Posts tagged with "Business Insider"

Parents are spending hundreds to have other people prep and pack their kids for summer camp

June 7, 2024

The cost of sleep-away camp— like nearly everything else these days— is on the up and up, reports Business Insider.

But the staggering $15,000 price tag on some elite summer camps doesn’t account for the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, parents are now paying to prep and pack their kids beforehand, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Some families are opting to outsource the pre-camp headache of checking off their children’s packing list and the post-camp slog of sorting through laundry, the Journal reported this week.

Camp costs these days start racking up long before the little ones hit the canoes. Many camps send out detailed packing lists, some of which include more than 100 items that parents are encouraged to procure for their campers, the outlet reported.

Last year, a mother of two wrote for Business Insider about the massive summer camp packing list that ran her nearly $5,000 after she secured the recommended 15 pairs of shorts, 15 shirts, 16 pairs of socks and underwear, multiple pairs of shoes, several towels and swimsuits, various jacket options, and two sheet-sets per kid.

Some camps go even further—suggesting kids come with brand-name camp chairs, decorative pillows, and outfits in multiple color options for end-of-camp “Color Wars,” according to the Journal.

Oh, and everything a child brings to camp in 2024 should be labeled or monogrammed. Duh.

 For many families with disposable income, outsourcing is now the solution

Beth Leffel, a Boca Raton mother, turned to Denny’s, a children’s boutique with stores in New York, New Jersey, and Florida, the first summer she sent her daughter to camp, she told the Journal.

The boutique boasts personal shoppers who work one-on-one with families, going item by item on each packing list to supply the necessary goods. Spencer Klein, whose family owns the business, told the outlet that the average first-time camper spends anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 at Denny’s.

After dropping about $2,000 at Denny’s and $250 at Party City the first year, Lefell told the outlet she now searches for deals and dupes of more expensive items.

Natalie Liberman, another Boca Raton-based mom, told the New York Post last year that she spent nearly $5,000 making sure her seven-year-old daughter was set with rainbow merch and monogrammed clothing items ahead of summer camp.

Personalized camp wares are the new status symbols, and influencers and online retailers have wasted no time capitalizing on the new trend, the outlet reported in June 2023.

Jody Geller, a Florida mother of two, started an online store in 2018 where she customizes camp gear, including $86 pillows and $38 water bottles. Geller told the Post that she often has orders that exceed $1,000. 

The services don’t stop there

Once the required items have been procured, some parents call in professional organizers to finish the  packing ordeal.

Dara Grandis, a mother of three in Manhattan, hired Meryl Bash, a professional organizer, to get her kids’ luggage ready for seven weeks away at summer camp, she told the Journal.

Bash offers an array of camp-related services, including making sure everything on the packing list is included, weeding out last year’s clothes that no longer fit, and supplying packing tapestorage cubes, and bags, according to the newspaper. Bash charges $125 per hour for packing days, plus $100 per hour for an extra packer.

Once the summer is over and young campers make their way back home, some families opt to outsource the post-camp laundry haul, as well, turning to businesses like First Class Laundry Services in West Palm Beach, Florida.

For $225 per trunk, the laundry company will pick up a camper’s luggage, wash and fold everything inside, and return the clean goods to parents’ front door.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Why did Adam Neumann buy a surfing magazine? To build a limitless lifestyle corporation. Probably.

May 23, 2024

Even when WeWork was the biggest private tenant in New York City, with SoftBank throwing untold amounts of cash at Adam Neumann‘s characteristically bare feet, the 6-foot-5 Israeli entrepreneur’s ambition was to keep his empire perpetually growing, reports Inc.

WeWork was an expansionary juggernaut that exemplified the most cautionary of tales from the era of hypergrowth. The proof is obvious enough to slap you in the face: WeWork is now a bankrupt husk of its former self that Neumann has tried (and so far failed) to rescue. Despite WeWork’s demise, Neumann is almost pathologically determined to pick up where he left off.

His most recent acquisition isn’t a typical object of desire for the techno-capitalist set, and so is unexpected for a man who religiously talked for years about founding the first “physical social network”: Last week, Business Insider reported that Neumann had purchased Whalebone Magazine, an artsy surf magazine inspired by a family-owned surf shop and clothing brand of the same name based in Montauk, New York.

Industry moguls probably aren’t betting big on niche trade magazines to make them richer, but there is a strategy at play. Whalebone will be absorbed by Flow, Neumann’s new residential real estate company, and presumably become the content side of Flow’s business, the BI report indicates. The magazine has already been rebranded to The Flow Trip, according to a company blog post.

