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SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE How Melinda Gates, Shonda Rhimes, and CEOs From Google to Gucci Get It All Done

Inside Kevin Hart’s Mind-boggling, Multi-tasking Empire of Fun

How Facebook Employees Really Use Facebook Shortcuts That Work From LinkedIn to Slack Confessions of a CNBC Dawn-to-Dusk Whirlwind Why Bumble Is Always On Can The Dealmakers Behind Fashion Week and UFC Take Over The World?

“I GOT IT ALL UNDER CONTROL” Kevin Hart’s business spans TV, live events, movies, and more


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Contents December 2016/January 2017

SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE From CEOs to cultural icons, our guide to boosting your efficiency. Plus: How employees at Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Slack use their own platforms to get more done. Begins on page 56

Searcher-in-chief Google CEO Sundar Pichai is finding new ways to get more out of his team—and create more productivity tools for the rest of us. (page 72)

On the cover: Photograph by Williams + Hirakawa

On the cover: Stylist: Ashley North; groomer: John Clausell

This page: Photograph by Mark Mahaney

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 5


Contents

SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE 56 Kevin Hart How the world’s most successful comedian is making the most of his opportunities. By Benjamin Svetkey

64 Melinda Gates Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

66 Marco Bizzarri President and CEO, Gucci

68 Shonda Rhimes CEO, ShondaLand

72 Sundar Pichai CEO, Google

75 Andrew Zimmern Creator and host, Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods shows

76 Whitney Wolfe Founder and CEO, Bumble

78 Andrew Ross Sorkin Journalist and coanchor, CNBC’s Squawk Box

80 Cathy Engelbert CEO, Deloitte

Choices that matter “I make rules: ‘No, you don’t need to look at your phone. You just did two minutes ago.’ It’s about retraining those behaviors,” says Bumble CEO Wolfe. (page 76)

82 Elizabeth O’Neill Master taster, Woodford Reserve

6 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Photograph by Adam Amengual


we coming home to cozy Nest Learning Thermostat Programs itself. Then pays for itself. It turns down after you leave, so you don’t waste energy heating an empty home. And with the Nest app, you can warm things up before you get back. In independent studies, the Nest Thermostat saved an average of 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling.


Contents

FEATURES 84 The Rescue Business How the International Rescue Committee is applying a tech-driven approach—and $700 million a year—to helping refugees around the globe. By Matthew Shaer

9 6 First Fashion,

Then Fighting By acquiring content from Fashion Week to UFC, powerhouse talent agency WME-IMG—led by the competitive Ari Emanuel—is taking direct aim at disrupting the entertainment ecosystem. By Nicole LaPorte

DEPARTMENTS 12 From the Editor 14 Most Creative People Bonin Bough, host of LeBron James’s Cleveland Hustles, on the power of messaging.

16 Most Innovative

Companies

The latest from Mastercard, Blue Bottle, J.Crew, and more.

20 The Recommender The 16 must-buy gifts for this holiday season, including goldfoil art, a whiskey decanter, and a luxury fountain pen.

108 The List Ten name and logo tweaks that made a difference.

Talking is a luxury Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri says he limits work conversations to five minutes or less so that he can be available to more people. (page 66)

8 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Photograph by Federico Ciamei


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Home is the best place in the world. So the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Protect smoke and CO alarm and Nest Cam security cameras help make it more comfortable, safe and secure.


Contents

Blow by blow Second City actors Meagan O’Brien, left, and Robyn Scott teach improv techniques to help companies build resilience. (page 36)

NEXT 29 The Rise of Consumer

40 Pinterest Keeps

Genomics

You Pinned

How a new DNA-sequencing company is accelerating the democratization of genetics.

Blame your endless scrolling on recent advances in machine learning.

36 Second City Goes to Work Don’t laugh! The comedy troupe is helping Facebook, Google, and others build better teams.

46 Five Neighborhoods

Where We Want to Live In this special report, we highlight sustainable design predictions that offer a glimpse into how we’ll live tomorrow.

42 Sweetgreen’s

Salad Days

Can the burgeoning locavore fast-food chain maintain its growth and its mission?

10 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Photograph by Todd Diederich


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From the Editor

THE PRODUCTIVITY OF LAUGHTER Yesterday, I left the office at 5:30 p.m. to meet my wife for a date. I only checked my phone a few times on the way to meet her and not at all during dinner. It wasn’t until after 10 p.m. that I caught up with email and Slack messages from work. Going four hours without checking in, I felt like I was on vacation. That’s kinda crazy, right? I know that being always on, constantly connected, working 24/7 is not a recipe for success. It is a recipe for stress, overload, and missed opportunity. And yet sometimes . . . I can’t help myself. I love my job, and I like to work hard. That isn’t the issue. But I’ve also seen, both in others and in myself, that effort is not the same as impact.

Where the wild things are A glimpse inside the Fast Company newsroom.

Creativity is tough to cultivate when pressure is never-ending. Distractions undermine focus. Sometimes my most valuable days are the ones I devote to asking myself, What should I be doing? Prioritizing can be the most difficult task of all. The Fast Company offices include a bustling newsroom, and listening to our reporters and editors brainstorm ideas and conduct interviews is thrilling. But sometimes the quiet is just as thrilling. Sometimes when the buzz dies down in the newsroom, I smile at another thought: That silence? That’s the sound of people thinking. This issue is anchored by an exploration of the Secrets of the Most Productive People (beginning on page 56). And as you’ll read, there are many approaches to productivity. All of them are instructive or inspiring, in different ways. Yet what connects them is the understanding that more is not always better. Our business world today is relentlessly demanding, and it can seem like a frantic race is under way. Yet the important achievements tend to result from marathons, not sprints. So what do I do when I find myself out of breath? I have no single solution. Sometimes music helps calm me. Sometimes I’ll download a plot-loaded mystery novel and try to lose myself inside it. I try to keep up an exercise regimen, which helps to reset my clock, including a weekly basketball game where I escape in the intensity. Best of all is the time I spend with my family, which helps me put the urgencies of the office into perspective. And when things get really grim: I force myself to smile more. To laugh. (Some studies argue that simply by smiling, we actually make ourselves feel happier; it works for me.) The mission that we’re engaged in here at Fast Company is one that I’m personally committed to. But . . . it will still be there tomorrow. And the tomorrow after. With any luck, I’ll be here too.

Robert Safian editor@fastcompany.com

12 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Photographs by Celine Grouard


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Most Creative People What’s new with members of our MCP community

GETTING THE MESSAGE Bonin Bough HOST, CLEVELAND HUSTLES; AUTHOR, TXT ME (646) 759-1837

Why did digital-marketing innovator Bonin Bough ditch Triscuits for TV? Snack-food giant Mondelez’s chief media and e-commerce officer left in August to star in CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles, a business-focused reality show created by LeBron James. Bough also recently released a book, Txt Me (646) 759-1837, about how technology is changing modern life (yes, you can message him at that number). “I just started thinking that these moments might not present themselves again,” says the former PepsiCo social media guru, who is still doing consulting work but wants to devote more of his energy to content creation. He’s especially intrigued by how Snapchat and other messaging apps are reshaping behavior. “[I wanted] to be at the beginning of a whole new way consumers are going to engage and interact,” he says. “I was a part of it, but I was on the other side.” Cleveland Hustles premiered in August and has already been renewed, but Bough says he’s most excited by the first season’s impact on both the participants and the city of Cleveland (part of James’s goal for Hustles was to help revitalize neighborhoods in his hometown). Bough says Hustles has helped create 60 jobs and yielded $2 million in investments for the winning businesses, which include a bagel store and a yoga studio. “At the end of the day, I’m not doing this because I want to be a reality-TV host,” says Bough, who also steers several other projects, including an investment firm and the talent incubator Brand U. “It’s because I do actually think this can have a unique and interesting impact.” —Claire Dodson

B E S T R E C E N T T E C H D E V E L O P M E N T “Messaging. Every piece of ad tech right now that is built for social will be rebuilt for messaging.” T R E N D H E ’ S S K E P T I C A L O F “There’s no way you can tell me the future of engagement on messaging platforms is bots. In this industry, we quickly go [toward] shiny objects, and right now bots are the shiny object.” A D V I C E H E ’ D G I V E H I S Y O U N G E R S E L F “When people say no, that’s when you know you have something really good.” G R E AT E S T S T R E N G T H “I think that I’m so afraid of becoming irrelevant that I spend as much time as possible learning new things. I’m a voracious, curious person. I attend every event on the planet.”

14 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

How he stays productive

“You have to surround yourself with people who actually want to get stuff done and do real [things] in the world.” Photograph by Chris Schoonover


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Most Innovative Companies Updates from the MIC alumni

DIDI CHUXING Milestones The Chinese ride-hailing business— which is now valued at $34 billion and received a $1 billion buy-in from Apple in May—is expanding into bikes, making an estimated eight-figure investment in Beijing-based two-wheelrental startup Ofo. Challenges With Didi’s purchase of Uber’s China operation close to completion, customers and drivers will feel the pinch if it raises prices and lowers payouts in a bid for profitability. Buzz

BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE Milestones The high-end java outfit’s latest foray into consumer products is Perfectly Ground, a collection of single-use coffee packets that will be sold at Blue Bottle cafés and Whole Foods. The company, which has raised $100 million from investors and operates 27 cafés in the U.S. and Japan, recently announced an expansion into Boston, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

SIGN-IN OF THE TIMES MASTERCARD Selfies are no longer just a social media irritant: With Mastercard’s Identity Check, your face is the latest form of biometric identification. In October, Mastercard rolled out the new mobile-payment ID feature, which allows e-commerce customers to verify themselves at checkout simply by capturing an image of their face on their phone. “One of the biggest consumer pain points is when you are prompted for a password,” says Ajay Bhalla, who oversees Mastercard’s security

efforts. “That leads to a lot of friction: unhappy consumers, merchants losing sales, banks losing volume.” Two years in the making, Identity Check works much like the iPhone’s fingerprint ID system. Users set it up in advance by taking a series of photos from several different angles. That info is then turned into an algorithm, which Identity Check can match to a fresh picture at the moment of transaction. “Biometrics is actually safer [than a password] because it is really you,” says Bhalla. Shoppers weary of passwords might be excited to hear the news, but they should be careful not to get too happy. “The biggest issue we face is that people naturally start smiling when they take a picture,” says Bhalla, “and that messes with the algorithm.”

16 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Mastercard is also exploring other new methods for identifying customers, such as iris scanning, voice recognition, and even heartbeat monitoring. Blood-pumping patterns, it turns out, are as unique as fingerprints. —Nikita Richardson Milestones In September, Mastercard launched a program to help developers integrate their services into new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and the internet of things. Challenges Mastercard has been hit with a $19 billion classaction lawsuit over allegations that the company charged illegal fees to U.K. vendors, leading to higher prices for consumers. (“[We] firmly disagree with the basis of this claim and we intend to oppose it,” says a Mastercard spokesperson.) Buzz

Challenges In 2015, Blue Bottle’s planned merger with San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery fell apart. Now Tartine is rolling out its own competing brand of artisan coffees. Buzz

FITBIT Milestones A U.S. International Trade Commission judge cleared the company of wrongdoing in a case brought by rival wearables maker Jawbone that accused Fitbit of stealing trade secrets. Challenges Fitbit’s new Charge 2 device is reportedly not selling as well as analysts expected. Buzz Illustration by Laura Breiling


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Most Innovative Companies

AIRBNB

J.CREW

Milestones Discrimination has been an ongoing issue for the platform, so Airbnb recently adopted a policy designed to combat bias based on race, gender, and other factors. Hosts must now sign an antidiscrimination agreement, and the company is working to expand Instant Booking, which helps prevent bias in the host-approval process. It has also hired an antidiscrimination team to monitor possible issues.

Milestones As the mall staple struggles to regain momentum after several years of revenue slips, it is experimenting with offering its clothes at outside retailers such as Nordstrom and Net-a-Porter—a first for the 33-year-old brand.

Buzz

HEATHERWICK STUDIO

Buzz

OCEAN RENEWABLE POWER COMPANY Milestones The Mainebased energy provider announced that it has secured a $5.35 million grant from the federal government to complete development on its TidGen Power System, which uses waves to generate electricity. Challenges In addition to the federal grant, Ocean Renewable will need to raise a similar amount of private capital in order to commercialize the new power system. Buzz

SLACK Milestones The U.K.based architecture firm has been commissioned to build a $150 million staircase sculpture, dubbed Vessel, for New York’s massive Hudson Yards development. Construction is set to begin in 2017.

Milestones The fastgrowing workplacecommunication platform has attracted 4 million daily active users, up from 3 million in May. The company recently announced it is integrating Salesforce, a big upgrade in functionality.

Challenges The future of the studio’s Garden Bridge project in London is somewhat cloudy due to intense public scrutiny following extensive delays and cost overruns.

Challenges Microsoft and Facebook are both planning to release their own competing workrelated messaging platforms—Microsoft Teams and Workplace—before the end of the year.

Buzz

Buzz

18 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Exercising her options ClassPass CEO Kadakia is tweaking the company’s formula.

A FITNESS STARTUP TRIES TO FIND ITS FOOTING CLASSPASS Launched in 2013, ClassPass lets exercisers pay a subscription fee for convenient and economical access to classes. The company has grown fast—it’s now in 36 markets—but is still working to find a sustainable business model. In the past two years, it’s raised the price of its signature unlimited pass from $99 a month to $125 and now $190. Founder and CEO Payal Kadakia’s concept is to make use of underutilized time slots; ClassPass pays a discounted rate to the fitness studio. That means the company has to nail a pricing structure that pleases both customers and providers (while taking a cut for itself ). Because ClassPass pays per class, the more customers use it, the less

it makes. Subscribers tend to use passes more over time, which makes the long-term economics tricky. That’s one reason Kadakia is thinking about killing the unlimited option—sure to be an unpopular move. (There are also $65 five-class and $125 10-class options.) Still, Kadakia is optimistic. The company is considering expanding the subscription concept into other areas such as massages, tennis, and even movie tickets. And despite the price increases, most users still seem to love the service. “It’s about the product we built and the experience and the technology,” says Kadakia. “I mean, people go to classes. That’s the most amazing reason the company has done well. It’s proof that the product is working.” —Ruth Reader Milestones ClassPass hired its first CMO and CTO this year. Challenges Price increases have cost the company 10% of its users, Kadakia has acknowledged. Buzz

Celine Grouard (Kadakia); Forbes Massie (Vessel)

Challenges The company hit a major regulatory snag in October, when New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law making it illegal to rent out apartments for less than 30 days at a time. Airbnb quickly filed a suit to block the law, which it says is unconstitutional.

Challenges Financial woes continue to plague J.Crew. It recently reported a decrease in same-store sales for the eighth straight quarter.


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The Recommender: Gift Guide Fast Company picks out the must-haves for the holiday season.

Minted Gold Foil Art $67 to $234, depending on size and customization minted.com

The Minted platform manufactures work submitted by independent artists who get a portion of each sale. Among its most popular items are these gold foil maps of cities, states, and countries. You can create custom maps of specific areas, like your hometown, by providing the address and approving the final design before it’s printed and matted.

Boll & Branch Throw Blankets $125 each bollandbranch.com

The direct-to-consumer luxury bed linens startup prizes social consciousness, working with cotton farmers and factories to ensure fair crop prices and eight-hour-shift caps, and it pays three times the usual wage for textile workers in India. The company also gives a portion of proceeds to the nonprofit Not for Sale, which fights human trafficking.

Baccarat Vega Whiskey Decanter and Tumblers $670 (for full set) us.baccarat.com

With holiday party season in full swing, you can toast to the end of the year with Baccarat’s graphic interpretation of the classic whiskey decanter and its accompanying tumblers. Whether it’s filled with bourbon or scotch, there’s no doubt your party guests will be singing your praises.

Cire Trudon Christmas Collection Candles $210 trudon.com

20 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Cire Trudon has been creating candles since 1643. Their annual Christmas Collection, Odeurs d’Hiver, includes three beautifully scented miniature candles in Bethléem (saffron and amber), Gabriel (leather and candied chestnuts), and Gaspard (orange and sandalwood). Photographs by Will Anderson


Give the gift of imagination.


The Recommender

Bang and Olufsen BeoPlay H7 Headphones $399 beoplay.com

BeoPlay H7 wireless Bluetooth headphones have an aluminum touch-screen interface on the right earphone that lets you simply tap, swipe, and wheel your finger to play, pause, answer a call, and flip to the next track. The leather-cushioned ’phones come with a battery and USB charging option.

Cross and Fonderie 47 Fountain Pen $350 cross.com

Luxury pen makers Cross and Fonderie 47 have teamed up to create a pen based on the design of the AK47 and is crafted with melted-down gun steel. Each pen funds the destruction of one assault rifle in a war zone in Africa and is imprinted with the unique serial number of the gun that helped create it. If you’re feeling luxe, the pen also comes in limited-edition 18 karat gold for $4,700— paying for the destruction of 10 assault rifles.

Smythson Laptop Case $775 smythson.com

Smythson is known for its timeless stationery and traditional leather goods. Upgrade your tech gear with these calf leather and suede-lined laptop cases. Available in Nile blue (shown), black, navy, and red. 22 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Assorted Coffee-Table Books $49.99 each taschen.com

The provocative publisher Taschen has released new tomes on four of the most boundary-pushing architects of this century and the last. Author Philip Jodidio pays homage to Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, and Richard Meier.


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The Recommender

Steamline Luggage, “The Correspondent” Suitcase $850 steamlineluggage.com

Steamline luggage takes inspiration from the golden age of travel and updates it, providing chic suitcases that are both functional (retractable handles and wheels) and highly Instagrammable. “The Correspondent” series comes in mint green and four sizes—the spinner (below), vanity case, carry-on, and stowaway. Leica X-U Camera $2,999 us.leicacamera.com

Legendary camera manufacturer Leica has introduced the new X-U sport fixed-lens camera as a product primed for adventure. The X-U is shockproof, dust-sealed, and waterproof up to 60 feet for 60 minutes and comes equipped with larger sensors for higher image quality underwater so you can make the most of your diving trips in the Caribbean. This camera is made for extreme conditions but still retains the signature Leica design.

Everlane Modern Snap Backpack $68 everlane.com

Minimalist sportswear brand Everlane’s Modern Snap rucksack comes in gray, silver, black, navy (shown below), and dark green. This water-resistant cotton twill and leatheraccented drawstring bag is perfect for your most ambitious day trips.

Cutler and Gross Mai Tai Sunglasses $650 cutlerandgross.com

Cutler and Gross is known for its high-end eyewear. The Mai Tai sunglasses are black acetate and trimmed with rose gold. The handmade frames take up to six weeks to produce. Perfect for that holiday getaway. 24 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017


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The Recommender

Escentric Molecule 01 Fragrances 100 mL Molecule 01, $135 escentric.com

Escentric Molecules celebrates the chemistry behind perfumery. The company’s 01 fragrance series is solely comprised of the Iso E Super molecule, which is used in smaller doses in some of the world’s best-selling fragrances. The molecule in this fragrance has no discernible scent until it is applied to the skin, where it mixes with the wearer’s own pheromones to create an effect unique to each person. Spray on, and watch the compliments roll in.

Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer From $399.99 dyson.com

The company that revolutionized vacuums has rethought the hair dryer. The Dyson Supersonic contains a digital motor in the base that generates up to 110,000 RPMs, allowing maximum air power, which equals faster drying time. A microprocessor chip monitors air temperature 20 times a second to prevent extreme heat damage, which can lead to breakage and dull tresses.

Glossier Black Tie Set $50 glossier.com

Cool-girl beauty startup Glossier just launched its limited-edition Black Tie Set, which includes three brand-new products— the Graphite eye pencil, clear lip gloss, and #glossierpink nail polish—and the luminous Moonstone Haloscope, a new shade of its best-selling dewy highlighter. It’s a perfect kit of party essentials. 26 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Mason Pearson Hairbrush $170 masonpearson.com

Mason Pearson knows how to keep a good thing going. These legendary brushes still use the same design since the brand’s inception in 1885. With options for various textures and lengths, the natural boar bristles pull oil away from the scalp and down the hair strand, giving you great shine.


