Before You Even Think About Scaling Your Business, You Need To Figure Out These 5 Things

Every entrepreneur wants to know how to scale.

The challenge, however, is that scaling requires both an unrelenting ambition to grow, and simultaneously, an extreme amount of patience. Scaling is not as easy as throwing money at a problem, or hiring as many people as possible. If anything, those kinds of decisions end up running you into the ground. 

Instead, I like to think of scaling as the result of your foundation. The stronger the foundation, the easier it is to scale.

What does a strong foundation look like?

The easiest way to determine whether you have a strong business foundation is to look at your churn rate. How long do your customers stick with you? Do they leave immediately? Or are they loyal–and more importantly, do they bring their friends to your business over time?

When a business has a shaky foundation, they’re stuck in a vicious cycle of constantly replacing the clients they’re losing. You don’t build a business by selling, selling, selling. You build a business by selling, and then retaining. And you exponentially build a business when those clients you’re retaining end up attracting new clients for you–because your product or service is that good.

So, here are the five things you need to have figured out before you can scale your business effectively.

1. It’s all about the customer.

One of my favorite quotes is by Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club. He said, “There is only one boss, the customer, and he can fire everybody from the chairman on down by simply bringing his business somewhere else.”

That’s the absolute truth.

This is something I talk about extensively in my book for emerging entrepreneurs, All In. If you don’t have your eye on the client experience every minute of every day, you’re completely missing the point of why you are in business. Without them in your corner, any venture you start may as well be a very expensive vanity project–because you’re only doing it for yourself.

If you want to be a huge hit out of the gate, you need to work on creating an army of raving fans. Look at a company like Apple. Once people buy their Mac or iPhone, they’re hooked. You rarely see people go back to PCs, even though Macs have their flaws too. Why? Because Apple isn’t just selling products to their customers–they’re a lifestyle choice. Even now, after the golden Jobs era has passed, their customers still love them in an almost irrational way. They don’t just want them; they think they need them.

That’s the kind of fervent loyalty you want to inspire in your customers. Make them so crazy for you that they can’t live without you.

2. Fix mistakes fast.

If you can’t fix the small errors now, how do you expect to fix the big errors later on?

Repeat after me: it’s never the customer’s fault. When trouble hits, don’t be defensive about it. Don’t run around trying to assign blame. Just fall on your sword and do whatever it takes to fix it fast.

More than anything, this is a habit. It’s a conscious decision you make as an entrepreneur, the leader of your company, to do right by your customers. And if you can’t get it right when you’re still small, then scaling isn’t going to make those issues go away.

Take the time to get your processes in place now.

I don’t count the screw-ups that happen in my companies as much as I keep tabs on how quickly problems are resolved. I always tell my people, “We’re all human, and we’re going to make mistakes. But the customer is going to remember how fast you fix the problem more than they’re going to remember the mistake itself.”

3. Underpromise, overdeliver.

You may demand perfection from yourself, your partners, and your employees, but you can’t let that carry over to how you talk to your customers. 

Don’t promise perfection to them. Just don’t. 

I know in this modern age, ideally, everything should be perfect all the time, right? But nobody is doing things perfectly all the time. It’s never happened din the history of business (it’s never happened in the history of anything).

Especially if you’re looking to scale a high-volume business–which I went through when I was scaling Wilmar Industries–then you have to determine a perfection ratio that works best for you. The smart thing to do is to make reasonable promises to your customers and then over-deliver on your promise. There is something about human nature that loves the pleasant surprise. 

When you do it even better than what they expected, they love you for it.

4. Tailor your experience to the customer–don’t expect them to adjust to you.

This is a hugely important lesson in today’s market.

You can’t make customers adjust to you. You have to tailor your experience to them, and make them feel like they’re part of your family.

When new companies first attempt to scale, this tends to be the first thing thrown out the window. Suddenly, customers start getting treated like commodities, and what once was a personalized experience becomes a copy-paste interaction.

Let me tell you: that’s one of the fastest ways to show your customers you don’t care (and remember, it’s all about the customer).

I remember back in the 90s, once we had our Houston branch up and running, we noticed Texans didn’t like talking to our New Jersey-based customer service representatives. Want to know why? Because they thought we were a bunch of carpetbagging Yankees. (Some traditions die hard.)

Texans, by and large, wanted to hear a Southern voice when they called us. Being fanatical about customer service, I decided to create regional customer service centers all over the country. This is done all over the place today, but we were way ahead of the curve back in the ’90s. I even invested a million dollars in a phone system that would funnel calls to the appropriate region–so when somebody called from a specific area code, it went to their regional office. And in Houston, we hired locals to answer the phones so their background and accents were familiar to our Texas clients.

I know what you might be saying: “You really spent a million dollars on a phone system?”

No, I spent a million dollars on customer service.

5. You have to believe in yourself.

Call it cliche, but there is a big difference between an entrepreneur running a company with the belief he can scale it to the moon, and one who still isn’t sure if he can or not.

The head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, has a way of motivating his players, and raising their expectations so they believe that they will win–every single time. The same goes for business. If you really want to become that Super Bowl team, that multi-million dollar (or even billion dollar) company, then you’ve got to start expecting big things from yourself.

At a certain point, you can’t just look the part. You have to be the part, feel it in everything you do, and know deep down that what you’re doing today is going to get you to where you want to be tomorrow.

End of a chip boom? Memory chip price drop spooks investors

SEOUL (Reuters) – After a blistering year-and-a-half long surge, a sudden drop in some memory prices, followed by Samsung Electronics Co’s disappointing profit estimate, is causing jitters among investors who had bet the chip boom would last at least another year.

Amid news that the market has started losing some steam – prices of high-end flash memory chips, which are widely used in smartphones, dropped nearly 5 percent in the fourth quarter – some analysts now expect the industry’s growth rate will fall by more than half this year to 30 percent.

That led shares in Samsung to dip 7.5 percent last week, while its home rival SK Hynix fell 6.2 percent. But analysts say that there is unlikely to be a sudden crash, and that 2018 should be a relatively stable year for chipmakers.

The $122 billion memory chip industry has enjoyed an unprecedented boom since mid-2016, expanding nearly 70 percent in 2017 alone thanks to robust growth of smartphones and cloud services that require more powerful chips that can store more data.

Supply also has become more disciplined following years of consolidation that reduced the number of manufacturers to a handful from around 20 in mid-1990s.

“Memory chips will likely see a gradual price decline in 2018 if demand remains strong and appetite from servers holds,” said Lee Jae-yun, analyst at Yuanta Securities Korea.

But growth of 30 percent is a strong gain in an industry known for volatility, and the market is still on course for its longest ever boom after shrinking 6 percent in 2016.

Last year’s explosive growth gave chipmakers cash to reinvest and boost output, analysts said. The supply of NAND flash memory chips, in particular, will grow 43 percent this year, up from last year’s 34 percent, causing prices to drop by about 10 percent, brokerage Nomura estimates.

Nomura expects growth in output will be largely led by the likes of Western Digital, Toshiba Corp and Micron Technology Inc as they seek to catch up with top-ranked Samsung, which controls about 40 percent of the flash memory chip market.


Smartphone vendors have been including more memory in their phones and charging more for them, allowing them to weather last year’s price surge, analysts say.

Average DRAM memory of new models launched last quarter increased by 38 percent from the second quarter of 2016, while NAND content measured by gigabyte jumped 84 percent, according to an analysis by BNP Paribas.

Such solid demand will keep the industry’s margin healthy this year, and chipmakers’ investment in more advanced technology will help them cut production costs and stay profitable even as prices ease, analysts say.

Macquarie estimates Samsung’s chip division’s operating profit margin jumped to 47 percent last year from 26.5 percent in 2016, and will rise further to 55.5 percent this year.

While the NAND flash market may soften somewhat, the DRAM memory chip market, which is about $20 billion bigger than the NAND industry, is seen as much tighter. Prices are expected to gain nearly 9 percent because of a severe supply shortage.

With DRAM manufacturers’ rushing to ramp up production – they are likely to nearly quadruple capital spending for 2017 and 2018 combined to $38 billion from 2016’s $10 billion – prices may decline as much as 18 percent next year, according to Nomura.

That gives some investors confidence in the industry’s long-term future.

”Besides some minute adjustment, I am currently holding Samsung shares almost without change,” said Kim Hyun-su, fund manager at IBK Asset Management. “I don’t think the share price is expensive as they have recently been increasing dividends a lot – and as of now, the expected profit levels are very high.”


Smartphone makers account for about one-third of global memory chip demand, and many have been pressing suppliers to lower prices.

In late December, state-run China Daily reported China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) was paying close attention to a surge in the price of mobile phone storage chips and could look into possible price fixing by Samsung and others that make them.

More than 50 percent of Samsung’s 2017 memory business revenue came from China, according to chip price tracker DRAMeXchange.

“Although supply-demand dynamics are still solid, clients’ pressure to lower prices make it hard to predict” what will happen, said MS Hwang, an analyst at Samsung Securities, which is an affiliate of Samsung Electronics.

Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Gerry Doyle

Trading The Coming Earnings Hit On Apple

By now, you are all long up the wazoo with shares of Apple (AAPL). How would you respond if I told you that Steve Jobs’ creation is about to take a gigantic $33 billion earnings hit? My guess is that you’d jump off the nearest bridge, slit your wrists, or at the very least, come down with a severe case of Montezuma’s revenge.

I can pretty much guarantee you that such a blockbuster announcement is headed your way in the coming weeks, if not days. What the heck happened? Wasn’t the dream scenario playing out for big tech? It is. But these days, things are complicated. Very complicated.

Buried in the tax bill passed with great haste at the end of 2004 is a provision that allows US companies to repatriate profits they have held overseas for the past 14 years. We’re not talking small beer here.

The latest estimate for this figure is some $2.8 trillion, which is stashed away in the bank accounts of subsidiaries in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and Liechtenstein.

Five companies account for about one third of this total, including Apple, Microsoft (MSFT), Pfizer (PFE), Cisco (CSCO), and Oracle (ORCL).

Oil companies, and other companies with major international business, like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Morgan Stanley (MS), and Procter & Gamble (PG), account for much of the rest.

Until now, if management wanted to bring this money back to the US, they would have to count it as regular income and pay a stiff 35% tax rate. As of January 1, they can repatriate the funds and pay as little as 8%.

And here’s the problem. These one-time-only tax payments have to be counted as a current expense. The amounts are so huge that they would be enough to wipe out all present operating earnings.

For example, in Apple’s case, one estimate has the tax bill as high as $33 billion as the company brings home money from dozens of different foreign domiciles.

The writing is already on the way. Goldman Sachs (GS) has already said that it expects a tax hit of $5 billion, while Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) (NYSE:RDS.B) has come in at $2.3 billion.

