“Relational organizing is just organizing,” said Betsy Hoover, one of Higher Ground’s cofounders. “But this allows campaigns to say, ‘Now is the time for you to prioritize your network’ and, two, to say, ‘This is how that outreach impacted my outcome.’ And that’s a really important piece that gets us to another level of voter contact. That, we’re seeing, is just way more effective than the cold outreach.”
“In general, the effects are big,” said Donald P. Green, a political scientist at Columbia and one of the country’s leading experts on get-out-the-vote tactics. When it comes to raising turnout, Green explained, face-to-face canvassing is at the top of the effectiveness scale. At the bottom are spammy, impersonal techniques like mass emails, texts, and paid social media ads. But when those texts or Facebook posts are coming from someone you actually know, the early research suggests that the turnout effect can jump up to levels similar to in-person canvassing. Plus, unlike paying for an army of in-person canvassers, digital relational organizing is easy and cheap to scale.
Democrats have been quick to integrate these tools into their campaigns. In 2018, the Tuesday Company partnered with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to implement its Team app in 70 “red to blue” swing districts, most of which ended up flipping to the Democratic column. Was relational organizing part of the reason for the blue wave? As you’d expect, the people behind the technology argue that it was. Somewhat more surprisingly, some of their Republican Party opponents agree.
Among them is Eric Wilson, a Republican strategist who served as digital director for Ed Gillespie’s 2017 Virginia gubernatorial campaign. Polls on the eve of Election Day showed Gillespie trailing Democrat Ralph Northam by only a few points; he ended up losing by 8.9 percent. Wilson thinks his side was outgunned on relational organizing. “There was one county just outside of Richmond that we were the first [Republican] campaign to lose in 50 some-odd years statewide, and it’s because this group of women self-organized using these tools,” he said. “And that was the wakeup call for me.”
Heading into 2020, Democrats still are far ahead of Republicans in adopting relational organizing technology. So far, some campaigns are using it in primary contests, but the real test will come in the general election, when tech-enabled Democrats find out whether their spiffy apps offer a meaningful counterbalance against Trump’s advantages of incumbency and the social media juggernaut that is his reelection campaign.
When it comes to state and local races, Wilson predicts that, similar to 2018, Democrats may have the advantage again. “There are going to be a lot of Republicans who wake up after Election Day and say, ‘How did this happen—how did I get beat?’” he said. “And it’s going to be relational organizing.”
Democrats’ relational organizing edge is part of the typical pendulum swing of political innovation. Just as Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, lacking a traditional ground game, developed novel approaches to social media, Democrats have been scrambling since then to find new tools to win back power. “They got there first because they were having to climb back out of the hole,” said Wilson.
To help his side catch up, Wilson founded Startup Caucus, a conservative response to Higher Ground Labs, in August 2019. The fund has given money to Swipe Red, an app still in beta which aims to do for Republicans what apps like Team have done for Democrats. (Sadly, “Swipe Right” was trademarked.) One candidate giving it a spin is Mark Koran, a Minnesota state senator using Swipe Red for his state’s February caucus.
One of the new proposed bills is a broad privacy law, which, like a California law that took effect this month, allows consumers to ask companies to delete some personal data, or refrain from selling it. Microsoft has said it already offers the core rights provided by California’s law to all US customers.
The proposed Washington privacy law also requires companies to inform consumers when facial recognition technology is in use in publicly accessible places. That could mean posting notices in stores, for example. Companies operating such systems could not add a person’s face to their database without consent, unless there’s reason to believe they were involved in a specific criminal incident, such as shoplifting.
The second bill, with Nguyen as the lead sponsor, is concerned with government use of facial recognition. It requires agencies to publish accountability reports in advance of procuring the technology with information including the system’s capabilities and limitations, and what data it will use. It specifies that law enforcement agencies need a warrant before using the technology for ongoing surveillance, unless there is imminent danger of serious physical injury.
Nguyen, the son of Vietnamese immigrants, says his work on the issue springs from a concern over potential misuse of facial recognition, not his day job at Microsoft. State legislators in Washington are part-time. “I’d love to not have to work at Microsoft, but because I have three kids and a mortgage that’s reality,” he says, pointing out that his bill will need many votes besides his own to become law. “I’m putting more regulation and oversight over the tech industry.” He says he’s met with representatives of large tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple—and Microsoft.
