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What Experts Say Most Entrepreneurs Don't Understand About Becoming a Business Owner
March 20, 2019 12:25 am|Comments (0)

[unable to retrieve full-text content]If you think obtaining funding is you’re biggest priority, think again
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With 4 Short Words, Amazon Just Revealed the Brutal Truth About Its Decision to Cancel HQ2 in New York. (So Many People Don't Want to Admit This)
February 19, 2019 6:00 am|Comments (0)

It’s not a plan really, not a hidden secret message. It’s more of an expression of emotion. Maybe a realization of necessity.

In fact, while the text Amazon posted on its blog on February 14 runs 363 words, the most important part of this crucial passage is just four words long. But those four words speak volumes.

It starts with a dig at “state and local politicians” in New York, and a statement about how many New Yorkers supposedly supported the deal. Then, we get to the crucial part:

We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion–we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture–and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. 

There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.

Those four crucial words? “We love New York.”

They’re not included by accident. In fact, I’ll bet this statement probably went through more writing, editing and rewriting than anything in Amazon’s history.

But the passage is crucial. It’s a recognition that even in a post-HQ2 world Amazon, still depends big time on New York. That’s why I think the company is at pains to reassure everyone that it isn’t going to try to just reopen the HQ2 search and do this elsewhere.

The brutal truth is: New York City is special.

I know people don’t like to admit this. I know that there are many trying to make political points, attacking union leaders and politicians who they say are to blame for Amazon running away.

But there is no other place truly like New York City, and Amazon isn’t really going to run — not completely. It’s not just chest-thumping; it comes down at least partly to sheer numbers. Here are three of them:

  • By far, New York is the largest city in America, with 8.6 million people–almost as big as the second, third, and fourth largest cities combined.
  • By far, it’s the largest metropolitan area: more than 20 million people. If it were its own state, it would be about as big as Florida — but much more densely packed.
  • By far, it has the largest GDP of any metro area, at at $ 1.7 trillion. That’s nearly 9 percent of the entire country.

Was it ever possible that Amazon would direct a personal insult at the largest and most important market in the country, by jilting it for say, Nashville? 

No offense to Nashville, the so-called runner-up. It’s a really great city too, but numbers don’t lie: it’s tiny compared to New York.

Remember, they just proved it at Amazon, too.

After staging a 14-month beauty contest, playing off more than 200 cities against each other, and keeping the terms secret so that none of them could know what they needed to do in order to win, the result was almost comically predictable:

Amazing n couldn’t do better than New York and an area right outside Washington, D.C. 

You know what I think’s going to happen now? Amazon is going to redistribute those 25,000 jobs around a lot of different places. (Remember, it was only planning to create 700 jobs this year, and wouldn’t hit the full number until 2028 at least.)

Now, New York will still get the largest share, only without having to give an average of $ 120,000 per job in tax breaks to get them.

And, it will make up the rest and still more–because Amazon just did the legwork for every other company in America.

Especially if the state and city can come up with anything even approaching a small percentage of the deal they were willing to give Amazon, and offer it to a wide array of smaller employers,  think things look pretty rosy.

No matter your size, and as long as you don’t try to squeeze completely one-sided terms out of the deal, if you want to attract amazing workers and expand in one of the greatest cities in the world, Amazon just proved where you should go. 

Amazon loves New York. And a lot of other people do too. 

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According to Embr CEO Sam Shames, Entrepreneurship is About These 4 Things
January 15, 2019 12:08 am|Comments (0)

For Embr CEO Sam Shames, though, all he wanted was to be warm.

“We were working in an MIT lab in the summer in Cambridge–where it was hot and humid outside — but inside was freezing. The school wouldn’t let us change the air conditioning temperature, so it was a constant battle to keep from freezing inside,” he said, while speaking to me at CES.

Theorizing that solving the problem of personal body temperature would be a “cool” idea for the annual MIT materials-science design competition, Shames and his team created a prototype wrist bracelet that provided the sensation of heat or cool to a wearer — and won $ 10,000 for their effort. “We thought that was great and that we’d go on to life after school–until people started contacting us and wondering when we’d start selling it,” he said.

