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Bill Gates Is Both Chief Funder And Fundraiser In Polio Fight

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi convened the “Reaching The Last Mile Forum” in Abu Dhabi today with a host of world leaders and philanthropists to announce total pledges of $2.6 billion to fight polio. Following the announcement, I spoke with Bill Gates about his dual role as chief funder and fundraiser for this effort.

Gates is recognized around the globe as one of the greatest entrepreneurs in history. Since jointly taking the helm of the Foundation with Melinda Gates, they have proven to be among the world’s great social entrepreneurs, actively leading efforts to solve some of our most intractable problems.

“As the largest donor, there’s a certain responsibility to, when it comes time to do the fundraising, to go out and explain why you’re committed and what the benefits are,” Gates explained by phone from the event.

Still, Gates Credits Rotary International for leading the effort at fundraising internationally. “In almost every country, Rotary has members. And that’s very, very helpful to us. Those members have this commitment that goes all the way back to 1988, well before the Gates Foundation had any involvement in the polio fight.” [Disclosure: I have a pending business relationship with Rotary.]

Rotarians in India, Pakistan, Australia, Canada, United States and the United Kingdom especially have been effective in writing to and showing up to speak to their political leaders, Gates says. “And in those first few years, of course, things went really well and people thought we were getting close. So, it’s great they’ve stuck to it, even as it’s proven to take longer than we first expected.”

The $2.6 billion pledged today came from a long list of governments, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners and philanthropists. The Gates Foundation led the way with $1.08 billion. Another $160 million was pledged by host Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi.

“I think the Crown Prince’s commitment to this goes back to his father’s commitment to disease in general. His father travelled to Africa and got involved in Onchocerciasis,” Gates said. “So, they have a tradition of giving even before they were as wealthy as they are today.”

Countries pledged much of the $2.6 billion, including$514.8 million from the United Kingdom, $215.92 million from the United States, $160 million from Pakistan, $105.5 million from Germany, $84.17 million from Nigeria, $10.83 million from Norway, $10.29 million from Australia, $7.4 million from Japan, $2.2 million from Luxembourg, $1.34 million from New Zealand, $116,000 from Spain and $10,000 from Liechtenstein.

Rotary pledged another $150 million. Other philanthropic support came from a variety of donors, including $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, $25 million from Dalio Philanthropies, $15 million from the Tahir Foundation, $6.4 million from the United Nations Foundation, $2 million from Alwaleed Philanthropies, $1 million from the Charina Endowment Fund, and $1 million from Ningxia Yanbao Charity Foundation; and the private sector, including $1 million from Ahmed Al Abdulla Group, $1 million from Al Ansari Exchange, and $340,000 from Kasta Technologies.

“We are proud to host the GPEI pledging moment in Abu Dhabi and thank all the attendees for their continued commitment to the eradication of polio,” Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Cabinet Member and Minister of State for International Cooperation said in a statement. “Since launching in 2014, the Emirates Polio Campaign has delivered more than 430 million polio vaccines in some of the most remote areas of Pakistan. We remain firm in our mission to reach every last child and believe together we can consign polio to the pages of history.”

Gates himself is playing a strategic role beyond funding and fundraising. He personally championed the development of a new vaccine beginning eight years ago, committing funds to the effort. The new vaccine, which is undergoing final testing, could be available next year.

The primary vaccine being used today is the Sabine attenuated poliovirus vaccine, which can—and does—in rare cases revert to active polio. These vaccine-derived cases slightly outnumber (106 to 102) the cases of wild polio virus.

“When you and I talked last, I think it was still just in Nigeria, maybe a little bit D.R.C. So, it was only in a few locations,” Gates said, referring to our conversation in May. “Unfortunately, it spread to a number of countries in Africa.”

The new vaccine can, like the Sabine vaccine, be delivered via drops, which are painless and easy to administer but it won’t revert to active polio, making it more effective in the final stages of polio eradication.

“It’s kind of an insurance policy we started investing in, I think seven or eight years ago because it’s been a while and now may turn out to be very important to do this cleanup,” Gates said.

While there are lots of variables remaining in the fight to eradicate polio, money isn’t one of them Gates says. “That is the most certain thing.” Of the $3.27 billion budget through 2023–intended to complete eradication–the $2.6 billion pledged today leaves the team with clarity on where to find the remaining funds.

Not only is the Gates Foundation the largest funder in the fight to eradicate polio, it’s funding commitment to polio has been the largest financial the Foundation has made in recent years. In that time, Gates himself has become a passionate spokesperson and fundraiser for the cause.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Building A Carbon Neutral Digital Prints Company

This holiday season many consumers will turn to prints as a thoughtful gift. This Florida-based company is making those prints with little waste, in a 30,000 square foot solar-powered facility, and investing in carbon credits. So can a holiday gift be carbon neutral? Fracture argues yes.

“Greenwashing by some of our business leaders today is frustrating,” says Abhi Lokesh, CEO and co-founder of Fracture. “We need buy-in from major companies on these sustainability efforts. It’s about actions, not words.”

Fracture specializes in printing images on glass, which distinguishes them from several other digital printing services available these days. All of the glass that’s leftover or not used in production is recycled, Lokesh says. “It took a ton of energy to find a partner who would take all that and recycle it. We had to seek it out.”

But he’s happy to do that search, he says, as he fine-tunes all aspects of the company to make it as eco-friendly as possible. Currently, the facility is run on solar energy, meaning all their machinery and equipment are working on renewable resources. By making items in the US, not only are they reviving manufacturing in the US, but cutting down on their carbon footprint. Each package of frames is shipped with minimal packaging — no bubble wrap, no fillers, no packing chips. And yet, even though it’s glass, it still stays intact. 

