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New UK laws will block China's Huawei from sensitive state projects: The Sun
February 9, 2019 12:00 am|Comments (0)

FILE PHOTO – A woman sits next to a salesperson at a Huawei shop in Bangkok, Thailand, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

(Reuters) – New laws on foreign investment in the UK will block Chinese firm Huawei from sensitive UK tech projects, The Sun newspaper reported on Friday.

Many are concerned that allowing Huawei an inside track on the rollout of the 5G mobile network in the UK would let China spy on private lives and hack UK companies, The Sun said.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson are among those concerned about the Chinese firm’s reach, the report said.

Reporting by Gaurika Juneja in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

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Dow Surges Nearly 750 Points on Strong Hiring Data, Dovish Comments From Fed Chair
January 5, 2019 12:01 am|Comments (0)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged nearly 750 points Friday, more than erasing its losses one day earlier, as a stock market hungry for good news received two morsels: a stronger-than-expected jobs report and comments from the Federal Reserve Chairman that signaled more flexibility in raising interest rates.

The Dow rallied 3.3% to 24,433.16, with the S&P 500 Index rising 3.4% to 2,531.94. Technology stocks, which have been especially volatile in recent months, were among the biggest gaining. The Nasdaq Composite rose 4.3% to 6,738.86.

Apple’s stock rose 4.3% to $ 148.26 two days after the company warned that a slowdown in China and overall iPhone sales would cause its revenue in the holiday quarter to fall well short of analyst expectations. Before Friday, Apple had lost 39% of the peak value it reached in early October.

The tech sector was the best performing subset of the S&P 500, rising 4%. Many large-cap tech stocks rose even further, with Amazon gaining 5%, Microsoft rising 4.7%, Alphabet advancing 5.1% and Netflix surging 9.7%. Since a market selloff on Christmas Eve, Netflix has gained 27%.

Early Friday, the Labor Department said that U.S. employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated and labor-force participation jumped, suggesting the underlying economy is holding up amid falling stock prices.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 312,000 in December, surpassing analyst forecasts. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2% year over year, the fastest pace since 2009. The unemployment rate inched up from a five-decade low to 3.9% as more people entered the labor market to find work.

The stock rally advanced further after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated at a conference in Atlanta that the Fed may pause from raising interest rates in the coming months. “With the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell said. The remarks were received as more dovish than some of Powell’s recent comments, which have drawn the ire of President Trump.

Both developments were welcome in a market that had been bracing for more bad news. Apple’s revenue revision had led investors to worry about more disappointing earnings later this month. A Thursday report also showed manufacturing activity was slowing faster than expected. But investors took the jobs report in particular as a sign that the economy is holding up.

“No matter what the Fed’s going to do this year, today’s number showed that even though the Fed may still raise rates once or twice this year, it showed that a recession is still not very likely this year,” said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. “Recessionary fears were really starting to grow but today’s number eased those fears.”

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Want to Work From Home in 2019? Starting Today, You Can Get Paid $10,000 Extra to Do It. (There's Just 1 Catch)
January 1, 2019 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Perhaps you’ve been thinking that 2019 is the year that you’ll finally do it: You’ll take control of your destiny and do what’s required so that you can work from home.

Of course, it’s not as if most people who work for someone else can just flick a switch and suddenly have the right to work from home. They have to negotiate with their employers, make their case, and act.

But, if you’ve been on the fence about doing it, one U.S. state might have just the impetus you need to make the jump: $ 10,000 for up to 1,000 people who can show that they work from home for an out-of-state company.

I wrote about this when the Vermont government first approved the program, but now it’s finally here: One of the requirements is that you have to move to Vermont after January 1, 2019, since the government didn’t want to pay people who were already going to live there and work from home anyway.

But that day is finally here today (assuming you’re reading this on the day it was published): New Year’s Day, 2019).

Beyond that, the restrictions seem pretty easy to comply with, assuming you truly and legitimately are working remotely from an out of state company. You have to:

  • be a full-time employee of a business “with its domicile or primary place of business” outside Vermont
  • perform “the majority of…employment duties remotely from a home office or a co-working space located in the state”
  • demonstrate qualifying expenses

In theory, the payment is supposed to reimburse you for the cost of moving to the Green Mountain State (you’ll have to learn that nickname if you’re going to live there). And note that you can actually work from a co-working space, not only out of your house.

