Cybersecurity experts think the anonymity of a small Florida company managing a huge chunk of the internet could be part of the Pentagon’s plan – and masking a bigger company

The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA
The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA

  • A startup took over management of over 175 million Pentagon IP addresses in January.
  • The company has no real history and was only created 7 months ago.
  • Cybersecurity experts say the company is likely a shell organization, masking the Pentagon’s plans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

About three minutes before former President Donald Trump left office, a mysterious startup began managing nearly 175 million Pentagon Internet Protocol addresses.

The company that is managing about 6% of usable internet space was identified as Global Resource Systems LLC. The 7-month old Florida company has no internet history or prior contracts with the government, but cybersecurity experts told Insider the startup may not what be it seems.

Four experts said the Pentagon is likely using the company’s lack of history as a shield for its plans and Global Resource Systems could be operating as a shell to hide a much larger organization.

The anonymity is likely key to the Pentagon’s plan

Cybersecurity experts say the mystery shrouding Global Resource Systems is not surprising.

The company has no real history, but the people behind the company undoubtedly have government connections, Morgan Wright, the chief security officer of SentinelOne, told Insider.

The name on the company’s incorporation documents, Raymond Saulino, matches the name of a managing member of the cybersecurity firm Packet Forensics, a company that has worked with the government before, according to the company’s legal filings. The company has had nearly $40 million in federal contracts over the past decade and currently sells lawful intercept equipment – a process that allows law enforcement agencies to selectively wiretap individuals via a court order.

A spokesperson for Packet Forensics did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Read more: The Pentagon’s mysterious move to start using inactive internet space could help it see into the networks of big companies

The company also bears the same name as a firm that shut down over 10 years ago and was sending out email spam, internet-fraud researcher Ron Guilmette told The Washington Post. That company had the same office address and used the same internet routing identifier. The only difference between the two companies is that the newer one operates as a limited liability corporation.

Mike Hamilton, former CISO of Seattle and CISO of cybersecurity firm CI Security, told Insider the company’s anonymity provides an extra layer of protection for the government and makes it even easier to hide what the Pentagon is planning to do with its IP addresses.

“Global Resource Systems can function as an extension of the government without direct connection allowing them to monitor activities without the overwhelming presence of the Pentagon nor the scrutiny of public opinion,” Scott Schober, CEO of cybersecurity firm Berkeley Varitronics Systems, told Insider.

The company provides an extra layer of security for the Pentagon

The company also provides the government with plausible deniability, according to Hamilton. The government would be able to launch cyber attacks, obtain data, and create faulty gateways on the internet without having to take responsibility for the actions. The attacks could easily be attributed to mistakes by a new and unrecognized third-party company, according to Hamilton.

Global Resource Systems LLC provides a layer of disguise for the project, according to Wright. He told Insider if the company was recognizable it would be easy for hackers to avoid detection and the US government would tip its hand.

“If it’s obvious where the information is going it gives them an idea of what we’re looking for,” Wright said. “We don’t want to telegraph to them too early what it is we’re doing and how we’re looking at the problem.”

The mysterious company could be a shell for a bigger organization

Wirght and Hamilton agreed that the company’s anonymity was not only beneficial but that it was likely hiding a major company. They pointed out that the company would need significant telecommuting power in order to process information from nearly 175 million IP addresses – more than AT&T or Comcast.

“It would be like trying to eat an elephant,” Wright said. “Not many companies can do that.”

Hamilton said Google is one of few companies that could process that much information at the moment. A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request to questions about whether the company had any ties to Global Resource Systems.

In contrast, founder of cyber analytics company ExtraHop, Jesse Rothstein, told Insider that Global Resource Systems could still be building up its system and would not necessarily need tremendous telecommuting power for the formerly dormant addresses, though it would still need to have significant financial resources.

Despite the layer of confusion behind the Pentagon’s decision, most cybersecurity experts agree that the move to put the dormant addresses to use makes sense.

“I think any academic institution or research institution would love to be able to conduct that type of research on such a large scale,” Rothstein told Insider, “This block of IP addresses is very valuable, and I’m sure many countries would prefer the DoD relinquish it, but it’s better to do something with it and use it for research than nothing at all.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The CEO of a $2 billion startup reportedly said he was fired after taking LSD during work

Iterable cofounders headshot
Justin Zhu and Andrew Boni, Iterable cofounders

  • The founder of marketing startup Iterable was reportedly fired for a violation of company policy.
  • Justin Zhu said he was terminated after he micro-dosed LSD on the job, Bloomberg reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The CEO of email marketing startup Iterable said he was fired after using LSD on the job, Bloomberg reported.

Justin Zhu told Bloomberg that the primary reason for his firing was that he took a small amount of the psychedelic drug prior to a meeting in 2019, with the intention of improving his focus. Zhu’s firing was announced to Iterable staffers on Monday, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.

“Micro-dosing” with small amounts of LSD and other psychedelics is a growing trend in Silicon Valley, with many users saying the drugs can help with creativity and focus. LSD is illegal in the US.

Iterable co-founder Andrew Boni announced Zhu’s ouster in an email to staff on Monday and said that he would be taking over the chief executive role, according to Bloomberg.

The email, which Bloomberg obtained, said Zhu had violated the company’s policies, values, and employee handbook. It did not provide any further details on what led to his ouster.

Iterable did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zhu’s firing or the specific reasons that led to his termination. Insider reached out to two different email accounts for Zhu on Tuesday and tried to contact him through Twitter. He did not immediately respond.

