National News

In Defense Of U.N. Aid In Iraq

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 12:09

For more on the challenges of supporting internally displaced persons in Iraq, Robert Siegel speaks with Kieran Dwyer, the spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Dwyer responds to criticisms of the U.N. agencies trying to help.

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Startups Pitch Cricket Flour As The Best Protein You Could Eat

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 11:20

Cricket flour is a thing, and it's showing up in protein bars and baked goods. A few companies are testing the water to see if Americans can get on board with cricket as an alternative to meat or soy.

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When does a start-up stop being a start-up?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 11:14

One way to tell a company if a company is a baby start-up? By its location. The farther an address is from the subway in New York – and therefore the cheaper the rent – the more likely the start-up will be a youthful one.

Which is the case with Kinisi. The company, which makes an environmental sensor to gauge problems like air pollution, was founded in June. You can measure its age like a baby's – in weeks.

Bryan Valentini, one of the company's five co-founders, says there are other quick ways to spot the youngest of young start-ups. “You can ask them, 'Do you have business cards?'  Something simple like that," he said. And the answer for me would be 'not right now.'"

Does Kinisi have a human resources department? “You’re looking at it," he said.

Valentini says, for him, one sign a start-up has stopped being a start-up "is when you come in, you’ve started something and it stops being fun.”

What would older start-ups have to say? To find out, we stopped by Columbia Business School’s Startub Lab, hosted at co-working space WeWork in SoHo, an open-plan office with high ceilings, long tables and lots of entrepreneurs with laptops. You can practically smell the IPOs.

“I’m not sure that a start-up ever stops being a start-up," said Benji Jack, a co-founder of start-up BoardRounds, which aims to improve follow-up for emergency room patients. His company has been around for a year, and Jack says start-up-ness is a frame of mind – being able to innovate and change quickly.

"I don’t think one can point to Google and say 'on this date, Google was no longer a start-up,'” he said. 

Just a few SoHo blocks – but many years of start-up experience – away, are the offices of ShopKeep. Founded in 2008, CFO and co-founder David Olk described the company as a "petulant teen." "It’s a little bit more mature," he said, "but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to have its problems, issues and stumble to grow up into a normal human adult."

Olk says he agrees with Jack – that plenty of public companies are run like start-ups. “We’re a start-up," he said. "Look, we have a pool table, we have a kegerator, we have a Foosball table, we have free food.”

Olk said Shopkeep is a mature company and a start-up. Now his focus is on day-to-day business. He doesn’t have to worry about capital like he used to, But he said the company retains its start-up qualities, like employees’ ability to make decisions and to take ownership of their jobs.

But then again, although ShopKeep has 130 employees, with offices in the UK, New York and Portland, it’s no Microsoft.

The problem with gargantuan companies, said Hayagreeva Rao, a Stanford professor and author of "Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less", "is the larger you become as a company, the more likely are smart people inside the company to become dumb.”

Rao said he doesn’t mean smart people become stupid. Instead, he cited the work of anthropologist Robin Dunbar: “He studied a number of species to find out: What is the optimal size of a tribe or a social grouping?"

The magic number is around 150 people. Beyond that, Rao said, your tribe is going to break apart. The bigger a company is, the harder it is to know everyone’s name, let alone what they do.

Imagine you're the founder of a start-up that’s grown from two employees to 2,000: "You go to a meeting and you see a lot of people you don’t know – that’s like definitely a warning sign.  You go to a meeting and say, 'who are these people? What the hell are they doing here?'" he said.

In other words: Once a company becomes successful, it can become its own enemy.

Rao said large companies like Google and Facebook are not start-ups. As they grow, he said, it’s nearly impossible to hold on to their original start-up-y culture. That’s why companies like Google give venture capital money inside the company – to try to stay Google-y.

At Columbia’s Startup Lab, Liz Wilkes, a founder of Exubrancy, an office health and happiness company, is working on her laptop. She says a start-up stops being a start-up when it stops feeling like a family and becomes an organization with hierarchy and systems. But she also says start-up-ness is cultural, which can, if a company isn't careful, be bad for business. 

