How Kylie Jenner Became The Youngest Self-Made (Almost) Billionaire (And How You Can Copy Her)

Kylie Jenner is clearly at the top of her game right now. She is set to be the youngest self-made billionaire ever, and her fans have even started a crowdsourcing campaign to make sure that she hits the target. Whether you love Kylie or you hate her, you have to give her credit for a few key business decisions.

She Runs A Tight Ship

When it comes to running a business, Kylie knows her strengths and weaknesses and increases her bottom line by outsourcing tasks that she isn’t proficient at. Her company only has 7 full-time employees and 5 part-timers. That’s remarkable.  Given the amount of product they sell, produce, and fulfill every day, how is that possible? 
 

They outsource their production to Seed Beauty, a private-label producer in Oxnard, California. Their sales and fulfillment are outsourced to Shopify. Financial and public relations, she hands over to her mom Kris. So basically, all that’s left to do is promote the business through social media and watch her net worth grow. Because she has made her role so clear she is able to give her best attention to it and do it extraordinarily well.
 

Want to take a page from Kylie’s book? Begin by looking at your own systems and processes and look at where you can automate or outsource. Building strong internal controls is not about you, the business owner, being in control, but rather enhancing and giving control to your business. Which Kylie does beautifully. 
 

Here are a few places you can set up controls for your business:

  • Negotiating parameters for your purchasing team

  • Approvals process for all sales exceptions

  • Standardized sales paperwork and contracts

  • Sales scripting

  • Limited / segmented access to company database of prospects and clients

  • Master marketing calendar

  • Lead-generation scoreboard

  • Automated marketing e-mail sequences

  • Standardized sales collateral

Sample Operational Controls

  • Operating budgets

Sample Financial Controls

  • Cash registers

Collectively, your systems, team, and controls are what allow you to successfully scale your company. 

She Leverages Her Strengths 

Kylie understands social media more than most. With 111 million followers on Instagram and 25 million more on Twitter, she is able to tap into that fan base to sell her products. She spends her time taking pouty selfies and making emotional connections with her young female fans. They want to “live like a Kardashian” and have brand loyalty to her makeup line. 
 

Don’t have several million fans chomping at the bit for your next product? No worries! You can still create an emotional connection with your customer base to leverage your business. 
 

Begin with the following exercise: What are the top three brand emotions that you want your market to experience after every interaction with you?
 

Understanding that people take symbolic slivers of their experience and inductively expand what they mean by generalizing outward, you can intentionally design your market’s interactions with your business to increase the odds that they’ll feel your brand emotions.  Brainstorm how could your company design into your customer experience the pieces needed to increase the odds that your customer feels your brand emotions.
 

So, if you are looking to take your business to the next level take a page from Kylie’s book and focus on getting your systems and controls in order and your brand emotions on point.

3 Ways to Win in All of Your Negotiations

The 2018 World Cup ended on Sunday with a ritual that should happen at the end of every game: a show of good sportsmanship. Both teams lined up and congratulated each other on a thrilling, six goal match. Happy or upset, players from France and Croatia showed respect for one another. They modeled how to win and how to lose with humility and dignity.

The teams knew from the start there would be only one winner. When the players return home they will reflect on how prepared they were and how well they played the game, not only the outcome of winning or losing. There is a lesson here that you can apply to negotiation. You may lose a negotiation if you only consider the outcomes, but the effort you put into preparation and how you behaved during the negotiation can still declare you a winner.

There are goals you set before negotiating and measures that determine whether you were successful. In most cases, the outcomes you strive for are tangible. It is easy to see if you won or lost. But there are also ways you can come out winning, even if you don’t reach your stated goals.

Try these three approaches in your next negotiation and you’ll succeed, win or lose:

1. Prepare, Prepare and Persevere

Malcolm Gladwell coined the expression the “10,000 hour rule.” He is referring to the discipline of putting in the effort to practice 20 hours per week for 10 years (10,000 hours) to be successful. You may or may not see an improvement from day to day, but over the span of a career you’ll see success.

Similarly, you need time and effort to prepare for your negotiations. You need the discipline of preparation even if you think you know enough to get by. You need to clarify your goals and identify the desired outcomes for you and the other party. You need to continuously hone your skills through practice because no two negotiations are exactly alike and you want to be ready for whatever comes your way.

2. Treat the other party how you would like to be treated.

Imagine a negotiation where you’re meeting with your opponent. With time, you may end up on the same team. Or more likely, at some point you may need them to help you. The negotiation needs to be focused on the issues that you define. It’s about finding a way to come to an agreement that, at best, you both want and. at a minimum, you can live with. It is not about attacking or demeaning the other person.

We live in a big world that’s really very small. This may sound like a contradiction, but in your networked world of work and life you are bound to meet the person again. She can be in the same office, a potential client, or knows someone who knows you. Think about how you want to be remembered, as a sore loser or a humble winner? Your behavior speaks louder than your words and that is what leaves an indelible impression.

3. Give it your best effort every single time.

Psychologist Carol Dweck talks about having a growth mindset and using effort to achieve your goals. You are able to change your mindset, according to Dweck. You can apply this to negotiation by measuring the quality of your performance and not simply the outcomes you achieved as a result.

You may aspire to win your negotiation and achieve the ideal outcome. But this takes time, practice and skills to increase the likelihood of success. Setting performance goals for your negotiation will give you a new way to frame your growth and success. Even if you don’t achieve what you set out to accomplish, you can re-frame the perceived failure and instead focus on the progress you’ve made. This will help motivate you to continue trying and persevering as you get closer to reaching your goals.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 Costs Over $1,000

We know almost everything about the Galaxy Note 9. While it has problems, the good news is all Samsung’s best changes are about making things bigger. That is, until now…

Polish tech site SpiderWeb has discovered the cost of the Galaxy Note 9 and it confirms bigger is not always better because Samsung is planning a sizeable price increase.  

Galaxy Note 9 concept proved too ambitiousyoutube.com/DBSDESIGNING

In its home country, SpiderWeb cites both a local source and a Samsung representative as saying the Galaxy Note 9 will cost PLN 4,299 ($1,159) at launch. This compares to PLN 3,800 ($1,024) for the Galaxy Note 8.

For context, phones in Europe are typically more expensive than in the US but often only because their prices include sales tax. As such it is hard to see Samsung not pushing the $950 Galaxy Note 8 launch price beyond $1,000 for the Galaxy Note 9 launch Stateside.

This is a figure which has the potential to cause problems both for consumers and Samsung alike.

For consumers, the problem is the Galaxy Note 9 is not like other handsets. Millions are wedded to the Note series’ S Pen and the tightly integrated productivity software which goes with it. There simply isn’t another phone on the market like a Galaxy Note, which provides Samsung with an almost unique level of lock-in for an Android phone.

Or does it?

Is the leaked Galaxy Note 9 final design exciting enough to justify the increased asking price?OnLeaks, 91Mobiles

For Samsung the issue is Apple. Because, unlike Samsung, Apple actually plans to slash new iPhone prices substantially this year. In addition to this, Apple will introduce its largest ever iPhone – the iPhone X Plus at a massive 6.5-inches. This finally gives Samsung an iPhone rival which can offer a display size to tempt users away.

Yes, the iPhone X Plus will still lack an integrated stylus but compatibility is expected with the Apple Pencil and Apple’s phone may well cost less. A move which upturns the usual order of things.  

As such Samsung is taking a significant risk with the Galaxy Note 9. Especially with the company already dropping hints that the real-game changer with its all-new Galaxy S10 early next year.

Looking for a bright side? Samsung will charge $2,000 for a revolutionary phone in 2019. So it could be worse…

___

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Samsung’s Radical Galaxy Smartphone Costs $2,000

Samsung’s Galaxy X And Galaxy S10 Plans Revealed

TV streaming services overtake pay-TV in Britain: Ofcom

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of Britons subscribing to TV services like Netflix, Amazon and Sky’s NOW TV, has overtaken traditional satellite and cable TV for the first time, media regulator Ofcom said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is pictured on a television in this illustration photograph taken in Encinitas, California, U.S., January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The shift in the way TV content is consumed caused the amount of revenue generated from pay-TV to fall for the first time after years of sustained growth, the research found.

Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV attracted 15.4 million subscribers in the first quarter, ahead of 15.1 million pay-TV contracts, Ofcom said citing BARB Establishment Survey data.

But traditional pay-TV, such as Virgin Media’s cable and Sky’s satellite services, still generated significantly more revenue than video-on-demand subscriptions.

Pay-TV subscription revenue of 6.4 billion pounds in 2017 was down 2.7 percent year-on-year, but still well ahead of the 895 million pounds generated by video streaming services, according to Ofcom’s calculations.

Sky, Britain’s biggest pay-TV company that is at the center of a bidding battle between U.S groups 21st Century Fox and Comcast, launched its NOW TV service in 2012, aimed at customers who did not want to be tied to a traditional contract.

Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White said the rapid change in what we watch and how we watch had profound implications for the UK television industry.

“We have seen a decline in revenues for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programs by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants,” she said. “These challenges cannot be underestimated.

“But UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change. By making the best British programs and working together to reach people who are turning away from TV, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age.”

The amount of time spent watching broadcast television on a TV set continued to decline, Ofcom said in its Media Nations: UK report, standing at 3 hours 22 minutes a day, down nine minutes on 2016 and 38 minutes since 2012.

More content is being watched on mobile devices, with 16-34 year olds leading the charge, Ofcom said. Less than half of younger people’s total daily viewing of 4 hours 48 minutes went to broadcast content, while they spent just under an hour a day watching video on YouTube.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Star Wars News: Look Out for Billy Dee Williams in 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

With Solo in the rearview mirror and no animated series on the air, all the eyes watching Lucasfilm are turning towards Star Wars: Episode IX, which—even though it’s a year and a half away—is already getting people talking, thanks to a couple of pieces of casting news and a surprising fan theory that’s getting a lot of traction. It might be a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away, but turns out that Star Wars is all around us, all the time.

Episode IX Signs Up a Fake American

The Source: Hollywood trade paper Variety

Probability of Accuracy: We won’t know for sure until Lucasfilm confirms it, but let’s go with “very probable.”

The Real Deal: Things are apparently moving along on the next Star Wars installment, with Variety reporting that Keri Russell—formerly of The Americans and, as many have pointed out, Episode IX director J.J. Abrams’ Felicity—has signed on to appear in the movie. Quite who she’s going to play is, of course, a complete mystery at this point, but that’s half the fun of Star Wars casting announcements: The fan theorizing that will spring up over the next few months before real information starts appearing. Just don’t believe anyone who says that Russell will play a reincarnated Princess Leia; they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.

Another Original Trilogy Cast Member Returns For Episode IX

The Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Probability of Accuracy: Again, until Lucasfilm says so, it’s not 100 percent, but really, it’s like 99 percent.

The Real Deal: While we’re talking about Episode IX casting, The Hollywood Reporter followed up on some recent rumors and reported that, yes, Billy Dee Williams will in fact be returning to the franchise to play Lando Calrissian in the next movie. This is still unconfirmed by Lucasfilm, but once it’s shown up in the trades, it’s all-but-guaranteed. Williams’ return has been anticipated by fans for some time, especially following Donald Glover’s debut as the young Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story; Williams had already revived the character for videogames and animation—he voiced two episodes of Star Wars Rebels, and appeared a number of times in Lego Star Wars animated projects—but, let’s be honest: Won’t it be good to see the old rogue on the big screen one more time?

Will Episode IX Return to a Familiar Place?

The Source: Fan speculation based on a shooting location

Probability of Accuracy: This one’s a bit of a stretch, but not necessarily too much of one.

The Real Deal: It’s not only who’ll be appearing in the new movie; fans are already paying attention to where the movie will be shot. Specifically, they’re noticing that Cardington Sheds, a location from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that recreated the temple from the original Star Wars, is being used for the new movie, leading some to wonder whether there’s going to be a return to that location in the final chapter in the saga. Well, The Last Jedi did see the Resistance revisit old haunts in an attempt to find safe haven from the First Order… (Wait, is this how Lando would come back into the narrative? Is the Resistance going to go back to Bespin in the next movie?)

Could Han Solo Make a Triumphant Return in Episode IX?

The Source: A fan theory based a close reading of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Probability of Accuracy: While not impossible, this seems pretty unlikely.