Nguyen describes his bill as designed to prevent harmful uses of facial recognition, like tracking protestors, while allowing beneficial uses, such as finding a kidnapper. The ACLU of Washington says he has struck the wrong balance.
Nguyen got into a testy exchange at last week’s hearing with Jennifer Lee, a project manager at the ACLU, after she said his bill ignored the interests of marginalized communities. Nguyen said he had met plenty of community representatives; Lee said truly respecting such groups would require pausing use of facial recognition until the public could say whether it wanted the technology to be used or not. “Washingtonians deserve good privacy regulations,” she says. “Just because Microsoft is here doesn’t mean we should have a corporate-friendly privacy bill.”
Nguyen’s facial recognition bill may become more corporate-friendly. Senator Reuven Carlyle, primary sponsor of the larger privacy bill, said he is talking with Delta Air Lines, which wants to make sure its rollout of facial recognition check-in will not be disrupted.
TechNet, the tech lobbying group whose members include big tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, asked that any rules governing private use of facial recognition exempt apps a person uses on their own device, for example to edit photos, or perhaps Face ID. Motorola said requiring a warrant for law enforcement use of the technology in public was too onerous, while Axon expressed concern that requiring allowing outsiders to test facial recognition technology could allow leakage of private data or trade secrets.
Nguyen’s bill and the privacy bill with commercial facial recognition rules must pass through committees and floor votes in both houses of Washington’s legislature to become law. They will also have to withstand criticism from within state government.
At last week’s hearing, a representative of the state attorney general supported allowing consumers to initiate lawsuits for violations. The Washington Association of Police Chiefs complained that since no one has an expectation of privacy in public, the requirement for a warrant before using facial recognition for public surveillance was unnecessary.
Updated, 1-22-20, 12:30pm ET: This article has been updated to include a statement from Microsoft.
Standing outside of the Mercy Virtual facility in St. Louis on an unusually cold fall day, I was on the phone with two founders who were pitching me on a new blockchain startup. They had a few customers and some early traction, but nothing to indicate product-market fit. And yet, they had raised $3.5 million from crypto investors in an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) to grow the team and build product. Remarkably, the $3.5 million they raised was non-dilutive, meaning they didn’t have to give up equity in their business the same way you would have to through traditional venture capital.
“We’re planning on raising traditional venture because it’s a great time to do so,” said one of the founders. “Our friends have raised at $45 million and $50 million valuations on Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), and the money’s there.”
“Yeah, OK. I get that. Good strategy,” I responded. “But, do you actually need the money to grow the company? What is the use of proceeds?”
“If it’s there, let’s take it,” was the founder’s thinking.
This anecote exemplifes how, over the past decade, venture capitalists have plowed more than $500 billion into startups, and accelerator programs have proliferated as entrepreneurs from around the nation started looking to take advantage of healthy capital markets. If you wanted to build a startup, many founders believed the first step was to raise venture capital. Unfortunately, the data does not support this contention. Only 1 percent of entrepreneurs are able to raise any form of venture capital. Even more disconcerting, of those that do, only 42 percent are able to raise Series A financing and beyond.
Put simply: You do not need to raise venture capital to build a great business. In fact, many entrepreneurs are now refraining from raising venture investment because of both the pressure it places on founders, as well as issues centered on dilution of ownership.
Fortunately, there are some clear signals you will encounter indicating as much. Chief amongst these is asking yourself the question as to whether the type of business you are building is “venture backable” or not. Second, you should ask yourself: Just because capital is available, does your business need it? And third, you should look to understand how much dilution of ownership and control you are willing to accept.
Is Your Business “Venture Backable”?
Recently, I was sitting in the middle of a Blue Bottle with a friend of mine who was starting a mobile application for people looking to spend time with other owners’s dogs. No, this is not a joke. This founder was having trouble raising capital. I told him the market was too small and said that if he expanded the concept to include a market for pet food and services, he could transform his business into something “venture backable.”
What this entrepreneur failed to grasp was the difference between a “venture backable” business and a “lifestyle business.” A venture backable business is a company whose business model and technology have the potential to generate significantly outsized returns, often 100 times or more of the valuation of initial investment and a $1 billion plus valuation. By contrast, a lifestyle business is a company whose business may be successful, even immensely profitable, but lacks the opportunity to scale into a market dominant position. This may be due to limits in the overall size of the market, growth being related to adding team members rather than automating processes or lack of network effects.
