Brad Stone

Stories by Brad Stone

  • The Color Of Money

    Silicon valley venture capitalists are typically reluctant to invest in companies more than an hour's drive from their offices. Far-flung start-ups are simply too difficult to manage. So it was curious, a few weeks ago, to find John Doerr, the most famous partner at the Valley's most storied venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, scouting for investment opportunities all the way in Brazil. In a two-day, 10-meeting whirlwind trip, Doerr, his KP partner Ellen Pao, and Doerr's friend, author Thomas Friedman, barnstormed the country's ethanol industry, which produces half of Brazil's automobile fuel from sugar cane. The trio met with energy entrepreneurs and took a helicopter to the world's second largest ethanol mill, where 100,000 tonsof raw sugar is converted into 21 million gallons of ethanol each year. "You don't appreciate what Brazil has achieved until you've been there and see the endless fields of sugar receding over the horizon," Doerr says.Something...
  • Web of Risks

    Cameron walker learned the hard way that sharing information online can have unintended consequences. In 2005, the sophomore at Fisher College in Boston organized a student petition dedicated to getting a campus police guard fired and posted it on the popular college social network Facebook.com. Walker wrote that the guard "loves to antagonize students ... and needs to be eliminated." It was a poor choice of words. Another student informed school officials, who logged on and interpreted the comments as threatening. Though Walker claimed he was trying only to expose the guard's demeanor, he was expelled. He's now enrolled at another college and admits he made a serious mistake. "I was a naive 21-year-old," he says.Creating a page on a social-networking site is now a cherished form of self-expression at universities around the world. Students use ad-supported services like Facebook, MySpace, TagWorld and Bebo to make friends, plan their social lives and project their personalities....
  • Dangers of Social-Networking Sites

    Cameron Walker learned the hard way that sharing information online can have unintended consequences. In 2005, the sophomore at Fisher College in Boston organized a student petition dedicated to getting a campus police guard fired and posted it on the popular college social network Facebook.com. Walker wrote that the guard "loves to antagonize students ... and needs to be eliminated." It was a poor choice of words. Another student informed school officials, who logged on and interpreted the comments as threatening. Though Walker claimed he was trying only to expose the guard's demeanor, he was expelled. He's now enrolled at another college and admits he made a serious mistake. "I was a naive 21-year-old," he says.Creating a page on a social-networking site is now a cherished form of self-expression at universities around the world. Students use ad-supported services like Facebook, MySpace, TagWorld and Bebo to make friends, plan their social lives and project their personalities....
  • Who's Building the Next Web?

    Deciphering the exact meaning of the phrase Web 2.0 is a popular parlor game in Silicon Valley. The expression can stand for many things--the kind of start-up that forges new connections among Web users, lets them share their tastes in music and video or simply exploits their creativity and participation in new ways.In the broadest sense, the Web 2.0 moniker captures the renewed exuberance (perhaps irrational) in high-tech circles. There are so many start-ups, in fact, that inventive observers of the newly crowded business scene have taken to mashing all their logos together in one colorful and jumbled image, then posting their work to Flickr for others to appreciate (to see some examples, Google "logo 2.0"). So consider these standout firms below, which we've noticed in the past few months, some threads from the larger quilt.Take everything you know about how a media company works and invert it. That's Digg. Founded last year by Kevin Rose, a former on-air personality on cable...
  • Is TiVo's Time Up?

    The biggest loser in Cisco's acquisition of Scientific Atlanta is a little company that's well loved by its customers: TiVo. The Silicon Valley pioneer helped invent the digital video recorder (DVR), and its name became synonymous with the technology's wondrous ability to pause and record live TV to a set-top box and to save us from TV ads. Cisco executives almost certainly considered acquiring TiVo as a way to break into digital entertainment (though they declined to comment on any potential deal). Cisco sizes up most companies in its field of vision, and John Chambers himself keeps three TiVos in his home, while Cisco senior VP Mike Volpi was a TiVo beta tester.But as bigger companies like Scientific Atlanta and Motorola copied TiVo with their own generic DVRs and started shipping more units through the cable companies that buy their other equipment, Cisco found it easy to conclude which to acquire. "Market shares have shifted pretty dramatically away from TiVo," says Volpi. "TiVo...
  • Technology: High Speed On The Go