The Real Deal: What if Han Solo… just didn’t actually die in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? That’s a theory advanced by Nerdist writer Donna Dickens, who suggested that, just because we saw Han stabbed and plunged into a seemingly bottomless pit, it doesn’t mean that he’s actually dead. Indeed, she argues, because Starkiller Base uses dark matter to power its weapons—as defined in The Force Awakens novelization, which is canon—then, “regardless of origin, Han Solo definitely fell to his alleged death inside a weapon that punches holes in space and time. That leaves open a lot of possibilities.” This theory holds some kind of water—let’s not forget that Luke Skywalker was also injured via lightsaber and fell down a well in The Empire Strikes Back, only to survive—but at this stage, how likely is it that Harrison Ford would return for one final movie that undoes what most consider to be a perfect exit two movies earlier? Then again, the next Indiana Jones movie has been delayed for mysterious reasons…

Star Wars Fandom Eats Itself

The Source: The damned internet

Probability of Accuracy: Sadly, this seems pretty on point.

The Real Deal: To say that Star Wars fandom has been active lately is putting it mildly. As trolls and those who follow their lead continue to complain about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and proclaim the imminent end of the franchise, Rian Johnson is tweeting about Gamergate and James Mangold—rumored to be directing a standalone Boba Fett movie, although he’s hinting otherwise—is also posting about the perils of fan backlash, writing that “work writing & directing big franchises has become the emotionally loaded equivalent of writing a new chapter of The Bible” and suggesting that “a lot of bolder minds r gonna leave these films 2 hacks & [corporate] boards.” That didn’t stop the trolls from going after Star Wars Show host Andi Gutierrez for a three-year-old photograph of her drinking out of a cup marked “Fanboy Tears,” which was seen as “proof” that there is an agenda to upset fans at Lucasfilm. The latest push was incited by podcast Rebel Force Radio, and response was swift: In addition to fans defending Gutierrez, the podcast’s Twitter page disappeared and the show was removed from StarWars.com’s fan directory. Will any of this be enough to make fandom reassess its current attitude? Probably not, but there’s hope…


More Great WIRED Stories

Best Prime Day 2018 Deals: Echo, Kindle, Fire, Cloud Cam

Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers are rarely expensive (unless you opt for the premium Kindle Oasis). They’re built to be affordable, and they’re as cheap as they’ll get this year for Amazon Prime Day 2018. We’ve compiled every decent deal on Amazon-branded devices going on right now, which also includes Cloud Cams and Fire TVs. Some of them are pretty deeply discounted. Many, possibly all, of these deals will end at 2:45 a.m. ET July 18.

Amazon has a Device Deals page with many of the deals, but we have them all organized below.

Echo & Alexa Speakers

Amazon Echo Show

Amazon

Read our WIRED Best Echo & Alexa Speakers guide for recommendations on which Amazon Echos we think are worth your hard-earned money. Our Best Smart Speakers guide has some Google speaker recommendations, as well. If you want to browse Amazon’s device deals for yourself, head over to its sale page.

Echo Deals

Fire HD Tablets

Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet

Amazon

We’re fans of some of Amazon’s Fire Tablets. The Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 are our two favorites, along with the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition (if you’re buying for a little one). Read more about all of Amazon’s tablets in our Which is the Best Fire Tablet? guide.

For most folks, the Fire HD 7 isn’t the best to buy because of its lower-quality screen, processing power, battery life, and camera. But it is also on sale this week and is dirt cheap, perfect for a kid. Amazon is also offering 3 months of its Kids FreeTime Unlimited for $3, which puts kid-friendly games, books, and TV shows on tap.

Fire Tablet Deals

Kindle e-Readers

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon

The Kindle Paperwhite is our favorite ebook reader. It gives you an easy-to-read backlit screen and incredible month-long battery life, but it’s not the only solid e-reader Amazon makes. You can read about every Kindle in the guide to Our Favorite Kindles.

If you do buy a Kindle from Amazon, check out Kindle Unlimited. It’s normally $10 a month, but during Prime Day you can get 3 months for $1. It lets you read unlimited books (and listen to Audible books) for that price. If you’re an avid reader, the math is in your favor.

Kindle Deals

Cloud Cams & Ring Door Cams

Amazon Cloud Cam

Amazon

The Amazon Cloud Cam allows you to monitor your home and do other things like allow Amazon delivery folks to enter your home. You can access video for the last 24 hours and it has features like night vision and two-way audio. To get more, Amazon has a subscription with features like person detection.

Cloud Cam Deals

Ring Doorbell Deals

Fire TVs

Amazon Fire TV 4K

Amazon

Amazon’s latest Fire TV supports hands-free Alexa and some advanced features like 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. The other Fire TVs are now just compact dongles for your TV, and easily tuck away without much hassle. The Fire TV 4K is one of our picks for the Best TV Streaming Devices.

Fire TV Deals

Dash Buttons

Amazon Dash Buttons

Amazon

All Dash Buttons are on sale for $1 instead of $5. They’re Amazon’s small little Wi-Fi enabled clickable buttons that you can stick around your house to easily re-order items. Each button is tied to a particular company. If you have, say, a particular type of laundry detergent you always buy, you could stick a Tide Dash Button on your laundry machine and tap it whenever you’re running low. It adds the Tide to your cart.

Other good uses might be for re-ordering diapers or Keurig K Cups. Just do us a favor and please don’t buy the Funyuns button if you hope to live a full, healthy life.

Amazon Prime Subscription Deals

These are deals above and beyond what Amazon normally offers for its various services.

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

Purchases Under $20 That Make a Significant Difference in Your Business

We were in a big group grabbing drinks when a man reached for his phone and realized he had 20% battery left. Having been in this situation many times myself, I felt for him. I walked over and offered him my extra charger. 

It was a small thing that made a huge difference, not just for this guy’s phone but also for my social capital. I was now the person who’d saved his phone. The charger cost me $20, but the relationship forged that night thanks to my charger led to many other priceless opportunities. 

It got me wondering what other items under $20 have unexpected business benefits I’d overlooked. Here’s what I found:

Aqua Notes for taking notes in the shower. 

Cognitive Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman’s famous 2014 “shower study” showed that “people report more creative inspiration in their showers than they do at work.”

Turns out, when you’re relaxed and undistracted, your best ideas “pop up” out of nowhere. Most of us forget our brilliant idea by the time we get out of the shower or (worse) cut our wonderful showers short in order to rush to our desk and write down our idea. 

Aqua Notes fixes that problem by letting you capture your ideas, literally, in the shower. It’s a waterproof notepad and pencil for all your brilliant shower thoughts. 

Greetabl for making customers and your team feel special. 

Greetabl is the world’s easiest way to make people feel valued. And, frankly – these boxes are fun. For under $20 you can surprise your staff, clients, colleagues, or customers with a custom box and surprise gift. 

It takes no time to put together and is a thoughtful way to show someone you appreciate them. There’s a place to put a personal note and a lot of ways to customize the gift, including the box design, images, and physical good inside. It’s like a kinder egg for adults. 

Last Past for sharing passwords without sharing passwords.

I was a late adopter to LastPass until a friend made a compelling argument for why any password keeper is better than no password keeper to protect against hacks. But turns out, that wasn’t the actual benefit. 

Aside from making it faster and more efficient to access the 200+ sites I have logins for (for real, I counted), LastPass made it easier to work with my team. If I need to give someone access to Zapier to fix up an automation for my virtual coworking space, for example, I can give them the login through LastPass, without ever sharing the actual username and password.

I feel safer and more protected and so does my team. They don’t have to worry about misplacing the passwords. And I can revoke access at any time. Worth every penny.

Dry Shampoo for the days you just don’t have time.

This one is more relevant to the ladies, but if you’ve ever needed to look professional in a rush, there is nothing better than dry shampoo. I was a dry shampoo skeptic until my aunt forced a ton of it in my hair after a particularly dreadful day of meetings, rain, and sweatiness. 

The result? It looked like I was showered and blow dried in a matter of minutes. I swear by the stuff now. It is a lifesaver if you have little time to make yourself presentable after a long day of work. 

I’m particularly grateful for it when I want to hit the gym, but don’t want the hassle of blow drying and straightening my hair in order to look professional later.  

Dry shampoo = life saver. 

Charge Cords because you always need to charge your phone. 

Today our phones are our computer and office, so keeping them powered (should be) a priority, yet, somehow we are constantly running out of battery. I’ve personally managed to break every charger I have and forget to charge every backup battery I get, which is why I’m obsessed with Charge Cords.

Charge Cords don’t break because they’re covered in “tangle-proof” fabric and you don’t have to charge them. You just have to remember to put them in your purse…And as I mentioned in the beginning, having a colorful charger on hand is a great way to meet new people and make friends. Someone always needs a charger.

Silver Siphon for sifting out those pesky Stripe fees 

Founder of SkyBlueBooks and expert on all things accounting, Tam Nguyen, introduced me to this one. For as little as $9/month Silver Siphon will literally “siphon” out the fees from Stripe so they’re properly accounted for in your books. It takes away having to do this all manually since it’s automated and syncs up nicely with Xero. 

If you have items under $20 that make your business run smoother, save you from headaches, and keep you sane, I want to hear about them! Tweet to @inc and@margoaaron and tell us what (under $20) purchases you swear by.

Here's How That Person With the Perfect Life is Different From the Rest of us

“Biohacking is the use of self-experimentation to upgrade your mind, body, and life. I’m a big believer in biohacking, and self-experiment daily to ensure I have the energy I need to run not only my business but to also have the energy I need to be active with my family every night. I believe in taking care of myself through exercise, nutrition and proper supplements, and biohacking has allowed me to find the right formula for myself and my life.”

–Russell Brunson, cofounder and CEO of ClickFunnels, an online sales and marketing software which in three years has helped over 300 business owners cross over the $1 million mark, with 18 of them continuing to scale to $10 million and beyond

“When running a small business, you must be purposeful. You have to change your mindset and realize that while it’s easier to say yes, it’s not a bad thing to say no. Each time you say yes, you’re also saying no to something else.”

–Will Holsworth, CEO of SAFE + FAIR, an allergy-friendly food company which has quadrupled its website traffic in the four months since launching its new platform

3. Get 30 minutes of quiet every morning.

“I set two alarms every morning. The first one isn’t to create a window of time to snooze, but to allow me 30 minutes of quiet time every morning. It’s the calm before the action. During this time I tackle my confidence level and insecurities. I meditate, pray or give myself a pep talk. I take a moment to be mentally aware of the thoughts in my mind that could potentially hold me back from my accomplishments for the day, and I work on tucking them far away. By the time the next alarm goes off, I usually feel less fragmented and very centered. Thirty minutes later the second alarm goes off, usually playing a song–a positive, upbeat song which signals that it’s go time! Time to conquer the day!”

–Andréa Richardson, leader of multicultural and diversity engagement across Hilton’s portfolio of more than 5,000 properties

4. Work out, then focus on family and work.

“I wake up by 5 a.m. to work out with a trainer before my boys wake up. Working out reduces stress and makes me a better mom and boss. I have breakfast with my kids and drive them to school to start our days together, and nearly every evening I make them a home-cooked dinner. I also find it’s important to make time for a one-hour clarity break during my work day to focus on the business.”

–Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, a national private duty home care and medical staffing franchise with more than 300 locations in 38 states 

5. Set goals the night before.

“Every evening, I spend a few minutes planning my goals for the following day. More than just a to-do list, I think about what I accomplished that day and what I need to get accomplished in the next few days. I then write out, by hand, all the people, processes and programs in which I want to invest time improving in the following day. The list doesn’t always get accomplished the next day, as a good leader needs to be flexible, but by committing them to paper, I’m able to prioritize my time and my goals.”

–Paul Koulogeorge, CMO of Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School, which is on track to open its 500th school in 2018

6. Unplug and work out first thing.

“I like to start my mornings at the gym. It is helpful for me to get up, be active and disconnect first thing when I wake up. It’s a rare-moment that I am not on my iPhone, checking emails, calling franchise partners, or making notes about new ideas for our guests to play at our parks. I learned early that missing my morning workouts left me with a lack of focus for the day ahead, so I’ve made it a daily practice to start my day off at the gym.”

–Jeff Platt, CEO of Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline and aerial park with over 200 franchises across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

7. Take the time to be personal.

“I start my day early, which means I’ll usually catch one or two employees before the work day technically ever starts. They’ll usually come in my office and we will talk about work, but it quickly turns into conversations about what’s going on in their lives and things much bigger than work. I really enjoy those talks and I think having a pulse on people’s personal lives helps me be a better boss, too. One habit I’ve gotten into and really held myself to is making rounds to say hi to everyone every morning. It’s a small gesture, but I think everyone enjoys the engagement and I want to feel as accessible as possible.

–Bart Silvestro, CEO of Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co., a jerky brand with profits which rose from more than $460,000 to $47.5 million in four years

8. Determine your workday rhythm.

“I get my best work done in the morning. After my husband Ted takes our boys to school or camp, I sit at my desk with a large mug of coffee and don’t stop working until 1 p.m. I keep meetings, calls, errands for afternoons, when my brain is less focused. And of course, evenings are family time, dinner with friends and oft-needed rest. Determining a workday rhythm that gives energy (vs. depletes energy) is a worthwhile exercise for everyone.”