PitchBook data values Iterable at $2.1 billion as of March of this year.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Employees wear ‘no quinoa’ shirts at Travis Kalanick’s startup to stave off a coddled work culture

Travis Kalanick
Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. Reuters

  • The phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on T-shirts and laptop stickers at CloudKitchens.
  • The phrase comes from CloudKitchens CEO Travis Kalanick’s days at Uber.
  • Kalanick has mimicked some of the aspects of Uber’s work culture at the startup, Insider reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick once got upset at an employee for asking why the company’s cafeteria no longer served quinoa.

Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO at the time, was annoyed that the employee would complain about quinoa in the midst of an all-hands meeting instead of focusing on work.

The story lingered for Kalanick, according to an exclusive report by Insider’s Meghan Morris. Now at his $5 billion startup CloudKitchens, the phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on some employees’ T-shirts and laptop stickers, sources told Morris. Some new hires are also told the “No Quinoa” tale as a warning to stay focused on the company’s mission.

The culture at Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens mimics that at Uber during Kalanick’s time at the ride-hailing company. CloudKitchens doesn’t offer many of the posh perks, like laundry service and nap pods, that have become common among other Silicon Valley companies. Kalanick wants employees’ focus to instead remain on company’s core work – a sentiment that is expressed in phrases like “no quinoa.”

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

CloudKitchens declined to comment on Insider’s investigation.

CloudKitchens, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, operates as a ghost kitchen company that rents commercial space and turns it into shared kitchens for restaurateurs.

In 2018, Kalanick invested in City Storage Systems, renamed it, and took over as CEO. Since then, it has expanded to at least 29 cities in the US and brought on customers including Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s.

Read more about the culture at CloudKitchens here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Travis Kalanick’s startup refused to change ‘Happy Ending’ branding for an Asian restaurant menu item, saying it wouldn’t cave to woke culture, employees said

Travis Kalanick
Travis Kalanick, founder of CloudKitchens and former CEO of Uber, dismissed internal employee complaints over what they felt was racist branding, Insider reported.

  • Travis Kalanick ignored employee complaints over what they felt was racist branding, sources told Insider.
  • Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, now leads commercial kitchen startup CloudKitchens.
  • Kalanick reportedly said the startup did not want to accommodate woke culture.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

CloudKitchens founder Travis Kalanick refused to change controversial customer branding, despite internal employee complaints over perceived racism and misogyny, sources told Insider.

Kalanick’s startup rents commercial kitchen space to restaurant brands that focus on food delivery and pickup. Through its Future Foods arm, the company also creates and licenses food brands to local entrepreneurs looking to get into the booming business of food delivery. Former employees told Insider that they spoke to Kalanick and others about their concerns over Future Foods branding, like “Happy Ending” for dessert at an Asian restaurant.

When employees complained, they said Kalanick’s response was that his startup did not seek to accommodate the press or woke culture.

Insider’s Meghan Morris reported the branding concerns as part of a larger investigation into CloudKitchens’ culture and recent employee departures.

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup CloudKitchens is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros’

CloudKitchens operates “ghost kitchens,” or commercial kitchen space focused on food delivery and pickup. The pandemic has helped the budding industry take off, as consumers cut back on restaurant dining and ordered more food for delivery.

In some CloudKitchens meetings, former employees told Insider that Kalanick lambasted headlines about himself. During an all-staff meeting in 2020, he called a report that he owns a $43 million mansion “fake news.” The CEO also apparently told employees not to trust people who trust the news.

More than 300 corporate executives have left the startup since the start of the year, Insider reported. CloudKitchens was not immediately available for comment for this story and declined to comment or to make executives at the company available for interviews for the larger investigation into CloudKitchens.

Read the full investigation: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

Read the original article on Business Insider

Billie vs. Flamingo razors – how 2 popular startups trying to change women’s shaving compare

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Billie Vs. Flamingo 4x3
  • Billie and Flamingo are two women’s shaving startups making sharp and affordable razors.
  • Billie is a subscription service, while Flamingo is not. Both sell a $9 razor with $9 refills.
  • We compared the two companies so you can decide which is better for your shaving needs.

Shaving, if you choose to do it, is usually an inefficient and time-intensive process. It’s also one of those personal-care habits that quietly sucks the money out of your wallet (for some, more quickly than others depending on how often you shave).

Online startups like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club brought fresh changes to the shaving industry by making sharp, high-quality razors and sending them to your door for less. Not only men used their products. Women did, too, but there was always the sense the razor designs and skincare products could be better tailored to women’s needs.

Two startups, Billie and Flamingo, are finally making women’s lives easier with their affordable shaving solutions. As the two biggest disruptors of the women’s shaving scene, they’re often compared – which is better, Billie or Flamingo?

To help you decide which new women’s shaving brand is for you, we put them side by side and looked more closely at what products they sell, how much you’ll pay, and the shaving experiences themselves.

We’ve tried the razors and bodycare products from both companies (you can read our Billie review here and our Flamingo review here), so we can offer our personal takes alongside the factual details.

Learn about the similarities and differences between these two leading women’s shaving startups below.

Shop razors and shaving products at Billie here

Shop razors and shaving products at Flamingo here

How Billie and Flamingo came into existence

billie vs flamingo razor 5

Billie, founded in 2017, is taking a stand against the pink tax — which upcharges women’s personal-care products — by creating a razor priced in line with affordable men’s razors. It offers realistic portrayals of body hair in its ads and images, and it donates 1% of all revenue to women’s causes around the world. 

