Getaway on Shark Tank

Our tiny house project, Getaway, was just on Shark Tank:

Business Insider has a rundown:

They set their sights on Sacca, a legendary angel investor who made early bets on Uber, Twitter, and Instagram— and shares the cofounders’ love of the outdoors. The Upstate New York native owns two wood cabins on Lake Tahoe, in addition to an estate in Great Falls, Montana.

Davis took a shot at Sacca in what looked like an attempt to guilt him into an investment.

“You have brought and shepherded much technology into this world, and you know technology needs a counter-balance. We can provide a counter-balance,” Davis said. “You can pay amends for helping bring Twitter into this world. And this is the anti-Twitter.”

Heavy has a visual history of Getaway, including a posting of our Why Do You Want to Getaway? video:

The HLS public interest fight in Harvard Magazine

Over the past year, in the Harvard Law Record, I have been agitating for Harvard Law School to better live up to its public interest mission: “to educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and well-being of society”.

The same cause was spotlighted in a recent Harvard Magazine article, “The Purpose of Harvard Law School“:

“Between the well-established path to corporate law and the demands of a just society, HLS takes no position on where its graduates ought to work, and struggles to articulate a role for itself in a broader justice system. Career options are framed as a matter of personal choice or market demand rather than public need, reflected in the recruiting structure that accommodates corporate law. How pervasive should corporate law be at a top law school? What do Harvard graduates owe to the public? These are questions Harvard hasn’t answered—but the controversies of the last year, and the ones sure to come, suggest that perhaps it needs to.”

Pete Davis calls for a broader view of the law school’s responsibilities in the justice system. The nation can’t sustain a just legal system unless its civil institutions are committed, actively, to promoting access to legal resources: “Harvard pretends not to take policy positions, but it does. We took a position on the DREAM Act, for example, which said that to fulfill our duties as a university, we need immigration reform,” he says. “The issue of funding public defense is very simple to solve. There is already a Legal Services Corporation, there’s already a source of funding for public defenders, but they don’t have enough money, and because they don’t have enough money, the legal system is skewed. The deans of the top five law schools could all go to Congress and say, ‘We cannot keep producing lawyers for a legal system that isn’t working,’ and call on lawmakers to adequately fund public defense.”

Read the incisive and insightful article here.

Getaway’s New York Expansion

Getaway — our startup that builds tiny houses, places them in the woods and rents them out by the night to folks looking to getaway — is expanding to New York. Bloomberg News put the word out:

“I like to call it the anti-vacation,” said Chief Executive Officer Jon Staff, who launched Getaway with his friend Pete Davis, a first-year student at Harvard Law School.

For the past half-century, the American vacation model was to spend a small fortune to fly to a faraway place to which the vacationers would likely never go back, said Staff, 28, who is completing an MBA at Harvard Business School. “You’re probably only going to go there once, so you feel incredible pressure to do lots of things.” Now that Americans work longer hours and spend their nights and weekends chained to handheld devices, there’s less call for capital-V “Vacations” and more for basic respite, he said.

Clara-by-Getaway-1Travel + Leisure magazine has more info:

Between noisy hotels and constant access to wi-fi, finding a true getaway can be nearly impossible. That’s exactly why a year ago two former Harvard classmates built three 160-square-foot homes on trailers, drove them to the outskirts of Boston, and rented them out to overworked city folks starting at $99 a night. Now they’re making them available to New Yorkers.

Starting in June, guests can book one of three tiny houses for a mini (seriously) vacation about two hours outside of NYC. There’s a catch: you don’t find out the exact location until the day before.

“Our vision was always that this was wellness experience not a hospitality experience,” Chief Executive Officer Jon Staff, who launched Getaway with his friend Pete Davis, tells Travel + Leisure. “That’s part of the reason we don’t tell people where they are before they go. It’s about being on this land and not looking at your phone. We’ve been pleased to find that it’s connecting with people.”

Book a New York Getaway at getaway.house/BookingNewYork.

New Getaway news

Getaway, our effort out of the Millennial Housing Lab to build and share tiny houses in the woods, has been in the news these past few weeks:

  • CNN“Sure, living in a tiny house full-time may sound daunting, but renting a wee retreat for a couple of days is an easy way to get a taste of the downsized life.”
  • Yahoo“Hilary and Shane Lentz were hooked on the idea of a tiny house, but they weren’t sure the reality would be so appealing.Their curiosity led them to the hills of New Hampshire, where a business that started at Harvard University rents out tiny houses for $99 a night.”
  • L.A. Times“Ten designers, adventurers, campers and doers put their heads and brute strength together to build three homes on wheels. The results seem to have jumped from the pages of Dwell magazine. Get out of the city and leave its distractions; play a board game or grab the marshmallow stick that’s waiting for you. If you are OK with using a compost toilet and paying a nominal amount for the stocked provisions, you’ll be all set to enjoy the peaceful wooded surroundings and, of course, see if you could live tiny long-term.”
  • Associated PressGetaway is the first project at Harvard’s Millennial Housing Lab, a group of business, law and design students exploring new housing ideas. Staff, a graduate student in business, said his stints living on a boat and in an Airstream trailer inspired him to help spread the tiny house movement. “Small spaces force you out into the world, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.”