–Molly Fienning, cofounder of Babiators, maker of sunglasses for babies and kids which has sold more than 2 million pairs worldwide

9. Utilize your calendar as a daily to-do list.

“I prefer to use my calendar as my to-do list. I not only have my conference calls and meetings on my calendar but I also put three to five of my top items on the calendar each day that I want and need to get done. I also schedule some sort of workout or yoga class because it’s a necessity for my mental wellbeing and keeps me performing at the top of my game.  Each evening I look back at my calendar for the day and feel very accomplished. This technique helps me keep moving forward throughout the day otherwise I’d get bogged down with mini fires and items that keep me in the weeds.”

–Danielle Dietz-LiVolsi, founder and CEO of NuttZo, a multi-nut and seed butter brand sold in more than 16 retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Costco and Sprouts

10. Build relationships with colleagues.

“One of the best habits I’ve gotten into is making sure that I walk around to connect with each member of our team as often as possible. I try to do it daily, and especially in the morning, because it’s a really nice way to start the day. It’s so important to me because our team is our greatest asset, and the best way I’ve found to show appreciation and gratitude is to take time to build relationships with my colleagues. Even though sometimes it might not feel productive to be talking about things outside of business, I think it’s some of the most valuable time I spend every day because it aligns us as a team and strengthens our culture.”

–Alex Bingham, president and CEO of The Little Gym International, a children’s enrichment and development franchise with 400 locations worldwide

11. Stop overthinking it.

“Once you make a decision, take action that moment. Write the letter, make the call, send the email. Show up in a bigger way than you ever have before, but don’t wait for the planets to align. Take action now and, by next week, your anxiety will start to dissipate because you are going for it. I am always so impressed by persistent people, whether they are getting the results they want or not. No matter what, if they keep pushing forward, the big break they are waiting for is just one step away. Why would you ever want to miss that opportunity?”

–Allison Maslan, serial entrepreneur who built 10 companies to seven-figure success and author of “Blast Off!: The Surefire Success Plan to Launch Your Dreams into Reality” and “Scale or Fail: How to Build Your Dream Team, Explode Your Growth, and Let Your Business Soar”

“It is so easy to immerse yourself in work that you forget to stand, stretch, and reset. Believe it or not this enables you to be more productive. I often get up check in with staff and take a lap around the office or the building if the weather permits. Also, I started wearing wrist and ankle weights. This helps keep me alert and ready for the day-to-day challenges, not to mention the additional calorie burning.”

–Julia Biancella Au, cofounder and CEO of removable wallpaper company Tempaper, which has seen average annual growth of about 34 percent each year since launching in 2008

13. Talk to people and get to know them.

“Unengaged employees are a company’s biggest liability. People will feel more positively about coming to work if they feel they can engage with the business and those around them. Therefore, take time out of your day to physically get up and start conversation with those around you. Each day, engage with employees and coworkers on a personal and professional level. This makes them feel valued, heard and understood, leading to that constructive engagement.”

–Mike Whalen, founder of Heart of American Group which employs more than 3,500 people across more than 40 restaurants, hotels and other retail; and CEO of Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, an expanding restaurant franchise with 15 locations across nine states

14. Look for inspiration.

“I work very hard to do things every day that inspire me. This includes walks in cities, architecture, restaurants, bars, cars, stores, magazines, and mostly just working. I love the process–I am always excited to start new projects and investigate the next idea. People always ask how I come up with so many designs but in fact it is hard for me not to because everything I see and experience excites me. Because I am driven by what’s next, I am very fortunate to be so engaged by the challenge and its process.”

–Robert Sonneman, founder and chief creative officer of award-winning SONNEMAN-A Way of Light, with a product line which includes 1,800 SKUs, with over 100 new introductions annually, and has experienced over 40% revenue growth in 2016, and 20% growth month over month in 2017

15. Mark up your to-do list.

“Every morning I go through my entire to-do list (ranging from 10 to 30 items), and I highlight high versus low priorities so that at the end of the day the mission critical tasks are guaranteed to be completed.”

–Lex Corwin, founder of Stone Road Farms, a premium cannabis company which has done over $100,000 in sales since obtaining its license earlier this year and secured large scale manufacturing and multi-state distribution deals

16. Take time for silence each morning.

“For more than 25 years now I begin my day with an hour-long practice I refer to as the Sphere of Silence (SOS). It is not meditation, and it is not a religious practice of any kind. It’s derived from the art of silence I learnt from my grandfather at a very young age. My grandfather believed that abstaining from speaking brought him inner peace and made him a better listener. I have been practicing the Sphere of Silence for most of my life now and attribute my success to it. I find that practicing the SOS is the ultimate weapon against the assault on our senses and the insanity that prevails around us today. To many, it may seem that no quiet could exist amidst the din and racket of an ever-blaring world. Practice it for 21 days and it becomes a habit. The silence and introspection make you a better you, because it helps you channel your energies to maximum effect. And being a better you, makes you better at everything you do.”

–Vijay Eswaran , one of Forbes’ top 50 wealthiest Malaysians, one of Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy, bestselling author, entrepreneur and philanthropist and founder and executive chairman of the QI Group of Companies, a multi-business conglomerate with headquarters in Hong Kong, offices in more than 25 countries and customers in over 100 countries

17. Write down all the good and bad every day.

“One the easiest ways that has proven to increase my effectiveness is the habit I have created to write in my journal every day. I put pen-to-paper and write down the things which are important to me, the things that were both good and bad during my day and ideas on how I can improve. I write lists, goals, gratitude and sometime write to simply vent my frustrations. Writing requires engagement from both sides of my brain, making the brainstorming or problem-solving process more complete and innovative. Further, writing is crucial when it comes to settling emotional reactivity. It unwinds emotions caused by stress or conflict by providing a much needed disconnect from the daily grind of consistent talking, emailing, taking calls, and other distractions which come alone with electronic devices. I deeply value the process of writing because it puts me in touch with the more existential aspects of life, reminding me of the bigger picture of I am striving for.”

–Dr. Sherrie Campbell, a nationally recognized expert in clinical psychology, speaker, former radio host of the Dr. Sherrie Show for the BBM Global Network and TuneIn Radio, with over two decades of clinical training experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services to residents of Orange County, California, and author of “Success Equations: A Path to Living an Emotionally Wealthy Life”

18. Use flora and fauna for energization.

“I always have fresh flowers and green life in my office and at home, in order to keep
the air in these spaces fresh and have an inspiring atmosphere. On the fauna front, I
bring my three fur-babies–my dogs–to the office every day. I find that the research
stands true–pets in the office reduce stress and increase collaboration!”

–Terry Eaton, founder, president and chief curator of Eaton Fine Art, a firm that last
year marked its 25th anniversary with recent projects including the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and Holston House in Nashville

19. Take care of yourself.

“I recently saw a survey that said 80 percent of Americans have tension headaches or feel overwhelmed or depressed at least one day during the month. Those are sad symptoms of living in our society. At its worst, stress is making us sick, but it’s also sapping our productivity and stealing our success. The irony is that what’s causing our stress–the pace of life and the never-ending demands–are the very things that keep us from doing something about it. We’re busy taking care of business and for many of us, self-care is one of the first things that come off our list. I think that’s a big mistake and comes with a heavy cost, which is why I dedicate time every day, to taking care of myself no matter what’s going on. That might be a massage, but it can also be a run outdoors or a walk in the beach, talking to my kids or just taking a few minutes to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. The point is to make it a daily habit.”

–Joe Magnacca, CEO of Massage Envy, a provider of therapeutic massage and skincare services with a franchise system that collectively employs over 35,000 wellness professionals across 1,180 locations nationwide servicing more than 1.65 million members

“[I read] at least 10 pages from each of the books I’m reading (prayer, professional and enjoyment.)  Always have three books open and I personally prefer physical books over e-readers.”

–Ellie Johnson, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties which has $375 million in sales inventory and has grown its agent population five-fold since launching in January 2017

“I’m a huge proponent of rest. I take the weekends off and I believe in regular, relaxing vacations. Once a year, I go back home to pick olives with my family. It’s amazing how this time away from the office re-energizes my body and spirit. My downtime is essential.”

–Aytekin Tank, CEO of JotForm, an online form builder used by more than 3.5 million people

22. Lead a life with grace (in and out of the office).

“When I was younger, my father worked during the day and took classes at night to earn his college degree to make a better life for himself and our family. He taught me from an early age that no matter what life throws your way, it’s important to earn the respect of others by working hard and being honest, fair and trustworthy. I apply this advice to both my career and my personal life. No matter how difficult a situation may be or how frustrated I may be with someone, it is so important that I always keep my composure, lead with grace and give others the respect that they deserve. If you don’t respect others, you cannot expect to earn their respect in return!”

–Lisa A Haude, founder and president of Paradigm Design Group, an award-winning luxury-lifestyle hospitality interior design firm with offices in Houston, San Francisco and Chicago and ranked as one of the top design firms in the United States since 2006

Blockchain Will Truly Change The World, Just Not In The Way Everybody Seems To Think

In 1970, a scientist at IBM Research named Edgar F. Codd make a remarkable discovery that would truly change the world. Though few realized it at the time, including at IBM, which neglected to commercialize it. It was called the relational model for the database and it would spawn an entire industry.

Yet while today few have heard of relational databases, everybody seems to be talking about  blockchain. Much like Codd’s idea nearly a half century ago, blockchain represents the opportunity to create a new data infrastructure, which in turn, is likely to help power business for another half century.

Still, — and very contrary to the current hype — very few of us will ever work with a blockchain or even know it is there. The real revolution will come not from the technology itself, but from its secondary effects in the form of new business models. To leverage these though, you will first need to understand how Edgar Codd created the data economy in the first place.

How Relational Databases Changed The World

Imagine taking a trip back to 1980. Ronald Reagan was elected President, and Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to yet another Super Bowl. Just a year before Larry Ellison and two friends launched the first commercial product based on Codd’s ideas. Two years later, they would change the company’s name to Oracle.

Now imagine trying to explain to someone back then what they would use a relational database for. Back then, few people used computers, which were primarily used for back office tasks and heavy computational jobs like scientific research. Very little that relational databases did were relevant to how people worked back then.

What made relational databases important is how they changed how people worked. They made data fungible. Classical or “flat file” databases worked very much like an Excel spreadsheet. They stored data in a columns and rows which lacked flexibility. You really needed to know how the database was set up to find the information you wanted. Anybody who has tried to understand someone else’s spreadsheet knows what that’s like.

With relational databases, however, all you need to know is the query language and you can extract what you need from any database, no matter who set it up. That’s why today, we can hop on a system like the Internet and pull data from just about anywhere we want. It’s what made the information age possible.

Relational databases were designed for centralized computing. Data was stored in a mainframe and we would use a terminal — and later a PC — to get information out. For example, executives use ERP software to pull data from far-flung operations and manage business processes more effectively. Marketers access research databases to understand their consumers. Salespeople leverage CRM systems to service their customers.

Today, computing is no longer centralized, but radically decentralized. We carry smartphones in our pockets that are more powerful than what would have been considered a supercomputer back when relational databases were invented. We use those devices not only to retrieve information, but also to send it to centralized databases, often without knowing we’re doing it.

That creates an information bottleneck that is often insecure for a number of reasons. First, while most commercial databases are encrypted, data needs to be unencrypted for us to use it, which leads to problems like the one with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Data is also unencrypted at the source, so firms can access our data and store it without us having any control over it.

The most salient aspect of blockchain is that it functions as a distributed database. Unlike relational databases that house data in one location, blockchain distributes data everywhere at once in a secure form. So we can track data wherever it goes, what it’s used for and see who alters it in any way. That will create a radically more transparent information economy.

What a Killer Blockchain App Will Look Like

In a recent conversation I had with Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer, I asked him what he was most excited about. Thinking he would talk about the Watson program or a futuristic research project, I was somewhat surprised that the first thing he mentioned was his company’s joint venture with Maersk to develop a blockchain infrastructure for global trade.

With everything going on at IBM, from artificial intelligence to developing new computing architectures like quantum computing and neuromorphic chips, shipping seemed a bit low brow to me. Nevertheless, once I started digging into the numbers I could begin to see what he meant. Blockchain really can have an extraordinary impact on global trade.

Consider the fact that 2013 study by the World Economic Forum found that reducing back-office friction to international trade could increase GDP by nearly 5% and commerce by 15%, and that global GDP amounts to about $80 trillion, and your talking about a $4 trillion technology. If even a fraction of that pans out it’s huge!