Flamingo was introduced in 2018 by Harry’s, the men’s grooming brand that first launched its subscription-based razor products in 2013. Though more than a million women were using Harry’s products for themselves, the Harry’s team knew that they could be better optimized for how women shave their legs, armpits, and bikini lines. Flamingo is led by two Harry’s veterans who have been with the company since its start, and it uses the same blades as Harry’s razors. 

How the services and products work

billie vs flamingo razor 6

Billie is a subscription service that sells shaving and body products. After getting its $9 Starter Kit, you’ll receive four replacement cartridges for $9 on an ongoing basis. 

To get started, you’ll choose your favorite handle color and how often you’d like to receive the replacement cartridges. If you shave every day, Billie will deliver once a month; a few times a week, every two months; and once a week, every three months. You can change this frequency at any point later. Then, add an optional shave cream ($8), lotion ($12), makeup wipes ($9), or travel case ($5) to your order. 

Flamingo lets you buy all of its shaving, waxing, and body products a la carte. There is no subscription plan, so you can buy refills whenever you need them. Most new customers start with the $16 Shave Set.

Taking a closer look at their starter shave kits

billie vs flamingo razor

Billie‘s Starter Kit costs $9 and includes a handle, two five-blade cartridges, and a magnetic holder. 

Flamingo‘s Shave Set costs $16 and includes a handle, two five-blade cartridges, 1 oz. foaming shave gel, 3 oz. body lotion, a shower hook, and a reusable pouch. 

What the razor looks like

billie vs flamingo razor 7

The Billie razor handle comes in six colors, in various shades of pink and blue. It has a five-blade cartridge made with USA-sharpened and assembled steel. The blades are encased in a charcoal shave soap and the cartridge has rounded edges. 

The Flamingo razor handle comes in three colors, with metallic accents. Its five-blade cartridge features German-engineered blades (Harry’s owns the German factory where the blades are made), a hydrating strip formulated with aloe vera, rounded edges, and a flexible hinge. 

I shaved with both Billie’s and Flamingo’s products to compare the experiences. Both gave me a smooth, close shave but in different ways.

billie vs flamingo razor

I used the Billie razor with the Shave Cream ($8), a non-aerosol cream made with soothing and gentle ingredients like aloe, sage, shea butter, and grapefruit and free from synthetic fragrances, parabens, and sulfates. I’m a sucker for anything grapefruit-flavored or scented, so right away I loved the cream. It’s not super thick, but since the blades already have soap built into them, you don’t need to use a lot of cream. 

The Billie razor felt comfortable in my hand. Though the cartridge has a hinge, I thought the angle and design didn’t allow it to go as far back as I would’ve liked. I was still able to tackle every inch of hair on my legs and armpits thanks to its sharp blades — I just had to be more careful and intentional. 

Meanwhile, the Flamingo razor pairs with a Foaming Shave Gel ($5), which comes in an aerosol can. Its key ingredients include aloe vera as well as conditioning emollients. Its gel is also paraben- and sulfate-free. This thick gel foamed up nicely and felt luxuriously smooth on my skin. 

I found the Flamingo razor handle, with its textured rubber grip, was easier to hold and less likely to slip from my fingers. The flexible hinge also helped me better get into tricky curves and corners. Like my experience with Billie, the sharp blades were ultimately the most impressive and important feature of the razor. 

The accessories and other bodycare products are also factors worth considering.

billie vs flamingo razor 3

Both Billie and Flamingo razors come with a wall accessory to hold it and keep it within reach in your shower. Billie‘s is a triangular magnetic holder that your razor sticks to, while Flamingo‘s is a circular suction grip that your razor clicks into. 

Whether because my shower wall was too wet when I stuck these holders to it, or these accessories simply weren’t strong enough, either the holder or the razor often fell off. While the idea is great, I wouldn’t rely too much on these holders. 

To supplement your body-care routine, I do recommend trying both companies’ lotions and body washes. The Billie Sudsy Body Wash ($9), made with grapefruit, coconut, rosa canina, and aloe vera, cleanses and preps your skin before you shave, and the Dry-Bye Body Lotion ($12) is formulated with grape seed, chamomile, shea butter, and aloe vera for perfect post-shave moisturization.

Flamingo doesn’t have a body wash, but its Body Lotion ($8) features the key ingredients of white willowbark extract and papaya fruit extract (for hydration) and a derivative of sugar cane (for moisturization). 

Overall, the pricing is similar – and affordable.

flamingo razor review

Billie:

Flamingo:

Which company’s razors should you shave with? Here’s the bottom line.

My Billie Starter Kit

The best women’s shaving brand for you depends on your shaving habits and preferences. With both Billie and Flamingo, you’re getting sharp blades that will get rid of your body hair efficiently, at an affordable price. 

If you shave at a consistent schedule, Billie will be better for you because of its convenient and automatic subscription service. It’s easy to add on supplementary products to your order, and subscribing is also the only way to get replacement cartridges. 

If you’re on less of a schedule and want to order refills as you go, you’ll be better off with Flamingo. Its Shave Set offers a good introduction to its products, and it’s affordable at less than $20. You should also shop Flamingo if you’ve used and liked Harry’s razors in the past but want a design better suited to your body. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

How Tribe Capital selected and ranked Insider’s Seed 100 and Seed 25 lists of the best seed VCs

Jake Ellowitz
Jake Ellowitz, a partner at Tribe Capital.

