What robots bearing tacos can teach startups about navigating the Trough of Sorrow.
Some companies are born great, some companies achieve greatness, and some companies drop greatness on your face -- in the form of a taco.
The latter certainly applied to one of the greatest fake startups ever: TacoCopter. The prank company drew headlines with its stated plan to use "flying robots" to deliver tacos to smartphone-ordering customers. Basically, they wanted to use automated helicopters to reign deliciousness down on people. It was genius.
It was also illegal. A short brainstorm of air-dropping tacos on customers uncovers a number of drawbacks, including but not limited to: What if the tacos hit somebody else? What if somebody steals your taco from the toy helicopter? What if the copter crashes into a building? What if the FAA opts to clear the skies of Mexican delivery? But all of this was besides the point.
The real key is marketing. This brouhaha is exactly the kind of publicity that can help a new startup get traction. I know from personal experience. Out of college, a couple of friends and I co-founded a social gaming company. After the initial burst of attention and exhilaration that comes from launching, there was ... nothing. Users disappear. It's all about iterating, and trying to build something that people want. Of course, it's hard to know if people really want what you're building when almost nobody knows about you. It's what Y Combinator's Paul Graham calls the "Trough of Sorrow."
The Trough of Sorrow is where most startups meet their demise. It's easy to give up when nobody's paying attention. Anything that kicks the company out of the shadows during these lean months (or years) is by definition good. Even if that means floating outlandish plans to parachute tacos down to customers.
There's an obvious caveat here: TacoCopter isn't real. But there easily could have been a legitimate company behind the farce. Indeed, it's not hard to imagine a taco food truck equivalent of The Melt. Smartphone ordering may not seem all that innovative, but it's the kind of incremental improvement that can make a difference -- with the right marketing.
None of this is to subscribe to an Underpants Gnome theory of startups. It's slightly more complicated than a three-step process of 1) Unleash a viral marketing campaign 2) ??? 3) IPO! There's no substitute for the grueling work of iterating and slowly figuring out what it is that people actually want. But eyeballs are precious. If promises of robots dropping tacos from the sky gets people on your app, so be it.
Brands are a powerful thing. Usually it takes years, if not decades, to cultivate a brand that customers remember. The power of the web is such that a single memorable prank or video can launch a brand overnight. Just ask the Dollar Shave Club. The Internet has disrupted many industries, but one of the most important industry it's disrupted for startups might be marketing. The barrier to entry for going viral is the ability to upload a funny idea to the Internet -- which benefits the landscape for all upstart companies.
Expect smart companies to keep dropping those tacos.
The White House is threatening the special counsel and trying to dig up dirt on him, and the prospect that the president will try to fire him now seems very real.
The idea that Donald Trump might fire—or try to fire—Special Counsel Robert Mueller has bubbled up enough times to seem possible, but still improbable. For one thing (as Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, among others, can attest) press reports that this president might fire someone are frequently wrong. For another, it seemed that even Trump was prudent enough to avoid making the mistake that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.
Yet Trump has a knack for making the wildly implausible suddenly imminent. In the last 36 hours, the idea of Mueller being fired—and the political crisis it would likely set off—has become distinctly real. In an interview with The New York Times, Trump all but said he would fire Mueller if his investigation went into places Trump didn’t like. Since then, several reports have suggested that Trump’s defense strategy, as investigations probe deeper into his life and administration, is to attack Mueller and attempt to discredit him. Increasingly, the operative question seems not to be whether Trump will try to fire Mueller, but when he will do so and what will push him over the edge.
Many point to unromantic 20-somethings and women’s entry into the workforce, but an overlooked factor is the trouble young men have in finding steady, well-paid jobs.
TOKYO—Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family.
But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
Epic yet intimate, the director's new war film is boldly experimental and visually stunning.
What is Dunkirk?
The answer is more complicated than one might imagine. Director Christopher Nolan’s latest is a war film, of course, yet one in which the enemy scarcely makes an appearance. It is a $150 million epic, yet also as lean and spare as a haiku, three brief, almost wordless strands of narrative woven together in a mere 106 minutes of running time. It is classic in its themes—honor, duty, the horror of war—yet simultaneously Nolan’s most radical experiment since Memento. And for all these reasons, it is a masterpiece.
The historical moment captured by the film ascended long ago to the level of martial lore: In May 1940, in the early days of World War II, some 400,000 British and Allied troops were flanked and entrapped by Germany on the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France. Although the Channel was narrow enough that the men could almost see across to England, the waters were too shallow for warships to approach the beaches. So a flotilla of some 700 civilian craft—the “Little Ships of Dunkirk”—made their way from Ramsgate in England to assist in the rescue.
The choice of the former hedge funder and ardent Trump loyalist reflected longstanding dissatisfaction with Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
The Scaramucci revolution was televised.
After months of chatter that his job was on the chopping block, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer finally exited stage right on Friday after financier, donor and TV talking head Anthony Scaramucci was given the job of White House communications director, which had been vacant since the departure of Mike Dubke in May. Spicer resigned in opposition to the move.