CALL FOR ENTRIES

INTRODUCING THE 2017 WORLD CHANGING IDEAS AWARDS Entries Accepted Until December 8 fastcompany.com/wci


THE DOUBLE BIND

Genetics company Helix wants to create a world of products just for you. All it needs is your DNA. By Christina Farr Illustration by Neil Webb

Before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2011, Steve Jobs paid $100,000 to have his DNA sequenced. It was a rare and expensive move that, according to biographer Walter Isaacson, provided insight into potential treatments and allowed doctors to customize his drug regimen. Five years after Jobs’s death, that same kind of sequencing is widely available and costs just a few thousand dollars—or less. The company most responsible for revolutionizing access to DNA isn’t a household name. Illumina is December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 29


Next

World Changing Ideas

T HE GENE T E A M Five promising players in consumer genomics.

1

23andMe Machine learning Helix’s access to Illumina sequencers, shown here, allows it to process DNA affordably.

Anne Wojcicki’s DNA testing company has rebounded from its 2013 FDA slapdown by concentrating on genealogy and slowly reintroducing health reports. It’s also working with researchers to help in drug discovery and development. 2

Ancestry.com The genealogy giant, which focuses on connecting customers with lost relatives, claims some 1.5 million genomes in its database, thanks to its AncestryDNA testing kit.

a $20 billion–plus genomics powerhouse whose supercomputers have sequenced some 90% of all the DNA data ever processed. Its machines have helped make genomics a compelling tool, used to treat diseases, predict drug responses, and identify which genetic mutations increase our risk of serious illness. They’ve also made it affordable for companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe to offer genealogy tests to millions of people. Now there’s a next wave of genomics on the rise, one that promises to take the science far beyond its initial uses. And the best way to understand the coming transformation is by looking at an Illumina spin-off called Helix. Launched this fall with $100 million in funding, Helix is on a mission to democratize genomics. There are three levels of technology available today for decoding human DNA. At the top end is whole genome sequencing (what Steve Jobs had done), an exhaustive

process that provides a massive volume of information, sometimes more than scientists know what to do with. Cheapest and most widely used is genotyping, which involves examining a predetermined set of sites in the genome from which one can infer ancestry, genetic relationships, and some disease risks. In the middle is exome sequencing, which usually costs less than $1,000 and provides a robust portrait of a person’s genetics by mapping the entire protein-coding region of the human genome. The amount of information you can glean from genotyping versus exome sequencing “is like night and day,” says Eric Topol, a cardiologist and geneticist at San Diego’s Scripps Research Institute. Exome sequencing can identify genes and variants associated with complex diseases. It could also, according to Helix, be used to unlock insights into an individual’s lifestyle and personality traits. It’s this type of

30 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

3

Genos Like Helix, this new service promises to bring down the cost of sequencing. Users will be able to peruse genetic insights online via a data-visualization tool. 4

Color Genomics Founded by veterans of Google and Twitter, Color looks for common genes associated with a higher risk of hereditary cancers for a flat rate of $224. 5

Veritas For $999, it puts your whole genome on a smartphone and offers information on health- and lifestylerelated genes.

sequencing—faster and cheaper than ever (thanks, in part, to Illumina)—that Helix plans to exploit. The company has begun to partner with labs, clinics, and consumer brands to identify and create novel products based on genetic information. Imagine a nutrition company offering bespoke supplements, or a fitness label creating shoes tailored to a person’s genetic profile. This direct-to-consumer market could be worth anywhere from $2 billion to $7 billion in the coming years, according to a recent report from UBS. Eventually, Helix wants to build an app store–like platform where consumers can access their data, and discover a marketplace of applications that interpret and build on it. Get someone to sequence their DNA just once, and you can offer them a lifetime of insights as new ways to interpret genomics emerge. (See “String Theory” on page 32.) “We want to deliver bite-size information about your genome, at just the right time of your life,” says CEO Robin Thurston, who joined Helix from Under Armour, where he oversaw the company’s connected fitness platform as chief digital officer after selling the workouttracking app MapMyFitness to it in 2013. With a team of more than 30 PhDs at its lab in San Diego and access to Illumina’s supercomputers, Helix subsidizes the cost of sequencing in exchange for a share of its partners’ revenue. It takes care of interpreting genetic data when needed and vetting products for scientific integrity. The first Helix-powered product to hit the market is National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test, which provides information on users’ family trees. While National Geographic has marketed a similar test for nearly a decade, the partnership with Helix allowed it to drop the price from $200 to $149. Even more, customers won’t need to be resequenced if they sign up for a different application from National Geographic, or any other Helix partner, in the future. “This will be the first deep-sequencing test broadly Photograph by Noel Spirandelli


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World Changing Ideas

available on the consumer market,” says Thurston. The partnership puts Helix in direct competition with Illumina clients 23andMe and Ancestry.com, which both rely on genotyping. That may be by design. “We have a special economic relationship [with Helix],” says Jay Flatley, Illumina’s executive chairman and former CEO. “It’s what allows Helix to do the sequencing at a subsidized cost and build out the business model.” Flatley is hoping Helix’s ability to offer affordable exome sequencing will convince these other consumer genomics companies to join the platform: “It’s a model that no other company can do,” he says. Helix’s other early partners include prominent medical providers, such as LabCorp, the Mayo Clinic, Duke University, and Mount Sinai.

The latter is developing an application that will inform prospective parents about their risks of passing on genetic disorders to children and provide access to genetic counseling. But Helix is also actively courting major consumer brands—the kinds of partners that can make its app-store model mainstream. (It is rumored to be in talks with Weight Watchers and a major fitness brand, though the company declined to disclose names.) And more playful products are in the works, too. Early next year, a company called Exploragen plans to launch a wine-recommendation engine, Vinome, based on recent research into how DNA informs people’s perception of taste. “With incredible precision, we can identify a taste profile that you are most likely to enjoy,” claims Vinome

The most basic challenge facing Helix is getting the science to catch up to its ambitions.

developer Ronnie Andrews. “And then we ship you wines.” There are still significant challenges, of course, before a DNAbased app store goes viral. Privacy and security concerns around genetic data remain deeply ingrained. (DNA doesn’t just reveal people’s own secrets, but those of their relatives, too.) Already, while

S T R ING T HE OR Y Consumer genomics could change the way we approach everything from exercise to skin care. Here are some of the applications that researchers are exploring:

SPORTS

FAMILY/ANCESTRY

HEALTH AND MEDICINE

LIFESTYLE

Certain genes are associated with endurance and strength, which could signal what sports you’re likely to excel at. DNA may also reveal if a person is at a higher risk for debilitating sportsrelated injuries, such as stress fractures and ACL ruptures—information that can be used to create training and physical therapy regimens. Linkages between nutrition and genomics could also inform an athlete’s diet.

For more than a decade, relatives have been brought together through DNA testing, which reveals forgotten branches of family trees, along with ancestry dating back millennia. The next step may be anticipating romantic connections. “Gene-matching” dating sites are already starting to proliferate, promising to use DNA to find the perfect date. But be warned: The science is iffy at best.

Genomics is already vital in pre-pregnancy and oncology screenings. Doctors use DNA to track how tumors respond to treatments, and are starting to discover how it might inform a person’s response to drugs. Companies are also working to determine if genetics could reveal someone’s susceptibility to addiction, but critics say they might be getting ahead of the science.

Researchers believe that genetics may explain why people taste certain foods, like cilantro, so differently. (To some, it tastes like soap.) They are also exploring how to use genomics to help with weight management by providing customized dietary advice. Meanwhile, beauty giant L’Oréal has invested in research to develop antiaging products based on the molecular signature of young skin.

32 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

consumers are currently protected from being denied health insurance or employment based on their genetic information, they can be denied life insurance, long-term care, or disability coverage. At the other end of the spectrum, bioethicists are concerned that businesses like Helix might have a financial incentive to keep aggregate DNA data private, when it might otherwise be used for the common good. The White House recently put $215 million behind the Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort to sequence 1 million people’s DNA for research purposes over the next three or four years. 23andMe selectively works with pharma companies and researchers, sometimes free of charge. Would new consumer-facing vendors choose to hoard such information? Helix has no immediate plans to provide such access, but hasn’t ruled it out. In terms of privacy, it employs data encryption and authentication requirements for access to its storage platform. It will also give customers control, allowing them to choose how their information will be used and whether they want to opt in for new product offerings. But perhaps the most basic challenge facing Helix is getting the science to catch up to its ambitions. Even in medicine, where most of the research has been focused, genomics is in its infancy. Harvard geneticist Robert Green, who is an adviser to Helix, says that only 1% to 2% of sequencing tests yield a clinically “actionable result” that will help users prevent the onset of a disease. Finding useful links between, say, genetics and your skin-care routine may be even more difficult. Geneticist Eric Topol was among the first wave of people to have their whole genome sequenced. He didn’t find the experience very informative in isolation, but sees immense potential. “The genome, with its 3 billion letters, has more rare variants than we can possibly imagine,” he says. “A lot of the unknowns will get filled in.” Until then, at least we can get a tip on which pinot to drink. Illustrations by Orka Collective


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Master Class

Lighten up Second City actors Robyn Scott, left, and Meagan O’Brien help employees see problems from a different angle.

IMPROV INC.

How comedy powerhouse Second City helps Facebook, Google, and more build better teams By Jennifer Braunschweiger Photograph by Todd Diederich

Have you heard the one about the man who took off his pants in the middle of a corporate training exercise? “That happened once!” says actor Robyn Scott. She’s describing the freewheeling atmosphere integral to the communications workshops she runs for Second City, the improv theater that famously served as a launchpad for some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Steve Carell. As an instructor with Second City Works (SCW), the theater’s consulting side, Scott leads groups of up to 50 employees from such companies as Cisco, Facebook, and Google in a series of 10- to 20-minute exercises that draw on one of the key tenets of improv: the willingness to adopt a “Yes, and . . .” approach to conversation. “It’s perfect for brainstorming and also helps people open 36 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017


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Master Class

Opening act At its main stage in Chicago, Second City helped venturecapital firm Volaris Group identify a new brand story.

Know your audience Scott says Google has hired SCW to bridge generation gaps between employees. “You have teams with a lot of enthusiastic, imaginative people right out of college working with people who have been at the company for years, and they have to be able to communicate,” she says. She initiated an exercise known around SCW as “the 600-year-old expert.” Participants are divided into groups of three and given 60 seconds each to explain what a smartphone does

without using any props. The first person describes it for someone in the year 2016, the second as if the audience was from the 1950s, and the third has to describe it to people from the 1600s. “You have to think, What do they need? Do they need a map? Do they need to know the weather?” says Scott. “It forces you to be empathetic to their point of view.”

Play the scene you’re in After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross Blue Shield asked SCW to help its staff deal with massive upheaval in the insurance industry. O’Brien paired employees and asked them to make a change to their appearance. At first, people found the request simple—they

“We remind people that when you’re asked to take on a new process, you have more control and more resources at your disposal than you think.” 38 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

removed their glasses or took off a shoe. But as they were asked to make more adjustments, they got angry, thinking that their only option was to keep stripping. And then, the breakthrough: They realized they could add to their appearance by borrowing discarded items from partners. That’s when the fun started. “Whenever we run this exercise, we remind people that when you’re asked to take on a new process, you have more control and more resources at your disposal than you think,” says O’Brien.

Find the hero in any narrative Another request from Google was to help people learn to convey dataheavy information to nontechnical colleagues and company outsiders in a compelling way. Scott helped them learn to identify the “hero.” “The hero isn’t necessarily the good guy,” says Scott. “It’s the person or product or process that is transformed.” In one exercise, pairs of people took turns summarizing a story they both knew well (a fairy tale, a movie) in 60 seconds, 30

seconds, 10 seconds, and then as a hashtag. “In the debrief, people admitted that after doing all that work, they would [go back and] tell the 60-second version differently,” says O’Brien. “Now they understood the key points better.”

Let go of your own agenda Before Dow Chemical started a clean-water project in Ghana, the company convened its rising global leaders for a week of training. The goal: to help people from different countries and cultural backgrounds communicate effectively. “They all spoke English, but they wanted to have a common language in terms of strategy,” says Scott. She facilitated 90-second conversations with only one rule: The last word in one person’s statement had to become the first word in her partner’s statement. “You have to drop your own talking points and the need to assert your intelligence,” says Scott. “Especially when social and cultural idioms and different languages are involved, being able to really listen and assume the best in someone is crucial.”

Courtesy of Second City

up in situations that might trigger anxiety, like a process or management change,” says Scott. She and fellow actor Meagan O’Brien share how they use improv schooling to inspire creative solutions.


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How They Get It Done

Ide nt i f yi n g vi s u a l simila rities

PINNED ON PINTEREST

How the image-sharing site is using artificial intelligence to keep users engaged By Steven Melendez Illustration by Amrita Marino

Machine learning can not only determine the subject of an image, it can also identify visual patterns and match them to other photos. Pinterest is using this technology to process 150 million image searches per month, helping users find content that looks like pictures they’ve already pinned. Pin a photo of a cheetah-print pillow, and Pinterest will serve up animal-print decor from other users. Future iterations of the Pinterest app may let users simply point their cameras at real-world objects to get instant recommendations.

Categorizing and curating If a user pins a mid-century dining-room table, the platform can now offer suggestions of other objects from the same era. The key? Metadata, such as the names of pinboards and websites where images have been posted, helps the platform understand what photos represent.

Predicting engagement While many platforms prioritize content from a user’s friends and contacts, Pinterest pays more attention to an individual’s tastes and habits—what they’ve pinned and when—enabling the site to surface more personalized recommendations. After all, friends who like the same recipes may not agree at all on fashion.

Prioritizing local ta ste Pinterest is an increasingly global platform, with more than half of its users based outside the U.S. Its recommendation engine has learned to suggest popular content from users’ local region in their native language. One finding: Slowcooker recipes are more popular in the U.S. than the U.K., where the appliances aren’t as common.

Going beyond images Thanks to recent gains in machine learning, computers are getting skilled at picking out patterns and features in text and images. That’s how e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay build sophisticated recommendation systems and how social networks like Facebook and Twitter are tweaking feeds to keep users hooked. Pinterest is no exception, with 30% of engagement tied to personalized real-time suggestions. Here’s how Pinterest engineers are leveraging artificial intelligence to keep the website’s 150 million–plus users pinning and sharing. 40 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Analyzing what’s in a photo is a big factor in the site’s recommendations, but it doesn’t offer the whole story. Pinterest also looks at captions from previously pinned content and which items get pinned to the same virtual boards. That allows Pinterest to, say, link a particular dress to the pair of shoes frequently pinned alongside it, even if they look nothing alike.


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Behind the Brand

SALAD DAYS

The founders of the fast-casual chain Sweetgreen are building a farm-to-counter empire, one bowl at a time. By Mickey Rapkin Photographs by Emily Berl

Heads of the class From left: Nathaniel Ru, Nicolas Jammet, and Jonathan Neman launched Sweetgreen just a few months after graduating from college in 2007.

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc once said of his restaurants, “We’re not in the hamburger business, we’re in show business.” That is perhaps the one thing he and the millennial founders of the fast-growing locavore salad chain Sweetgreen might agree on. If you’ve never visited a Sweetgreen, picture a farm stand designed by Steve Jobs—with white walls and colorful, fresh vegetables waiting to be chopped. The stores’ open kitchens (a design trope shared by Chipotle, another fast-casual pioneer) showcase how much scratch cooking happens on-site. Salad dressings are made in-house daily. So is the falafel, which is prepared from dry chickpeas soaked overnight on the premises. (This is basically unheard of in this category; even some high-end restaurants use canned chickpeas.) The nine-yearold company also stages the Sweetlife food and music festival in Columbia,


Maryland, each spring, with acts such as the Strokes and Solange. After Kendrick Lamar headlined the event in 2015, the restaurant chain collaborated with him on the “Beets Don’t Kale My Vibe” salad, a nod to one of his songs. But working in show business means that the audience always comes first, which can get tricky. When Sweetgreen removed sriracha from the menu last spring—the high-in-sugar condiment didn’t jibe with its healthy, made-in-house approach—fans unleashed on Twitter. (Sample tweet: “I’ve survived cancer and @sweetgreen getting rid of their Sriracha is actually worse.”) The same thing happened when a midwinter thaw decimated peach crops on the East Coast, forcing berries to stand in for the popular peach-and-goat-cheese salad at some locations. “At our corporate retreat,” says cofounder Nathaniel Ru, with a wry smile, “we did a version of Mean Tweets.” More than a decade after they met as undergrads at Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University, Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Ru— Sweetgreen’s co-CEOs and cofounders—have become adept at standing their ground. But as the trio embarks on an ambitious plan to double in size over the next 12 months, bringing their total restaurant count to roughly 100 stores across eight cities, they will be tested even further. In the past year, they’ve moved their headquarters from D.C. to Los Angeles and opened their first Midwestern outpost, in Chicago. They’re now pressing forward in their mission to become a national fast-food salad chain—“the Starbucks of salads,” according to Ru—while maintaining an unwavering commitment to their original, farm-to-counter ethos. That means finding a way to scale a business that’s inherently local: Each restaurant proudly displays the names of its suppliers right on the menu—a rarity at this roughly $10-a-salad price point. And unlike at Chipotle, dishes can vary wildly from location to location, depending on what’s in season regionally. Sweetgreen won’t

A NEED FOR SPEED Sweetgreen’s ambition for the year ahead isn’t just to grow, but to get customers through its restaurants more quickly— and turn its salads into true fast-food staples. Here’s how the founders have been making their outposts more efficient. 1

Online ordering Counter attack To bring its locavore menu across the country, Sweetgreen must expand its network of farmers.

disclose its numbers, but in 2015 suggested that it would hit at least $75 million in revenue by the end of that year, when it had 39 stores. “The greater point about getting to 100 stores is proving the economic model works,” Jammet says. “Proving we can source this kind of food at scale. Proving we can build an economic model that doesn’t rely on soda [sales] but on small- and medium-size farmers.” To get there will require changing a lot more than hot sauce. Sweetgreen’s origin story sounds like a sitcom premise: Three college buddies, armed with an entrepreneurial spirit inherited from their immigrant parents, identified a hole in the healthy-lunch market and raised $350,000 from friends and family to open a restaurant three months after graduation. “We like to say it was Kickstarter before there was Kickstarter,” Neman says. The original Sweetgreen outpost, which opened in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood in 2007, was pretty makeshift. To calculate how many salads they could expect to sell during lunchtime, the three would-be restaurateurs simply camped out at a busy Subway sandwich shop and counted customers. But Sweetgreen

quickly became a venture-capital darling, attracting food luminaries such as Shake Shack’s Danny Meyer and Momofuku’s David Chang, along with VCs such as Steve Case. It helped that Jammet, whose parents ran the legendary New York restaurant La Caravelle until it closed in 2004, had interned for Joe Bastianich (Mario Batali’s business partner), a family friend who became an early investor. In 2013, Case’s Revolution Growth led a $22 million funding round, and helped the company raise another $18.5 million a year later. A fourth round of funding in late 2016 brought Sweetgreen’s outside investment to around $115 million. As Case explains: “Food is a $5 trillion industry, and one of the key trends is going to be away from more processed Big Food. We’re betting on ideas, but we’re [also] betting on people who execute those ideas.” Jammet, Neman, and Ru are attempting something that’s effectively never been done before. Sweetgreen currently works with more than 250 farms nationwide. But to feed customers at 100 restaurants it needs to recruit additional growers willing to raise their crops ethically and sustainably (translation: at a greater cost). Investor David Barber, of New York’s landmark

In January, Sweetgreen relaunched its app, allowing customers to order, pay, and select a pickup time via mobile. The image-driven app lets people choose among more than 60 ingredients to build their dishes, while delivering instant nutritional data. It also tracks awards points and integrates calorie information with the Apple Health app. 2

Store design To accommodate online orders, which now account for 30% of sales, Sweetgreen began redesigning stores, adding extra prep lines and separate pickup areas that allow mobile customers to bypass the cashier entirely. 3

To-go container The company recently enlisted designer Yves Béhar, a Sweetgreen investor, to create a new to-go bowl, which will roll out in the coming months. The mandate: Create a disposable, biodegradable container that eliminates some of the steps in the food-preparation process.