The logic behind the tax cut is that repatriated money would be used to build more factories and hire more people in the good old USA.

Past repatriations prove that nothing of the sort will take place. In 2004 the Bush Administration engineered just such a break. Some $312 billion was brought back and almost entirely invested in share buybacks and dividend payments.

This all goes back to my argument at the end of 2017 that one way or the other the entire $1.5 trillion tax package will end up in the stock market one way or the other. The market action since then totally vindicated that view.

So what to do about Apple? Here’s where it really gets complicated.

Going forward, multinational companies now have to pay only 10.5% on their foreign earnings and 21% for domestic earnings. It is a big incentive to close down US production facilities and ship them, and their jobs, overseas. You really have to wonder who thought this stuff up.

After all, does Apple want to pay the $14 an hour it gives low-end workers in the US now, or $1 an hour to workers in India where its next big growth market is located?

Apple has been expecting a reoccurrence of exactly this sort of tax windfall for at least a decade and has been reserving for it annually. But it thought the tax rate would be much higher, around 13%.

The net result is that by underestimating the generosity of future administrations it has over reserved for the prospect, meaning that instead of generating a monster $33 billion loss repatriation, it could create a surprise $3 billion profit.

So the bottom line here for Apple is that you hang on to the stock, where I have a price target of $200, and is now looking exceedingly conservative.

If for some reason the tax announcement DOES generate a big drop in the shares, jump in with both hands and buy it.

There are other weird quirks to the new tax law. Foreign companies operating in the US also are entitled to use the break. This means that if your US operations have been running at a loss, which is the case with Daimler Benz (OTCPK:DDAIF) and BMW (OTCPK:BMWYY), it generates a surprise $1 billion profit.

Tax breaks for Germans. Who ever thought of that? Talk about unintended consequences with a turbocharger.

In the meantime, attorneys and accounts are pouring over the new code harvesting hundreds of new tax loopholes no one ever thought possible. We will stay tuned and keep you informed of the important ones, as taxes are a regular part of the coverage of this letter.

My bet is that unintended consequences are creating entire new industries that no one imagined possible. That is how an innocent tax break to help new technology startups with carried interest turned into the gargantuan trillion-dollar private equity industry of today.

Here’s another unintended consequence for you. The combined tax paid this year by repatriating companies should total around $235 billion. That will slow the current meteoric growth in the US budget deficit and it means your short position in the bond market may take a little longer to play out.

Don’t we live in a bizarre, upside down Alice in Wonderland world these days?

In the meantime, I’ll be checking out commercial real estate in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and Liechtenstein.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

YouTube Hints at ‘Further Consequences’ for Logan Paul After Controversial Suicide Video

YouTube responded to a controversial video uploaded by video blogger Logan Paul of an apparent suicide victim last week, saying that it’s taking steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.”

The response comes after the popular YouTube star apologized for and removed a video of himself and his friends taken in Japan’s notorious Aokigahara forest, which is known as a magnet for suicides.

Although Paul initially said the video was intended to raise awareness about suicide, critics slammed him for seemingly making light of a serious situation. At the time, YouTube issued a short statement saying that it “prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner,” but it did not say whether it would take any action against Paul or if it would delete his account.

In Tuesday’s statement, YouTube elaborated by saying it is “looking at further consequences” against Paul, although it didn’t specify what those would be or why it has waited a week to react beyond the original short statement. It acknowledged that it failed to communicate quickly enough with users about the incident, saying: “Many of you have been frustrated with our lack of communication recently. You’re right to be.”

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YouTube also expressed shock at the video and added that “suicide is not a joke, nor should it ever be a driving force for views.”

Paul, who has over 15 million YouTube followers, has not uploaded a video to YouTube since last week when he apologized in a separate video.

YouTube has faced criticism that it fails to properly screen its service for inappropriate content. In November, several big-name advertisers like Adidas and candymaker Mars said they would suspend advertising on YouTube because their online ads sometimes appeared next to videos that appeared to exploit children.

The streaming service has been trying to crack down on inappropriate content by hiring more human reviewers and using technology to automate the process of flagging offensive videos.

“Now, we are applying the lessons we’ve learned from our work fighting violent extremism content over the last year in order to tackle other problematic content,” wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in a blog post in December. “Our goal is to stay one step ahead of bad actors, making it harder for policy-violating content to surface or remain on YouTube.”

Denmark's GN takes aim at Apple with wireless earbuds

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s GN Store Nord is aiming to win a bigger slice of the rapidly growing market for wireless earbuds by introducing a new product challenging Apple’s popular Airpods.

Wireless is expected to account for an increasing share of the $9.6 billion global earphone and headphone market and that means intense competition between tech companies keen to cash in on the trend.

Integrating Amazon’s voice control system Alexa and halving the price are among the steps taken by GN to attract new customers with its latest product.

“We’re expanding our brand to deliver products aiming for a broader segment dominated by Apple,” René Svendsen-Tune, chief executive of GN’s audio division, told Reuters.

GN is better known as a hearing aid maker but draws on a Danish tradition of innovation stretching back to 1869 when it started life as a telegraph company.

In fact, its hearing aid division has benefited from working closely with Apple for years by using bluetooth-like technology that, installed in the ear, allows users to stream voice and music from their iPhones.

It will continue that cooperation while competing with the tech giant on the wireless earphone market, Svendsen-Tune said.

GN launched its first wireless earphones in November 2016. The following month Apple launched its Airpods after dispensing with the plug-in for jack cables in its iPhone 7.

GN’s original earphones, tailored for athletes with features to track progress and measure heart rate, sold for $370, twice as much as Apple’s equivalent.

“Apple has helped develop this market with great speed but now we’re launching a new generation,” Svendsen-Tune said, speaking ahead of the launch of the product at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In the first half of 2017 around 900,000 wireless headphone units were sold in the U.S. alone, and since the launch in 2016, Apple has accounted for 85 percent of the sales, according to data from the NPD Group.

GN said it was in second place but had only a single figure market share. But the market is still evolving and competition is fierce.

“If we can maintain a second place in 2018, I believe we will have done very well,” Svendsen-Tune said.

GN’s audio division accounts for 40 percent of the company’s revenue, while the hearing aid division contributes 60 percent.

($1 = 6.1815 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Julie Astrid Thomsen; Editing by Keith Weir

Google Spent Years Studying Effective Teams. This Single Quality Contributed Most to Their Success

The best companies are made up of great teams. You see, even a company full of A-players won’t succeed if those individuals don’t have the ability to work well together.

That’s why not too long ago, Google set out on a quest to figure out what makes a team successful. They code-named the study “Project Aristotle,” a tribute to the philosopher’s famous quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

To define “effectiveness,” the team decided on assessment criteria that measured both qualitative and quantitative data. To do this, they analyzed dozens of teams and interviewed hundreds of executives, team leads and team members.  

The researchers then evaluated team effectiveness in four different ways:

1. Executive evaluation of the team

2. Team leader evaluation of the team

3. Team member evaluation of the team

4. Sales performance against quarterly quota

So, what did they find?

Google published some of its findings here, along with the following insightful statement:

The researchers found that what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together. 

What Mattered Most

So what was the most important factor contributing to a team’s effectiveness?

It was psychological safety.

Simply put, psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of taking a risk, and the response his or her teammates will have to taking that risk.

Google describes it this way:

“In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”

In other words, great teams thrive on trust.

This may appear to be a simple concept, but building trust between team members is no easy task. For example, a team of just five persons brings along varying viewpoints, working styles and ideas about how to get a job done.

In my forthcoming book, EQ, Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional IntelligenceI analyze fascinating research and real stories of some of the most successful teams in the world. 

Here’s a glimpse at some of the actions that can help you build trust on your teams:

Be authentic.

Authenticity creates trust. We’re drawn to those who “keep it real,” who realize that they aren’t perfect, but are willing to show those imperfections because they know everyone else has them, too.

Authenticity doesn’t mean sharing everything about yourself, to everyone, all of the time. It does mean saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and sticking to your values and principles above all else.

Set the example.

Words can only build trust if they are backed up by actions.

That’s why it’s so important to practice what you preach and set the example: you can preach respect and integrity all you want; it won’t mean a thing when you curse out a member of your team.

Be helpful.

One of the quickest ways to gain someone’s trust is to help them.

Think about your favorite boss. Where they graduated from, what kind of degree they have, even their previous accomplishments–none of this is relevant to your relationship. But how about the time they were willing to take out of their busy schedule to listen, help out, or get down in the trenches and work alongside you?

Trust is about the long game. Help wherever and whenever you can.

Disagree and commit.

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains, to “disagree and commit” doesn’t mean ‘thinking your team is wrong and missing the point,’ which will prevent you from offering true support. Rather, it’s a genuine, sincere commitment to go the team’s way, even if you disagree.

Of course, before you reach that stage, you should be able to explain your position, and the team should reasonably weigh your concerns.

But if you decide to disagree and commit, you’re all in. No sabotaging the project–directly or indirectly. By trusting your team’s gut, your people gain confidence, and you give them room to experiment and grow.

Be humble.

Being humble doesn’t mean that you lack self-confidence, or that you never stand up for your own opinions or principles. It does mean recognizing that you don’t know everything–and that you’re willing to learn from others.

It also means being willing to say those two most difficult words when needed: I’m sorry.

Be transparent.

There’s nothing worse than the feeling that leaders don’t care about keeping you in the loop, or even worse, that they’re keeping secrets.

Make sure your vision, intentions, and methods are clear to everyone on your team–and that they have access to the information they need to do their best work.

Commend sincerely and specifically.

When you commend and praise others, you satisfy a basic human need. As your colleagues notice that you appreciate their efforts, they’re naturally motivated to do more. The more specific, the better: Tell them what you appreciate, and why.

And remember, everyone deserves commendation for something. By learning to identify, recognize, and praise those talents, you bring out the best in them.

GoPro Lays off Hundreds of Workers In Its Karma Drone Unit

GoPro’s new year has begun with a round of layoffs, primarily affecting the company’s Karma drone business unit.

Around 200 to 300 workers were laid off this week, according to a report Thursday by tech news site TechCrunch that cites unnamed sources. The report highlights an internal letter to laid off workers that said the cuts were intended to “to better align our resources with business requirements.”

The layoffs highlight GoPro’s ongoing struggle to turn itself around after a turbulent past few years in which its stock has plummeted 91% from a high of $93.70 in Aug 2014 to $7.52 on Friday.

The company has attempted to expand beyond its core video camera business by creating a media and entertainment unit and making drones. But those efforts have failed to catch on, and the company has implemented multiple rounds of layoffs and shuttered its media business.