“You know when you meet that guy who’s like 40 and he’s wearing  a backwards cap and he’s at the bar with your friends who are in their 20s?" she said. "And you’re like, this guy might be a little too old to be here? I do feel like there’s some of that in the start-up scene. Where a company, potentially to its detriment, has not formalized and organized in a way that they should."

Start-ups can get stuck in their teenage years, but they don't have to, Wilkes says. 

Growing up, while retaining just the right youthful qualities, for people or for companies, or for both, is tricky.

Cyrus Massoumi, CEO and founder of the physician location service ZocDocs,  said there are three attributes that define startups: the first he says "is relative to speed, how quickly can you get decisions made, how quickly can you get new products and services." The second, creativity - "are you building new products and processes, are you growing?" And "of course, the last one is fun."

Even with over 600 employees, ZocDocs remains a start-up, Massoumi said. He pointed to the shag carpet skateboard near his desk. "Maybe that’s what makes it not a start-up, he joked. "When your team doesn’t let you ride your shag carpet skateboard around your office for fear that you're going to injure yourself."

"If you want to retain the attributes of a start-up as you get bigger, you absolutely need to focus on it. And it needs to be a top priority or you will lose it."

He nodded toward a stuffed monster, given out as inter-office award. Then, to a large bean bag chair, "we have the world's largest beanbag sitting here," and finally a ping-pong table in the cafeteria. "Ping-pong," he said, "is an important part of what we do."

 

[<a href="//storify.com/Marketplace/when-does-a-startup-stop-being-a-startup" target="_blank">View the story "When does a startup stop being a startup?" on Storify</a>]

 

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified David Olk's title. He is CFO and co-founder of ShopKeep. The text has been corrected.

Has Health Law Helped Young People Get Mental Health Treatment? Maybe

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 09:55

The Affordable Care Act has allowed many young adults to stay on their parents' insurance. A study suggests the coverage may be helping more of them get treatment for mental health issues.

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EU OKs Arms Shipments To Iraqi Kurds

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 09:15

In an emergency meeting in Brussels, the European Union also called for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity carried out by Islamic State militants.

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While Films And TV Shows Miss Latinos, A YouTube Outlet Grows

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 09:15

Since it was created in 2012, the MiTú network has been rapidly expanding to meet demand for Latino Web content. Now, it's partnering with Televisa, a Spanish-language media company.

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Wide Range Of Hospital Charges For Blood Tests Called 'Irrational'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 08:24

An analysis of hospital charges in California couldn't explain the wide variation in listed prices for routine lab work. Teaching hospitals and government-run hospitals charged the least.

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In Hawaii, Storm-Battered Area Becomes A Kingmaker

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 07:18

Sen. Brian Schatz leads Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic Senate primary by a slim 1,635 votes. Two remote precincts, damaged by Tropical Storm Iselle, could hold the decisive ballots.

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What Your Junk Drawer Reveals About You

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 07:11

The Great American Junk Drawer is a scrap yard, a time capsule and a box of curiosities and memories. It can also be a Rorschachian reflection of your life.

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Baseball players make out like one-percenters

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 07:00

Major League Baseball’s next commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been involved with labor negotiations for the league since the 1994 players strike. Since then, player salaries have risen far more quickly than pay for the average worker. For instance, the minimum salary for major league players has risen from $109,000 in 1995 to $500,000 today.  

In 1995, a major league baseball player making the minimum salary earned about 4.4 times more than the average full-time worker. Today it’s 12 times more.

However, minor league players filed a lawsuit this year protesting low wages, with most earning between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season, which translates to an annual wage of $7,200 to $18,000 a year.

Even major-league ball has a one percent. For minimum-salary earners, “the percentage increase is not as big as for the top players. The top players got a lot more,” says Barry Krissoff, a retired economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a Mets (and Senators) fan, and the author of a 2013 article called “Society and Baseball Face Rising Inequality."

