Illinois lawmakers managed to pass a bill because they dealt upfront with tough social justice issues.
3 min read
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Illinois lawmakers, solving issues that tripped up lawmakers in other states, have made recreational marijuana legal, becoming the first state where the state legislature made cannabis sales legal without a vote from the people.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize marijuana and the second midwestern state to do so, following legalization approved by Michigan voters in 2018. Illinois lawmakers got it done by addressing many of the issues, including minority representation in the marijuana industry, that had derailed similar legislative action in New Jersey and New York.
Illinois joins 10 other states, and the District of Columbia, in making recreational marijuana legal. The rost of states where recreational cannabis is now legal (and the year voters approved legal sales) are:
District of Columbia (2014)
In all the other states, except Vermont, voters approved marijuana legalization, starting with 2012 referendums in Colorado and Washington. In 2018 Vermont lawmakers made it legal for adults to grow, possess and consume marijuana but have yet to allow for commercial sales.
Sales timeline in Illinois.
Approving recreational pot sales is just one step of the process. Regulators in Illinois must now create an enforcement agency and set up a licensing system for dispensaries, growers and other marijuana-related businesses.
All this takes time. While Nevada had its system up and running just eight months after voters approved recreational marijuana sales, they were the exception. Both Massachusetts and Maine have been slow to get sales going, the latter because of opposition from the governor. Michigan officials expect to have drafts for potential marijuana sales regulations written by June.
In Illinois, lawmakers set Jan. 1. 2020 as the date for the law to go into effect. Experience has shown that might not happen, but Illinois could prove different. Certainly, its law is different than other states.
The Illinois law addresses many of the issues around minority ownership in the marijuana industry that other states did not address until after recreational weed was legal. These issues have stymied lawmakers driving legalization in New Jersey and New Yorkh.
The Illinois law sets aside a $12 million Cannabis Business Development Fund to lower licensing fee costs for minority entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, according to Governing magazine. The fund also will provide low-interest business loans to minority owners, an important step because banks will not loan money to the cannabis industry as long as weed remains illegal at the federal level.
The Illinois law also:
Establishes marijuana job training programs at community colleges
Expunges marijuana arrest records for as many as 750,000 state residents
Uses 25 percent of marijuana sales tax and fee revenue to fund Restore, Reinvest and Renew, a program that will award grant money to programs that address violence in communities affected by the war on drugs.
Charles Bachtell, co-founder and CEO of cannabis company Cresco Labs, told CNBC that Illinois’ actions could influence lawmakers on the East Coast.
“I know that the conversations in Albany and likewise in New Jersey lately have been, ‘Can you do this?’ or ‘Does this need to be a ballot initiative?” he said. “Illinois has shown them you can do this through the legislature.”.
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Jack Canfield says that meeting your goals can be as easy as appealing to the person inside you.
2 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
If you are catching yourself exercising self-destructive behavior and negative self-talk more and more, you may be dealing with an inner child who is acting out. In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Jack Canfield mentions that if your inner child is struggling to feel heard, you may need to adopt a few new habits.
In this respect, it’s important to note the difference between acting “childish” and celebrating a child’s wide-eyed wonder for life. Canfield explains that if you are feeling negative as an adult, may mean that your inner child is feeling wounded. To uplift your inner child, Canfield recommends the following tips:
Be patient. Children are famously known for being short on patience and resisting long waits. If you are constantly impatient, this will stand in the way of your ability to set and meet goals, which often entail more than expected.
Grant forgiveness to your inner child.
Extend encouragement. Instill the belief in your inner child that you can do whatever you want.
Take advantage of opportunities to have fun in life.
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He spent over a month’s salary on his first Apple keyboard and lived in a dorm room while starting his business. This is his story.
11 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Running a successful tech company isn’t easy. It’s especially challenging when you’re risking your life to fight your government at the same time. But that’s exactly what Oleksandr Kosovan did five years ago.
Kosovan’s company, MacPaw, was six years old in 2014 when protests in Kyiv, Ukraine, turned violent. The openly corrupt government refused to sign an agreement associating with the European Union, instead opting for closer ties with Russia. As protestors built barriers using burning tires, their clashes with riot police turned fatal. Over 100 citizens would be killed in the ensuing conflict.
The entrepreneur risked his life to bring them supplies. He knew that anyone caught supporting the protestors could be arrested and imprisoned — or worse, kidnapped and tortured by pro-Russian agents.
Kosovan admits it was a scary time. He heard stories of people disappearing, and knew there would be consequences if he was caught with tires for the protesters in his car. But he doesn’t consider himself brave. “It’s what many concerned Ukrainians did,” he explains in his matter-of-fact way.