That last point seems like a good idea if you’re going to move to a new state; many of us meet people through work, but you’d otherwise literally be working alone and from  home. It turns out there are at least 19 co-working spaces in Vermont, spread around a state of only 625,000 people. 

That last number — the population of only 625,000 — mostly explains why the state is doing this to begin with.

That, combined with the fact that the population is aging, and that the tax base is dwindling. (There’s a similar program now for people who want to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, by the way).

So what can you expect if you move to Vermont? In short: a relatively exercise-conscious, healthy living state with a high intelligence and a quaint New England standoffishness, apparently. Over the past year we’ve seen that it’s:

Oh, and it’s cold in the winter–but beautiful almost all year round.

If you’re thinking about it, I’d recommend visiting now or in February, so you’ll see if you’re really the kind of person who can thrive in that climate. 

Then check out the fine print — including being aware of just how many people wind up qualifying — and get ready to apply.

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EU backs duties on imports of e-bikes from China: EU sources
December 18, 2018 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU governments voted on Tuesday to impose duties on Chinese electric bicycles to curb cheap imports that European producers say benefit from unfair subsidies and are flooding the market, EU sources familiar with the case said.

The European Commission, which is investigating on behalf of the 28 EU members, has proposed that definitive or final tariffs of between 18.8 and 79.3 percent should apply for all e-bikes coming from China.

The anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties are the latest in a series of EU measures against Chinese exports ranging from solar panels to steel, which have sparked strong words from Beijing.

Unlike the United States, the European Union has not launched a trade war against China, but it shares U.S. concerns about forced technology transfers and Chinese state subsidies.

The electric bicycle imports are already subject to the duties set on a provisional basis in July. Definitive duties typically apply for five years.

Taiwan’s Giant, one of the world’s largest bicyclemakers, which has factories in China as well as in the Netherlands, would be subject to a rate of 24.8 percent.

The Commission found Chinese exports of e-bikes to the European Union more than tripled from 2014 until September 2017. Their market share rose to 35 percent, while their average prices fell by 11 percent.

It has also said Chinese producers benefit from controlled aluminum prices as well as advantageous financing and land rights conditions and tax breaks.

EU producers include Dutch groups Accell and Gazelle, Romania’s Eurosport DHS and Germany’s Derby Cycle Holding.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Robin Emmott

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4 Lessons for Startups From the United Technologies Breakup and the End of the Conglomerate Era
December 3, 2018 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

This week, United Technologies (UTX) announced that the company is breaking itself into three, separating out its Otis and Carrier divisions from the core business. In doing so, UTX is following other industrial companies — including DuPont, GE and Honeywell — in undoing the era of mega conglomerates.

This begs the question: What has changed, and what does it mean for businesses today? The short answer is that today’s market is more demanding and segmented than ever before, and that mega corporations can’t keep up.

Here’s what growing companies can learn from watching the big guys fall down on the job of creating top shareholder value.

1. It’s hard to be all things to all people.

Before this move, United Technologies was making everything from helicopters to elevators, airplane engines and HVAC systems. That’s a broad range of technology to keep track of. Splitting the company up will make it possible for each new business to focus on its core area, set appropriate priorities and ultimately make the best decisions for each unique set of customers.

This statement by the company’s chairman and chief executive, Gregory J. Hayes, says it all: “Our decision to separate United Technologies is a pivotal moment in our history and will best position each independent company to drive sustained growth.” 

I know that in our own business, when we decided to scale back the number of services we offered and focus on a few core areas instead, our growth rate doubled within the next six months. We had underestimated the real costs and distractions of being in many different businesses.

2. Economies of scale are no longer paying off.

Historically, many mega conglomerates came into being to take advantage of bulk buying and shared resources. The rationale was cost savings and reduced overhead — but operational costs have come way down over time.

Cloud-based technology has reduced the need for companies to invest in servers and other hardware, which used to be a major expense. And many non-core functions can now be outsourced, including payroll, human resources, training, travel and information technology. In fact, the majority of our operational expenses at Acceleration Partners are on a per head or per seat basis today, there are very few fixed cost investments that we make.