Investors were particularly hopeful that GoPro’s Karma drone would help lift sales, but the push encountered trouble from the get-go. Shortly after debuting the drone in the fall of 2016, it recalled thousands of them because of a glitch that caused them to abruptly turn off and fall from the sky.

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Even after fixing the technical error, GoPro’s (gpro) drone never appeared to be a big seller. Although CEO Nick Woodman would say he was optimistic about the drone business, he avoided saying when he thought drone sales would eventually lift the company’s overall sales.

GoPro never released sales numbers for its drone, but the numbers are likely to be small compared to Chinese rival DJI, which analysts currently say dominates the drone market.

Fortune contacted GoPro for more information and will update this story if it responds.

Why the Bomb Cyclone Hitting the East Coast Is So Unusual

Now, the first thing you should know about a bomb cyclone is it’s just a name—and unlike a sharknado, it’s not a literal one. The very real scientific term describes a storm that suddenly intensifies following a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure. Bombing out, or “bombogenesis,” is when a cyclone’s central pressure drops 24 millibars or more in 24 hours, bringing furious winds that can quickly create blizzard conditions and coastal flooding.

It’s actually not that rare a phenomenon; meteorologists estimate these kinds of storms break out in the Northern Hemisphere about 10 times a year. They can go by other names, like Nor’easter and mid-latitude cyclone, which may explain why you’ve never heard of one before Winter Storm Grayson started dumping snow in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning. But Grayson isn’t your typical bombogenerator.

It’s what happens when everything comes together just right (or just wrong). Grayson is expected to explode up the East Coast between now and Friday, intensifying as it makes its way from Florida to Nova Scotia, blowing record snowfalls around at category 3 hurricane wind speeds. “This storm is a synoptic meteorologist’s dream,” says Paul Huttner, who watches the weather for Minnesota Public Radio. “It’s a perfect alignment of the three things we look for.”

The first is a warm conveyor belt of tropical moisture, which the Gulf Stream is shuttling out of the Caribbean and right up the Atlantic coast. That’s pretty normal for this time of year. What’s less normal is the huge subzero air mass that dipped down from the Arctic about 10 days ago, plunging the Great Lakes and Eastern US into a sustained deep freeze.

Every year, around this time, the sun stops shining above the Arctic circle. No radiation means no heat, which means all that air gets real cold real quick. Most of the time, jet streams—the easterly flowing air currents near the upper reaches of the atmosphere—keep that cold air bottled up in the Arctic. But sometimes, upper air waves shift, forcing a buckle in the jet stream and allowing all that air to spill southward.

“The coldest air on the planet just happened to slide over Northeast America,” says Huttner. “And with this incredible moisture feed we’ve now got a huge temperature contrast. By the time this thing gets up into New England we’re talking about a good 100 degrees of temperature contrast across the center of the storm. And generally speaking, the stronger the temperature contrast, the deeper the storm.”

Differences in temperature, you see, lead to differences in pressure. As the pressure drops, air rushes in. The faster it drops, the faster the air moves. And thus, a winter storm is born.

Unlike hurricanes, which slow down as they head north and get away from the moist heat of the ocean, bomb cyclones tend to reach their peak intensity when they hit New England. That’s where the maximum temperature contrast usually is. It’s also where the third thing meteorologists look for—a low pressure trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere—happens to be occurring right now.

NOAA scientists are estimating that Grayson will wind up dropping between 60 and 70 millibars over 48 hours, ending Thursday evening near Nova Scotia. Not only would this be one of the most rapid rates of bombogenesis associated with an East Coast storm, but with its central pressure expected to bottom out near 950 millibars, it puts Grayson among the strongest offshore storms in recent history. (For comparison, Nor’easters such as Nemo, Juno, and Stella didn’t dip below 970 mb.)

This is leading to faster and stronger winds than you’d typically see in a storm this time of year, says Gregg Galina, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center. He’s been monitoring Grayson from the agency’s outpost in College Park, Maryland, which was just starting to get some snow and light winds by 9pm Eastern time Wednesday. It’s the first winter storm to really test out NOAA’s new GOES-16—its most advanced weather satellite ever—which first locked into position over the US in December.

GOES-16 scans the Earth five times faster than previous sats, sending back images every 15 minutes. That, along with new ozone-measuring capability, helps Galina forecast the storm’s impact. The compound acts as a kind of tracer for low pressure pulling down on the stratosphere, and gives an idea about the vorticity—or the spin—of the atmosphere. “It’s kind of like an ice skater spinning with her arms out,” says Galina. “As she brings them closer to her body she spins faster. It’s the same in a cyclone; the increased spin tightens the wind field.”

Galina and others on his team will be feeding satellite data into their models over the next few days to predict what Grayson has in store. And they’ll also use data collected from inside the eye of the storm. On Wednesday afternoon, a military air crew loaded up a WC-130J Super Hercules with about 30 dropsondes—parachute-equipped weather sensors—and took off from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi headed straight into the storm’s path. Over the next 10 to 12 hours, they released the sensors into the frozen gale, and as they fell they sent back real-time readings on air pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction, and speed.

All of this is necessary because there’s still a ton scientists don’t know about winter storms. In particular, how much of a power boost they draw from rapidly-warming oceans. “The global ocean is as warm now as it has ever been,” says Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The main consequence of that is that winter storms can dump much bigger snowfalls if they combine with cold air, like the kind coming down on the Montreal Express right now.”

And at least according to some climate scientists, this pattern is likely to repeat itself even more in the future. Rutgers climatologist Jennifer Francis is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that the warming Arctic will leave less of a temperature difference between the equators and poles, weakening the jet stream. A weaker jet stream would allow cold air to push down, or warm air to wander north, more frequently, setting up more opportunities for a violent atmospheric showdown. “We expect these patterns to become more frequent, but they may align differently in different years,” says Francis.

Others are less sure. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT, notes that as you go higher up into the atmosphere, the opposite trend is true: The tropics are warming faster than the poles, 10 miles up. “Winter storms depend on both surface temperature and higher up in the atmosphere,” he says. “The models are all over the place about whether these are going to get more or less intense. Frankly, it’s an unsolved problem in the field.”

Researchers will have to wait until Grayson runs its course to know for sure whether it’s a record-breaking storm. And a little bit longer to find out if “record-breaking” is just the new normal.

This 5-Star Hotel Just Ruined Its Online Reputation By Getting the Police to Help Kick Out a Guest (He's Famous)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You’d think that five-star hotels would be used to catering to the famous.

You’d even think that they research their guests beforehand to make sure they can surprise them with personal touches.

But then there were the peculiarly personal touches offered by the Boca Raton Resort, a Waldorf Collection Hotel to one of its New Year guests.

Vitaly Zdorovetskiy is a very well-known YouTube star. He makes prank videos. People like them.

However, once the Boca Raton Resort discovered who he is, it decided it didn’t like him after all.

All we currently have is Zdorovetskiy’s explanation. 

Well, that and the video, in which hotel personnel arrive with two police officers to have him removed on New Year’s Eve. 

It seems, though, unclear what he’d done wrong, other than be who he is. 

He says he wasn’t going to film anything in the hotel. Indeed, he had his girlfriend with him, rather than his equipment.

Still, watch and listen to his story and see what you think. (Warning: His language isn’t pristine.)

It seems that it all started with a phone call from the hotel to his room, which Zdorovetskiy didn’t want to take.

But can it be that the next step was for management knock on his door to check whether he intends to make prank videos in the hotel?

Now YouTube stars aren’t like you and me. Zdorovetskiy’s own admission is that he may have told the manager to go away in a rather rude-imentary manner because he wanted to sleep.

Within the hour, though, he says a manager broke into his room with a couple of police officers to have him removed.

He claims they ordered him and his girlfriend, who was naked at the time, to get dressed in front of them.

A man who appears to be a manager accuses him of posting a prank video the day before — but not one at the hotel.

The manager seems, indeed, to have no idea what the video was. 

Still, some might wonder whether the hotel thought through its strategy as thoroughly as it might have done. 

Naturally, being a YouTube star, Zdorovetskiy encouraged his 9 million followers to post poor reviews of the hotel. 

He encouraged them to go to Expedia, and Priceline. These weren’t affected.

He also encouraged them to go on Yelp.

At the time or writing, the Boca Raton Resort has sunk to a one-and-a-half star rating on Yelp.

Perhaps Yelp doesn’t matter — it certainly doesn’t to me — but a general flow of online ill-will toward a hotel is rarely a good thing.

And, in this case, surely it could have been avoided.

The senior manager explained to Zdorovetskiy that “due to the nature of your postings, we reserve the right as a private company to have you removed from the property and not do business with you.” 

Some might find this explanation odd, as the very same manager admitted he had no idea what Zdorovetskiy had posted.

Worse, he then told him that he’s being “trespassed” for one year. This means that if he returns in that time, he’ll be arrested. 

And all for, well, what?

I contacted the Waldorf Astoria to wonder what it thought of its staff’s behavior and will update, should a response be forthcoming.

Zdorovetskiy does have something of a reputation. 

He was arrested last year after climbing the HOLLYWOOD sign. 

He was also charged with criminal trespass after streaking during the World Series.

I can’t say I warm to his public charm at all.

But some famous people are very different in private.

It’s odd that the hotel didn’t seem to know who he was when it accepted his booking.

Moreover, if the manager had told him he’d done something — behaved rudely toward a member of staff, for example — it would have been entirely understandable that he’d be removed.

Yet to expressly look a guest in the face and say they’re being kicked out and banned for a year — just because of the videos they make — seems exactly like the haughty half-wittery many might expect from one or two snooty establishments.

But only one or two, surely. 

Some will say that the mere chance that the hotel might suffer damage of some sort justifies its stance.

To which I wonder: So how do rock stars ever get into a hotel?

Now, what are the chances that members of Zdorovetskiy’s team will pay a secret visit to the Boca Raton Resort and really have a good time?

High, I’d say.

7 Tools to Streamline Your Business Operations

When you’re running your own business, every minute is valuable. You can’t afford to waste any time. But with so much on your plate and limited hours in the day, how do you make sure everything gets done – and done right?

The success of your business depends on your business operations. In his autobiography, “Iacocca,” business leader Lee Iacocca writes, “In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.” You need to keep all three organized and running smoothly for your business to operate effectively.

With the help of a few tools and technologies, it’s easier than ever to run your business with efficiency. And with operations under control and moving things along, you’ll be able to spend more time focusing on running your business – and boosting your bottom line.

Here are the seven tools you need to improve your business operations.

1. Trello

In her book, “The Outstanding Organization,” business consultant Karen Martin writes, “Chaos is the enemy of any organization that strives to be outstanding.” To combat that chaos, a project management tool such as Trello is necessary.