“We stood together because our country was worth protecting,” he says. “That winter was one of the most memorable, tragic events of my generation. We paid a heavy price for the freedom we have now.”
Kosovan says that although the country’s leadership is still not ideal, Ukraine is in a better place now. It has climbed 20 places in the Global Innovation Index since 2014, and MacPaw is helping lead the way. Approximately one in five Macs around the world run the company’s award-winning software, and revenue exceeded $23 million in 2018.
While MacPaw resembles many successful Silicon Valley companies — even competing with Google and Apple — the story of the company and its founder is anything but ordinary.
The Apple of his eye.
Kosovan grew up in Nadvirna, a small town in western Ukraine. Although he was young when the USSR collapsed in 1991, he remembers being sent to stand in the long lines for basic necessities.
When Kosovan was 12, his father emigrated to France to provide for the family. “You could earn 50 euros a day working illegally, which was a lot of money for us,” he explains. “But sometimes he worked months for someone who would just disappear without paying him.”
The only other silver lining in his father’s absence was that he would periodically send home refurbished computers, as well as videotape recorders, CD-ROM players and other electronics. “When technology went out of fashion in France, it was just getting popular in Ukraine,” Kosovan says. “My father was an engineer, so he picked up computers people threw away when they upgraded.
“People in my town weren’t used to seeing anything like them,” says Kosovan. “I became obsessed with figuring out how they worked.”
He spent sleepless nights on the computer and became an advanced programmer. For a school project, he built software that helped the local medical clinic analyze data on different diseases. The project won an award from the Minor Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which fast-tracked his acceptance to Kyiv Polytechnic Institute when he was 16 years old.
To support himself, Kosovan found a job as a Microsoft Windows system administrator, making the equivalent of $150 a month. When he saw the iMac G4 in a computer shop, he fell in love — but could barely afford the keyboard. At approximately $200, it was more than his monthly salary. But he saved up, bought it and eventually convinced his family to help him buy a Mac PowerBook, too. His obsession with Apple began.
Kosovan was one of the first students at his university to take notes on a computer. He remembers lecturers glaring at him as he typed while everyone else wrote on paper. The university used Windows software, which was a big obstacle for a computer science student. Not to be deterred, Kosovan reprogrammed the apps he needed for his Mac. “My professors didn’t want to accept my projects on different software, but I told them I wasn’t willing to use a PC. I was very stubborn,” he says, laughing.
Building a company from a dorm room.
This stubbornness eventually got Kosovan in trouble. He was taught in class to solve problems a specific way, but he took his own approach on an exam. Kosovan argued with the professor to defend his choice and was kicked out midway through his fifth year of school.
Kosovan was disqualified from Ukraine’s subsidized education, but he was determined to finish his degree. He returned the same year, working three jobs to pay his tuition. Yet again, he took his own approach and had another disagreement with the same professor. “The argument got so heated that the professor said she would give me the highest grade if I didn’t take the final exam.”
Kosovan eventually earned his master’s degree. “Getting kicked out of school was difficult, but it didn’t break me,” says Kosovan. “I still got my degree, which just proves you should always stick to what you believe in.”
While finishing his degree, Kosovan spent his free time building software to optimize his Mac and decided to start a company. He called it MacPaw, after Apple’s operating systems, which were named after big cats like Cheetah and Tiger at the time.
Kosovan didn’t have much money, but he had his time. He bootstrapped the company by doing the majority of the work himself, hiring freelancers only when necessary. He was still living in the dorms to save money, but his one extravagance was eating at cafes every day. “I could’ve saved money cooking rather than eating out. But my time was more valuable spent coding than cooking.”
Kosovan single-handedly wrote the code for the first CleanMyMac, now one of the most popular products for Mac computers. In late 2008, MacPaw began selling CleanMyMac and an encryption app called MacHider. The company made about $4,000 the first month.
From the ABCs of business to competing with Apple.
Kosovan didn’t even consider finding investors for MacPaw. “There wasn’t much information about venture capital or investors in Ukraine,” he says. “I just knew a business needed to make a profit.”
As the entrepreneur continued relying on his own time and skills, he struggled to find competent employees he could afford. “I was lucky because my intuition helped me hire the right people, including many friends and classmates,” he says. “After 10 years, many of our earliest employees are still with the company.”
That includes Kosovan’s wife, Sofia, who manages MacPaw’s operations. They met through her cousin, who went to college with Kosovan. “She was working in customer support at another IT company when I started MacPaw, and she helped me manage marketing and respond to our early customers,” says Kosovan. “She was really excited about the positive feedback we were getting in comparison to the feedback at her other company,” he says with a laugh.
