FastCompany Magazine

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Don’t stay in denial, or blame others—learn from the tough times these entrepreneurs experienced when their startups fell flat.
Choosing to leave behind the regular paycheck and benefits to build a venture from the ground up is a huge risk.
It’s risky because it’s hard work, there are no guarantees, and 95% of startups fail, based on research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.
With the odds against you, entrepreneurs feel like they’re literally pushing against the tides every day so when companies fail, the price, which can include financial ruin, utter embarrassment, and even mental collapse, is a hefty one for the founders.
We spoke to four entrepreneurs to explore what they learned from this mourning and accepting period, how they picked themselves up and moved on to become the success stories they are today:
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Don’t stay in denial, or blame others—learn from the tough times these entrepreneurs experienced when their startups fell flat.

Choosing to leave behind the regular paycheck and benefits to build a 
venture from the ground up is a huge risk.

It’s risky because it’s hard work, there are no guarantees, and 95% of startups fail, based on research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

With the odds against you, entrepreneurs feel like they’re literally pushing against the tides every day so when companies fail, the price, which can include financial ruin, utter embarrassment, and even mental collapse, is a hefty one for the founders.

We spoke to four entrepreneurs to explore what they learned from this mourning and accepting period, how they picked themselves up and moved on to become the success stories they are today:

Read More>

The Federal Aviation Administration may still be figuring out how to politely negotiate with commercial drones in the airspace, but goateed metalhead Johnny Dronehunter doesn’t wait for rules, man. Nah. He’d prefer to shoot down drones with a giant silencer he’s selling for gun accessory company SilencerCo.
Note: He is also a Defender of Privacy.
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The Federal Aviation Administration may still be figuring out how to politely negotiate with commercial drones in the airspace, but goateed metalhead Johnny Dronehunter doesn’t wait for rules, man. Nah. He’d prefer to shoot down drones with a giant silencer he’s selling for gun accessory company SilencerCo.

Note: He is also a Defender of Privacy.

Read More>

Meet Novosbed, a company that sells luxurious mattresses online for a fraction of the retail cost.
Is there a bubble for half-baked startup ideas?
Yes. Yes, there is. Need evidence? A quick Google scan reveals a laundry list of business strategies that follow the same formulaic pitch construction, like:
- The Uber of legal counsel- The Warby Parker of bedsheets- The Pandora of primping- The Airbnb of driveways
Sometimes, that sort of derivative language is useful for quickly understanding what a company is about. Most of the time it is not. One recent example is Novosbed, a five-year-old company that introduced itself in my Fast Company inbox as the “the Warby Parker of mattresses.”
If that marketing terminology does not make sense to you, intelligible human, rest assured you aren’t alone: Mattresses are a big, bulky pain-in-the-ass. Eyeglasses are small. One product fits conveniently into a mailbox; the other does not.
I was still curious! Maybe ordering from the Warby Parker of mattresses—a description so clumsy-sounding, so lacking in self-awareness that it didn’t sound real—could make for an interesting story. (To be fair, it’s not even the first mattress company to lay claim to that title.) So, after a short email exchange with a very nice and wonderful Novosbed rep, I arranged to have one of the company’s queen-sized memory foam mattresses (the “Aria”; $999) shipped to my tiny Brooklyn apartment, which I share with my girlfriend. This was the goal: To try the mattress out for the 120-day trial period, repackage it, send it back to Novosbed, and maybe try another mattress on for size—indeed, the same way you’d try a box of Warby Parker frames, only to discover that you are not, in fact, as attractive as the perfectly cheekboned eyewear models on Warby Parker’s website.
Or at least that was the original plan. Things did not unfold that way.
Read More>

Meet Novosbed, a company that sells luxurious mattresses online for a fraction of the retail cost.

Is there a bubble for half-baked startup ideas?

