Month: October 2020

Unhinged Trump supporters harass the Biden campaign bus in viral clip

Unhinged Trump supporters harass the Biden campaign bus in viral clip

When people say Donald Trump is doing his level best to foment violence and unrest, this is what they’re talking about.

The costume-heavy revelry of Halloween Twitter was disrupted on Saturday when an alarming clip surfaced showing what appears to be a caravan of Trump supporters chasing the Biden campaign bus on a highway in Texas. It’s a frightening scene.

In a series of incidents that apparently unfolded on Friday throughout the day, Trump supporters made a dangerous public nuisance of themselves as the Biden campaign progressed through central Texas. At least one event was canceled as a result. Read more…

More about Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Culture, Politics, and Web Culture

Human Capital: Uber Eats hit with claims of ‘reverse racism’

With less than one week left until the election, DoorDash made a late contribution of $3.75 million to try to ensure California’s gig worker ballot measure Prop 22 passes. Meanwhile, Coinbase is looking for a head of diversity and inclusion and Uber was hit with claims of reverse racism.

All that and more in this week’s edition of Human Capital, a weekly newsletter where we unpack all-things labor and D&I. To receive this in your inbox every Friday at 1 p.m. PT, be sure to sign up here.

Let’s jump in.

Employees at surveillance startup Verkada reportedly used tech to harass co-workers

Oof. Just when we thought we were safe from surveillance, we’ve found yet another reason not to trust people with facial recognition tech. Just to be clear, the first part of that was sarcasm. Anyway, Vice reported earlier this week that some Verkada employees used the startup’s tech to take photos of their female colleagues and then made sexually explicit jokes.

When other employees reported the incident to human resources, Verkada CEO Filip Kaliszan simply gave the offenders a choice of leaving the company or having their share of stock reduced. After the Vice story went out, however, Verkada fired the three employees in question.

Coinbase is looking for a head of D&I

Coinbase is on the hunt for a director of belonging, inclusion and diversity. It’s worth noting Coinbase previously had a head of D&I, Tariq Meyers, but he began focusing on an employee support task force role as a result of COVID-19 in April, according to his LinkedIn page. Meyers later left the company in August, which was before Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong took a stance about not speaking out about social issues.

That stance led to 5% of Coinbase’s employees opting to take a severance package to leave the company. Two of those employees were Coinbase Global Head of Marketing, John Russ and Coinbase VP Dan Yoo.

“We believe that it’s possible to be 100% committed to an inclusive workplace that values diversity where everyone is safe and belongs (and as part of that, working to root out and eliminate any intolerance or bias that exists at the company), and simultaneously maintain laser focus on our mission,” the job posting states. “To this end, we have made a public stance that Coinbase won’t issue external statements on topics beyond the scope of our mission of building a more open financial system and expanding economic freedom, while also redoubling our commitment to making the company an amazing place to work for all employees, regardless of background.”

Precursor VC promotes Sydney Thomas to Principal

Image Credits: Precursor Ventures

Sydney Thomas, who started her career at Precursor Ventures as an intern, was promoted to Principal. That means she’s able to deploy capital to startups on behalf of the fund.

“This is a promotion that has been earned through hard work, aptitude and a clear demonstration that Sydney embodies all of the values we hold dear here at Precursor,” the firm wrote in a blog post. “She has already made a number of investments on behalf of the firm and will continue to do so going forward.”

Indian engineers allege caste bias in tech industry

The Washington Post’s Nitasha Tiku shed some light on caste-based discrimination in the tech ecosystem. Specifically, 30 female Indian engineers who are part of the Dalit caste and work for companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Cisco, say they have faced caste bias. As Tiku explains, those in the Dalit caste are part of the lowest rank castes within India’s social hierarchy.

PayPal puts money into Black and Latinx-led VC funds

PayPal is investing $50 million in a handful of early-stage funds led by Black and Latinx venture capitalists. The investment is part of PayPal’s $530 million commitment to support Black-owned businesses.

The funds receiving money include Chingona Ventures, Fearless Fund, Harlem Capital, Precursor Ventures, Slauson & Co, VamosVenturs, Zeal Capital Partners and another undisclosed fund.

Reddit elevates its VP of people and culture

Nellie Peshkov, formerly Reddit’s VP of People and Culture, is now Chief People Officer. Her appointment to the C-suite is part of the much-needed, growing trend of tech companies elevating employees focused on diversity and inclusion to the highest leadership ranks.