Adding a popular surfing publication to Flow’s assets suggests Neumann is still intent on conquering the original stated mission in 2019, when WeWork briefly became the WeCompany: building an all-encompassing lifestyle corporation that finds acolytes wherever it can.

WeWork couldn’t expand its dominion beyond co-working. As his startup burned through billions, Neumann established WeLive in 2016, a network of shared living spaces for professionals who ostensibly spent their working hours hammering out spreadsheets at the nearest WeWork. And his wife, Rebekah, launched WeGrow in 2017, a for-profit private school that cost $42,000 a year, which was consumed by the wreckage of WeWork.

The WeCompany eventually reverted to WeWork in 2020, and then had a fleeting appearance on the public market during the special purpose acquisition mania of the same year. It eventually delisted in 2023. (Rebekah Neumann bought WeGrow back in 2020 in an undisclosed transaction.)

Fresh off a $350 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz, Flow is imbuing the concept of co-living with new-age spirituality and hustle culture. It’s already bought two buildings in South Florida, and insists, much like WeWork, that it is a tech company. Flow’s website invites prospective residents to join “communities designed to connect you with yourself, your neighbors, and nature,” and promises “spaces that cultivate flow,” “practices for the mind, body, and soul,” and “workflow” amenities that are ostensibly used for business.

Flow did not respond to an Inc. request for comment.

Flow has been relatively quiet since bursting onto the scene last year with a $1 billion valuation, made possible by Andreessen Horowitz’s largest-ever single investment. But the lofty ambition is no different from WeWork’s.

And though it may seem like a negligible blip of an acquisition, Flow’s purchase of Whalebone speaks to the rebirth of a dream that had all but appeared to die on the vine: a company that can provide a place to live, but also a way of life.

Research contact: @Inc

First Neuralink human brain-chip implant malfunctions within weeks, needs ‘tweaks’

May 9, 2024

Neuralink’s brain-chip implant is working—except that some of the device’s threads have pulled away from the first human patient’s brain, reports Business Insider.

Elon Musk‘s brain technology startup shared a progress update on patient Noland Arbaugh in a blog post on Wednesday, May 8—saying that a number of threads “retracted” from the patient’s brain a few weeks after his surgery. That rendered the implant less effective.

The “Link” device lets the patient move a computer cursor using his thoughts. An earlier blog post said that the process involves more than 1,000 electrodes in the device; and at least 64 threads, each thinner than a strand of human hair.

Neuralink measures the speed and accuracy of the Link’s cursor control using a metric called bits per second. The retraction of some of the threads caused the electrodes in the device to be less effective, Neuralink said. However, the company has since made tweaks; which, in turn, have “produced a rapid and sustained improvement in BPS, that has now superseded Noland’s initial performance.”

Neuralink announced in a livestream on X in March that 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh, who was paralyzed below the shoulders after a diving accident in 2016, was the first person to receive its implant in January.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Neuralink had at first considered removing the implant from the patient altogether, citing unnamed sources—but reportedly the enhancement to Arbaugh’s quality of life (even after the thread retraction) was such that the idea was dropped.

In February, Musk said on an X Spaces session that “progress is good” and that “the patient seems to have made a full recovery.”

In a meeting at Neuralink, shared on X in March, Arbaugh said it took five months from applying to be in Neuralink’s human trials to having brain surgery; which took less than two hours. Since it was implanted, he has used it to play video games, including “Mario Kart,” and to post on social media and play chess.

Neuralink didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider, made outside normal working hours.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Sorry Elon, Americans don’t want a brain chip!

February 6, 2024

Last week, entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that his company Neuralink—which is attempting to develop brain implants to mediate connections between the brain and technology—had implanted a product in a human test subject, reports Business Insider.

But now, a new poll of 1,000 respondents, conducted by YouGov, suggests that interest in such devices will be limited by skepticism about their potential,

The poll found 82% of respondents probably or definitely would not, and 10% were undecided.

Interest from potential test subjects is rather slim, as is: Just 2% would “definitely” consider getting a computer chip implanted in their brain “within the next year,” below the margin of error for the poll. Overall, just 5% of respondents would at all consider getting a chip in the next year—and many of them can be found among the science-fiction fan set.

The idea of altering or treating one’s mind in order to accrue considerable mental powers has a rich history in science fiction literature. Granted, it’s often a cautionary tale about the hubris of mucking around with the very foundations of human cognition, but it does have some fictional precedent, from the mentats of Dune to the tragic success of Flowers for Algernon.