Trello allows you to organize and manage an entire project from start to finish. You create cards for each task needed and assign those cards to the task owner. You can assign deadlines, add comments and track progress as each card moves through to completion.

2. Slack

You could have a million business operations tools, but without open communication among your team, you’re going to have problems. Slack offers a user-friendly online chat that helps teams stay in contact all day – no matter where they are.

In Slack, you can create conversation threads on a specific topic, so when you’re working on a project, all the communication about that project will be in one place. This way, it’s easy to collaborate and make decisions quickly.

3. PandaDoc

Paperwork is a tedious part of business, and with so much going digital, it’s a hassle to still rely on paper for things like contracts, proposals and quotes. By using a document management software like PandaDoc, you won’t need to print and scan in documents. Instead, everything is handled digitally.

The tool allows you to create, send and track documents – all in one place. It also has the option of e-signatures. With everything streamlined in one tool, the time you spend on documents is greatly reduced, freeing you up for other important business tasks.

4. Freshbooks

According to a survey by the National Association of Small Businesses, the number one challenge of running a business is economic uncertainty. Managing finances can be stressful, especially if you’re doing it all on your own.

Freshbooks offers an easy and simplified system for managing your finances. You can track your expenses, send invoices and manage your books with minimal effort. Accounting is fast and secure, giving you more time to devote to other areas of your business.

5. ZenDesk

Customer service is a hot topic for businesses lately, and those that do it well are seeing abundant benefits. On Twitter, customer service expert Shep Hyken writes, “Make every interaction count, even the small ones. They are all relevant.”

ZenDesk is a help desk solution that will ensure your customers are satisfied with each interaction with your business. The tool allows you to connect with customers from anywhere – email, social, chat and phone – all from one dashboard.

6. Calendly

As the head of your business, your schedule is probably pretty packed. So scheduling any new meetings or phone calls in your already-busy schedule can be a pain. On his blog, Seth Godin writes, “You don’t need more time. You just need to decide.”

Calendly makes scheduling meetings and appointments easy by allowing you to coordinate schedules and avoid going back and forth over email trying to find a time that works.

7. MailChimp

When you’re looking to send a mass email, your typical email service provider, such as Gmail or Outlook, can only do so much. You need a marketing automation tool like MailChimp to better connect with your email list.

MailChimp allows you to create professional-looking emails, send them to your contacts and track your campaigns. You can also set up automated emails, which will save you the hassle of remembering to send. You just create and organize the campaign once, and MailChimp does the rest. Then, you can come back and gather data on how successful the campaign was.

What tools do you use to keep your business running smoothly? Let me know in the comments below:

Here Are 3 Things That Perpetuate Dishonesty, and 3 Ways to Thwart It

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. In the race to make it to the top, some values often get dropped along the way. Among these stands out one; namely, honesty.

Car salesmen. Stock investors. Overzealous entrepreneurs. We all know the cliches, and we’ve all heard the stories of scams and cover-ups.

But what is it that drives people to cross boundaries to the point of deceiving customers, employees, and the world at large? Additionally, knowing all the risks associated, why would anyone resort to fraud or cheating to succeed in business?

The answer is that people don’t think too much. We’d prefer to remain blind and be able to follow temptations. But do a bit of investigation, and you’ll quickly learn how to re-frame your mind to stay on the straight path of honesty. Below are a few points to get your gears turning.

1. We think honesty slows us down.

Come on, when was the last time anyone actually read all the terms and conditions? This world runs on a fast pace, and people simply don’t have patience to go through the motions of every task. When we can cut corners, we will.

But when you’re running a company, your decisions have a ripple effect on the market you’re serving. According to an October 2014 study by Cohn & Wolfe, a global communications and public relations firm, honesty is the number one thing consumers want from brands.

So if you don’t want your startup to become a statistic of the 90 percent that fail, on average, make sure to stick to the truth when it comes to your brand. It’ll set you up for success in the long run!

2.  We think we won’t get caught.

It’s midnight on a desolate rural road — who will see you run through a red light? Similarly, who would notice if you slipped an extra unlisted ingredient into a product, or told a customer half the truth, being that they wouldn’t be shrewd enough to pick up on it anyway?

These moral quandaries can be paralleled to the famous riddle: “If a tree falls in a forest where no one is around, does it make a sound?” Perhaps it makes a sound, perhaps it doesn’t, depending on who you ask.

But the tree fell, that’s for sure.

We’re beyond kindergarten. We shouldn’t be living our lives in fear of punishment from legal authorities; and conversely, in celebration of victories acquired through dishonest means. That’s a pretty juvenile mindset, and no corporation can stand on the feet of those tenets for long.

Maybe you won’t get caught at first. But repeat dishonest practices will ultimately stain your reputation, because people aren’t stupid and eventually things come to light. All it takes is one small suspicion and you’re doomed. At best, you lose a customer; at worst, you’ll wind up in jail, like Martha Stewart did in 2004.

3.  It’s the norm.

It’s the sad truth, According to a University of Massachusetts study led by psychologist Robert S. Feldman, 60% of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies.

However, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right. Everyone can hold themselves up to higher standards — it just takes a conscious awareness, and a lot of effort to train oneself to be honest.

Honesty is (indeed) the best policy.

But refreshingly, it’s also quite common to find businesses that run according to the principle of honesty as the best policy.

Companies all over the world are starting to not just recognize the values of honesty, but live by them. “In our business, honesty and transparency is the oxygen of our existence,” states Mati Cohen of Pesach in Vallarta, a holiday hotel program.

This echoes of the founding principles of Buffer, a social media company that embraces the coined term ‘radical transparency’; all its salaries are public and there are no secrets amongst employees, which eliminates much of the animosity that is ever-present in many workplaces.

Tirath Kamdar, co-founder and CEO of jewelry and watch company TrueFacet, says that his company runs by these standards. “The alarmingly opaque nature of the luxury watch and jewelry market motivated us to create TrueFacet. Our goal is to bring transparency back to consumers. We set the standard for jewelry and watches at market value, allowing customers to obtain these products for the most fair price. This is why our customers return time and again.”

Developing Honesty.

Nurturing this character trait requires hard work and patience. Make it a point to recognize how often you utter even little white lies, and correct yourself when you slip.

Because, after all, honesty is the best policy.

***Liba Rimler contributed to this article

Hong Kong eyes blockbuster China tech IPO queue, led by Xiaomi

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong bankers are eyeing a slew of blockbuster IPOs from Chinese technology firms with a total market capitalization of some $500 billion over the next two years, in a sharp contrast to 2017 – the city’s worst year for raising equity in a decade.

If bankers’ expectations are met, it would set up Hong Kong for a showdown with New York, the traditional host for the world’s hottest new-economy companies and Hong Kong’s closest rival for the global IPO crown.

Companies such as smartphone maker Xiaomi [IPO-XMGP.HK] and wealth management platform Lufax are among those mulling multi-billion dollar listings in Hong Kong next year, encouraged by a late-2017 rush of tech floats.

Bankers estimate Xiaomi’s IPO could value the company at up to $100 billion, while Lufax was valued at $18.5 billion in its last funding round.

“The expectation is that over the next couple of years there is probably upwards of $500 billion of market capitalization just in the tech sector in China that could go public,” said Tucker Highfield, head of equity capital markets syndicate for Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse.

Some firms will still head to New York, whose acceptance of dual-class share structures is attractive for many technology companies. Meituan-Dianping, a Chinese online platform for ordering food and booking movies, is expected to choose New York for a float that could raise $3 billion.

But Hong Kong, the world’s biggest equity capital-raising center for four of the last 10 years, is looking to revive its appeal and this month announced plans to allow dual-class shares as it tries to attract Chinese tech listings.

Hong Kong raised $32.8 billion in equity capital in 2017, Thomson Reuters data shows, the lowest since 2008 when fundraising dried up during the global financial crisis.

Of this, IPOs accounted for $10.9 billion or just more than half 2016 levels, leaving Hong Kong ranking fourth globally for 2017, behind the New York Stock Exchange, Shanghai Stock Exchange and Mumbai’s National Stock Exchange.

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese national flag flutters at the headquarters of a commercial bank on a financial street in central Beijing, China November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo


Bankers and investors said the dominance of Wall Street in the first half of the year, when a series of record closes for benchmark indices grabbed headlines, distracted global investors from an even stronger rally in Asian emerging markets stocks.

Hong Kong’s blue-chip Hang Seng Index .HSI has gained 35 percent this year – its best performance since 2009. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS has risen over 32 percent. [MKTS/GLOB]

The city was also hit by the timing of some giant floats, such as an IPO of up to $10 billion by China Tower, the world’s largest collection of telecoms towers, that was expected in 2017 but is now seen happening in early 2018.

Spurring the current optimism are a series of recent hot tech floats. China Literature (0772.HK) raised $1.1 billion in November and jumped more than 80 percent on its debut – the best opening pop by any big IPO worldwide this year.

“The backlog is strong,” said Aaron Arth, head of the financing group for Asia excluding Japan at Goldman Sachs.

“There are a number of big deals likely to come to market that are backed by strong business dynamics and exposure to China – all at a time when people are reallocating to the region,” Arth added.

Equity-raising across Asia-Pacific slipped 2 percent this year to $236.3 billion, its lowest since 2013, as sales of additional equity by listed groups fell 14 percent.

Morgan Stanley (MS.N), UBS (UBSG.S) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) led the equity league tables for the region with $13.6 billion and $12.4 billion and $12.3 billion of deals to their credit respectively. Citic Securities (600030.SS) and Citigroup (C.N) rounded out the top five.

Reporting by Jennifer Hughes; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Apple Responds to iPhone Battery Controversy: ‘We Apologize’

It’s not unheard of for Apple, that shining, glass-and-metal modernist beacon in the night, to apologize.

The company’s late CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs famously did after the so-called Antennagate controversy surrounding the iPhone 4. Tim Cook, who replaced him, published a signed letter on the company’s website after its Maps app left much to be desired.

Corporate apologies don’t happen often, especially in the at-arm’s-length technology industry, but they do happen. And there’s a cold-blooded calculation behind most of them.

The latest mea culpa from the folks in Cupertino, Calif. concerns batteries in the company’s most popular product in history: the iPhone. After much hullabaloo (and a few lawsuits) over complaints that the company was deliberately slowing its older devices down—the conspiracy theory being that Apple was forcing upgrades to its newer models—the company admitted: Yes, we do slow them down. But it’s complicated.

On Thursday, Apple issued a formal apology.

“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize,” it wrote in an unsigned letter. “We have never—and would never—do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

The company also offered an explanation for its actions relating to the chemical makeup of its rechargeable batteries.

“We delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE,” it said. “With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.”

To quell the outrage, Apple reduced the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery (from $79 to $29 for customers with an iPhone 6 or newer, starting in late January) and promised another software update offering more transparency into their battery’s condition.