  • Tribe Capital developed a model to discover the best seed-stage VCs.
  • It was designed to notice investors with consistent extraordinary skill.
  • Tribe used it internally to find partners, and it became the basis of Insider’s lists of top VCs.
  • Read the Seed 100 list of the best seed VCs and the Seed 25 list of the best female seed VCs.

There are tens of thousands of institutions and people who are early-stage investors in the US.

Despite such vastness, seed investors are a tight-knit, interwoven community. They work together to find and support young startups, work that we see as a highly skilled vocation: From our research, we know that the best VCs perform a lot better than the average ones, and they have repeat success.

Our team at Tribe Capital is a group of technologists and engineers who harness data science every day to identify the most significant companies of our generation. We look for what we call the “N of 1” opportunities, where a company is capturing a new atomic-size unit of value – such as oil, idle cars, equity, or the friend graph – that, when captured, has the potential to catalyze an immense wave of innovation. These opportunities are easy to spot in retrospect, but very difficult to predict.

So, we wondered, out of all the investing partners available, which ones consistently spot those “N of 1” opportunities? Those are the relationships we should develop and how we should spend our time. But how do we find them?

These questions drove us to develop a model for ranking the performance of the seed community. This methodology is how we determined the Seed 100 and Seed 25 lists.

We sought out VCs whose seed investments:

  • have performed well as indicated by initial public offerings or exits meaningfully above liquidation preference, meaning returns were achieved because the companies became more valuable, not because they raised a lot of money.
  • showed early signs of future success because their portfolios have cured well at the early stage, but have not yet exited.
  • tended to reach growth stage as indicated by Series B+ follow-up rounds.
  • had well-rounded success, showing well across all attributes we measured even if they didn’t have a single strength.

Our search began with a review of Crunchbase and PitchBook, two representative databases that track venture deals. The model analyzed each person’s performance in about 25 areas. The total population of people who met our criteria was about 1,000. (We excluded all members of the Tribe Capital investing team.)

Of the 1,000, about 450 had enough indicators across many areas of our criteria to produce a strong level of confidence in their estimated investing proficiency.

Then, once we narrowed the list, we did our own due diligence.

Everyone has different strengths, and our model is designed to notice when an investor possesses extraordinary skill and shows a high likelihood of continuing to be outstanding.

That said, many great investors aren’t on either list.

Because our model looks at funding and exits, it typically takes a few years to gauge the quality of seed investments. So we eliminated from contention any investor who is no longer active and those who had fewer than five investments between 2007 and 2020.

Women and diversity

Venture capital has historically been entirely driven by who you know, not what you know. That’s one of the problems our models are designed to change. (Read: How Tribe Capital’s Arjun Sethi uses data, not feelings, to choose the startups his fund backs.)

For that reason, the venture industry has been, for decades, dominated by men and has largely overlooked people of color. As a result, historical data on the performance of investors by gender or racial diversity has been difficult to measure.

By including historical analysis in our model, our list reflects the still somewhat lacking diversity in the industry today, which we expect may evolve over time. In the set of 450 people who met our criteria, the ratio of male to female was about 12-to-1. Racial data on investors was not available.

There are many excellent seed investors, particularly from a growing rank of newly funded investors from diverse backgrounds, who simply didn’t have a long enough track record as of yet on enough deals, with data that could be validated, to be in contention. In future years, these successes could be expressed in our model, and we expect our list to grow more diverse over time.

All of this motivated us to share our work so that entrepreneurs at the early stage have more resources and guidance when choosing whom to partner with.

We’re excited to see how the entire industry engages with the Seed 100 and Seed 25, as well as for the partnerships that are created by what we have to share with you.

Jake Ellowitz is a partner at Tribe Capital and the data scientist who pioneered Tribe’s startup- and venture-capital-industry mathematical models.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Unit, a tech startup targeting small businesses for unionization, is attracting retail workers looking for modern ways to organize

liquor store employee grocery carts
“There are a bunch of exploited workers in the retail space,” Unit founder Jamie Earl White told Insider.

  • Americans largely support labor unions, but the US membership rate has dropped steeply since 1983.
  • Unit, a new startup launched in December 2020, is looking to help workers bust anti-union firms.
  • “We have a mission to support the rights of workers to organize,” said founder Jamie Earl White.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Unit, a new tech startup, is looking to bolster private-sector unionization rates by focusing on small workplaces that do not normally get the attention of large labor groups across the US.

The company, launched in December 2020, offers individual groups looking to organize software tools, a web app, and dedicated staff who act as labor advisers to better help clients navigate unionization efforts. To begin with, individuals can invite their coworkers onto the platform. Once enough interest in unionizing builds up, Unit assigns a full-time adviser to the drive.

“The simplest metaphor for understanding it is that we’re a labor consultancy, just like a union busting firm,” White told Insider. “But we work on the other side. We work for the workers.”

Unit’s software features workplace mapping for the purposes of gauging employee interest, surveys and voting, as well as other elements that typically constitute the “paperwork” behind creating a new union, White said. In terms of price, Unit costs members 0.8% of wages earned over the course of a year.

Catering to a ‘bunch of exploited workers in the retail space’

In 2019, White began speaking with labor advisers, organizers, and individuals who’d organized their own workplaces. He said many of those early supporters still advise Unit, whose client list just four months in remains undisclosed. Since the software only recently went live, White said Unit is likely months away from publicizing any signed collective bargaining agreements.