Yes. Yes, there is. Need evidence? A quick Google scan reveals a laundry list of business strategies that follow the same formulaic pitch construction, like:

The Uber of legal counsel
The Warby Parker of bedsheets
The Pandora of primping
The Airbnb of driveways

Sometimes, that sort of derivative language is useful for quickly understanding what a company is about. Most of the time it is not. One recent example is Novosbed, a five-year-old company that introduced itself in my Fast Company inbox as the “the Warby Parker of mattresses.”

If that marketing terminology does not make sense to you, intelligible human, rest assured you aren’t alone: Mattresses are a big, bulky pain-in-the-ass. Eyeglasses are small. One product fits conveniently into a mailbox; the other does not.

I was still curious! Maybe ordering from the Warby Parker of mattresses—a description so clumsy-sounding, so lacking in self-awareness that it didn’t sound real—could make for an interesting story. (To be fair, it’s not even the first mattress company to lay claim to that title.) So, after a short email exchange with a very nice and wonderful Novosbed rep, I arranged to have one of the company’s queen-sized memory foam mattresses (the “Aria”; $999) shipped to my tiny Brooklyn apartment, which I share with my girlfriend. This was the goal: To try the mattress out for the 120-day trial period, repackage it, send it back to Novosbed, and maybe try another mattress on for size—indeed, the same way you’d try a box of Warby Parker frames, only to discover that you are not, in fact, as attractive as the perfectly cheekboned eyewear models on Warby Parker’s website.

Or at least that was the original plan. Things did not unfold that way.

Read More>

A nice boss and strong work ethic can’t protect new parents from employer policies that aren’t held accountable to the greater good.
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A nice boss and strong work ethic can’t protect new parents from employer policies that aren’t held accountable to the greater good.

Read More>

Does your morning look like Margaret Thatcher’s, or Ben Franklin’s? These routines might inspire you to create your own.
Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, we all start our day at some point. And we all seem to start it differently.
Some of us hop online to check social media, others dive in to email, still others eat breakfast, exercise, or pack lunches for the kids. There’re a million different ways a morning could go.
Which morning routine might be best?
While there’s probably not an ideal morning routine that fits everyone, we can learn a lot from the morning routines of successful people as well as from the research and inspiration behind starting a morning on the right foot.
I collected a wide range of opinions on how best to start a day, from the scientific to the successful. Here’s the best of what I found—maybe it’ll help you get a little more productivity, creativity, and enjoyment out of your morning.
Read More>

Does your morning look like Margaret Thatcher’s, or Ben Franklin’s? These routines might inspire you to create your own.

Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, we all start our day at some point. And we all seem to start it differently.

Some of us hop online to check social media, others dive in to email, still others eat breakfast, exercise, or pack lunches for the kids. There’re a million different ways a morning could go.

Which morning routine might be best?

While there’s probably not an ideal morning routine that fits everyone, we can learn a lot from the morning routines of successful people as well as from the research and inspiration behind starting a morning on the right foot.

I collected a wide range of opinions on how best to start a day, from the scientific to the successful. Here’s the best of what I found—maybe it’ll help you get a little more productivity, creativity, and enjoyment out of your morning.

Read More>

These companies adapt to the needs of women, so employees aren’t required to lean in too far.
Jane Park, CEO of the Seattle-based cosmetics company Julep, is fired up about the recent Hobby Lobby ruling.
I can tell it’s on her mind because one minute we’re talking about the design of nail polish bottles and a second later, she shifts gears, taking us in an unexpectedly political direction. “Last month, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that companies are people but I really don’t think that’s true,” Park says, out of the blue. “A company is not one human being; if anything, it’s a mini-society. There are many ways that rules of a company impact our lives more than the rules of a government.”
Park has spent decades thinking about the policies that affect women’s lives—it was the focus on her public policy degree at Princeton and her law degree at Yale—and today, as a businesswoman, it remains one of her biggest concerns. “As a head of a company, I see a huge opportunity to create the kind of society we want,” she tells me.
Her timing is great—we’re in a moment when company heads such as Sophie Amoruso of the online retailer Nasty Gal are proving that strong female leadership can be good for both morale and the bottom line.
It’s been a little over a year since Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In hit bookstore shelves, sparking a nationwide discussion about gender in the workplace. While many praised the book, calling it an invaluable manual for women keen to assert themselves at work, critics argued that Sandberg was urging women to adapt to a broken system rather than demanding that corporate America adapt to women’s needs. The good news for Sandberg detractors is that business leaders across the country are busy building a feminist workplace that allows women to thrive in their careers without having to lean in too far.
Read More>

These companies adapt to the needs of women, so employees aren’t required to lean in too far.