    Sorry, but your mobile phone is so yesterday. When it comes to the most coveted wireless gadget, it's no longer the slimness of the handset that matters but the speed of the network. With Verizon and Sprint rolling out new "evolution-data only" (EV-DO) broadband service, TIP SHEET tested each one. Verizon's network (it adds about $15 to your monthly bill), which we tried on a Motorola E815 phone, makes watching clips from NBC News on the carrier's V Cast service a satisfying experience, though occasionally the video gets interrupted while the phone reconnects to the network. Downloading Pac-Man took a mere five seconds. Sprint's nascent EV-DO network (starting at $15 extra a month), tested on a Samsung MM-A940 phone, has similar speed and comparable programming but is currently in far fewer cities than Verizon's (it will catch up next year). Web browsing is nowhere near what you get with your laptop's Wi-Fi connection, of course, but it's still fast enough to make it worthwhile, and...
  • Eats, Crowds And Cheats

    Google jumped whole hog into China last year, investing in search leader Baidu.com and doubling down on its own Chinese-language portal. Yahoo bet part of the farm on China last month, plugging $1 billion into the search engine Alibaba.com. These days, it seems like every major American Internet business is going to China, and so I did, too. My wife and I toured the megalopolises of Beijing and Shanghai, the bustling manufacturing centers outside both cities, sampled the varied cuisine, regularly got lost and subjected ourselves to widespread ridicule for our bungling of basic Chinese words. Naturally, the two-week experience now qualifies me as an experienced Sinologist. So here are some basic, hard-earned rules for conducting business in the world's most populous country, derived from some intriguing customs we encountered along our way: Get ready to eat. Yes, formal Chinese dinners are long, lavish and a challenge to the stamina of Americans accustomed to the dine-and-dash. Every...
  • Blackberry: Bring It On!

    Mike Lazaridis knows all about the "BlackBerry Prayer"--the supplicating position one assumes when grasping the popular six-ounce wireless combination e-mailer/phone known as the BlackBerry between your palms and thumb-tapping messages on its QWERTY keyboard. His wife complained so often about his assuming the posture at home that he was forced to respond: he gave her a BlackBerry of her own. Then he gave BlackBerrys to both their kids, ages 8 and 10. During a recent family dinner, Lazaridis recalls, he looked up after pecking a reply to a colleague and discovered the whole family was engaged in the Prayer. They were even forwarding e-mails to each other while they sat in silence. "At least it's better than all of us talking on the phone," he says, but frankly, the 45-year-old Lazaridis has no one to blame but himself. Besides supplying his family with the device, he's also leader of the sect--the founder and co-CEO of the Waterloo, Canada-based Research in Motion (RIM), the firm...
  • Good Morning, New Orleans

    During Hurricane Katrina, it was old-fashioned radio, not newfangled insta-media, that served as a lifeline for people battered by the storm. In the dark chaos of the Louisiana Superdome, or the lonely quiet of their homes, people along the Gulf coast huddled around battery-operated devices, seeking comfort and news from the on-air voices.But broadcasting during the crisis and the aftermath has been no easy feat for New Orleans radio companies, who face the same hardships as their listeners. At first the they operated piecemeal on whichever stations their engineers could keep running, but didn't take long for the city's two rival radio companies, Entercom Communications Corp. and Clear Channel Radio, to realize that they'd have to work together to keep their signal alive. Four days after the hurricane hit, the two companies formed a groundbreaking partnership sharing equipment, space and airtime. The new entity, which they call the United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans, transmits...
  • Plain Text: Heroes or Nettlesome Hacks?