Plus, Zipcar recently released a video about Getaway:

Getaway Launch Roundup

The first major project out of the Millennial Housing Lab —
Getaway, which builds tiny houses, places them on beautiful rural land and rent them by the night to city folkScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 10.57.31 AMs looking to escape the digital grind and test-drive tiny house living — had a great launch week. Here’s the press round-up:

  • The Boston Globe: “The first of its 8-by 20-foot homes, located in southern New Hampshire, is ready to rent. The second and third tiny houses are under construction.”
  • Fast Company Article 1: “There’s a huge gap between people who post stories to Facebook about living in tiny houses and people who actually live in one,” Davis says. “We want to add a rung to the ladder so people can ‘test drive’ a tiny house.”
  • Fast Company Article 2“”We’re making tiny houses accessible to people who otherwise can’t experience them,” says Jon Staff, CEO of Getaway, a company launched at Harvard’s Innovation Lab. The company recently opened its first 160-square foot, off-grid tiny house in the woods near Boston, and will soon add more.”
  • Boston.com““We build it all in East Boston,” Staff said. “Then I get in a truck and drive them and we put them on beautiful land out of sight of any house. The first one has been completed and moved to Southern New Hampshire up on a hill.””
  • Treehugger: “The tiny house movement has mostly been ad-hoc, driven by people who for various reasons wanted to break away from the standard routine: get a job, get a mortgage, get a house. It is becoming less ad-hoc all the time as more people look at it as a real alternative model. Many of those are millennials who “trading stability for experience” either through choice or necessity. And now there is the Millenial Housing Lab looking at the problems they face. Founded by Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School and Harvard Design School students it is looking at the problems of housing a generation without stability.”
  • LifeEdited: “Both its modern interior and exterior are clad with attractive rough cut pine. The interior features built in furniture such as a table that doubles as a window cover and two built-in beds, giving the place capacity to sleep four. All electricity is solar, the toilet is composting and water is handled via a 110 gallon water tank that is refilled via the host house the tiny house shares its land with. Bookings also include fresh linens and available “provisions”–a sort of backwoods mini bar with things like coffee, trail mix, pasta, etc (these cost extra).”
  • Curbed: “Another day, another ravishing, eco-friendly, or otherwise fabulous tiny house hits the Internet, and you’re left to wonder: Can I really live in something like this? Without readily-available resources to research and build a micro home or just the sheer willpower to leave behind everything you thought you knew about a “home,” the burgeoning tiny house movement is a tough trend to get in on. But this tricky place between tiny dreamin’ and actual tiny livin’ is where Getaway, a new startup coming out of Harvard University, wants to wedge into.”
  • Boston Business Journal: “Staff said Getaway will build at least three tiny homes in the short-term, but the hope is to build at least 12 over the next year and expand to other places around the country. The homes are all designed by Harvard students and have a composting toilet, solar electricity and propane heat — among other basics.”

If you are Boston area resident interested in booking a Getaway — or hoping to request Getaway to come to your town — check out www.Getaway.house.  As always, if you are interested in getting involved with Getaway or the Millennial Housing Lab generally, please get in touch.  We’ve got many projects cooking — a project to legalize tiny houses, an attempt to build a tiny house village (4-5 houses on one lot) in a city, and an effort to see how tiny houses can help homelessness — so I’m really looking forward to what comes of all this in the coming year.

Civic Creativity talk featured in the Falls Church News-Press

I recently gave a talk to the Falls Church League of Women Voters entitled “Civic Creativity: Beyond Civic Engagement Finger Wagging.”  Here’s the original News-Press feature plugging it:

The League of Women Voters is hosting a forum called “Civic Creativity: Beyond Civic Engagement Finger-Wagging,” next Sunday, April 19, from 3 – 4:30 p.m. at the Falls Church Community Center. Pete Davis, co-founder of Our Common Place of Falls Church, will start the program with a presentation, which will be followed by a discussion about how civic engagement can be improved in response to the realities of contemporary life.