Many first-time entrepreneurs fail to grasp the important distinctions between these two types of businesses. Just because an entrepreneur is passionate about a given market, idea or product does not mean it will automatically be “venture backable.” Founders need to ask themselves whether the scale of opportunity, the marketplace dynamics, customer acquisition opportunities and ability to generate network effects places their business in the venture backable or lifestyle categories. And if you are building a “lifestyle business” that you are passionate about, do it! Just because it’s not venture backed doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea.
Just Because It’s There Doesn’t Mean You Need to Take It
Let’s go back to my conversation at the beginning of this article. Repeatedly, the founders indicated that they were raising capital “because they could.” And yet, they did not indicate how they would deploy their capital. They just figured they should “because it’s there.”
For entrepreneurs good at raising capital, this is a bad trap to fall into. Smart investors look for a clear plan of action for use of proceeds, hiring, scaling sales and product investments. The best investors are looking to understand how capital raised today is going to be deployed to ensure the business’s capacity at raising capital tomorrow. Just raising “because you can” is not good enough. Entrepreneurs need a plan of action for capital deployment after fundraising.
Understand Dilution Before Raising
When raising capital, many entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of dilution they will face when including external investors on their cap table. Roughly, dilution is the percentage of ownership in your company offered in exchange for capital. Investors often drive a hard bargain here; their goal is to get into the company with the lowest variable valuation. This often results in a high level of dilution for the original founding team. If you a founder concerned about dilution or uncomfortable with the level of ownership you will have to give away, you should refrain from raising traditional venture capital.
There are other sources of financing available. You can raise angel money from friends and family. If you have some revenue, you can raise venture debt from Silicon Valley Bank or other specialized lenders. If you have real property assets, you can take out a more traditional loan or line of credit. You do not have to accept dilution you find unacceptable just because you want to raise capital.
When starting a business, entrepreneurs should understand the leading indicators demonstrating why they shouldn’t raise venture capital. Key among these is understanding the difference between a venture backable business and a lifestyle business, not taking capital just “because it’s there” and understanding the dilution that comes alongside raising venture money.
In the U.S., there’s no denying that San Francisco is the undisputed king of tech and New York is the undisputed king of finance. Apple, Google and Facebook all call the Bay Area home, and most of the country’s biggest banks are headquartered in Manhattan. There are a few notable exceptions (Seattle holds Microsoft and Amazon, for example), but as a general rule those two cities have a reputation as epicenters of business. But as the cost of living in big cities continues to rise and remote working becomes more prevalent, smaller cities like Boulder, Colo. and Cincinnati are establishing themselves as regional tech hubs. And for these companies (some household names, some you might not have heard of), small cities and towns have been key to their success. In no particular order, here are nine big U.S. companies that are headquartered in unexpected places.
Tim Sweeney founded Epic Games in his parents’ basement in Potomac, Maryland in 1991, but the parent company of massive video game Fortnite has called Cary, N.C. home since 1999. A suburb of Raleigh with a population of around 150,000, Cary is an unsuspecting home base for the creators of a game with more than 250 million players that brought in $1.8 billion in 2019, according to data from Nielsen company SuperData. Chinese tech giant Tencent paid $330 million for a 40 percent stake in Epic Games in 2013, but the company is showing no signs of relocating from its North Carolina home. In October, Epic Games announced it will be expanding its current headquarters, which has housed the company since 2015. Expansions slated to start this year will accommodate up to 2,000 new employees.
Silicon Valley is the go-to headquarters location for social media startups: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were all founded in the Bay Area. And Snapchat, which was co-founded by Stanford University students, also has its roots there. But when it came to actually starting the company, Snapchat (later Snap, Inc.) has always called low-key Southern California home. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy founded the app in Venice, Calif., and when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017, its IPO was the biggest in L.A. history. In 2018, it moved the majority of its employees from Venice to nearby Santa Monica, where it leased a 300,000-square-foot office space. It’s also helped change the ecosystem for tech companies in Los Angeles— China-based TikTok runs its operations out of L.A. as well.
Pet supply upstart Chewy.com, which was founded by Ryan Cohen and Michael Day in 2011, is known for taking on Amazon, Walmart and other massive retailers with its wide array of pet products and knowledgeable customer service reps. It’s also a point of pride in South Florida that Chewy was founded in Dania Beach, Fla., a town of around 30,000 between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. PetSmart bought Chewy in 2017 for $3.35 billion, at the time the largest amount that had ever been paid for an e-commerce platform. It went public in July of 2019, but its headquarters and about 1,500 of its 7,000 worldwide employees are still housed in Dania Beach.