The fuss will likely do little to negatively impact iPhone shipments, which continue to reach new highs despite some evidence that customers are waiting longer to upgrade older devices. But it is a moment that steals a little bit of shine from one of the world’s most valuable brands and its CEO, which Fortune named the world’s greatest leader in 2015.

Apple faces lawsuits after saying it slows down aging iPhones

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) defrauded iPhone users by slowing devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance, according to eight lawsuits filed in various federal courts in the week since the company opened up about the year-old software change.

The tweak may have led iPhone owners to misguided attempts to resolve issues over the last year, the lawsuits contend.

All the lawsuits – filed in U.S. District Courts in California, New York and Illinois – seek class-action to represent potentially millions of iPhone owners nationwide.

A similar case was lodged in an Israeli court on Monday, the newspaper Haaretz reported.

Apple did not respond to an email seeking comment on the filings.

The company acknowledged last week for the first time in detail that operating system updates released since “last year” for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 included a feature “to smooth out” power supply from batteries that are cold, old or low on charge.

Phones without the adjustment would shut down abruptly because of a precaution designed to prevent components from getting fried, Apple said.

The disclosure followed a Dec. 18 analysis by Primate Labs, which develops an iPhone performance measuring app, that identified blips in processing speed and concluded that a software change had to be behind them.

One of the lawsuits, filed Thursday in San Francisco, said that “the batteries’ inability to handle the demand created by processor speeds” without the software patch was a defect.

“Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect,” according to the complaint.

The plaintiff in that case is represented by attorney Jeffrey Fazio, who represented plaintiffs in a $53-million settlement with Apple in 2013 over its handling of iPhone warranty claims.

The problem now seen is that users over the last year could have blamed an aging computer processor for app crashes and sluggish performance – and chose to buy a new phone – when the true cause may have been a weak battery that could have been replaced for a fraction of the cost, some of the lawsuits state.

“If it turns out that consumers would have replaced their battery instead of buying new iPhones had they known the true nature of Apple’s upgrades, you might start to have a better case for some sort of misrepresentation or fraud,” said Rory Van Loo, a Boston University professor specializing in consumer technology law.

But Chris Hoofnagle, faculty director for the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, said in an email that Apple may not have done wrong.

“We still haven’t come to consumer protection norms” around aging products, Hoofnagle said. Pointing to a device with a security flaw as an example, he said, “the ethical approach could include degrading or even disabling functionality.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages in addition to, in some cases, reimbursement. A couple of the complaints seek court orders barring Apple from throttling iPhone computer speeds or requiring notification in future instances.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Leslie Adler

Apple Is Now Facing Eight Lawsuits After Admitting to Slowing Down Old iPhones

Apple (aapl) defrauded iPhone users by slowing devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance, according to eight lawsuits filed in various federal courts in the week since the company opened up about the year-old software change.

The tweak may have led iPhone owners to misguided attempts to resolve issues over the last year, the lawsuits contend.

All the lawsuits—filed in U.S. District Courts in California, New York and Illinois—seek class-action to represent potentially millions of iPhone owners nationwide.

A similar case was lodged in an Israeli court on Monday, the newspaper Haaretz reported.

Apple did not respond to an email seeking comment on the filings.

The company acknowledged last week for the first time in detail that operating system updates released since “last year” for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 included a feature “to smooth out” power supply from batteries that are cold, old or low on charge.

Phones without the adjustment would shut down abruptly because of a precaution designed to prevent components from getting fried, Apple said.

The disclosure followed a Dec. 18 analysis by Primate Labs, which develops an iPhone performance measuring app, that identified blips in processing speed and concluded that a software change had to be behind them.

One of the lawsuits, filed Thursday in San Francisco, said that “the batteries’ inability to handle the demand created by processor speeds” without the software patch was a defect.

“Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect,” according to the complaint.

For more about Apple, watch Fortune’s video:

The plaintiff in that case is represented by attorney Jeffrey Fazio, who represented plaintiffs in a $53-million settlement with Apple in 2013 over its handling of iPhone warranty claims.

The problem now seen is that users over the last year could have blamed an aging computer processor for app crashes and sluggish performance – and chose to buy a new phone – when the true cause may have been a weak battery that could have been replaced for a fraction of the cost, some of the lawsuits state.

“If it turns out that consumers would have replaced their battery instead of buying new iPhones had they known the true nature of Apple’s upgrades, you might start to have a better case for some sort of misrepresentation or fraud,” said Rory Van Loo, a Boston University professor specializing in consumer technology law.

But Chris Hoofnagle, faculty director for the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, said in an email that Apple may not have done wrong.

“We still haven’t come to consumer protection norms” around aging products, Hoofnagle said. Pointing to a device with a security flaw as an example, he said, “the ethical approach could include degrading or even disabling functionality.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages in addition to, in some cases, reimbursement. A couple of the complaints seek court orders barring Apple from throttling iPhone computer speeds or requiring notification in future instances.

Siemens to Invest in Blockchain-Based Smart Grid Builder LO3

Technology conglomerate Siemens has announced it will invest in LO3 Energy, a startup focused on building blockchain-backed “smart grids” for local energy trading. The amount of the investment, and LO3’s implied valuation, were not disclosed.

LO3 has had a relationship with Siemens since late 2016, when the companies teamed up to build a local smart grid in Brooklyn. LO3’s system is intended to let “prosumers” buy and sell energy — such as that generated from rooftop solar panels — with their neighbors.

LO3 users install a high-resolution meter, which can do neat things like track energy usage at specific times of day, or by specific appliances. They also get an app that lets them set buy and sell requests for specific kinds of electricity, such as solar or wind. LO3 gets revenue from the resulting transactions, and also wants to leverage all that rich user data, potentially by connecting its microgrids to major utility operations.

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LO3 wants to use blockchain to make its system work. Specifically, the smart contracts at the heart of second-gen blockchains like Ethereum should make it possible to automate real-time, granular, peer-to-peer energy transactions. It’s an application where blockchain’s decentralization is particularly important, which LO3 CEO Lawrence Orsini highlights by pointing to Enron’s infamous manipulation of California energy markets circa 2000.

In the midst of a crypto-gold rush that has bred widespread scams, wild overvaluations, and sketchy vaporware, LO3’s blockchain application is one that, at least in theory, makes sense both technically and philosophically. But unlike so many companies touting their blockchain applications, LO3 isn’t pumping up an initial coin offering, and Orsini has downplayed the idea that LO3’s blockchain would rely on cryptographic tokens that themselves had market value. Subtracting that element from the blockchain equation might be tricky, though, since financial incentives are key to motivating distributed servers to host blockchain software.

Another potential roadblock, of course, is getting utility companies to play along — they’ve relentlessly pursued a legislative agenda that removes incentives to integrate rooftop solar into the grid, particularly buybacks for excess electricity. LO3’s system could help consumers take back some control, which might be all the excuse legacy providers need to resist it.

UPS Office Staff Called Up to Deliver Packages In Last-Minute Christmas Rush

Faced with unexpected holiday volume in some areas, UPS this year had to draft hundreds of office workers to deliver packages at the last minute.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the staffers included accountants and marketers, who suddenly found themselves hefting boxes. Such switches aren’t uncommon during the company’s hectic holiday season, but they’re usually voluntary and coordinated well in advance.

A UPS spokesman confirmed to the Journal that several hundred office employees have been called on to deliver packages. Some of them reportedly used personal vehicles. Most of the reassignments, according to the spokesman, are now wrapped up.

At least part of the problem was the tight labor market across the U.S., which made it harder for UPS to hire its usual bevy of seasonal workers. Another factor is online shopping, which has grown every year for more than a decade, and peaks sharply in the days before Christmas. This year, in certain locations, the number of packages exceeded even UPS’s projections.

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The unpredictability of that volume has been a challenge for UPS and other delivery services for years, and they’ve experimented with various solutions. Temporary staffing can increase throughout, but expensive overexpansion during the 2014 holiday season highlighted its downside risk.

On the other side of the equation, UPS has floated various approaches to raising prices during the holidays, in part to encourage customers to send packages earlier and spread out demand. This year, the shipper added peak surcharges, mostly under a dollar per package.

Those modest surcharges don’t appear to have done much to encourage customers to plan ahead this year. UPS could make them higher, but then the problem becomes competition — FedEx didn’t implement a holiday surcharge for most packages this year.

That leaves a nearly insoluble problem, as the delivery industry searches for ways to scale massively for a short period every year. Calling up the accountants doesn’t seem like a very sustainable solution.

Lies We Tell Ourselves When We Pollute

Our leadership vacuum on the environment

I hook my audiences easily in my workshops on my podcast, Leadership and the Environment, by saying,

Raise your hand if you like pollution, rising sea levels, and more plastic in the ocean than fish.

No hands ever go up.

I continue,

Now raise your hand if you lowered your pollution to below American levels.

Again, no hands ever go up.

People look around sheepishly, so I ask,

If you don’t want pollution, why do you pollute unnecessarily?

Nobody knows. Some suggest that they can’t stop living, eating, and breathing, but I ask about unnecessary pollution. Americans pollute more per capita than almost anyone in history. We are less happy than most of them, so much of our pollution is likely unnecessary and counterproductive.

Some suggest a few half-hearted reasons that no business leader would accept:

  • It’s hard
  • No one else is doing it
  • They’ll get to it later

People want to change their environmental behavior but they don’t. They feel alone and powerless.

We want environmental leadership.

Sadly, instead of leadership, we get more venting based on guilt, blame, doom, and gloom. We get facts and information without meaning–tactics that rarely work. But guilt rarely attracts followers and facts rarely change behavior.

Leadership and the Environment

Leadership depends on self-awareness, responsibility, and accountability. I’ve never heard a successful leader say that less self-awareness improves leadership.

If you value the environment but don’t act on it, your actions conflict with your values, which lowers your self-awareness and your ability to lead everywhere in life.

Leading yourself on the environment develops leadership skills, starting with being honest with yourself.

The lies

When people act in conflict with their values, many suppress and deny the conflict, telling themselves stories. They rarely look at such stories critically since they feel better if they don’t. That’s unfortunate because they are usually specious, self-serving, and fatuous.

Here are a few.

I offer alternative views, but changing your perspective usually comes from trying new behavior based on new beliefs.

The plane was going to fly anyway.” That’s not how supply and demand works. You’d fire a warehouse manager who claimed a full factory was the same as an empty one. No sports team wants to play in a half-empty stadium.

Besides, it ignores personal responsibility. If you buy plane tickets, your money is paying for the jet fuel it burns. You probably burn a lot more fuel than you think. Calculate your most recent flight here to find out.

