685 Harvard Business School women ‘disavow’ fellow grad Steve Bannon

— Women graduates of Harvard Business School heartily disapprove of fellow alum Steve Bannon.

Bannon, who President-elect Donald Trump has tapped as his chief strategist and senior counselor, is the former executive chairman of Brietbart News and a Harvard Business School graduate.

Now 685 women and counting, all alumnae and current HBS students, have signed an anti-Bannon letter organized by 2015 graduate Lauren Rourke, 29.

“While we do not always agree on politics, we can agree on this: We unequivocally disavow the appointment of our fellow Harvard Business School alumnus, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Trump,” the letter reads.

Bannon presided over Brietbart before taking leave to join the Trump campaign as its CEO in August.

Among headlines published on the site, “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?”

In the letter, the women write that Bannon has been “described as one of the chief architects of the alt-right movement, a movement that preaches white nationalism, racism, misogyny and hatred.”

They call on Trump to use his power to appoint unifying figures: “We believe that women in the highest positions of power have an obligation to ensure that the mistreatment of women is not blindly accepted and condoned — to use our voice, and our power, to combat the legitimization of hate.”

The letter also calls on Harvard Business School to condemn Bannon.

“We are a community that respects debate but it’s debate that has to be done respectfully,” Rourke said. “When an alumni is personally and viciously attacking women and other alums, it is HBS’ responsibility to say something.”

The letter was published in the New York Times’ opinion section on Friday afternoon.

“Our institution has had the honor of being associated with great American politicians and leaders,” the letter states. “Steve Bannon does not deserve a place alongside them on the mantle of Harvard Business School’s legacy.”

Rourke said the women who’ve signed it so far span about 35 different HBS classes. And, it’s piqued the interest of HBS men. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests from male classmates who were interested in signing, too,” Rourke added.

An email to the Trump transition team seeking comment from Bannon was not immediately replied to.

Get money back for medical billing errors

— A bill for a pregnancy test when the patient’s a man. Or a bill for a penile implant when the patient is a woman.

These are just two of the ironic billing mistakes that a startup called Remedy said it’s discovered.

“Even absurdly obvious errors can go undetected by customers,” CEO Victor Echevarria told CNNMoney.

Mistakes like these were virtually invisible to the customers who didn’t see an itemized billing receipt.

Remedy, which opens up to the public on Thursday, wants to put money back into the pockets of patients who’ve been incorrectly billed by doctors.

Anyone can sign up for the service for free on Remedy’s website. Customers select their insurance provider (or indicate if they don’t have one) and authorize the startup to access their accounts. From there, Remedy will screen your medical, dental and vision bills. Echevarria said people can opt out of sharing bills from certain doctors if they’d like.

Remedy, which requests itemized bills on behalf of patients, detects mistakes using a mix of automation technology and human medical experts. It works with doctors directly to fix any errors. It can take anywhere from 12 hours to 2 months to resolve a billing case, said Echevarria.

If customers get money back, Remedy will take a 20% cut of what it recovers (with a limit of $99 on any particular bill).

The company estimates that patients spend a combined $120 billion as a result of billing errors every year.

These errors aren’t lightening the load for many Americans, who are struggling to pay their doctors’ bills. According to a recent study, 20% of working, insured Americans have had problems paying their medical bills in the past year. That climbs to 53% with those who are uninsured.

“A key learning we’ve had [so far] is that there are errors everywhere,” Echevarria said, noting that they’ve helped “hundreds” of customers get money back so far. “It’s not just in $15,000 hospital bills, it is in $20 copays and $50 lab bills. Every bill matters. That’s real money for some people in this country.”

Echevarria said he even tasked Remedy with his own astronomical bills after his then 8-month old son ran a 104 fever and had to be rushed to the hospital.

“The medical bills started rolling in. I was three weeks into doing Remedy. $12,000 went completely to zero,” he said, noting errors they were able to detect like a doctor misspelling his name on a claim form and an incorrectly assigned medical code. “It was everything from the mundane to the super complicated.”

While the service isn’t a covered entity under HIPAA, the company said it treats data as if it was. Still, there’s always a risk with sharing confidential information online, as was seen when hackers stole the medical data of dozens of Olympic athletes.

The company has some big name backers betting on it, including Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Honest Company’s Brian Lee, Haystack’s Semil Shah and Precursor’s Charles Hudson, who have poured $1.9 million into the company to date.

Stanford students demand more diverse faculty

— A group of Stanford students wants the faculty to look a little bit more like them. That is, more diverse.

Stanford’s undergraduate student body is 42.5% white. Its faculty, on the other hand, is 73% white. The faculty is 73% male — but nearly half of the students are female.

The students have formed a coalition, Who’s Teaching Us?, to start demanding visible change.