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 43


farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, explains that farmers want to know “who will be around in year two or three to support the investment [farmers have made] to service that need?” Building a strong network of suppliers—and helping them expand in tandem with the restaurant chain—is bolder than it sounds. Sweetgreen rival Tender Greens, for example, works with local growers, but all of its 21 stores are in California: one coast, one supply chain. Eighteen months before opening in Chicago, Sweetgreen’s supply team— now headed by Kevin Quandt, recruited from Blue Apron—was on the ground, meeting with area farmers like the father-daughter team behind Growing Power, who now provide kale and cabbage to the

Behind the Brand

chain. When Sweetgreen wanted to swap Chilean salmon for something more local, the founders took a yearlong dive into seafood ethics before landing on steelhead (a trout that tastes like salmon), sustainably farmed in Washington state. While the founders expand their supply-chain network, they’re also making changes internally, including relocating their offices from D.C. to L.A.’s Culver City neighborhood. The move looks like a personal upgrade for the founders: They’ve taken over a white-walled, lightfilled office space and settled within blocks of each other in Venice, where they’re now living the brand, surfing before work, and choosing not to buy cars. (Sweetgreen employees are gifted a lime-green bicycle on their three-year anniversary.)

Headline acts With special events for rewards-card members and an annual music festival featuring musicians like Kendrick Lamar (pictured here at the 2015 event), Sweetgreen is building a lifestyle brand.

44 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

“The greater point is proving we can build an economic model that doesn’t rely on soda [sales] but on small- and mediumsize farmers.”

But the West Coast move was less about lifestyle than attracting top-tier talent, such as president and COO Karen Kelley, a veteran of Drybar and Pinkberry. Under her stewardship, employee-scheduling software and new purchasing programs were put in place—not

exactly the sexiest upgrades, but necessary as the company expands. “What we’re advocating has not been done on the supply-chain side at scale,” says Kelley, which helps explain why she left Drybar to come to work for three founders who are 20 years her junior. “We’ve figured it out until 80 to 100 restaurants. And then we’re going to have to figure out how to do it at 200.” The risks of relying on fresh produce extend beyond an early frost or two. In August, a Sweetgreen restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay was briefly shut down over healthcode violations; the store reopened quickly, but Sweetgreen took action, designating a staff food-safety expert at every location. It was a minor incident—handled quickly—but the industry as a whole is on edge following Chipotle’s high-profile, stock-battering E. coli outbreak last year. (The company and health officials never publicly identified the source of the outbreak, but Chipotle pulled back on its local suppliers and some of its in-store cooking techniques in the months that followed.) “The whole industry has really been rocked by this thing that happened with Chipotle,” Jammet says. “It’s made everyone take a step back and look at their own menu, their own food practices, how their kitchens are built.” For Sweetgreen, that has meant doubling down on educating staff, and making sure that simple behaviors like handwashing and logging food temperatures become habits. Though, as Chipotle’s principals know, such measures can only go so far. Meanwhile, there are seasonal menus to prepare. Sweetgreen substituted chili flakes for sriracha over the summer, but this feels like a stopgap measure. When pressed, Jammet hints that executive chef Michael Stebner, who came from Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchen, may be playing around with replacements, including a low-sugar version. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be some Nice Tweets to read at the next company retreat.

Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA

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Fast Cities

THE FUTURE OF NEIGHBORHOODS

Five predictions for how residential life could soon be changing

Clear thinking A partial rendering of ReGen Village, including glass greenhouses where food will grow year-round.

01

WE’LL GENERATE OUR OWN RESOURCES An ambitious experiment in the Netherlands could be a model for life of f the grid.

46 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

When a new housing development called ReGen Village opens as early as next year on the outskirts of Amsterdam, residents won’t have to rely on external sources to provide most of their energy, waste management, or even food. The village is designed to operate as a closed-loop system, meaning it meets most of its needs from within. “We are redefining residential real estate development by creating regenerative neighborhoods,” says project mastermind

James Ehrlich, a California-based developer and senior technologist at Stanford. “It’s very much attuned to the cycles of nature.” Though self-sufficiency is not a new idea—communities survived for centuries before there even was a grid from which to disconnect— Ehrlich hopes ReGen will serve as a testing ground for a concept that could help reduce global dependence on unsustainable resources. The village’s 200 homes and apartments will house about


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600 residents. ReGen has partnered with Danish architecture firm Effekt to design the futuristic houses, which Ehrlich sees as a modern take on traditional Scandinavian aesthetics, featuring clean lines, lots of glass, and tall, steep roofs. Though the Amsterdam ReGen community is aimed at luxury buyers, the idea is to eventually expand the closed-loop concept to the developing world, where

ReGen’s radical self-reliance will require a big assist from modern technology.

self-sufficiency could have an even more profound impact by providing reliable sources of food and water. Ehrlich plans to use the proceeds from the first village to build similar towns for lowincome residents in sub-Saharan Africa and rural India. ReGen’s radical self-reliance will require a big assist from modern technology. High-yield organic growing methods—that include aeroponics, aquaponics, and food forests—will produce fruit, vegetables, legumes, and

Fast Cities

herbs year-round while using a fraction of the water and space that traditional farming practices require. Animal waste will be converted into electricity through a biomass generator, and a storage system will collect and process rainwater and graywater. If Ehrlich can make all of these efforts work together (along with more familiar eco techniques such as composting and solar energy), he believes his regenerative communities won’t just be self-sustaining—they will produce enough excess food and power that residents can sell the bounty to nearby neighborhoods, which will help to offset operating costs. In developing countries, that could prove significant both inside and outside the village’s borders. “A single ecovillage that’s producing more organic food and nutrient-dense soil than it needs [can help provide for] the surrounding community,” Ehrlich says. “If you build enough of these, we can slowly prepare ourselves for the next 2 to 3 billion people coming to the planet.” Ehrlich acknowledges that the high-end clientele he’s targeting with the Amsterdam development probably won’t be able to live completely off the grid. In addition to amenities such as internet access and cable TV that can’t be produced on site, residents will have to look outside for luxuries like coffee, spices, and other food items. Homeowners will also likely produce some kinds of waste that the community can’t reuse, which will need to be carted away. But in poor areas, where needs are simpler but far more urgent, Ehrlich believes each village will be able to subsist entirely on its own. “It’s ambitious,” says the developer, “but building regenerative-system thinking into neighborhoods is the only way for humanity to survive and thrive.” —Adele Peters

48 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

02

WE’LL RAISE THE STANDARD OF ULTRA-AFFORDABLE HOUSING New shelters are designed to help refugees and others with limited means. Hex House

In My Backyard

Want to lower the barrier to homeownership? Reduce the cost of design and construction, which can account for roughly half the purchase price. That’s what Amro Sallam, executive director of the nonprofit design firm Architects for Society, aimed to do by creating the Hex House, a twobedroom, 450-square-foot home kit that owners can assemble themselves onsite with simple tools, Ikea style. The approximately $15,000 structures, which he plans to begin selling next year, will be built out of structural insulated panels, which are light, strong, low-cost, and energy efficient. Sallam also plans to erect Hex House neighborhoods near cities that need more affordable housing. Residents would buy the house and a small parcel of land, and kits would be preassembled and shipped to the site.

This past June, a team of Spanish and French architects from sustainablehousing firms Design of Architectural Territories Pangea (DAT Pangea) and Quatorze built the first two prototypes of In My Backyard in Paris. The tinyhome concept is intended to provide refugees with stable, energy-efficient housing on the properties of residents who volunteer to share their land. The refugees get more than just a place to live: Ricardo Mayor Luque, CEO of DAT Pangea, is developing partnerships with universities that will turn the building process into a training program. Refugees work with In My Backyard to construct their own abodes, learning skills that could help them find construction work in their adopted city. When training is done and the house is complete, they’ll even get a diploma.

Box populi Hex Houses are assembled on-site, like Ikea furniture.


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Fast Cities

Growth industry The Cannery is built around a working farm—just two miles outside the bustling city of Davis, California.

FA R M L IF E City meets country at these agrihoods.

The Cannery Davis, California STARTING PRICE: $450,000 SAMPLE AMENITY: Every

WE’LL GET BACK TO THE LAND The demand for hyperlocal food is reshaping some suburban communities. When residents of the Cannery walk out of their front doors, they are surrounded by 7.5 acres of farmland that’s flush with tomatoes, melons, and other produce, as well as a healthy brood of free-range chickens. In the distance, there’s a barn and a stand where passersby can purchase fresh baskets of crops. It sounds like life in the country, but the Cannery is located just two miles outside of the city of Davis, California. The community is one of a growing number of “agrihoods”: urban and suburban housing developments that are constructed around working farms. “I’m a homebuilder, but the real joy is in building neighborhoods,” says Kevin Carson, who oversees Northern California projects for Cannery developer the New Home

Company. “A lot of communities get a golf course. We set out to create a master-plan community [around] food growing.” The Cannery—which opened in 2015 and currently has 77 occupied homes—is popular with both young families and retirees, who enjoy easy access to hyperlocal produce. (The agricultural operation is managed by the nonprofit Center for Land-Based Learning, which leases to private farmers.) “Agrihoods are part of the bigger movement of buy local, shop local, eat local,” says Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for responsible land use. “In our industrial economy, the growth of food was separated from where people live. People are reconnecting with where food comes from.” But the appeal goes beyond weekly boxes of squash and peppers. The concept of this and similar enclaves is that a farm can serve not just as a food source, but as the center of daily life. In addition to the crop fields, residents have access to a shared outdoor

50 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

kitchen, enjoy fruit and nut trees in every yard, and meet up in an amphitheater that will hold community events such as concerts and festivals. Cannery resident Diane Parro says living there has changed not only how she eats—with family meals dictated by what’s in season—but also how she interacts with her neighbors. “We used to live in a large house with a sprawling yard that had a lot of upkeep, and we were really separated from the community,” she says. “Now, we

house is built within 300 feet of a park or access to the neighborhood’s extensive network of biking trails. Prairie Crossing Grayslake, Illinois STARTING PRICE: $180,000 SAMPLE AMENITY: The

property boasts an “edible landscape” featuring 80 varieties of trees and bushes that produce blackberries, currants, grapes, and elderberries. Willowsford Near Ashburn, Virginia STARTING PRICE: $580,000 SAMPLE AMENITY:

Homeowners looking for greener lawn care can rent the resident goats.

share a green lawn. We have potlucks at giant tables set up near people’s front doors, with local wine and deviled eggs from resident chickens. Food just tastes better when it comes right off a farm.” —Jennifer V. Cole

Upcountry Farm Kauai, Hawaii STARTING PRICE:

$2.95

million SAMPLE AMENITY: Owners can hand-pick pineapples, bananas, kale, and other produce, or gather eggs for breakfast.

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Fast Cities

04

WE’LL BUILD IN UNEXPECTED SPACES With cities growing ever more crowded, creative solutions will be key.

05

WE’LL TURN DOWN THE HEAT Madrid has a low-tech plan to cope with the impending ef fects of climate change.

Copenhagen’s floating dorms

Bangkok’s asymmetrical soccer fields

When Copenhagen entrepreneur Kim Loudrup couldn’t find affordable student housing for his son, he decided to create it himself. Along with renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, he constructed Urban Rigger, an apartment complex made of modular shipping containers. The building sits on a floating base that the company pays to dock in Copenhagen’s harbor. Urban Rigger’s 15 studio apartments, which rent for $600, each have a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, along with shared social space. “Most major postindustrial cities are experiencing some sort of a transformation and decline of their port industries,” says Ingels. “Cities have increasingly available port areas that can be transformed. They could be the home for alternate forms of urbanization.”

In urban areas, room for athletic fields can be scarce. To provide a place for play, Bangkok-based real estate developer AP Thailand turned four odd-shaped lots into public fields. “We want to use our expertise in space management to create a space of happiness,” says AP Thailand’s Pattaraphurit Rungjaturapat. Though FIFA fans might scoff at the irregular areas, players have started integrating the anomalies into their games, bouncing balls off of walls and using bends to maneuver around their opponents.

New York’s Lowline The Highline—built on an abandoned elevated train track—is one of New York’s most popular parks. Could the next step be to move in

52 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

the opposite direction? Cofounders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch are spearheading a project that would tap technology to build a 60,000square-foot, plant-packed public park 20 feet below New York’s clogged streets. The idea—now being tested in a former supermarket—is to use aluminum-and-glass solar collectors to harness sunlight and redirect it to a distribution point via fiber-optic cables. A “solar canopy” of aluminum panels then distributes the plant-nurturing rays. In July, the city signed off on initial plans for the Lowline, though the team still needs to raise $10 million and secure another round of approval before work can begin (it attracted nearly $225,000 on Kickstarter to build the test lab). “By fusing an ancient, forgotten space with our collective future,” says Ramsey, “we’re shaping a city I want my kids to live in.”

More comfortable air When foliage was installed on rooftops and additional trees were planted along sidewalks near the Madrid airport, peak summertime air temperature fell by up to 8 degrees, due to increased shade and moisture in the air, which has a natural cooling effect. Flood protection The city plans to replace cement-covered city squares with small parks, which will be outfitted with planters that can absorb sudden rainfall and store it to use later for watering the foliage. Energy efficiency Many bare rooftops will be turned into gardens, and building facades will be coated with creeper plants. The greenery will act as insulation, reducing the amount of energy needed to cool homes.

Limor Garfinkle

Going deep A prototype installation shows off technology behind New York’s Lowline.

Facing rising temperatures and frequent heavy downpours, the Madrid City Council will spend more than $4 million over the next year to cover many open spaces with plants. Here’s how it could help.


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S OF

“I don’t walk into a meeting with a ‘me, me, me’ attitude,” says Kevin Hart, who is quickly building a comedy empire. “I walk in and say, ‘How do I become your partner?’ ”


Ten top performers reveal how they squeeze the most out of every day. Insider tips from Facebook, Slack, Google, and more.

Photographs by Williams + Hirakawa

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 57


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

“I L I K E T O M U LT I T A S K. BUT I GOT IT ALL UNDER C O N T R O L .” The most successful comedian in the world is also undoubtedly the busiest. Inside the industrious mind and fast-growing empire of Kevin Hart. By Benjamin Svetkey

“ I ’ M G I V I N G Y O U 1 0 0 % , ” Kevin Hart says with commitment, settling into a chair in a conference room inside his new 18,000-squarefoot Los Angeles production studio. “When I sit down for an interview, that’s what I do. I give 100% of my energy.” Within three minutes, he’s talking on the phone. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the 37-year-old comedian will stop to review ongoing plans for the studio space (“These rooms in the back need to be soundproofed”), check on his two young children zooming around the hallways (“That better not be soda you’re hiding behind your back!”), quiz his stylist about his wardrobe (“You sure those shoes are blue? They don’t look black to you?”), summon his barber to apply a touch-up coat 58 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

of Just for Men hair dye (“Might as well do it while I’m just sitting here”), and check out the latest box-office numbers on his iPhone. The 100% is there—just in short bursts. “I like to multitask,” he says, smiling at the understatement. “But I got it all under control.” Hart is in Los Angeles on a one-week break from the set of Jumanji, a remake of the 1995 fantasy adventure that he and costar Dwayne Johnson are filming in Hawaii. There’s a lot to cram in—most notably the L.A. premiere of What Now?, a film documenting the Philadelphia stop on his hugely successful comedy tour. Hart’s stand-up show sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden in July 2015, something few comic acts have ever done, and earned $1 million in a single night in L.A. (A behind-the-scenes special of the tour on TBS promoted the film’s release.) But right now, on this October afternoon, he is most focused on his immediate surroundings. Hart purchased these soundstages—located on a nondescript strip of the San Fernando Valley—in August, and they’re about to be transformed into the creative center of Hartbeat Productions and Hartbeat Digital, the two pillars of his fastgrowing eight-year-old entertainment empire. “I want to shoot everything here,” he says. “TV shows, miniseries, digital. I want to build a real studio so that I can make and distribute my own movies.”


The last time anyone in Hollywood tried that—at least on the scale Hart seems to be contemplating—they had names like Goldwyn and Warner. Or at least names like Oprah, who recently shut down her Chicago soundstages and moved her OWN TV network to L.A., and Tyler Perry, who makes and distributes his Madea movies and other content through his studio in Atlanta. Hart considers Winfrey and Perry role models, although he doesn’t believe in limiting himself to what others have done before. He’s already the most successful comedian in the world, with an annual income Forbes estimates at $87.5 million, and one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood (his last three films, Ride Along 2, Central Intelligence, and The Secret Life of Pets, grossed a combined total of $584 million). He’s forged multimillion-dollar endorsement deals with retailers including Nike and H&M, developed TV shows for Comedy Central and other networks, and accrued a devoted fan base of nearly 100 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram combined. Still, he says, “Kevin Hart is just getting started.” H A R T D E S C R I B E S H I M S E L F as the “most positive guy in the world” and insists that his comedy takes “love to a new level.” That’s undoubtedly part of his mass appeal. While a lot of comics spin their acts out of resentment and angst, Hart seems to channel nothing but exuberance. Even when he curses—which he does energetically, both onstage and off— it’s endearing. “It’s innocent cussing,” he says. “I don’t have an angry bone in my body.” Given his childhood, that’s an accomplishment. Hart grew up in gritty North Philadelphia,

Time he wakes up Between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. First thing he does in the morning “Get up, go to the gym. I’m probably in there for an hour to an hour and a half.”

Stylist: Ashley North; groomer: John Clausell

Productivity tool “Kevmoji. Kevmoji puts a constant smile on my face and helps me take text messaging to the next level.” Most productive space “I go onstage to figure things out. I’ll have a premise, a couple of beats, and I’ll go onstage and talk about the thoughts. That’s how I write.” Time he goes to bed “Depends on the day. Tonight, probably 11:30 or midnight.”


sharing a bunk bed with his older brother in a hallway of a one-bedroom apartment. His mother worked long hours as a computer analyst at the University of Pennsylvania; his father was seldom around, and not a particularly good influence when he was. “I do come from a bunch of fucked-up shit,” Hart says of his youth. “My dad was on drugs and in and out of jail. Dealing with that, being forced to make life decisions at a young age, that was hard.” (Hart has since reconnected with his father, who he says is now sober.) After high school, Hart got a job selling sneakers at City Sports, which began his lifelong obsession with shoes. “Back then, I couldn’t afford them, so when you finally do get some money, you splurge,” he says. Today, he owns 500 pairs of sneakers, some worth as much as $10,000, and he helped design his own “Hart Hustle” shoe for Nike, becoming its first nonathlete brand ambassador. It was at City Sports that Hart discovered he could earn money by cracking jokes. His coworkers coaxed him into trying an open mic night at a local comedy club. Hart took home first prize: $75. He went back the following week and won another $75. After winning six weeks in a row, he quit his job. “But then I showed up the next week and the amateur competition was done,” he says with a frown. “True story.” Hart’s mom, Nancy, who died of cancer in 2006, had wanted her son to go to college. But she agreed to bankroll him for one year while he attempted to launch a stand-up career. He spent much of that time commuting to New York, where he hung around comedy clubs, sometimes opening for other comics. In 2001, he caught the attention of comedian Dave Attell, who introduced him to manager Dave Becky; Becky had steered the early careers of Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari. “When I signed him, all he had was a homemade tape of a set at Caroline’s Comedy Club,” Becky recalls. “But he was such a talented kid. Plus, nobody works harder.” Over the next several years, as he became better known as a comic, Hart made a few attempts at a film career. He was sure that 2004’s Soul Plane was going to make him a star. It earned a dismal $14 million and terrible reviews. Hart followed that with “countless pilots and movies,” says Becky. “When he was in Meet Dave with Eddie Murphy, we thought, ‘Oh, this is the one!’ Or Fool’s Gold with Matthew McConaughey: ‘This is the one.’ But it was never the one.” Finally, Hart made a decision. “He wanted more control,” Becky says, “so he focused on his stand-up. He would still do TV and movie parts, but he went on the road every weekend and worked. And suddenly he was playing arenas.” 60 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

H&M

The Secret Life of Pets

HART AT WORK Here’s what the comedian juggled in 2016 alone.

C O M E DY What Now? stand-up tour and movie Hart played 164 international tour dates between April 2015 and August 2016. A concert film hit theaters in October and pulled in $12 million its opening weekend.

FILM Ride Along 2 Universal’s January sequel to 2014’s Ride Along featured Hart and Ice Cube taking down Miami drug suppliers; the reported $40 million movie earned $124.2 million.