That said Lokesh is not done. “We’re still looking for more eco-friendly materials to incorporate so that we can move further away from using petroleum-based products.”

Much of this drive to build a company that “treads lightly,” Lokesh says, comes from his travels and global awareness. He started Fracture after college: the vision was to create a nonprofit art gallery where artists could feature their work and if any were sold, the profits would help fund a nonprofit in Africa. Having worked in Swaziland on health and poverty issues, Lokesh had first-hand experiences of the challenges on the ground. Inspired by the idea that business could be a catalyst for change, he started a social enterprise, working with artists in the US to raise funds for development work in Africa. Unfortunately, that enterprise didn’t work out. But it gave him, and his co-founder (who has since left the company), Alex Theodore, the idea of Fracture and led them to an e-commerce startup.

“We spent about the first four to five years, just trying to get all the elements of the business to work. It wasn’t very profitable but we were building the foundation,” Lokesh says looking back.

Granted they started the business in the depths of the economic crash in 2007, which would could explain the slow start. With the help of Lokesh’s family, they were able to finance the venture. “I didn’t have any debt back then, which was also helpful. I could spend all my time on Fracture, and not have to worry about debt,” he notes.

They also had the hurdles of not being in Silicon Valley, but in Gainesville, Florida. “This was not a hub for startups, and finding the talent, resources, and mentorship wasn’t easy,” he adds. “Did I think about leaving? All the time.”

But he didn’t. Rent alone would have been double, if not triple elsewhere, he admits. But it was more than just that. “I loved the idea of building a business here, investing in the working communities, and creating an ecosystem that didn’t exist.”

Plus, Fracture’s model was not forgiving: it’s a volume-based business, with slim margins. Yet Lokesh stuck with the idea. With the launch of Instagram in 2010 and smartphones having higher quality cameras built into them, Fracture’s business model became more and more relevant — and his decision to stay in Florida made more business sense.

While had he had been thinking about sustainability from the get go, he admits they had to choose their battles, starting a business from the ground up.  One thing was certain, he says: “We had always been attracted to glass. It was environmentally-friendly but also timeless.”

That said, the images do come on a foam board, which Lokesh is looking at phasing out to an organic material. But the next step, he says, is trying to get some of their suppliers to also think about what materials they’re using, where, and how much. “It’s a bit of reverse engineering. We try to do as much as possible but we don’t make the glass for example, or the recycled paper we use. So helping suppliers also think through these challenges.”

As a $20 million company now, he says, they have some leverage to do that. Inspired by companies such as Patagonia and founder Yvon Chouinard’s entrepreneurial journey, Lokesh admits, “We are trying to stand on the shoulders of some great giants.”

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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How Women Entrepreneurs Are Breaking Free Of The Pay Gap (And The Best Cities To Be In)

Today is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, celebrated on November 19th to honor how women are advancing as entrepreneurs and business owners across the world.  Historically, women have controlled a vast majority of small to medium consumer choices, representing trillions of dollars in revenue. But how long will we have to wait for that purchasing power to transform into full executive power and representation?

While I often write about negotiation and equal pay in the context of working within an organization, entrepreneurship presents another way to close the leadership and pay gap: become your own boss. It’s a popular pathway that women are taking to close their own individual gaps. A study from 2018 commissioned by American Express showed that 40% of businesses in the United States are women-owned, with nearly half of those business owners being women of color.

Yet significant gains still need to be made for women to achieve full economic parity, particularly on a global scale. Research commissioned by Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network may suggest that women are poised to have a breakout decade starting in 2020. Released this past summer, the annual Women Entrepreneur Cities (WE Cities) Index tracks 50 global cities and their success in fostering growth for women-owned start-ups. In partnership with IHS Markit, Dell continued a 10-year examination of indicators that help female business owners succeed, including access to capital, technology, talent, culture and markets. The full report details how these indicators can inform policy that boosts the success of women-owned businesses.

The top three cities for women entrepreneurs include the Bay Area in California at #1, New York City at #2, and London at #3. The full 50-city ranking for the annual WE Cities Index is below, with green arrows indicating an upward shift in rank, red indicating downward shift, and yellow indicating no major shift.

When compared to findings from 2017, the WE Cities report found that 30 out of 50 cities improved on a majority of their indicators, with Europe and Latin American showing the biggest gains. The report also showed that the increase in positive gains was distributed across every continent, which suggests global momentum towards supporting women business owners. Mexico City exhibited the largest improvement, moving from #45 in 2017 to #29 in 2019. Part of Mexico City’s success in moving the dial is likely linked to changes that include increased representation for women in business schools and legislatures, increased participation in corporate vendor procurement programs and access to capital for women entrepreneurs through crowdfunding campaigns.

Austin, Texas (where I live) ranks at #14 overall for women entrepreneurs. It’s also not surprising that Austin, known for being the headquarters for corporate tech giants, ranks #2 for technology, edged out only by San Francisco at #1. Regardless of sector, Austin is an incredible city for women-led startups, with dozens of opportunities to help women succeed. One of those opportunities is being lead by Kendra Scott, the eponymous jewelry company founded and headquartered in Austin. In partnership with the University of Texas at Austin, Kendra Scott will launch the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute this coming spring.

In advance of the launch, the Institute has been holding events across the city to help women at all levels of their entrepreneurial journey. I attended their second event in late October and talked with Jan Ryan, Executive Director of Creative Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Texas’s College of Fine Arts and Liz Matthews, Senior Vice President of Global Brand at Dell Technologies. Both Ryan and Matthews have decades of experience in supporting hundreds of women entrepreneurs and women leaders develop robust entrepreneurial skills.