They’ve spent nearly two years mustering up grassroots support — which started after Stephen Hong Sohn, an English professor, was denied tenure in the spring of 2014.

“He was a vital mentor in the Asian American community,” said 21-year-old Jazlyn Patricio-Archer, a senior urban studies major.

Patricio-Archer, who is half-white and half-Filipino, is one of the driving forces behind Who’s Teaching Us?.

“People started to realize there’s a huge problem in the retention of faculty of color and other marginalized professors,” she said.

Students banded together in the way they knew how: research. They took one-on-one meetings with faculty and held a town hall meeting in the fall of 2014 to solicit stories from students and faculty about their experiences at the university.

Jonathan Fisk, another member of Who’s Teaching Us?, said the lack of diversity in the Earth Sciences department — his major — can impact the subject matter.

“On multiple occasions, eugenics gets brought up as a popular explanation for population growth,” said 22-year-old Fisk, who identifies as mixed race. “To any person of color in that class — which I know because I literally talk to everyone — we were all horribly offended.”

The coalition — which has more than 100 members — sent the administration a letter on March 14 with a list of 25 demands.

They want the administration to establish cultural humility training for all faculty by September 21. They’ve asked that Stanford divest in prisons (Columbia University was the first to do so in June 2015). They want the departments to be required to publicly release tenure data — broken out by ethnicity. They also want a transparent tenure process that explicitly values what faculty of color brings to students, like mentorship.

“We need the university do more, to do better, the letter read. “Our desire to better our university stems from our sincere respect and love for it.”

This “do better” request echos a sentiment that many have expressed about Silicon Valley, which is also struggling to move the needle when it comes to diversity.

Lisa Lapin, associate vice president of university communications, told CNNMoney that as of December 2015, the percent of female faculty members has slightly improved — from 27% to 28%. She said it’s important to look at faculty by rank. The fact that 39% of assistant professors are women shows that “our many programs to improve diversity are indeed working.”

After receiving the list of demands, the administration responded that many of the issues are also of “great concern” to the university.

It set up six tasks forces — covering everything from university curriculum to residential life — with faculty and students assigned to each.

President John L. Hennessy responded to the student coalition on March 28.

“Many of the issues you have identified are complex in nature and must be addressed through detailed analysis and thoughtful discussion,” wrote Hennessy.

In the meantime, the coalition is continuing to rally support among students. On Friday, the group expects more than 200 students to attend their Pack the NACC event, wearing black, to show support for their initiative. They’ve also started a Change.org petition. “We are committed to working with the administration,” added Patricio-Archer.

Black entrepreneur to investors: ‘Stop pretending like race isn’t an issue’

By every measure, Matt Joseph’s resume points to an incredible pedigree. He went to Princeton and earned his JD and MBA from UCLA.

His startup Locent — a text marketing service for brands — is backed by Y Combinator, an elite network for entrepreneurs and their businesses.

He’s also black.

And Joseph says that his race was the elephant in the room when he met with dozens of potential investors in recent weeks.

“I felt throughout this process that I was not being given the respect that I know other [founders] were,” Joseph, 27, told CNNMoney. He detailed his experiences in a series of 30 tweets on Twitter this weekend, followed by a post on Facebook.

Joseph calls out the practice of “pattern matching,” when investors look for entrepreneurs who remind them of prior successes. They might be looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg, for example. And, for now, those success stories tend to be white men. “I don’t look like Zuck,” Joseph tweeted.

For Joseph, it meant being compared to athletes and rappers. During one meeting, an investor brought up Nas, the rapper turned venture capitalist. “Not exactly what you want to hear,” said Joseph. “I wasn’t being compared to other entrepreneurs.”

“I always put my business first. But let’s stop pretending like race isn’t an issue. Subconscious bias is just as damaging as overt bias,” he tweeted.

Joseph said his goal was to shine a spotlight on what it’s like for minorities to raise money in Silicon Valley — and also to head off similar conversations with future investors. Joseph is gearing up to pitch his startup to investors at Y Combinator’s Demo Day in Mountain View this week.

Joseph, based in Santa Monica, said he has raised $750,000 to date, and that investors tend to “rid their guilt” by investing in black founders who address problems in the black community like beauty products for ethnic hair.

While those products and services may be important, Joseph said black entrepreneurs shouldn’t be limited to those areas. “It marginalizes us,” he said.

It also doesn’t help that there are so few black investors. A recent look by investor Richard Kerby found that out of more than 1,500 investors, just 2% were black.

Joseph said some investors might be turned off by his comments this weekend. But he thinks others will be drawn in. He pointed to investor Matt Volpe, who responded by pledging to write him a check.

“Some of the investors I’ve talked to have reached back out to me,” he said. “They want to talk more. It’s awkward. You [already] had a chance to not be that way.”