Seattle-based Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017, but the 40-year-old natural supermarket chain is still headquartered in Austin, Texas, with no plans to change that. The merger of two small natural grocery stores in Austin in 1980 led to the creation of Whole Foods. After an initial expansion into Houston and Dallas, Whole Foods started purchasing small natural food chains across the U.S. Today, it operates more than 500 stores across the U.S. and UK. The global headquarters is located next to the original Whole Foods location on Bowie and West Sixth streets in downtown Austin.
The world’s largest company by revenue and No. 1 on the Fortune 500, Walmart has since its founding in 1962 been headquartered in the small Northwest Arkansas town of Bentonville. Just 30 minutes from Fayetteville, the home of the University of Arkansas, Walmart attracts many of the university’s young graduates and keeps them in the region after school. Beyond Walmart, the Walton family has pumped private money into the region. Alice Walton created the nationally lauded Crystal Bridges Museum of Narrative Art and was a key driver behind the expansion of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
Founded in 1999 in San Francisco by Nick Swinmurn, Zappos operated there until 2004, when it relocated to Henderson, Nevada, a move CEO Tony Hsieh (whose VC firm Venture Frogs was one of the first investors in Zappos) has said was because of the number of call centers and customer service employees in the Las Vegas area. Swinmurn left the company in 2006, and it was purchased by Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009. In 2013, Hsieh moved Zappos’ headquarters from Henderson to the former city hall building in downtown Las Vegas. Hsieh is also heading up the Downtown Project, a campaign focused on revitalizing Las Vegas’ neglected city center.
Burt Shavitz, the name (and face) behind wildly successful natural home and skincare product line Burt’s Bees, was living in Maine as a beekeeper when he and Roxanne Quimby started working together to brand and sell products made from his leftover beeswax. They made candles, soap and eventually lip balm, which ended up being the company’s most successful product. The pair built the business in Maine but in 1999 relocated to Durham, N.C., where economic conditions were more business-friendly. Quimby bought out Shavitz’s share of Burt’s Bees and shortly afterward sold an 80 percent stake in the company to AEA investors for $173 million. In 2007, Clorox bought Burt’s Bees for $925 million. Burt’s Bees is still headquartered in Durham, where it’s a long way from its Maine roots.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Founded as ExactTarget in 2000, Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud is one of Indianapolis’ biggest tech success stories. When the digital marketing automation company was acquired by Salesforce for $2.7 billion in 2013, it was the largest acquisition of a tech company in the city’s history. And although Salesforce’s headquarters are in San Francisco, it kept Marketing Cloud’s operations in Indianapolis and made the city its regional headquarters in 2016. And as tends to happen in smaller cities like Indianapolis, this acquisition meant that former Marketing Cloud execs had the experience and funds to create and invest in other tech startups in their city. Scott Dorsey, a co-founder and the former ExactTarget CEO and chairman, left the company after the Salesforce acquisition and is now co-founder and managing partner of High Alpha, an Indianapolis VC fund.
PayPal’s Venmo is the biggest name in mobile payments, but Zelle has quietly established itself as a major competitor since it was started in 2017. Zelle is a subsidiary of Early Warning, a company owned jointly by a number of large banks including Bank of America, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo. Rather unusually, it’s not headquartered in the banking capital of New York or tech capital of San Francisco. Instead, Early Warning’s home office is on the outskirts of Phoenix in Scottsdale, Ariz., a destination better known for its golf and tourism than its financial services industry.
Startup Costs: Under $2,000 Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
If you love hairstyling and are passionate about helping people look their best, this could be a prime business venture. You could consider opening your hair salon in a physical storefront, but you could also operate out of your home — or on-the-go, visiting clients wherever they are. Arm yourself with a suite of hair care tools and products, familiarize yourself with different types of hair and make sure you’re up to date on current trends in both personal and professional settings. To generate additional revenue and profits for your business, sell hair care products — shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and more — alongside your styling services. Especially innovative entrepreneurs could develop their own line of hair care products as well, since many manufacturers also do private-label manufacturing (meaning that the manufacturer will place its product in your packaging under your product name).
ASK THE PROS:
How much money can you make?
In 2017, the median salary for hairdressers was $24,850, while the best-paid quarter made $35,100, according to U.S. News & World Report. ZipRecruiter pegs the monthly average pay for a hairstylist nationwide at $2,427.