Matthews, who was a key driver of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network for a number of years, reinforced why this sort of analysis needs to be made. “[Dell Technologies] got involved with building the ranking because we knew we needed to shine a light on the gaps that female entrepreneurs run into around access to capital, access to networks, and particularly access to critical technology.” Examining the advances or roadblocks for women gives insight for structural and regional trends, such as those highlighted in the report. At the same time, Matthews emphasized that women business owners have to find ways to build their own inner resiliency. While the gaps inch towards closure, Matthews suggested that developing an entrepreneurial mindset can boost success whether you’re running a businesses or delivering value inside of one.

It’s also vital to know your worth, as an individual and as a company. Ryan, who teaches classes at the University of Texas about women-led companies, said that her key advice for women owners is to have a very clear idea of your value. “If you are a careerist working for a company or an entrepreneur running it, you have to know your worth,” Ryan advised. Without having a clear sense of that worth, she said, you can’t do the vital research necessary to determine market value.

Ryan and Matthews also underscored the importance of developing a collaborative approach to work. Both women agreed that collaboration with a focus on promoting good ideas is a crucial element to adopting an entrepreneurial mindset. Matthews mentioned being brave around releasing a sense of ownership over ideas. “I’ve had success where I’m not afraid to give up that idea to someone else for the good of the brand or the good of the company. I was fearless because success will arrive for me when we bring people along on that journey.” That generosity extends as well to finding ways to fund great ideas, because working in collaboration can generate trust in a group. Ryan agreed. “You find out very quickly is that innovation is a team sport,” Ryan said.  

What was also interesting was what both experts mentioned as the biggest hurdle for any entrepreneur, regardless of gender. That hurdle is the ability to delegate. “You can’t try to do it all yourself,” Ryan cautioned. “Great entrepreneurs know the deep value of team building, even before you have money to hire people.” Ryan emphasized again that businesses flourish when leaders can cultivate relationships of trust that encourage others to support a common vision.

Without that “superpower” of cooperation, a business might even be headed for failure. “It’s actually a detractor for people when you’re trying to do it all yourself,” said Matthews. She mentioned that while hard-driving entrepreneurs might want to be highly self sufficient, a lack of collaboration or delegation can be a deeply demotivating force. “That’s a real turning point that I’ve seen new managers and owners adjust to. You have got to let go and delegate. And guess what? Your team is going to be happier when you do.”

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Techlash Backlash? Next Generation of Startups Infusing Ethics Into Its Roots

 

Big tech has been battered in the past few years with criticism from consumers, lawmakers and regulators. Facebook faces continued questions regarding exposed user data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Twitter has come under fire after investigations found that Russian troll farms used the platform to try to sway voters. Regulators are examining whether Google, Amazon and Facebook are violating antitrust laws. 

While the “techlash” has done little to hurt user numbers, the industry is paying attention and wrestling with how to respond and change. Twitter, for instance, recently announced a ban on political ads to limit the dissemination of fake news. While big tech sorts itself out, the conversation around technology and ethics is shifting to a movement of another kind: building products and starting companies with a fundamental focus on ethics. 

The motivating idea here is to anticipate the harmful effects of technology in order to avoid damaging consequences. 

The Ethical OS initiative guide is one example of those efforts. The guide, created by the Palo Alto-based Institute of the Future in collaboration with the Tech and Society Solution Labs, asks development teams to consider eight areas of risk, including economic inequality and addiction, and think about how their product could potentially harm society.   

“What if, in addition to fantasizing about how our tech will save the world, we spent some time dreading all the ways it might, possibly, perhaps, just maybe, screw everything up?” the Ethical OS website asks.

The guide then provides scenarios for teams to address regarding the ethical implications and long-term effects of their products, and to create strategies to anticipate future changes. 

The notion of embedding a strong sense of ethics into budding entrepreneurs is gaining traction at universities as well. Tom Byers, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford, says students in entrepreneurship courses are learning the basics about matters such as strategic business building and evaluating risks. However, in an article for Stanford’s eCorner, he notes students and faculty also are showing a growing interest in learning how to handle ethically challenging conditions for startups. 

“In these conversations with educators, administrators, industry leaders and students, I feel an emerging groundswell—so many want to see innovation in the way educators teach entrepreneurial values,” Byers says.

In Portland, Oregon, entrepreneurs frustrated with the traditional culture of startups launched a movement two years ago that called for a more ethical and inclusive environment for startups. The group, Zebras Unite, contends the focus on unicorn companies can create toxic cultures and lead to destructive outcomes. Zebra companies, on the other hand, strive for sustainability and profitability, prize collaboration and pursue win-win scenarios. The group has 40 chapters around the world. 

Finally, the efforts aren’t limited to founders. Investors and startup accelerator programs also are encouraging a focus on ethics from a company’s beginning. Techstars, for instance, was an early supporter of the Ethical OS guide and artificial intelligence investors are calling for startups to consider bias that might be rooted in algorithms that power their products. 

The attention to ethics—and minimizing technology’s harmful effects—could even create a category of startups focused on ethical tech. The Bakery, a tech marketing and communications firm, has profiled a few such startups, including InChorus, a platform that measures workplace harassment and bias, and PeerLedger, a blockchain company that certifies organizational conduct across several areas. 

The techlash is real and likely will continue for as long as big tech makes moral missteps. But the push for being more ethical early on in products and companies might just ensure that big tech has fewer moral missteps in the future. 

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Strategies To Beat Today’s Growing Backlink Competition

Need more page views? Better search engine visibility?

Okay, those are rhetorical questions—all of us do. But a recent trend could be making this more difficult than ever. Let me tell you about a conversation I had recently with a part-time blogger friend of mine.

He’s had his website for more than a decade and it’s always been a pretty low-key operation. In fact, he doesn’t get a lot of page views; that’s not the purpose of his site. But out of the blue over the last few months he’s been inundated with random requests to place links within his published articles.