Uber Eats hit with claims of “reverse racism”

Uber said it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber Eats made this change in June, following racial justice protests around the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Uber Eats said it wanted to make it easier for customers to support Black-owned businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To qualify, the restaurant must be a small or medium-sized business and, therefore, not part of a franchise. In contrast, delivery fees are still in place for other restaurants.

In one of these claims, viewed by TechCrunch, a customer says Uber Eats violates the Unruh civil Rights Act by “charging discriminatory delivery fees based on race (of the business owner).” That claim seeks $12,000 as well as a permanent injunction that would prevent Uber from continuing to offer free delivery from Black-owned restaurants.

Uber driver claims rating system is racially biased
Uber is no stranger to lawsuits, so this one shouldn’t come as a surprise. Uber is now facing a lawsuit regarding its customer ratings and how the company deactivates drivers whose ratings fall below a certain threshold. The suit alleges the system “constitues race discrimination, as it is widely recognized that customer evaluations of workers are frequently racially biased.”

In a statement to NPR, Uber called the suit “flimsy” and said “ridesharing has greatly reduced bias for both drivers and riders, who now have fairer, more equitable access to work and transportation than ever before.”

Yes on Prop 22 gets another $3.75 million influx of cash
DoorDash put in an additional $3.75 million into the Yes on 22 campaign, according to a late contribution filing. Proposition 22 is the California ballot measure that aims to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors.

The latest influx of cash brought Yes on 22’s total contributions north of $200 million. As of October 14, the campaign had raised $189 million. But thanks to a number of late contributions, the total put toward Yes on 22 comes out to about $202,955,106.38, or, $203 million.

Prop 22 hit the most-funded California ballot measure long ago, but it’s now surpassed the $200 million mark.

TechCrunch Sessions: Justice is back

I am pleased to announce TechCrunch Sessions: Justice is officially happening again! Save the date for March 3, 2021.

We’ll explore inclusive hiring, access to funding for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people, and workplace tools to foster inclusion and belonging. We’ll also examine the experiences of gig workers and formerly incarcerated people who are often left out of Silicon Valley’s wealth cycle. Rounding out the program will be a discussion about the role of venture capital in creating a more inclusive tech ecosystem. We’ll discuss all of that and more at TC Sessions: Justice.

TikTok stars got a judge to block Trump’s TikTok ban

TikTok has won another battle in its fight against the Trump administration’s ban of its video-sharing app in the U.S. — or, more accurately in this case, the TikTok community won a battle. On Friday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania issued an injunction that blocked the restrictions that would have otherwise blocked TikTok from operating in the U.S. on November 12.

This particular lawsuit was not led by TikTok itself, but rather a group of TikTok creators who use the app to engage with their million-plus followers.

According to the court documents, plaintiff Douglas Marland has 2.7 million followers on the app; Alec Chambers has 1.8 million followers; and Cosette Rinab has 2.3 million followers. The creators argued — successfully as it turns out — that they would lose access to their followers in the event of a ban, as well as the “professional opportunities afforded by TikTok.” In other words, they’d lose their brand sponsorships — meaning, their income.

This is not the first time that the U.S. courts have sided with TikTok to block the Trump administration’s proposed ban over the Chinese-owned video sharing app. Last month, a D.C. judge blocked the ban that would have removed the app from being listed in U.S. app stores run by Apple and Google.

That ruling had not, however, stopped the November 12 ban that would have blocked companies from providing internet hosting services that would have allowed TikTok to continue to operate in the U.S.

The Trump administration had moved to block the TikTok app from operating in the U.S. due to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, claiming it was a national security threat. The core argument from the judge in this ruling was the “Government’s own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical.”

That hypothetical risk was unable to be stated by the government, the judge argued, to be such a risk that it outweighed the public interest. The interest, in this case, was the more than 100 million users of TikTok and the creators like Marland, Chambers and Rinab that utilized it to spread “informational materials,” which allowed the judge to rule that the ban would shut down a platform for expressive activity.

“We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support from our creators, who have worked to protect their rights to expression, their careers, and to help small businesses, particularly during the pandemic,” said Vanessa Pappas, Interim Global Head of TikTok, in a statement. “We stand behind our community as they share their voices, and we are committed to continuing to provide a home for them to do so,” she added.