Familiarity with these texts tended to be linked to an increased appetite for the brain chips. While 8% percent of respondents would be down for a chip if it were commercially produced and no longer experimental, that rose to 19% among those who had reported reading, for instance, Ender’s Game.

Indeed, if there is a demographic of interest for Neuralink, it’s basically “people who say they have read Frank Herbert’s Dune.” All told, 19% of respondents who said they read Dune would get a commercially available brain chip, and 11% of respondents who said they read Dune would get one this year.

Men were more than three times as likely as women (13% vs. 4%) to be down for a commercially produced brain chip eventually. Democrats and Independents were twice as likely as Republicans (10% vs. 5%) to consider such a piece of tech.

And somewhat distressingly, among those who had reported reading Flowers for Algernon—the iconic short story about a disastrous brain augmentation procedure —fully 13% were still interested in the chip.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Netflix just made a $5 billion pro wrestling deal

January 24, 2024

For years, Netflix insisted that  it didn’t want to get into live sports. Now, it’s in “live sports entertainment” via a $5 billion pro wrestling deal with TKO, reports Business Insider.

One big reason the deal could work: Netflix wasn’t in the ads business. Now it is.

In 2025, a new $5 billion, ten-year deal with TKO Group will kick in and bring Raw, the weekly WWE pro wrestling show currently airing on Comcast‘s USA Network, to Netflix in the United States and other countries.

And outside the United States, TKO will also bring some of its biggest one-off events, like Wrestlemania and SummerSlam to Netflix, where they’ll be included in the price of a basic subscription.

In the near term, the deal means U.S. wrestling fans will find some of the stuff they like on Netflix and some on Comcast’s Peacock service. Peacock has a TKO deal for events like Wrestlemania that runs through March 2026.

A big change

When Netflix used to insist that it didn’t see value in live sports, it would point out that the biggest reason programmers pay for live sports is because live sports are huge draws for advertisers. And Netflix wasn’t in the advertising business.

But that changed in the spring of 2022 when Netflix announced that it had lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade. And, after insisting for years that it wasn’t going to have advertising, the company was going to launch an ad-supported version of its service.

Ever since then, industry observers have assumed Netflix would get into sports one way or another. And that same year, Netflix bid on the U.S. rights for Formula 1 racing— a deal that eventually went to ESPN.

At the same time, Netflix has been experimenting with one-off live events, like a Chris Rock comedy special or a golf tournament it made up called The Netflix Cup.

So: Ads? Check. Soft launch of live capabilities? Check.

The last thing Netflix needed to make a sports deal make sense? The ability to say it wasn’t just “renting” sports but something closer to ownership.

That’s not completely happening here, but it’s kind of close: As noted above, some of TKO’s rights are owned by Netflix competitors in the United States and abroad. And this deal is a rights deal—not an outright purchase.

On the other hand: It’s a ten-year deal that Netflix can extend by another ten years, if it’s going well (or bail after five if it’s not).

Just as important: While the main asset in the United States is access to a single weekly live show, it certainly gives Netflix the ability to build other, on-demand programming around the WWE and its wrestlers. And outside the United States, Netflix will have much more than Raw—including its major annual events like Wrestlemania.

So, Netflix doesn’t completely own pro wrestling. But it owns enough to make a $5 billion deal that looks like it could make sense.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Thousands of people are reportedly lining up to have one of Elon Musk’s brain chips implanted

November 8, 2023

Thousands of people have expressed interest in receiving one of Neuralink‘s brain implants, according to a recent Bloomberg report from one of Elon Musk‘s biographers, Ashlee Vance, reveals Business Insider.

Neuralink, which Musk co-founded in 2016, has yet to implant its device in a human—but aims to operate on 11 people next year and over 22,000 by 2030; according to Vance, who said he visited the company’s facilities ten times over the course of three years.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Neuralink approval to launch human trials of its device, which Musk has described as a “Fitbit in your skull.”

The FDA previously had rejected Neuralink’s bid for human testing in March, Reuters reported, citing safety concerns, including that the wires connected to the brain chip could move around within a subject’s head or that the chip could potentially overheat.

In September, the company began recruiting for its very first human trial. Neuralink said in a blog post that it was looking for people who had paralysis in all four limbs due to a spinal cord injury or ALS. The company eventually hopes to make a device that would create a sort of symbiosis between humans and machines; and would allow people to send messages or play games, using only their thoughts. But, first the company aims to help people with neurological disorders.