Unit, however, is tailored to help a specific kind of workplace: those in the private sector, with less than 200 employees. The workspaces that have begun to use Unit are a cross-section when it comes to industry, but include retail establishments. White said that these workplaces tend to be “underserved” by traditional unions.

“If you’re a labor union, you have to pay the bills and to send a full-time labor organizer to one of these smaller workplaces just doesn’t always make sense economically,” he said.

That’s why White says he sees his startup coexisting within the current labor union landscape, rather than acting as a “disruptor” to the traditional model, which White said caters to larger workspaces.

White said he’s been surprised by some of the workplaces that have opted to use Unit. He had been expecting to mostly attract “white collar tech workers” who were “already on Slack all day.” Instead, some of Unit’s “fastest-moving workplaces” are “blue collar,” including retail workers.

“There are a bunch of exploited workers in the retail space,” he said.

White said that his app is intended to make it “much easier” for workers to “get started” creating a union within their workplace.

But as expected, anti-union measures from management present a problem. White estimated that one such workplace has spent $2,000 per worker on anti-union measures, including sudden paid leave for pro-union supporters, the rearrangement of schedules intended to separate pro-union workers, and anti-union captive audience meetings.

“Management is afraid of losing power,” he said. “They’ll sometimes put an amount of money investing in anti-union measures that could have just gone to the workers.”

One feature that Unit is currently working on is inoculation training tools for anti-union meetings, as well as messaging for businesses on how expensive fighting drives can be.

White hopes to transform Unit into a worker-owned company down the road, although currently it’s a benefit corporation funded by venture capital. White did not disclose how much Unit has raised so far, or which venture capitalist firm is backing the company, saying that the startup will release this information later this week.

He said that this fact engenders some “skepticism” among labor movement activists, despite the fact that the VC backers are “onboard with our mission.” According to White, Unit’s business model inspires “confidence” among skeptics, as the startup has an incentive to do right by its clients: the workers.

“We have to make this work for workers,” he said. “Otherwise we don’t have an advising business at all, if we’re not doing a good job there.”

A complicated labor market

Having launched in December, Unit hit the scene at a fraught moment for the US labor market. As of February 2021, 4.1 million individuals are considered “long-term unemployed,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meaning, they’ve been without a job for at least 27 weeks. That is an increase of up to 3 million year-over-year, reflecting the devastation wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Union membership has also plummeted over recent decades. In 1983, the US had a union membership rate of 20.1%. In 2020, that number dropped to 10.8%. However, despite that sharp decline in membership, union rates increased slightly by 0.5% in 2020.

A recent survey by polling and analytics firm Gallup additionally found that 65% of respondents approved of labor unions. That percentage has steadily increased in Gallup’s annual labor-related surveys since the percentage of respondents in favor of unions fell to an all-time low of 48% in 2008.

“If we do good work, there’s going to be a higher percentage of unionized people in the United States,” White said.

White, a Texas native who moved to Boston to study engineering, said he first got involved with labor issues while in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011, when Occupy Wall Street was also in full-force.

Back then, White participated in student groups supporting the Service Employees International Union’s “Justice for Janitors” campaign. Justice for Janitors is an ongoing social movement that focuses on bottom-up organizing for increased wages and benefits for custodial workers.

That experience, combined with papers he read on the future of labor organizing from the Century Foundation, a progressive think thank, served as a “starting blueprint” for Unit.

“We have a mission to support the rights of workers to organize and improve their places of work,” he said. “Mission-wise, that is very aligned with the traditional labor movement and what people have been trying to do for centuries.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

We reviewed Allbirds’ $95 sustainable flats – here’s our verdict after almost two years of regular wear

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

allbirds tree breezer flats 2
The Tree Breezers are Allbirds first pair of women’s flats.

  • Allbirds‘ popular and sustainable women’s flats are available in 21 colors and half sizes.
  • The Tree Breezers ($95) offer a sleek silhouette that is breathable, flexible, and supportive.
  • Find our first impressions plus what we think of the fit and comfort almost two years later.

Tree Breezers (small)

Whenever you send eager messages to your favorite brand requesting (more like demanding) a product or style you’d love to see, it can feel like you’re shouting into an abyss. Can anyone hear you?

Sometimes, as in the case of Tommy John’s women’s underwear and with Allbirds’ Tree Breezer flats, the company takes those demands to heart and delivers perfectly on every expectation.

One of the newer styles from online shoe startup Allbirds is classic and beloved to closets the world over: the ballet flat.

Like most of Allbirds’ other styles, from the original Wool Runner to the Tree Skipper, the Tree Breezer retails for $95. It’s available in 21 limited-edition colors. It’s also the first Allbirds shoe to be available in half sizes.

allbirds tree breezer flats 3
Some of the Tree Breezer color options.

While many women, including us, love the all-day comfort of Allbirds sneakers, these casual styles aren’t always appropriate for the office or dressier environments. One customer lamented, “I get bummed when I have to go to work on Monday and put my Allbirds away again until the weekend.”

Anyone who feels similarly can now finally wear Allbirds all week long with the Tree Breezer flats. They feature an FSC-certified Tree exterior, made from renewable eucalyptus woven into Tencel lyocell fabric, and SweetFoam soles, made from sustainably grown sugar cane.

Together, they form a breathable, flexible, and supportive flat that is just as comfortable as an Allbirds sneaker but wearable everywhere sneakers might not be the best choice – work, dinner, or a night out.