The TikTok community coming to the rescue on this one aspect of the overall TikTok picture just elevates this whole story. Though the company has been relatively quiet through this whole process, Pappas has thanked the community several times for its outpouring of support. Though there were some initial waves of “grief” on the app with creators frantically recommending people follow them on other platforms, that has morphed over time into more of a “let’s band together” vibe. This activity coalesced around a big swell in voting advocacy on the platform, where many creators are too young to actually participate but view voting messaging as their way to participate.

TikTok has remained active in the product department through the whole mess, shipping elections guides and trying to ban QAnon conspiracy spread, even as Pakistan banned and then un-banned the app.

 

 

 

How Tesla super fans get the add-ons they can’t get from Elon Musk

How Tesla super fans get the add-ons they can't get from Elon Musk

As soon as Arizona fitness coach Torrey Penn bought his new Tesla Model Y online this September he knew what extras he would need for his new ride — and it didn’t involve an extra $10,000 Full Self-Driving advanced driving package with automatic steering, braking, and turning while on any road.

Instead Penn, 43, left Tesla.com and headed to Amazon and eBay, where he quickly found what he wanted: a Tesla key card ring to open and start his new electric vehicle. He bought it on eBay for $99 as a replacement for an ill-fitting wedding band. The ring arrived last weekend and he immediately programmed it. Now he can put his hand near the front door and the car unlocks and starts, even if he doesn’t have his connected smartphone or key card on him. (Instead of traditional car keys, Teslas have key cards, like a hotel.) Read more…

More about Tesla, Tech, Elon Musk, and Transportation

Diets & Modern Human: How Staying at Extremes of the Spectrum Ruins Lives

Why are modern humans obsessed with the idea of diets? Why is everybody having this undying desire to feel special? This obsession leads us to follow a diet or a certain health guru, convinced it would guarantee transformation of some sort. As such, we ignore our natural instincts and let an illusion of perfection corrupt our inherent self.

This fantasy, a chimera in your brain, affects both your reality and subconscious. The constant fear of eating the wrong food, anxiously checking labels, and always living on the edge – ask yourself, is this what you wanted out of your health journey?

A lot of young people with a quest to look a certain way, feel healthy, or even mask one of their many addictions, fall into the deep pothole of extreme diets and fad eating protocols. This appetite for health and attention is one of the biggest reasons why 70% of the youth is suffering from at least one form of an eating disorder or a mental health issue.

So, what awaits us at the end of this arduous pathway? Let’s dive deep:

The Fat Phobia

It was at the beginning of the early 1950s when commerce products were introduced to the consumers. And, one such product was the vegetable oil and margarine (hydrogenated fat), which marked the start of the “fall of the fats”.

Soon, people were fed with misleading information about the good fats, animal protein, and some cooked fats, such as butter and ghee. Even though companies had profit and health both in mind, this “shun fat” movement made people paranoid about their health.

They started taking their calories seriously, eating less fats, and dwindled between diets like a pendulum. It was a journey to find a diet that lets them incorporate no fats at all.

The Body Dysmorphia

body dysmorphia

Is the mirror in your room a foe? You may have borderline image dysmorphia. People are not aware of the fact that our brains are 48% cholesterol. There are numerous studies proving that lack of fats and cholesterol in the diet often leads to a condition called body image dysmorphia. An individual suffering from this condition has a distorted sense of existence and often projects their physical insecurities that do not even exist or are ideally not worth mentioning.

Physical attributes become an obsession and a person’s sanity may start to fall apart. For instance, a skinny girl might not feel highly of herself and strive to get even leaner, or an overweight individual thinks he is at a healthy weight. There are also instances when one obsesses over diets, diet plans, and fats in the food. Hence, this malfunction in the brain can warp reality that makes those who suffer from the condition struggle even more.

Disturbing Behavioral Patterns

Notice the youth. Do they seem strange? Ask about their daily calorie intake and the replies shall leave you baffled. The modern human is delusional, often reaching out for that illusion of perfect health. Switching from one diet to another, ridiculous fasting protocols, practices, such as keto, veganism, fruitarianism, and only-seeds diet have wreaked havoc on their bodies.

A study by Harvard University states that lack of certain nutrients like cholesterol causes fits of rage, extreme tattooing, anger issues, sexual abuse, drugs, and even depression. The biggest pharmaceutical weapon- the anti-cholesterol, is often regarded as the culprit behind these self-sabotage tendencies in elderly people or young adults on these medications.