Responding to customers was no small task — because they answered every single inquiry. In the early days, Kosovan also shared his email address on hacker websites, offering free licenses to those who might have tried to hack CleanMyMac otherwise. “This developed a loyal user base of early adopters,” explains Kosovan.
Kosovan says these early decisions were important. “Your values and how you decide to run your business will have a lasting effect,” he advises. “Trust your gut. A lot of my early decisions were the right ones, but I also lost a lot in deals when I trusted others instead.”
Just a few years into MacPaw’s growth as an app company, Kosovan joined an auction to buy the top-level domain name .app. He lost to Google, who won the rights for $25 million. He’s made many business moves since then, including acquiring The Unarchiver app and merging MacPaw’s DevMate with another software company called Paddle. Today MacPaw has around 10 active projects.
Kosovan is most excited about competing with his favorite company, Apple. In 2017 he launched Setapp, a curated app store. It’s limited to only the best applications and is meant to improve the app store experience, which Kosovan says can be difficult to wade through because it’s saturated with so many apps.
Kosovan’s first visit to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Oleksandr Kosovan
Making international headlines.
In MacPaw’s early days, it was difficult to run a tech company from Ukraine. Corrupt law enforcement often raided businesses, blocking operations until they were paid a bribe. This threat made Kosovan consider moving abroad, but his stubbornness and patriotism kicked in. He didn’t want to leave his country.
“Just five years ago, it was risky to do business here,” says Kosovan. “Many thought Ukraine was part of Russia. We avoided mentioning where MacPaw was from.”
The country has changed since then, and is a more secure place to run a company. But it still has a long way to go, which is why Kosovan has a heavy investment in the health, stability and security of his company and employees. Today people often mistake MacPaw for an American company — but Kosovan corrects them. “I believe in Ukraine, and I want our country to be successful,” he says.
Kosovan is doing his part to put Ukraine on the map. He made international news in 2016 when he purchased Tekserve’s private collection of Apple computer products at auction. The legendary repair shop predated Apple stores by more than 10 years. Its collection spanned nearly three decades, including almost every Mac ever released. For Kosovan, it honors a company that ignited the passion that changed his life.
MacPaw houses one of the largest Apple collections in the world.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Oleksandr Kosovan
One of the largest Apple collections in the world, it now includes every iPhone model from the past decade, a 30th-birthday present from his team. The 170 self-proclaimed “geeks” are spread across Ukraine, California, London and Slovenia.
MacPaw’s Kyiv office is an ultra-modern space with Silicon Valley amenities. Meeting booths can be converted into nap rooms, and almost everything is controlled by iPhone apps. There’s even a 3D-print lab for employees’ personal projects. MacPaw’s feline mascots Fixel and Hoover have their own room. “This business and these people are my life,” says Kosovan.
Extreme sports and extreme growth.
But Kosovan’s life is not all about work. He and Sofia have a daughter, Maya, who is 2 years old. Kosovan speaks Ukrainian, English, Russian and some French. Sofia speaks Spanish, so together they’re teaching Maya Ukrainian, English and Spanish.
Kosovan with his wife, Sofia, and their daughter, Maya.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Oleksandr Kosovan
Kosovan recently earned his black belt in Kyokushin karate. “I worked many late nights while launching MacPaw,” he says. “I gained weight and developed high blood pressure but didn’t want to take medication, so I turned to sports. I picked karate because it requires endurance, strength and the will to fight. You have to be tough.”
Kosovan isn’t just tough — he’s gutsy, too. He windsurfs and kitesurfs on the Dnipro River. He’s also skilled at water-skiing, wakeboarding, skiing, snowboarding, ski kiting and wake surfing.
Kosovan co-founded a venture capital firm, SMRK, to help Ukrainian tech startups, filling the void that was there when he was launching his company. In March 2019, SMRK finalized a successful partial exit from one of the startups, Ajax Systems. Kosovan has also made an angel investment in Flawless App, a tool for iOS developers.
Five years ago, Kyiv made news for its political scene more than its startup scene. Since then, the number of IT specialists in the country has more than doubled. Ukraine is now one of the world’s largest IT services exporters, which means more economic opportunities for workers. Ukrainian software engineers earn up to $3,000 a month — significantly more than citizens’ average salary of $350.
To celebrate MacPaw’s 10th birthday in 2018, the company announced 10 charity projects, including several to further develop Ukraine’s IT and innovation scene. One of those projects is building a public museum in Kyiv to house its growing Apple collection, after many requests from the public. Kosovan hopes it will do for others what Apple did for him: inspire a love that can change lives.