They’re also easy to maintain. You’ll need to hand-wash the insoles, but you can throw the rest of the flat in the washing machine, then let them air dry.

The Insider Reviews team received these flats to put them to the test. Overwhelmingly, we agreed that they’re yet another Allbirds hit, a shoe with little-to-no break-in time, versatile wearability, and easy maintenance typically unheard of for its silhouette.

Here are our initial thoughts when we tested them pre-launch, as well as a two-year follow-up on how they’ve performed since:

Allbirds flats
The Tree Breezer in Marine Blue.

Sally Kaplan, deputy editor:

First impressions (May 2019): Last year, I decided that sneakers and ballet flats were going to be my new signature, because who has time for uncomfortable shoes anymore?! These flats are pretty much a dream come true. They’re lightweight, feel pretty similar to the Allbirds Tree Runners I already have and love, and don’t dig in anywhere. I had a tiny bit of rubbing on my heel the first time I wore them, but it subsided after a day. They’re obviously not as supportive as Allbirds’ sneakers, but they’ve got the same soft, washable fuzzy lining – I think they’re just as comfy!

For what it’s worth, I usually wear a 7.5 in sneakers, but I got the 8 in these flats since that’s what I’m used to from Allbirds sneakers and they fit perfectly.

21-month update (March 2021): I’ve been wearing my Tree Breezers probably once a week or so over the course of the past 21 months, and they still look good as new. I wipe the soles down when they get dirty, but haven’t needed to wash the shoes themselves often. There’s a small amount of pilling inside the shoe that I’ve noticed, but it doesn’t affect their comfort. I still love them just as much as I did on day one.

Mara Leighton, senior reporter:

First impressions (May 2019): Flats are hit or miss in terms of comfort for me and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this pair didn’t require any painful break-in time. From the box, I wore them on my long, 20-minute walk to and from the subway and all day at work. Zero blisters, zero discomfort, and more padding than I dared to hope for. For reference, I got them in my typical size 9.

It’s also pretty great that they’re machine-washable. Flats, by nature of being sockless hot-weather shoes, don’t stay fresh for long. I pretty much live in the leather Day Gloves from Everlane in the summer and I wish cleaning them could be close to as easy.

21-month update (March 2021): More than any other pair of Allbirds I’ve owned, the Tree Breezers have aged most gracefully. The wool inside has worn down to the shape of my foot with wear and the breathable material means they’ve transitioned from spring to summer to fall seamlessly. Like Sally, I haven’t needed to wash them often, but I’ve noticed some pilling inside the shoe itself. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. They’re among my most comfortable and most frequently worn pairs.

allbirds tree breezer flats
The Tree Breezer in Starfish.

Connie Chen, senior reporter:

First impressions (May 2019): Allbirds, specifically the Wool Runners and Tree Skippers, are my default shoe to put on when I know I’m going to be on my feet all day and can get away with a more casual style. If I need to look a little more put together but don’t want to end the day limping home, Everlane Day Gloves or Rothy’s Pointed Flats it is. I’m happy to now have another option for a genuinely comfortable flat, and from a brand with a proven track record.

My favorite shoes are those that I don’t have to think twice about or mentally prepare myself to wear. The Tree Breezers saunter confidently into that category, no contest. They’re soft and mold to your feet upon first wear, but don’t have that thin, unsupportive feeling of some other flats. I wore them for more than 12 hours one day, first to work and then to a concert, and they had no problem keeping up with the prolonged walking and standing.

I think it’s worth getting one of the brighter limited-edition colors (I got them in the springy lilac Starfish). Because of their comfort, you’ll feel motivated to wear the eye-catching flats more often.

21-month update (March 2021): When I wore these flats during the summer, I realized they ran a bit warm for my taste and the wool insoles felt like they’d be more suitable for colder seasons. Now that the weather is cool, I’m wearing them more often. They’re perfect for transitional periods because they’re light on my feet while keeping them cozy.

allbirds tree breezer flats 5
Since the colors are limited-edition, some (like the Seashell color pictured here) may sell out.

Ellen Hoffman, executive editor:

First impressions (May 2019): Allbirds makes some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn right out of their box, so I was excited to try the company’s new ballet flats. The first word I uttered to my teammates after stepping into my navy Tree Breezers was, “Wow.” Like Mara, I really want to like flats, but they often miss the mark for me when it comes to comfort.

We’ve affectionately dubbed the Tree Breezers “machine-washable pillows for your feet” in our team’s Slack channel because they’re just that comfortable. I wore mine home from work the same day they arrived – a risky move since my commute home involves lots of walking and staircases – and my feet came away not only blister free but also feeling ultra cushioned and supported. They’re a perfect addition to an already impressive lineup from Allbirds for $95 a pair.

21-month update (March 2021): I love these flats! They’re not the most stylish flats I own, but I end up wearing them more than those trendier pairs because they’re so comfortable. Unlike the Wool Runners or Wool Loungers that can lose some of their shape with time, the Tree Breezers offer a really solid amount of structure; they look and feel the same 21 months later. I haven’t washed mine often, but I like knowing I can … I don’t have to be as precious with them as I have to be with other shoes.

The bottom line

As is always the case with Allbirds shoes, the new Tree Breezers are reliably comfortable and the most worry-free shoes you can slip on in the morning. The search for a go-to pair of cute, versatile flats is often a game involving too many blisters, worn-out soles, and impractical upkeep. Trust that you won’t have those problems with the Allbirds Tree Breezers.