Central Intelligence Hart’s first role opposite Dwayne Johnson was a success for Warner Bros. in June, raking in $216 million on a reported $50 million budget.

The Secret Life of Pets Voicing the scene-stealing Snowball, an adorable gang leader, Hart helped propel the July Illumination Entertainment film to an $849 million haul. A 2018 sequel is planned.

Captain Underpants Hart recently completed work on next summer’s adaptation of the beloved children’s book, voicing a fourth grader.

Jumanji A reimagining of the 1995 film reteams Hart with Johnson (a producer) and is due out next summer.

The Intouchables In March, Hart signed on to

star in this Weinstein Company remake of the 2011 French comedy as a caregiver to a wealthy quadriplegic played by Bryan Cranston.

LIVE EVENTS HartBeat Weekend Hart’s third-annual comedy and music festival, created in conjunction with iGo Marketing & Entertainment, took place over two days in Las Vegas in September and featured Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, among others.

ENDORSEMENT DEALS Hyundai In a Super Bowl commercial, Hart played an overprotective dad who uses Hyundai’s geotracking tech to follow his daughter on her first date with a new guy. It ranked as the top ad on USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter.

Foot Locker In February, Hart starred in two commercials for Foot Locker’s “Hottest Month of the Year” campaign, including one where the diminutive comedian borrows his son’s Kids Foot Locker apparel.

Xfinity Hart and Xfinity teamed up in September around Hart’s What Now? comedy film and Xfinity voice-activated TV remotes. An ad by 72andSunny showed how users can say “What now?” into their device and pull up exclusive content from the movie.

H&M In their second H&M-sponsored short film together, September’s The Road Trip, Hart and David Beckham shared some quality time on a drive to Las Vegas.

PA R T N E R S H I P S Tommy John A longtime fan of the underwear company, Hart became an official investor in September. Together they will launch a new collection next fall.


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

Kevmoji app

Muzik The Twitter-backed headphone company counts Hart as a partner; Muzik released a video of Hart demonstrating its new programmable, connected headphones at Microsoft’s Build 2016 conference last spring.

Laugh Out Loud The video platform, which Hart is creating with Lionsgate Entertainment, will stream new material the comedian is generating, including original sketches and scripted series.

T E C H N O L O GY Kevmoji app Hart’s riff on Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji app features actual photos of his facial expressions that users can share as emojis. Within five hours of its September release, it took the top spot on the App Store’s paid apps chart.

Mobile game In another effort with Lionsgate, Hart is creating a social mobile adventure game that casts users as busy comedians who can get advice from Hart himself.

TELEVISION Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures (The Secret Life of Pets)

Hart’s new Comedy Central series debuted in October and follows the comedian across eight U.S. cities, as he searches for defining voices in each location’s stand-up scene.

Real Husbands of Hollywood BET’s scripted reality-show parody, which Hart produces and stars in, chronicles the lives of real-life male celebrities (including Nelly and Nick Cannon). Season 5 debuted in October.

MEMOIR From the Hart In March, the comedian inked a deal with Atria Publishing to tell his own story, due out in time for Father’s Day 2017. —Claire Dodson

Hart’s first big tour, 2009’s I’m a Grown Little Man, yielded a hit comedy CD. His second, 2011’s Laugh at My Pain, sold $15 million in tickets. His third, 2012’s Let Me Explain, sold $32 million. Upbeat and inoffensive, Hart’s act played as well in Copenhagen as it did in New York. “I talk about my life and what really matters,” he says, including his first marriage, the terrors of children’s birthday parties, and his height (he’s 5-foot-5). “My relationships, my parents, my flaws—these are things that people can relate to no matter where you are in the world.” A N O T H E R I N T E R R U P T I O N . In the middle of a discourse on fame (“Being an actor today is different than being an actor yesterday . . .”), Hart decides to do an impromptu Facebook Live broadcast. He’s been expounding on social media, how it’s radically changed the relationship between celebrity and fan. And he’s going to demonstrate by pushing a few buttons on his iPhone and streaming real-time video to his 24 million Facebook followers. “I’m always letting you guys have a sneak peek into the world of Kevin Hart,” he tells them. “Right now I am in my studios and I’m doing an interview. I’m not going to tell you who the interview is for. It’ll come out, you’ll be able to read it, it’ll be dope.” As he talks into the camera, an army of followers assemble. Ten minutes later, as our discussion continues on full display, 250,000 people have tuned in. “But it’ll be rewatched,” he assures me after finally ending the stream and clicking the phone off. “This will probably get up to 800,000 views.” It gets 302,000, but still. Being able to summon this kind of audience on demand makes Hart a valuable marketing tool for anybody trying to sell a film—for months, he’s been stoking interest in Jumanji with on-set tweets and Instagram photos—or, for that matter, sneakers, or even boxer shorts. “I was very leery of meeting with a celebrity,” says Thomas Patterson, founder and CEO of the high-end underwear purveyor Tommy John, which recently partnered with Hart on a line of skivvies. “But Kevin was so authentic. And he really does love the product.” It was Hart who approached Tommy John about the collaboration. “I don’t do anything that would make you go, ‘It’s bullshit, he’s just doing it for the money,’ ” Hart says. When he finds a product he genuinely likes, he’ll not only endorse and promote it, but he might invest, as he did with Tommy John. In fact, Hart has a meeting in a few days to go over fabrics and waistbands. “I was buying whole racks of Tommy Johns, all the smalls,” he says, explaining why he got into the underpants business.

“Then one day I thought I should go and talk to them about a partnership. Rather than just offering to put my face on the box, I said, ‘Let me show you how serious I am by putting up some money and creating something for me within your brand.’ ” This collaborative instinct—“I don’t walk into a meeting with a ‘me, me, me’ attitude. I walk in and say, ‘How do I become your partner?’ ”—has served Hart well, and it will be increasingly valuable as his business grows into new territory. Hartbeat Digital, run by Jeff Clanagan, Hart’s friend of seven years (Clanagan produced Showtime’s Shaq All-Star Comedy Jam, which featured Hart regularly), is working to translate Hart’s fame and comedic sensibility to emerging platforms. In September, the company introduced Kevin Hart emojis— or “Kevmojis”—which became an instant best seller on iTunes. “Kim Kardashian’s emojis or Justin Beiber’s, they’re all animated faces,” says Clanagan. “But we did a photo shoot. We took a hundred pictures of Kevin making all kinds of faces, because he’s known for his facial expressions. We’re the first to use actual photographs as emojis.” Hartbeat Digital also has a video game in the works (Hartland is its tentative title), which will take players on a virtual action adventure with the comedian. But the company’s biggest initiative, the one eating up most of its planning and resources (not to mention hundreds of hours of original Hartbeat-produced content) is Laugh Out Loud, Hart’s new streaming platform. “Comedy is so spread out,” he says, establishing the concept behind the $50 million venture, which Hartbeat Digital is financing in partnership with Lionsgate Studios. “You’ve got YouTube, where everything is all over the place. But there’s no one hub. You’re not really going to one site and saying this is where all the funniest comedians live.” He decided to build one, with his own sensibility. Laugh Out Loud, an ad-supported service with a paid premium tier, will feature some existing films and other licensed material, but much of the content—“stand-up comedy, sitcoms, prank shows, movies,” Clanagan says—will be shot here at Hartbeat’s studios. Production is about to begin on She Funny, a sketch comedy show featuring YouTube stars Laura Clery and Jennah Brittany. And there’s already about 1,500 hours of other Hartbeatproduced material ready for the April launch, including 13 hours of stand-up shorts featuring rising comedians at last year’s New York Comedy Festival. “This studio,” Hart says, sweeping an arm toward the soundstages, “this is ground zero. If Hartbeat Productions (Continued on page 103) December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 61


“Set the temperature to 73°. ”

“Play my ‘Rise and Shine’ playlist.”

“Will it rain today?”

Lazy Sunday by you. Help by

“Set the alarm for 2 hours from now.”

.


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

INSIDER ADVICE

“I’M A B I G BELIEVER IN TAKING TIME TO PAUSE AND R E F L E C T.” M E L I N DA G AT E S Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“When I worked at Microsoft for nine years and didn’t have kids, I would often stay late, polishing some presentation for the next day. My best friend had two kids at the time, and she had to go home for dinner—she didn’t have a choice. If you have to be home, you squeeze a lot into the last hour. Being a parent taught me to task-shift very quickly. But it also taught me to take pauses. “Six or seven years ago, I felt like I loved the philanthropy work, but I was going trip to trip and meeting to meeting and then I would rush home and be with my kids, and I’d rush back and get on email at night and then back to the office. I finally just thought, ‘I don’t want to live this way. And I’m not sure I’m doing my best work.’ I stopped trying to clear out my inbox every day. Some of those emails needed to gel for a while before I replied, and some maybe didn’t need a reply. So now it’s only on select evenings that I go back to my computer. These are big issues we’re trying to tackle, whether it’s malaria or reproductive health. Our cotrustee, Warren Buffett, said to me, ‘Remember, Melinda. You’re taking on the problems Photograph by Chloe Aftel

that society has left behind, and they’ve left them behind because they’re hard problems.’ And it just reminded me that I have to take that time to fill my own joy bucket if I’m going to be good at this work. I build in 15-minute breaks so that I can take some quiet time and close on one meeting before I go to the next. I’m a big believer in taking time to pause and reflect, particularly when you’re working on some of the big challenges in the world.” —As told to Missy Schwartz Time she wakes up “6:30. My morning starts with a little bit of yoga and meditation. And then right after that, I get the kids up.”

HOW FACEBOOK EMPLOYEES USE FACEBOOK 1.

Save posts for later The drop-down button on the top right corner of a post reveals a “save” button, which Janelle Burdette, a communications associate at Facebook, uses to bookmark anything she knows she wants to see—“political posts, puppy videos, or Game of Thrones recaps,” she says— but doesn’t have time to click on at that moment. Saved posts are stored under the “Favorites” tab on Facebook’s home page.

2.

Say the right name If Burdette knows she’s going to be meeting with a colleague whose name she isn’t sure how to pronounce, she searches his profile to see if he has offered a phonetic spelling in the “About Me” section.

3.

What she does while commuting

Find an old post

“I have been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack pretty much nonstop.”

One of Facebook’s little-known capabilities, Burdette says, is its ability to easily surface posts, even if you don’t remember who posted it, or when. In the search field, type in the name of the friend, team, or company you think it might have come from, along with any keywords you can remember, and Facebook will pull it up. Burdette says she regularly uses the feature to find files shared by her colleagues. —Cale Weissman

Email strategy “I split my personal and my office emails into two different folders, and I’m very disciplined about only going into business ones at certain times of the day.” Last thing she does at night “I think of one thing I’m grateful for. It’s a nice way to settle your mind before you go to sleep.” Time she goes to bed Between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 65


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

“E V E R Y O N E K N OWS THAT I A M A LWAYS A C C E S S I B L E .” MARCO BIZZARRI President and CEO, Gucci

between one and five minutes, never more than that, so that everyone knows they can always get an answer from me.” —As told to J.J. McCorvey Time he wakes up

“In fashion, you cannot make a decision with 100% of the information. You can collect all the data and conduct all the focus groups, but that is a picture of the past. You have to [make decisions] based on demand, feelings, rationality, and emotions. Why do you go into the shop to buy something? Because you are emotionally driven. Nobody needs any more bags and suits. Sometimes you see shows for luxury companies and you say, ‘My God, that is so boring. Why did you need to do a show for this?’ If you don’t take risks, you’re going to lose. . . . We are not a consumer-goods company, we are a luxury company. We have to create demand even if the people aren’t ready, because in 18 months, they will be. “If [someone] makes a decision and they make a mistake, at least it keeps things moving. Everyone knows that I am always accessible. [I think of] my iPhone as an extension of my hand. The conversations I have [during the day] last 66 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

“Around 7 a.m. But I have a problem with sleeping when I travel. I just came back from Japan and I think [I slept] five hours in five days. At a certain point, I collapse.” Mantra “ ‘No’ is not attractive. If someone has a new idea, I expect people to be open-minded.” Worst habit “I’m impatient. When my leg starts moving up and down, that is a signal that people need to speed up or change subjects. It’s kind of a joke at the company at this point: ‘Don’t move the leg, please don’t move the leg.’ ” Most productive time “When I run. My mind is free. I try to run for an hour three or four times a week.” Time he goes to bed “Around midnight.”


Photograph by Federico Ciamei


68 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

“Y O U ’ R E N O T A LLOW E D TO C O M E INTO MY OFFICE U N LE S S YO U HAV E A SOLUTION— N O T A P R O B L E M .” SHONDA RHIMES

Robert Trachtenberg/ Trunk Archive

Showrunner, author, CEO of television production company ShondaLand

“A giant part of my job is running the business, but I need most of my time for creative work. A lot of that involves shutting off everybody else. I have a rule that you’re not allowed to come into my office unless you have a solution—not a problem. Part of my growth, in being able to do all these shows, is that [my producing partner] Betsy Beers and I have been allowing people to rise over the years, telling them,‘You’ll have to make that decision.’ My email signature says, ‘I DO NOT ANSWER CALLS OR EMAILS AFTER 7 P.M. OR ON WEEKENDS, AND IF YOU WORK FOR ME, MAY I SUGGEST THAT YOU PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.’ I do not work on the weekends, which I have to tell you is incredibly difficult. I write, I just don’t answer phone calls or emails. “My first year doing Grey’s Anatomy, I would be at work at 10, 11 at night, and one of the executive producers, James Pariott, would go home at 6:30 or 7, and I would look at him with such rage. And he’d say, ‘Shonda, this

work will always be there tomorrow.’ Now I understand. You’re never going to cut down the mountain [of work] to make it flat. It’s always going to be a mountain. I try to focus on climbing this piece of the mountain, and then think about climbing the rest of it later.” —As told to J.J. McCorvey Time she wakes up 5 a.m., to spend time alone before her kids wake up. What she lets slide “Right now, I don’t feel guilty that I’m not working out. I’ll feel guilty about it at another time.” Worst habit “Too much caffeine. I haven’t tried to curb it in any way.” Most productive space “Any place I can wear headphones. [The music] has to be something I can sing to. Last year, it was just Aretha Franklin. The year before it was Marvin Gaye. This year it’s only Hamilton.” Time she goes to bed 10 p.m.


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

T H E WAY W E W O R K

We polled more than 250 managers in the Fast Company reader community to understand how they handle the demands of daily life. Here’s what we learned. On the job They’re office-dwellers...

...but not coffee addicts

The vast majority report to an office, rather than working from home or at a coworking space.

Two-thirds drink fewer than three cups per day.

O F F I C E 71%

I DON’T DRINK COFFEE

22%

1 CUP PER DAY

24%

2 CUPS PER DAY

26%

H O M E 23% C O W O R K I N G S PA C E 4% O T H E R 2%

3 CUPS PER DAY

17%

4 OR MORE CUPS PER DAY

11%

Many work in spurts...

Distractions vary by age

Respondents citing “taking a break” as the tactic that most helps them focus:

More people in the 40 to 49 age group reported being sidetracked by social media than in the 20 to 29 group.

42% 20-SOMETHINGS

...but they’re always “on”

10

Most check their email “constantly” during the day:

5

0

7%

12%

60%

Work-life balance

40-SOMETHINGS

Sleep

They’re not taking much time off...

...and when they do, they don’t unplug

More than half take 14 or fewer vacation days per year.

They get a decent amount of rest... Half log between 6 and 7 hours per night.

People who check in while on vacation: 18% L E S S T H A N 7 D A Y S

L E S S T H A N 6 H O U R S 18% 6 –7 H O U R S 51%

35% 7 – 1 4 D A Y S 1 5 – 2 1 D AY S 32% M O R E T H A N 2 1 D AY S 15% 0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

7 – 8 H O U R S 26% 8 + H O U R S 5%

People in the West work from home Proportion working remotely:

IN THE WEST

IN THE NORTHEAST

1/ 1/ 3 8

Exercise fiends live in the South Respondents who work out every day:

70 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

I N T H E S O U T H E A ST A N D S O U T H W E ST

25%

IN THE NORTHEAST

3%

...but 20-somethings make it a priority Age 20 to 29 who are in bed before 11:

50%

Age 20 to 29 who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night:

43%


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

INSIDER ADVICE

HOW GOOGLE EMPLOYEES USE GOOGLE 1.

Download a map Amanda Leicht, a product manager at Google Maps, says that the service’s offline mode can be a lifesaver if, for example, you’re stuck in a parking garage with no signal or navigating a country with high data fees. But it requires some prep work: While you still have Wi-Fi, tap “Offline Areas” in the Google Maps menu and download the maps for the areas you will need.

“AT O U R S C A L E, I T’S I M PO R T A N T T O F O C U S .”

2.

Share access to tools Salit Kulla, a product marketing manager for Google, gives her six kids editing access to one central calendar so that everyone stays connected, especially when they’re apart. “It’s made our trips more enjoyable, and we haven’t lost anyone yet,” she says.

3.

Store important documents offline Using the scanning feature available in Google Drive for Android, product marketing manager Pavel Baranyk uploads copies of his passport and other identifying items before he leaves for a trip. He then gives that folder offline access (click the three dots on the top left of the screen and select “Available Offline”) so that he can surface it when he needs it, wherever he is in the world. —Cale Weissman 72 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

A year into his tenure as CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai is rethinking what the company is, where it’s going, and how it gets things done. By Harry McCracken

S U N D A R P I C H A I I S H U D D L I N G with five Google staffers in a room next to his office that’s known—appropriately enough—as “Sundar’s Huddle.” The employees are members of the Google Photos team, and they’re here this morning to update Pichai on something they’ve been working on for months (I agreed not to reveal details of the project, which is due out by the end of the year). The group has barely begun its presentation when Pichai starts peppering them with questions, opinions, and advice. For half an hour, the discussion careens from subject to subject: the power of artificial intelligence, the value of integrating Google Photos with other products such as Google Drive, the importance of creating an emotional bond with the users of an app. After the team shows Pichai a rough cut of a promotional video, his feedback is unguarded and heartfelt: “That’s awesome!” Google’s 44-year-old CEO is, unmistakably, in his element. “Nothing makes me happier than a product review in which I can sit with

the team and they’re showing me something they’re building,” Pichai had told me a few days earlier. “[I love] being able to react to it and think through, ‘When users get this, what will their feedback be?’ I’m always on a quest to do that better and do more of it.” Pichai’s tone at the meeting—affable, engaged, ambitious—encapsulates his approach to running Google. In the year since he was named CEO, he’s been busy reshaping the company into a more harmonious, collaborative place in a quest to improve the productivity of an already notoriously inventive culture. Pichai took charge at a pivotal moment. In August 2015, cofounder Larry Page split what had been Google into several separate units that now live under a new corporate umbrella, Alphabet. Pichai’s Google is responsible for most consumer services and products, including search, Gmail, YouTube, Android, and hardware such as phones. With his distinctive blend of enthusiasm and curiosity, Pichai has shuffled many of the business’s moving parts, putting longtime Googlers in new roles and hiring fresh talent. Results are starting to arrive at a fast pace. This fall, Google held two major product launches in San Francisco. At the first, it unveiled Google Cloud, a big expansion of offerings for business customers, such as the G Suite assortment of productivity tools (formerly known as Google Apps). The second was an Apple-esque hardware extravaganza at which the company announced the first Google-designed smartphones (the Pixel and Pixel XL), as well as a competitor to Amazon’s Photograph by Mark Mahaney


Echo speaker (Google Home), a virtual-reality headset (Daydream View), a wireless router (Google Wifi), and an upgrade to its videostreaming gizmo (Chromecast Ultra). The wide scope represented by that lineup may suggest that Pichai isn’t picking his competitive battles. But his key ambitions are bound by a core prediction: that the world is moving from the smartphone age into, in Pichai’s phrase, an “AI-first” era, in which Google products will help people accomplish tasks in increasingly sophisticated, even anticipatory ways. The Pixel phones and Google Home, for instance, are the first devices with embedded support for Google Assistant, a rival to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa that is designed not only to handle straightforward commands but also fuzzier requests such as “Play that Shakira song from Zootopia.” The Assistant is also designed to engage in relatively complex conversations related to tasks such as making vacation arrangements. Each of the tech titans Google competes with in various ways—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft—has sweeping AI initiatives of its own, and Siri and Alexa have major head starts with consumers. But Google has more experience teaching computers to understand language, photos, and other forms of information than anyone else: Google Assistant will be able to call on those technical underpinnings as it battles it out in the marketplace. “We’ve invested in machine learning for a long time, in anticipation of this moment,” Pichai says. Though Alphabet’s most visionary moonshot projects aren’t part of his purview, the CEO thinks his present efforts have plenty of epoch-shifting potential. “Building general artificial intelligence in a way that helps people meaningfully—I think the word moonshot is an understatement for that,” he says, sounding startled that anyone might think otherwise. “I would say it’s as big as it gets.” P I C H A I ’ S A S P I R AT I O N T O build world-changing products is classic Google. His managerial style, however, is strikingly different from that of Larry Page. Google’s previous CEO (who today runs parent company Alphabet) is famous for setting expectations so high that meetings can be scary as well as inspiring. When you discuss Pichai with people who work closely with him, they mention his empathy, his humor, his eagerness to encourage teamwork across the company. “The guy is as smart and thoughtful as you can be,” says Philipp Schindler, who, as Google’s chief business officer, manages a 15,000-person sales and operations group. “He also has this ability to change perspective and look through other 74 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Time he wakes up “6:45 to 7:30, depending on how late I stayed up.” First thing he does in the morning “Check my email, brush my teeth. Sometimes at the same time.” Most productive space “Anywhere that’s quiet and has large windows.” Lunch routine “I actually have two lunches: the first one at around noon, and then a sandwich at around 3 p.m.” Motivational object “The first Chromebook we ever made. It reminds me of the journey we’ve been on to make computing accessible for everyone.” Daily breaks “If I’m at work, I’ll take a walk. If I’m at home, I try to sit down and have a chat with my kids—I always learn something new.” What he lets slide “Personal emails. Sorry, Brian, I promise I’ll respond soon.” Best habit “Listen first, and ask why. Also, I’ve been told that I’m a voracious reader.” Worst habit “Eating sugary things when I’m stressed.” Time he goes to bed “Later than I should.”

people’s eyes. That’s something that you don’t find so much in our world.” Pichai’s ascent to CEO is often described as “meteoric,” but he had been at Google for 11 years before getting the top job. He was a lowkey manager who was known for the quiet persistence with which he tackled projects of ever-increasing scale. Born in 1972 in Tamil Nadu, India, Pichai came to the U.S. as an engineering student in 1993, earned degrees from Stanford and Wharton, and worked at chip-manufacturing-equipment company Applied Materials before scoring a job as a McKinsey consultant. When his colleague Nick Fox left for Google in 2003, Fox’s new boss, Susan Wojcicki—then Google’s advertising chief, now the CEO of YouTube—asked if any other McKinsey-ites were worth recruiting. “The best one,” Fox recalls telling her, “is this guy Sundar.”