Finally, marketing has moved away from big-budget print ads to online advertising, and sales are increasingly conducted online.

3. Specialization sells.

Customers — including business-to-business customers — increasingly use the internet to find exactly what they want at the price they want to pay. No longer blindly trusting of the biggest brands or best-known names, people today are looking for experts. They want more control and more choices than most giant companies are willing or able to provide.

Look at what has happened to television. More and more households today are cutting the cord on cable service, unwilling to pay for packages that include a lot of channels they don’t want. Instead, they are choosing to purchase only the apps and shows they want directly from content providers such as HBO and Hulu.

Similarly, in our industry, the agency of record (AOR) concept in which marketing agencies sell large integrated projects and then find other firms to deliver that work and mark up those services is quickly becoming obsolete.

4. Smaller organizations are more nimble.

The pace of business today is fast and getting faster. Large, bulky bureaucracies simply can’t keep up.

Look at how quickly Uber disrupted the entire U.S. taxi business. Markets evolve quickly, and companies need to be lean and nimble, not bogged down in the internal politics and exhaustive procedures so common to mega corporations.

It’s also way easier today to be small, since businesses can team up via a concept we at Acceleration Partners call “Performance Partnerships” — making deals with other companies to supply non-core functions, while collecting a commission or referral fee. A company can outsource marketing and sales, for example, or pass off the hassle of worrying about delivery and fulfillment — while keeping all its most critical functions in-house. As a study by Bain Capital has shown, companies benefit most when they divest themselves of non-core businesses and focus their time and capital on growth areas.

The bottom line is that today’s business landscape is no longer rewarding generalists — those companies that provided just-OK goods or services across a wide swath of areas. Companies today need to be best-in-class, responsive and 100 percent focused on the customer. That is the blueprint for success going forward.

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From Work to Play, the Most Innovative Holiday Gifts of 2018
November 27, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Need a Cyber Monday jolt? Time published its best Inventions of 2018 last week.  While this is not a gift list per say, you can draw inspiration from this collection of innovations, which I have organized into three categories for the office, relaxation and night riders (for all of you cyclists out there). Let’s start with the richest price tag and work our way down. 

Work

Open-office plans are all the rage today, but several studies have shown that they lead to distractions and sick days for workers. Help your employees find privacy with this soundproof phone booth by ROOM ($ 3,495).  Zenbooth offers a slightly larger model with an even steeper price tag.

Want supplies in a flash? Zipline made history by launching the first commercial drone service in Rwanda, expediting the delivery of blood and medical supplies to remote areas. This year, the California startup unveiled a new version of its craft that carries up to 3.85 lb. at 80 m.p.h. for up to 100 miles per round-trip.  They also streamlined their launch and recovery process, enabling Zips to make 500 deliveries per day.  While Zipline will continue serving rural communities in Africa, the startup has broad ambitions.  Zipline started testing emergency medical-supply delivery in the U.S. and will begin regular service in North Carolina in early 2019.

When it comes to safety, StrongArm Tech’s Fuse Risk Management Platform, helps employers protect vulnerable workers–and, by extension, their own bottom lines. On-the-job injuries and accidents cost U.S. companies some $ 59.9 billion per year. Since debuting in April, Fuse has been used by more than 10,000 workers, including those from 10 Fortune 100 companies.

Sleep

With a cold Thanksgiving in the northeast, weighted blankets were a hot topic around our dinner table. Gravity has sold $ 18 million worth of it’s weighted blankets ($ 249 each), which are available in 15, 20 or 25 pound varieties. Many swear by the therapeutic benefits, and they are certainly a fad on Instagram. 

Bose Sleepbuds ($ 250), are designed specifically to enhance your slumber. They are small enough to fit inside the ear without bothering your face or your pillow, and light enough to feel weightless. Their silicone tips are said to stay in place, even if you toss and turn.  Users choose from a preset menu of 10 soothing sounds, such as ocean waves, warm static or rustling leaves.