    Freelance counterterrorist Aaron Weisburd is not an employee of any of the three-letter federal agencies. He works alone in his attic in Carbondale, Ill., far from the hotbeds of terrorist activity. Yet for the last three years, the 41-year-old computer programmer has been obsessively monitoring dark corners of the Internet such as Qal3ah.org, the Web site where, last week, a group called the Secret Organization for Al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe placed a dubious claim of responsibility for the London bombings that took at least 52 lives.Weisburd is the creator of Internet Haganah, a self-proclaimed "global open-source intelligence network dedicated to confronting Internet use by Islamist terrorist organizations, their supporters, enablers and apologists." In other words, he's an Internet vigilante. When terrorists emerge on the Web with beheading videos, propaganda or recruitment pitches, Weisburd--or any of his dozen, virtual colleagues around the country--move quickly to get them...
  • Get Ready to Get Wired

    Goodbye, clipboards! Digital tools will make health care smarter and safer.
  • QUICK READ

    Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon WarshawskyAnyone who's read a corporate report knows how boring business jargon can be. Whether it's just sloppy or really intentional ("restructuring" instead of "layoffs"), the authors say "bull has become the language of business." In this 192-page guide, they offer tips on navigating around common miscommunication traps (obscurity, anonymity, the hard sell) that befall business people. Want to sound smart? Use humor instead of big words, pick up a phone or a pen instead of e-mailing and, most important, speak succinctly. Your audience will not only remember you--they'll thank you.The Four Elements of Success by Laurie Beth JonesWhen Jones says "elements," she means it. In her new 240-page book, the author of the best-selling "Jesus CEO" uses water, earth, wind and fire as a way to assess personality types. Winds favor a fast-paced environment, for example, while waters prefer...
  • DIAGNOSIS: INTERNET PHOBIA

    Dorothy Harris took two buses through the pouring rain in south Chicago a few weeks ago to improve her finances and possibly even her health--by using the Internet. With help from a volunteer and a Web tutorial in a class cosponsored by The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Harris, 81, went online for the very first time. She visited the Medicare.gov Web site and, after entering information about her complex drug regimen for heart-bypass surgery, Harris discovered she was eligible for $704 in savings on prescription meds in 2005. After signing up for the federal discount-drug-card program, she proceeded to explore the Web through the online tutorial and find photos related to her hobby, quilting. Her children have long urged her to get online, and now Harris admits, "You're never too old to learn."Unfortunately, Harris is part of a disquieting minority in her age group. While the rest of society has enthusiastically embraced the Internet, a study by the Kaiser Family...
  • MOTOROLA'S GOOD CALL

    Robert Brunner never expected to carry a Motorola phone. A partner at San Franciso's Pentagram Design, Brunner is a fan of fashionable products like Philippe Starck watches and Sony digital cameras. The 76-year-old Motorola, on the other hand, has traditionally been "good at engineering things, not necessarily good at doing cool, well-detailed objects," Brunner says. Nevertheless, last fall he found himself joining countless other gadget hounds in a rush to the nearest Cingular store to buy the $349 Razr V3: an improbably thin mobile phone made of anodized aluminum, with an etched keypad and an antenna concealed in the mouthpiece. Today, whenever Brunner takes out his Razr and lays it on a conference-room table, "the geeks crowd around," he says. "Everybody wants to play with it."The edge from Moto's Razr has helped drive a remarkable turnaround at one of the oldest tech companies in America. Last week, analyst firm Gartner reported that brisk Razr sales have vaulted Motorola past...
  • THE CASH IS BACK

    Silicon Valley's venture capitalists are in demand again. A wave of eager institutional investors who've historically been averse to risky investments--such as European pension accounts--are trying to get into the funds that may fuel the new Googles. Still, VCs are keeping fund-raising at a comparatively low level--about $11 billion annually. Flip Gianos of InterWest Partners says his new $600 million fund, earmarked for high-tech and life-science start-ups, was the most exclusive in the firm's history. "We had to turn many people away," he says. "It's no fun." C'mon: sure it is.
  • FINGERTIP WINDOWS