Shames guessed it would take around six months to create the product, considering they’d build the prototype so quickly. Four years later, they finally delivered. Along the way, he learned quite a few things valuable to every entrepreneur.

1. Create something people need–not want.

Shames found a problem that affects a large number of people around the world–and almost discounted it because it hadn’t been done before in an effective way. “Sharper Image sold a personal air conditioner in the 90’s, but I hadn’t seen anyone else do this.” (Coincidentally, I own that device, which works on similar technology as the Embr, at 10 times the size.)

Once you have enough people telling you this is a real problem that they need a solution to, you’ve validated your market enough to move forward – whether there are competitors or not.

2. Engage your customers early and often.

For Shames, before they could create a commercial version, he had to learn a few things. First, he needed to understand what the different use cases were — not everyone was working in an MIT laboratory like him, after all.

By talking to your customers, you’ll see patterns in the things that are most important to everyone, rather than things that might be nice-to-have for individuals. This can help you to develop your initial product.

3. Be ok with being wrong.

For the first few years, Shames was convinced that it would only take six months to get the product out the door. Every six months, he would readjust and change to the next six months. Each time, he would learn something new to take him down a new path–which would eventually make the product better.

Studies show that when you’re transparent about your imperfection, people trust you more. In a company, that’s a valuable lesson.

4. Keep learning.

When Shames and the team left MIT, they didn’t stop their research. In creating a product that is in the wellness category, they found that it is being used by scientists in research studies to test effectiveness as an aid in sleep, lowering anxiety, and other applications. As part of this, the Embr team is constantly learning about how temperature affects the nervous system and what they can do to control it.

No matter what your company does, you can always learn new ways to improve it and make it better. By reading journals, working with partners, or attending conferences, you can pick up new information that will help it grow.

As for running Embr, Shames says, “It isn’t always easy–but it’s the best job ever.”

And that is entrepreneurship–to which I wholeheartedly agree.

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Sentiment Speaks: These 'Facts' About The Market Will Continue To Get You Whipsawed
November 26, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

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35 Questions About Kindness, Happiness, and Gratitude to Keep Your Thanksgiving Celebration Fun and Uplifting
November 12, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

With Thanksgiving around the corner hosts and hostesses are thinking about holiday preparations. Some find it stressful, others feel joyful about it. Either way, it’s easy to lose sight of the spirit of Thanksgiving, including gratitude, kindness, and happiness

Countless studies have proven the psychological and physical benefits of these attributes. Why not serve up some added encouragement to spread a little happiness at the Thanksgiving table?

An especially joyful family event is made up of a mix of good memories and happy reminders, mingled with an appreciation of the present moment. That sounds easy enough, but some families find it difficult to remain in this frame of mind and buttons can be pushed, making the occasion more stressful than celebratory. Use these questions as prompts to keep an uplifting and fun conversation going. Who knows? As an added bonus you may learn some things about your friends and family that surprise you. 