Bottled water is cleaner than tap.” Most bottled water is tap water. Most tap water is cleaner than most bottled water. Learn more here at The Story of Bottled Water.

My changing doesn’t make much difference.” That logic suggests no one ever could achieve much. You can lead others to increase your leverage. You don’t have to reach Nelson Mandela or George Washington levels to achieve what many individuals have achieved.

Economic growth will solve things.” Economic growth has solved many problems. The theory sounds nice, but when theory and observation are in conflict, observation is right. Growth has not solved every economic problem and growth is causing environmental problems. Moreover, many cultures with steady-state economies have prospered with populations happier than ours.

Technology will solve everything.” Technology can solve a lot, and it buys us time to solve other problems, but it’s one element of a global system. Systemic change rarely arises from changing its elements.

Solving systemic problems generally requires systemic solutions–for example, the beliefs and goals driving the system. Changing all fossil fuel use to renewables, for example, would represent incredible technological change, but would likely lead in the long run to greater overshoot and risk faster collapse.

We’ll need technological innovation for the time it buys us to create systemic solutions, but it doesn’t solve everything..

I need to fly to spend time with my family.” Flying leads people to spend less time with families by scattering them across the globe. Getting out of the cycle of flying more leading to less time with family leading to flying more leading to less time with family is like breaking an addiction. But like breaking an addiction, the initial struggle gives way to more happiness and independence.

I need to fly for my job.” This claim generates more push back of more emotional intensity than any other so I don’t argue with people about it, but when I meet people who make concerted efforts to fly less for work, they always can.

Beyond succeeding at flying less, they tell me reducing travel reduces stress, increases productivity, and improves their lives.

We need government regulation to act.” We may call our elected officials leaders, but in practice they follow votes and money. Your behavior tells them how you’ll vote. Your consumption provides their money.

The government will act when we lead it, not the other way around.

Recycling pollutes a lot less than throwing away.” Since 91% of plastic isn’t recycled, believing that buying recyclable materials reduces pollution or landfills almost certainly overestimates how much you reduce pollution.

Reducing consumption and waste makes a bigger difference. The Story of Stuff gives more background.

Electric cars pollute a lot less than gas-powered.” Electric cars pollute less, but not a lot less than gas-powered compared to telecommuting, bicycles, walking, electric bicycles, living closer to work, and public transit.

Little changes add up to big ones.” In dozens of interviews on my podcast, I’ve found that changes depend less on their size than if you act.

If you want to contribute to big changes, and the environment could use big changes from us to recover, the most important thing you can do is start acting now.

Everyone I’ve seen act environmentally has grown and learned about themselves. Most describe a mindset shift that great leaders describe: that

  • They can make a difference.
  • Living by their values improves their lives.
  • They want to change more.
  • They wish they had changed earlier.
  • When they reflect, they knew they were lying to themselves.
  • Comfort and convenience pale in comparison to living by their values.

Amazon Acquires Security Camera and Video Doorbell Maker Blink

Highlighting its growing ambitions in Internet-connected home devices, Amazon has acquired wireless security camera startup Blink.

The deal, announced on Friday, gives Amazon a rising star in the emerging and highly competitive field of connected home devices that includes Alphabet’s Nest. In addition to a wireless security camera, Blink makes a video doorbell that lets homeowners glance at their smartphones to see a live feed of who is at their door.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Blink’s security cameras, first introduced in 2016, are known for their ease of setup and for not needing a plug because they can operate on batteries. The video doorbell, which costs $99, is also battery powered

Amazon push into connected home devices started in 2014 with the Echo, the smart speaker that relies on voice recognition to answer questions and do things like order Uber rides. The company expanded its connected home lineup earlier this year with the Cloud Cam, a security camera that has since become an integral part of Amazon Key, a connected lock that lets Amazon’s delivery workers enter homes to drop off packages when homeowner are away.

Blink said Thursday it would continue to operate as part of Amazon and sell the same products it already does. The companies provided no other information about their plans.

Why Do Older iPhones Run Slowly or Suddenly Shutdown? Apple Has an Explanation

Apple Inc has addressed claims from an app company that says the maker of iPhones slows down the performance of older phones.

On Monday, the blog Primate Labs, a company that makes an app for measuring the speed of an iPhone’s processor, published data that appeared to show slower performance in the Apple’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 models as they aged.

Apple on Wednesday acknowledged that the company does take some measures to reduce power demands — which can have the effect of slowing the processor — when a phone’s battery is having trouble supplying the peak current that the processor demands.

The problem stems from the fact that all lithium-ion batteries, not just those found in Apple products, degrade and have problems supplying the big bursts as they age and accumulate charging cycles, Apple said in a statement. The problems with peak current draws can also occur when batteries are cold or low on charge.

“Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions,” Apple said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.”

For more on iPhone batteries, see Fortune’s video:

When an iPhone’s processor makes a big current draw from a flagging battery, the battery can deliver the current in spikes that can potentially damage the phone’s electronics. As a result, iPhones would suddenly shut down to protect the pricey processor from being damaged by the power spikes.

The sudden shutdown problem became widespread among iPhones in late 2016, forcing Apple to issue a software fix that had the net result of slowing the phone somewhat with an old, cold or low-charged battery, the company said.

The problem can be remedied by replacing the phone’s battery. Apple charges $79 to replace batteries not covered under the phone’s warranty. The company has long faced criticism from repair advocates for making its batteries difficult for users to replace on their own.

Ride-hailing firm Grab launches services in Cambodia

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Ride-hailing firm Grab said it launched its services in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, officially expanding its presence to an eighth country in Southeast Asia.

The company said on Tuesday it signed a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of public works and transport of Cambodia to support infrastructure development.

Global ride-hailing firm Uber [UBER.UL] is also available in Phnom Penh.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Himani Sarkar

San Francisco Security Robot Fired After Public Outcry

A San Francisco animal shelter has announced it will no longer use a Knightscope security robot to patrol its office, after a widely-circulated report that described the robot being used to “deter” nearby homeless encampments and rising crime.

In a statement to Ars Technica, the San Francisco SPCA said it has “received hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility” after the story of the robot went viral. In response to that pressure, the organization will seek “a more fully informed, consensus-oriented, local approach” to the use of security robots. San Francisco authorities had already advised the SPCA to stop using the robot on sidewalks without proper approval.

Mountain View-based Knightscope has said in a statement that the robot “was not brought in to clear the area around the San Francisco SPCA of homeless individuals,” but only to “serve and protect the SPCA.”

The fracas reads as the latest installment in a long-running cultural and economic war over the present and future of San Francisco. The recent influx of tech companies and their high-paid employees has helped drive income inequality and make the onetime bohemian mecca the most expensive place to rent an apartment in the United States.

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Those underlying tensions have boiled over in protests against tech companies, including over private shuttles run by companies including Google. According to Ars Technica, the San Francisco SPCA facility is located in a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood where inequality is particularly acute, contributing to the rise of homeless encampments on sidewalks. The SPCA reported a recent rise in vandalism and theft, which it has said declined after the security robot was put into service.

But in San Francisco’s current context, the optics of even a nonprofit using a high-tech robot to deter homeless people could hardly have been worse. In a further layer, the robot could be seen as taking a job from a human. SF SPCA President Jennifer Scarlett earlier told the San Francisco Business Times that the robot cost about $6 an hour to rent, while San Francisco’s minimum wage is $14 an hour. Scarlett said having humans perform the same duties would be “cost prohibitive,” though, suggesting no new workers will be hired to replace the laid-off robot.

Indonesia's Go-Jek acquires three companies to boost payment services

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s Go-Jek has acquired three financial technology businesses, as it expands from ride-hailing and other mobile on-demand offerings into payments and other services.

FILE PHOTO – A driver and passenger ride on a motorbike, part of the Go-Jek ride-hailing service, on a busy street in central Jakarta, Indonesia December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside/File Photo

Go-Jek has bought offline payments processing company Kartuku, online payment gateway Midtrans, and saving and lending network Mapan, the company said in a statement on Friday. The acquisitions will take its combined debit card, credit card and digital wallet transactions to close to $5 billion, it said.

The value of the acquisitions was not disclosed.

The acquisitions “will accelerate financial inclusion for millions of Indonesians and stimulate economic productivity throughout the country,” Go-Jek founder and chief executive officer Nadiem Makarim said.

Go-Jek, backed by private equity firms KKR & Co LP and Warburg Pincus LLC [WP.UL], competes with Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] and Singapore-based Grab to lure customers in the Southeast Asian market, home to 600 million people.

According to the statement, Go-Jek currently has 15 million weekly active users and processes 100 million transactions per month.

Reporting by Ed Davies; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Stephen Coates

Your Organization Won't Survive Without People Analytics, But There's A Dark Side

People analytics is growing at an astounding pace, with organizations around the world pouring more and more resources into it every day. According to Ben Waber, founder and CEO of Humanyze, what we’re seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. I first met Ben in Madrid when we were both speaking at a conference. Ben got his PhD at MIT in the Human Dynamics group and has studied behavioral analytics for many years. His company creates badges that employees wear at work, but these badges take traditional employee ID badges to the next level. They are equipped with a variety of sensors, such as radio-frequency ID that allows the badges to act like true ID badges, Bluetooth that measures someone’s location in an office, infrared that can tell who you are facing, and a microphone that measures not what you say, but how you say it and how much time you spend speaking–all metrics that truly measure human behavior.

This type of data can be used to help organizations understand things such as whether marketing is talking to engineering, whether the manager of a team actually spends time with his or her people, what top-performing employees do differently, and how the most successful salespeople speak with their customers. This type of approach is rarely done inside of organizations simply because the behavioral data doesn’t exist. Eventually it will, which will allow organizations to optimize and improve everything from how teams are structured to how compensation packages are created. Ben acknowledges that survey data is still useful and important to have, but it paints only a part of the picture. However, it’s still what most companies have. In the next decade or so, only a handful of companies will actually get to the next level of behavior analytics.

In many organizations, the people analytics function sits in HR. The challenge is that many HR teams don’t have data science capability because it’s a new skill set. HR has primarily always been about dealing with people and their interactions, hiring, and firing versus actually analyzing people from a data science perspective. However, as this area becomes more advanced, it is quite possible that it will grow into its own department that reports directly to the CEO.