Tree Breezers (button)

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The return of Ebony magazine: After a $14 million buyout, its new millennial owner talks a historic relaunch

Eden Bridgeman
Eden Bridgeman.

In the early 1990s, Eden Bridgeman sat underneath a hairdryer in a Louisville beauty shop. She was just a child then and wanted to look pristine for Easter Sunday.

Next to the hairdryer stood a rack of magazines. Among them, a beautiful Black woman graced a glossy cover. She picked it up and flipped through its pages. This was one of her first encounters with Ebony magazine. 

As a pastime, Bridgeman studied Ebony, as so many Black girls did in hair salons, in their grandmother’s living room, and on their auntie’s kitchen counter.  

With glamorous celebrities and public figures like Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, and Michelle Obama on the covers, Ebony portrayed Black women at their finest. “These were our superstars,” Bridgeman, 34, said. “The people driving the culture.”

Now, after a tumultuous 75-year history, which has seen a decline in the appetite for print products and the bankruptcy of Ebony Media Corporation, Bridgeman is the magazine’s latest owner, as well as the mastermind behind its rebranding.

On March 1st, Ebony relaunched. 

Ebony was founded in 1945 by publisher John Johnson and during the 1960s, the publication earned acclaim for its coverage of the civil rights movement. Ebony’s diminutive, sister magazine, Jet, was founded in 1951 by Johnson. For nearly six decades, the two publications defined Black culture with their in-depth profiles of such figures as civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, Diana Ross, and its insightful coverage of the AIDS epidemic. In the 1980s, their circulation topped an impressive 1 million.

Ebony Magazine
Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of Ebony Magazine in 1968.

Then came the 21st century, and financial woes struck the lorded publications. Both magazines suffered years of declining subscriptions and ad revenue. In 2016, Ebony and Jet were sold to private equity firm CV Media, and in 2019, both publications stopped printing physical copies. In July, Willard Jackson, the magazine’s CEO, was removed after an internal investigation of unauthorized use of company funds. 

Shortly after Jackson’s leave, Bridgeman’s father presented the family with an idea: he wanted to buy Ebony and Jet. Bridgeman was interested immediately.

To start planning, Bridgeman was introduced to former CNN and BET executive Michele Ghee through mutual friends. They spoke about what the future of Ebony and Jet could look like. A few days later, Ebony Media Operations filed for bankruptcy. 

In December, the Bridgeman family won the bid to buy Ebony and Jet for $14 million. Soon after the deal was closed, Ghee was officially appointed CEO and planned a relaunch for March. This gave them a month to organize Ebony’s rebirth. 

Jet is scheduled to relaunch in June. 

‘We’re a 75-year-old startup’

The new Ebony, Bridgeman said, has three core values: to be bold, brilliant, and beloved.

The magazine has at least a dozen people on staff. Both Ebony and Jet will be entirely digital endeavors, and there are no plans for either to return to print. Bridgeman’s day-to-day is ever-changing. She’s on calls, meeting with advertisers, and assisting in finding partners and contributors for the magazine. 

Ebony cover
The new Ebony cover, released March 1, featuring artwork by Jon Moody.

She tells Insider that throughout her years as a business professional, she’s come to appreciate the idea of servant leadership – the notion that she, as the leader, is not bigger than any entity. A title is just a title. 

“You have to understand every aspect within the business,” she said. “You [have to] show up in a way that people feel they can approach you. They [must] feel that they can work with you, not only just for you.” 

Purchasing the assets out of bankruptcy meant Bridgeman had an obligation to make sure her business strategies could sustain themselves, she said. And she’s been emphasizing the power of the Black dollar to advertisers, which was valued at over $1 trillion in 2019

“You are going to want to tap into that power,” she said. 

Rather than go back to print, Ebony will funnel money into the magazine’s technological expansion. “We’re a 75-year-old startup,” Bridgeman joked.”There’s plenty of room across the media space for all of us to live. We want to lift each other up.” 

Ebony’s first digital cover features a painting by artist Jon Moody, which portrays a woman with her locs flowing in the air. Tanisha Ford, historian and author of “Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion” is excited for the relaunch. 

Growing up, it seemed every Black family in Ford’s life had a subscription to Ebony and Jet. Often spread out on coffee tables, the magazines became a collector’s item – a generational touchstone. 

That was then, however, and Ford is curious to see how the magazine will establish brand loyalty in the modern age.

Jet Magazine
Eartha Kitt on the cover of Jet Magazine in 1955.

“I think about folks who are finishing high school and on the verge of college,” Ford told Insider. “It doesn’t mean the same thing for them – they don’t have the same kind of nostalgia of having an aunt pass down old Ebony magazines in the same ways that I do.”

The next 75 years

Bridgeman was born in Los Angeles and raised in Louisville. Since 2009, she’s been working for her family’s company, Manna Inc., which owns hundreds of restaurants throughout the United States, including 130 Wendy’s locations. In 2013, she completed her MBA at Loyola University Chicago-Quinlan School of Business. She was named chief marketing officer of Manna Inc. in 2017, a position she will retain as she oversees the relaunch of Ebony and Jet.

Bridgeman wants Jet to produce fast-paced news targeted toward millennials, and there are plans to bring back its beloved Beauty of the Week section, which highlights beautiful, successful Black women. 