This has never happened to him before.

He’s involved in internet marketing, so he knows why these people want to place links on his site: more backlinks to a site tend to increase its authority in the eyes of search engines, resulting in better search engine placement. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of a successful small (or large) business website. His comment to me was that if people are coming to him for backlinks, the competition for backlinks must be getting very fierce.

You need a backlink strategy

This puts a premium on devising a winning strategy to convince website owners—bloggers and other informational site owners—to agree to place a link to your site within content already published on their site. A variation of this is to actually take content created by you and publish it on their site. Then, within that content or within an introduction to the content you provide, you’re able to place a link back to your site.

Outreachxpert, a company that specializes in this kind of marketing, outlines its general strategy, and it’s a good starting point for anyone interested in DIY link placement:

  • Pull together a detailed brief about your project. What are your goals? Who are you targeting as prospects?
  • Analyze your industry influencers. Who are your prospects listening to in the social media? What blogs are they reading? What YouTube channels do they subscribe to?

With these two steps under your belt, according to Outreachxpert, it’s time to start “the hard work: writing, pitching, and connecting … with the top influencers in your space.”

Let me inject a word of warning here: While it’s great to identify the top influencers, they may not be the first people you go to in DIY link placement. If my part-time blogger friend is getting numerous requests for link placement, you can imagine how many requests the top influencers receive every day.

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However, if you want to try, go ahead but be persistent. I’ve discovered that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that some influencers will place a link just to get a requester off his or her back for a little while. But this brings us to our next critical point: Your content must be undeniably superior. Let’s look at a specific strategy to illustrate this.

Do a thorough research

You should have a pretty good idea of who your successful competitors are, so scouring the web to discover backlinks to their sites is a good place to start. Free services like Ahrefs’ backlink checker will help with this. As you uncover your competitors’ links, analyze the content that is being linked to.

A financial advisor with a new website might discover that a competitor wrote a good article on how to buy and sell options and has earned a lot of backlinks across the internet. The job for the newbie financial advisor would be to write a demonstrably better article about buying and selling options. It could include points the competitor’s article missed, better graphics, updated information, etc.

Compose an engaging email

The next step is to compose an email to pitch the new, improved article on options trading, and it’s important that this be done properly. It should include:

  • A personal greeting that gives a compliment to the website owner
  • The article where you would like your link to be placed and which link it would replace
  • A short but powerful statement of why your article would be more valuable to readers
  • The actual link you want to place

An inquiry email might read something like this:

Dear Pat,

I’ve been following your blog for some time and really enjoyed last week’s article on finding the best interest rates for savings accounts. We need to squeeze out every penny of income we can get today. I see that you have an overview of option trading (URL here). I’ve pulled together an updated, in-depth article on this topic with some great charts. With its current information and better graphics, I think it would be more valuable to your readers than (URL here). What do you think? I’ll follow up in a few days after you’ve had a chance to check out my article.

One more tip that will help with the important personal greeting. Don’t simply send emails to “info@domainname.com.” Try to discover a contact name. This may be published in the website’s “about us” or “contact us” page, but if it isn’t, head over to Hunter.io, enter the top-level domain, and discover the various email addresses associated with the domain. It will usually be obvious where you should direct your inquiry.

RELATED: How to Optimize Your Small Business Website for Voice Search

This article was originally published on AllBusiness. See all articles by Megan Totka.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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New Equity Crowdfunding Site Fundopolis To Emphasize Blockchain

New equity crowdfunding entrant Fundopolis launched today, highlighting the challenges for late entrants.

Fundopolis launched this morning with two campaigns on the portal, Apotheka Systems, which with just a few hours of history has not yet raised any money toward its $1,070,000 goal , and Bee Mortgage App, which has raised $100.

The Securities and Exchange Commission delegates responsibility for regulating financial intermediaries to FINRA, which regulates portals under the SEC’s Regulation Crowdfunding, commonly referred to as Reg CF, using what could be described as a light version of the regulation governing broker-dealers. It presently lists 47 approved portals, including Fundopolis. Broker-dealers can also be authorized under their FINRA registrations to operate portals but are not listed with the Reg CF portals.

Fundopolis is led by CEO Michael Mook. In an email exchange, I asked him some questions about the platform to which he has responded. I’ll share that exchange in its entirety below.


Devin Thorpe: The Reg CF platform space is fairly crowded with dozens of platforms and a few dominant players (WeFunder and StartEngine). How will Fundopolis be different?

Michael Mook: Unlike other equity crowdfunding platforms, Fundopolis is the only portal that is built to support the entire funding cycle for both issuers and investors. By using innovative technology like blockchain, we provide easy-to-use tools that help individuals and small businesses seamlessly navigate the full funding journey – from start-to-finish.

This means that small businesses are never left alone and instead are given robust tools and support to manage equity, distribute perks, and provide a superior experience to each new investor. At the same time, investors are never left in the dark about the status of their investment and how they will receive payment and/or redeem perks.

At Fundopolis, we believe that this new approach to investing makes it simpler, more approachable, and more enjoyable for all. We are focused on building stronger communities by making investing more accessible for everyone while making it easier for small businesses to raise capital that meets their needs on their own terms.

DT: How will you support women and minorities raising money on Fundopolis? 

MM: At Fundopolis, we want to become the top destination for any small business that is looking for an alternative and more personal way to raise capital. Our mission is based on the belief that the opportunity to invest in small businesses should be available to anyone – especially people who haven’t been able to easily access it in the past — and not limited to Wall Street and complex bank loans.

We hope that everyone, including minority and women owned business who are often challenged by the traditional capital raising process and options, will use Fundopolis to achieve their funding goals. We will support small businesses of all kinds, no matter who they are, every step of the way.