The thing is, nobody is going to buy a product and say, “Wow! This is 5% cheaper thanks to blockchain!” The truth is that no one will ever see it. Blockchain, much like the relational databases that came before it, is technology infrastructure. It’s basically like paved roads were to cars — an absolutely essential enabling technology, but not a “killer app.”

Where to Find the Next Big Thing

Over the next decade, we’ll see the impact of blockchain unfold, but it will look a lot more like the IBM-Maersk joint venture and Oracle than the next Google or Facebook. If you don’t work with a relational database now, you probably won’t have much to do with blockchain in the future.

Still, that doesn’t make the impact any less real or exciting. Much like the Internet distributed computing, blockchain will distribute secure data and that is likely to radically increase transparency and security while reducing costs. Disintermediation is a term we can expect to hear a lot of in the future.

For example, Hu-manity.co is a new startup that plans to give patients more control over their health data. Today, when we sign a consent form for our data to be used for research, we essential give it away. However, with blockchain, we will be able to track it, decide for ourselves how we want our data to be used and even be reimbursed for it.

So if you want to know how to profit from blockchain, start looking for information bottlenecks, like global shipping or medical data. Eliminating those bottlenecks is how blockchain will truly change the world.

Ask Ethan: How Large Is The Entire, Unobservable Universe?

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a massive galaxy cluster, PLCK_G308.3-20.2, glowing brightly in the darkness. This is what huge swaths of the distant Universe looks like. But how far does the Universe as-we-know-it, including the unobservable part, go on for?ESA/Hubble & NASA, RELICS; Acknowledgement: D. Coe et al.

13.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang occurred. The Universe was filled with matter, antimatter, radiation, and existed in an ultra-hot, ultra-dense, but expanding-and-cooling state. By today, the volume containing our observable Universe has expanded to be 46 billion light years in radius, with the light that’s first arriving at our eyes today corresponding to the limit of what we can measure. But what lies beyond? What about the unobservable Universe? That’s what Gray Bryan wants to know, as he asks:

We know the size of the Observable Universe since we know the age of the Universe (at least since the phase change) and we know that light radiates. […] My question is, I guess, why doesn’t the math involved in making the CMB and other predictions, in effect, tell us the size of the Universe? We know how hot it was and how cool it is now. Does scale not affect these calculations?

Oh, if only it were so easy.

The history of the Universe, as far back as we can see using a variety of tools and telescopes, has been well-determined. But our observations can only, tautologically, provide us with evidence about the observable parts. Everything else must be inferred, and those inferences are only as good as the assumptions which underlie them.Sloan Digital Sky Survey

The Universe is cold and clumpy today, but it’s also expanding and gravitating. When we look to greater and greater distances, we see things as they were not only far away, but also back in time, owing to the finite speed of light. The more distant Universe is less clumpy and more uniform, having had less time to form larger, more complicated structures that require more time for gravity’s effects to take place.

The early, distant Universe was also hotter. The expanding Universe causes all the light that travels through the Universe to stretch in wavelength. As the wavelength stretches, it loses energy, becoming cooler. This means the Universe was hotter in the distant past, a fact we’ve confirmed through observations of distant features in the Universe.

A 2011 study (red points) has given the best evidence to date that the CMB used to be higher in temperature in the past. The spectral and temperature properties of distant light confirms that we live in expanding space.P. Noterdaeme, P. Petitjean, R. Srianand, C. Ledoux and S. López, (2011). Astronomy & Astrophysics, 526, L7

We can measure the temperature of the Universe as it is today, 13.8 billion years after the Big Bang, by looking at the leftover radiation from that hot, dense, early state. Today, this shows up in the microwave portion of the spectrum, and is known as the Cosmic Microwave Background. Coming in with a blackbody spectrum and a temperature of 2.725 K, it’s easy to confirm that these observations match, with an incredible precision, the predictions that arise from the Big Bang model of our Universe.

The Sun’s actual light (yellow curve, left) versus a perfect blackbody (in grey), showing that the Sun is more of a series of blackbodies due to the thickness of its photosphere; at right is the actual perfect blackbody of the CMB as measured by the COBE satellite. Note that the “error bars” on the right are an astounding 400 sigma. The agreement between theory and observation here is historic.Wikimedia Commons user Sch (L); COBE/FIRAS, NASA / JPL-Caltech (R)

Moreover, we know how this radiation evolves in energy as the Universe expands. A photon’s energy is directly proportional to the inverse of its wavelength. When the Universe was half its size, the photons from the Big Bang had double the energy, while when the Universe was 10% of its current size, those photons had ten times the energy. If we’re willing to go back to when the Universe was just 0.092% its present size, we’ll find a Universe that’s 1089 times hotter than it is today: around 3000 K. At these temperatures, the Universe is hot enough to ionize all the atoms in it. Instead of solid, liquid, or gas, all the matter in the entire Universe was in the form of an ionized plasma.

A Universe where electrons and protons are free and collide with photons transitions to a neutral one that’s transparent to photons as the Universe expands and cools. Shown here is the ionized plasma (L) before the CMB is emitted, followed by the transition to a neutral Universe (R) that’s transparent to photons.Amanda Yoho

The way we arrive at the size of the Universe today is through understanding three things in tandem:

  1. How quickly the Universe is expanding today, something we can measure via a number of methods,
  2. How hot the Universe is today, which we know from looking at the radiation of the Cosmic Microwave Background,
  3. and what the Universe is made out of, including matter, radiation, neutrinos, antimatter, dark matter, dark energy, and more.

By taking the Universe we have today, we can extrapolate back to the earliest stages of the hot Big Bang, and arrive at a figure for both the age and the size of the Universe together.

The size of the Universe, in light years, versus the amount of time that’s passed since the Big Bang. This is presented on a logarithmic scale, with a number of momentous events annotated for clarity. This only applies to the observable Universe.E. Siegel

From the full suite of observations available, including the cosmic microwave background but also including supernova data, large-scale structure surveys, and baryon acoustic oscillations, among others, we get our Universe. 13.8 billion years after the Big Bang, it’s now 46.1 billion light years in radius. That’s the limit of what’s observable. Any farther than that, and even something moving at the speed of light since the moment of the hot Big Bang will not have had sufficient time to reach us. As time goes on, the age and the size of the Universe will increase, but there will always be a limit to what we can observe.

Artist’s logarithmic scale conception of the observable universe. Note that we’re limited in how far we can see back by the amount of time that’s occurred since the hot Big Bang: 13.8 billion years, or (including the expansion of the Universe) 46 billion light years. Anyone living in our Universe, at any location, would see almost exactly the same thing from their vantage point.Wikipedia user Pablo Carlos Budassi

So what can we say about the part of the Universe that’s beyond the limits of our observations? We can only make inferences based on the laws of physics as we know them, and the things we can measure within our observable Universe. For example, we observe that the Universe is spatially flat on the largest scales: it’s neither positively nor negatively curved, to a precision of 0.25%. If we assume that our current laws of physics are correct, we can set limits on how large, at least, the Universe must be before it curves back on itself.

The magnitudes of the hot and cold spots, as well as their scales, indicate the curvature of the Universe. To the best of our capabilities, we measure it to be perfectly flat. Baryon acoustic oscillations provide a different method to constrain this, but with similar results.Smoot Cosmology Group / LBL

Observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Planck satellite are where we get the best data. They tell us that if the Universe does curve back in on itself and close, the part we can see is so indistinguishable from “uncurved” that it much be at least 250 times the radius of the observable part.

This means the unobservable Universe, assuming there’s no topological weirdness, must be at least 23 trillion light years in diameter, and contain a volume of space that’s over 15 million times as large as the volume we can observe. If we’re willing to speculate, however, we can argue quite compellingly that the unobservable Universe should be significantly even bigger than that.

The observable Universe might be 46 billion light years in all directions from our point of view, but there’s certainly more, unobservable Universe, perhaps even an infinite amount, just like ours beyond that. Over time, we’ll be able to see a bit, but not a lot, more of it.Frédéric MICHEL and Andrew Z. Colvin, annotated by E. Siegel

The hot Big Bang might mark the beginning of the observable Universe as we know it, but it doesn’t mark the birth of space and time itself. Before the Big Bang, the Universe underwent a period of cosmic inflation. Instead of being filled with matter and radiation, and instead of being hot, the Universe was:

  • filled with energy inherent to space itself,
  • expanding at a constant, exponential rate,
  • and creating new space so quickly that the smallest physical length scale, the Planck length, would be stretched to the size of the presently observable Universe every 10-32 seconds.

Inflation causes space to expand exponentially, which can very quickly result in any pre-existing curved or non-smooth space appearing flat. If the Universe is curved, it has a radius of curvature that is at minimum hundreds of times larger than what we can observe.E. Siegel (L); Ned Wright’s cosmology tutorial (R)

It’s true that in our region of the Universe, inflation came to an end. But there are three questions we don’t know the answer to that have a tremendous influence on how big the Universe truly is, and whether it’s infinite or not.

  1.  How big was the region of the Universe, post-inflation, that created our hot Big Bang?
  2. Is the idea of “eternal inflation,” where the Universe inflates eternally into the future in at least some regions, correct?
  3. And, finally, how long did inflation go on prior to its end and the resultant hot Big Bang?

It’s possible that the Universe, where inflation occurred, barely attained a size larger than what we can observe. It’s possible that, any year now, the evidence for an “edge” to where inflation happened will materialize. But it’s also possible that the Universe is googols of times larger than what we can observe. Until we can answer these questions, we may never know.

A huge number of separate regions where Big Bangs occur are separated by continuously inflating space in eternal inflation. But we have no idea how to test, measure or access what’s out there beyond our own observable Universe.Ozytive – public domain

Beyond what we can see, we strongly suspect that there’s plenty more Universe out there just like ours, with the same laws of physics, the same types of physical, cosmic structures, and the same chances at complex life. There should also be a finite size and scale to the “bubble” in which inflation ended, and an exponentially huge number of such bubbles contained within the larger, inflating spacetime. But as inconceivably large as that entire Universe — or Multiverse, if you prefer — may be, it might not be infinite. In fact, unless inflation went on for a truly infinite amount of time, or the Universe was born infinitely large, the Universe ought to be finite in extent.

As vast as our observable Universe is and as much as we can see, it’s only a tiny fraction of what must be out there.NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst, S. Cohen, and M. Mechtley (ASU), R. O’Connell (UVa), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Obs), N. Hathi (UC Riverside), R. Ryan (UC Davis), & H. Yan (tOSU)

The biggest problem of all, though, is that we don’t have enough information to definitively answer the question. We only know how to access the information available inside our observable Universe: those 46 billion light years in all directions. The answer to the biggest of all questions, of whether the Universe is finite or infinite, might be encoded in the Universe itself, but we can’t access enough of it to know. Until we either figure it out, or come up with a clever scheme to expand what we know physics is capable of, all we’ll have are the possibilities.


Send in your Ask Ethan questions to startswithabang at gmail dot com!

Microsoft Calls For Federal Regulation of Facial Recognition

Over the past year, Silicon Valley has been grappling with the way it handles our data, our elections, and our speech. Now it’s got a new concern: our faces. In just the past few weeks, critics assailed Amazon for selling facial recognition technology to local police departments, and Facebook for how it gained consent from Europeans to identify people in their photos.

Microsoft has endured its own share of criticism lately around the ethical uses of its technology, as employees protested a contract under which US Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses Microsoft’s cloud-computing service. Microsoft says that contract did not involve facial recognition. When it comes to facial analysis, a Microsoft service used by other companies has been shown to be far more accurate for white men than for women or people of color.

In an effort to help society keep pace with the rampaging development of the technology, Microsoft President Brad Smith today is publishing a blog post calling for government regulation of facial recognition. Smith doesn’t identify specific rules; rather, he suggests, among other things, that the government create a “bipartisan and expert commission” to study the issue and make recommendations.

Smith poses a series of questions such a commission should consider, including potential restrictions on law-enforcement or national-security uses of the technology; standards to prevent racial profiling; requirements that people be notified when the technology is being used, particularly in public spaces; and legal protections for people who may be misidentified. But he doesn’t detail Microsoft’s view of the answers to those questions.

“In a democratic republic, there is no substitute for decision making by our elected representatives regarding the issues that require the balancing of public safety with the essence of our democratic freedoms,” Smith writes. “Facial recognition will require the public and private sectors alike to step up – and to act.”

Like many technologies, facial recognition can be useful, or harmful. Internet users tap services from Google, Facebook, and others to identify people in photos. Apple allows users to unlock the iPhone X with their faces. Microsoft offers a similar service through Windows Hello to unlock personal computers. Uber uses Microsoft’s facial-recognition technology to confirm the identity of drivers using its app. Facial analysis can be a form of identification in offices, airports, and hotels.