That comparison seems overstated to Scott Rosner, associate director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. Income inequality is “a little more acute for society as a whole than it is for baseball,” he says. “No one who is a major-league baseball player is going hungry by any means.”

Owners have done well too. “Salaries are very much proportional to revenue growth as a whole,” says Joel Maxcy, a sports economist at Temple University.

And star baseball players don’t get paid as much as other top celebrities, says Michael Haupert, a sports economist at the University of Wisconsin. The sport’s best-paid player, Alex Rodriguez, took home $29 million in 2013. According to Forbes, Ellen DeGeneres earned $72 million.

Even other athletes out-earn baseball’s stars.

“Tiger Woods made a lot more money last year — even when he had a crappy year — than Alex Rodriguez,” says Haupert. Forbes estimated Woods’ earnings at $61 million.

Indonesian Police Detain U.S. Couple In Murder Probe

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 06:48

A 19-year-old woman and her 21-year-old boyfriend are being held in connection with the brutal death of the woman's mother on the resort island of Bali.

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What The U.S. Health Care System Can Learn From Ebola Outbreak

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 06:35

Future outbreaks of superbugs that resist treatment will test the American health care system's ability to respond. A prominent patient advocate says we need to be ready.

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Ferguson Police Release Name Of Officer Who Shot Michael Brown

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 05:50

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson says the officer who shot an unarmed black teenager is Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran. Police also released data about a robbery they say is related.

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Kiev: Russian Armor Destroyed After Crossing Border

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 05:10

Ukraine's president said a "significant" part of a Russian armored column said to have crossed the border overnight was destroyed by Kiev's artillery.

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Radio In Liberia Seems Like It's All Ebola, All The Time

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 04:21

Deejays talk about it. Singers sing about it. Press conferences are broadcast live. Liberia's radio stations are devoting much of their airtime to spreading the word: Ebola is real.

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Helping Students Make Sense Of A Young Black Man's Death In Missouri

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 04:03

The shooting of Michael Brown may raise questions for students, and teachers need to be prepared.

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'They're Talking To People': Tensions Ease In Ferguson As Police Change Tactics

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 04:01

Instead of meeting demonstrators with tear gas, police walked with them.

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When Snails Lose Their Way

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 03:03

There are happy snails. There are lonely snails. And there are lost snails. This one is lost. Totally. But it sings.

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PODCAST: The rise of the SWAT team

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 03:00

Ferguson, Missouri has been dominating the news this week. Front and center in the photos and footage of the protests there are SWAT teams. Police officers who have been trained to use "special weapons and tactics." Turns out, it's a kind of policing that's caught on across the country. And it used to be that frequent flier miles were mostly used to buy airline miles. But these days, people are using their frequent flier stash to buy everything from cosmetics to back-to-school supplies. And the airlines are loving that. Plus, when the San Francisco 49ers take the field on Sunday for a pre-season game against Denver, it will be in their brand new stadium in Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley. Considering that the 49ers were named in honor of San Francisco's first big economic boom, it's perhaps fitting that the team's new home is in the heart of tech-land.

 

SWAT teams are a growing presence in law enforcement

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 02:00

SWAT teams are comprised of police officers trained to use “special weapons and tactics,” and they have been front and center in photos and footage of protests in Ferguson, Mo.

According to Jack Greene, who teaches criminology at Northeastern University, these tactical teams were created in the 1960s with a simple objective: “They are there to deal with high violence, high profile situations.”

It used to be only big departments in big cities had SWAT teams, says David Harris, a policing expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. “Now, most departments of any size, except for the very smallest ones, have a SWAT team.”

These departments are worried about terrorism and other threats.

But, Harris says, there are departments that just want to keep up with other departments: “You have situations where we wouldn’t have thought in the past you needed a SWAT team, and the SWAT team is there, shows up, and it’s ready to go.”

Many departments, Harris argues, could spend more time thinking about equipment and training, “using it in a way and only in situations where it makes sense,” and recognizing that the weapons, the uniforms, and the armored vehicles all send a very powerful message.

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