At the time, Google was in a very different place. “We had long discussions about whether he should take the job,” says Stefan Heck, another McKinsey colleague who is now CEO of autonomous-driving startup Nauto. “It’s funny in hindsight. Google was pre-IPO. You’d have been crazy not to join, but that was far from obvious.” Pichai took the gamble, signing on in April 2004 as product manager for the Google Toolbar. He quickly flourished, and his spearheading of the Chrome web browser became a career-defining success. When Google started work on Chrome in 2006, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had more than 80% of the market. Chrome went on to become the world’s mostused browser. That unlikely victory helps explain the fearlessness with which Google is now taking on entrenched products: Google Home vs. Echo, Google Assistant vs. Siri, Allo vs. Facebook Messenger. “Sundar didn’t ask, ‘How can you compete with Internet Explorer?’ ” says Fox. “He said, ‘We think we can build a better web browser. Let’s go do that.’ ” D E S P I T E A L L T H E C H A N G E S at Google, the company’s Mountain View, California, campus remains the same quirky corporate Xanadu it’s always been. When I wander around during a visit one October afternoon, I encounter both a “Chrometoberfest” party (Googlers enjoying steins of beer and an oompah band) and a tiny patch of simulated beach where a few staffers are playing volleyball. Google’s playful creativity and bottomup innovation—exemplified by “20% time,” which encourages workers to follow their passions—remain central to the company’s view of itself. As an example, Pichai mentions the new Daydream VR platform, which grew out of Cardboard, the VR headset that two engineers had whipped up without seeking permission. Still, there’s no denying that Pichai’s Google, which now has more than 66,000 employees, aims to go after its overarching strategic goals in a more thoughtful, disciplined manner than in the past. “At our scale, it’s important to focus and do it well,” he says. “[You need to have] a clear sense of where you’re going as a company, and then work towards that in a prioritized way.” Officially, Google has always advocated for collaboration. But in the past, as it encouraged individual units to shape their own destinies, the company sometimes operated more like a myriad of fiefdoms. Groups often generated projects on their own, and when it came to developing hardware, the results—such as various Nexus phones, tablets, and media streamers—didn’t (Continued on page 103)


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

”N O I S T H E M O S T PO W E R FU L W O R D I N TH E E N G L I S H L A N G U A G E .”

ANDREW ZIMMERN Creator and host, Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods series; chef; CEO, Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen and Intuitive Content

“Restaurants have informed everything I do. The kitchens that I grew up [working] in were serious food environments. That kind of teamwork, where different people are working on different aspects of the same thing and it’s all meeting at a certain place, is how I run all of my businesses. A lot of it is cadence. We have a rhythm in our company that I think has been the saving grace. We have weekly management meetings that take place whether I’m in town or not. Waiting for the guy at the top who’s overextended can sink a lot of businesses. [I] employ people whose job it is to keep me from procrastinating. I’m very transparent about my need to get help. A lot of people think talking about the problems they have is a sign of weakness, but I think it’s a sign of strength. If you’re a successful business leader and you have problems with procrastination, everyone in your office knows it. Everyone! “No is the most powerful word in the English language. Saying no to something means you’re able to say yes to something else that may be more important. I’ve had to do a lot of self-coaching to learn to say, ‘Let me think about it and get back to you.’ That helps me put space between my thought, which is: Do it, and my action.” —As told to Rob Brunner Time he wakes up 7 a.m. “I have a little prayer and spirituality moment for 90, 120 seconds in the morning.” How he handles stress A deep-breathing exercise he learned from his Pilates teacher. Mantra “Don’t be the best, be the only.” Lunch routine “The first thing my assistant asks me in the morning: ‘What do you want for lunch?’ I don’t like to waste meals. [What I eat is] the exact opposite of the sad desk lunch.”

Groomer: Debi Kilde

Most productive space “My son’s room when he’s asleep. Being in his room is a calming influence on me.” Time he goes to bed “Between 12:30 and 1 a.m.” Photograph by TJ Proechel

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 75


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

INSIDER ADVICE

HOW LINKEDIN EMPLOYEES USE LINKEDIN 1.

Build a better calendar

”N OT H I N G R E A L LY

In the LinkedIn app, there’s a function listed in the “Add Connections” section that lets users sync their personal calendar to their LinkedIn account. Mark Hull, a senior product manager, explains that before an appointment, you’ll get a push notification with background information about the person you’re meeting.

2.

Network effortlessly

WHITNEY WOLFE Founder and CEO, Bumble

Time she wakes up 6 a.m. Most productive space “Outdoors. You can’t stay cooped up all day.”

“I literally work from the moment I open my eyes. Bumble has gone from zero to over 8 million registrations in less than two years. We have to be as fast as our users are. It’s not abnormal that I’ll wake up to urgent emails and spend three hours in my bedroom working through them before I leave [for the office]. I’m the type of person who loves ‘inbox zero,’ but I prioritize. I have a severe phone addiction, and to curb it, I set microgoals: You don’t need to look at your phone right this second. Leave it in your bag five more minutes. I try to cook something every single night, and that forces me to put it down because I only have two hands. I’ve [learned] that nothing really is the end of the world; it can all be solved at some point. But walking your dog and paying attention to the people you love, that cannot always wait.” —As told to Missy Schwartz Photograph by Adam Amengual

Productivity tool “Facebook Messenger. Everyone is supercomfortable with it because they’ve been using it personally. I don’t like to introduce things at work that [employees] don’t feel like they’d want to use in their personal life.” Best habit “Refreshing my email every 10 seconds is probably my worst and my best. While I don’t miss anything professionally, I might miss the stop-and-smell-the-roses moments.” Nightly routine “I’m trying to change it because currently it consists of some sort of red wine.” Time she goes to bed 10:30 or 11.

Hull uses the site’s notifications to practice what he calls “lightweight” networking: congratulating someone on a promotion, adding a comment to an insightful post, or recognizing a work anniversary, all based on news that’s pushed to him, rather than the mix of updates that show up in his feed. “As small as it is, it shows you care,” he says.

3.

Develop new skills When Hull wanted to work more effectively with his data science team, he used Lynda, the onlinelearning service acquired by LinkedIn, to take a course in the programming language Hadoop. And Lynda’s not just for work. Hull spends his downtime “learning how to produce electronic music with a course on beat-making,” he says. —Cale Weissman December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 77


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

“I TRY TO SPEND EVERY SECOND OF MY D AY D O I N G S O M E T H I N G .” ANDREW ROSS SORKIN Journalist, screenwriter, producer, and coanchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box

missing out. Maybe I have FOMO. I feel guilty all the time. [But] if you’re loving what you’re doing, you’re trying to squeeze in as much as you can.” —As told to J.J. McCorvey Time he wakes up Between 3:55 and 4:25 a.m.

“When I’m doing one thing, I’m really focused on that one thing. I have no to-do list. I put everything on a calendar, [which helps me] know that this call is going to take 15 minutes or that this is a 25-minute project. The calendar also helps me create artificial deadlines. When I was writing Too Big to Fail, I would spend three or four hours doing that, and then I’d switch gears to writing daily stories or columns [for The New York Times] related to the financial crisis, and I would have to force myself not to think about [the book]. “I try to spend every second of my day doing something. If I’m in the subway, I’m emailing or reading articles. I use Evernote, with an app called Scannable [which scans and uploads business cards, receipts, and documents to my account]. I use Pocket to read articles later and Twitter to keep up with business and political news. I have a series of keyboard shortcuts I’ve created on my iPhone so that I can respond to emails quickly. “The bad part about being so regimented is that part of me worries about the serendipity of certain things—the opportunity cost of 78 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Productivity philosophy “I don’t think anybody can be particularly successful or productive on their own.” Email hack “SaneBox does a pretty good job of prioritizing email and eliminating stuff that I don’t really need to look at.” Go-to motivator “On my desk at home, I have tacked [up] this quote: AREN’T YOU WORRIED? And the next sentence says, WOULD IT HELP? It comes from the movie Bridge of Spies. If it wouldn’t help to worry about it, [I’m] not going to worry about it right now.” Best habit “I’ve never been a big drinker, but I don’t drink on weekdays. I don’t get as much sleep as I want anyway, so it [would be] just another thing slowing me down.” Time he goes to bed “9:30 or 10 p.m. Later if I’m being bad.”


Photograph by Andy Ryan


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

“PRODUCTIVITY SHOULD NOT BE A C O M P E T I T I V E S P O R T .”

CAT HY ENGELBERT CEO, Deloitte

“I was a Division I college athlete, and I grew up with five brothers and two sisters. I’ve always been a competitor. [But] I’ve learned that productivity should not be a competitive sport. You’re never going to win. “I am responsible for almost 80,000 people. I prioritize people over tasks. One Note allows me to put different tasks [involving] each of my executive-team members in a tab. That way when I talk to them, I can be more effective, because the five things I wanted to talk to them about [are right there]. “If I looked at email and Twitter and texts [during the day], I don’t think I would ever give my full attention to anything. You cannot be insightful if you’re deluged with information. We’re all drowning in data. We all need moments of recovery. For me, that includes not going right to my phone when I wake up in the morning. I got on a plane about six months ago, and I forgot my phone. For two days, I didn’t have my phone, and nobody died.” —As told to Ruth Reader Time she wakes up Between 6 and 7:30 a.m. Worst habit Late-night emailing. Mantra “Technology should help you do your job, not control your job.” Nightly routine “Watch Seinfeld or Friends on TV.” Time she goes to bed 11:30 p.m.

80 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

Photograph by Benedict Evans


It’s Good Not To Be Home CYNTHIA ROWLEY Fashion Designer

DOMINIQUE ANSEL Pastry Chef

GUNNAR PETERSON Celebrity Trainer

RANDI ZUCKERBERG Tech Innovator

Great minds come together. innovators have partnered together to create the ultimate Hyatt Regency hotel experience—inspired by business travelers, for business travelers. To see their ideas come to life, check out videos, photos and more captured from our live reveal event hosted at the Hyatt Regency Jersey City, NJ visit Fastcompany.com/its-good-notto-be-home


SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE

INSIDER ADVICE

HOW SLACK EMPLOYEES USE SLACK 1.

Bookmark important messages If Anna Pickard, Slack’s editorial director, doesn’t have time to read a post, she stars it, which stores it away for later. Clicking on the star icon at the top right corner of Slack’s landing page shows all starred posts.

2.

Practice channel management Pickard also stars channels and direct-messaging threads that matter most so that they’re at the top of her queue. She mutes some channels (so that they are de-emphasized in the menu). “[It’s helpful to] create a culture where that’s okay,” she says. In some channels, “there are already too many cooks.”

“I LI S T E N TO MUSIC TO HELP M E F O C U S .”

3.

Respond wisely Slack users can acknowledge colleagues’ posts with emojis, which are often cute or clever but rarely anything more. Pickard makes the reactions functional: When someone assigns her a task, she reacts with the “eyes” emoji, which means she’ll look at it. When she’s finished, she scrolls back and adds a green check mark. Team members can look back through the channel and see what tasks are outstanding based on the reactions underneath each post. —Cale Weissman 82 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

ELIZABETH O’NEILL Master taster, Woodford Reserve

bitters to make the flavor pop. I find myself daydreaming about grain bills and barrel finishes.” —As told to Elizabeth Segran Time she wakes up

“I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid and needed to take Ritalin. But as an adult, I’ve figured out how to make it work for me. My mind wanders when it’s quiet, so I listen to music to help me focus. I’m involved with the boots-on-the-ground distillery work, making sure instruments are calibrated and doing quality control. I also work on the more artistic side of production, creating new flavor profiles for Woodford Reserve. [It’s helpful that] my job requires me to bounce between a lot of different functions, because I can’t stay on one task for very long. “I travel a lot as master taster to educate people on how to explore different flavors, so I spend a lot of time in the car brainstorming simple cocktail recipes. To capture my wineand-champagne-loving friends, [I came up with mixing] Woodford Reserve and LaCroix orange-flavored soda water, with orange

5 a.m., to visit her horse before work. “I don’t have enough time to ride, I just groom him. It’s very therapeutic.” Email strategy “I’m so ‘on’ at work that the moment I get home, I don’t check my email again. Everyone has my phone number if they need me.” Audible assists “For creative work, it’s James Taylor, Tom Petty, George Strait. For a repetitive task, it’s something more energetic, like ’80s pop, Beyoncé.” Productivity philosophy “Say ‘yes’ first, figure it out second.” Nightly routine “Whiskey on the rocks and TV.” Time she goes to bed 9:30 p.m. Photograph by Samantha Casolari


The business of rescue

84 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

HOW ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST HUMANITARIAN AID ORGANIZATIONS IS HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY TO TACKLE A COMPLEX ISSUE IN WAYS THAT REALLY MATTER

By Matthew Shaer Photographs by Jessica Dimmock

Below: A young Syrian family finds relief in a large, breezy tent at the Diavata camp in Thessaloniki, Greece, where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees.


December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 85


The business of rescue

FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN S E C R E TA RY DAV I D M I LI B A N D FLEW FROM HIS HOME IN NEW YORK TO THE GREEK CITY OF MYTILENE, ON THE ROCKY EAST COAST OF LESBOS, AN ISLAND IN THE AEGEAN SEA. IT WAS THE FALL OF 2015, AND LESBOS HAD FOR MONTHS BEEN THE PRIMARY LANDING POINT FOR REFUGEES FLEEING WARS IN SYRIA AND IRAQ.

Now the steady flow was becoming a deluge—as many as 3,000 refugees a day. Local officials were overwhelmed. Driving north from the Lesbos airport, Miliband, the president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid organizations, passed long lines of dazed men and women, many sunburnt and barefoot. These were the newest arrivals, an IRC staffer explained. After making it to shore, they would walk, often for days, to transit sites or government camps where they could apply for political asylum in the European Union. Miliband stopped to examine a towering heap of life jackets that had been discarded on a beach at the north of the island. In a video he took of himself, which he later uploaded to Twitter, he read aloud from the label on one of the jackets: WILL NOT PROTECT AGAINST DROWNING. NOT FOR BOATING. Miliband, whose Jewish ancestors fled Nazi-occupied Poland in the 1940s, was reminded of the shoes found in concentration camps at the end of the Second World War—objects that came to serve as stand-ins for a different man-made tragedy. The sight “hit me hard, right in the solar plexus,” Miliband recalls today. “Just the scale of it. The agony, the fear, the pain. And so the next step was: How are we going to help these people as quickly and effectively as possible?” Over the next week, the IRC, which had been working in the region only for a few weeks at this point, implemented a slew of on-the-ground improvements, such as building additional sanitation and shower facilities at the two government-run camps on the island and helping move tons of gravel to a crowded transit site called Kara Tepe, which stood on the side

International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband visits a New York City farm run by refugees fleeing crises all over the world.

86 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017


of a rapidly eroding, muddy slope. Staffers rented a fleet of battered minibuses to carry refugees from the beaches, where they arrived, to the camps, where they’d wait—and then from the camps to the ferry terminals, where they’d depart for the mainland. At the same time, working out of a makeshift war room at his hotel on Lesbos, Miliband and his team gave interviews to media outlets in Europe and the United States, where the IRC is based, in an attempt to apply pressure on governments. He appeared on PBS’s NewsHour, live from the port in Mytilene, to chastise the European Union for failing to adequately address the refugee influx; he told a reporter for The Guardian that “Greece and Italy have been screaming about this problem for over a year. Europe’s eye has been on different things. There has been appalling neglect.” Privately, he lobbied old government contacts directly, urging them to take action at an upcoming emergency meeting of EU regulators in Brussels. Slowly, the tide began to turn. The Greek government agreed to increase the number of ferries leaving for the mainland, easing the logjam on Lesbos. A few months later, the European Union earmarked $325 million for humanitarian relief in Greece and other regions affected by the crisis. (The EU has pledged a total of $770 million through 2018.) Miliband’s was hardly the only voice pressing for change, but his stature and the IRC’s reach make him perhaps the world’s most formidable advocate for disenfranchised refugees. He says that he is “encouraged” by the progress on Lesbos, but stresses that much remains to be done. Too many refugees are still on the island, trapped in limbo while awaiting asylum. “In the 21st century, to have thousands of people living in warehouses and tents—that’s unacceptable,” he says. He recites the statistics from memory: 65 million around the world forcibly displaced from their homes, a number that’s growing, according to the United Nations, by 33,000 every day. There are 21 million refugees from war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. To Miliband, the refugee crisis is the defining issue of our era—a metastasizing geopolitical disaster that spills across datelines and borders and threatens the very foundations of international order. Mitigating it, he argues, will take more than a few small successes. It will require an entirely new approach, one in which social media outreach and data mining matter as much as bags of flour and mosquito netting. At the IRC, Miliband explains, this means melding “the mentality of a startup and the maturity of an 80-year-old organization.” Since taking over as CEO in 2013, Miliband has been pushing his team to adopt new, targeted solutions for speeding up emergency response times, increasing the rigor of field studies, and implementing a culture where ideas generated by the most junior staff member in the field have as much impact as those of the CEO. “You have to think and move nimbly,” he says, “but the changes you make can’t be superficial. They have to be considered, and lasting, and backed up with real, long-term strategic vision. Otherwise, quite simply, we’ll fail.” In Silicon Valley, failure is worn as a CEO’s badge of honor—proof that he or she has simply dreamed too big. In the arena of humanitarian aid, that notion is a luxury. Failure for an organization like the IRC means starvation, sickness, lives lost. But if the IRC can succeed in finding innovative solutions during this time of unprecedented crisis, it will demonstrate how important it is to take risks, even when—or especially when—so much hangs in the balance. “You may not know a lot about us,” reads a recent IRC brochure. “But neither did many of the 23 million people we helped last year.” The IRC, created in 1942 by the merger of two smaller refugee-assistance organizations—one cofounded by Albert Einstein—might be the most underrecognized yet influential nongovernmental aid group in the world. The 11,000-person organization, with offices in more than 40 countries on four continents, runs hundreds of relief programs in areas ranging from education to legal assistance, water distribution to civilian protection. It has its own emergency response unit, which functions as a kind of humanitarian expeditionary force, arriving at disaster zones early, addressing immediate needs, and staying until the situation has stabilized. It has a health technical team comprised of 50 public-health experts. The IRC is present across what Miliband often calls “the full arc of crisis,” caring for people trapped in conflict and resettling those who manage to escape. In 2015 alone, according to the IRC’s internal count, the organization trained nearly 15,000 farmers, vaccinated 440,000 babies against measles, provided job training for more than 27,000 people, and, through a network of American offices, resettled 10,000 refugees in the United States. It supported clinics in Ebola-ravaged Liberia, managed well-digging projects in drought-stricken Ethiopia, and provided health care and

A TIMELINE OF NEED

The International Rescue Committee stays with refugees from catastrophe to selfsufficiency. Here’s how. BEFORE THE CRISIS

If a disaster, such as civil war or famine, appears imminent, the IRC reaches out to its network of donors— including governments of the United States, Sweden, and Switzerland—who are able to write checks quickly. Security experts at the IRC monitor the region and decide when and how to send in an emergency response team. FIRST 72 HOURS

After creating immediate shelters, IRC ground crews move quickly to provide water, sanitation, medical treatment, and nonfood items (like weather-related gear) to prevent the outbreak of disease. FIRST TWO WEEKS

At this stage, cash is king. The IRC provides refugees with enough money, either as donations or payment for work done, to help them purchase what they require most: food, clothing, and household

supplies. “[Money] gives those affected by the crisis the decision-making power and dignity to choose what their family really needs and to shop as normal people,” says director of emergency response Bob Kitchen. FIRST TWO TO SIX MONTHS

The IRC begins working with refugees to establish a home away from home, building schools to provide children with a sense of routine, aiding women with family planning, and meeting regularly with community leaders to figure out the refugees’ needs. “You need to build trust,” says Kitchen. Which takes time. “We spend hours explaining who we are as an organization and what we’re there to do.” FIRST YEAR AND BEYOND

On average, people remain refugees for 17 years. Some stay and build lives as near as possible to their home countries. Others head to Europe or one of the IRC’s 29 resettlement cities in the United States, where they get jobs, learn the local language, and apply for social services. Last fall, the IRC launched a new website, refugeeinfo.eu, that educates refugees about their rights and explains how to apply for asylum in the European Union. —Nikita Richardson

A Belgrade resident passes the IRC-supported Information Park, which offers the mostly Afghani refugee community in the city food and guidance.