  1. Aside from the obvious (family, health, job, etc.) what are you most grateful for?
  2. What’s one gift or talent you have that makes you most happy and/or grateful?
  3. What’s one memory that still makes you laugh?
  4. What is biggest food failure or the wackiest Holiday/Thanksgiving memory you remember (that you can share)?
  5. If a UFO filled with friendly aliens landed in your backyard what would you do to make them feel welcomed?
  6. Name anyone who makes you smile. why? 
  7. What choices have you made in the last five years that you’d thank yourself for making?
  8. What is the most memorable act of kindness you performed this past year?
  9. What’s the kindest thing someone did for you this past year?
  10. When you do something nice for someone how do you like them to express their gratitude?
  11. What scent makes you happy?
  12. Do you smile at strangers? Why or why not?
  13. What’s something you witnessed recently that reminded you that people are good?
  14. If you had a realistic wand, what would you change to bring more happiness to this world?
  15. If you had any 3 wishes what would they be and how/why would they make you happy?
  16. What one or two simple pleasure makes you feel most content?
  17. What’s something enjoyable you get to experience every day that you’ve come to take for granted?
  18. What’s your happy food?
  19. What celebrity would you love to meet and why would it make you happy?
  20. What’s the best thing that happened so far today?
  21. What’s the last song you heard that you enjoyed? How did it make you feel, and why?
  22. How about a movie? Which one have you most enjoyed lately?
  23. What’s one thing do you most appreciate about your home, and have you taken time to enjoy it recently?
  24. If you could paint the sky any other color what would it be?
  25. If you were moving to another country what’s one thing you would take with you to remind you of the comforts of home?
  26. Which one of your six senses (including intuition) most allows you to experience things that make you happy or grateful?
  27. What one or two things in nature have you appreciated lately?
  28. If someone were to surprise you with something to make you feel happy and grateful, what would it be?
  29. What sight or sound is most likely to make you pause to appreciate?
  30. In what situation(s) do you feel most free to let your silly side show? 
  31. When you’re in a bad mood what cheers you up?
  32. What’s your best secret to cheer up someone else?
  33. What song makes you want to get up and dance?
  34. What was/is your favorite cartoon?
  35. What three things (besides food, air, and water) can you not live without?

Add a few questions of your own to customize this little game to your friend and family history. Print out the full list or put the questions on individual pieces of paper and toss them in a dish to pass. Have fun with it!

Published on: Nov 12, 2018

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Tesla Is Facing a ‘Deepening Criminal Probe’ About Misleading Investors on Its Model 3 Production, Report Says
October 27, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Tesla, the pioneering electric-car manufacturer that posted blowout earnings this week, may be facing an FBI investigation over investor communications it made regarding the production levels of its Model 3 sedans, the Wall Street Journal said Friday.

Earlier this month, Tesla settled with the SEC over charges that it misled investors after CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private. The SEC, which alleged that the tweets were fraudulent, at first sued Musk, before reaching a settlement that required Musk and Tesla to each pay $ 20 million in fines, while finding an independent chairman to replace Musk.

According to the Journal, Tesla the FBI “has intensified” its investigation into whether Tesla misstated data on the production of its Model 3, its lowest-priced sedan. Tesla has invested heavily in the Model 3 production, adding to losses in recent quarters. Last quarter, however, Model 3 sales pushed Tesla into the black.

In a statement, Tesla disputed some of the Journal’s report. “Earlier this year, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the Department of Justice about its public guidance for the Model 3 ramp,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement to Fortune. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process, and there have been no additional document requests about this from the Department of Justice for months.”

The Journal reported that former Tesla employees, who received subpoenas earlier in the investigation, have been contacted in recent weeks by the FBI for further testimony.

Musk told investors on earnings calls that Tesla would be producing between 5,000 and 20,000 Model 3s per month by the end of 2017, the Journal said. In reality, Tesla ended up producing only 2,700 Model 3’s for all of 2017. The FBI is reportedly investigating such discrepancies.

While Tesla admits it did not meet its early and ambitious production goals, it said it was “transparent about how difficult it would be… and that we were entering ‘production hell.’” Tesla further noted that “it took us six months longer than we expected to meet our 5,000 unit per week guidance,” but that its approach has been “to set truthful targets – not sandbagged targets that we would definitely exceed and not unrealistic targets that we could never meet.”

Tesla’s stock, which rose 5.2% Friday during official trading, was down 1.8% in after-hours trading.

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How Much Money Does Fortnite Make? About $1.5 Million Per Day—Just on iOS
October 6, 2018 6:00 pm|Comments (0)

Fortnite is one of the most popular games available at the moment, so it comes as no surprise that the title is making a ton of money on iOS devices alone.

Fortnite brought in $ 300 million in its first 200 days on Apple’s iOS platform, according to market analyst Sensor Tower. The game is free to play, but players can purchase Fortnite skins and dances. It’s made the most of any game on iOS in the first 200 days of availability. Users can buy skins and dances separately or purchase a season pass to get a collection of new releases. In just the month of April, Fortnite made $ 300 million across all its available platforms, The Verge reported.

