation, in addition to inadequate driving, are among the descriptors riders can choose to rate their ride.

Another big update: The app will now show riders how drivers are rating them. Average ratings will appear below each profile name. The change follows the release of a video showing CEO Travis Kalanick berating a driver. Uber has been accused of paying drivers too little and selling them on exploitative car lease terms, among other complaints. Now it seems it's keen to keep drivers happy—or at least try to—so they don't defect to other services. 

[Image: Uber]