From the time he was a boy, it appears Biz Stone was never one for thinking inside the box. The Twitter co-founder was in Washington last week as part of a tour to promote his new book, “Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind,” and chatted with James C. Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, as part of the organization’s Morning Star Speaker Series.
In high school, Stone said he informed his teachers that he had implemented for himself a “no-homework policy.” He assured them matter-of-factly that they should not worry about any problems at home; he had simply done a cost-benefit analysis and determined that he’d be more attentive during the school day if he didn’t have to stay up into the wee hours of the night doing homework.
Stone also recounted how he thought it would help his high school social life to play a sport, but he wasn’t interested in his school’s existing offerings, such as baseball and basketball. His solution? He proposed adding a lacrosse team, and went ahead and recruited a coach and a roster of players himself so the school would get on board. The school approved it, and Stone became a solid player.
Stone talked shop a bit, too: When asked how he thought private social apps such as SnapChat would shake up the social media landscape, Stone said, “The answer, really, is it’ll become a mix of whatever’s appropriate. More nuanced. More like real life.”
— Sarah Halzack
Beneath all the cheering, chanting and camaraderie emanating from Maryland and Prince George’s politicos recently at a press conference to boost the state’s bid for the FBI headquarters was concern that the General Services Administration, which is managing the search, might opt for a smaller project.
The GSA has floated the idea of seeking 50 acres for an FBI campus, which suits Maryland fine because of all its available land near Metro stations. But should the GSA settle for a smaller footprint, a possibility in these belt-tightening times, other communities could be better suited to make a case.
“There is some thought that, ‘Oh no, let’s do a portion of it,’” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), said in an interview after the press conference. “That would not be in the best interests of the FBI, not in the best interests of the taxpayers.”
— Jonathan O’Connell
Vehicles for Change gave 15 refurbished vehicles to families in need at its 15th anniversary luncheon. More than 150 supporters, partners and beneficiaries attended the gathering to celebrate the organization’s impact, which includes awarding 4,600 cars to families. The organization collects donated vehicles from the community and gives them to low-income families at a cost of about $750, with the hope that the families will maintain or gain employment. At the event, past recipients gave testimonials, including Lisa Phillips, who received a car in 2001. She eventually became the director at a nonprofit and is now working on an MBA. The types of vehicles included a 2005 Mazda 3, 2003 Ford Explorer and 2002 Mazda MPV. Those in attendance included Joseph Jones, president of the Center for Urban Families; Melanie Styles of the Abell Foundation; and Craig Burris, founder of SmartCEO magazine.
— Vanessa Small
SwitchPitch, an event that’s been called the “Sadie Hawkins dance for start-ups,” came to Washington recently to connect established local businesses with innovative upstarts. At the event, held March 27 at the Mead Center for American Theater (the Southwest Washington complex that is home to Arena Stage), big companies pitched their latest technology needs to a roomful of entrepreneurs. The idea is that the set-up is mutually beneficial: The big companies nab an efficient team to execute a project while the start-up gets to build its client base.
NPR’s Kate Meyers explained her organization’s need for a technology partner for its new mobile app. The app will be something like a Pandora for news, giving users a slate of radio stories personalized for their interests and tastes. Because the app will generate a rich trove of data about its users — what stories they skip over, which ones hold their attention, and so on — NPR is looking for a partner that can help it parse all that information. Shah Shripal of the Washington Redskins gave a relatively open-ended pitch that asked companies to help the team develop more immersive game-day experiences on social media for fans inside and outside the stadium. Other organizations making pitches included Monumental Sports & Entertainment, The Washington Post, ComScore and Georgetown University.
Similar events take place in Seattle, San Francisco and Austin.
— Sarah Halzack
Gina Schaefer’s Ace Hardware store on P Street NW contributed to the resurgence of Logan Circle, and she now owns nine stores in D.C. and Maryland. When developers ask residents what retailers they’d like to see in their own neighborhoods, Schaefer’s name is frequently among those mentioned. Schaefer says one key to her success has been paying her employees more than competitors, and last week she joined officials on Capitol Hill to support a federal minimum wage increase.
“When employees earn a decent starting wage, they can concentrate on their job and our customers without continual stress over how they are going to afford basics like rent, groceries or transportation,” she said in a press release afterward. “Our employees shop at other businesses, and the employees of other businesses shop at our stores. It’s a win-win for workers and businesses.”
— Jonathan O’Connell