Fortnite is also available on Android, the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It’s become a massive cultural phenomenon since its release in 2017. Celebrities like Drake have streamed themselves playing Fortnite, players streaming their games on platforms like Twitch have become a kind of celebrity of their own, and the premiere of Saturday Night Live’s 44th season even featured a Fortnite-themed sketch.

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United Airlines Has Some Great News About Its Business (There's Bad News for Passengers)
August 12, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Even if it says so itself.

The airline just released some figures for July, and, at a cursory glance, they’re glowing.

Consolidated traffic (revenue passenger miles) increased 6.9 percent and consolidated capacity (available seat miles) increased 4.0 percent versus July 2017. UAL’s July 2018 consolidated load factor increased 2.4 points compared to July 2017.

Won’t you look at that?

This means the airline’s packing them in and making lots of money.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that domestic traffic rose by 9.1 percent in July. Compared to last July, that is.

And Lordy, the airline is doing wonderfully in the regions. There, traffic is up a pulsating 17.6 percent.

United’s also packing them in on each flight.

The so-called load factor (number of people who are actually paying) at home soared to 90.5 percent. That’s a 2.6 percent increase.

United was loaded internationally, too. A 2.2 percent increase to 87.8 percent.

People are paying to fly United and there are more flights to more places, which makes the United world a wonderful place.

Alright, if you read the headline at all — and if you didn’t, what are you doing here? — there’s a little bad news. 

You see, when you pack more people onto your planes, it might take a little longer. 

That’s what appears to be happening. All this success in selling tickets appears to be leading to a reduction in on-time departures, the beautifully named D0. 

A mere 62.3 percent of mainline flights — that is, the non-regional variety — departed on time or even slightly early. 

This is a 1 percent drop from this time last year.

This isn’t, of course, merely an inconvenience for passengers. When a plane departs late, cabin crew must explain themselves to their bosses.

Well, you see, it was like this. There were so many darned people. And have you seen all that stuff they bring on planes? 

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Should We Be Concerned About The Yield Curve?
July 21, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

On the latest edition of Market Week in Review, Senior Quantitative Investment Strategy Analyst Kara Ng and Sam Templeton, manager, global communications, discuss why we should pay attention to the US yield curve, President Trump’s tariff talk, and the latest corporate earnings reports.

US yield curve getting close to inverting

The slope of the US yield curve has fallen to just 24 basis points and getting close to inverting. Ng says “we should pay attention because an inverted yield curve is historically one of the best predictors of a downturn.” She notes over the last 5 economic cycles, an initial inversion preceded an economic recession between 9 and 18 months, while equity markets tend to peak about 6 months before a recession. This means there’s a large negative impact in being defensive in your portfolio too late, but also a cost in being defensive too early, and missing out on the late-cycle gains. Ng says savvy and timely investment strategy is everything. And while the slope of the yield isn’t inverted yet, it has uncomfortably flattened. She is currently expecting a recession in late-2019 or 2020, so believes it’s still too early to go completely defensive.

Should the Federal Reserve be more concerned about the yield curve?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington this week and didn’t express a lot of concern about the flattening yield curve. Ng says Powell was upbeat about the economy and affirmed that gradual rate hikes are appropriate; for now it’s the neutral rate he’s more focused on than the shape of the yield curve. The neutral rate isn’t something you can observe, but is the theoretical rate where interest rates neither hurt nor help the economy. Ng is concerned that the Fed hasn’t paid enough attention to the slope of the yield curve historically and has argued “this time is different” too often. She explained it contains lots of information. For example, when the 10-year rate falls lower than the current short-term rate, it may be that the market expects lower short-term rates in the future, possibly because of a future growth slowdown resulting in the Fed cutting rates to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, she says the shorter end of the curve is heavily influenced by the current Fed policy. If the Fed raises interest rates too far above sustainable fundamentals, then the restrictive monetary policy might start a recession. Ng says not to ignore the yield curve.