What kind of experience do you need to have?
“My parents had their own business when we were growing up. It was a clothing store. My brother Michael is my business partner, as well as my husband Cameron. We saw my parents bend over backwards for clients. We learned that the customer is always right and that is how you approach business. If you want to be successful, that is the most important thing… [Also], in my early twenties I worked in PR. It was a short-lived career, but my boss at the time taught me how to pitch, write and be a professional. They are things I take for granted now, but I really got my professional sea legs in that job.” –Alli Webb, Drybar
What’s the most important thing to know about this business?
“Whether it’s about someone’s process or whether it’s about a product or a hairstyle… being open and honest is the way to go at this point. As cliche as that might sound, that’s just where we’re at. You don’t have to put on a show about it, you can just be raw and real about your process.” –Kristin Ess, Kristin Ess Hair
Making a living from your passion and transforming a hobby into a lucrative enterprise is a tremendous achievement. But while it’s easy to dream of being the next Springsteen, Nicki Minaj, Drake or other leading names in the music industry, actually making your dream a reality takes considerable work.
The good news is that it canbe done. The average income earned by musicians is around $35,000 per year, and with more ways to monetize your art than ever, yours could far exceed this. Easier said than done, though. So here are some practical ways you can make a living from your musical talent.
Teaching Music Lessons
Teaching music lessons is a simple way to earn money from your skills and passion, but you must be incredibly proficient at any instrument you plan to focus on. There’s no use trying to pass on your knowledge to others if you’ve only played for a few months.
It can be hard to find students when you’re starting out, but keep your rates low and target the local community with ads at public libraries, community centers, malls, etc. Austin-based songwriter Caleb J. Murphy offers music lessons through Musika Lesson, for instance, so he can pull in enough money to make his songwriting passion possible.
You can expect to earn between $30 and $120 per hour, but teachers with more experience and credentials to their name are likely to secure payment at the higher end of that range.
Book any gig you can, no matter how tiny your audience may be. And you may have to accept that you’ll struggle to earn anything close to what you thinkyou’re worth for some time. That’s part of the journey toward making a living from your music.
Research on small gigs shows that buskers can earn between $50 and $100 per day, so you might be able to pull in a little more for gigs in bars or at weddings. Session players typically receive anywhere from $100 to $2,500 daily, too.
Freelance Music Writing
Another way to earn as a musician is making a few bucks writing about music on a freelance basis. One way to capture attention and earn valuable experience is to launch your own blog. Gather as many readers as you can, and use this as a platform to demonstrate your talent when applying for freelance gigs. Freelance writers can generate as much as $42,000 per year, but it takes time to build a name and a quality portfolio. Just like with playing gigs, getting to the sweet spot with writing about music takes time.
Launch Your Own YouTube Channel
YouTube has helped a growing roster of musicians launch their careers, including Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, James Bay and Charlie Puth. Want to be like them? You can start your own YouTube channel for free, but you actually need to secure 1,000 subscriptions before you can monetize your videos. So, invite viewers to subscribe, share your videos across social media and keep them longer than 10 minutes (because these are shown to rank higher than shorter ones in the search that gives your videos an audience).
YouTube works for more than just the likes of Korean pop stars such as Psy, who reportedly made $2 million from two billion YouTube views on the song “Gangnam Style” alone. More workaday musicians, like Maria Z, still are able to collect 50,000 subscribers on the platform and use it for a nice side revenue stream.
Search Upwork for Odd Music Jobs
Upwork is an online platform dedicated to bringing freelancers and clients together. Advertise yourself as a music writer, a musician for hire or even a tutor. You sometimes can find small gigs here and there through Upwork and other freelance platforms. Focus on building a solid profile based on great client feedback, and keep your rates competitive at first.
Taking it to the Next Level
You may already be playing gigs on a regular basis and perhaps writing about music, but your earnings aren’t quite high enough. As you start to gain experience and build a following, you can start exploring ways to make more money from your talent. Try the following ideas to take your income to the next level:
Set up your own Patreon account. Patreon has become an invaluable platform for creators looking to earn money from their art and build their own following. You can set up a page and accept contributions from a group of patrons with various tiers. You can build trust and foster loyalty from your fans on Patreon, but it takes work to keep your audience happy. Interact with followers and gather feedback to make sure you’re rewarding their commitment fairly. Offer incentives to motivate followers and secure their donations. Rock band Future Sunsets, for instance, gives patrons behind-the-scenes access. They post band photos and updates that only patrons get to see. Consider offering free tickets, merchandise (see below), early access to new tracks, behind-the-scenes insights and more to contributors at different tiers.