But there are few rules governing use of the technology, either by police or private companies. In the blog post, Smith raises the specter of a government database of attendees at a political rally, or stores monitoring every item you browse, even those you don’t buy. Given the political gridlock in Washington, an expert commission may be a convenient way for Microsoft to appear to be responsible with little risk that the government will actually restrict its or any other company’s, use of facial-recognition technology. But Smith says such commissions have been used widely—28 times in the past decade—with some success; he points to the 9/11 commission and subsequent changes on the nation’s security agencies.

Outside the US, facial recognition technology used extensively in China, often by the government, and with few constraints. Suspected criminals have been identified in crowds using the technology, which is widely deployed in public places.

Beyond government regulation, Smith says Microsoft and other tech companies should take more responsibility for their use of the technology. That includes efforts to act transparently, reduce bias, and deploy the technology slowly and cautiously. “If we move too fast with facial recognition, we may find that people’s fundamental rights are being broken,” he writes. Smith says Microsoft is working to reduce the racial disparities in its facial-analysis software.

Concern about the ethical uses of technology is not new. But the increasing power of artificial intelligence to scan faces, drive cars, and predict crime, among other things, have given birth to research institutes, industry groups, and philanthropic programs. Microsoft in 2016 created an internal advisory committee, cosponsored by Smith, on its use of artificial intelligence more broadly. In the post, Smith says the company has turned down customer requests to deploy its technology “where we’ve concluded there are greater human rights risks.” Microsoft declined to discuss specifics of any work it has turned down.

Microsoft’s approach wins praise from Eileen Donahoe, an adjunct professor at Stanford’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. “Microsoft is way ahead of the curve in thinking seriously about the ethical implications of the technology they’re developing and the human rights implications of the technology they’re developing,” she says. Donahoe says she expects the post to spark conversations at other technology companies.

Some critics have suggested that tech companies halt research on artificial intelligence, including facial recognition. But Donahoe says that’s not realistic, because others will develop the technology. “I would rather have those actors engaging with their employees, their consumers and the US government in trying to think about the possible uses of the technology, as well as the risks that come from the use of the technology,” she says.

Michael Posner, director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, says he welcomes Microsoft’s statement. But Posner cautions that governments themselves sometimes misuse facial-recognition technologies, and urges companies to ensure that “those who develop these technology systems are as diverse as the populations they serve.” He also urges companies to develop “clear industry standards and metrics” for use of the technology.


More Great WIRED Stories

SoftBank's cheap valuation draws $1 billion bet from U.S. fund Tiger Global

TOKYO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – U.S. hedge fund Tiger Global has built a stake worth over $1 billion in SoftBank Group Corp as it considers the Japanese firm undervalued, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, driving SoftBank shares up as much as 6.8 percent.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works behind a logo of Softbank Corp at its branch in Tokyo March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The bump added nearly $6 billion to SoftBank’s market capitalization, narrowing the gap between the company’s limited valuation as a conglomerate and the valuation that the company says it deserves, thanks to its rich investments.

The Japanese tech and telecoms firm, which holds a nearly 30 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has recently started taking action to address the issue, including preparing a listing of its domestic telecoms unit.

New York-based Tiger Global, which manages around $22 billion in assets, told investors in a letter that SoftBank’s stock price had not increased over the last five years even though its holding in Alibaba had added more than $90 billion in value.

SoftBank shares surged as much as 6.8 percent, pushing up the company’s market value to about $91 billion. They closed up 6.4 percent at 9,376 yen, their tenth consecutive day of gains.

The company’s charismatic CEO Masayoshi Son, who owns 21 percent of SoftBank, said at a shareholders’ meeting last month, that a “conglomerate discount” was weighing on the company’s stock. He said the stock should be trading above 14,000 yen rather than where they were then – at around 8,000 yen – to account for its investments.

Besides Alibaba, SoftBank has a stake in U.S. telecoms firm Sprint Corp and Yahoo Japan.

But SoftBank’s investments have left it with a heavy debt load.

It had about $123 billion of debt as of March end and has a debt-to-equity ratio of 3.97, compared with an industry median of 0.10.

In contrast, Alibaba, whose shares have more than doubled since their debut in 2014, has a market capitalization of $480 billion and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.31.

Sentiment toward the stock has risen recently after the company applied for the listing of its telecom unit and said it was increasing its stake in Yahoo Japan through an indirect deal that will deepen its ties with the internet heavyweight ahead of the IPO.

SoftBank hopes the listing will clarify the distinction between its domestic telecoms operations and investing activities and help chip away at its discounted valuation.

Besides the cheap valuation, Tiger Global based its SoftBank investment decision on SoftBank’s purchase of U.S. investment group Fortress and the launch of its near-$100 billion Vision Fund to find and grow promising technology leaders.

Tiger Global and SoftBank have often invested in the same companies: ride-hailing firms Uber and India’s Ola. SoftBank also bought most of Tiger’s stake in Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart Group earlier this year.

“We continue to believe the market significantly undervalues our stock and we welcome the support from a sophisticated institutional investor like Tiger Global,” SoftBank said in an email to Reuters on Thursday.

Tiger Global was not available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

But Tiger’s is not the only big bet on the Japanese company recently.

Los Angeles-based investment firm Capital Research increased its holdings in SoftBank to more than 36 million shares from 4 million as per a June 15 filing, forking out more than $2 billion for the stake, according to Reuters calculations.

Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Singapore and Sam Nussey and Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Maiya Keidan in London, Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Eutelsat, Intelsat and SES team up on U.S. C-band proposal

(Reuters) – France’s Eutelsat will join satellite operator rivals Intelsat and SES in a proposal to allow mobile operators to quickly access part of the C-band spectrum in the United States, the companies said on Thursday.

The proposed consortium would be open to all satellite operators delivering services in the C-band in the mainland United States, and would deal with transactions with companies wishing to use specific portions of the spectrum for mobile services, the companies said.

The C-band spectrum is used to deliver video and audio programming to more than 100 million U.S. households, as well as for data connectivity in rural areas and services for the U.S. government.

The companies said the consortium would help speed up the deployment of 5G services in the United States.

Reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia; editing by Jason Neely

Here's What You May Not Know About The Future Impact Of AI In Your Workplace

CHAIN Cup at the China National Convention Center in Beijing just a few days ago. A computer running artificial intelligence software defeated two teams of human doctors in accurately recognizing maladies in magnetic resonance images on Saturday, in a contest that was billed as the world’s first competition in neuroimaging between AI and human experts. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Good versus evil is a daily battle on a variety of levels but perhaps none more so than that those tracking developments within the realm of Artificial Intelligence. The question on the minds of many business leaders is will the technology create more efficiency within industries or will machines end up usurping their very users.  Many in the workforce simply want to know whether there will be massive impending job loss as a result of AI or whether such tech advancements will help them to be more productive. There are wild myths about this new area of tech and even wilder predictions amidst few, if any, regulations and standards. Given the plethora of various viewpoints on AI, here’s a brief look at the up-to-the-moment trend perspective from a few thought-leaders in the space so that you can better prepare.

So, harmful or helpful? First, the AI-For-Good camp has no shortage of members. This is about blue sky visions and utopian views from which the greater good occurs, all thanks to efficient use of artificial intelligence through businesses. For example, Chief Visionary Nikos Acuña Nikos at Sizmek, a company that helps companies use data to better reach its goals, says in one of his latest vlog posts, “It’s well known that predictive technologies hold the key to customer experience optimization and such optimization can be used for all types of good.”  Nikos believes that technology is going to help us impact the world for the better particularly when it comes to cause marketing.

“Purpose-driven brands want to make a change for the better,” he explains. “And they can inspire people through alignment of data and connect with consumers in more meaningful way to drive messaging. Those who can best use AI to create personalization and brand experiences will be the winners in business and our society because they will be able to link business with better public service via the knowledge that AI provides.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif. Google pledges that it will not use artificial intelligence in applications related to weapons or surveillance, part of a new set of principles designed to govern how it uses AI. Those principles, released by Pichai, commit Google to building AI applications that are “socially beneficial,” that avoid creating or reinforcing bias and that is accountable to people. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

In addition, many see a deeply positive impact of AI within the workplace. A recent report by Village Capital and Autodesk Foundation entitled Automation for Good: Can Automation and Artificial Intelligence Benefit the Workforce? revealed a number of intriguing findings. In essence, the study found that  AI will both destroy replace and create new types of jobs.

By studying 50-plus startups, the study found certain trends. First, that platforms that used big data were able to better move past hiring biases, improve the quality of matches and thus have a greater competitive advantage in the market. The study also cites the fact that when Hilton implemented an AI tool in pre-hire assessments the company was better able to fill call center and customer support positions. In fact, within three years, the company was  able to reduce the length of time between initial interviews and offers from 42 days to five days.

The study concludes that automation and AI will play an increasingly large role in how organizations source, recruit, hire, and onboard employees in the future. In fact, Village Capital’s cross-industry survey last year found that approximately 62 percent of recruiters planned to spend more on AI-based human resource solutions in 2018.  86 percent said they intend to tap into AI software that helps with sourcing.

Gadi Singer, vice president of architecture group at Intel Corp., speaks during the Baidu Inc. Create conference in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. The company’s annual artificial intelligence (AI) developer conference runs through July 5. Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

Also noted in the study is the fact that AI-driven training and “upskilling” will be key in various sectors as well. Findings also show that predictive analytics tools that allow workers to focus less on rote tasks and more on the creative “people aspects” of work.

But like most things in life, there a number of additional elements to consider when it comes to the future impact of AI.

David Benigson, CEO Signal Media offers a holistic view. “You see, the breadth of data has never been greater on earth, yet it has never harder to transform data into true insights. This is where AI can become transformative in terms of  applying machine learning to the data to unlock insights.”

However, he feels that in order to get to that level, it’s going to be challenging given the level of fear and misinformation currently surrounding most things AI-related. “We are over-estimating the short-term impact and underestimating the long-term on what AI will do to our society overall, ” Benigson explains. “And that’s an issue.”  He says that the real fact of the matter is that many automated, manual, repetitive and repeatable jobs will, indeed, vanish. “However the ‘safe jobs’ dealing with things like creativity will remain in demand. So jobs in, say, banking will become obsolete. But if you can build something or write or create music or become a valued entrepreneur, that’s where value will always remain and perhaps AI will help even enhance those working in these areas.”

Benigson cautions that further development around ethics, however, is probably the most important focus within the AI narrative if we want to continue to pursue the path of benefit versus detriment. He suggests that an independent ethics board of members that are not solely driven by financial gain is key.  “Currently we are expecting machines to have the same level of ethics that it’s taken humans thousands of years to develop, which is still not perfect,” he adds.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., waits to begin a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Lawmakers will grill Zuckerberg on issues ranging from the troves of data vacuumed up by app developers and political consultant Cambridge Analytica to Russian operatives’ use of the social network to spread misinformation and discord during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“We’ve seen what can happen in the past with companies like Google and Facebook that are fairly autonomous. They run into trouble, and we expect them to respond, but they really don’t on a level that’s appropriate, so they need regulation but regulation can tend to stifle new areas by becoming too stringent so a slow and steady approach will be needed,” he adds.

In addition to parameters around ethics, many like Benigson suggest that the AI industry will simply have to further focus on demonstrating how AI can help with efficiency gains in business and vast gains in society overall in order to quell fears and myths. “The most important element to understand as we discuss AI is that algorithms are shaping our experience of the world so we’ve got to get this right.”

A Robotic Spacecraft Just Smashed the Record for Fastest Trip to the International Space Station

A Russian robotic spacecraft has smashed the record for the time taken to reach the International Space Station (ISS), managing the feat in a mere three hours and 40 minutes.

The Progress MS-09 or Progress 70 cargo ship—the former name is used by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and the latter by NASA—only did two orbits of Earth before docking with the ISS. The previous record time from takeoff to docking was around six hours, and that involved four orbits.

This was the first Russian cargo mission to demonstrate an “expedited capability” that will likely be used again in future, NASA said in a statement.

According to Space.com, the Russians had tried twice before to achieve this speedy feat, but had been thwarted on both occasions by lift-off delays that meant it was necessary to turn the trips into two-day missions.

The Russian spacecraft was carrying more than two tons of cargo, including fuel, air, maintenance equipment, and care and life support packs for the astronauts on board the ISS. Progress MS-09 will stay docked until late January.

The Russians’ success is a reminder that the ISS is, as its name suggests, an international endeavor. The new NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, is trying to get a consortium of private companies to take over the space station, but it isn’t simply the Americans’ to hand over.

Russia has its own part of the ISS—with which Progress MS-09 docked—and Japan, Europe and Canada share the American section. When Progress MS-09 leaves the ISS, it will take the whole Russian Pirs docking compartment with it—the Russians will replace the compartment with a new “multipurpose laboratory module.”