Data is hardly in short supply, which is why it’s so important to understand what to measure and how it relates to your business.
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You’ve probably heard of the Fyre Festival. Two documentaries have been made about this music event fiasco, after all. But you might not know how the scam ultimately got its legs, beyond being the brainchild of a man ultimately convicted of fraud. It comes down to one word: metrics.
Using inflated and outright false metrics, festival co-founder Billy McFarland gained trust from investors to fund the event. Festivalgoers, on the other hand, were persuaded to purchase tickets on the basis of “vanity metrics” — or, more to the point, multiple influencers liking or sharing posts about the event.
While this scam has already joined a growing list of questionable activities taking place online (and offline, at that), it actually leads to a much bigger question: Is the startup space encouraging founders to do just this kind of thing — on a much smaller scale — in an effort to prove the potential for explosive growth?
Looking beyond vanity
Whether you’re starting a new venture or attempting to grow a business, one of the greatest hurdles you’ll often face is knowing what exactly to measure. Fortunately, there are myriad data points that can yield valuable insights for founders and investors alike.
Customer acquisition cost (CAC), for one, can be very valuable to a small business owner. This metric shows the cost associated with a sale, including everything from actual cost of goods sold to indirect costs like marketing, advertising, sales payroll, etc. Of course, tracking CAC can be difficult for some startups, as it may require associating each user with a referral source. Tools like Branch and AppsFlyer can always help with this.
Customer lifetime value (CLV) is another valuable metric, as it predicts the total potential profits from a customer. In the early stages, arriving at this number can be tricky. But once you have two or three data points per user (like average purchase and purchase frequency), you’ll be able to extrapolate CLV. Just make sure to interact with customers several times throughout the year to gather enough data.
While CAC and CLV can tell you a lot about a business, you don’t see the full picture until you understand churn rate — that or retention rate. Contrary to what many think, neither metric is that difficult to calculate.
First, you determine at what interval customers should realistically return. Let’s say you own a dental practice. Six months is standard for a cleaning. If a customer doesn’t return within this time frame (give or take a few weeks), you will probably consider them lost, reducing your retention rate by that amount.
Besides CAC, CLV and churn, small businesses should monitor their distance from being cash flow-positive. Being cash flow-positive basically means that the business brings in enough money each month to pay its expenses. Knowing this number is especially important for investor-backed startups, as they need to understand the likelihood of survival once funding stops.
Beyond that, you may also want to track customer sentiment. Sure, the data will be anecdotal in nature, but you can conduct surveys or solicit reviews with tools like Trustpilot. Early on, my own company’s CLV and retention rates seemed low. But after speaking to customers, we found they loved our service. They just didn’t need it that often, which helped us pivot into more offerings to capture more sales.
Track all changes
The good news is that the best metrics (e.g., lifetime value, churn rate, cost per acquisition, etc.) don’t really change across industries, only in terms of how you calculate them. But you can’t calculate what you don’t track, so consider taking the following steps to get a more accurate picture:
1. Record key data from the outset.
Storage is cheap. If data is captured and organized properly, you shouldn’t have any performance issues when logging every customer interaction — be it a pause, drag or click. Even if you don’t yet know how to interpret data, still track it. According to Forrester, upwards of 73 percent of data goes unused by enterprises when it comes to analytics. Companies that capture all data — and eventually learn how to utilize it properly — will have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.
2. Seek outside help to establish KPIs.
Look at almost any industry, and you’ll often find some standard key performance indicators. But these KPIs may not always fit the issues facing your particular organization. If yours is like my company, you may need help in sussing out the best indicators to monitor your progress toward a certain goal.
We felt it was necessary to get an outside perspective of what to measure and ultimately hired a Wharton MBA for six weeks to help us solidify our KPIs. Also, if you do develop a proprietary data science model or machine-learning program, you should probably make it open-source. A little goodwill can go a long way.
All data can be biased, and it’s important to understand those biases. Airbnb recognized this when it came to its net promoter score. Seeing that NPS could potentially be skewed by acquisition channel, price per night, stay length and other factors, the company uses these parameters to better interpret the value of its score to determine whether it’s a true predictor of “rebooking.”
Additionally, the company uses its data trove to investigate abnormalities that arise. When a data scientist noticed several years ago that visitors from certain countries had particularly high bounce rates, she brought this point to the attention of an engineer. An analysis of user behavior and subsequent site redesign led to 10 percent more conversions. The data wasn’t exactly wrong, but it was misleading. Biases, intentional or not, tend to do that. Beware, and be aware.