Take part in video meetings with followers. Live video platforms empower musicians with the means to interact with followers in a direct way. Chatting face-to-face is a more personal experience than social media conversations and offers deeper connections than a brief meeting after live gigs. You can offer video hangouts to Patreon contributors to mark certain milestones (such as earning a specific amount) or as a regular incentive. For example, followers who pledge $15 per month could receive an invitation to take part in video hangouts on set dates. You can even welcome fans to grab their own instruments and play together to reward Patreon members donating a higher amount. Take the time to make them feel valued.
Selling merchandise. Buying merchandise is a simple, affordable way for fans to support their favorite musicians or bands, which is why it’s such a common approach among musicians. You can offer a huge range of merch, from T-shirts and baseball caps to exclusive vinyl (back in vogue now among collectors) and tote bags. Custom printing companies are easy to come by, or you can try producing your own if you’re willing to invest in printing equipment. (Be warned: It’s not cheap.) There are many sites out there that you can use to distribute your merch, such as Dizzyjam, Shopify and Bandzoogle. You should offer merch at your live gigs, too, not just online. Always make sure your merch is of a high standard, though, and be willing to sacrifice quantity for quality when your budget is stretched tight.
Becoming a music producer. As a producer, you can help different musicians create albums and discover their own sound by adding a professional flourish to their tracks and helping them explore fresh ideas. As part of this, you also can get paid to oversee the production and recording of their music and possibly arrange session players for solo artists. Music producer Jordan Bolch explains the role, “Working with a music producer is a crucial step forward for any musician or band aspiring to breakthrough success. They’re impartial and focused on helping artists unlock their potential for the good of the music. Being a music producer is the kind of career that keeps giving, however, you need to have vision and the ability to feel the zeitgeist of the moment. It’s key. Ask the greats, without it, music production may not be in your wheelhouse.”
Not every musician should go the producer route, and it takes a little work to build the credibility necessary to sell your services, but once the ball is rolling, producing can be a great way to earn a living from your musical passion.
Invite fans to choose their own rate. It’s become increasingly common for musicians to invite their fans to pay what they want for their work. In some cases, the artist will set a limit but accept higher rates. For example, synth-artist Carpenter Brut stipulates a minimum for his albums but still allows for more from fans. You may want to keep your minimum payment low, perhaps even just a $1. This might seem like a risk, but it increases the chances of newcomers taking a gamble on your material. It also provides your followers with the opportunity to show their appreciation for your work, even on a small scale. Never underestimate the generosity of a devoted fan. Adding additional content to a pay-what-you-want package offers greater value and can incentivize buyers to put a little extra on top of their payment, too.
Making money as a musician can be a real challenge, especially when you’re only at the beginning of your journey, but drive, determination and a willingness to keep honing your skills can take you where you want to go. You just need to take the work seriously and commit to a regular process of creativity. Nobody’s going to bestow fandom, fame and fortune upon you if they don’t know you exist. Follow the steps discussed above to grow your audience, raise awareness of your skills and ultimately boost your income.
Certain aspects of the U.S. cannabis industry have limited protections from federal interference through annual congressional spending bills. Since the restriction of district-specific earmarks in 2015, lawmakers have used annual appropriations bills (also known as federal spending bills) to extend their policy priorities (or policy prohibitions) by inserting language that prohibits the expenditure of federal funds towards a specific program or activity.
Since 2015, Congress has consistently enacted laws that limit the ability of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with states that have adopted medical cannabis laws by placing legal restrictions on their spending of federal dollars. Spending bills protecting the medical cannabis industry have to be renewed every year or must be carried forward in the event federal spending bills are not successfully enacted.
Despite this onerous process, this legal baseline has established a consistent policy of respecting states’ rights to set and implement their respective medical cannabis laws by preventing federal agencies, including the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), from prosecuting medical cannabis stakeholders operating in compliance with state law. However, this appropriation language doesn’t prevent other federal agencies like the IRS, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), or the SEC from taking enforcement actions.