5 Reasons To Buy Bitcoin Now

Bitcoin (BTC-USD) is down 46.2% for the year. It is down 65% from its high. It is no longer the conversation at the office. My grandma isn’t asking if she should invest anymore. Is Bitcoin dead?

Chart

Bitcoin Close Price data by YCharts

Google searches for Bitcoin:

No. Nothing has changed really except the price action…

My take on Bitcoin is you may want to own a piece because of potential future price action based on its fundamental attractive qualities. Current price action is almost irrelevant. Maybe it’s not irrelevant but I don’t think I have much of any an edge predicting momentum.

Here are X reasons you want to grab a little bit of Bitcoin while no one is interested anymore or embarrassed with their losses to bring up the subject.

Upside

Perhaps the primary reason I like to have exposure to Bitcoin in my portfolio is the almost unimaginable upside. I always hesitate to talk about the upside scenarios because these are so wild it takes away credibility from my analysis. But if you put the total value of Bitcoin that can be mined (21 million x market price) in perspective the contrast is pretty stark. Even if Bitcoin becomes “merely” a digital gold there’s opportunity for a 70x.

Continued User growth

The pace of growth slowed down a little bit from the end of 2017 frenzy but the hockey stick like growth of Bitcoin wallets can easily resume. In an absolute sense growth remains healthy.

Cryptofunds

Last year the financial industry started pioneering in the space and a large amount of crypto funds got established. Launches have slowed down with the crypto market down significantly. This is a classic pattern where it’s just much harder to raise money in a down market. However, these funds have now been established and once we enter another big cycle up the infrastructure is ready to accommodate inflows on a much larger scale.

ETF

There are now futures available to trade Bitcoin. An ETF did not yet make it to market although there are a number of ongoing efforts. At some point it’s going to happen. I think that could be a gamechanger for Bitcoin. In March 2003 the first Gold ETF (GLD). You can’t be certain but it looks like the introduction had a profound effect on the price of gold.

Lightning network

Bitcoin bears usually complain about transaction costs and speed. These are real issues no one’s denying that. However, they will ultimately be solved by technological innovation. The obvious example being the lightning network. The lightning network is already being used and it allows transactions that are less secure but much faster and cheaper. Many expected it to work by now but it doesn’t as there are still too many transactions failing and the error rate increases as the value of transactions goes up. Up to $0.03 it is reported to work flawlessly and it seems to me it should be a matter of time to get that $0.03 up to a value where the benefit of the lightning network is real. The lightning network is especially important for low value, cup-of-coffee type, transactions. I prefer to buy Bitcoin before these issues get solved instead of buying into the next frenzy as its ongoing.

Over time I’ve written quite a few Bitcoin articles for Seeking Alpha. The first one was called 5 reasons to Buy Bitcoin as well. With Bitcoin around ~$300. You can find most of them here. A good place to buy a few dollars worth of Bitcoin is Coinbase. It is U.S.-based and if you use my invite you can get $10 bitcoin free).

Disclosure: I am/we are long BTC-USD.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Benson Oak's new fund to invest in Israeli blockchain technology

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – European investment bank Benson Oak said on Sunday it has secured $25 million in investment commitments for a new Israel-dedicated fund and plans to raise $100 million in total.

The new fund, Benson Oak Ventures, will support Israeli startups, with an emphasis on blockchain technologies.

Benson Oak’s first technology fund from 2003 included an investment in Internet security company AVG, which generated a return of 100 times investment after the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

Benson Oak has established three funds that invested in high-tech in the United States, the Czech Republic and Israel.

Benson Oak Ventures’ investors include private individuals, family offices and strategic companies from around the world.

Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer

McDonald's Sounds the Alarm: 'Utter Chaos' If a Judge Lets This 'Nonsense' Lawsuit Continue

Maybe you even laughed? A lot of people did. But it turns out, McDonald’s apparently thinks the thing is no joke.

In fact, McDonald’s lawyers told a judge recently that the lawsuit could create “utter chaos” if it’s allowed to go forward–not just for McDonald’s, but for every other restaurant in America.

High stakes then. Here’s the background, the official response from McDonald’s, and the big question this all leads to. 

Less cheese equals “unjust enrichment”

First, the lawsuit. Back in May, two Florida McDonald’s customers sued McDonald’s, claiming that they often order Quarter Pounders and Double Quarter Pounders without cheese–but that McDonald’s never gives them a discount.

Apparently there’s a dispute over whether McDonald’s lists Quarter Pounders without cheese on its menu–or whether it did at one time. Personally, I haven’t eaten a Quarter Pounder in years, so I couldn’t tell you. 

But the lawsuit claims that every time a McDonald’s customer orders a Quarter Pounder, but asks for it cheese-less, McDonald’s potentially pockets an extra 30 to 90 cents by skipping on the cheese.

The key legal term here is “unjust enrichment.” Actually, correct: that’s only one of the many key legal terms in the 32-page complaint. Another might be “class action.”

Because that’s the whole point. Nobody sues McDonald’s for 30 or 90 cents or whatever this works out to be. But if you can argue that McDonald’s has done this millions and millions of times, it adds up. And ultimately it could be a lot of cheddar. 

Enter McDonald’s lawyers. They filed a motion to dismiss the case from federal court in Florida a week ago.

For one thing, they say, McDonald’s hasn’t even advertised a Quarter Pounder without cheese for years. Or a Double Quarter Pounder for that matter. Quick aside: Why isn’t a Double Quarter Pounder known as a Half Pounder? 

I digress. Back to the lawsuit, which McDonald’s claims spouts “nonsense” when it suggests that “retail restaurants have some legal obligation to reduce the price of a standard menu item to reflect the customer’s decision to decline some ingredient or component of that item.”

That claim “not only has no basis in law,” the McDonald’s lawyers write, “but would create utter chaos in the retail food industry” if it were allowed to proceed.

I have questions. There has to be something more going on here. 

I get that this is an attempt to build a class action lawsuit, but who thinks of suing McDonald’s over a slice or two of cheese? How does an attorney dream up the idea of suing the company like this?

I mean: power to you, but how does this become a thing? The original lawsuit story got picked up all over the place, and judging by reader comments and the incredulous tone of some stories, people seem to think it’s just a wee bit insane. 

As for me, I just don’t get it. I don’t think I’d want the money if I were actually entitled to it. It would just seem (forgive me) too cheesy.

But that’s just me–a guy who actually missed out on a $1,400 claim by one day in another case. If you’re a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder customer who doesn’t like cheese, maybe you’ll see a little something out of it.

If You Want People to Collaborate, Get Rid of this Office Plan

Employees hate open office plans, but at least the help employees collaborate and work together? It saves companies money and it increases teamwork, right? Well, wrong. 

Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, at Harvard Business School and Harvard University, took a look at how people who switched from individual cubicles to an open office plan. What they found wasn’t more collaboration after the switch, but less. Participants in the study spent

Not exactly what you want to see when you move your employees into an open office plan. Instead of looking up across the table and saying, “Hey, Jane, what do you think about this?” they are sending text messages.

People like privacy. They like to speak one on one. And if you don’t give them at least some privacy (cubicles don’t really have a great deal of soundproofing but it’s better than nothing), people will turn to the means they have for private communication–electronic ones. You might as well all be working from home.

Working from home can be great for many types of jobs, but it’s not great for all jobs, nor is it great for all people. While some people thrive on it, others want to work with other people–or just simply get out of the house. That’s not a bad thing.

And no, providing conference rooms where people can have private conversations doesn’t solve the problem. For instance, if you’re a manager and want to give quick negative feedback to an employee, you have the option of giving it in full earshot of everybody else, or saying, “John, come and join me in the conference room,” which tells everyone that this is something they shouldn’t hear. By contrast, with even the privacy of the cubicle you can quickly step in and say, quietly, “John, there were a ton of typos on that last report. Can you please double check before you send things out or ask someone to review it?” 

Let’s let this fad of open offices (and worse, hot-desking open offices) fade into oblivion. Give people some privacy and they’ll actually talk to each other more often. Isn’t that what you want? Face to face collaboration? Then let’s do what it takes to get it.

A New Generation Of Indian Startups Is Here — And These Specialist VCs Are Driving It

India is witnessing a surge in deep technology investments, as specialist VCs are seeking out high-quality product and enterprise tech startups to bankroll and mentor. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The startup story in India has, in the past, been defined by consumer-driven ventures like Flipkart and Snapdeal, which eventually became e-commerce giants, drawing billions in funding. Lately, however, there has been a gradual shift in that ecosystem as India’s startups begin to focus on technology and product innovation, moving away from the consumer.

Specialist VCs On The Rise

This has led to the creation of specialist early stage funds, focused on grooming product innovation startups and headed by venture capitalists with domain expertise as well as entrepreneurial and operational experience. These specialist funds are playing a key role in co-creating scalable businesses, while bridging the funding gap between angel and series A investments in the venture capital spectrum of India.

And this strategy has paid off–a slew of product innovation and deep technology startups are now beginning to generate serious cash and bag bigger investments. Medical diagnostics startup Sigtuple Labs, which uses AI to analyze visual medical data, raised $19 million in series B funding led by Accel Partners and IDG Ventures. Sigtuple Labs is among the many deep tech-driven startups supported by specialist funds like Endiya Partners and pi Ventures.

“The venture investing ecosystem in India is undergoing a massive shift. Every venture capital company is looking for companies with IP, deep technology applications and a strong product. This is the next wave in India’s startup story,” said Manish Singhal, cofounder of pi Ventures, an AI, ML and IoT-focused early stage venture fund.

From left: Revanth Dodla, Sateesh Andra, Dr Ramesh Byrapaneni, Abhishek Srivastava, Abhiram Katta of Endiya Partners. (Image: Endiya Partners)

From left: Revanth Dodla, Sateesh Andra, Dr Ramesh Byrapaneni, Abhishek Srivastava, Abhiram Katta A of Endiya Partners. (Image: Endiya Partners)

For the founders of Hyderabad-based Endiya Partners, the endeavor was to invest in globally relevant, IP-led product startups, especially since Indian startups are filing more patents now than ever. Endiya’s $29 million portfolio consists of 11 disruptive and category-defining companies across technology, healthcare and tech-enabled consumer sectors that have cumulatively raised the value of their initial investment 10 times.

“Healthcare, fintech, semiconductors, mobile and enterprise SaaS (software as a service) are witnessing the application of advanced technologies like AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning), Big Data, IoT (internet of things) and AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality). Investor interest in these startups is on the rise,” said Endiya’s managing director Sateesh Andra. “Being flooded with innovative ideas and support from the ecosystem, India holds the promise of leading the global deep tech startup story.”

Ideaspring Capital

From left: Mohandas Pai, Naganand Doraswamy, Prashant Deshpande and Arihant Patni.

Investors That Offer More Than Just Money

Andra believes the seed and early stage ecosystem in India presents compelling investment opportunities in the deep tech space. Moreover, focused investment strategies and a hands-on approach allows funds like Endiya Partners to not only groom disruptive technology startups, but also cue them up, while participating in follow-on rounds of funding.

For instance, both early stage investors pi Ventures and Endiya Partners brought a lot more to the table than just funds. pi Ventures assisted the team with designing the device and ironing out manufacturing processes, while Endiya Partners helped the team forge key strategic and data partnership agreements in the industry. pi Ventures and Endiya also participated in follow-on rounds of funding for Sigtuple in 2017 and 2018, among other major investors.

“These VCs understand and appreciate the need of innovative product companies in India. They take risks, and understand that some companies require longer gestation periods,” Pandey said.

Founders like Pandey have a mindset to solve problems using technology, and seek investors who understand this. California-based serial entrepreneur and angel investor BV Jagadeesh, who has led several successful investments in companies like Nutanix and Cohesity, believes that now is a critical time for India to develop its own identity as a tech hub, by creating its own products, IP and eventually a budding industry of homegrown talent.

“Currently, there are only a handful of investors in India interested in product startups. These investors are either standalone or run small-size seed funds, but also have operational and domain experience. Early adapters of product companies are needed to develop an ecosystem.”

“The quality of innovation is quite high today compared to five years ago,” said Deepak Agrawal, associate vice-president of Ideaspring Capital, a Bangalore-based early stage venture fund that specializes in deep technology-focused companies. “The advantage of being an early stage investor in product startups is that they aren’t capital intensive–a $600,000 investment can keep a small product team going for about 10 to 12 months as early stage funding is all about product development.”

Data by Venture Intelligence revealed that enterprise deep tech was the only major theme to witness an increase in investment activity last year in India, nearly doubling from 12 in 2016 to 23.

