Silicon Valley’s elite startup accelerator is getting more selective. Paul Graham recently announced that the number of companies accepted to Y Combinator, the Mountain View (Calif.) program called the “Harvard of entrepreneurship,” will likely shrink to fewer than 50, from 84, over the summer because “more things than usual broke” with the larger batch. Looking for signs indicating which applicants would run into trouble led Graham to an unusual admission of bias: The entrepreneurs that Y Combinator interviewed in the afternoon were more likely to fail than those accepted in the morning. Graham’s conclusion: “It turned out that, like judges, we were more tolerant after lunch.”
Graham’s discovery is just one example of how decisions can be influenced by unexpected factors. Hidden bias is a risk in all sorts of systems that aspire to be objective: Pharma-funded drug research finds more favorable outcomes than government-backed trials. Hiring managers are less likely to call back job applicants named Lakisha and Jamal than Emily and Brendan. University tech transfer officers reviewing the same invention are less likely to recommend commercializing it if they think the inventor was a woman. And even middle-aged white guys in Silicon Valley feel they have to dress down and shave their gray hair to compete with younger, hoodie-clad candidates for top jobs at startups.
But the evening is not about rubbing shoulders with Hollywood celebrities.
Instead, the guest of honour is a car – one that has been designed to capture the mood of the moment.
“Our idea is to combine premium with sustainability,” says Benoit Jacob, head of design for BMW Group‘s new sub-brand “i”.
“We call it ‘next premium’. We believe that for premium in the future, sustainability will be vital.”
“California is committed to sustainable mobility,” agrees Mr Jacob. “And so are we.”
But the Golden State offers golden opportunities well beyond its borders. Consumers here are technology savvy, hungry for constant change, ready to push boundaries and widely seen as trend-setters by consumers across America, perhaps even the world.
LAS VEGAS AP — As if a weekend in Las Vegas isn’t wild enough for Southern Californians, a Nevada entrepreneur is about to add five more hours of party to either end.
After striking an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad last week, the Las Vegas Railway Express is one step closer to bringing to life the X Train, a luxurious “party train” complete with big screen TVs, recliners and two ultra lounges.
“The whole idea is when you get on a train, you feel like you’re in Las Vegas,” said Michael Barron, president and CEO of the $100 million venture that hopes to launch its maiden voyage on New Year’s Eve 2013. “It’s essentially a nightclub on wheels.”
Tourists can’t get from Southern California to Las Vegas by rail alone, and Barron’s company isn’t the first to try and fix that. The much-talked-about XpressWest project proposes a high-speed train connecting Sin City to the region from which it draws 25 percent of its tourists.
But it’s a multi-billion-dollar proposal that would require setting new tracks, and it’s often panned as a “train to nowhere” because the first phase would start in relatively obscure Victorville, about 100 miles outside of Los Angeles.
The X Train proposal calls for an Amtrak crew aboard a 576-passenger train that runs at standard speeds on traditional tracks.
It would start in Fullerton, Calif. — already home to an Amtrak station and part of Southern California’s Metrolink commuter train network — and end in downtown Las Vegas.
SPRING VALLEY, Calif. — Since the Fresh & Easy grocery chain was founded five years ago, it has opened 150 stores in California and positioned itself as a hip, socially responsible company.
A cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, the company brags that its house brands have no artificial colors or trans fats, that two-thirds of its produce is grown locally and that its main distribution center is powered by a $13 million solar installation.
But in one crucial respect, Fresh & Easy is just like the vast majority of large American retailers: most employees work part-time, with its stores changing many of their workers’ schedules week to week.
At its store here, just east of San Diego, Shannon Hardin oversees seven self-checkout stations, usually by herself. Typically working shifts of five or six hours, she hops between stations — bagging groceries, approving alcohol purchases, explaining the checkout system to shoppers and urging customers to join the retailer’s loyalty program, all while watching for shoplifters.
“I like it. I’m a people person,” said Ms. Hardin, 50, who used to work as an office assistant at a construction company until times went bad.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)– This year was supposed to be the year of the plug-in car but, as 2012 draws to a close, it looks like the electric car market still isn’t fully charged.
By the end of 2012, most major automakers will have a plug-in car of some type on the market, but plug-in cars still make up just one tenth of one percent of all cars sold in America. So have automakers gotten ahead of themselves and produced too many?
Promoters of electric cars say no. They acknowledge that while there are many types of electric cars out there, they’re not available in enough places or in large enough numbers.
A big reason for there being a small supply of electrics but many models has to do with regulations in California. Rules there require that automakers that want to sell any cars in that state — A.K.A., every automaker — must also sell a certain number of so-called zero-emission cars there. That has led many automakers to produce “compliance cars” that exist solely to meet California’s requirements. These cars vary from the excellent Honda Fit EV, which it’s a shame they don’t sell everywhere, to the truly awful Mitsubishi iMiEV.
If those cars only sell in tiny numbers, electric car proponents say, it doesn’t reflect the potential market.
In most of the United States, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are the only two plug-in cars available from popular automakers. Together, they make up nearly 100 percent of all electric cars sold in America. Beyond that, there’s also the pricey Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sedan which is slowly entering the market.