Cognitive Distortion

Cognitive distortion impedes rational thinking and sabotages the doer mindset. A distorted sense of reality, unrealistic goal setting, and negative thought patterns are some of the visible symptoms. People with cognitive distortion find themselves trapped in their erroneous perception of reality.

Myelin, the intricate web of nerves coating the central nervous system, is a thick layer that protects the brain. Myelin needs fats and cholesterol to function properly. People who follow strict diets and focus on the exterior image lack dietary fats and HDL (good cholesterol) in their meals.

The prolonged absence of fats starves the myelin and this triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. Depression, anger issues, and irrational thinking start to unfold. For instance, observe long-term vegans and their speech issues.

Eating Disorders

eating disorders

The cataclysmic events, with their roots in one’s childhood, eventually results into some form of an eating disorder. Bulimia nervosa, anorexia, and behaviors to recoup the self-sabotage activities, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative overuse, social media, and sexual activities are the connotations that no one likes to talk about.

Past trauma and extreme diets are some of the detected prime culprits. Statistical data on bulimia nervosa shows that 1.7%-2.0% of adult women and 0.5-0.7% of men, globally, suffer from a lifetime eating disorder and visit rehabs to counter relapse. Moreover, the data also states that 17% of the recovered subjects are likely to relapse.

People who suffer from an eating disorder escape frontline diagnosis and are confused with people who are simply losing weight due to stress or some kind of workload. Psychotherapy and complete support from family members are some of the surefire ways to help the patients.

Amenorrhea & Body Hair Epidemic

As much as you would love to admit how social media created unusual gigs, it is equally disappointing to see that it glorifies absurdity as well. Some of the bizarre online activities that gradually became a trend are: fat acceptance (even if it kills you), body hair, acne acceptance, beauty DIYs, and loss of menstrual cycle. Yes, you read it right – loss of period.

A lot of influencers online take this as a normal biological process and regard it as a way to achieve greater consciousness. The medical journals diagnose this condition as amenorrhea. A condition, quite similar to anorexia, wherein the subject loses their period due to malnutrition, as well as malabsorption, and develop body hair. This condition reaches its severity when the individual is declared infertile or incapable to procreate.

There is a strange war between the obvious and some hoax, an altercation between the inner body signals and deep indoctrination. The modern human, unlike hominids in the paleolithic era who listened to their survival instincts, prefers listening to half-baked information.

The extreme diets, the severe health protocols, and all this for what? This is only to shed the skin we are supposed to be in and don something that is totally strange to our real self – both biologically and spiritually.

The post Diets & Modern Human: How Staying at Extremes of the Spectrum Ruins Lives appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

YouTuber attacked by flying cheese fondue in spectacular viral video

YouTuber attacked by flying cheese fondue in spectacular viral video

YouTuber Tasty Hoon has gone viral with his latest mukbang video, in which his attempt at a cheese fondue went incredibly, hilariously wrong. At least it still seemed to taste good.

In the eight-minute clip uploaded on Wednesday and shared over 42,000 times on Twitter, the South Korean YouTuber prepared to enjoy a delicious-looking meal of fried chicken and cheese. It’s a common food combination, and many YouTubers before him have pulled it off without incident.

Tasty Hoon’s downfall, however, was that he attempted to liven up his video by putting the cheese in a fountain. It sounds like an inspired idea — cheese fondue fountains are absolutely a thing, and it would add an interesting visual element to his mise en scene. Unfortunately his cheese wasn’t quite liquid enough, and the situation quickly got messy. Read more…

More about Food, Cheese, Tasty Food, Tasty Videos, and Mukbang

Amazon pegs COVID-19 costs at an estimated $4 billion next quarter

Amazon expects to incur $4 billion in COVID-related costs next quarter, an estimate that provides a bellwether for other businesses, large and small, trying to stay operational and control expenses amid the pandemic.

The upshot: Amazon is planning for COVID to remain an unwelcome companion through the end of the year with costs higher than the previous quarter.

The company said Thursday in its third-quarter earnings call that it logged $7.5 billion in COVID-related costs since the disease took root earlier this year. Amazon previously said its COVID costs were about $600 million in the first quarter and more than $4 billion in the second. The company’s COVID costs in the third quarter were about $2.5 billion, CFO Brian Olsavsky told an analyst during an earnings call. While Amazon was able to lower its costs in the third quarter due to efficiencies that number is on rise for next quarter.