How Chinese Internet Giant Baidu Uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

At the beginning of 2017, Chinese tech company Baidu, the largest provider of Chinese language internet search as well as other digital products and services, committed to emerging business sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Since China has 731 million internet users, almost twice the U.S. population, Baidu’s data set is capable of fueling AI algorithms to make them even better. With this focus on artificial intelligence, Baidu is exploring some very intriguing applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning including in their offices where facial recognition technology makes standard ID cards unnecessary and allows you to order tea from a vending machine.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock

They have also recruited top AI talent including one of the world’s most notable AI pioneers Lu Qi, who was previously a Microsoft executive before he became Baidu’s COO in January 2017. Qi will step down in July 2018 for personal reasons. Although he was only at Baidu for a short time, he helped chart a clear strategy for the company’s AI operations that will continue. Here are a few ways Baidu uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.

DuerOS is Baidu’s voice assistant

Since Baidu can leverage its expansive data set, its voice assistant called DuerOS has accumulated more conversation-based skill sets than Alexa, Siri or Cortana. Partnering with other tech companies is one way Baidu hopes to accelerate innovation. They have teamed up with more than 130 DuerOS partners, and the voice assistant is in more than 100 brands of appliances such as refrigerators, TVs, and speakers. Since homes in India, Japan, Europe, and Brazil are more like homes in China, there may be better opportunities for DuerOS to globalize since Alexa, Cortana and Echo are optimized for American households. At CES 2018, Baidu debuted its DuerOS-powered smart screen called Little Fish VS1. This technology can recognize and respond to individual faces.

Mobile partners to accelerate AI-powered devices

Unlike its competitors, Baidu was steadfast in its commitment to desktops and missed the shift to mobile. To survive, Baidu needed a new strategy and artificial intelligence technology provided just the platform to turn the business around. That’s one of the reasons Baidu has committed so aggressively to AI investment. Today, AI products and services are priorities to make them the core of the company’s future. Now, they are partnering with Huawei to develop an open mobile AI platform to support the development of AI-powered smartphones and Qualcomm to optimize its DuerOS for IoT devices and smartphones using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Mobile Platform.

Self-driving cars

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Why Rio de Janeiro Is the Worst City in the World for Commuting to Work

For many, the absolute worst part of the day is the commute to and from work.

A new study by Expert Market looked at 74 key commuting hubs internationally and cross-referenced the average commute time, average distance traveled, time spent waiting on a bus or a train, the amount of changes made in a single journey, time spent in traffic and the cost of a monthly travel card relative to salary in order to determine the best and the worst commutes in the world.

Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro was ranked the overall worst city for commuting. There, the average worker spends over 90 minutes traveling every day and a monthly travel card is about $55, which sucks up 9.4 percent of the average net monthly salary.

If that isn’t enough, Expert Market, an Austin, Texas-based price-comparison tool for business products and services, found that commuters opting for public transit in Rio de Janeiro spend 19 minutes a day on average waiting for a bus or train and then travel 12.3 kilometers (about 7.64 miles) on average to their workplaces.

In the U.S., the worst city for commuters is Miami, which ranked 66 out of Expert Market’s 74.

Findings showed commuters in Miami spend an average of 90 minutes traveling about 26 kilometers (16.2 miles) to and from their workplaces daily. Additionally, the cost of a monthly travel card in Miami takes 4.38 percent out of the average monthly salary–more than workers in any other U.S. city.

Trying to catch a bus or train? In Miami, the average wait time is 18 minutes.

The best U.S. city for commuting is Minneapolis, which took the 20th spot overall. There, the average daily commute is 66 minutes and the cost of a monthly travel card takes 2.39 percent of the average monthly salary.

On the other hand, European cities dominated Expert Market’s top ten and the study found that some of the best cities for commuting are in France. 

Four French cities took a spot in the top ten, with Nice nabbing the No. 1 spot overall.

Toulouse, Lyon, and Strasbourg came in at fourth, seventh and ninth, respectively. 

Commuters in Nice fork out 1.25 percent of their monthly salary for a travel card (which is less than half of the 3.09 percent the average New Yorker pays), plus the average commute time is 40 minutes, according to Expert Market.

How Harley Davidson Is Using AI And Robots To Prepare For The 4th Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, where advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and the internet of things interact with the physical world and will impact our daily lives, how we relate to one another and how we work, has the world’s top executives and companies preparing for the changes that the revolution will create. American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson is one of those companies who has already begun to use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. Let’s look at a few ways Harley-Davidson is getting ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock

Artificial intelligence increased sales leads by 2,930%

When you think about effective marketing for a Harley-Davidson dealership, the first thing that pops into your mind is probably not the ways you can use artificial intelligence to ramp up your results. It’s a good thing the owner of New York City’s Harley dealership, Asaf Jacobi decided to give AI a try, because it increased the dealership’s leads by 2,930% in just three periods.

That is a remarkable number for a start-up, but for an established brand such as Harley-Davidson, that was extraordinary.

Although Jacobi had started researching options to boost sales at his dealership in the off-season and came across some AI tools for marketing and advertising, it was his chance meeting with Or Shani, the CEO of AI firm Algorithm, which had an AI-driven marketing platform called Albert that convinced Jacobi to give it a try.

How Albert works and the results it got for Harley-Davidson

The first test of Albert was a weekend promotion called “48 Bikes in 48 Hours.” They sold 15 motorcycles that weekend, nearly doubling the summer sales record of eight bikes sold in one weekend.

Albert used business logic, the KPIs available for Harley-Davidson NYC and past campaign performance to identify unknown audiences, the best budget allocation across digital channels and even evaluate the performance of different word choices or colors on the creative. Albert processed the data it had been given to figure out trending behavior. It continued to optimize the marketing and ad performance as new data continued to come in.

Japan's Zozo, using measurement taking bodysuit, expands bespoke service

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese online fashion retailer Zozo said on Tuesday it was expanding its offer of made-to-measure clothes using skintight bodysuits which help customers upload their measurements online.

Zozo, which operates Japan’s popular shopping site Zozotown and is officially called Start Today Co Ltd, sells clothes from other brands. But it sees the future of online fashion retail in bespoke services, and has set up a made-to-measure service using the bodysuit, called the Zozosuit.

By photographing themselves wearing the skintight polka-dot Zozosuit, users can upload their body measurements to ensure a perfect fit for the clothes that they order.

“The time where people adapt to clothing is over, this is a new era where clothes adapt to people,” said Zozo Chief Executive Yusaku Maezawa.

Zozo said it was adding business suits and formal shirts to its private clothing line. The suits will retail for a limited time at 21,900 yen ($197.60), with a regular price of 39,800 yen.

The company is on track to ship a million Zozosuits to customers by the end of July, Maezawa said.

Reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

USCIS Changed Website To Block Foreign Student Jobs

, I write about globalization, business, technology and immigration. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its website in an attempt to stop international students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields from working at third-party sites. Immigration experts have concluded the USCIS action does not prevent students from working at such sites. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Businesses thrive on certainty but erratic government policies can cause companies to stumble. On trade and immigration, the Trump administration has not been friendly towards business: Uncertainty on the impact of new tariffs has inhibited investment, while immigration actions have encouraged companies to move work out of the country and scramble to understand shifts in policy. A case in point is the government’s policies on international students in training status and work on third-party customer sites.

In April 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its website without notice and appeared to prohibit international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) from working at third-party locations. This raised more than a few questions: Is it actually against the law or current regulations for students in STEM OPT status to work at third-party sites? Would individuals who continue to do so be violating their immigration status? Does USCIS have the authority to make this change, particularly in this manner?

To answer these and other questions, I interviewed Andrew Greenfield, managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the Fragomen law firm. Andrew has more than 20 years of experience in employment-based immigration law.

Stuart Anderson: What is the difference between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT? How do the rules differ?

Andrew Greenfield: International students holding “F-1” visa status and pursuing degree programs in the United States are typically granted one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in order to gain work experience related to their major fields of study. Students commonly complete their studies before commencing OPT so they can seek employment for a continuous year after graduation. For students whose degree is in a qualifying STEM field, they may apply for an additional 24 months, or a total of 36 months, of OPT work authorization, known as STEM OPT.

Students may apply for OPT and receive an employment authorization document (EAD) without first securing a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, to obtain an additional 24 months of STEM OPT, the international student must have a job offer and the prospective employer must participate in the U.S. government’s E-Verify program. In addition, the STEM OPT employer must assist the student in completing a training plan that explains how the employer will provide the student with work-based learning opportunities related to the student’s curriculum, evaluate his or her performance, and provide oversight and supervision. The training plan must then be reviewed by the student’s school before USCIS will issue a new employment authorization document to cover the additional 24-month STEM OPT period.

Anderson: How does the U.S. government define a “third-party” site and an “employer-employee relationship”?

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Coming soon from Netflix: Three dozen billboards in Hollywood

NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Netflix Inc, the streaming video pioneer that revolutionized television, is investing in one of the oldest forms of media to gain an edge in the raging battle for online viewers and top-notch talent.

A billboard is pictured on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

Known for acclaimed shows such as “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” Netflix will soon own up to 35 billboard displays on roughly two dozen structures along West Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Netflix, already a heavy advertiser on billboards in the area, was offering $300 million in April to acquire Los Angeles-based Regency Outdoor Advertising, Reuters previously reported.

The sources told Reuters that Netflix decided to buy only half of Regency’s assets for $150 million, to focus on the Sunset Strip in a deal expected to close in July. It is also considering acquiring other Regency billboards in Hollywood, such as near the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, they added.

A Netflix spokesman had no comment.

Locking up prime ad inventory on the busy Sunset Strip – seen daily by actors, writers and directors – is Netflix’s latest move to demonstrate its prowess to be a leading Hollywood producer and distributor. The company plans to release about 700 original TV series, movies and other programming this year.

The new strategy calls for Netflix to use the billboards in house and not rent space to other companies, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the agreement has not been announced.

Billboards are pictured on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

That means advertisements for rivals such as AT&T Inc’s HBO and CBS Corp’s Showtime, which currently promote shows on Regency billboards in the area, will cycle off once the deal closes, a person close to the talks said.

This approach differs from CBS and other media companies that have owned billboards but rented space out to other media customers. That said, competing TV and movie producers still will have access to dozens of billboards owned by other companies on the Sunset Strip and in other locations across Los Angeles.

Representatives for HBO and Showtime had no comment.

Advertising on billboards is part of the $2 billion that Netflix plans to spend on marketing this year to help grow its 125 million streaming customer base around the world.

Billboards must compete with digital advertising and the fact that people often are glued to their phones rather than the advertising on the street. And yet advertisers remain interested in billboards in part because they are hard to ignore by captive audiences in cars, and many take photos of them to post on social media, expanding their reach.

In Hollywood, studios use billboards to impress talent with a highly visible show of support. This helps lure filmmakers who crave attention for their movies, which Netflix releases in only a limited number of theaters, according to one Hollywood executive.

“This is a way for you to feel better that your name and your product and your film is getting the exposure to the public that you want at some level,” the executive said.

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A STRATEGY TO SPEND AND SAVE

Netflix will save marketing dollars over time in the deal because its rates will never go up on these billboards, and it could recoup the deal’s cost in a short time, sources said.

“It makes total economic sense,” said Gino Sesto, owner and founder of Dash Two, a company that buys outdoor and digital advertising for clients including Universal Music Group and Vice Media.

Renting a single billboard on the Sunset Strip averages around $25,000 a month, Sesto said. For billboards it owns, Netflix would have to pay only the price of replacing the vinyl on the sign, which costs about $800, plus minimal maintenance costs, he said.

Plus, Netflix will have more flexibility to change a billboard in the middle of a month.

“Netflix has got so many shows that they can literally blanket the market for one show for a week, and then switch it out,” he said.

The billboards’ value stands to appreciate over time, particularly because Los Angeles authorities rarely approve construction of new ones, Sesto said.

Out-of-home advertising, which includes billboards, bus shelters and other locations, is the only traditional advertising platform projected to grow in the United States in 2018, according to Magna Global. The media buying firm projects a 21.9 percent increase to $8 billion.

Netflix could choose to upgrade static billboards to digital signs, which can play several video messages, or try adding other technology. Operators have been experimenting with having the signs interact with mobile phones and sometimes display personalized messages.

Even if they have to find a new billboard operator on the Sunset Strip, competitors could pull a copy-cat move: A process is still ongoing to sell the rest of Regency’s assets.

PJ Solomon, a unit of Natixis SA, advised Netflix and Moelis advised Regency Outdoor. The legal advisers were Loeb & Loeb for Netflix and Manatt for Regency. PJ Solomon, Moelis and Manatt declined to comment while Loeb & Loeb did not respond to a request for comment on the deal.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; editing by Edward Tobin

New Leak Offers Details About Microsoft’s Folding Pocket Computer, ‘Andromeda’

A leaked Microsoft document bolsters long-running speculation that the company will introduce a folding, pocket-friendly device may join the company’s Surface line. The device, according to current plans, would be roughly palm-sized when folded, include a full-width screen covering a center hinge, and could be controlled by a stylus.

