Startup of the week:
Who they are: 70MillionJobs
What they do: Find employment opportunities for the estimated 70 million people in the U.S. who have a criminal record
Why it’s cool: It’s tough to get a job when you have a rap sheet, something 70MillionJobs founder Richard Bronson knows first-hand. Bronson is a felon himself — he was convicted of securities fraud and spent two years in prison in the early 2000s, after working at Stratton Oakmont (the brokerage firm of “Wolf of Wall Street” fame) and then founding his own $100 million firm.
“I came out…essentially destitute, with no home, no money, no job, no prospects, no future,” he said. “Everywhere I turned, I found doors slamming in my face.”
That lack of opportunities is something many formerly incarcerated people face. Nearly 80 percent of former inmates end up back in jail within five years of being released, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Bronson says that’s partly because they can’t find work.
His platform aims to help by matching former convicts with companies in need of workers. He says people with criminal records tend to make great employees — they work extra hard because they don’t take their job for granted.
Where they stand: Bronson founded 70MillionJobs this year in New York, but moved to Menlo Park shortly after getting accepted into startup accelerator Y Combinator — he’ll be pitching his company to potential investors next week at the firm’s demo day. Users have applied for almost 4,000 jobs on the platform so far, and Bronson says he’s working on a deal with Uber. The San Francisco-based ride-hailing giant wants to use 70MillionJobs to find new drivers, and may eventually use the platform to fill its office jobs as well, Bronson said.
What will they think of next?
Riffing off the driverless car craze that has swept up technology buffs in recent years, an artist has created the antithesis of that fad — a car that unites driver and vehicle, instead of getting rid of the driver.
That’s the basic premise behind the “Roadable Synapse,” a tricked-out 2017 Hyundai Ioniq that uses technology intended to make the human driver feel what the vehicle is “feeling.” For example — the music playing inside the car increases in tempo as the vehicle speeds up, the volume increases with a rise in RPM, and the music becomes glitchier as driving becomes less efficient.
The artist behind the design, Jonathon Keats, also is working on a seatbelt that would vibrate the wearer’s stomach, stimulating hunger, as the car runs out of gas.
“On the road, the driver and car will operate as a physically and mentally unified man-machine hybrid,” Keats wrote in a news release. “Driving will become safer, less stressful and more natural.”
But don’t expect to see these cars on the streets anytime soon. The Roadable Synapse, for now, is a concept car only, with the purpose of being displayed at museums and trade shows. Its first stop will be the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Run the numbers:
Looking for a good excuse to put off your chores and immerse yourself in your favorite virtual reality game? Here it is: turns out those games are good for you. Well, sort of.
Some of the popular VR games out there require players to move enough that they can actually count the experience as exercise, according to a new study by San Francisco State University. Virtual reality boxing, for example, burns between 13 and 18 calories per minute, researchers found. Dodging colorful orbs to a musical beat burns between four and six calories per minute.
The school partnered with the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise, which lists exercise-inducing VR games on its website, along with the real-life activity they best resemble (using an elliptical machine, playing tennis, swimming, etc) and how many calories per minute the player can expect to burn.
“There have been so many things worthy of our outrage and action over the past weeks and months,” state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson told reporters Thursday, as she announced a new bill intended to address one of those outrage-worthy issues — sexual harassment in the venture capital industry. Her bill, Senate Bill 224, would explicitly prohibit harassment between founders and investors.
“Frankly, it’s baffling that the tech industry can be so forward thinking,” Jackson said, “but so backward toward the valuable contributions of women.”
Photo: A screen shot shows the 70MillionJobs website. The platform, which helps formerly incarcerated people find jobs, will be pitching to Silicon Valley investors next week at Y Combinator’s demo day. (Courtesy of 70MillionJobs)
Tags: 70MillionJobs, employment, ex-cons, Jobs, linkedin