    It's only supposed to happen with a sports car or diamond ring. But the employees at San Francisco's OQO can't take their company's sleek new computer out in public without drawing attention. On airplanes, buses and trains, curious onlookers relentlessly ask about the thin, ceramic-colored device that fits snugly in your hands and weighs a slight 14 ounces. Everyone wants to talk about it, play with it and usually find out where and when they can buy their own. Even the guards at SFO, apparently plugged into wild Internet rumors about new gadgets, asked about the device when CEO Jory Bell passed through security recently. "They wanted to know if it was a new Apple PDA," Bell says.It isn't. Next month, the three-year-old, 42-employee start-up will unveil the OQO Model 01, the first in a new breed of portable computer that the high-tech industry has dubbed "ultra-PCs." Think of them as a mixed breed--with pedigree: it looks like a PDA but operates like a laptop and runs the full...
  • GRANDE PLANS

    You can't go near the City Centre mall in downtown Seattle without seeing the coquettish mermaid logo of a certain international coffee company. There's a Starbucks kiosk just inside the mall entrance. Not a hundred yards away, another Starbucks is perched near the elevators to the 44-floor office tower. Up a short escalator, there's a third Starbucks. Why does a midsize shopping center need a trio of identical coffee shops? "If we only had one, customers would have to wait, or they would walk away," says Chris Hougland, who manages two of the cafes.The satirical online newspaper The Onion was more prophetic than it realized with a 1998 headline: NEW STARBUCKS OPENS IN REST ROOM OF EXISTING STARBUCKS. Back then the coffee chain had 1,778 stores and seemed to be nearing almost comic ubiquity in some parts of the country. Today the company that weaned us away from the free mud in the office kitchen and hooked us on $3 tall double caramel macchiatos (with nonfat milk, please) has 5,945...
  • Plain Text: A Small Step For Private Space Travel

    Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites did it once again this morning, sending the rocket-propelled glider SpaceShipOne 63 miles above earth, into the nether regions of the atmosphere known as suborbital space. Despite a few tense moments--the craft spun uncontrollably on ascent--pilot Mike Melvill wrestled back control and accomplished the first of two flights necessary to win the $10 million dollar Ansari X Prize. (The second qualifying flight is tentatively planned for Monday but may be delayed while Rutan reviews hitches with the flights.)But let us not delude ourselves: today's flight was no giant leap for mankind, but rather another small step for American Mojave Aerospace Ventures, the company created by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen to fund Rutan's space efforts and commercialize his technology. The X Prize was founded in 1995 not only to challenge rocket scientists around the world and draw attention to the thrill of manned space flight but also to jump-start...
  • Plain Text: Inside the Dark Corners of the Net

    This week, Iraqi insurgents led by Al Qaeda extremist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi added two more tragic casualties in the war in Iraq--and two more grainy, home-made videos to the collection of gruesome terror testimonials on the Internet.On Monday, Zarqawi and his gang beheaded Eugene "Jack" Armstrong of Hillsdale, Mich. Yesterday, they executed Armstrong's housemate, Jack Hensley, from Atlanta. Both men, who leave behind devastated families, worked for a United Arab Emirates construction company.The terrorists sent reports of the deaths--and grisly footage of the beheadings--to Islamic web sites. In another, less connected age, the videos might only have circulated among the terrorists' supporters. But the Internet bridges space and time, bringing news of events, even the horrific ones, to people around the world in an instant. Those videos quickly migrated to Internet nodes more trafficked by Westerners--peer-to-peer sites like Kazaa and Grokster, where anyone can post or download...
  • The Alaskan Front

    In early august the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska was gripped with unseasonably mild weather: 70-degree afternoons, ravenous mosquitoes past prime insect season and dry tundra in the typically swampy lowlands of the coastal plain. These may be early signs of global warming, which is ironic, because the Arctic refuge is the 19 million-acre nature preserve that the Bush administration has targeted as the optimum spot to drill for oil and natural gas, the very fossil fuels whose use drives climate warming in the first place. "The debate over new oil exploration gets even more confusing when we have to factor in climate change," says University of Alaska, Fairbanks, biologist David Klein.Despite concerns over global warming, recent events have intensified pressure to develop new oil and natural-gas resources in Alaska. Instability in the Middle East, Venezuela and Russia has fueled calls in the United States for oil independence, while rising oil prices make...
  • The Master Of Wind