Jane Park, CEO of the Seattle-based cosmetics company Julep, is fired up about the recent Hobby Lobby ruling.

I can tell it’s on her mind because one minute we’re talking about the design of nail polish bottles and a second later, she shifts gears, taking us in an unexpectedly political direction. “Last month, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that companies are people but I really don’t think that’s true,” Park says, out of the blue. “A company is not one human being; if anything, it’s a mini-society. There are many ways that rules of a company impact our lives more than the rules of a government.”

Park has spent decades thinking about the policies that affect women’s lives—it was the focus on her public policy degree at Princeton and her law degree at Yale—and today, as a businesswoman, it remains one of her biggest concerns. “As a head of a company, I see a huge opportunity to create the kind of society we want,” she tells me.

Her timing is great—we’re in a moment when company heads such as Sophie Amoruso of the online retailer Nasty Gal are proving that strong female leadership can be good for both morale and the bottom line.

It’s been a little over a year since Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In hit bookstore shelves, sparking a nationwide discussion about gender in the workplace. While many praised the book, calling it an invaluable manual for women keen to assert themselves at work, critics argued that Sandberg was urging women to adapt to a broken system rather than demanding that corporate America adapt to women’s needs. The good news for Sandberg detractors is that business leaders across the country are busy building a feminist workplace that allows women to thrive in their careers without having to lean in too far.

Read More>

The $4 billion gum industry has gone into freefall, with sales down 11% and volume down 20% in the past five years. No type of gum is immune—everything from sugar-free gum to bubble gum is experiencing the drop in sales. What’s going on?
Read More>

The $4 billion gum industry has gone into freefall, with sales down 11% and volume down 20% in the past five years. No type of gum is immune—everything from sugar-free gum to bubble gum is experiencing the drop in sales. What’s going on?

Read More>

We get it! These entrepreneurs overcame the odds, but their stories have been written ad nauseam. It’s time to ditch these business cliches.
One of the more interesting business books available this summer is Roadside MBA: Backroads Lessons for Executives, Entrepreneurs, and Small Business Owners. Written by three economists, it’s a rather corny look at various concepts you’d learn in business school, like barriers to entry, and economies of scale. What’s redeeming about it is that the authors went out and created case studies about dozens of small- and medium-sized businesses that you’ve never heard of. From Arnold Tool in Council Bluffs, Iowa to Key Fire Hose in Dothan, Alabama, most small business owners have a compelling story to tell.
These stories are fresh. Unfortunately in a lot of business literature, many stories, while interesting at one point, have ripened too much over time. Read enough big idea books and articles, and you’ll notice the same examples are used over and over again. There are acceptable reasons for this, but still, here are a few case studies that smart authors should stop using:
Read More>

We get it! These entrepreneurs overcame the odds, but their stories have been written ad nauseam. It’s time to ditch these business cliches.

One of the more interesting business books available this summer is Roadside MBA: Backroads Lessons for Executives, Entrepreneurs, and Small Business Owners. Written by three economists, it’s a rather corny look at various concepts you’d learn in business school, like barriers to entry, and economies of scale. What’s redeeming about it is that the authors went out and created case studies about dozens of small- and medium-sized businesses that you’ve never heard of. From Arnold Tool in Council Bluffs, Iowa to Key Fire Hose in Dothan, Alabama, most small business owners have a compelling story to tell.

These stories are fresh. Unfortunately in a lot of business literature, many stories, while interesting at one point, have ripened too much over time. Read enough big idea books and articles, and you’ll notice the same examples are used over and over again. There are acceptable reasons for this, but still, here are a few case studies that smart authors should stop using:

Read More>