One thing you can’t say about data is that it’s in short supply, which is why it’s so important to understand what to measure and how it relates to your business. If it doesn’t have much of an impact, then it’s best to direct your attention elsewhere.
Are you drowning in calendar invites from people you don’t know? There might be an ominous reason: According to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs, crafty scammers have weaponized Google Calendar by taking advantage of a setting you probably didn’t know about.
Google automatically allows anyone to send you invitations unless you dig into the app’s settings menu and turn off the feature. This permits your new office mates to add you to weekly meetings or lets a potential friend invite you to coffee, but it also grants bad actors the same power.
According to Kaspersky, spammers can send you phony invitations with links to websites congratulating you on a recently discovered windfall. The calendar’s topic and location fields typically include a short bit of enticing info about your suspiciously good luck to encourage you to keep clicking. If you move on, you’ll face a page prompting you to enter banking or credit card information and a flimsy explanation as to why they need your money before they can pay you in full.
These phishing attempts seem obvious, but they have an advantage over traditional email scams. Maria Vergelis, a security researcher at Kaspersky, suggests the attack’s novelty makes it dangerous.
“The ‘calendar scam’ is a very effective scheme, as currently people have more or less got used to receiving spam messages from e-mails or messengers and do not immediately trust them,” Vergelis said. “But this may not be the case when it comes to the Calendar app, which has a main purpose to organize information rather than transfer it.”
Kaspersky recommends turning off the “automatically add invitations” option in Google Calendar’s Settings and deselecting the “show declined events” box in the nearby View Options menu. If you’re still unsure how to navigate potential scams, check out PCMag’s guide on how to detect and avoid phishing attempts.
McDonald’s maintained the No. 1 spot, with $38.52 billion in American system-wide sales. Starbucks held on to second place with $20.49 billion.
Chick-fil-A moved up from the No. 7 spot on last year’s Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200, passing Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Subway. Chick-fil-A’s system-wise sales grew 16.7% in 2018, up from $8.97 billion.
Experts say there is no reason to believe Chick-fil-A’s growth will slow anytime soon. If anything, Starbucks should be worried it could lose its silver medal.
“Can they double that? I think that is a very reasonable goal for them,” Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Business Insider in May.
“I would be suprised if they didn’t double that in the not-too-distant future,” Kalinowski added. “Can they reach $30 billion? I think that’s also a realistic goal if you give them enough time. And that should put them ahead of Starbucks.”
Why rivals should be scared
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Chick-fil-A competes with chains that have many more locations because of its enviable average unit volumes.
On average, a Chick-fil-A location brought in $4.6 million in annual sales in 2018, up from $4.2 million in 2017 — more than any other fast-food chain. By comparison, the average McDonald’s location made $2.8 million.
Chick-fil-A has plenty of room for growth as it continues to expand outside the South.
“They’re severely under-penetrated,” Kalinowski said. “Once you start looking at all these other big metropolitan areas in all these states, there’s room for growth for, not just years and years to come but potentially decades to come.”
Kalinowski says that some of the brands that should be most concerned about Chick-fil-A’s growth are chicken rival KFC and Wendy’s, which is known for its chicken sandwich. In an increasingly competitive restaurant industry, many chains are feeling the pressure from Chick-fil-A’s growth, as rivals struggle to attract more customers.
“I would say there’s pressure on the burger chains in general,” Kalinowski said, “and they’re fighting that off with varying degrees of success.”
To meet the onslaught of attacks and the urgent talent needs to address such risks, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is building a new generation of cyber talent in the Big Apple. The cybersecurity workforce of the future needs to be large, flexible, and diverse, and New York City is a natural place for that talent to live and work.
To develop the cyber workforce of the future, NYCEDC launched Cyber NYC, a coalition of education and industry partners. This groundbreaking, $100 million public-private investment, which The New York Times called “among the nation’s most ambitious cybersecurity initiatives” aims to establish New York City as a global leader in cybersecurity. As a central pillar of its work is growing the city’s diverse talent pool through a variety of training and education programs, Cyber NYC is helping bridge the talent gap. Over the next decade, Cyber NYC’s programs will catalyze 10,000 cyber jobs, help fuel new startups, and protect the city’s anchor employers.
“Cybersecurity is growing at a rapid pace, with both the private and public sectors making critical investments in talent and innovation.” said James Patchett, NYCEDC president and CEO. “New York City is positioned to be a global leader in this growing field with the launch of Cyber NYC, an unprecedented initiative that promises to develop the city’s talent pool, support company growth, and create good-paying jobs.”
Cyber NYC is developing new talent pipelines through the Applied Learning Initiative and the Cyber Boot Camp. Through established partnerships between academia and industry, these programs will ensure participants are given the opportunities, technical and soft skills, and employer networks they need, while offering employers a diverse pool of candidates with market-aligned skills.