 Vance, who authored the 2015 biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” said in his report that despite “an outpouring of interest from thousands of prospective patients,” the company is still looking for its first volunteer or “someone willing to have a chunk of their skull removed by a surgeon so a large robot can insert a series of electrodes and superthin wires into their brain.”

Musk’s biographer said it takes a “couple of hours” for a surgeon to perform the craniectomy and then about 25 minutes for the robot to insert the device, along with its ultra-thin array of about 64 different threads. The device will replace the portion of skull that had been removed. Vance said the threads are so thin they’re about 1/14 the width of a single strand of human hair.

Neuralink has done 155 implantation surgeries using the robot on a variety of animal test subjects, including pigs and monkeys, Vance wrote. But, in typical Musk fashion, the billionaire has continued to push for the robot to move faster, as well as for the surgery to be performed without human help.

A spokesperson for Neuralink did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.

The biographer said Musk has pointed to the need to combat competition from other brain-computer startups like Synchron and Onward, which already have begun human trials.

“They are currently kicking our ass,” Musk said after Synchron implanted its first device in a U.S. patient in July 2022. (In December 2021, one of the Synchron’s patients in Australia was the first person to send a tweet using only his thoughts.)

The billionaire also has warned that Neuralink needs to pick up its pace “like the world is ending” to keep up with AI and the possibility of an AI being that wouldn’t be friendly to humans, Vance wrote.

Yet while Musk’s “maniacal sense of urgency” might work at Tesla or SpaceX—where he has initiated sprints and slept on the factory floor to meet deadlines—at least one Neuralink executive has taken a note of caution.

“We can’t blow up the first three. That’s not an option here,” Shivon Zilis, Neuralink’s director of Special Projects and the mother of two of Musk’s children, told Vance in a reference to SpaceX’s first three rockets, which exploded.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Police fine a car owner after a speed camera appears to show a dog behind the wheel

October 3, 2023

A photograph taken by a speed camera in Slovakia appears to show a dog behind the wheel of a car. Police said the 31-year-old vehicle owner claimed that his dog suddenly had jumped onto his lap. Officers found no evidence to support his claim —no visual of abrupt movement in the car—and issued the “real” driver with a fine for violating traffic regulations. It is not clear how much he was fined, reports Business Insider.

The vehicle was traveling 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) an hour over the speed limit in the village of Šterusy, in western Slovakia. The image captured by a speed camera appears to show only a dog in the driver’s seat.

Slovakian police said in a post on Facebook on Friday, September 29, that the image showed a brown dog “sitting obediently behind the wheel of a Škoda,” per an English translation.

Following the strange incident, police urged drivers to properly secure all pets when traveling, as even small animals can endanger vehicle safety.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Silicon Valley billionaires have spent over $800 million to build a new city near San Francisco

August 29, 2023

A mystery company backed by Silicon Valley billionaires has been snatching up land at up to $15,000 per acre in a northern California county in an apparent bid to build an entirely new city in the state. The company, Flannery Associates, has over $800 million to purchase thousands of acres of farmland in Solano County, which sits northeast of San Francisco, court documents obtained by Business Insider show.

The New York Times has reported that the investors include some of the Valley’s most recognizable names, from Marc Andreessen to Laurene Powell Jobs.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Flannery has purchased about 52,000 acres of farmland around Travis Air Force Base since 2018. According to the report, government officials began investigating the purchases due to concerns that foreign interests may be behind the company.

“So the entire base is encircled now,” Catherine Moy, mayor of Fairfield, told ABC 7 News. “So there’s no part that isn’t touched by Flannery.”

Little is known about Flannery Associates or its specific city plans. According to the Times, the company is led by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader.

Flannery’s backers include Andreessen, Powell Jobs, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and others, according to the report.

It’s unclear how much they each invested in the company. In 2017, Flannery Associates pitched an idea to turn the Solano County land into a walkable city powered by clean energy and housing tens of thousands of residents, the Times reported. Real estate data shows that the current median housing price in the county is $585,000.

Silicon Valley has long sought to build a city from scratch, sometimes with a utopian vision of a “smart city.”

In 2016, Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator, began looking into how it could build a city that could address California’s affordable housing crisis.

“We want to build cities for all humans—for tech and non-tech people,” the accelerator wrote. “We’re not interested in building ‘crazy libertarian utopias for techies.'”

Tech founders, including Bill Gates and Elon Musk, also have had visions of their own cities. Musk recently purchased 3,500 acres of land outside of Austin, Texas, to build a town he intends to call “Snailbrook.”

Sources told the Journal that he envisioned a “sort of Texas utopia along the Colorado River.”