Davis’ organization, Our Common Place of Falls Church, is “a community web platform that is designed to make it easier for Falls Church residents to share and connect with each other,” according to a press release from the League of Women Voters about the forum. “American civic life is in crisis,” the press release said.

“Our civic infrastructure—from civic education in schools to our organizational structures, from our way of talking about politics to our local government’s methods of engaging citizens—is due for an upgrade. This event is designed to move beyond complaining about the decline in civic life to laying the groundwork for its revitalization.” For more information, visit lwvfallschurch.org.

And here’s the follow up:

Peter Davis, a 2008 George Mason High School graduate who will be entering Harvard Law School this fall, made a stimulating presentation to a gathering hosted by the Falls Church League of Women Voters at the Community Center Sunday that argued for a new “Progressive Era” like the one the U.S. experienced in reaction to its first “Gilded Age” in the late 19th century.

The nation is suffering a “new gilded age” now he said, and a form of civic engagement and activism is called for that goes beyond “flipswitch” politics – where a single issue is agitated for and then changed – to a more organic, community-based efforts at reform. Politics are now run by managers as mass spectacles, he said, where the public is alienated from its government that becomes more like an impersonal vending machine. “Wagging fingers doesn’t work” to fix this, he said. But instead “successful alternatives are the best protest,” achieved through the systematic public learning of civic creativity through new institutions dedicated to that purpose.

The goal is to achieve projects, not just back candidates: that was the model operative in the first “Progressive Era,” he said.

I will be posting a version of this speech on this site in the not-so-distant future.

RedAlert covers StrongReturns

RedAlert Politics ran a great story on StrongReturns.org, our Millennial Prison Reform organization:

The two men are behind Strong Returns, a project that aims to make prison reform “the” millennial issue in 2016. They are eager to hear about Smith’s experience with his local drug court, an alternative to incarceration. They’re both taking their “gap year” between their college graduation and law school to promote the effort.

So instead of writing white papers and lobbying Congress, they tour colleges and share stories. This time, it’s at Washington and Lee, a small, private university in west-central Virginia with under 2,000 students. As with any other campus they visit, Davis and Johnston begin recruiting student volunteers with the intent of having them help interview people like Smith, a man with first-hand experience of the broken prison system.

They spend hours interviewing these people, unpacking their pasts and picking their brains on how to improve the system. With their volunteers’ help, they later condense it all into short video presentations, which they put on for the school at-large. Storytelling, and its ability to go viral and drive politics, is a crucial aspect of the project’s vision.

“Connecting prisons and campuses. We think that’s where the magic happens,” says Davis.

Why prison reform? According to Davis, there’s both a moral and a political argument for choosing this particular battle.

“The moral side is, if you care about any of the major issues that you’re called upon in most religious and moral systems to care about—poverty, violence, families being ripped apart—you’ll find that the system that touches all of them and that has a hand in all of them…is the prison system.”

As for politics at the national level, Davis argues that the issue bridges the partisan gap. “It’s a left-right issue. Nothing else is going to pass in Washington except for this.”

The video they reference in the article — one we made with Bill Smith of Virginia — is here:

Harvard Thinks Big 5 & 6

Harvard Thinks Big, the Harvard event we founded that brings together all-star professors for one night to share their big ideas, has reached its sixth year. The Crimson had a good rundown.  Open Culture had a piece on Harvard Thinks Big 5 with each video from the event.  Here’s the Harvard Thinks Big youtube playlist:

Plus, here’s the link if you’re interested in following Harvard Thinks Big on iTunes.

StrongReturns.org featured in The Marshall Project

StrongReturns.org, our effort to make prison reform the millennial generation’s issue in the 2016 elections, was featured in The Marshall Project, the new criminal justice journalism effort led by former New York Times editor Bill Keller:

Instead of spending their gap year zip-lining in Costa Rica or rail-passing across Europe, Scott Johnston and Pete Davis have decided to spend the year between their Harvard graduation and law school mobilizing students in support of prison reform. Using small grants from the Ford Foundation and other benefactors, the pair plans to visit ten campuses in the deep South to recruit “student ambassadors,” to stage events where former prisoners talk about the obstacles they faced returning to freedom, to create a Story-Corps-style bank of incarceration stories, and to build a “millennial prison reform agenda” for 2016. They held their first campus event last month at Georgetown University.

Here’s our StrongReturns.org strategy, as of now:

Millennials need to start sharing stories about the prison system and the prison reform movement. These stories start with authentic encounters with the prison system, are amplified through storytelling over campus networks, and can be weaved together into a Millennial Prison Reform Agenda worth pushing for in 2016. To help, we are launching a nationwide Millennial Prison Reform Network to connect young prison reform activists across the country.