The Applied Learning Initiative is a consortium of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs led by the City University of New York (CUNY) and operated across New York City’s major academic institutions, including Columbia University, New York University (NYU), and Cornell Tech. New York City’s leading public university, City College of New York, part of the CUNY system, offers a new master’s degree in cybersecurity, built in collaboration with Facebook and other prominent industry players. NYU’s stackable credentials program, which will be built on credit-sharing agreements between New York City universities, provides an innovative approach to education-based micro-credentialing, where students are able to apply tailored coursework throughout their lives to stay on top of industry’s evolving needs. And finally, the Tech-in-Residence Corps will train cybersecurity professionals to teach as adjuncts at participating universities.
The Cyber Boot Camp, run by Fullstack Academy, in partnership with LaGuardia Community College, will serve as an accelerated training program that prepares high school graduates, particularly those from underserved communities, for local jobs in cybersecurity.
“The high demand for cybersecurity skills presents a unique opportunity for students from underserved/underrepresented communities to enter into a rapidly growing technology career,” said David Yang, founder of Fullstack Academy. “The emphasis on hard skills, certifications, and communication ability and the reduced reliance on degrees lets us engage with the wide diversity of talent here in New York City. We’re extremely excited to be part of this ambitious initiative and especially the wide variety of partners in the program.”
By introducing innovative practices focused on cooperation between educational institutions and industry, Cyber NYC is closing the readiness gap and delivering in-demand skills that directly meet industry needs. Furthermore, these initiatives are building a more inclusive business community that better reflects New York City’s diversity.
New York City has all the ingredients needed to become a global leader in cyber education: strong commercial demand (New York City is home to 45 Fortune 500 headquarters), a large and diverse workforce (4.4 million workers), a growing startup ecosystem (over $1.2 billion in venture capital spending in 2017), and leading academic institutions (nearly 100 across the city). Cyber NYC’s revolutionary approach to cyber education will not only train a new generation of cybersecurity practitioners, but it also will serve as a model for the entire tech industry to build a strong and diverse workforce that meets its constantly evolving needs.
Join us to build a stronger, more inclusive talent pipeline that will keep your company and our citizens safe. For more information, visit www.cyber-nyc.com or email us at email@example.com.
We’ve all heard about AR, VR and blockchain, but what exactly are entertainment and media businesses doing with these technologies?
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The last decade has seen massive changes in how consumers view media, how businesses create those media and how marketers advertise on them. Cable TV, for example, lost an unprecedented number of customers in Q3 of 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal, as people opted for subscription-based TV services. And live video streaming is captivating viewers and marketers alike, with adoption rates at 35 percent in 2018, up from 28 percent in 2017, according to Social Media Examiner.
Even cryptocurrency has found its footing in the media and entertainment world, operating as a more decentralized mode of payment that many creators and users prefer.
The platforms through which we are exposed to music, movies and other forms of media are evolving at such a pace that it is difficult to wrap our heads around this phenomenon. And, despite this pace at which the entertainment sector is evolving, we can make certain predictions that will be beneficial to all involved:
1. Artificial intelligence
As it’s doing in many other industries, artificial intelligence is making a splash. One of the first examples of AI influence in the media and entertainment industry is TiVo, a cable service that made personalized recommendations based on the user’s watching habits.
Today, AI is making the process of creating new content significantly more efficient for businesses, publications and online creators. Even Forbes is using a bot named Bertie, which “recommends article topics for contributors based on their previous output, headlines based on the sentiment of their pieces, and images too,” Digiday reported.
Similarly, AI can be used to quickly create new ads and movie trailers, and to streamline pre- and post-production processes, making all steps involved more cohesive, less costly and faster.
2. Virtual and augmented reality
While the use of VR and AR in media and entertainment is relatively new, those alternative realities are already captivating consumers and making businesses money. Captive, for instance, has paired blockchain tech with AR to create new user experiences in which consumers interact with brands in new and entertaining ways. Once users register with the app, they can acquire “Captive coins.” Those coins can then be used to buy real goods in the Captive marketplace.
In the same way Pokémon GO operates (as another example of augmented reality), businesses can encourage shoppers to visit their brick-and-mortar locations by rewarding users with tokens in exchange for visiting the business.
Disney has a similar vision with its Play Disney Parks app. The app provides games that users can play while they are waiting in line at Disney theme parks. Using Bluetooth beacons, Disney tracks where players are located in real time and then asks players to search for markers near their locations. Players can also use the app to trigger real-world events. Example: While standing in line near Peter Pan’s Flight ride, players can make Tinkerbell appear inside a lantern.