While there’s been progress to expand spending prohibitions to apply to the entire cannabis industry (and not just medical cannabis industry stakeholders), no efforts have yet been successfully signed into law, though the House of Representatives approved this provision in 2019 in a 267-165 vote, including efforts to prevent the DOJ from interfering in any state-legal cannabis business, not just those that are medical in nature.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a key DOJ policy (commonly referred to as the “Cole Memo”) in 2017, which set forth the DOJ’s enforcement priorities with respect to medical and adult-use cannabis stakeholders, focusing on issues like access by minors. However, since the rescission of this key policy document, the majority of U.S. attorneys in relevant jurisdictions have clarified that they’ll continue to exercise prosecutorial discretion in a manner consistent with the Cole Memo.
When the Cole Memo was first introduced in 2014, the Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) implemented guidelines predicated on the Cole Memo to address the bankability of proceeds from state-compliant cannabis activities, referred to as “FinCEN guidance.” The FinCEN guidance sets forth specific standards for banks working with state-compliant cannabis companies to mitigate the risk that these financial institutions would be prosecuted for money-laundering violations. Though the Cole Memo was rescinded, the FinCEN guidance remained in place, which is important for investors.
Changing Federal Law and Politics Around Legalization
For more than a decade, dozens of bills have been introduced in Congress to address federal cannabis reform. Consider these bills to be in two categories. In the first category are bills with the objective of legalizing cannabis at the federal level, either by descheduling cannabis as a Schedule I substance or rescheduling it to a less-restrictive category within the Controlled Substances Act. The second category of bills aims to address all the ancillary issues that have been created by the conflict between federal and state law. These include, but aren’t limited to, access to banking, cash treatment, federal benefits, immigration, veterans and so on. With this active and evolving legislative environment, the question on everyone’s mind is: When will cannabis be legalized at the federal level and by what legislative mechanism?
Industry advocates are also concerned with another issue: ensuring that existing and future cannabis businesses are treated like other existing businesses without unnecessary discrimination, including access to traditional banking. As cannabis businesses receive more protections from the federal government, they can feel comfortable reinvesting in their communities through inclusive hiring practices and capital infusions. For cannabis entrepreneurs, creating business models that incorporate criminal and social justice pillars within their organizations will benefit from this important element of comprehensive reform at the federal level.
Nevertheless, it’s understandable that for business industry stakeholders and their advocates, the most politically pragmatic opportunity to advance reform is legislation to address access to banking. Under current law, cannabis businesses are often forced to operate in cash. However, there’s a favorable climate to advance legislation that would improve banking access for cannabis businesses.
The most meaningful legislative measure advanced to date is the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595 | S. 1200). The SAFE Banking Act would create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to state-compliant cannabis-related businesses and service providers. The SAFE Banking Act would not only codify protections for banks and financial institutions to service the cannabis industry, but it would ensure that licensed and legally operating cannabis businesses in the U.S. have access to traditional financial services. Because the bill allows cannabis businesses to access financial institutions while rectifying the public safety concern posed by cash businesses, SAFE enjoys strong bipartisan support and looks as though it will receive significant attention in both legislative chambers.
Ultimately, the trajectory of federal cannabis reform and the timing of this progress will come down to the complex equation of politics, policy and personality. From a politics perspective, lawmakers in both chambers — and on both sides of the aisle — are reminded of the growing popularity for federal cannabis reform and the undeniable support of Americans for prohibiting the federal government from interfering with state programs.
Irrespective of the uncertainties in Washington, DC, cannabis entrepreneurs and investors are uniquely positioned to take advantage of early market opportunities, with a low probability of interference from the federal government. As the federal policy landscape moves closer and closer to deciding a post-prohibition regulatory framework, businesses with the right composition of managerial and strategic leadership, as well as sufficient capital, will only continue to improve their valuations and long-term outlook.
Startup Costs: Under $2,000 Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Do you live in a tourist area, and do you know that area well? If so, why not consider starting a business as a personal tour guide. This type of enterprise can be managed from a home office, started for less than $1,000, and has the potential to produce an income that can easily exceed $50,000 per year. The key to success in becoming a personal tour guide is to promote your service aggressively, build contacts with companies and individuals that can help you succeed, and to provide clients with the best time of their vacation.
ASK THE PROS:
How much money can you make?
“Currently, tour guides are charging clients around $150 for half-day tours, and as much as $300 for full-day tours, plus the cost to provide transportation and tickets to events or local attractions. Companies and individuals to build alliances with, in terms of generating referrals, are limousine companies, hotels and hotel employees, business event planners, and travel agents.” —Entrepreneur staff
How do you ensure good word of mouth and reviews?