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 87


The business of rescue

Kurdish refugees Jamil Mohammad and Fatma Aziz Ahmed pass the time at the Eleonas camp in Athens. Their housing unit has air-conditioning, a rarity.

88 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017


counseling for people caught up in the civil war in the Central African Republic. The IRC does this all on an annual operating budget of almost $700 million, and yet the organization has for decades struggled to gain as much recognition, and bring in as much cash, as other humanitarian heavyweights. Oxfam International, for example, raises $1.5 billion annually, the Red Cross has a donor list millions of names long, and Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch often steer the conversation in the media. Yet there are few organizations with as much programming breadth as the IRC, and none that can rival its ability to help refugees and displaced people at every stage, from emergency response to resettlement in a new home in Europe or the United States. Miliband isn’t the type of leader who is content to fly under the radar. Born in London to an activist mother and politics professor father, he became head of policy for then–Prime Minister Tony Blair at age 29 and foreign secretary—under Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown—at 41. He was widely viewed in political circles as being destined for 10 Downing Street himself. But in a 2010 familial drama that played out on front pages around the country, he lost the Labour Party leadership election to his younger brother, Ed, and retreated to the parliamentary backbench to reevaluate his options. When the IRC’s board reached out to him, in 2013, Miliband saw an opportunity for mid-career reinvention. He was familiar with the IRC and admired its pedigree. And yet it was obvious to him that stasis had set in at the nonprofit. As one current IRC executive put it to me, “People felt stuck. They felt like the need was getting greater but at the same time that a lot of what we were doing wasn’t working as well as it should.” Miliband remembers asking the members of the board, “Do you want someone to steward the organization as it is or do you want someone to take it to the next level?” Miliband was given free rein, and, fittingly, one of his first acts as CEO in October 2013 was implementing internal chat software and asking employees to tell him what was functioning well at the IRC and what wasn’t. “I wanted suggestions and criti-

A N I N C R E A S E I N P R I VAT E D O N AT I O N S H A S E N A B L E D THE IRC TO EXPERIMENT WITH NOVEL APPROACHES. “ I T I S O U R V E N T U R E F U N D, ” M I LI B A N D S AYS. cism. I wanted people to be open with me,” Miliband says. He encouraged his staff to email him on his private account, no matter what time of day. The feedback flowed in, prompting Miliband and his aides to devise an internal manifesto that would come to be known as IRC 2020. The plan amounts to a series of pledges to be completed within the next several years: reduce its emergency response time to 72 hours or less; increase its partnerships with other nonprofits to widen its reach; and expand both the type and amount of data-driven research it conducts and acts on. In another document, he stressed the importance of refugee empowerment to the organization’s overall resettlement and reabsorption efforts. December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 89


The business of rescue

Local Greek workers construct a shower station at the Diavata camp.

Miliband also green-lighted the creation of an independent research and development lab, and handed control of the unit to innovation head Ravi Gurumurthy, his former speechwriter. “From the start, David was asking, ‘How do we have the biggest impact with every dollar?’ ” Gurumurthy says. “ ‘Who are we serving? What defines success? And how are we going to differentiate ourselves from other NGOs?’ ” The R&D lab, unheard of at humanitarian aid organizations, was code-named Airbel, after a safe house maintained by resistance fighters in World War II–era France. Its 10 full-time staffers are developing technologies ranging from malnutrition-measuring devices for nurses in Africa to computer-based education software for schools in refugee camps. The IRC has historically been funded primarily by government grants, like most humanitarian nonprofits. But because of how those dollars are often restricted, Miliband has pushed his staff to pull in more private funds. “The private money,” Miliband says, “has greater leverage. It is our venture fund.” The IRC forged a fundraising partnership in 2015 with Whole Foods (raising $77,000 in Manhattan stores in a single day) and turned to Airbnb to get free housing for IRC staff and volunteers. Last May, it launched Mother’s Day and Father’s Day campaigns on Facebook that allowed people to choose preselected gifts ($58 for a year of school for a refugee child, for example) to donate in a family member’s name. George and Amal Clooney, Mandy Patinkin, and Rashida Jones have filmed fundraising appeals; Sir Patrick Stewart has headlined IRC events. A video of three cast members from HBO’s Game of Thrones visiting an IRC refugee camp in Greece has been viewed more than a million times. Not everyone at the IRC has embraced Miliband’s aggressive, high-profile approach, nor his emphasis on business-driven best practices (the newly installed head of procurement comes from Starbucks and the chief information officer from Johnson & Johnson). Since 2013, there have been several prominent departures. Historically, the IRC “didn’t really talk much about its work,” says one staffer, who suggested that Miliband’s focus on public outreach was perceived “to be a little déclassé.” Overall, the staffer went on, “it was a ton of change . . . for an organization that had been samesame for many years.” Yet the impact has been clear. The IRC’s $700 million budget is 75% higher this year than when Miliband was hired, and $106 million of that has come from private sources: small-scale contributors, individual donors including Hamdi Ulukaya (the Turkish founder of yogurt giant Chobani), and corporate backers such as Citibank’s Citi Foundation. “IRC’s emphasis on evidence-based programming and scaling new 90 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

breakthrough approaches through their newly launched R&D lab aligns with [our] focus on enabling organizations to think bigger and bolder about global challenges,” says Citi Foundation head Brandee McHale. Says Amanda Seller, the IRC’s revenue chief: “You spend too much time in the sector, and you can get accustomed to the furniture, if you know what I mean. David was able to look at things objectively and ask the hard questions that needed to be asked.” If the Miliband-era IRC has an unofficial mantra, it is “Results matter”—words I hear uttered, in various permutations, by almost every staffer I speak with. “You have to remember that this is a sector built on good intentions. We go out into the world and try to do good,” says Jeannie Annan, IRC’s director of research. “But historically, the work has been a matter of measuring output: How much food or clothing did we give out? How many people did we train on month X? Our hope now is to pivot to measuring—qualitatively and rigorously—the actual change we affect in people’s lives.” When I sat down with Annan at her office in Manhattan, she showed me a beta of new software, currently called the Costing Tool, which is being developed by the New York tech firm Tigerspike for use by IRC project managers. The interface resembles Turbo Tax: Users answer simple questions about costs and expenditures; the program runs the figures through an algorithmic engine and spits out suggestions on how to better allocate resources or cut down on inefficiencies. The Costing Tool has been tested so far by IRC project managers in Pakistan and Liberia, and an organization-wide rollout will begin in 2017. (Eventually, Annan says, the IRC will share the software with other nonprofits and aid groups.) “What we want is for people to be able to look at a given project and quickly figure out what’s helping, and what’s not, without having to consult an economist,” Annan says. “It’s an evidence-based approach, and you see something similar across IRC, from the

“ W E’R E I N A G R O W T H I N D U S T R Y, F O R A L L T H E W R O N G R E A S O N S,” M I L I B A N D S AY S. “B U T YO U C A N’ T LET PEOPLE GIVE IN TO C O M PA S S I O N FAT I G U E. YO U H A V E T O R E P R E S E N T H O P E .” amount of data we’re collecting down to the number of academic partnerships we’re doing. It’s now at the center of our strategy.” Annan, who has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Indiana University Bloomington, mentioned a recent study her 27-person team had conducted in conjunction with academics at Yale and the University of Brasilia. The subject was emergency cash distribution—a relatively new practice, based on the theory that while food and water are important in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, survivors themselves will always be best positioned to know what their families need in the long term. In most of these cash-distribution programs, recipients access the funds through preloaded swipe cards—similar to


The business of rescue

At the Diavata camp, in Thessaloniki, Greece, an Iraqi woman prepares a late-morning meal for her husband and a family friend in their temporary shelter.

92 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017


the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that the U.S. government uses to distribute welfare benefits. In this case, the money arrives monthly, in amounts tailored to the size of the family. Critics of cash distribution have worried that recipients could be targeted by thieves, or that funds could find their way into the hands of terrorist groups. But this new study, which focused on a group of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, found little support for those concerns. Moreover, families that received cash assistance (and thus a measure of monetary freedom) tended to be significantly happier than the families that were given predetermined quantities of food and supplies. Tension in the household was reduced. And the program boosted the local economy: Most of the money was spent at Lebanese stores. Encouraged, the IRC has expanded its cash-distribution program to refugees across the region, and late last year, opened one of the first of its kind in Europe, at the Eleonas refugee camp in Athens. In June, I traveled to the camp to attend an informational session for about 45 recipients, who sat quietly sweating in an airless white tent as a tinny recording of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer filtered in from an adjacent shelter. Danny Dibb, a Lebanon-based IRC staffer helping to manage the cash program in Eleonas, had brought along some early statistics on card use, and he opened the meeting by reading them aloud, in Arabic. (Keeping residents involved keeps them invested, he tells me later.) So far, each (Continued on page 104)

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ULTIMATE

SUPERAGENTS PATRICK WHITESELL AND ARI EMANUEL ARE UPENDING THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS WITH VIOLENT SPEED.


Groomer: Carolina Dali at The Wall Group

FIGHTERS

By Nicole LaPorte Photographs by Tim Richardson


I

It’s a swampy August night in Las Vegas, temperatures simmering in the mid-90s. Inside the air-conditioned T-Mobile Arena just off the Strip, a different sort of heat is rising. Fans wrapped in the orange, green, and white of the Irish flag sway in unison, chanting for Conor McGregor, the Dublin-born star of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the mixed-martialarts league. He is facing off against Nate Diaz, a Mexican-American who surprised the fight world in March when he knocked McGregor out. The Irish fighter, whose pale skin is fully inked in elaborate tattoos, has made racially derogatory remarks about Diaz, and at a joint press conference a few days ago Diaz ended up hurling water bottles and storming out. Amid the arena’s Bud Light–infused fervor, the two most powerful dealmakers in Hollywood sit cageside as if they own the place. Which they do: Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel, co-CEOs of über–talent agency WMEIMG—backed by a number of financial heavyweights, including Silver Lake Partners, which is a significant investor in the agency—completed the final paperwork on a $4 billion acquisition of UFC just 48 hours earlier. “Nine days of hell” is how Emanuel describes the complex, into-the-night negotiations. “We just kept grinding. Patrick and I were not letting go of the ankle.” Whitesell, 51, and Emanuel, 55, are no strangers to confrontation, usually on behalf of their clients, who include megastars like Matt Damon and Serena Williams. Increasingly, they’ve expanded their ambition—from the 2009 merger of their upstart agency, Endeavor, with the venerable William Morris Agency to their bold combination with sports-and-marketing empire International Management Group three years ago. What the UFC deal represents, though, is something entirely different, a new and even more audacious strategic strike that aims to challenge the core assumptions of the entertainment industry. Because this time, instead of just helping others create projects, they’ve made a major, multibillion-dollar leap into owning content themselves. Whitesell, a lanky Iowan with all-American good looks, stares at the Octagon, the cage-enclosed ring where the fights take place. It’s a mobilescreen-friendly 750 square feet, he notes. He then scans the millennialfilled crowd and declares flatly that UFC is “going mainstream. We just gotta, kind of, turbocharge it.” The fact that mixed martial arts might be considered lowbrow by the Polo Lounge set is less important to them than 98 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

UFC’s unexploited global potential. And UFC is only the beginning of where they want to go. Emanuel, typically a whirling dervish known for his speed phone calls, remains seated alongside Whitesell, transfixed by the action in the cage. Such stillness is uncharacteristic (Emanuel has treadmill desks installed in all his offices), but he is enraptured by the drama of two human beings tearing each other apart. His attention is diverted only once: when he swings around in his $8,000 seat to introduce onetime heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to his teenage son Ezra. During the final few minutes of the marquee bout, as McGregor and Diaz collapse on each other in a bloodied huddle, Emanuel is finally on his feet with the rest of the crowd, his hands cupped around his mouth as he screams into the cage, the veins on his neck standing out like cables. McGregor, who ultimately landed more blows, is declared the winner. A slurred rendition of the Irish national anthem cascades through the crowd, as Emanuel grabs his black-and-white-check blazer and rushes for the exit. I divert him momentarily: What was he yelling at the end? He practically chirps, “I wanted him to kick him in the body!” He wasn’t rooting for McGregor or Diaz. As always with Emanuel, whose career has been defined by sticking it to doubters, all he wanted to see was a great long fight.

ĐĐĐ A few months before the UFC fight, Emanuel and I have lunch at Jack & Ben’s, the restaurant (named after Whitesell’s and Emanuel’s fathers) in the lobby of WME-IMG’s Beverly Hills, California, headquarters. Emanuel, who is notably relaxed and unguarded on this bright spring day, leans back in his booth. As a waiter obsequiously serves him a paleo lunch, he tells a story about another CEO. This executive, he explains, came to him looking for advice on how to fix his company, but couldn’t help spending most of the conversation rhapsodizing about its glorious history. Emanuel’s expressive face—a weather map whose shades range from jokey amiability to don’t-mess-with-me intensity—folds into a grimace as he says, “I don’t want to end up like that guy.” Nostalgia has long been a hallmark of Hollywood, but Emanuel and Whitesell—who first partnered with Emanuel in 2001 and helped push Endeavor beyond its boutique origins— show no hint of it. They don’t talk about the simpler days, when a handful of stars commanded $20 million a movie and a hit TV show could gush syndication revenue for decades. They don’t pine for what had been the ultimate promotion for an agent back when they started their careers in the mailroom in the 1980s: to be picked to run a movie studio. Instead, what they talk about is forging “a media company that is built for where the world is going.”


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY A SAMPLING OF HOW WME-IMG IS DRIVING GLOBAL POP CULTURE

1. UFC 1

2

WME-IMG acquired the upstart sport for $4 billion to mine it for stars and raise the value of its TV rights.

2. Frieze In May, the high-end contemporary art fair took an investment from WME to create new opportunities in global events and media.

3. New York Fashion Week 3

4

WME revamped the event by moving it downtown and live-streaming runway shows.

4. The Park at Wrigley Field WME will create year-round programming (and sell naming rights) for a new 50,000-square-foot plaza adjacent to the legendary stadium.

5. Dwayne Johnson

Steve Marcus/Getty Images (UFC); Mireya Acierto/ Getty Images (Frieze); Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images (NY Fashion Week); Michael Loccisano/Getty Images (GoldieBlox); Des Willie/AMC (The Night Manager); Kevin Frayer/Getty Images (China)

5

6

From action-adventure films to HBO, WME has helped the star create a megabrand via an Under Armour product line and the launch of his own app.

6. GoldieBlox Founder Debbie Sterling hired WME to sell a TV series based on the characters in her toy line.

7. The Night Manager 7

8

WME packaged the miniseries based on John le CarrÊ’s novel, then made it a worldwide event by selling the TV rights itself.

8. China Partners Sequoia Capital and Tencent are helping WME-IMG grow in China, where it already sells the rights to air Chinese Super League soccer matches.

December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 99


100 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

WME-IMG’S PLAYBOOK FOR BUILDING THE FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT

Wild ride Professional Bull Riders has gotten a kick from WME-IMG’s ownership.

1

Identify an underleveraged asset WME-IMG represented Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and UFC for years, so it knew their business potential before acquiring them. 2

4

Upgrade the live experience WME-IMG mixes music, celebrity, fashion, and food to create an event. It’s added screenings and concerts to PBR contests and recruited celebrities such as Ben Affleck to bring glamour to UFC.

Add star power More stars equals more business. Breakout bull rider Bonner Bolton is now also a WME-IMG model, and 40 more cowboys are getting the glam treatment. Next up: Turning dozens of both male and female UFC fighters into household names.

5

Add storytelling Fashion events and emerging sports such as PBR are platforms for TV shows, digital series, documentaries, apps—anything that can be turned into content.

WME-IMG creates digital homes for the content it creates and coalesces superfans around them. There’s M2M for fashion, Fight Pass for UFC, and PBR for rodeo (in 2017). 8

Democratize access

Take it international

New York Fashion Week introduced pop-up shops during the event. Brad Paisley headlined a free concert series during college-football weekends.

Weeks after Made, traditionally a downtown New York fashion event, debuted in Los Angeles, WME-IMG brought the concept to Berlin. UFC’s potential in China contributed to the agency’s ardor to purchase it.

6 3

7

Launch a digital streaming network

Add sponsors WME-IMG matches brands such as Target and Intel with Fashion Week to create additional consumer experiences. It has helped the beer giant InBev get into e-sports and daily fantasy to support these burgeoning activities.

9

Apply everything you learn to an even bigger idea PBR is an incubator for what WME-IMG might do with UFC. Experiments with Made lead to new ideas for Fashion Week.