Joseph said many black founders reached out to thank him for giving voice to experiences they’ve had.

Joseph, who was born in Trinidad but grew up in Kentucky, said he long believed that he could ignore his feelings. But now he thinks he needs to speak out if he wants attitudes and business practices to change.

“Please, don’t sweep race under the rug when you meet me,” read one tweet. “Talk to me about it. It’ll help you understand why I’m going to succeed.”

This app has helped millennials save $25 million

— Investors — and millennials — are nuts about Acorns.

Acorns is a new investment app that lets people automatically invest spare change from debit and credit card purchases.

On Wednesday, the eight-month old app announced that it banked $23 million in its third round of funding. The new round comes from investors including venture capital firms Greycroft and e.ventures and brings its funding total to $32 million.

It has 650,000 members who are mostly millennials. So far, they’ve saved a combined $25 million since the app launched in August. Not too shabby for an audience that is known to be gun shy about investing.

“People generally associate investing with lots of dollars,” said Jeff Cruttenden, co-founder and CEO of Acorns. “Once [people] find out that you can invest spare change, it’s a really attractive concept.”

Acorns connects to a debit or credit card to “round up” the spare change to the next dollar on all purchases. Once the roundups reach $5, it withdraws the money and invests in a personalized stock portfolio.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harry Markowitz helped Acorns devise its system to personalize a portfolio composed of index funds like real estate stocks and corporate bonds. Users answer basic questions about investment goals and risk preferences, which determine where their change goes.

There’s also an option to manually invest roundups for those willing to put in the time.

Cruttenden, 28, came up with the idea for the business in 2011 while he was a student in Portland, Oregon.

“So many of my friends talked about investing all the time, [but] they literally had nothing,” he said.

Acorns not only eliminates the guesswork in picking funds but it also doesn’t charge a commission. And users can cancel their account at any time. It does, however, take a $1 per month fee on accounts under $5,000 — and .25% per year on accounts over that amount.

Cruttenden founded the company with his father, Walter, in 2012 but it took a couple years to get the app up and running.

Acorns, which is based in Newport Beach, Calif., and counts 77 employees, has had a lot of traction among its members during its short lifespan. On average, customers are putting $100 per month into investment funds.

Acorns also lets users make larger investments.

“The majority do take that opportunity to invest outside of the ’round ups’,” said Cruttenden.

With the funding, Acorns plans to roll out a desktop version and expand globally. It is currently only available in the U.S.

“Our goal is to create as many investors as possible,” added Cruttenden.

Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated the percent Acorns takes on accounts over $5,000.


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Hobby Lobby ruling won’t actually impact small biz

— For the vast majority of small business owners, the hotly debated Hobby Lobby ruling will have no direct impact.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that “closely-held” for-profit corporations (those that are majority owned by five or fewer people) can be granted religious exemptions from certain contraceptive coverage (IUDs, diaphragms, the morning-after pill) required under the Affordable Care Act.

Hobby Lobby is by no means a small business — it has nearly 600 stores and some 13,000 employees. But the Supreme Court’s description of “closely held” companies calls into question how far the ruling might extend.

Seventy-eight percent of small businesses are family-owned, according to LIMBRA, an insurance trade research firm — but only 2% of small businesses have 50 or more employees. This is key to the Hobby Lobby decision because any business with fewer than fifty employees is already exempted from the health insurance mandate under the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Of that 2%, businesses would have to prove a “sincere” religious belief in order to be exempt. While it’s unclear how the sincerity will be tested (or how many businesses might make this claim), it’s unlikely to be in most companies’ best interests to go that route.

The actual cost of the contraception to employers is relatively minimal. According to 2011 report from the Actuarial Research Corporation (which used data from 2010) the corporation’s estimated annual cost, as part of an insurance plan, is $26 per enrolled female. This amount includes all contraception, like standard birth control pills, which was not disputed in the Hobby Lobby case.

“From a purely economic perspective, [unintended pregnancies are] going to cost me and my insurance provider a lot more than birth control costs,” said Jim Houser, owner of Hawethorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Ore., and executive board member of the Main Street Alliance.

He employs eleven workers — four of whom are women — and provides them with complete coverage despite not being legally obligated to do so.

“But, that’s not my decision to make,” added Houser. “Businesses have absolutely no business being involved in the personal relationships of any employee — especially with a woman and her doctor.”

Houser isn’t the only one questioning the Supreme Court’s decision. Laurie Sobel, senior policy analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered by the Department of Health & Human Services: How will the new exemption be enforced? Will companies self-certify (as nonprofits do) or will there be some sort of test to determine the sincerity of a company’s religious beliefs?

There are also serious concerns about what this might mean for businesses that object to other aspects of health coverage. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg raised many of them in her vehement opposition.

“Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations ?” she wrote.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” Ginsberg added.