In 2017 The Global Entertainment and Media outlook forecast predicted that by 2020, VR content revenue would increase to $5 billion, making it one of the hottest trends in the media and entertainment industry.
3. Personalized advertisements
Due to the increased personalization made possible by AI, it’s likely that generalized, traditional advertisements and product placements will soon be non-existent. These methods will be phased out in favor of more targeted, personalized content. Imagine, for instance, a commercial using your name, or referencing a specific behavior that you took — sound crazy? Well, 71 percent of consumers prefer personalized ads, and — for that reason — marketers are doing more and more of it, according to Adlucent.
It’s only a matter of time until ads become so personalized (with the use of AI, behavioral data, and even facial recognition) that every ad out there is directed at a specific buyer persona and, eventually, a specific person.
Blockchain is another element that has the potential to radically change the entertainment industry. One of the sector’s primary problems is that creators are often financially robbed by distributors and labels. But Blockchain has the potential to remove the middle man from entertainment and media distribution.
ENX Coin, started by RoccStar Youngblood, is one of the first examples of a decentralized streaming platform through which creators, producers and consumers can take part in a more equitable system. Youngblood’s music career reads like a Who’s Who Hollywood List — he’s produced hits for Chris Brown, Fergie, Jlo, Usher, Prince Royce and others — and he aims to bring decentralization and efficiency to a space that has been notoriously resistant. He also wants to provide new distribution models to remove the middleman by going directly to consumers.
His platform offers access to streaming services and live events for music, movies and TV. ENX coin specifically uses blockchain to create a forgery-resistant currency that provides transparency for all involved.
At this point, many questions arise about the entertainment sector and those who invest in it; it is difficult to know what will happen to collective viewership, or to major labels. Yet while we can’t predict how the industry will evolve, we can make certain predictions based on what has occurred.
And here increased personalization is key, just as it is in the marketing world. This means increased personalization in both viewing choices and advertising. So it’s safe to assume that there will be changes to the way media is made and distributed, and to the use of blockchain, such as ENX coin demonstrates, which will (hopefully) emphasize fairness, new distribution channels and transparency.
Encountering mortality cues at work is stressful — so stressful that researchers refer to the response as terror management. But it turns out that there may be two divergent ways people process death. Those who experience death anxiety tend to experience aversive emotions such as fear and panic, which, in the workplace, leads to greater stress and absenteeism. But those who instead engage in death reflection focus on the ways they can find meaning and enter into a more positive mindset, leaving them happier, more engaged, and more productive. Organizations and managers have an important role to play in helping employees toward the latter path.
How do people react when they encounter death in the workplace, and how can managers assist employees as they process it? Many occupations involve exposure to mortality. Critical care nurses and emergency medical technicians must take care of dying patients. Firefighters and police find themselves in danger when trying to save the lives of others. Construction workers and coal miners witness critical and sometimes fatal injuries. And even office workers will occasionally be confronted by the death of a colleague.
Encountering mortality cues at work is stressful — so stressful that researchers refer to some people’s response as terror management. That terror may manifest itself in severe anxiety and, to cope, those feeling it rely on beliefs, such as faith in an afterlife or holding fast to family traditions, that provide relief. They might even reject those who hold different views and act aggressively toward them. In one study, participants reminded of death rated people of different religions less favorably and were reluctant to work with them.
But reactions to death are not always negative. For example, following the tragic events of September 11th, we did see an increase of prejudice and bigotry. But there was also a sharp rise in applications for public service jobs. After being reminded of the fragility of life, many people chose to look beyond their own fears and give back to others.
It turns out that there may be two divergent ways people process mortality cues. Those prone to death anxiety tend to experience aversive emotions such as fear and panic, whereas those who engage in death reflection focus on the ways they can find meaning in their lives and enter into a more positive mindset.
Our research has focused on understanding the consequences of these different responses at work. In our first study, we looked at two occupational groups frequently exposed to mortality cues—registered nurses and firefighters working in the United States. Over a span of three months, we surveyed these employees regarding their death anxiety, stress, and work engagement and collected absenteeism data from organizational records. We found that those who had higher levels of death anxiety were more prone to stress symptoms, more likely to miss work days, and less engaged at work.
In a second study, we asked another group of U.S. firefighters about death reflection, their safety performance (e.g. following procedures, voluntarily promoting safety) at work, and life satisfaction. Results support the benefit of death reflection: Firefighters higher in death reflection were more satisfied with their lives and more likely to follow safe practices at work.