When you are ready to wake up, Philips’ Somneo ($ 199) is designed to simulate a natural sunrise every morning–along with soothing audio that gently rises in volume–to provide a less jarring wakeup experience.  If you can get this to work with the sleepbuds that would be brilliant. When it’s time for bed, the Somneo can simulate a sunset, as well, dimming the lights until you are fast asleep.

Play

Nocturnal athletes can now glow in the dark with this Solar Charged Jacket ($ 350) from Vollebak. The jacket’s phosphorescent membrane absorbs light during the day and releases “kryptonite green energy” after sunset. Part of the jacket’s appeal, of course, is novelty: because it can absorb light from almost any source, but more importantly from a safety standpoint, it allows runners and bikers to be visible after dark. If you get stranded, rescuers can spot you.

Cyclists will also love the story of Eu-wen Ding, a business-school student living in Boston who was looking for a better way to ride. “All I wanted to do was get from point A to B without dying,” said Ding. Eventually, that goal led to the creation of Lumos Kickstart Helmet ($ 180), whose LED lights not only increase a cyclist’s visibility but also blink to indicate a left or right turn. Riders can trigger the signal by clicking a wireless remote mounted to their handlebars or by syncing the helmet with their Apple Watch and making a hand signal. The Lumos launched in 2017 after a Kickstarter raise, and became the first light-up helmet sold in the Apple Store. 

Beyond these examples, the full list of inventions encompasses breakthrough products for fashionistas, new parents and even environmentalists.  Enjoy.

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Watch This Spectacular Launch of the Soyuz Rocket From Space
November 25, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

A new video from the European Space Agency shows the spectacular launch of the Soyuz rocket.

The video was captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and shows the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft taking off from the Soyuz rocket on Nov. 16. The spacecraft was carrying food and supplies for astronauts aboard the International Space Station and fuel to resupply the ISS. The spacecraft was carrying 5,653 lbs of supplies and fuel.

The time-lapsed footage condenses the 15-minute launch into a video of just a minute and a half. It shows the Soyuz-FG rocket booster separation, the core stage separation, the core beginning to burn in the atmosphere and go back to Earth after using up its fuel, and finally the Progress spacecraft separating from the rocket and entering orbit to catch up with the ISS.

The rocket flies at 17,900 miles per hour at 249 miles above Earth before it docked two days later.

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Twitter cuts suspect users from follower counts again, blames bug
November 10, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) made another attempt to make users’ tallies of followers more accurate on Friday, subtracting millions of suspicious followers which had reappeared on the social media service since a major purge in July.

Men are silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter logo as he poses with a Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS)

Twitter is under pressure to tackle its problem of fake users, which are a turn-off for investors and advertisers and have led to scrutiny from U.S. Congress.

The company made Friday’s move without an announcement. Pop star Katy Perry lost about 861,000 followers, according to social measurement firm Social Blade. Twitter’s own account lost 2.4 million followers.

In July, Twitter said it would stop counting accounts it “locked” as followers, in an effort to make its user data more accurate. At least seven celebrities lost as many as 2 million followers each.

By October, however, many of those accounts appeared to have been unlocked – which can happen after a password reset – and at least two dozen popular users had gained back a third or so of the lost followers, according to data from Russian ad fraud researcher Social Puncher.

Those followers disappeared once again on Friday, Social Puncher said.

Twitter said on Friday that it “discovered a bug where some of these accounts were briefly added back, which led to misleading follower counts” for “very few accounts.”

It said in July that follower counts might change “more regularly” as part of its efforts to “identify and challenge problematic accounts.” The ensuing volatility has caught the attention of prominent users, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk.

They and other users lost followers in recent days, but Friday’s cull was larger for most, according to several accounts Reuters reviewed on Social Blade.

Twitter’s own account fell by 7.8 million followers in July but gained back 2.36 million by mid-October. It lost 2.4 million on Friday, according to Social Blade.

Some users experienced a similar drop in early October, before the followers returned days later, Social Puncher said.

The firm told Reuters that it suspects the affected locked accounts are controlled by fraudsters who sell followers to artificially boost accounts’ popularity.

The accounts exhibit hallmarks of fakes, including few profile details, fans and posts, it said.

MarQuis Trill, a Los Angeles advertising producer, told Reuters that he bought 300,000 followers for $ 4,500 two years ago. He lost nearly 2.2 million followers in July, but had about 30 percent back until Friday’s purge.