    If Jim Dehlsen ever needs to remind himself why, at 67, he's still trying to save the world, all he has to do is glance outside his window. The offices of his three-year-old firm, Clipper Windpower, look across California's tranquil Santa Barbara Channel and, in the distance, to the remote marine sanctuary of Santa Cruz Island. Marring that view are eight oil rigs jutting into the ocean mist. In 1969 a well underneath one platform ruptured, releasing 200,000 gallons of crude into the harbor, coating beaches and killing thousands of birds. Today the oil rigs represent to Dehlsen America's dependence on fossil fuels. "We're not only depleting those resources but reaching the limits of what the planet can absorb, in terms of emissions," he says. "And that is clearing the way for the return of wind power."Not long ago wind power was the domain of fringe scientists and environmentalists. In the 1970s the idea of harvesting the wind's kinetic energy and converting it into electrons was...
  • BLOGS: 'REEFER AND BEER' IN THE TOFU HUT

    John Seroff, like lots of other New Yorkers, ekes out a living bartending and waiting tables. But each night the 29-year-old music aficionado spends three hours holed up in his apartment in front of his computer, spinning records for the world. His online music journal, or "MP3 blog," The Tofu Hut (tofuhut.blogspot.com), features obscure songs, each available for downloading, and a running commentary about musical tastes and trends. Seroff's preferences are diverse, to say the least. Last week he posted an unreleased free-style rap from a seemingly boozed-up Tupac Shakur, the smoky John Coltrane riff "Vodka" and a honky-tonk hip-hop cut called "Reefer and Beer," by an artist you probably haven't heard of, Devin the Dude. "I see it as a way of helping the artist on a real grass-roots level," says Seroff, who accompanies each song with a link to a site where visitors can buy the artist's album.Think of MP3 bloggers as a fusion of the local dance-club DJ, playing his favorite records,...
  • TECHNOLOGY: PHONES TO WATCH

    The next time you can't find the remote, hunt for your cell phone instead. A Berkeley, Calif., start-up called Idetic is making TV reception on cell phones possible with its infant service, MobiTV (mobitv.com). For $9.99 a month, owners of 19 different Sprint phone models can watch 22 cable stations, including CNBC, C-Span, Fox Sports, the Discovery Channel and a few news and comedy channels tailored for mobile users. For another $10, a second Idetic service lets baseball addicts listen to audio of live major-league games over Sprint phones. The quality of the broadcasts is only fair--video is transmitted at around a quarter of the frame rate you get with real television. But that's probably adequate for news and sports junkies who need a constant fix. One pain: every four minutes, the phone asks if you are still watching, so it doesn't waste valuable bandwidth. But Idetic says it will soon lose that feature, and promises to announce more channels and deals with new phone carriers....
  • I Want A Movie! Now!

    Netflix and TiVo ushered in an age of couch-potato bliss. Netflix lets its customers browse through its huge movie catalog on the Web and rent DVDs through the mail without having to worry about late fees. TiVo lets people digitally record their favorite shows and zoom through the ads. But now couch potatoes are perched on the cusp of true paradise. Soon they won't even have to stand up to trudge to the mailbox; fat broadband pipes will let them directly download movies over the Net to their television.Netflix and TiVo want this digital nirvana to arrive as soon as possible, and they are about to join forces to make it happen. Later this month, NEWSWEEK has learned, the companies plan to unveil a simple but significant partnership that could shake up the media world. Subscribers who belong to both services will be able to download their Netflix DVDs over the Internet directly into the TiVo boxes in their homes, instead of receiving them in the mail. Spokespeople at the companies...
  • Getting Imac Right