The incident brought simmering conflicts inside the White House to a boil and pitted top advisers against each other in a last-minute effort on the part of some of them to stymie the appointment of Scaramucci, known as “The Mooch,” who had refashioned himself as an ardent Trump supporter during the campaign and had been left in limbo during the early days of the administration after not getting a promised job.
On Flower Boy the rapper suggests he’s not straight—and struggles with a stigma he helped propagate.
Tyler, the Creator became famous, in part, for being hateful. When his rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (“Odd Future” is fine) caught buzz around 2010, it was because of their delirious energy and Eminem-like love of mayhem. But it was their threats against women and “faggots,” delivered in song and on social media, that elevated them from subculture phenomenon to become essay prompt and political flashpoint. The likes of GLAAD and the band Tegan and Sara declared Tyler poisonous and asked the music industry to stop supporting him. Theresa May, back when she was home secretary of the U.K., took the extraordinary step of banning him from her country because his lyrics “encourage violence and intolerance of homosexuality.”
In an 11th hour push to repeal Obamacare, Republicans are leaning on a murky analysis that supports their plan.
The Department of Health and Human Services does a great number of things, but providing authoritative analysis of legislation isn’t usually one of them.
That task is left instead to the Congressional Budget Office, the independent agency lawmakers typically rely on to score each and every bill. Yet when it comes to health care, Republicans seem willing to put their trust in the evaluation that’s best for them, regardless of who prepared it—and dismiss assessments that will only make Obamacare repeal harder.
As the prospects for passing a repeal-and-replace law have grown dimmer over recent weeks, Republicans have increasingly divorced themselves from the CBO, which has repeatedly assigned negative scores to the party’s plans. Instead, the GOP has opted for a much more insulated approach to mathematics. Most recently, lawmakers seized on a “preliminary draft” of HHS’s appraisal of a controversial amendment to the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act.
A new report from The Washington Post claims the attorney general had two “substantive” discussions with Sergey Kislyak about Trump’s stance on issues important to Russia.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed matters related to the Trump campaign with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, while the 2016 U.S. presidential race was ongoing, current and former U.S. officials toldThe Washington Post on Friday.
The revelations, based on intelligence intercepts of Kislyak’s communications, contradict Sessions’s sworn testimony before the Senate; first that he had no contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, and later his amended testimony that the contacts he had were not campaign-related.
John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. Johns University and a former associate counsel in the office of the special prosecutor during the Iran-Contra affair, said the nature of the evidence made a perjury prosecution against Sessions unlikely because Kislyak would probably not agree to be a U.S. government witness, and because of the difficulty of using intelligence intercepts as evidence in court.
Like many current presidential advisers, the new White House communications director and former Wall Street financier made a quick pivot from Trump basher to Trump loyalist.
Like many of Donald Trump’s closest non-family advisers, Anthony Scaramucci traveled a circuitous route into the inner orbit of the mercurial president.
The Wall Street financier and former Obama donor once called then-candidate Trump “a hack politician,” a big-mouthed “bully,” and “an inherited money dude from Queens County” and backed two other Republican presidential contenders, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, before embracing Trump as the party’s nominee.
Nearly two years later, Scaramucci, 52, is one of Trump’s most aggressive television surrogates and, as of Friday morning, the White House communications director.
In truth, the smooth-talking Long Island native—nicknamed “the Mooch”—made the transition from Trump basher to Trump loyalist quicker than many Republicans. After a 90-minute meeting with the candidate at Trump Tower in June 2016, Scaramucci was fully onboard and soon praised Trump as “a results-oriented entrepreneur capable of delivering bipartisan solutions to common-sense problems.” The soon-to-be GOP nominee, Scaramucci added, was “the only candidate giving an honest assessment of our country’s ideological decay.”
Where the insurgency is concerned, Trump and Obama have plenty in common.
This week, the Trump administration reportedly cancelled a long-running covert program to support vetted Syrian rebels in the war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. While this move has provoked a small outcry among Assad’s opponents, the development itself is far from surprising. Furthermore, it is incorrect, as some have insisted, to viewthe cancellation as a gratuitous concession to Russia—a decision like this, which aligns with years of deliberate U.S. strategy and Trump’s own stated goals, cannot be considered a concession. It is almost certainly true that Trump hopes this decision will make Russia more cooperative on ceasefires between the regime and the insurgency. But if that does not happen or if it fails to pacify Syria—a likely outcome—this would not alter an already-dismal strategic situation for the Syrian opposition, one that may well be acceptable to the United States.
The resignation, prompted by the unexpected killing of a 911 caller, was perhaps years in the making.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned on Friday, nearly a week after an officer from her department fatally shot an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. Harteau’s resignation honored a request from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who said she had “lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further.” Hodges added that “from the many conservations I’ve had with people around our city, especially this week, it is clear that [Harteau] has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well.”
At around 11:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, two Minneapolis police officers, Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity, responded to two 911 calls from 40-year-old Justine Damond, who reported what she believed to be evidence of a rape. When the officers arrived at the scene, Harrity, who drove the car, was reportedly startled by a loud noise. The sight of Damond at the driver’s side window immediately afterward prompted Noor to fire his gun, fatally wounding Damond in the abdomen. Lending additional scrutiny to the case was the fact the officers did not activate their body cameras upon arrival.