DT: How will social ventures with a positive global impact be highlighted on the Fundopolis platform? 

Every raise will have specially curated “badges” on their page to identify those differentiators. For example, these badges will help identify women-owned, minority-owned, and sustainable investing opportunities.

Michael Mook, Fundopolis

MM: Communities grow stronger when small businesses thrive, and supporters become more invested in their success. Fundopolis exists to catalyze this dynamic by facilitating the connection between small businesses and customers who want a stake in their growth. This includes small businesses and organizations across industries, from mom and pop shops to social ventures supporting a positive global impact – we want to help them all raise capital through equity crowdfunding, while simultaneously cultivating deeper relationships with their customers.

We welcome all types of small businesses, including those with a mission driven by social impact and we can’t wait to welcome those ventures to raise on our platform. For investors interested in supporting causes near and dear to their hearts, we try to make it easy to find issuers that align with their interests. Every raise will have specially curated “badges” on their page to identify those differentiators. For example, these badges will help identify women-owned, minority-owned, and sustainable investing opportunities.


Apotheka Systems, based in Beverly Hills, could certainly be included among mission-driven companies. It is using blockchain technology to make electronic medical record platforms more secure, which has a clear social benefit. The business is flagged with a “Minority Owned” badge as well.

Bee Mortgage App, the other company raising money on Fundopolis on day 1, is also mission-driven, with a goal to reduce the cost of mortgages and to make home financing easier right from your phone. The offering is flagged with a “Women Owned” badge as well.

Fundopolis faces an uphill battle to gain traction in the crowded field of Reg CF portals. Time will tell if its strategy will stand out from the crowdfunding crowd.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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This Startup Project Broke Out Of The Classroom And Became A Legit Business

I was recently honored to give a guest lecture in Dirk Soma’s Entrepreneurship class at University of Hawaii’s Kauai Community College campus.

I was invigorated by the students’ intensity and drive and intrigued with their capstone project: HI Joe!, a startup focused on selling coffee grown and roasted in Hawaii.

Realizing that entrepreneurship is best “taught” by doing, Dirk designed the project such that it can be implemented in a single academic quarter, with the potential for future students to continue working on the student-led company, after the end of the current quarter.

Dirk further enriched the students’ experiences by teaming up with Rob Ladendecker, an outstanding KCC Lecturer who teaches Finance and Accounting for Small Business. Mr. Ladendecker’s accounting students worked with the entrepreneurship students to create financial forecasts and develop a financial system for tracking results and creating financial statements.

The Professor’s Perspective

John Greathouse: You’ve become a respected scholar in the area of Cultural Entrepreneurship, which you define as: “a venture that preserves and perpetuates a set of values, norms, and practices of a distinct people and place.” To what extent does HI Joe meet this definition?

Dirk Soma: Aloha John, you sure you got the right guy? I’ve been just scratching the surface and seeing if CE, as I’ve envisioned it, is getting traction as I share with my students, peers, and other practitioners within in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. From the feedback to-date, the definition has validity.

HI Joe! resonates on a couple of levels – first, as equal partners in this venture, my students and I have established a culture of mutual respect and a sense of commitment to our mission to provide only 100% Hawai`i grown and roasted coffees. Though this increases our product cost, we stay true and don’t look at selling blends.

Second, we come to the table with ideas and suggestions that are discussed, vetted, and agreed upon by consensus, which aligns with our values of openness and inclusion. Third, HI Joe! supports our local coffee growers and shares their stories with our customers. By promoting and selling locally-sourced coffee, we can perpetuate sustainability and provide incremental income to local coffee producers.

Greathouse: Well said. I Agree that the project fits into Kauai’s cultural tenets, but you also encourage entrepreneurs to create “Four-Win Business Models.” Explain to my readers (what you mean by) this approach and how HI Joe’s! business model is delivering multidimensional wins for its stakeholders.

Soma: To summarize, the Four-Win Business Model is in sync when an entity’s operations and outputs lead to benefits for the Planet, the People, and results in Profit, all while being done in a Pono manner (the Hawaiian cultural value of doing things the right way or righteously). I HI Joe! is striving to hit each of the four dimensions and I’m working hard to instill the fourth “P” into my students.

Some other small things we do include use biodegradable coffee cups, lids and stirrers and we add all of our coffee grounds into our campus compost bins. Our customers get a great value and are being served quality coffee, sourced from Hawai`i Island, Maui, O`ahu, and Kaua`i.

Our students get to put theory into practice and flex their entrepreneurship muscles and see the benefits of their contributions to operations, accounting, and marketing and promotions. Conducting ourselves in a Pono way, influences every decision we make, and this experience will stay with my students their entire lifetimes. Oh yeah, and by the way, we are making some nice profits!       

Greathouse: Nice, profits are a good thing. You and I are like-minded when it comes to coaching entrepreneurs – we both believe that experiential assignments are the most impactful. Given this proclivity, what were your pedagogical goals going into HI Joe and to what extent do you feel the project has met these goals? Any surprising learnings, for you or the students?

Soma: When I have led this class in the past, I would have students use the Business Model Canvas as a tool to develop their business concept and have them then create a pitch presentation for their classmates, who could either invest, not invest, or make a counter offer. Though this helped meet the Course Student Learning Outcomes (CSLOs), and several students actually used this experience to create businesses on Kauai, I knew that there could be a way to make more of an impact.

Going in, I really wanted to provide a way for students to see, touch, taste, smell, and hear what an entrepreneur goes through. I also wanted them to develop their “sixth sense,” you know, the one savvy entrepreneurs use when navigating through unchartered waters. I wanted to spur interpersonal interactions and leadership within the group and allow for hidden talents to emerge.