Dealing with death takes a toll on employee well-being and creates challenges for both businesses and society at large. Our research highlights that employees facing mortality cues should not be left to suffer the negative consequences associated with death anxiety. Through another path — death reflection — they can be happier, more focused, more engaged, and more productive. Organizations and managers can play an important role in helping them toward that more positive mindset.
Especially in workplaces where employees frequently face mortality cues, acknowledge that dealing with them is stressful and implement supportive HR practices and policies. Newcomers and young people may be the most vulnerable to death anxiety because of their inexperience. Therefore, organizational onboarding should include death-related educational modules that teach participants how to proactively cope with the stress. In the recruitment process, realistic job previews should include honest descriptions of death-related experiences on the job so candidates can assess if they would do well in those roles. Systemic interventions, such as death-related training, should also be put into place to help people reduce death anxiety and promote death reflection. Employees themselves should be actively involved in the design and implementation of these interventions — so that they can confront their own feelings about death and find meaningful ways to develop a growth mindset around it.
Managers can serve as effective role models, using their own behavior to shape the ways their subordinates process mortality cues. In times of crisis and stress, the way leaders envision the future influences how followers make sense of the present. When they avoid talking about death, employees follow suit and shy away from the topic. If they instead reflect on death and ways to find meaning, employees will be inspired to do the same and get more engaged in the pursuit of their calling.
Many investors haven’t kept up with inflation over the last 20 years. Have you?
5 min read
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Entrepreneurs are, by nature, risk-takers, so investing in the stock market may be appealing, a side hustle that just might make you rich. After all, a few top investors have become billionaires playing the Wall Street casino, so why not you?
But I have to burst your bubble here because, for starters, you probably are not Warren Buffett. And even the Oracle of Omaha, one of the most successful investors of all time, has been sounding alarms about the perils of the market.
In a recent annual letter to shareholders, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO said that market losses of 50 percent or more would not only be possible but inevitable in the future. He said investors can expect losses similar to those that have buffeted (sorry, could not help the pun) Berkshire Hathaway’s own stock during its 53-year history.
Those losses? Some of the worst ranged between 37.1 percent and 59.1 percent.
Noted Buffett: “…Our shares (and others’) will experience declines resembling those [previous declines]. No one can tell you when this will happen. The light can at any time go from green to red without turning yellow.”
Scary stuff, but the financial talking heads tell us regular folks not to worry. Just sit tight and ride out the roller coaster, they say, because, in the long term, the stock market is still your best choice for significant growth. Only … they are wrong.
The truth about investor returns
According to the DALBAR 2019 report, many stock market investors have not even kept up with inflation over the last 20 years.
DALBAR is a leading independent and unbiased investment performance rating firm. Its most recent Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behaviorreport covered the 20-year period ending December 31, 2018. According to the study, the typical investor in equity mutual funds has gotten only a 3.88 percent annual return over the last 20 years. As bad as that sounds, the truth is even worse when you consider that these are “nominal returns.”
Nominal return means the rate of return on an investment without adjusting for inflation. But inflation for the past 20 years averaged 2.17 percent a year! So, let’s do the math:
3.88 percent average annual return – – a 2.17 percent average annual inflation = a 1.71 percent real average annual return
The study took into account the average fees and expenses investors pay in these accounts. But it did not account for the taxes that become due for those who put their savings into a tax-deferred account like a 401(k), 403(b) or IRA. Expect taxes to eat up at least 25 to 33 percent of those savings, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Other investors fared even worse than equity mutual fund investors did. For instance, the average investor in asset allocation mutual funds (which spread your money among a variety of classes) earned only 1.87 percent per year over the last two decades. Because inflation averaged 2.17 percent a year, these investors actually ended up losing 0.30 percent every year for 20 years.
And the biggest losers of all? Those were the investors in fixed-income funds. They only managed to eke out a 0.22 percent average annual return, significantly trailing inflation. “The results consistently show that the average investor earns less — in many cases, much less — than mutual fund reports would suggest,” the DALBAR report stated.
Unfortunately, most investors don’t have a clue what return they’ve really gotten in their retirement accounts over time. People consistently overestimate their returns by a large margin.
Most pre-retirees have an enormous retirement savings shortfall
Here’s the stark reality: The typical household nearing retirement has an average of only $135,000 in its combined retirement accounts, which will provide only a $600 per month income, an analysis of the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances shows. The survey also found that most households have little or nothing outside of the money in their retirement and investment accounts. And that puts their entire life’s savings at risk in a market crash.
That’s the sad truth for most Americans, but it doesn’t have to be that way for entrepreneurs. We may be risk-takers, but when it comes to investing our hard-earned money, we want to be informed risk takers.