“I didn’t buy that many to be losing like that,” he said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Bill Rigby

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STEM Candidates Can't Deliver Everything You Need. Success Requires Employees From the Arts.
October 26, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

I love STEM. Without STEM students, there wouldn’t be doctors, or the engineers who put together the Inc.com site. Big data has revolutionized the way business is done, and it would be impossible without STEM skills. But when young people ask me what they should study, I always encourage them to consider liberal arts.

Businesses will need people to translate computer language into human language. When big data analytics uncovers a hidden pattern, someone needs to draw conclusions from the information and develop an action plan. If a robot breaks down, someone needs to explain to management why it happened – and why it won’t happen again.

Here are more reasons why you should hire someone from the arts:

1. Fresh Perspective

Hiring an artist is like getting an injection of creativity. Leaders can use this to better market to their customers, and to better connect with their employees. Artists aren’t afraid to be unconventional, but they have no time for inauthenticity. Having these elements as part of your company culture is a great way to attract high quality candidates, and will appeal to the right kind of customers.

2. Agility, with Mission Focus

3. Budget Management

The arts are chronically underfunded. If you’re looking for an employee who can stretch the value of a dollar, the arts are a great place to look. Artists use their creativity, open-mindedness, and pain tolerance to make it work. They’re able to stay on course no matter the budgetary constraints, and produce something that looks and feels like money was no object.

4. Personality Tolerance

The arts are full of people with personality – and the spectrum of personality is wide! Imagine putting together a theatre production. You have to work with an idealistic writer, a Method actor, a union stagehand, and a theatre director trying to keep donors happy. People in the arts are used to handling a variety of personalities and balancing competing interests while keeping everyone happy and working together. It’s a skill any office can benefit from, and can help keep your company humming.

5. Content Over Medium

This is perhaps the most important reason you should hire someone from the arts. With constantly changing technology and evolving tastes of customers, it can be difficult for business to find the right way to connect with employees and consumers. But here’s what many business leaders forget: the method of communication doesn’t matter if the content is garbage. To reach your desired audience, your content needs to make an impact. Artists are expressive, and know how to use humor, trauma, and beauty to make an emotional impact on the audience. No matter the medium, artists can effectively communicate your message, helping your culture blossom and your business grow.

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Essential Products, Startup from Android Creator Andy Rubin, Lays Off 30% of Staff
October 18, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

A startup founded by the creator of Android has laid off about 30% of its staff, according to sources that spoke to Bloomberg News. Andy Rubin started Essential Products in 2015 with Brian Wallace, formerly of Magic Leap, to create a smartphone with high-end design features that wasn’t associated with a particular operating-system maker.

Cuts were particularly deep in hardware and marketing. The company’s Web site indicates it has about 120 employees. A company spokesperson didn’t confirm the extent of layoffs, but said that the decision was difficult for the firm to make and, “We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.”

The firm was Rubin’s first startup after leaving Google in 2014, which had acquired his co-founded firm, Android, in 2005.

Essential’s first phone came out in August 2017, a few weeks later than initially promised. It received mixed reviews, with most critics citing its lower quality and missing features relative to competing smartphones, such as a lack of waterproofing and poor resiliency to damage. The company dropped the price from an initial $ 699 within weeks to $ 499, and offered it on Black Monday in November 2017 for $ 399.

Analyst reports showed the company sold just 5,000 units in the first two weeks of sales, and 88,000 in the first six months. By comparison, over 400 million other smartphones sold in just the last three months of 2017.

The company canceled production of its second smartphone model in May 2018, and shifted to work on other hardware, reportedly including smart speakers. At the time, Rubin said that his company had “multiple products in development,” including mobile and home hardware. The company had a valuation of nearly $ 1 billion in 2017, and was seeking additional financing earlier this year. It may have been or may remain up for sale. The company didn’t deny reports at the time, and hasn’t provided more detail on its plans since.

Rubin took a short leave of absence from Essential in late 2017 after the tech news site The Information reported on a complaint lodged against him at Google in 2014 that alleged he engaged in a relationship with a subordinate. Rubin said the relationship was consensual and didn’t involve someone who reported to him.

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