The new document was obtained by The Verge. Details of the project, known internally as Andromeda, have surfaced previously both in leaks and in possibly-related patents. A designer has even produced unofficial 3-D mockups based on those details, which according to The Verge closely resemble Microsoft’s own prototypes.

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But the new document adds more detail to Microsoft’s overall vision for the product. According to The Verge, Microsoft describes Andromeda as “a new pocketable Surface device form factor that brings together innovative new hardware and software experiences to create a truly personal and versatile computing experience.” Strategically, Microsoft reportedly views the device as a rebound from the failure of Windows Phone, aimed at blurring “the lines between mobile and stationary computing,” and creating a “new and disruptive” hardware category.

As gorgeous as the speculative mockups look, potential applications for this sort of device aren’t quite instantly compelling — even focusing on sheer portability, it might compete with the big phones so many power users already carry. Intel recently demonstrated a similar folding concept known as Tiger Rapids, showing it used for handwritten note-taking, then converted into a mini-laptop with a touchscreen keyboard. The latter might be a tough sell for serious users, since most touchscreen keyboards are, well, kind of terrible.

The tech news site Thurrott, whose reporter seems to have viewed part of the same document earlier this month, emphasizes that none of these plans are certain. Microsoft has canceled other projects within weeks of planned launches, and Andromeda was reportedly largely spearheaded by Terry Myerson, who was in charge of Windows and devices before leaving the company earlier this year. That increases the chance that all of these rumors could come to nothing.

Microsoft has declined to comment about Andromeda so far, but Fortune has reached out to the company and will update with any response.

3 common machine learning mistakes to avoid

I’m a big fan of cloud-based machine learning and deep learning, and AI in general. After all, you can’t be a geek without imagining having a conversation with an artificially intelligent being that can answer questions and carry out your bidding!

That’s said, I’m also seeing cloud-based machine learning and deep learning misapplied over and over again. All have easy fixes for the most part, and certainly cloud-based machine learning is here to stay. But use it wisely and appropriately.

Here are the top three recurring mistakes that I’m seeing. 

1. Not enough data to provide the training to the knowledge model

Machine learning, without any learning, is worthless. The true use case for machine learning is applying algorithms to massive amount of data and having certain patterns emerge that become the training for the machine-learning-based applications.

So, no data, no learning. Although a machine learning application can gather data over time and become smarter, it needs a jumping-off point where there is enough data to teach the system how to think in the first place.

For example, there are machine earning systems that operates in hospitals, that do the dark art of telling the staff your likelihood of dying during your hospital stay. Without at least 100,000 data points, you can count on that likelihood being either 0 or 100 percent—not helpful.

2. Using machine learning where it’s not needed

This is the most common fail that I’ve seeing, resulting in companies spending as three or four times times the development costs to use machine learning in an application—for absolutely no reason.Machine learning systems simply offer no real advantages in many use cases.

Procedural logic works well most of the time, so building a knowledge base for, say, an accounting systems or scheduling system is just over the top. Worse, the resulting applications are much less efficient. 

3. Not understanding the performance impact

Embedding machine learning systems in applications can sometimes make them much more valuable to the business. However, it can also kill the application performance.

Think about it: An embedded machine learning service could have several-second latency as it runs algorithms across the data. If this application should provide a response in near real time, any value from machine learning goes away quickly considering the lost productivity from the delayed response.

4 Ways to Make Your Data Speak to Your Audience

Let’s say you’re tasked with giving an anti-tobacco presentation to an audience of high school freshman. From the tobacco-related research out there, you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one out of every 13 teens will die early from tobacco-related problems. You also know that numbers will be meaningless without context.

What do you do to engage the young people listening to your speech? You bring 13 of them onstage to illustrate the point. Suddenly, the numbers have real-world impact. As your youthful volunteers nervously look at one another, each silently wonders, “Will that one in 13 be me?”

Therein lies the power of solid data storytelling — not to mention smart public speaking strategy.

Businesses have more and more data available to them, and using it is no longer optional; it’s required for any company that wants to remain competitive. According to Asha Saxena, CEO and chairperson of Future Technologies, Inc., a data management firm that has partnered with Microsoft and Tableau, data is not a business element you can skip over. “Every business needs to have a strong data strategy,” she says. “If they don’t start looking at their data as an asset, it’s going to be very difficult for them to survive.”

However, businesses historically haven’t contextualized their on-hand data in a clear way. In fact, more than half of organizations included in Experian’s 2017 global data management benchmark report said they “rely on educated guesses or gut feelings” when making decisions based on their company’s data. Many simply push out facts, hoping audience members can draw their own correct conclusions. Not surprisingly, most people can’t connect the dots without a little help. That’s where charts and graphs (like this one from the Washington Post showing readers for how much of their lives the U.S. has been at war) come into play.

Now, data storytelling isn’t exactly a new concept. Humans have shared narratives since time immemorial. As Mike Brody, co-founder of Exago Inc. and three-time software entrepreneur, explains, “Stories are how people make sense of the world, so it follows that they’d also be our way of making sense of data.” Brody sees technology as a means to facilitate storytelling with data, but points out that tech alone “cannot yet put data into human context.”

Having data isn’t enough; without a storyteller, the data can seem flat or unimportant. That’s why it’s time for businesses to not only mine their data, but also give flavor, color, and substance to the data discoveries they unearth.

Want your data to speak to your audience? Make sure the narrative you craft has everything it needs to tell a structurally sound story. Learn the rules for aligning your data and business strategies via these robust storytelling techniques:

1. Alter your data story to fit your audience.

Every audience has unique needs, and your data storytelling must resonate with your audience’s personas. Are they highly educated? Socially diverse? Extremely analytical? Ideally, you want to create an emotional link between readers or listeners and your knowledge. The best scientific research papers do this well: They have a layout that allows audiences to get both an abbreviated and full-length story depending on their needs or attention span. Likewise, you should arrange your narration in a way that matters to your target prospects and stimulates them on a personal level.

2. Identify “characters” throughout your data narrative.

Every unforgettable story includes compelling characters, often portrayed in “good” or “bad” lights. As you craft your story, the good guy will be your company, and the bad guy(s) could be your competitors, the conditions of your industry’s market, and, of course, your audience’s pain points. The characters you choose will take action to address your narrative’s conflict — their actions and the outcomes of those actions are where you can incorporate your data into the story. As long as you’re being true to the data itself and not manipulating it, you can give the characters showcasing your data any personalities you want.

3. Highlight the conflict in your data story.

Conflict makes stories more compelling, so look for the conflict point or points in your data. What’s the core issue? Where are the places of friction? It may be wise to bring in a professional storyteller to help breathe life into your data. You can also team up with business intelligence vendors who offer software and platforms to foster improved data storytelling that highlights your story’s conflict.

4. Give your data story a resolution and call to action.

After reading or hearing your data story, what should your audience know or do? Give them guidance and direction; otherwise, they’ll just have the information and not take any further steps. For example, you may want customers or prospects to make a purchase, download a whitepaper, join your mailing list, or contact your sales representatives. Determine the overall goal and weave it into your story’s conclusion.

You’re sitting on a wealth of data that keeps growing daily. It’s time to use all that wonderful information to your advantage. The abundant data at your fingertips can be fuel for a practically endless supply of riveting tales for your audience. Your team simply has to become creative enough to turn it into memorable narratives and visualizations, instead of never-ending spreadsheets.

California Unanimously Passes Historic Privacy Bill

California lawmakers unanimously passed a new privacy bill on Thursday that would give residents of the state more control over the information businesses collect on them and impose new penalties on businesses that don’t comply. It is the first law of its kind in the United States.

The so-called California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (AB 375) was introduced late last week by state assemblymember Ed Chau and state senator Robert Hertzberg, in a rush to defeat a stricter privacy-focused ballot initiative that had garnered more than 600,000 signatures from Californians. The group behind that initiative, Californians for Consumer Privacy, said it would withdraw it if the bill passed. The deadline to withdraw was Thursday, forcing the state legislature to fast-track the bill through the State Senate and Assembly and get it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk by the end of the day. The law takes effect in 2020, but in some ways, Thursday’s vote is only the beginning, as business interest groups work to tinker with the legislation’s details before then.

In a statement to WIRED following landslide votes in both state houses, Hertzberg said, “Today the California Legislature made history by passing the most comprehensive privacy law in the country. We in California are continuing to push the envelope on technology and privacy issues by enacting robust consumer protections—without stifling innovation.”

The new legislation gives Californians the right to see what information businesses collect on them, request that it be deleted, get access to information on the types of companies their data has been sold to, and direct businesses to stop selling that information to third parties. It’s similar to the General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect in the European Union last month, but adds to it in crucial ways. Under the GDPR, businesses are required to get users’ permission before collecting and storing their data. But the way most companies have designed those opt-in pop-ups, “you really don’t have a choice,” says Ashkan Soltani, former chief technology officer of the Federal Trade Commission who helped author the ballot initiative.

The ballot initiative would have prevented businesses from denying service to consumers if they opt out of having their data tracked and stored. The law contains similar language, though it creates what Hertzberg calls the “Spotify exception,” which allows companies to offer different services or rates to consumers based on the information they provide—for instance, a free product based on advertising. But, the bill states, the difference must be “reasonably related to the value provided to the consumer by the consumer’s data.”

Had the bill failed, it would have been up to voters to decide whether to support the proposal on the ballot in November. Prior to Thursday’s vote, Alastair Mactaggart, the real estate mogul behind the ballot initiative sounded optimistic about his options. “We’re heartened by the momentum behind these endeavors, and the protections that both efforts seek to provide for consumers and our children,” he said in a statement.

But ballot initiatives are far more difficult to change once they’re passed, because amendments require yet another two-thirds majority vote on the ballot. That may be one reason why opponents within the tech industry reluctantly supported the passage of the bill, says Soltani: It’s easier to change.

“The senate can vote on amendments and the special interests can lobby on these amendments,” he says. “The reason why we haven’t been able to do anything in privacy for 20 years is because the special interests are so powerful.”

The tech industry did throw the full weight of its lobbying might—and money—at the fight against the ballot initiative, spending millions of dollars to oppose it through a group called the Committee to Protect California Jobs. They argued that the measure would open them up to liability that would hurt their businesses and their ability to hire. Hertzberg envisioned the bill as a compromise, in part, because it leaves the task of enforcing the law to the attorney general and takes the right to private action by citizens off the table, except in the case of data breaches.

And yet, a report by The Intercept revealed that lobbyists affiliated with the group TechNet were working behind the scenes to change crucial parts of the bill, as well, including a stipulation that businesses must include a clear button on their websites giving people the ability to opt out of data collection.

Still, in a statement to WIRED just before Thursday’s vote, TechNet’s vice president of state policy and politics, Andrea Deveau, said, “We believe that the legislature​, not the ballot box,​​ is the correct venue to consider this important and compl​ex area of policy​.”

Robert Callahan, vice president of state government affairs at the Internet Association, which represents tech companies like Google and Facebook, struck much the same tone. In a statement to WIRED, he said that while the group opposes “many problematic provisions” within the bill, it at least “prevents the even worse ballot initiative from becoming law in California.”

Facebook initially supported the opposition initiative, but pulled out publicly in April, a month after news broke that a political consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica amassed data on tens of millions of American Facebook users for political purposes without their knowledge. “We took this step in order to focus our efforts on supporting common sense privacy measures in California,” the company said at the time.

Now, in a statement to WIRED, Facebook’s vice president of state and local public policy, Will Castleberry, said that while the bill is “not perfect,” the company supports it and looks forward to “working with policymakers on an approach that protects consumers and promotes responsible innovation.”

The law goes into effect on January 1, 2020. The Internet Association has already hinted at efforts to modify the legislation before implementation. “It is critical going forward that policymakers and industry work to correct the inevitable, negative policy and compliance ramifications this last-minute deal will create,” Callahan said.

Since the bill was introduced last week, some of those changes have already been made. One key difference: The bill initially required businesses to share “accurate names and contact information” for third parties that bought user data over the prior year. That language has since changed, requiring businesses to merely disclose the “categories of third parties” that bought the data.

The industry’s argument, Soltani says, is that it would be too difficult for businesses to track which third parties have access to the data. “I argue the other side. If they’re sharing data with third parties, they might want to have a mechanism to keep track of who they’re sharing with,” he says.

Still, Soltani believes the law as it stands will have a tremendous impact and could set the standard for states across the country, whose citizens can press their own governments to adopt something similar. “Once people see this is possible and once companies start complying,” he says, “I think other states’ citizens will say, ‘Why can’t we have this too?’”


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