We are mid-way through the semester, but I would have to say that what I envisioned by inserting HI Joe! into the course is coming to fruition, as far as meeting the initial goals. The true entrepreneurs are taking the reins. Creative juices are flowing. More enriching relationships are being developed both in the classroom and when they are working side-by-side. Problem-solving and decision-making skills are becoming more focused on the impact to the overall business without losing empathy for classmates.

As far as surprises, I would have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by the level of commitment that some students have shown. Each is required to commit to working at our HI Joe! booth from 6:30 AM until 12:30 PM one Saturday. Several students have come multiple times just because they want to be a part of it.

Students have donated materials and resources and have “boot strapped” by tapping into their networks. The “quiet assassins” – you know, the ones who watch, observe, and then just amaze you with an idea or their talent – have showed up as well. We now have coined a phrase – “The Lincoln Hustle, ” named after  Lincoln Emery, a student who created coffee punch cards, with the HI Joe! story on the backside. He walks throughout the Farmer’s Market when we are in operations and hands them out to encourage shoppers to visit us.

Greathouse: I’m impressed that you collaborated with Accounting Instructor Rob Ladendecker. His students worked on the pro forma forecasts and created a general ledger from which to generate financial statements. Tell us a bit about how this came about and to what extent it enriched all of the students’ experiences.

Soma: Rob and his students have been great partners to work with. Last spring, I submitted a proposal to be a pilot school for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship’s (NACCE’s) Financial Management for Entrepreneurs Project. NACCE is partnering with Intuit Education (IE) to develop ways to infuse IE’s financial management modules into curriculum to supplement teaching resources and enhance learning. We were fortunate to be chosen as one of the five pilot schools and since Rob was teaching our Finance and Accounting for Small Business course, it was a great way to have him accomplish his CSLOs by supporting our class.

My students benefit because we get weekly financials, with a focus on cash flow, so that they can see where they are and make decisions to improve our outcomes. Rob’s students benefit through being able to apply financial management concepts, which can be a major barrier, to our simple operation.

Greathouse: What advice do you have for other educators who are considering designing similar, hands-on startup projects for their students?

Soma: Here’s some down and dirty tips (edited into bullet format by the author):

·      Have a concept thought out and developed in your mind and then guide the students along the way. Having them try to just develop a viable project can take a whole semester, so have something that they sink their teeth into right off the bat.

·      Don’t make the business too complicated. With HI Joe! I use the K.I.S.S. principal. You would be amazed at the amount of thought, energy, and planning it takes to just execute a pop-up coffee tent six Saturdays over the course of the semester.

·      Guide, but don’t stifle. Students come up with tons of ideas, which they believe are the best. I let the class discuss and vet and gently steer them in a direction that will lead to the best chance for success.

·      Make friends on campus. Many of us have systems with policies and procedures that we have live within. By having a network of supporters, you can get things done quicker.

·      Celebrate successes and develop strategies to address areas for improvement. You would be amazed on how each student will grow with just a little bit of water and how they will rise when faced with challenges when they know you have their back.

Greathouse: What are the financial and operational results so far? Are their plans to build upon this initial success and continue the project in future academic quarters?

Soma: As an initial investor in HI Joe!, I am happy, whew!, to say that by our fourth operational day, we have netted $600. It may not seem like much, but our startup and operational costs are around $2,800. We project minimal operating expenses for our last two days of operations, so we are projecting a final net profit of around $1,800 to $2,000.

As far as next steps, I may have created a monster! The Kauai Community Farmer’s Market wants us to be a regular vendor every Saturday. My students are already talking about opening a brick and mortar in one of our local shopping centers. Our campus is asking us to consider operating a coffee kiosk. And, Intuit Education is interested in working with us to roll out the hands-on HI Joe! component to the Financial Management Curriculum Project as a way to have students across the nation get this experiential learning opportunity.

The Students’ Perspective

To gain a fuller understanding of the impact of the HI Joe! project, I asked some of Dirk’s students for their feedback.

Greathouse: If you had a do-over, is there anything you would do differently with respect to HI Joe? Any changes you would make to the planning process, execution, team’s organizational structure, etc.?

Kathleen Ganitano: The planning process was hard to deal with, especially before our first pop up, because we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The whole planning process was overwhelming, but when you have a team that has the same goal as you, executing our plan helped the business run smoothly and effectively.

The organizational structure was messy in the beginning, but things improved as we met up every week in class, took turns with our shifts, and had discussions about what happened with the last shift. Having the three main groups; marketing, operations and finance really helped with putting the business together. Putting a bunch of strangers together who have the same common goal, which is learning everything you need to know about starting up a business, is surreal. We are ten weeks in, and I have grown to love my group, the finance team, and the entire HI Joe! crew.

Greathouse: Were there any assumptions you were pretty certain of that proved to be false? If so, how did you uncover the truth and what did you do to act upon the new information?

Lilio Masi: Physically working in the booth was definitely my favorite. Honestly, I wasn’t too excited to work, because I had my regular job to go to and I didn’t have too much passion in this project. But the day I worked in the booth changed everything. I loved getting the hands-on experience and working with my classmates. I loved having returning customers come back and seeing that people were happy for us to be there, made all the effort more than worth it. We changed people’s normal schedules of stopping at Starbucks or another coffee shop before heading to school or the market, and now they come straight to us. 

Greathouse: Loyal customers are a great measure of your success. Nice job. What was your favorite aspect of the project and why did it get you stoked? 

Kathleen Ganitano: My favorite aspect of the project is that this is a hands-on learning experience on how to start up a business, rather than doing book work. You’re not only learning, but by actually applying what you learned – is far more effective. You can learn from the mistakes and hardships than an actual business goes through every day and we learned how to solve those problems by discussing it with the rest of the team – we learned from each other. Knowing that our business is doing well motivates us to do even better.

Mary Williamson: The best part of HI Joe! is the teamwork. I’m a nontraditional college student with over 30 years’ work experience and believe that leadership is situational— sometimes one should sit back to let others grow, at other times nudge or mentor. A hands-on project like this allows us to get ideas from each other, no matter our age or history. Love getting local media coverage.

Greathouse: Now that you’ve helped to run a business, to what extent do you think you’re more, or less, likely to either start a side hustle or join a startup? 

Anna Lamotte: Hi Joe! Is a wonderful project and Mr. Soma was great to come up with this idea of business, because it was relatively simple to start , had all the difficulties of a business and we were able to learn a lot practicing what we learn in class. It also showed us the need that Kauai have for more entrepreneurs and small businesses. People want to be able to spend their money in great products and experiences. A great business should provide that, and I believe Hi Joe! does just that.

Kathleen Ganitano: I enrolled in this class to gain the knowledge on how starting up a business works because I would like to run my own business. One day, I want to design, sew, and sell bikinis online. Then, maybe in the later future, I will branch out into designing women clothing and possibly run my business through a store.

Lilio Masi: I am ten thousand percent more likely to start a side hustle business. I’ve always wanted to open a business and literally running a business and hearing feedback and advice from Professors Soma and Ladendecker has made me want to try opening a business, so that I can try to apply what they taught me and see how it works out for me.

My parents own their own business and I’ve already taken some advice and mindset from our two professors and shared it with my mom. We’ve already started changing some things in the business and I’m excited to see how it’ll, hopefully, improve her business. 

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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There Is Never A Right Time To Be An Entrepreneur. Here Are Seven Insights To Better Prepare You For Your Opportunity

Bill Gross from IdeaLabs gave a very famous TED Talk a couple years ago about “timing” being the single biggest reason for a startup’s success or failure. If you think about yourself and your aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur, you have to think of yourself as a startup and what your timing looks like. Honestly, there is no right timing for anyone to become an entrepreneur. It could happen in your 20’s or in your 60’s. Even though I had ambitions of creating some kind of company in my 20’s, I became an entrepreneur at the age of 36. What helped me determine my timing?

Three things. I always had a significant passion for what I was doing, marketing and branding, so much so that I loved it and became an expert. Second, what I learned in marketing agencies early in my career was the business of marketing services, where it made money and where it lost money. The third thing I learned was cash flow, that a business would die without a steady flow of cash. Learning these three things, and becoming an expert at marketing, gave me the confidence that I could actually create and run a marketing company.

Here are seven insights that might help you on your entrepreneurship path and prepare you for the right time to jump into your opportunity.

The attitude of ABL. Always be looking has to be your mantra as it will fuel your curiosity and your drive to attend events, meet people, read voraciously, walk into new stores and try new food. If you have ambitions of being an entrepreneur than always be looking for ways to learn more about entrepreneurs and potential opportunities.

Building a strong network. Having a great network is a lot like getting insurance on a new car. You don’t know when you need it but you can’t get it after an accident. Your network is similar as the better you build a strong and diverse network the more likely an opportunity will find it’s way to your doorstep. I was introduced to my co-founders by someone in my network.

Becoming an expert. Being an expert in anything just gives you more confidence and extends opportunities to you. People like to be around experts, they will pay more for one and others will believe you are more credible. That could lead to speaking, training, and presentation opportunities where you might meet the person who could be your co-founder.

Minimize your risk. If you are good at what you do and know the basic business model of how a new venture could solve a problem, create value or make money, you have definitely reduced your risk. Also if you follow a “first mover” company into a new marketplace that is large, your risk will be greatly less. Lyft following Uber. Facebook following MySpace.

Financial stability. This does not mean anything more than being prepared for an entrepreneurial venture. Keep your costs low, don’t lease a BMW, buy a ten-year-old car for cash. Keep your rent low. Accumulate 3-5 months’ worth of cash that you could live on if you had to. Spend money on important things and not frivolous things. Try to get to a point where your current income covers your monthly expenses and you still have more than $1,000 left over each month. Put that away or invest it in a low cost market-tracking ETF.

Importance of co-founders. I knew early on that I was not going to create a company by myself. The reason is the accelerated power of a team is greater than any one individual or even the sum of the individuals. For me, a fast pace in my own life kind of dictated a fast pace to any company we would create (in fact, we exploded to $1 billion in revenue in just five years). We would also minimize our company’s risk in case any one of us got sick or had any other issues arise. The team would survive and continue on.  

Ride a wave of either trends or problems. It’s always easier to take advantage of a rising trend “wave” where all companies will rise due to the market demand for the solution to the problem. Witness the recent rise in plant based companies where both Beyond Meat and Impossible Meat are having problems fulfilling orders with grocery retailers due to demand. That will actually allow, good or bad, hundreds of copy cats to move in and try and take market share. This will actually grow the total market size and usually, the best companies and brands will survive and become the real leaders.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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How to Win the War for AI Talent

As early as 1997, McKinsey coined the concept “war for talent” and identified it as a pressing challenge facing workplaces. To be sure, the war for talent has only intensified in recent years. 42% of employers are worried they won’t be able to find the talent they need.  

The supply of top-tier artificial intelligence (AI)  talent is in short supply. And, with the likes of Facebook and Google vying for top-notch talent, recruiting efforts can prove incredibly challenging. Fortunately, by embracing some key strategies, companies can effectively compete with even today’s most sought-after employers. 

Develop a compelling AI purpose statement 

Workplace morale has plummeted in recent years. The percentage of engaged workers in the U.S is now a mere 34%. Research has consistently shown that employee engagement is strongly related to whether or not employees are motivated by a strong sense of purpose. Employees who thrive have been shown to be three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose.

AI candidates don’t want to spend their time crunching data or working on lackluster projects. They want to feel invigorated. In developing your recruiting strategy, it’s important to craft a compelling purpose statement specific to AI. Ideally, this statement should be grounded in the type of data you are collecting. It’s exciting to work with data that nobody or few others have access to. What unique opportunities does the data you collect present? How will prospective employees have the opportunity to change the world as a result of joining your company? These are matters that should be crystal clear throughout the hiring process. 

Hire for “citizen AI” workers 

Over the past few years, there’s been an impressive emergence of citizen data scientists. A citizen data scientist, as defined by Gartner, is “a person who creates or generates models that leverage predictive or prescriptive analytics, but whose primary job function is outside of the field of statistics and analytics. Whereas data scientists focus on data wrangling and data cleansing, citizen data scientist focus on generating meaningful insights and trends and communicating these broadly throughout an organization.

Forward-thinking companies will start hiring for potential citizen AI workers early. While these workers might be overlooked by some employers due to their lack of hardcore AI skills, they can be critical bridges between AI specialists and the rest of the organization. AI initiatives will have limited use if results are confined to specific niche areas of a business. To be effective, AI requires a holistic enterprise-wide strategy. 

Gartner has predicted that the demand for citizen data scientists will increase five times faster than the demand for traditional, highly-skilled data scientists. It’s likely that citizen AI workers will follow a similar trajectory. By being proactive, you can get ahead of the competition and start building a sustainable AI future. 

Partner with universities

In recent years, there has been a shift in the emphasis that universities place on equipping students with skills readily applicable to the workforce. University students feel more prepared than ever before to enter the workplace. The vast majority (93%) of college seniors feel what they are learning is relevant to their career paths. Several cutting-edge universities are preparing students to immediately enter the workforce ready to make major contributions to artificial intelligence initiatives. 

Companies intent on recruiting top AI talent should develop strong relationships with universities. This involves more than merely attending job fairs. They should forge strong relationships with academic departments specializing in AI and related functions. They should also consider sponsoring hackathons and student projects, as well as developing an AI-focused internship program.

Prioritize diversity 

To date, AI tools have suffered from crippling biases. Consider the facial recognition tool from Amazon that was found to have an error rate of over 30% for dark-skinned women. In another disturbing example, Google came under fire when a black software developer tweeted that the company’s image recognition technology labeled photos of him as “gorillas.” 

It’s not hard to recognize why biases exist. Women comprise only 15% and 10% of AI research staff at Facebook and Google, respectively. What’s more, black employees comprise only 2.5%, 4%, and 4% of employees at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, respectively.

Winning the war for talent requires a strong focus on diversity. Many employers will overlook or deprioritize hiring for diversity in their initial efforts to recruit for AI. The companies that will win the AI talent war will prioritize diversity from the get-go. Doing so will reduce the potential for bias in initial AI algorithms and models.

With such a small potential talent pool, companies will need to be strategic. Researchers at the AI Now Institute at New York University have proposed several potential strategies to consider. They recommend that companies publish compensation levels and ensure pay and opportunity equality. They also recommend publishing harassment and discrimination transparency reports, as well as increasing diversity at senior leadership levels across all departments.  

It’s a no-brainer for companies to prioritize hiring top talent. But few companies recognize how much of an advantage they seek to gain by hiring top-notch talent. A study conducted among 600,000 researchers, entertainers, politicians, and athletes found that high performers are 400% more productive as compared to their average counterparts. What’s even more remarkable is the seismic shift in performance that occurs in highly complex occupations—such as AI. In these occupations, high performers are a jaw-dropping 800% more productive.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Vangst Cannabis Salary Report Shows Which Jobs Are In Demand

Cannabis recruiting company Vangst just released its 2019 annual salary guide and as expected, as more states legalize medical or recreational cannabis sales, and nascent markets continue to mature, the cannabis job market is strong.

Total cannabis job opportunities increased 79% from 2018 to 2019, and an estimated 211,000 full-time employees will make up the legal cannabis industry in 2019. Expected growth estimates in the report predict that 414,000 new jobs will be created in the US in 2021.

High-demand positions in the industry currently include Cultivation Technicians, Trimmers, Budtenders, Brand Ambassadors, Directors of Cultivation, and Delivery Drivers. A significant portion of the jobs however will not be full-time or year round. Seasonal employees and freelancers, also called, “on-demand talent,” will likely make up about 40% of the average company’s workforce by 2020 according to the report.

Vangst’s overview examines four main components of the industry, plant cultivation, lab testing and THC/CBD extraction, product manufacturing, and retail sales. The report details the best paying and most popular jobs in each area, and lists adjusted salary averages and a benefits overview. For example, in the lab or extraction segment of the industry, extraction, quality or compliance managers make around $68,000. On a cannabis farm, the grow director is likely to make around $87,000. The report includes salary multipliers to adjust for experience levels and business location.

The legal cannabis marketplace does have a number of employment-related challenges according to Vangst. The turnover rate of hourly workers like retail employees and bud trimmers is high so company owners may need to pay more than they were expecting, and managers are spending more time training new employees. Some CPAs, lawyers and others are still hesitant to join the industry because it is still federally illegal. Plant-touching businesses trying to offer matching federally-backed retirement and health insurance plans find it can be very complicated.

Despite cannabis remaining a Schedule 1 substance which puts state businesses in a precarious legal position and significantly restricts the amount of medical research happening, the industry is on track to expand to new markets soon. Nine states have cannabis on their 2020 ballots. The adult use votes will happen in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, New Jersey, North Dakota, and New York. The new medical states may be Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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