“Provide clients with an unforgettably fun experience combined with incredible service and you will have the two main ingredients to secure lots of referral and repeat business. Also market your services to corporations that want to treat their visiting out-of-town customers, employees and executives to a special event.” —Entrepreneur staff
What’s the most important thing to know about this business?
“Keep your website fresh and updated regularly, so it continues to attract traffic. While you may decide to use a contract web designer/administrator to look after your site, you may also be able to do the updating yourself. Additionally, if your site is your travel business, you’ll need to check e-mail often to keep up with requests for information, brochures and those all-important travel reservations.” —Entrepreneur staff
In 2015, a college student realized vast quantities of high-quality and over-supplied food went to the dumpster at his local supermarket every day. So, he partnered with his college mentor, Patrick Bultema, who raised $500,000 from family and friends to co-found a company with the mission to rescue this lost food and find a market for it.
Within a year, FoodMaven had 22 employees, serviced 120 restaurants and begins expansion into the Denver market. FoodMaven then announced a strategic partnership with Hilton Hotels and brought on a new CEO, Ben Deda. In 2019, FoodMaven closed a Series B round, bringing its total funding since the Series A to $14.5 million.
What’s clear is that Woody was investing thousands of dollars of his own money in Panoramic with no guarantee of getting it back. Meanwhile, friends of his at the University of Texas at Austin had been urging him to come work there, dangling the promise of a steady salary. Woody left Panoramic in January 1966. The firm appears to have folded soon after.
With daydreams of building his computer person still playing in his head, Woody moved his family to Austin to dedicate himself to the study and teaching of automated reasoning. But his work on facial recognition wasn’t over; its culmination was just around the corner.
In 1967, more than a year after his move to Austin, Woody took on one last assignment that involved recognizing patterns in the human face. The purpose of the experiment was to help law enforcement agencies quickly sift through databases of mug shots and portraits, looking for matches.
As before, funding for the project appears to have come from the US government. A 1967 document declassified by the CIA in 2005 mentions an “external contract” for a facial-recognition system that would reduce search time by a hundredfold. This time, records suggest, the money came through an individual acting as an intermediary; in an email, the apparent intermediary declined to comment.
Woody’s main collaborator on the project was Peter Hart, a research engineer in the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Stanford Research Institute. (Now known as SRI International, the institute split from Stanford University in 1970 because its heavy reliance on military funding had become so controversial on campus.) Woody and Hart began with a database of around 800 images—two newsprint-quality photos each of about “400 adult male caucasians,” varying in age and head rotation. (I did not see images of women or people of color, or references to them, in any of Woody’s facial-recognition studies.) Using the RAND tablet, they recorded 46 coordinates per photo, including five on each ear, seven on the nose, and four on each eyebrow. Building on Woody’s earlier experience at normalizing variations in images, they used a mathematical equation to rotate each head into a forward-looking position. Then, to account for differences in scale, they enlarged or reduced each image to a standard size, with the distance between the pupils as their anchor metric.
The computer’s task was to memorize one version of each face and use it to identify the other. Woody and Hart offered the machine one of two shortcuts. With the first, known as group matching, the computer would divide the face into features—left eyebrow, right ear, and so on—and compare the relative distances between them. The second approach relied on Bayesian decision theory; it used 22 measurements to make an educated guess about the whole.
In the end, the two programs handled the task about equally well. More important, they blew their human competitors out of the water. When Woody and Hart asked three people to cross-match subsets of 100 faces, even the fastest one took six hours to finish. The CDC 3800 computer completed a similar task in about three minutes, reaching a hundredfold reduction in time. The humans were better at coping with head rotation and poor photographic quality, Woody and Hart acknowledged, but the computer was “vastly superior” at tolerating the differences caused by aging. Overall, they concluded, the machine “dominates” or “very nearly dominates” the humans.
This was the greatest success Woody ever had with his facial-recognition research. It was also the last paper he would write on the subject. The paper was never made public—for “government reasons,” Hart says—which both men lamented. In 1970, two years after the collaboration with Hart ended, a roboticist named Michael Kassler alerted Woody to a facial-recognition study that Leon Harmon at Bell Labs was planning. “I’m irked that this second rate study will now be published and appear to be the best man-machine system available,” Woody replied. “It sounds to me like Leon, if he works hard, will be almost 10 years behind us by 1975.” He must have been frustrated when Harmon’s research made the cover of Scientific American a few years later, while his own, more advanced work was essentially kept in a vault.