Few startups these days can exist — let alone succeed — without technology. In fact, Forrester’s mid-year tech outlook, published in September, predicted that tech spending would increase across multiple sectors in 2018. Theoutlook forecast that 4 percent more would be spent across the board for global purchases of software, hardware and technology services by corporations and government agencies alike.
That’s the kind of growth that will push the tech industry past the $3 trillion mark for the first time in history.
But as each new day seems to herald a new technology that promises to make marketing, communication and creativity ever more dynamic, entrepreneurs may be left wondering which technologies they should invest in — or whether they should invest. Here’s how they should form those decisions:
Embrace the future of technology — it’s already here.
Effectively utilizing a technology is about having a great idea that genuinely deploys that tech platform in an effective way and bolsters a startup’s productivity and execution.
Trying to shoehorn Blockchain or voice recognition into an app that has no use for either technology in the first place is a worthless endeavor. On the other hand, when it comes to Blockchain, you should think about the coded smart contracts it facilitates and how those contracts can execute themselves when the agreed-upon conditions are met.
Blockchain, then, is a useful tool for entrepreneurs working with vendors, because the blockchain network can store these contracts securely and allow both parties to obtain proof of the agreement any time they want.
AI developments are useful tools as well: They’ve streamlined many fundamental office tasks by making devices self-manageable. Examples include printers that can reorder their own paper and ink, and computers that can debug their own software.
As with any product, of course, entrepreneurs must first understand the problem they need to solve by surveying the landscape of technologies out there to understand each one’s benefits, implementation requirements and drawbacks. Next, entrepreneurs must select the tool or tools best suited for their intended application, then consider the existing scenarios in their businesses that each new technology might supplement or improve upon.
Think about these big three technologies shaping startup success in 2018.
In the end, onboarding new technologies is about problem-solving. While the problems you face may feel entirely idiosyncratic, the following three primary technologies that I deem most helpful to startups in the coming year are pretty universal.
1. Communication platforms. Communication is a key for any startup, especially as employees increasingly work remotely, as the New York Times has pointed out. Communication technologies, in fact, offer a host of benefits, from increased productivity to tighter teams and the ability to foster better company cultures. These technologies, further, can help entrepreneurs keep budgets intact, a good enough reason alone why communications platforms can be fruitful.
Messaging services like Slack or HipChat are great for fostering real-time communications when your teams work outside the office. And tools such as Basecamp and other project management solutions streamline operations regardless of your staffers’ location, while LinkedIn and Ripple enhance connect individuals on a more personal level.
2. Artificial intelligence. For computing power that boosts the abilities of your at-home workforce, look no further than AI. AI-driven technology is a must on any tech list for the coming year because the category is expanding so rapidly. As data becomes increasingly unwieldy, deep-learning techniques are evolving to process that data into insights that even remote employees can use.
To this end, Google Home and Amazon Alexa created the virtual assistant. While the ability to interact with devices through the internet has long existed, users needed a shared vernacular (“Hey, Google!”) to make it part of their daily habits. That’s what Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa have provided.
In the same context, research from McKinsey has suggested that 45 percent of work activities can be automated using existing technologies coupled with AI. For example, the same voice-recognition software utilized by smart devices will likely increase productivity and efficiency once users no longer have to learn keyboard controls and command-line prompts, or conduct manual inputs.
3. Blockchain. The latest cryptocurrency crash may have entrepreneurs wondering whether Bitcoin will even make it through the year, but Blockchain itself — which can do much more than financial transactions — isn’t going anywhere. This technology has been around for a while, but it’s having a heyday now. Market Reports Hub forecasts that the market will exceed $2 billion by 2021.
What will happen in 2018 most likely is an explosion of companies trying to roll Blockchain into their products, or have it be their product. By the end of the year, we’ll also likely witness a major fallout because only a few of those companies will survive, as is the case with anything that’s investment-friendly.
Still, where Blockchain really shines is its ability to foster trust between organizations. The secure nature of the Blockchain ledger means that transactions that formerly required intermediaries no longer do. Instead, “ownership” can now be tokenized, and its digital life cycle instantly tracked. And that opens up big security opportunities for intrepreneurial individuals and businesses. The result: Blockchain portends far-reaching implications extending well beyond the monetary transactions so talked about in the news cycle.
Overall, all this forward-looking technology may seem like a daunting undertaking for startups and entrepreneurs already trying to navigate marketing, sales, communication, finances and creativity. But whatever your own industry and its journey, understanding the tech landscape and capitalizing on these three most important technologies during 2018 will help you make this the year of new and refined success.
Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’
Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.
CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”
Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.
While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.
Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.
A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”
Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.
While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.
To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants
Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.
Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.
Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.
Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.
Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.
Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.
This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.
Here is what the button looks like in action:
As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.
Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.
These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.
Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.
5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018
Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.
1. Raising capital
Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.
This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.
2. Transacting value
Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, Overstock.com became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.
3. Investing for the future
For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.
4. Developing on the blockchain
The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.
5. Joining the blockchain community
The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.
Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.
7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You
“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.
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