Trump threatens more tariffs on China

Ng says a month ago it looked like a US trade war with China was a risk, but not our central scenario. Now, she says the odds of a full-blown trade war are closer to 50/50. Ng says the tariff announcements are probably a “maximum pressure” negotiation strategy, because the US wouldn’t benefit from closed trade. She notes a lot of the tariff goods are intermediate, not final goods. That means that those goods are an input to some final product that could be made in the US. In the short run, US companies would have trouble finding substitutes for those intermediate parts, which would hurt US businesses. Ng says to keep an eye on how consumer and CEO confidence develops given potential disruptions to global supply chains.

Second-quarter earnings

It’s still early days in the reporting season, but so far Ng says the Q2 earnings season is surprisingly strong. Only 17% of US companies have reported so far, so Ng isn’t extrapolating too much from the small sample size, but of those companies, about 95% have beat expectations. She says that’s high, especially since earnings expectations were optimistic to begin with. However, market response has been relatively muted. Ng expects the Q2 earnings season will be strong, but not as strong as the Q1 season. Some of the macro tailwinds that previously helped Q1 earnings are fading – global growth is moderating and the US dollar strengthened, which impacts US multinational companies’ earnings.

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Three Important Things Non-Programmers Should Know About Programming
June 12, 2018 6:04 pm|Comments (0)

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What are the three most important things non-programmers should know about programming? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Ken Mazaika, CTO & Co-founder at thefirehoseproject.com, on Quora:

Early in my web development career I realized that there were three things that were critical for every non-programmer to know before interacting with programmers in a professional setting.

My experience building a single feature with a non-technical product manager taught me these lessons almost immediately.

Let me explain…

I was working with Colin, a non-technical product manager who was responsible for driving the direction of the product and working with my team, the development team, to implement features for our product.

As a developer, Colin was great to work with. The feature requests he created were always really well thought out. He always had all the edge cases accounted for and he drew detailed wireframes, diagrams of what the expected behavior of the feature should look like.

But then, all of a sudden, Colin had a feature request for our team that caused a major problem for our entire development team!

Colin gave our team a wireframe diagram of our application that had an additional checkbox that would allow a user to store their credit card information on the platform.

The feature request seemed simple enough, but because of laws and regulations about credit card information (specifically PCI compliance laws), storage of credit card information is something that is highly complex and regulated.

Despite seeming simple, supporting this one feature in our application would require a complete rewrite of our code.

I brought this issue up to Colin and at first he didn’t get it. “All I’m asking for is a simple checkbox, it can’t be that difficult to add”, he said. I explained that adding the checkbox would be super easy, but making the checkbox do what it claimed would be the difficult part.

Colin then did something that proved that he was the type of product manager who got things done.He explained, “Let me explain why I wanted to include the ability to allow a user to save their payment information…” and then Colin explained that after making a certain type of purchase, it was very common for users to make a related purchase shortly after.

Together we realized there was a solution where we could prompt the user to purchase both items at the same time, instead of worrying about storing the payment information. This was a solution that would give Colin everything he wanted and be ten times easier to implement for our team.

Together with Colin, we implemented this solution. This experience taught me that there are only three things that non-programmers need to focus on when working together with other developers.

They’re also easy lessons to learn…

1. Communicate the technical details to developers quickly and efficiently.

There is no more effective way to explain functionality of an application than showing a developer wireframes of proposed changes.

2. Things can appear to be easier to implement than they actually are.

Be open to the idea that things that seem like they should be really easy can be much more difficult to implement in practice.

3. Provide context about why you think things are important.

Explain the why behind the thoughts you have in situations where you’re getting pushback from developers — if you do this you’ll find yourself working together with them to solve problems.

Remember that you are have the same end goal as the developers you’re working with — to provide the best experience possible or the application you’re building.

Follow these steps and the developers you’re working with can focus their energy on being the best developer they can be. And if you’re a developer you can focus on the 29 Behaviors That Will Make You An Unstoppable Programmer.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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