There is, of course, a dark side of people analytics because data can be used to make decisions that either positively or negatively affect people. For example, people analytics can be used to calculate mass layoffs or determine ways to manipulate people. This is a delicate balance for organizations–not to mention the potential creepy factor of employees having data collected about their every move and action! People analytics models are designed by people, which means they will be inherently flawed. In her book Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O’Neil tells the story of a middle school teacher named Sarah Wyocki who was let go from a job with a Washington, D.C. school district because an algorithm decided that she was doing a poor job. The school district was determined to improve underperforming schools by eliminating bad teachers. Although she got rave reviews from the principal and parents, somehow she was classified as being in the bottom 2% of teachers. It turns out the elementary school where Sarah’s students came from was one of several schools under investigation for cheating on standardized tests by teachers who were erasing the wrong answers and filling in the correct ones to help preserve their own jobs. This meant that when Sarah’s students took standardized tests where no cheating was involved, their scores dropped considerably, thus making it look like they weren’t getting the education they should have been. Naturally the blame fell on the teacher. In this situation, the algorithm would have no way of picking this up, and Sarah and over 200 other teachers were fired. This story illustrates just how important it is for us to not place all of our decision-making eggs in the people analytics basket.

Today we are still at the very early stages of what’s possible with people analytics. Perhaps the biggest challenge for companies today is organizing, cleaning, aggregating, and standardizing data, a project that can easily take years depending on the size of the organization.

With technology advances and the integration of AI, you will one day be able to use voice commands to ask a smart assistant things like:

  • What’s the employee turnover?

  • Who are the top three employees on my team at risk for leaving the organization?

  • How many contingent workers are we using, and how much are we paying them each year?

  • What are the top skills and weaknesses on my team?

  • Which teams are the highest performing inside of our organization?

  • What employees should I consider for a new marketing team in California?

People analytics is absolutely growing into a core business capability that every organizations must invest in heavily. It is truly the foundation of employee experience.

Learn more about the future of people analytics here.

Bitcoin Futures Launch to a Dramatic Start

The eagerly anticipated launch of futures trading of the world’s largest cryptocurrency bitcoin got off to a positive start on Sunday, with the price nearly 9% ahead after briefly slipping below its opening level.

The launch of futures trading gives bitcoin the potential to win long-awaited legitimacy and a more widespread usage, but experts have worried that the risks associated with the currency’s Wild West-like nature could overshadow the debut.

The price action was unlike the wild swings seen in past weeks. The first bitcoin future trades kicked off at 6 p.m. (2300 GMT) on CBOE Global Markets Inc’s CBOE Futures Exchange, with January futures opening at $15,460, briefly dipping to a low of $15,420, and were last at $16,800, with 1,006 contracts traded.

“Even if there is an institution or institutional-sized trader out there, they are going to want to make sure that the mechanics work first, just for the futures,” said Ophir Gottlieb, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Capital Market Laboratories.

“I think the excitement will come when the futures market is established. That can take a few days,” Gottlieb added.

The futures are cash-settled contracts based on the auction price of bitcoin in U.S. dollars on the Gemini Exchange, which is owned and operated by virtual currency entrepreneurs and brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

“It has been plain sailing so far for bitcoin futures trading,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets in London. “Looking at the contract volume traded, we believe that there is a decent demand and this is driving up the price of bitcoin,” Aslam added.

On Sunday, bitcoin was up 4.83% at $15,400 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange.

While bitcoin’s price rise mystifies many, its origins have been the subject of much speculation. It was set up in 2008 by someone or some group calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto, and was the first digital currency to successfully use cryptography to keep transactions secure and hidden, making traditional financial regulation difficult if not impossible.

Many investors have stood on the sidelines watching its price rocket. However, it is possible to buy bitcoin without having to spend the full price of one coin. Bitcoin’s smallest unit is a Satoshi, named after the elusive creator of the cryptocurrency.

So far in 2017, bitcoin is up more than 1,400%. Somebody who invested $1,000 in bitcoin at the start of 2013 and had never sold any of it would now be sitting on around $1.2 million.

Heightened excitement ahead of the launch of the futures has given an extra kick to the cryptocurrency’s scorching run this year.

The launch may indeed have caused an outage of the CBOE’s website. The exchange said that due to heavy traffic on the CBOE Global Markets website on Sunday, the site “may be temporarily unavailable.”


Bitcoin fans appear excited about the prospect of an exchange-listed and regulated product and the ability to bet on its price swings without having to sign up for a digital wallet. Others, however, caution that risks remain for investors and possibly even the clearing organizations underpinning the trades.

“You are going to open up the market to a whole lot of people who aren’t currently in bitcoin,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

The launch has so far received a mixed reception from big U.S. banks and brokerages, though.

Several online brokerages, including Charles Schwab Corp and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp, did not allow trading of the new futures immediately.

The Financial Times reported on Friday that JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc would not immediately clear bitcoin trades for clients.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc said on Thursday it was planning to clear such trades for certain clients.

Bitcoin’s manic run-up this year has boosted volatility far in excess of other asset classes. The futures trading may help dampen some of the sharp moves, analysts said.

“Hypothetically, volatility over the long run should drop after institutions get involved,” Gottlieb said. “But there may not be an immediate impact, say in the first month.”

This post has been updated.

The 1 Question You Need to Ask About Your Social Media Content in 2018

We all have seen, firsthand, how fast social media moves. With each passing year, it seems new platforms arise, old trends die out, and best practices become outdated. While 2018 will be no different in terms of change, by asking yourself the following question, you’ll put your brand in a terrific position to “win” in the game of social media:

Is my brand building community on social media?

The days where consistency and high quality content almost guaranteed a loyal following are long behind us. If you aren’t building community on social media, your brand will fall behind faster than ever before in 2018.

The Rise of the Algorithm on Social Media

The catalyst here has been the rise and rule of social media algorithms. Simply put, the algorithm tailors a platform’s news feed based mostly on engagement rather than general chronology. 

The algorithm is a natural progression and reaction to the increased volume of content across social media. Social media apps need to maximize the amount of time users spend on their platforms in order to maximize advertising dollars, and the algorithm is the most efficient way to do that.

Due to the success of the algorithm, it’s likely organic reach on social media will only continue to decrease over time. So, what’s the answer then? Well, the easiest way to ensure others remain highly engaged with your content is to build a community of loyal followers. 

How to Build Community on Social Media

1. Start a Facebook Group. 

Facebook’s primary mechanism for building community is Facebook Groups. Facebook has also been explicit in sharing that one of their main objectives going forward is to encourage community building on their network. For this reason alone, starting a Facebook Group centered around your brand’s interests wouldn’t be a bad idea. 

Keep in mind that your Facebook Group doesn’t have to be directly linked to your business. For instance, if you own a pizzeria in Jacksonville called Grandma Jo’s Pizza, your Facebook Group wouldn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) named “Grandma Jo’s Pizza”. Instead, consider a title like, “Pizza Lovers of Jacksonville” or something along those lines.

2. Give your community members a name.

Giving the members of your audience a label will, whether consciously or subconsciously, reinforce the existence of the community your company is building. Additionally, it’ll allow your customers to know they’re a part of a movement, a club, as opposed to them just exchanging money for goods. 

Musicians like Justin Bieber use this practice by calling his fans, “Beliebers”, while brands like Starbucks do it in a more subtle way by catering to their “Gold members” within their rewards program.

3. Show your audience some love and recognition. 

The point of having a community is to facilitate relationships between the members. Customers and community members alike want to know you appreciate their time and money, so make sure you show them some love. Here’s a few ways to do it:

  • Post user-generated content (photos customers took while at your business, etc.) to your social media channels.
  • Showcase and commend fans who are doing wonderful things in the community (military service, volunteers, non-profit organizers, and more).
  • Have a weekly segment where you publish a top-rated testimonial or comment on your social media to get followers actively engaged in your content.

The list goes on and on here, but the important thing is to make sure your customers know they’re being recognized by you as the company.

4. Start a meetup.

Nothing beats face-to-face, human interaction when it comes to building relationships, and a meetup is an ideal medium for you to begin making those connections possible. Much like a Facebook Group, your meetup doesn’t have to be directly affiliated with your company. In fact, starting a local meetup in conjunction with your Facebook Group, “Pizza Lovers of Jacksonville” (to continue with the above example) would be a seamless way to build community both virtually and online.

By building a loyal core of fans around the mission your brand has, you’ll be in a terrific position to overcome the algorithm on social media. Going into 2018, ask yourself whether or not you’re taking the necessary steps to build community on social. When it comes to marketing, it could be very well be one of the most important questions you ask yourself this year.

New York Attorney General Wants Net Neutrality Vote to Be Delayed

New York’s attorney general urged the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote rolling back net neutrality rules because of the large number of fake comments submitted to the agency on the issue.

The FCC is expected to vote on Feb. 14 on Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to scrap the 2015 landmark net neutrality rules, moving to give broadband service providers sweeping power over what content consumers can access. Pai is a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating allegations that more than half of the 21.7 million public comments submitted to the FCC about net neutrality used temporary or duplicate email addresses and appeared to include false or misleading information.

Schneiderman said the FCC agreed on Monday to assist in the probe. “We’re going to hold them to that – and, in the meantime, it’s vital that the FCC delay the vote until we know what happened,” said Schneiderman.

The 2015 rules changed the designation of internet service providers, or ISPs, usually big cable and telephone companies, so they were banned from blocking or throttling (slowing) legal content or from seeking payments to speed delivery of certain content, called “paid prioritization.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who opposes the net neutrality rollback, agreed that the vote should be delayed.

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“The integrity of the public record matters. The FCC needs to get to the bottom of this mess. No vote should take place until a responsible investigation is complete,” she said.

Under Pai’s proposal, the Obama-era rules would be reversed and ISPs would only have to disclose blocking or throttling.

5 Celebrity Entrepreneurs Who Are Getting Involved In Blockchain Startups

Ethereum, known for creating the go-to platform for decentralized apps (dApps), has established itself as the preferred foundation for the sudden wave of blockchain startups.

For those that don’t know, blockchain technology became a mainstream talking point about six months ago when the price of Ether (Ethereum’s cryptocurrency token) started climbing from $30 all the way up to about $470, matching Bitcoin’s exponential growth.

According to Bloomberg, $1.3 billion was raised in 2017 through ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), far exceeding what was raised through more conventional venture capital fundraising methods.

Earlier in the year, both Bitcoin as a currency and Ethereum as a platform for building decentralized applications were seen as pipedreams, at best. Nearing the end of 2017 here, it’s clear they are far from that–and will soon be more disruptive than many people (industry leaders included) are willing to admit.

But there are a handful of entrepreneurs who believe blockchain startups have a future ahead of them. Here are 5 entrepreneurs (you’ve probably heard of) that have taken a step into the world of blockchain tech:

1. Mark Cuban

Even though Mark Cuban has made it very clear he sees cryptocurrencies as risky investments, urging people to only invest if they’re “prepared to lose all their money,” he has still gotten involved himself.

A big supporter of the eSports community, Cuban recently participated in the ICO for Unikrn. According to CNBC, Unikrn is a blockchain startup that sells virtual tokens called UnikoinGold, “to be used on its platform to bet on eSports matches.” The startup has already raised over $25M.