John Lamparski/Getty Images

With nearly 6,000 employees, WME-IMG (yes, a name change is in the works) already controls arguably the most important piece in the creation of movies, TV shows, and sporting events in today’s tech-flattened entertainment business: the talent. “Their proximity [to stars] and that relationship capital gives them power,” says Peter Guber, a former studio chief who now runs Mandalay Entertainment Group, the film, TV, and sports conglomerate that co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors. “They are now coming in the back door, the side door, over the top.” “If we do it right, this is the best platform,” Whitesell says, meaning that he believes that the collection of assets that he and Emanuel now control give them the best possible tools to navigate every shift roiling their industry, from the rise of China to megamergers such as the proposed AT&T–Time Warner deal. WMEIMG not only represents such Hollywood luminaries as Claire Danes and Jimmy Kimmel, but also sports stars, fashion designers and models, and chefs. It sees potential in using IMG’s business selling media rights to events such as Wimbledon and Chinese soccer to sell TV shows around the world without having to go to a studio to do it for them. The events in which it has equity—fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Sydney; contemporary art fairs in New York, London, and Berlin; Professional Bull Riders and UFC; a new e-sports league via a joint venture with Turner Broadcasting—give it a stake in the booming live-event business. Everything holds appeal for major brands looking to reach customers in new ways, and WME-IMG also owns a 49% stake in one of the most highly regarded ad agencies, Droga5. These pieces may seem eclectic and even random. But to Whitesell and Emanuel, there’s a unifying theme: They all can be entertainment. “They all have that connective tissue,” Whitesell says, they are all platforms to create content. They can then sell all these forms of entertainment directly to fans interested in going deep in their niches. “There will be more disruption, across all of [media and entertainment],” says Whitesell, who’s known as the deeper strategic thinker of WME-IMG’s co-CEOs. “But that will be good for us.” As traditional distribution models continue to shift, “No one part of our business will suffer so much that the company is hurt.” Although Whitesell and Emanuel’s traditional agency rivals, notably CAA, have also diversified, “I don’t think anyone’s taken the leap that Ari and Patrick did, and so quickly,” says CAA cofounder Michael Ovitz. “Their scale in such a short time is amazing.” It’s as though Whitesell and Emanuel looked at conglomerates such as Fox and Disney and thought, What if you could build one of those from the ground up for the 21st century? “Their ambition is pretty big,” says James Murdoch,

NINE STEPS TO GLORY


CEO of 21st Century Fox, choosing his words carefully. “They’ve committed to [becoming] an owner and a creator of content, much like us. They believe in the value of investing upstream, as do we.” Bull riding and ultimate fighting and Miss Universe (which WME-IMG purchased from former client Donald Trump) might seem a world away from controlling, say, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. And it is. But it’s the textbook definition of disruption to start with something people consider to be folly and work your way up. Whitesell and Emanuel’s approach, as their former Endeavor partner David Lonner described it to me, has always been, “We just have to give ’e m little body blows, again and again. Then we knock ’em out.” WME-IMG knows the assets it now controls, often from having been their agent before acquiring them. They’re relentlessly focused on making these properties better, and if they do, they will reap all the rewards rather than an agent’s traditional 10%. Although not every part of WME-IMG’s burgeoning empire is successful (critics are quick to point to the underperformance of IMG College, which sells media rights for universitysports powerhouses), growth is under way. WME-IMG’s earnings before interest and taxes are expected to increase 20% this year to $480 million, and its private valuation has hit $5.5 billion (more than Vice Media and augmented-reality pioneer Magic Leap). When WME-IMG goes public, which sources say could be as soon as 2017, all those shots will have added up—certainly as far as Whitesell’s and Emanuel’s personal net worth is concerned. “Now 50% of our business we own, and it’s ours to lose,” Emanuel says, taking a bite of broccoli. “We can only fuck it up. We can no longer say, ‘The client didn’t do that. The buyer didn’t do that.’ It’s ours. We either win, or we lose.”

ĐĐĐ “The dirt looks really good, by the way.” It’s early June, and Barnett Zitron, the managing director of Made, an edgy counterpart to New York Fashion Week, stands in a cavernous space in downtown Los Angeles, which in 48 hours will host Made L.A., the company’s first West Coast event. Right now, though, we’re surrounded by stacks of crates and tangles of multicolored cords, and then there’s the two bulldozers’ worth of earth that’s been dumped in a far corner of the room. Zitron, an affable New Yorker wearing a black T-shirt and patentleather sneakers with no socks, explains to a group of WME-IMG executives and sponsorship partners that the dirt, which cost $7,000, is for a fashion show by the clothing brand Hood by Air. It will involve, he says, “flying car parts.” Before WME merged with IMG, fashion was a “stepchild” for the private-equity firm that then owned IMG, says Catherine Bennett,

SVP and managing director of IMG’s fashion events. Her sole focus, she tells me as we survey the Made L.A. site, was to produce runway shows. But Whitesell and Emanuel want her “to be disruptive,” and soon after the merger, WME-IMG acquired Made as part of a broader mandate to groom up-and-coming designers and fuse fashion with entertainment. (Bennett, a soft-spoken blonde with a law degree from Georgetown, was also tasked with making sure Emanuel sat still during his first fashion show. “I was like, ‘You know you can’t get up, right? You have to stay seated.’ ”) This fashion-as-pop-culture effort is on display when I return the following night and find the space transformed. Cool kids with rainbowcolored hair gather around an outdoor bar and wander through pop-up shops peddling clothing by Made designers—including some that debuted during the event—custom energy elixirs, and even complimentary manicures and haircuts. Tickets cost $55 to $400 (for a VIP pass). Ten bucks confers access to just the pop-up stores. The apotheosis of the night comes after the (delayed) arrival of Kanye West, who’s here to cheer on fellow rapper Tyler, the Creator’s runway debut for his Golf Wang label. The event opens with WME client Tyler miming waking up in his pajamas on a giant revolving bed, then segues into an X Games–style exhibition with models careening down a half-pipe on skateboards. Tyler then launches into his latest single, “My Ego,” before loping around the raised runway and delivering a Moth-style confessional. “Growing up as an inner-city black kid, I wasn’t the most masculine. I wasn’t into sports,” he says, dressed only in baggy shorts. “I liked pink and shit.” As a finale, West (who isn’t repped by WME-IMG) steps forward and hands Tyler an envelope. Tyler opens it and announces a new sneaker line, saying that everyone in the tent will receive a pair. “You’ll get a shoe! You’ll get a shoe! Yes, n-----, yes!” Tyler booms while pumping his fist in the air. Then he tells the screaming crowd to “Go the fuck home . . . Seacrest out,” and drops the mic. Made L.A. may be a bit of a “Frankenstein,” admits Zitron, but by mixing “fashion with music [it] creates an entertainment environment that consumers want to buy tickets to.” WME-IMG is actively looking for how it can create more mashups across its business. In 2015, WME-IMG arranged for country music star Brad Paisley, a client, to tour colleges that it sells sports rights for, performing concerts during football weekends to enhance the experience and introduce the singer to a younger audience. “The first event we did was Virginia

Tech,” says Jason Lublin, WME-IMG’s COO. “It’s raining, but 80,000 people show up. They were expecting 8,000. The next day, every one of the schools called us.” (Paisley did another college tour last fall.) In August, the Professional Bull Riders’ Built Ford Tough series in Nashville included a Steven Tyler concert. Yes, he’s a WME client: The company enlisted him to perform the new PBR theme song, which appears on Tyler’s recent album. The Nashville event also featured a screening of the Netflix rodeo documentary series Fearless, which was packaged by WME and features PBR riders. As Whitesell tells me later, “We’re just scratching the surface of what a weekend around an [event] can be. And we have everything: music, fashion, celebrities, food.” At New York Fashion Week this September, WME-IMG made a conscious effort to open the shows up to the public and new sponsors—and create opportunities for designers to adopt the “see now, buy now” model that consumers are starting to demand. WME-IMG installed the Shop, a lively pop-up boutique, not far from one of the runway locales, where passersby could watch live streams of the shows and purchase jewelry and accessories created by NYFW designers. Further uptown, Target turned a bar across from the second runway-show venue into a piano lounge where Paul Shaffer banged away on a bright red piano and Queen Latifah

“I DON’T THINK ANYONE’S TAKEN THE LEAP THAT ARI AND PATRICK DID, AND SO Q U I C K LY,” S AY S O R I G I N A L SUPERAGENT MICHAEL OVITZ. “THEIR SCALE IN SUCH A S H O R T T I M E I S A M A Z I N G .” crooned. Neither are clients, but a number of the models that WME-IMG represents, including Kendall Jenner, Christie Brinkley, and Chanel Iman, attended—elevating the sex appeal of this respite from the shows. “More and more, Fashion Week is turning into a consumer experience,” says WME-IMG’s head of content Mark Shapiro, “and we want to lead that charge.”

ĐĐĐ Emanuel refers to Shapiro as “my little brother,” and it’s easy to see why. Both are fasttalking Chicago natives, and they became fast friends years ago on a red-eye flight where December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 101


Shapiro was furiously, and noisily, typing a memo. He looked up to see Emanuel ordering his seatmate to scram before saying: “What the fuck are you doing?” Shapiro, 45, who was a brash programming wunderkind at ESPN and then served as CEO of Six Flags and Dick Clark Productions, acts as WME-IMG’s storyteller-in-chief. He surveys the company’s properties for new TV shows, digital series, documentaries, apps—anything, really—that can be turned into content, packaged, and sold. “Ari and Patrick, they get that content is the driver,” Shapiro says when I meet with him in his slate-gray New York office. It sets everything else in motion, from viewership to sponsorships to ticket sales to pay-per-view subscriptions. In the fragmenting media world, “Everywhere you look, someone’s looking [for content] and is willing to pay. And they were like, ‘Look, we have access to everybody, and we have content coming out of all of our pockets—whether we own it, represent it, license it, distribute it, create it, produce it.’ ” Shapiro’s job is to package it, whether it’s a digital series on bull riding or a fashion show, which Shapiro hopes to one day bring to network TV. “If you could do the Chanel show in prime time, I just think so many people would watch that,” he says, posing a thought experiment. “You could turn that into a huge red carpet, [do] interviews beforehand with Beyoncé . . . Gwyneth Paltrow goes . . . Karl Lagerfeld’s got the gloves on and you’re behind the scenes as he’s putting them on and he’s getting ready to go out there. And then you’ve got the show itself, and then you’ve got the post.” He slaps his hands on his knees and beams. Shapiro’s enthusiasm is infectious, but some people are skeptical about his desire to transform everything into entertainment. “He seems to have done his homework,” says Brian Phillips, who runs the fashion consultancy Black Frame. “But it’s like everything in Hollywood: Yeah, man! This is amazing! It’s going to be great! The reality is, they talk a big game, but they haven’t delivered yet.” In the more traditional Hollywood areas, they’re starting to see benefits from putting different assets together. One of Emanuel’s favorite things to say is that WME-IMG is “going from a B-to-B business to a B-to-B-to-C-to-D business,” which means going from idea to screen with, increasingly, no other middlemen involved. The prototype for this model is The Night Manager, the TV adaptation of the John le Carré novel that started off as a WME-IMG package (the company represents stars Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston as well as the production company, the Ink Factory). Typically, at that point, the agency’s role ends and the show is bought by a studio like Sony or NBCUniversal, which sells it to networks. But in this case, WME-IMG did the selling itself. “I wanted to prove the point that we have all this incredible leverage and a wealth of relationships with broadcasters around the world,” says Ioris Francini, the Italian-born, London-based president of IMG Media who Whitesell calls the 102 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

company’s “intelligence network,” because of the relationships Francini’s team has built globally. Francini tapped IMG’s global sales force to sell The Night Manager the same way it does Wimbledon, and the show debuted in 188 countries earlier this year. The revenue that might have accrued to a studio or distributor all flowed to WME-IMG. The agency has gone on to make similar deals for the sci-fi detective series Dirk Gently and comic travelogue The Grand Tour, featuring the Top Gear stars. WME-IMG is also creating its own digitalstreaming services. Whitesell and Emanuel “view technology as a wedge that lets them insert [themselves] into businesses that otherwise maybe an agency wouldn’t be able to get into,” says Marc Andreessen, cofounder and general partner of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Last year, WME-IMG launched M2M (Made to Measure), a fashion-focused digital network that was the first to launch exclusively on the new Apple TV. Whitesell says that M2M has been a crash course. “How do you program a [digitalstreaming] channel, and what are all the pieces? As other opportunities beckon, we’ll be ready.” One of those ripe possibilities came with UFC, which owns Fight Pass, the Netflix of MMA fighting. At the time WME-IMG acquired UFC, the $9.99-a-month network had just 450,000 subscribers. World Wrestling Entertainment, by contrast, has almost 2 million. Conveniently, WME-IMG represents the WWE, and it has tapped its content-strategy team to improve Fight Pass’s programming. “You could do a show as simple and gratuitous as How to Pick a Ring Girl,” Whitesell says. “You can go to the dojos—the training facilities—and follow the journey of these fighters.” By expanding Fight Pass, they add direct value: If the streaming service accrues as many subscribers as WWE’s, that’s $240 million in annual revenue. And a robust Fight Pass also gives WME-IMG more leverage with broadcasters when it renegotiates UFC’s TV rights. UFC’s U.S. television deal currently averages $115 million annually from Fox Sports; UFC has reportedly told investors that it could quadruple when the next contract begins in 2019. “There’s nobody in the world better to lead the negotiations for the U.S. television rights deals than [Emanuel],” says UFC COO Lawrence Epstein. “I know Ari works hard for all his clients, but he’s working for himself now.”

ĐĐĐ “What the fuck are we doing here, Patrick?” The line is typical Emanuel: jokey, crafted to startle, and, yes, profane. He and Whitesell are sitting onstage at the Cooper Union building in Manhattan, offering a state-of-the-company address to their international team. (Many join via live stream.) Junior agents have been firing swag into the crowd with T-shirt cannons, and jokes about bull riders abound. The irony of using this venue—home to historic speeches about equality from Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Barack Obama—isn’t lost on the co-CEOs.

For the company, though, this is a momentous occasion. There is a sense that WME-IMG’s transformation from a collection of interesting but disparate assets into a single-minded machine is finally starting to feel real. When a slide goes up saying EVERYONE SAID WE’D FAIL. WE WENT TO WORK, the room erupts in applause. WME-IMG’s aggressive reinvention of its business has spawned a predictably intense backlash in some corners of Hollywood. “I’m surprised the clients are willing to accept the agents growing as big as they are,” says one industry source. Adds a rival agent: “Focus is undervalued.” The WME-IMG retort: Today’s talent clients are “entrepreneurs,” and by giving them access to the company’s many divisions, they can broaden their own brands and portfolios. Clients like Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson have greatly benefited from this approach. WME-IMG has helped Wahlberg build a hamburger chain (and a reality show about it), a purified-water brand, and a nutritional-supplement business. Johnson received a “brand review” by ad agency Droga5, leading to a lucrative deal with Under Armour and his own motivational app. The flip side, as even some clients joke privately, is that talent’s role at the company has become “to feed the machine.” Is sending Paisley out to perform in college towns on football weekends what’s best for him, or for the company’s struggling IMG College division? When UFC announces a carefully curated roster of 23 celebrity investors—from Conan O’Brien to Guy Fieri, many of whom are WME-IMG clients—does the greater benefit accrue to those stars or to WME-IMG and UFC? And what happens when the company’s content creation puts it in conflict with the same businesses that it sells to? “It’s a brave new world,” says one manager. “Now they’re competing with studios.” For the moment at least, studio chiefs appear unruffled, largely because, as Fox’s Murdoch tells me, “We do a lot of business with WME-IMG.” Adds Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS, “Of our new shows, they’re involved with 75% of them. All our big comedy stars—Kevin James, Matt LeBlanc, Joel McHale—are all their guys. And our biggest movie that just finished shooting in Boston (Patriots Day), about the Boston Marathon bombing, was packaged by Ari.” Last spring, TV networks acquired or renewed more than 90 series repped by WME-IMG—more than twice as many as any competitor. Perhaps Ovitz, the superagent of the 1980s and 1990s who shocked Hollywood by expanding into investment banking and advertising, puts it best: “I had a slogan I used: ‘No conflict, no interest.’ We were constantly getting the back of our hand slapped with a ruler and told, ‘Hey, you can’t be a principal. You can’t produce commercials.’ But we did. We got around it. I don’t believe that today’s environment is hostile to that. Creating jobs is all anyone cares about.” WME-IMG executives are only slightly perturbed when these friction points are raised.


“Conflict is unavoidable in this business,” says Rick Rosen, a partner who runs WME’s television department. “We just have to be open and transparent.” Executives react more strongly to the contention that they aren’t as focused on being agents. “When Dick Wolf wants to talk to me about the negotiation on his NBC deal,” Rosen says, “I have to make that happen.” Emanuel’s response is an eye roll. “I do service my clients,” he says, clearly annoyed. “Do I have to be in an office to service them? Most of Hollywood stays in Hollywood. No one’s getting on a plane and going to Argentina for three meetings. Flying 14 hours for three meetings. And then getting on a plane and flying to London. Or going to China for a lunch and a dinner and coming back. I don’t give a shit. I did it last weekend.” He holds up his iPhone to indicate it’s all he needs. The company’s combative striving comes from Emanuel, who as a child was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. In grade school, his mother hired a tutor to help him, and he recalls having to “sit by a windowsill; we had this window that looked down on the street. And I had to be there for three hours. This fucking tutor, this old lady, she was a witch. But she got me to read.” Now, Emanuel says, “Thank God I’m dyslexic. You know, when you’re dyslexic, you gotta work really hard. You’re okay with failure, because you feel it every day. You see things differently because you have to.” When we meet up before New York Fashion Week, I ask Emanuel why he keeps up the fight when WME would have been just fine operating as a traditional talent agency, or at least as a slightly—as opposed to hyper—diversified agency, and he stops. He drums his fingers heavily on the table, as he does when he thinks. Emanuel now swears by the meditation practice One World, and for a moment, he reveals his newfound pensive side. “My brother turned 59 today. Zeke,” he says. Zeke is Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and the chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and the founding chair of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. Emanuel’s other brother, Rahm, is the mayor of Chicago and Obama’s former White House chief of staff. Ari, the baby brother, has been trying to keep up with those two his whole life. “And I called him up yesterday, said, ‘How ya doin’?’ He’s a guy that, he’s so unemotional. And he kind of got a little emotional on me,” Ari says. “I go, ‘You’ve done unbelievable work. You’ve helped the world.’ He goes, ‘We’re on this fucking planet for two seconds. Two seconds! And snap, it’s over.’ He goes, ‘I cannot believe I’m 59.’ “So I would say to you, why not? You know what failing is? Not doing it. Not that I did it and failed. Failing for me is not doing it. For me, I have these ideas, I want to do it. Let’s do it. And guess what? What happens if it doesn’t work? You just have to keep on working until it works. Okay, let’s work! Who cares? We’re here for a pimple.” laporte@fastcompany.com

Kevin Hart (Continued from page 61)

or Hartbeat Digital wants to produce something, they can use the stages that I own. A cooking show? All right, I’ve got a cooking stage. Is this a radio show? We’ve got a radio room. Everything is going to happen here.” A S E V E N I N G A P P R O A C H E S , Hart zips up his garment bag, slides his phone into his pocket, and heads out to his “mobile command center,” an enormous black Mercedes Sprinter van parked in the studio lot. Inside is everything Hart needs to keep his many projects going while in transit: WiFi, video screens, Bluetooth keyboards, and a fully stocked fridge. “All the chairs are like airplane seats,” he points out, popping up the leg rest on one of the recliners. “And they all give massages.” Hart originally procured the van—and its driver—after a DUI arrest in 2013, but it has proven so helpful that he’s continued using it even after getting his license back. “Traffic in L.A. gets pretty insane,” he says, “so while I’m on my way here or there, I can still work.” The van is his weapon in his war against wasted time, a neverending pursuit that can leave his staff struggling to keep up. “He works relentlessly,” says Clanagan. “And you have to follow him around all day. Even when he’s in Hawaii shooting a movie. If he gets up at 5 or 6 in the morning, you’ve got to be ready, because you know he’s going to call first

Sundar Pichai (Continued from page 74)

have much of an impact on either Google or the market. (One big exception: Chromecast, which has sold more than 30 million units.) Now, Pichai is steering Google’s teams toward a common mission: infusing everything they do with AI. “Sundar has brought a new emphasis to [collaboration], particularly at the senior leadership level,” says Jen Fitzpatrick, who joined Google as one of its first interns in 1999 and now oversees Google Maps. “He’s made it a core value of how he wants to run the company.” Google’s top executives are “emailing and talking and meeting and coordinating constantly now,” says Diane Greene, the celebrated computer scientist and VMware cofounder who joined the company shortly after Pichai became CEO and led the reimagining of Google Cloud. “We all have a really clear understanding of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and what we’re trying to achieve.” In some instances, Pichai’s plan for Google involves not just collaboration, but centralization.

thing before he goes to the set. ‘What’s happening with the business?’ And you’ve got to be ready at the end of the day, because he’ll call then too, as soon as he wraps. And he’ll probably call three times throughout the day, as well.” Hart admits that he can sometimes lose patience with his staff, especially when they exhibit a lack of ambition. (“I’m not an asshole, but I am a demanding boss,” he says.) But he is also very loyal. About a year ago, Hart promoted his longtime executive assistant, Wayne Brown—the guy in the van wearing the NO DAYS OFF T-shirt—to vice president of Hartbeat Digital. “We’ve had some fights,” Brown acknowledges. “We’ve cursed at each other. Kevin never runs out of batteries, so it can be exhausting sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re like family.” Like many driven bosses, Hart finds it difficult to delegate. He built this empire and has continued to fold the millions he earns from his tours (which he also finances himself) and other endeavors back into his businesses. Hart signs every check that gets cut at Hartbeat, he says, and focuses on details as small as the dimensions of the conference-room table he’s having custom-built. “I don’t like being part of projects that I don’t physically touch,” he says. Hart realizes he may have some control issues, but he’s okay with that. Happy, even. The endless decisions are what it’s all about. “Once you’ve accomplished a goal, you’re all done,” he says. “And I don’t ever want to be all done.” Hart settles into a recliner for the half-hour drive to his home in Tarzana. Then he takes another phone call.