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Private jets are descending on Sun Valley as the ‘summer camp for billionaires’ kicks off

July 13, 2023

Private jets have already begun piling up outside the small town of Sun Valley, Idaho, as some of the world’s most powerful people—among them, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Bob Iger, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg—head to Allen & Co’s annual conference, also known as “summer camp for billionaires.”

Business Insider reports that the Friedman Memorial Airport has already begun experiencing delays from the traffic ahead of the event, which is set to kick off on Wednesday, July 11 and go through Friday, July 14. As of Tuesday afternoon, the airport was experiencing inbound-flight delays averaging about 1 hour and 55 minutes, the flight-tracking website FlightAware reported. Flights departing from the airport don’t appear to be affected.

A spokesperson for the airport did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment because the agency says it does not manage the airport.

Since Tuesday morning, more than 40 private jets have flown through the nearby Friedman Memorial Airport ahead of the conference, with at least another 100 scheduled to arrive throughout the day, FlightAware said. Some planes associated with companies such as Nike already have landed in Sun Valley. Disney CEO Bob Iger was also pictured arriving at the event Tuesday.

The New York Times reported that more than 300 flights passed through the airport last year. For reference, the airport accommodates about 40 planes on a typical day. In 2021, the airport was so swamped with private jets that the FAA delayed incoming flights until traffic dropped.

Most of the incoming flights are operated by NetJets—a private-charter company that is the world’s biggest by fleet size and operates Embraer Phenoms and Cessna Citations alongside the giant $75 million Bombardier Global 7500.

It’s common for deep-pocket flyers to use private operators such as NetJets because it’s harder to track their location. Apple CEO Tim Cook—who is on the guest list for Sun Valley 2023—has been flying on charters instead of the company’s corporate planes since 2017.

Apple previously said the policy was implemented “in the interests of security and efficiency based on our global profile and the highly visible nature of … Cook’s role as CEO.”

The world’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, has been avoiding the public eye after selling his private jet in October because of security concerns. It’s unclear whether the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton CEO will attend this year’s summit.

Chris Pomeroy, the director of Friedman Memorial Airport, told the Times last year that he had spent months preparing for the conference in Sun Valley—a town with a population of 1,800. If he’s not careful, he said the event could cause major backups at the airport.

Pomeroy said there had been times when jets were forced to circle over the airport or park on the tarmac for more than an hour while waiting for the runway to open up.

The event has previously been the backdrop for several major business deals, including Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post and Disney‘s $19 billion ABC acquisition. Executives spend time at the summit taking part in tennis matches, golf outings, whitewater rafting, and sessions on subjects including creativity and the climate crisis.

This year’s guest list for the event reportedly includes several major players. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman are expected to attend the event alongside Jeff Bezosaccording to Bloomberg. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates are also on the guest list, Variety reports.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Sheetz drops policy against employees with ‘obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth’

Febraury 3, 2023

Sheetz—a U.S. chain of convenience stores and coffee shops owned by the Sheetz family and based in Altoona, Pennsylvania—has announced that it is dropping its policy against hiring employees with dental issues after Business Insider’s coverage of the rule and its effect on the company’s retail workers.

“Recently through employee feedback, we have learned that the smile policy is not aligned with these values from their perspective,” Stephanie Doliveira, executive vice president of People & Culture at Sheetz, told Insider.

“We agree. Effective immediately, this policy is discontinued,” Doliveira said. “We are committed to ensuring our policies moving forward are equitable and celebrate the diverse experiences, individual identities and unique perspectives of our employees.”

The convenience-store chain changed its policy after Insider reported on its inclusion in Sheetz’s employee handbook. The rule stated that “applicants with obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth (unrelated to a disability) are not qualified for employment with Sheetz.” The handbook also gave workers already employed at Sheetz 90 days to comply with the policy.

Insider also spoke with former employees who were affected by the policy. One quit her job after a manager asked for details about her missing teeth and her plans for dental work. Another decided not to pursue a promotion after a manager told them that the employee’s discolored teeth would make it impossible. Both asked to remain anonymous because they feared damaging their job prospects. Insider verified their work histories.

“Our culture at Sheetz has always been centered on respect and putting our employees, customers and communities first,” Doliveira told Insider. “As a family owned and operated company, nothing is more important than creating an environment that is inclusive and supportive of all of our employees.”

Sheetz has better benefits than many rival retailers—such as 12 weeks of maternity leave and reimbursement for college tuition—employees told Insider. That made the company’s policy “weirdly over the top for them,” one former employee said.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider