Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Here's What the Most Fearless Leaders Know About Tackling Audacious Goals - Inc.

The Case Foundation's bold mission is to invest in "people and ideas that change the world." So its CEO, Jean Case, has a vested interest in thinking and acting big. Her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose (Simon & Schuster, 2019), seeks to prod aspiring entrepreneurs through the plane door--wearing parachutes of course--and out into blue skies of possibility. Case treats fearlessness not as lack of fear, but rather as the ability to dig deep and push past it.

The book draws on examples from business, science, philanthropy, and other realms, as well as from Case's own experience leading the National Geographic Society and the Case Foundation, which she co-founded in 1997 with her husband, Steve Case, the former CEO of America Online. Case spoke with Inc. about just doing it.

Starting something--especially something audacious--is daunting and exhausting. How do you prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed?
I was training one summer to run a three- or five-mile loop in the mountains. My trainer, who was a triathlete, never had me focus on the finish line. Instead she told me to chunk it down. She said for any great feats in athletics, like feats in life, you might be aiming for something pretty far down the road. But you get there in small, incremental steps.

When I work with entrepreneurs, I encourage them to write down the next incremental steps they need to take. Many people who have broken through schedule these things on their calendars or keep running lists of the one person they can contact or the one thing they can do today to push further and faster.

Can anyone get comfortable with risk? Should you approach fearlessness differently if you have low risk tolerance?
I encourage people to start by understanding their own risk tolerance. But I think people can get a little more comfortable with risk if they think of it as an R&D effort. In science or tech or medicine, it is well understood that R&D is trial and error. So you may trip up or have failures along the way. But the best companies, the best leaders, the best entrepreneurs know how to let those failures shape them so they or their products are better down the line.

How do you balance the imperative to get outside your comfort zone with the instinct to play to your strengths?
It is important to understand your strengths. But the best entrepreneurs I know understand their weaknesses and build teams and partnerships that complement them. Back when cable television was the disrupter, National Geographic said, yes, we have a great magazine and great stories to tell. But we have to have a cable channel. They reached out to 21st Century Fox, a huge media company. And out of that was born the National Geographic Channel. That partnership continues, and today we are the number one social media brand. I encourage anyone pursuing a big idea to ask, "What don't I have? What do I need? And who has got it that I can form a partnership with?"

Should you think differently about risk as your organization scales and you become responsible for more people?
You should. But there is a risk in not taking a risk. All companies were started by entrepreneurs. But as they get bigger and begin to age, it is so important to constantly look at how they can disrupt themselves. Kodak invented digital photography. But because they were such a big, successful company making most of their profits from rolls of film, they were unwilling to fully leverage that innovation, which would have led to a decline in sales of their traditional product. Other companies pushed the technology forward, and ultimately Kodak ended up in Chapter 11. It could not take the risk. And it became a victim of not taking the risk.

The last recession produced a surge of entrepreneurship among people who had lost jobs. Given that another economic downturn is inevitable at some point, should people now be thinking about businesses they might start then?
Yes. Sometimes our best periods of innovation follow dark times. That can be a good formula to push someone out of their comfort zone. Also, while we now have a strong economy there is a cautionary wind blowing. We are at a 30-year low in terms of startups in the nation. That should concern us all. It is new firms that drive job growth. Part of the issue is too much capital is going to too few people and too few places. So last year only 2 percent of venture capital went to companies with women founders. Less than 1 percent went to companies with an African-American founder. And 75 percent went to just three places in the United States: California, New York, and Massachusetts. We must bring more equality to where money and mentoring produce new ideas and talent.

How did your experience at a startup influence your conclusions in the book?
The most important lesson I took away was actually from working at General Electric. GE, at that time, was the most valuable company in the world. So when they recruited me to come build an online service for them, I was excited thinking about the big budget and the big brand, and what that could do to build a movement for the internet. What I discovered, though, was that GE was too big and comfortable in the businesses they already had to take the risks to create a revolution. So when the startup down the road called and said would you come here and build something for us, I could see that risk-taking was in their DNA. Of course that company was AOL. And I never looked back.

Your book is full of inspiring stories. If you had to pick just one to illustrate fearlessness in its purest form, who would it be?
Madame C. J. Walker. More than 100 years ago, she was a young woman who was having issues with her hair. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, she tried to solve the problem for herself. She made some hair care concoctions and was really happy with the results. So she started a company and traveled around the United States training people like herself how to use the product. It was an early door-to-door kind of thing. It caught fire and was a very, very successful company. Madame C. J. Walker was the daughter of slaves. And she became what we believe was the first self-made millionaire in the United States.

Not every entrepreneur, social or otherwise, is out to change the world. How do your principles apply to those with more humble goals?
A big bet is going to look different for everyone. My mother was a single mom who raised four kids while working full-time as a waitress. For her, I was a big bet.

Note: This article contains affiliate links that may earn a small fee on purchases originating from them. They do not influence editorial decisions to include mention of any products or services in this article.

3 Traits of People Who Are Indispensable at Work (Even During A Recession) - Inc.

Job security can be tough to ensure in a time when every position seems temporary. Gone are the days when you worked for one employer your entire lifetime. Still, many people wish they could at least be the one to decide whether to stay or go. Knowing the traits employers find most attractive in good times (and, in bad!), is a smart way to focus your professional growth. 

As A Former HR Executive, I Know What Goes On In "RIF Meetings"

Back in my corporate America days, I gained a fair amount of experience in Reduction-in-Force (RIF) meetings. I recall the first time I sat in on one. I felt sick to my stomach the entire time. There I was, discussing the professional fate of people I worked with every day. Then, when it was over, I had to keep it a secret until the even more unpleasant day when I was part of the layoff procedure. Honestly, part of the reason I decided to start a career coaching company was due to what I witnessed in layoffs. So many people had no idea that their skills and abilities were working against them. During that time, I learned three traits weigh heavily on the decision of who stays and who goes. They are as follows:

1. You're a money-maker.

People who do jobs that directly impact the creation of revenues are keepers. If you can quantify how much money you've added to the bottom line of your employer AND you know it's more than your peers, then you've put yourself in a good position. For example, I once was part of a RIF where we had to cut 30 percent of the sales staff. We simply looked at who was bringing in the most new business. One woman, we'll call her Kara, was a total nightmare to work with. Condescending, demanding, and high-maintenance, people hated her. But, she was the top producer of new business in the company. In spite of everyone hoping she'd be let go due to her terrible personality in the workplace, she stayed. The company just couldn't afford to lose her revenue stream and customer relationships. 

2. You do the job your boss doesn't want back.

Taking things off your manager's plate is a brilliant way to ensure job security. They already have a lot to do. Letting you go would mean taking back jobs they hate doing. For example, I know an HR Manager who recently was told she had to let one of her two employees go. There was a super talented recruiter. He was incredible at getting top candidates to interview and join the company. The other was a woman with that did mostly admin work. She was less skilled and struggled to communicate effectively in the office, BUT she did all the boring, timely paperwork the HR Manager hated doing. Guess who kept their job? It wasn't the rockstar recruiter.

3. You cost less to employ than others who do the same job.

You might think in a low-unemployment labor market, like the one we have currently, that you should push really hard to get as much pay as possible. I'd be careful. When the market condidtions change, the first thing employers do is look to cut costs. Payroll lists come out and they assess each employee based on their contributions. I've sat in RIF meetings where managers were asked to rank their entire staff from best to worst. Then, their total compensation was put next to their names. Anyone that was lower on the list but had a higher salary than someone higher on the list got singled out for the layoff. Pay-for-performance is the name of the game in down times. So, if you aren't a money-maker or do the jobs your boss can't stand (see #1 & #2 above), then that high salary and lower performance rating is going to put you on the choping block. On the flip side, if you rank high and are paid less, you're a keeper.

P.S. The Sooner You Prepare, The Better Off You'll Be

While nobody can predict the exact time a recession will hit, there is plenty of evidence to support that we are extremly close. Taking steps now to ensure you're employable in a down market can save you the hastle and embrassment of struggling later. In my experience as a career coach, people find it much harder to motivate themselves to find a new job when they've been laid-off in a weak enconomy and failed to see it coming. They feel embarassed and lose their career confidence. Whereas those that prepared are ready to dive in and put their plan into action. As they say, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How a 27-year-old CEO built a near US$1b fashion start-up in South-east Asia - The Straits Times

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Zilingo Pte's path to becoming a fashion platform with a valuation approaching US$1 billion began in December 2014 when Ankiti Bose, then an analyst at Sequoia India, chatted with a neighbor at a house party in the Indian tech capital Bengaluru.

Bose, then 23, and Dhruv Kapoor, a 24-year-old software engineer at gaming studio Kiwi Inc, quickly realized they had complementary skills and similar ambitions to build their own start-up. Four months later they had quit their jobs, and each had put in their US$30,000 in savings to found Zilingo, an online platform that allows small merchants in South-east Asia to build scale.

On Tuesday, the Singapore-based company said it raised US$226 million from investors including Sequoia Capital and Temasek Holdings. The latest financing valued Zilingo at US$970 million, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the information is private. That makes 27-year-old Bose among the youngest female chief executives to lead a start-up of the size in Asia.

Female founders remain rare in the global start-up world. Of the 239 venture capital-backed start-ups around the world worth at least US$1 billion, only 23 have a female founder, according to data from Pitchbook in May last year.

"We were a bunch of twenty-somethings with nothing except this dream and we decided to chase it," Bose said.


Bose is now part of a group of founders in South-east Asia who are capitalizing on the region's rapid adoption of smartphones and rising incomes. Online shopping in the region reached US$23 billion in 2018, according to a report by Google and Temasek. It's expected to exceed US$100 billion by 2025.

Zilingo posted revenue of $1.8 million in the year ended on March 31, 2017, up from about $434,000 since its inception though March 2016, according to the company's most recent filing with Singapore regulators. Revenue grew 12 times in the year ended March 2018 and fourfold in the April to January period, according to the company. Kapoor holds the title of chief technology officer.

The company started off by helping small merchants sell to consumers, and has since expanded into new areas. As the founders dealt with thousands of small sellers, they realized that many lacked access to technology, capital and economies of scale.

So they expanded, developing software and other tools to allow vendors to access factories from Bangladesh to Vietnam and also help with cross-border shipping and inventory management. Since 2018, Zilingo has also worked with financial technology firms to provide working capital to small sellers so they can buy raw materials to produce goods.

Listings are provided for free with the company charging a commission of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent on orders.


Some of Bose's early inspiration came from a visit to Bangkok's popular Chatuchak market, which features more than 15,000 booths selling goods from across Thailand. She realized the sellers didn't have sufficient opportunities to expand.

Since setting up its first presence in Thailand and Cambodia in 2015, the company has grown to have offices in eight countries with 400 employees. It operates fashion e-commerce sites in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines and is preparing to launch in Australia soon.

While Bose has figured out a way to differentiate Zilingo, her challenge is to now manage the company's "hyper-growth" by recruiting the right leadership team and maintaining the right culture, said Shailendra Singh, managing director of Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore.

Raised in India, Bose's father's job as an engineer at a state-owned oil company caused the family to constantly move when she was a child, exposing her to different cultures and languages within the country. Her mother gave up her career as a university lecturer and devoted her time teaching her only child at home. Bose excelled as a student, studied math and economics, and eventually landed a coveted job with consultancy McKinsey & Co. in India, where she covered India's burgeoning technology, media and telecom sector.

She took the calculated plunge to set up Zilingo, she says, after gaining expertise evaluating major startups in Southeast Asia at Sequoia India's venture capital business. As she did that, she saw a huge opportunity to build a business herself.

"I kept raising my hand and said, 'Teach me everything,'" Bose said of her pre-start-up years. "I busted my ass, working 18 hours a day because it was so much fun."

Cincy startup acquires artificial intelligence firm - Soapbox Cincinnati

A Cincinnati-based startup has acquired a high-tech firm from Montreal, its second acquisition in recent months.

Besomebody, Inc. said it acquired Pixelbug Technologies Inc., an augmented reality and artificial intelligence startup. Besomebody recruits and trains talent for businesses and develops software for custom job training programs.

Its Pixelbug deal will add artificial intelligence capabilities for its recruiting and training division and augmented reality expertise for its software development. Pixelbug’s founder and CEO, Dany El Eid, will join Besomebody as senior director of technology.

In November, Besomebody announced it was acquiring Opening Minds LLC, a Cincinnati-based multimedia and event firm.

Besomebody has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Kroger, Pepsico, and Mass Mutual on recruiting and training, content strategy, and company culture, says its founder Kash Shaikh.

It works with employers to identify the skills needed for their open jobs. Then it builds a curriculum, markets the program, and handles recruitment at no cost to the employer. Its team then works with selected job candidates — only about 15 percent of candidates are accepted — through custom, job-specific training programs.

“We reverse-engineer traditional education,” Shaikh says. “We start with the business objectives, the success criteria, the job description — even the company culture. Then, we create hands-on training programs in partnership with industry experts and outstanding instructors. And when everything is set, we open those paths to people passionate about the industry, job, and employer.”

Besomebody began as Shaikh’s personal blog more than eight years ago. The P&G alum then developed it into a mobile platform that connected people with expert instructors for in-person learning experiences. Users could choose from more than 400 passion areas, from pottery and piano, to snowboarding and skydiving.

In 2017, Besomebody sold the software portion of that business to Denver-based Utivity. The company then evolved into one that connects employers with skilled job candidates, creating “Besomebody Paths” for job prospects.

Besomebody Paths are currently available for jobs in health care, hospitality, animal care, graphic design, and sales, with more Paths expected soon. Candidates must pass multiple screenings to get into the program, including AI-driven assessments and evaluations.

€328 million invested in Estonian startups in 2018 | Business - ERR News

Last year saw the Estonian startup sector set new records in connection with the increase in the number of employees, labour taxes paid to the state as well as in investments raised. In total, some €328 million was invested in Estonian startups in 2018, with 30 new investments, indicating an average investment of €10.9 million.

"Since 2010, the proportion of investments raised by Estonian startups from abroad has been growing year after year, reaching a new high of 96.3% in 2018," said Maarika Truu, head of Starup Estonia. "The increased interest of foreign investors confirms that Estonian startups are being noticed globally, we have a strong startup ecosystem and a credible transparent business environment."

Statistics from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (MTA) indicate that Estonian startups employ a total of 3,763 people in their Estonian offices, up 26% from 2,981 in 2017.

The top 20 startups in Estonia accounted for 62% of the new jobs created by startups in 2018. Transferwise was the biggest recruiter, adding 239 jobs during the year, followed by Taxify with 92 new jobs, Monese with 57, Veriff with 54 and Pipedrive with 53. Veriff has shown the biggest increase percentage-wise, with 490% employee growth at its Estonian office. Veriff also announced recently that the company has hit the 100-employee mark in all of its offices, and that it is looking to hire another 100 people within the next six months.

"In 2018, I saw a big increase in the new wave of Estonian startups," said Veriff co-founder Kaarel Kotkas. "Funding was raised, bigger offices were built, and more people were hired. 2019 will be the year of newcomers. Veriff has received a lot of support from the #EstonianMafia on our road to success, so now we are trying to support the newcomers. I see that the 'giving-back mentality' is the key element, and that allows us to get even more smart people on board who will allow us to do even bigger things. We will gladly be the first clients to newcomers, test their solutions and help them get to the big markets."

More employees means more employment taxes

The benefit of increased employment is reflected in a growing amount of employment taxes paid. While startups in Estonia contributed €28 million in employment taxes in 2016, this figure increased to €36 million in 2017 and €46 million in 2018, reflecting an annual growth of some 30% on year. The largest contributors in 2018 were Transferwise with €7.8 million, Pipedrive with €5.8 million, Taxify with €2.9 million, Starship Technologies with €2.2 million and Monese with €1.1 million.

The average gross monthly salary in the startup sector was €2,024, falling just below the IT sector average of €2,181.

Estonian startups generated €299 million in annual turnover last year, 9% more than in 2017. The greatest turnovers were seen by Taxify (€51 million), Pipedrive (€30.7 million), HashCoin (€15.5 million), Starship Technologies (€16.3 million), and Creative Mobile (€13.5 million). Compared to 2017, the biggest increases in turnover on year were registered by HashCoin and Taxify.

According to Leapin CEO Allan Martinson, 2018 was without a doubt a superb year for Estonian starups in terms of both funding raised and overall growth.

"Tech startups are shifting the direction of the Estonian economy more and mroe, constituting several percentage points of the overall economy and growing more and more every year," he highlighted. "This kind of fast growth is not visible in any other sector. Although startups raised more than €320 million, there was a visible trade — the big startups got even bigger, but early-stage fundraising decreased. This is similar to what is happening in the world in general."

The technology sector is leaning toward mature enterprises which may not even be called startups anymore, Mr Martinson noted. "For me, it would be interesting to see if the trend will break in 2019, and new fresh startups will get investments and increase sales," he added.


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How to stop Firefox from opening on startup in Windows 10 - TWCN Tech News

If Firefox opens automatically when your Windows computer turns on then this post shows how to stop Firefox from opening on startup, it usually happens in a couple of scenarios. It’s possible that there was an abrupt shutdown of the computer or you may have set it to open it automatically as soon as you log in with your account.

Stop Firefox from opening on startup

Stop Firefox from opening on startup

Before we go ahead and disable some features, you should know that sometimes it’s helpful. This kind of restart also reopens the previously opened tabs which you were working on earlier. Before you begin, do check if Windows 10 is set to open programs after a restart.

1] Disable Firefox Application Restart

  • Open Firefox, and type about:config in the address bar of the new tab. Hit Enter.
  • You will receive a notice which says “This might void your warranty!” warning page may appear.
  • Click I accept the risk, to continue to the about:config page.
  • In the search bar, type toolkit.winRegisterApplicationRestart and double-click on it to set its value to false.

The changes apply immediately.

There is no need to restart Firefox. It will make sure to prevent Firefox from starting automatically.

2] Remove Firefox from Windows Startup

Many a time we set programs to launch as soon as we login to Windows automatically. While it does increase the startup time, but its useful for many. However, if you did not do it, here is how you can remove Firefox from Windows Startup.

  • Right-click on the taskbar, and click on the Task Manager.
  • Switch to Start-up, and find Firefox.
  • Right-click on it and select disable.

You may also use a Startup Manager app to stop apps from opening at startup.

3] Remove Firefox from Startup via Group Policy

Group Policy Disable Firefox from Startup

  • Type gpedit.msc in the run prompt, and hit enter.
  • It will open the Group Policy Editor.
  • Navigate to User Configuration > Adminstrative Templates > System > Logon.
  • Check if Firefox is part of the list of programs which can start with Windows Logon.
  • If yes, remove it.
  • Save and Exit.

It’s relatively easy to remove programs from Windows Startup, but make sure you understand that you might lose tabs with which you were working.

Twilio Inc (NYSE:TWLO) - Fuel Startup Gas Pos Seeking Headway Into Truck Stop Market - Benzinga

A new virtual fuel payment network is looking to "turn the industry on its head" by using a cloud-based platform to drastically reduce the fuel card payment processing fees paid by truck stop operators.

Little Rock, Arkansas-based Gas Pos announced today at the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) conference in Orlando it is partnering with Twilio Inc (NYSE: TWLO) to offer a less expensive method for truck stop owners to accept and process fuel card transactions through networks such as FleetCor's Comdata and WEX subsidiary EFS.

"The annual fees paid to these networks for can equal the truck stop's annual net profit," Gas Pos CEO Joshua Smith told FreightWaves. Smith estimates that the average truck stop location will save over $40,000 per month.

"We are inspired everyday by the innovative ways companies use Twilio's cloud communications platform to build great experiences for their customers," said Jesper Joergensen, general manager of voice and video at Twilio. "Gas Pos is a great example of this."

Don't miss it. Register today .

Don't miss it. Register today.

A fuel point-of-sale service, Gas Pos began operations in October 2016, and over the last year has been working on making headway into the truck stop and travel plaza market. The new product will be called "Steve" after a Fresno, California-based independent truck stop owner who became Gas Pos' first customer.

"It's been running in a beta mode for about a month now, and we're getting ready to roll it out to half a dozen truck stops," Smith said. "Our [point-of-sale] POS system is the guts of the product, which has been on the market for 18 months with hundreds of thousands of customers served."

Gas Pos makes money by charging a $200 monthly fee to retailers for the use of its POS system, Smith said, in addition to a 2 percent charge for credit and debit card transactions.

With 70 current customers, Smith said the company is growing revenues by 20 percent month over month. It generated $70,000 in revenue in 2017, over a $1 million in 2018, and estimates over $5 million in revenue this year, on the strength of the truck stop product. Smith's marketing plan is to be in 1,000 fuel retailers by the end of 2019.

"It's something we would not have been able to do five years ago," Smith acknowledged. Without cloud-based software, "we would have had to have been a registered telecommunications company, with servers costing tens of millions. But Twilio laid a foundation for us that we could build off."

Officials from Comdata were not available when asked to comment. Last year the company began a new offering of its own, a fuel card that allows drivers to use it for personal purchases in addition to company-authorized expenses.

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