That section was an early memory for entrepreneur Maori Karmael Holmes, founder and artistic director of BlackStar Film Festival, who also recalls seeing Ebony and Jet magazines scattered throughout the homes of both her grandmothers. Last year, Holmes launched her own print journal, Seen, which focuses on filmmaking.

She is also hopeful for the relaunch, pointing out that Ebony was essential to opening the doors of Black writers, and gave Black entrepreneurs a chance to advertise their businesses. “I hope for the next seventy-five years, it can be a relevant chronicler of Black culture,” Holmes said.

There’s a chance for that – Ebony already has a million followers on Instagram. “We want to make sure this is successful,” Bridgeman said. “We’re sitting on 75 years of history. If we aren’t able to maintain the business, then what good are we going to be for our community?”

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You could soon charge an electric car in the time it takes to fill a tank of gas thanks to a startup partnering with Uber

Ample founders Khaled Hassounah and John de Souza stand in front of a battery swapping station.
Founders Khaled Hassounah and John de Souza stand in front of a battery swapping station.

  • Ample launched a charging network for Uber’s fleet in San Francisco.
  • The startup uses battery swapping technology to charge electric cars faster.
  • The company plans to deploy the network in multiple cities for consumers within the next few years.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Ample, a startup based out of San Francisco, has launched a charging network that can recharge an electric car in under 10 minutes. The company came out of stealth mode on Wednesday.

The company started the initiative through a partnership with Uber and is funded by over $70 million from private investors. The network currently charges Uber’s fleet of cars in San Francisco and is expected to hit the general market within a couple of years.

Ample has already deployed two stations that are in full use in San Francisco for Uber’s fleet and is working on deploying more stations in several other major cities in California. The startup hopes to ease much of the range-bound anxiety of driving an electric car by making charging stations as fast and readily available as gas stations.

Ample uses the world’s first modular battery-swapping system. The company’s CEO, Khaled Hassounah, says the modular battery swapping system operates like “Lego blocks.” The size of the car determines how many battery modules the car needs and the modules can adapt to fit any vehicle.

Unlike typical charging stations – which require the electric car to be plugged in and can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 12 hours – Ample’s charging stations remove the car’s batteries and replaces them with freshly charged ones. The depleted batteries are then placed on shelves at the station where they are recharged for future use.

The system is also entirely autonomous. Customers will pay using an app system and don’t even need to get out of the car to charge the electric vehicle, according to Hassounah. The station automatically detects the vehicle and goes to work.

 

Ample’s President John de Souza said the goal of the company is to make electric cars as accessible as possible. For many drivers, the decision to transition from a combustion engine to an electric car is not feasible due to the nuisance of long charging times and cars that cannot travel long distances without stopping to get recharged.

“Electric cars shouldn’t have to be subsidized by the government or come at a huge personal cost,” de Souza told Insider. “It has to be more convenient than gas so it becomes a no-brainer for people to say, ‘Why wouldn’t I switch?”

The startup charges Uber fleet drivers per mile and offers its services for 10-20% less than the cost of gas. Hassounah said the battery’s modular system allows the process to be simpler and ultimately cheaper.  The entire set up also contributes to a cheaper price, as it can be constructed easily in a parking lot.

“We could deploy a whole city in a matter of weeks,” Hassounah told Insider.

The autonomous battery swapping stations can be easily put together or taken down as they come in their own structures that can be put together quickly in several large sections.

Battery swapping could increase the life span of an electric car

The swapped batteries will use the longest range technology available for each car to give drivers as many miles as possible between recharges. 

Hassounah said the swapping system would also contribute to the longevity of the vehicle, as the car would no longer be constrained by a dying battery, but would be continually receiving the newest battery chemistries.

Most EV batteries are insured for at least 100,000 miles, but lithium-ion batteries often get shorter and shorter ranges as they go. A new electric car battery costs several thousands of dollars, for example a Nissan Leaf battery replacement costs about $5,500, while a Chevy Bolt replacement costs over $16,000, according to Car and Driver.  Both cars have around a 250 mile range.

 The company is not the first to employ battery swapping technology and it faces competition from at least six startups with similar strategies. In China – the leader in the electric car industry – the practice is much more common. Chinese manufacturer Nio has largely found success with the process in China.

Companies have struggled with the technology in the past

In 2013, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off battery swapping technology, only to reject the technology two years later in favor of focusing on the company’s Supercharging stations. Musk called the technology “too expensive.”

Another startup based out of Israel, Better Place, also invested in battery swapping technology. Investors in the company lost over $850 million as the idea fell flat.

The company was unable to find automakers willing to manufacture vehicles with its technology and it was not financially sustainable to make enough different kinds of batteries to fit each type of electric car in the market.

Hassounah said Ample has learned from Better Place’s mistakes. The company’s modular battery is cheaper than Tesla’s attempt and can fit any car unlike Better Place’s battery swapping method. Ample is also in the process of working with five major automakers, according to Hassounah.

The company is also approaching charging stations differently. Ample plans to use renewable energy sources to recharge the batteries. The company captures wind and solar energy when available and delivers it to the cars when needed.

“Moving to electric but still burning fossil fuels is not solving the problem,” Hassounah told Insider.  “We save the absorbed energy, for peak times and plan to charge the vast majority if not all of it with renewable energy without increasing the cost.”

Ultimately, Hassounah said the company hopes to help get one billion electric cars on the road.

“It’s not battery swapping versus charging,” Hassounah told Insider. “We need all of the solutions. We are all aligned in finding different ways to solve the problem and modular battery swapping is just another way to solve the larger problem.”

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