In addition, Cuban has been an active advisor to the chat app Dust, whose ownership group recently announced would be releasing a new blockchain messaging technology platform called Mercury Protocol. Cuban has expressed his involvement and support of Mercury Protocol as well.

2. Kevin Harrington

Known for just about everything entrepreneurship related, Kevin Harrington is the founder of As Seen On TV, and has appeared as a guest investor on the hit series, Shark Tank. He is an advisor to a wide range of companies, and most recently, one of those companies has set out to solve some of the biggest problems in the shipping and logistics industries.

The blockchain based platform, ShipChain, is looking to accomplish what many other more conventional companies in the shipping and logistics space have yet to do. Alongside Harrington is the former CEO of DHL, one of the largest global logistics companies in the world.

As an active advisor in the company, it’s clear Harrington believes blockchain has huge potential to bring much-needed transparency to the outdated shipping and logistics industries.

3. Ryan Lewis

4 time Grammy Award-Winning producer, Ryan Lewis, recently announced that his next big project wasn’t music related–but blockchain based

Lewis shared in a recent interview that the blockchain platform, RedPen, would aim to better understand what the Internet is talking about at large, specifically “what’s at the heart of what everyone is saying about a topic or person online.” For example: instead of sifting through dozens of subjective articles to try to understand the main points of a major story, RedPen wants to curate only what’s most important for readers–at scale

While some celebrities have co-signed ICOs and blockchain startups the same way influencers promote products Lewis has made it clear he is a leading member of the RedPen team. He believes blockchain technology has more potential than people realize, and as a long-time tech fanatic, wants to be part of the innovation process that will move the space forward

4. Marc Andreessen

Known as the co-founder of Netscape, Marc Andreessen is someone whose voice matters in the tech community–especially when you consider the obstacles Netscape faced back before the Internet became ingrained in everyday society.

As the co-founder of the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, it should be noted when Andreessen says something is worth investing in. And back in 2014, he was already talking about “Why Bitcoin Matters.”

More recently, Andreessen Horowitz and other notable VC funds invested in MetaStable, a blockchain-focused fund that prides itself on investing in “coins, not companies.” Some of those other firms include Sequoia Capital, Union Square Ventures, Founders Fund and Bessemer Venture Partners, according to Fortune.

If Silicon Valley’s best are betting on blockchain platforms, then you know it’s time to start paying attention.

5. Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson has been a huge proponent of blockchain technology, starting with its implications for the world of finance. He recently made an investment in the company Blockchain, a Bitcoin wallet business he believes will help shift power into the hands of users–instead of centralized entities like banks.

According to CNBC, Blockchain raised $40 million from VC firm Lakestar, Google Ventures, and Richard Branson.

In addition, Branson recently hosted an elite blockchain-specific gathering on Necker Island–a summit for cryptocurrency and blockchain thought leaders to gather and discuss the future of the industry.

Bottom Line

It’s clear these big-name entrepreneurs are getting involved because they believe blockchain technology is going to be powerful and create a strategic advantage. If you haven’t been following along with the business impact of blockchain, I suggest you also read a few of my related articles: 

For security agencies, blockchain goes from suspect to potential solution

(Reuters) – Police and security agencies have so far only taken an interest in blockchain – the distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – for tracking criminals hiding illegal money from banks.

Adrian Kemp of HoustonKemp Economists speaks to Reuters in their office in Singapore November 24, 2017. Picture taken November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

But that’s changing as some civilian, police and military agencies see blockchain as a potential solution to problems they have wrestled with for years: how to secure data, but also be able to share it in a way that lets the owner keep control.

Australia, for example, has recently hired HoustonKemp, a Singapore-based consultancy, to build a blockchain-based system to record intelligence created by investigators and others, and improve the way important information is shared.

“They’ve been trying for years to come up with a centralized platform, but people are reluctant to share information,” said Adrian Kemp, who runs the consultancy, which was awarded a A$1 million ($757,500) grant by AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Blockchain’s appeal for data sharing is threefold.

Its ledger, or database, is not controlled by any single party and is spread across multiple computers, making it hard to break. Once entered, any information cannot be altered or tampered with. And, by using so-called smart contracts, the owner of information can easily tweak who has access to what.

It’s a sign of how far blockchain technology has come within a decade since the publication of a pseudonymous paper describing bitcoin and the blockchain ledger that would record transactions in it.

Bitcoin has since become the preferred currency not only of libertarians and speculators, but also of criminal hackers. The bitcoin price is volatile, and hit record peaks late last month.

Governments are already exploring ways to store some data, such as land records, contracts and assets, in blockchains, and the financial industry, too, has experimented with blockchain technologies to streamline transactions and back-office systems, though with limited success.


The closest most law enforcement agencies have come to the blockchain has been working with start-up firms to analyze it for evidence of criminal deals.

But in the past year or so that attitude has begun to change.

The United States Air Force (USAF) has funded research into how blockchain could ensure its data isn’t changed. In May, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded a grant to the company behind an encrypted chat program to make a secure messaging service based on the blockchain.

Amendments to a recent U.S. Senate defense bill require the government to report back on “the potential offensive and defensive cyber applications of blockchain technology and other distributed database technologies” and how foreign governments, extremists and criminals might be using them.

Adrian Kemp of HoustonKemp Economists poses for a picture in Singapore November 24, 2017. Picture taken November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Britain, too, is exploring several uses of the blockchain, say consultants and companies working for several departments.

Cambridge Consultants, a UK-based consultancy, said it had worked with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) agency, on using a blockchain to improve the trustworthiness of a network of sensors on, for example, security cameras.

The UK’s justice ministry is looking at proving that evidence – video, emails, documents – hasn’t been tampered with by registering it all on a blockchain, according to a blog post on its website.

Marcus Ralphs, a former soldier and now CEO of ByzGen Ltd, which makes blockchains for the security sector, said he was working on projects with the MoD using blockchain to track the status and level of individuals’ security clearance. Other work included helping the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) improve the way work permits are issued and records stored.


Adrian Kemp of HoustonKemp Economists speaks to Reuters in their office in Singapore November 24, 2017. Picture taken November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

These are early days.

Kemp says there’s no guarantee his project will be deployed more widely. And some who have worked with AUSTRAC are skeptical, saying such projects have more to do with agencies turning to the private sector because they’re running low on resources and ideas.

“The government is just looking to pass the buck on to private industry,” said Simon Smith, a cyber private investigator who has worked on cases involving AUSTRAC.

Many police forces and armies aren’t ready for the technological and mental leap necessary.

The Police Foundation, a UK think-tank focusing on policing and crime, is pushing British police to explore the blockchain, but its director, Rick Muir, said “we are still at the stage of ‘what is blockchain?’.”

Neil Barnas, a USAF major who last year wrote a thesis on the potential of blockchain in defense, said U.S. military and security agencies were slowly waking up.

The problem, he says, is that military minds are more inclined towards centralized systems than the decentralized ones that blockchain’s distributed ledger embraces.

That said, blockchain’s association with the criminal underworld has not dented its appeal to those who see its potential, said ByzGen’s Ralphs.

“The negative narrative around it has not at all watered down or diluted interest of the people we’ve been engaging with,” he said.

($1 = 1.3201 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff and Byron Kaye; Editing by Ian Geoghegan

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Micron And Cypress Semiconductors: Is The Market Failing Or Just A One Day Sale?

Numerous technology and semiconductor stocks fell today, with Micron (NASDAQ: MU) and Cypress Semiconductors (NASDAQ: CY) falling 8.7% and 7.0% respectively. I want to focus on the impact of this slide, and encourage investors to look at this as a great time for considering new opportunities for long positions in these companies.

I formerly wrote a piece on CY (you can read it here) and their growth potential as the Internet of Things (IoT) market grows, particularly with the popularity of smart technology entering the home and offices. Micron specializes in flash memory and storage, useful across the gamut of computing applications including mobile, workstation and IoT. For investors holding, be re-assured: the semiconductor industry is not going anywhere. As major firms move money out of technology holdings and into banking, which broadly saw an increase in price (ref. BAC, JPM, WFC), prospective investors would be foolish not to consider investing in a few technology stocks as stock prices begin to shore up.

While many investors (me included) are unsure what the outlook of the tech industry currently is, I think that this severe drop is a necessary correction, but that growth should still be expected for this sector. Many investors were spooked by Morgan Stanley’s cautionary expectations on pricing for NAND and labeling the stock still as overvalued. While I agree that the stock is overvalued, from considering the fundamentals of the company and their potential to further grow, I think that Micron is a great buy once it appears the stock has stabilized.

Considering the last 3 months, Micron has still seen incredible growth of 40%, including its most recent tumble. The RSI indicator shows that the stock is seriously undervalued, and I think that the ADX should be heeded at this point as it does not indicate that the stock has completely lost all of its momentum. Considering the last two support lines, it seems that we are reaching the previous support line around $42.50; yet I do not think that investors have any need to worry about the health of the stock unless the stock breaks through both support lines.

Price for MU for the last 3 months, with two support lines indicated in maroon. Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Average Directional Index (ADX) beneath. The ADX and RSI are both based on a 14 period calculation. Full size available here.

As a long-term value investor, I also think that the picture for CY is not as bleak as it instinctively appears. On the contrary, I believe that the stock has great potential, at a great price for new investors. Similar to Micron, CY is undervalued as indicated by the RSI and surprisingly, the ADX is not at an all-time low after the recent dip. Looking at the 50-period moving average, it shows that the stock has made sustained growth over the window of consideration, and that it will likely continue to perform well.

Price for CY over the last 3 months with 50-period moving average indicated in orange and support line in red. RSI and ADX below. Full size available here.

However, for all my optimism, it would be foolish to not look at the reasons for the sell-off. Morgan Stanley has downgraded its view on a number of semiconductor and tech stocks before its report on lower expectations for NAND memory pricing and a word of caution about the industry in general. Yet their price target for MU is up to $55 from $39, which gives bullish investors somewhat of a confidence boost. Regardless, stock valuation depends largely on investor confidence, and if Q4 reports show slowing growth, investors may begin to migrate away from technology in a more serious fashion.

In conclusion, I believe that this recent sell-off of technology and semiconductor stocks is not a major cause for concern for investors with open positions as long as the slide does not continue. For new investors, I think that this is an excellent opportunity to enter in a long position once prices stabilize. My word of advice to those who are nervous about continuing to hold, or to enter into a position would be to wait and see to determine whether this is a major change in market sentiment, or just an instinctive sell-off. Between CY and MU, I think that these stocks should continue to give investors a great return year-on-year and continue to outperform the competition.

Disclosure: I am/we are long CY.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I may also be interested in initiating a long position in MU over the next 72 hours.