To make sure that future gadgets are built for the AI-first era, he has collected everything relating to hardware into a single group and hired Rick Osterloh to run it. Osterloh was already a Google vet, having served as CEO of Motorola Mobility during the brief period when Google owned the phone maker. But back then, the company isolated that smartphone business from the rest of its operations to avoid ticking off Android partners such as Samsung. “We were completely at arm’s length,” Osterloh says. “That’s just how it was. It’s a different time now.” Since starting in April, Osterloh has scrapped works-in-progress that weren’t central to the company’s AI-centric future, such as Project Ara, a Lego-like smartphone with snap-together components that had already failed to meet its original 2015 ship date. The Google Home smart speaker, he says, is less about going head-to-head with Amazon’s Echo than advancing the bigger goal of making Google Assistant pervasive. “Kudos to Amazon for coming up with the Echo product first,” says Osterloh. “It was very clear to us that we needed to do something within the home that accomplished the goal of getting the Google experience to our users.” The Assistant is also part of Google’s new messaging app, Allo, which was created by a December 2016/January 2017 FastCompany.com 103


communications group that Pichai formed and asked his old friend from McKinsey, Nick Fox, to run. Given that Facebook already has two messaging apps with more than a billion users apiece (Messenger and WhatsApp), Allo might seem to be engaged in a near-impossible game of catch-up. Still, Google is betting that the app—which includes both a built-in version of Assistant and the ability to suggest AIgenerated, situation-based automatic replies such as “sounds good” and “not really”—will be a leader in the race to redefine messaging around automation. “We think that’s a paradigm shift in technology,” says Fox. Early reviews for Allo have been mixed. Like many new Google initiatives, it’s a rough draft of an idea that will take time to develop, and it’s not a given that the company will be committed for the long term. (Exhibit A: The would-be Facebook killer Google+, which, under Page, went from company-wide priority to afterthought within a few years.) But the people who work most closely with Pichai frequently bring up his patient approach to product development. “Sundar often talks in terms of 10-year cycles in technology and history,” says senior VP of search, research, and machine intelligence John Giannandrea. Pichai’s devotion to long-term thinking also shows in an initiative it calls Next Billion, which is developing a range of products and services aimed at people in emerging economies. India is a particular emphasis, mostly because of the huge number of consumers there. However, Pichai acknowledges there’s a personal aspect, too. “I’ve benefited a lot from India,” says the CEO, who earned a degree in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology before emigrating. “If there’s any thoughtful way that we as a company can do the right thing and pay it back, we’re committed to it.” In India, Facebook’s Free Basics apps were widely regarded as Silicon Valley imperialism and eventually shot down by regulators. By contrast, Pichai’s efforts to democratize internet access in the country—including hotspots at train stations and data-scrimping versions of apps such as YouTube—have been welcomed. “People are really proud that someone of Indian origin is leading a huge company,” says Caesar Sengupta, the Google VP responsible for Next Billion. “But more important, Sundar’s approach to India is in many ways very humble.” For all the tendency of Pichai’s employees to gush about his fundamental decency, it’s clear that it’s not just a personality trait: It’s also a management strategy. “When you can align people to common goals, you truly get a multiplicative effect in an organization,” he tells me as we sit on a couch in Sundar’s Huddle after his Google Photos meeting. “The inverse is also true, if people are at odds with each other.” He is, as usual, smiling. The company’s aim, he says, is to create products “that will affect the lives of billions of users, and that they’ll use a lot. Those are the kind of meaningful problems we want to work on.” 104 FastCompany.com December 2016/January 2017

The Business of Rescue (Continued from page 93)

of the roughly 300 families living at Eleonas had been issued a card in the amount of 290 euros, which would be replenished on a monthly basis. Statements indicated that the bulk of spending was done at Athens supermarkets, although a number of families had invested at least part of the funds to re-up the talk and data minutes on their smartphones. The presentation lasted a quarter of an hour. “Questions?” Dibb asked when it was finished. Someone asked if families could get money sooner if they needed it. (They could not.) Was there any chance they might receive actual cash, as opposed to a swipe card? (Not for the time being.) A stoop-shouldered man in a purple shirt raised his hand. “I’d like to be able to use my card on the Metro,” he said. Other participants nodded vigorously. Dibb promised to look into it. That same day, I followed an Eleonas resident named Malak Mohammed Jito on her weekly grocery run. Jito, who is Kurdish, had fled Syria with her husband eight months earlier in the hopes of joining their three sons in Germany. Upon arriving in Greece, she’d been informed that Germany wasn’t letting in more Syrians. Now penniless—her house had been destroyed by a bomb, and all the family’s money had gone to smugglers who got her out of Syria—she hoped to get to France or England, within visiting distance of her grandkids. But in the meantime, she was determined to make a home for herself and her husband wherever she was. Slight and elegant, clad in a brightly patterned shirt and navy head scarf, Jito wove up and down the aisles of the nearby grocery store, picking up a bag of oranges and yogurt that she would eat that afternoon—her temporary housing was not equipped with a refrigerator. She used her card to pay for the items. “Our lives here, there isn’t a lot of choice,” she said through a translator on the way back to the camp. “Where we live, what our days are like. You can’t work. But being able to do the little things, to choose ingredients and prepare your own meal, there’s a dignity in that.” In recession-rattled Greece, which has sheltered more Middle Eastern refugees than any other country in the European Union—some 1 million registered since 2014—the IRC’s primary role has been to provide the types of services the government regularly can’t, from education to counseling to food distribution. “The pressure is incredible,” says Ioannis Keramidakis, a senior IRC engineer, while giving me a tour of the Diavata camp, near the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

Diavata is the newest of 23 government-run camps in the country. The IRC and several other major nonprofits had been invited in February to assess the area, then an abandoned military barracks owned by the Greek army. A so-called cluster meeting was convened, with officials from various nonprofits—including Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders—divvying up the portfolio of pressing needs. (General camp administration and security falls to the Greek state and police forces.) The IRC volunteered to handle what is known, in nonprofit shorthand, as WASH duties—water, sanitation, and hygiene. The task, Keramidakis says, was daunting. A single pipe led into the camp, and for nearly 3,000 refugees, there was only one line of chemical toilets and three showers. Residents had nowhere to dispose of trash. On a budget of roughly $300,000 from European Union humanitarian grants, Keramidakis and his team set to work extending the water pipeline and erecting 100 squat toilets, along with three shower facilities that would be powered by diesel engines. They erected a kiosk for soap and shampoo distribution and put a call out for bids from local sanitation contractors. “We’re working on adding some more washing units and more taps, so that people can launder their clothes,” says the lean and gray-haired Keramidakis, as I follow him up the dirt road that bisects the camp. The day is overcast but still broiling, and soon Keramidakis’s high forehead is covered by a sheen of sweat and dust. We watch a garbage truck roll up, and contractors in IRC bibs begin filling it with trash. A few yards away, a handful of shirtless boys play soccer on a dirt patch that once served as the barracks’ rifle range. Behind them, an IRC construction team nails together the frame of a two-room building that will house a counseling and activity center for young male refugees. I MISS YOU, SYRIA, someone has written with neon blue spray paint on one of the boards. “So you can see, we’re getting there,” Keramidakis says. As the crisis has evolved, so too has the type of relief the IRC offers to refugees, most of whom have few options for onward travel. A closure at the Macedonian border has effectively strangled the main overland route into Northern Europe. Meanwhile, the EU has been overwhelmed with asylum requests. It is not unusual for refugees to wait more than a year while their statuses are sorted out. During that time, they cannot work. Their days are idle, often spent smoking cigarettes or playing on their phones. Hopelessness frequently sets in. Mohamed Alheady, an Iraqi living with his wife in the Diavata camp, tells me that at home, he’d had lofty aspirations: “A big job, a big future. Now, in the camp, I dream only of cold water.” Was it possible he regretted leaving Iraq? To my surprise, he nodded. “At least there, ISIS would kill us quickly,” he said, and mimed decapitation. A day later, I meet a young couple, Samir and her husband, Mukhtar, who have come to


Greece from a rural area north of Algiers. (Fearful for the safety of their family, they requested that I use only their first names.) They are both tall and attractive, Samir’s lips painted an optimistic shade of pink. But they wear the unmistakable glaze of trauma, equal parts fatigue and resignation. Days earlier, they explain, they had attempted to cross the Aegean from Turkey with 11 other refugees, including three Syrian children. Halfway into their journey, at around two in the morning, the boat capsized, spilling the passengers into the water. People began screaming. The three Syrian children were floating ominously on their bellies. “The littlest boy, you could see he was gone,” Mukhtar recalled. “I tried to tell the mother to leave him, but she just held on tighter.” In all, Mukhtar and Samir spent eight hours in the water. At 10 a.m., they were spotted by a merchant vessel, transferred to a Greek police ship, and carried to the camp. A young volunteer there delivered the bad news: Of the 13 people onboard the dinghy, seven had drowned. Samir peels down the front of her shirt to show me the jellyfish bites that tattoo her chest. The scars will likely never fully fade. But she could cope with scars, she said. The nightmares were another matter. “I will never forget what she said,” Samir says of the grieving mother, her eyes bright with tears. “She said, ‘Please, God, forgive me. Forgive me: For Europe, I killed my children.’ ” Like many refugees, Samir and Mukhtar are receiving counseling from psychologists employed by IRC, which has stepped up its funding for psychiatric aid to those in the camps. The organization has built and staffed so-called safe spaces where refugees can find release from the pressures of camp life; employees are working on software that would allow psychologists to track patients across borders, preventing at-risk refugees from dropping off the radar entirely. An IRC psychologist named Kiki Michailidou says she attends regularly to patients who show signs of severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Suicide attempts are not uncommon. Michailidou distributes medicine when possible; she can also recommend hospitalization. “I do feel as if we can provide people a lifeline, and support, even if it’s temporary,” she says. “You have to say to people, ‘Look, it’s insanely bad. I know it’s insanely bad,’ ” says another IRC psychologist, Roose Bollen. “ ‘But it won’t be like this forever.’ And then you have to look them in the eye and get them to believe you.” Since 1994, the International Rescue Committee has been headquartered in the Chanin Building, an art deco tower in midtown Manhattan, across the street from Grand Central Station. Traditionally, the chief executive has worked out of a 14th-floor aerie, but when Miliband came aboard, he moved himself to a glass-walled cube on the 11th floor, closer to the rest of his staff. “I felt too removed up there,” he explains when I meet him at his office last spring.

At 51, Miliband still has the body mass of an unfolded paper clip—he does not so much sit in a chair as extend off it. He rubs his eyes tiredly. The previous night, he’d appeared with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a friend and mentor, at the 92nd Street Y, for a conversation billed as “A Decade of Disorder.” Toward the end of the event, Miliband had mused aloud about the “chasm,” as he put it, between the need of refugees and displaced people and the ability of the international community to provide it. One could assume that the issue was apathy, he’d told the audience. But in his opinion, the likelier explanation was another kind of disconnect: “People don’t know how to help, and they worry that their help won’t make a difference.” Now, in his office, he picked up where he’d left off. “We’re in a growth industry, for all the wrong reasons,” he says. “But you can’t let people give in to compassion fatigue. You have to say, ‘No, listen, I promise, you can make a difference.’ You have to represent hope. And then you have to put aside the temporary, easy solutions, and go after lasting, sustainable, impactful change.” In the current political climate it hasn’t always been easy for him to maintain his enthusiasm. Naked anti-refugee and immigrant furor has been stoked by politicians in the U.S. and overseas. High-profile attacks by an Afghan refugee in Germany and a Syrian refugee in France have led to a fresh round of hand-wringing over border policies. I ask Miliband if he ever feels daunted by the task his organization faces. “If you only look at the statistics, yes, it’s depressing,” he says. “But then you talk to the people, and you remember why you’re doing what you do.” A few weeks ago, he visited an IRC-funded farm in the Bronx, where resettled refugees teach agricultural classes to elementary school students and grow produce to sell to local restaurants. Among the people he met was a young woman named Rose, who had fled war in the Central African Republic. Now she was planning to start her own line of artisanal honey. “She’d been through hell,” Miliband recalls, but she was determined to move on. He finds himself profoundly moved by her resilience, along with that of the thousands of other refugees the IRC resettles in the United States each year. In September, Miliband attended the United Nations’ annual summit on refugees. He listened as Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon outlined the expanding dimensions of the crisis, and as President Obama pledged that the United States would take in 110,000 refugees from around the world in 2017, up significantly from 2016. That same week, Miliband published a long article in the New York Review of Books, in which he remembered a conversation he’d once had with his friend, the late author Elie Wiesel. “The word refugee is not popular,” Wiesel, a former refugee himself, had told him. “But everyone likes the idea of refuge. Fight for refuge. We all need refuge.” editors@fastcompany.com

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12. 13. 14. 15.

Publication Title: FAST COMPANY. Publication Number: 1085-9241. Filing Date: October 1, 2016. Issue Frequency: Published monthly, except for combined December/January and July/August issues. Number of Issues Published Annually: 10. Annual Subscription Price: $23.95. Known Office of Publication: 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. General Business Office of Publisher: 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. Publisher: Christina Cranley, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. Editor: Robert Safian, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. Managing Editor: Lori Hoffman, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. Owner: Mansueto Ventures LLC, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages, or Other Securities: None. Not applicable. Publication Title: FAST COMPANY. Issue Date for Circulation Data: September 2016. Extent and Nature of Circulation: Average No. Copies of Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months

A. Total Number of Copies (Net Press Run) B. Paid Circulation (By Mail and Outside Mail) (1) Mailed Outside-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541 (Include paid distribution above nominal rate, advertiser’s proof copies, and exchange copies) (2) Mailed In-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541 (Include paid distribution above nominal rate, advertiser’s proof copies, and exchange copies) (3) Paid Distribution Outside the Mails Including Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Paid Distribution Outside USPS (4) Paid Distribution by Other Classes of Mail Through the USPS (e.g., First-Class Mail) C. Total Paid Distribution (Sum of 15b [1], [2], [3], and [4]) D. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail) (1) Free or Nominal Rate Outside-County Copies Included on PS Form 3541 (2) Free or Nominal Rate In-County Copies Included on PS Form 3541 (3) Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes Through the USPS (e.g., First-Class Mail) (4) Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail (Carriers or other means) E. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution (Sum of 15d [1], [2], [3], and [4]) F. Total Distribution (Sum of 15c and 15e) G. Copies Not Distributed H. Total (Sum of 15f and 15g) I. Percent Paid (15c divided by 15f times 100) 16. Electronic Copy Circulation A. Paid Electronic Copies B. Total Paid Print Copies (15c) + Paid Electronic Copies (16a) C. Total Print Distribution (15f) + Paid Electronic Copies (16a) D. Percent Paid (Both Print & Electronic Copies) (16b divided by 16c times 100)

No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date

834,654

820,770

577,912

564,105

0

0

35,660

30,743

0

0

613,572

594,848

121,159

132,895

0

0

0

0

5,966

6,757

127,125

139,652

740,697 93,957 834,654

734,500 86,270 820,770

82.84%

80.99%

64,646

64,300

678,218

659,148

805,343

798,800

84.21%

82.52%

I certify that 50% of all my distributed copies (electronic and print) are paid above a nominal price. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form, or who omits material or information requested on the form, may be subject to criminal sanctions (including fines and imprisonment) and/or civil sanctions (including civil penalties). —Mark Rosenberg, CFO


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The List

TWEAKS THAT MADE A DIFFERENCE

Ten companies that adopted smart, meaningful changes to their names and logos. By Meg Miller Illustration by Steven Wilson

1994

The message: The design projected confidence and modernity amid increased competition.

2

IBM 1972

After transitioning from punch-card tabulation to personal computers, IBM brought in designer Paul Rand, who introduced the iconic “eight-bar” logo that is still used today. The message: Rand’s sleek overhaul was a match for IBM’s forward-thinking sensibility as it built toward the coming PC revolution.

3

Datsun 1981

For decades, Nissan exported cars under the Datsun name, until it decided to strengthen its global brand and use Nissan worldwide. It took a few years, but the switch finally stuck, due in part to a major “The Name Is Nissan” ad campaign.

7

Andersen Consulting 2001

8

AirBed and Breakfast 2009

The message: It was intended to make the Nissan name as familiar as rivals Honda and Toyota.

4

Banana Republic 1990

When Banana Republic launched in 1978, its kitschy safari-themed stores were outfitted with real jeeps and fake palm trees. Gap bought it five years later, eventually ditching the Indiana Jones vibe in favor of a more upscale sensibility.

9

Clear Channel 2014

The message: The clean, tasteful look beckoned office workers, not jungle explorers.

5

Federal Express 1994

When Federal Express gave in to conventional usage and officially shortened its name, the resulting logo was as clever as it was eye-catching, with negative space forming an arrow—one of design’s most celebrated visual tricks. The message: The new name and sleek logo gave FedEx an unexpected hint of hipness.

10

Google 2015

The message: That simple moniker shortening instantly made the chain seem more of-themoment and self-aware. After it split from Arthur Andersen, the company held an internal naming competition. An employee in the Norway office submitted Accenture, a portmanteau of “accent on the future.” The message: Accenture wanted a distinct identity—a good move given Arthur Andersen’s later involvement in the Enron scandal. When two roommates launched AirBed and Breakfast in 2007, the name was a reference to air mattresses. As the company grew and the concept evolved, they shortened it to Airbnb. The message: People don’t want to sleep on the floor. Airbnb might be a bit cryptic, but it reads as contemporary rather than uncomfortable. The country’s biggest radio network decided to rename itself iHeartMedia, a nod to its growing digital franchise, iHeartRadio. The message: Emphasizing digital could help it compete with Pandora and Spotify. The change also moves away from a name that had become synonymous with corporate blandness. With its focus rapidly expanding, the tech giant renamed itself Alphabet—a risky move that confused some consumers. The message: Bringing Google’s businesses under the Alphabet umbrella communicated that it’s more than a search engine. The stock is up 27% since then.

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Fast Company  Issue Number 211. Copyright ©2016 by Mansueto Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. Fast Company® is a registered trademark of Mansueto Ventures, LLC. Fast Company (ISSN 1085-9241) is published monthly except for combined December/January and July/August issues, by Mansueto Ventures, LLC, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195. Periodical postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Canadian GST Registration No. R123245250. Postmasters: Send address changes to Fast Company, PO Box 2128, Harlan, IA 51593-0317. Subscription rates: One year (10 issues) $23.95, two years (20 issues) $47.90, in the United States. To subscribe to Fast Company: Email subscriptions@fastcompany.com or phone 800-542-6029 (U.S.A. and Canada). Our subscriber list is occasionally made available to carefully selected firms whose products or services may be of interest to you. If you prefer not to receive information from these firms, please let us know at privacy@fastcompany.com, or send your request along with your mailing label to Fast Company, PO Box 2128, Harlan, IA 51593-0317. Printed in the U.S.A.

ER

International House of Pancakes

The International House of Pancakes sweetened its image with a name chop, following the syrupslurping fans who had long referred to the chain as IHOP.

UM

1969

6

Y

AT&T

AT&T hired legendary graphic designer Saul Bass to overhaul its look. He came up with a bold, stylized outline that he used to unify its visual identity, emblazoning it on everything from trucks to uniforms to phone booths.

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