    The first colorful iMac, unveiled in 1997, weighed 40 pounds. The dome-shaped follow-up, with its flat-panel screen, weighed 21 pounds. Those computers were cute, but with the new, 18- pound iMac G5, it is tempting to say that Apple has finally gotten it just right. OK, so the G5 doesn't have a built-in Wi-Fi base station or personal video recorder. But its high-tech innards, including the speedy G5 processor, are tucked behind a flat-panel screen and sheathed in the white polycarbonate used on the iPod. Nothing distracts from the screen; even the speakers are on the bottom of the display, pointed downward at your desk, and the on button pops demurely from the back-side. "The computer has gone away," says Apple VP Greg Joswiak. "This allows you to focus on what you want to do." What you want to do, of course, is scratch up the $1,299 to buy one of these beauties.
  • A MIGHTIER WIND

    WIND TURBINES MAY SOON BE READY TO COMPETE WITH CONVENTIONAL POWER
  • THE ALASKAN FRONT

    In early August this year the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska was gripped with unseasonably mild weather: 20 degree afternoons, ravenous mosquitoes past prime insect season and dry tundra in the typically swampy lowlands of the coastal plain. These may be early signs of global warming, which is ironic, because the Arctic refuge is the 19 million-acre nature preserve that the Bush administration has targeted as the optimum spot to drill for oil and natural gas, the very fossil fuels whose use drives climate warming in the first place. "The debate over new oil exploration gets even more confusing when we have to factor in climate change," says University of Alaska, Fairbanks, biologist David Klein.Despite concerns over global warming, recent events have intensified pressure to develop new oil and natural-gas resources in Alaska. Instability in the Middle East, Venezuela and Russia have fueled calls in the United States for oil independence, while rising oil...
  • A Mightier Wind

    If Jim Dehlsen ever needs to remind himself why, at 67, he's still trying to save the world, all he has to do is glance outside his window. The offices of his three-year-old firm, Clipper Windpower, look across the tranquil Santa Barbara Channel and, in the distance, to the remote marine sanctuary of Santa Cruz Island. Marring that view are eight oil rigs jutting into the ocean mist. In 1969 a well underneath one platform ruptured, releasing 750,000 liters of crude into the harbor, coating beaches and killing thousands of birds. Today, the oil rigs represent to Dehlsen America's dependence on fossil fuels. "We're not only depleting those resources but reaching the limits of what the planet can absorb, in terms of emissions," he says. "And that is clearing the way for the return of wind power."Not long ago, wind power was the domain of fringe scientists and environmentalists. In the 1970s the idea of harvesting the wind's kinetic energy and converting it into electrons was not only...
  • The Alaskan Front

    In early August this year the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska was gripped with unseasonably mild weather: 20 degree afternoons, ravenous mosquitoes past prime insect season and dry tundra in the typically swampy lowlands of the coastal plain. These may be early signs of global warming, which is ironic, because the Arctic refuge is the 19 million-acre nature preserve that the Bush administration has targeted as the optimum spot to drill for oil and natural gas, the very fossil fuels whose use drives climate warming in the first place. "The debate over new oil exploration gets even more confusing when we have to factor in climate change," says University of Alaska, Fairbanks, biologist David Klein.Despite concerns over global warming, recent events have intensified pressure to develop new oil and natural-gas resources in Alaska. Instability in the Middle East, Venezuela and Russia have fueled calls in the United States for oil independence, while rising oil...
  • Inside Intel

    The water-rocket demonstration last month at the SMK Padang Tembak high school in Kuala Lumpur combined three of Craig Barrett's passions: science, technology and education. The students were using the Web to learn how to launch water rockets--inverted bottles of water that are pumped full of air until they bow to Newton, vent the H2O and shoot skyward. Even on a grueling six-city, five-day tour of Asia, the CEO of tech giant Intel wasn't going to miss that bit of geeky fun. Surrounded on a hot afternoon by necktie-wearing boys and girls in traditional Islamic headdress, Barrett got into it, stuffing his tie inside his starched white shirt to help crank the hand pumps. "The first one we launched went kind of horizontal and banged into the second story of the school," Barrett recalls. "The second one went way up, but came down and punched a little hole in the corrugated roof."A year ago that scene might have unflatteringly symbolized Barrett's tenure as chief of Intel. Here was a man...

Pages