Olsavsky said the majority of the increase in costs is due to the expansion of its operations. Amazon has hired 100,000 new workers in October.

COVID-19 along with other uncertainties related to the economy, holiday sales and even weather patterns weighed on its guidance for operating income in the fourth quarter. Amazon provided a wide-ranging guidance of between $1 billion and $4.5 billion in operating income in the fourth quarter compared with $3.9 billion in the same period last year.  This guidance assumes about $4 billion of costs related to COVID-19.

But what is most telling is that even after providing a lengthy list of possible uncertainties in the fourth quarter, Olsavsky noted that COVID still trumps them all.

“So there’s a whole host of issues that generally come to bear in Q4,” Olsavsky said. “I think the fact that COVID is dwarfing all of those is causing us a lot of uncertainty on our top line range.”

Olsavsky said costs were related to productivity losses caused by changing how it operates as well as expenses related to personal protective equipment and other upfront costs.

“The largest portion of these costs relate to continuing productivity headwinds in our facilities, including process revisions to allow for social distancing and incremental costs to ramp up new facilities, and the large influx of new employees hired to support strong customer demand also includes investments in PPE for employees and enhanced cleaning of our facilities,” Olsavsky said during Thursday’s earnings call.

Amazon said Thursday it also continues to ramp up its in-house COVID-19 testing program with capacity reaching 50,000 tests a day across 650 sites by November.

8 Skin Care Tips for the Cold Weather

Seasonal changes, especially when transitioning from warmer to cooler months, can be a cause for skin worries. Decreasing temperatures mean a drop in humidity, taking much-needed moisture away from your skin. The cold weather can also leave your face looking duller, prone to cracking and flaking, and even cause acne flare-ups.

Minimizing time outdoors and staying hydrated are good habits to keep up, but they may not be enough to make a significant impact. Much like changing your clothes to suit the season, the best way to battle the cold and prevent dry skin is to make changes to your skincare routine. Here are some tips perfect for keeping your skin healthy in the cold weather.

Use a humidifier

Getting a humidifier can help return and retain the moisture in your skin. It’s recommended to set the humidity level between 45% and 55% to have a significant effect on your skin. Keep the humidifier in your room, office, or any space you spend a bulk of your time in. Luckily, there are different types and sizes of humidifier units that can best suit your space.

Avoid too much heat

While the weather may have you wanting to keep warm and toasty, exposing your skin to excessive heat can also be harmful. Things like turning up the thermostat and taking long hot showers may drive the chill away, but also drive what little moisture your skin has.

Resist the urge to use your heater excessively and opt to layer on clothes and blankets instead. It’s also recommended to limit your showers to 15 minutes or less with warm water rather than hot.

Moisturize well and often

take care of your skin in cold weather

Given that the cold weather can make your skin dry, investing in a good moisturizer is an absolute must. Ideally, your choice of moisturizer should contain ingredients like glycerin, which hydrates the skin, and ceramides, which provides hydration and creates a barrier to lock in the moisture.

When applying your moisturizer after a bath, make sure to pat your skin dry instead of rubbing. Your skin should still be slightly damp as you use the moisturizer on your face. A body moisturizer can address dry skin on other parts of your body exposed to the elements, like your hands.

Adding more moisturizing steps to your routine, such as masks and overnight creams, can help give your skin the boost of moisture it needs further.

Put on sunblock

This may sound counterintuitive during cold weather, especially if it’s cloudy and dark outside. While the sun may not be out, its harmful UV rays can still reach you, causing damage to your skin. On sunnier winter days, the snow can reflect the sun’s rays, increasing your UV exposure and putting your skin at risk.

Sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide are very effective, as these ingredients create a layer that filters out the worst of the UV rays. Make sure to avoid sunscreens with comedogenic ingredients to prevent the chance of breakouts.

Lessen facial exfoliating

During colder months, take a step back from regular exfoliation in your skincare routine. With the weather drying out your skin, you won’t be doing it any favors by using facial scrubs or exfoliating toners. If you’re suffering from dehydrated skin, it’s better to cut it out of your routine entirely until the weather changes.

Go for gentler products

Given that your skin will be prone to drying and irritation in cold weather, you’ll need to switch to mild products. Choose cleansers and toners that don’t strip the natural moisture of your skin.

Astringents like alcohol can work against your efforts to keep the skin hydrated. It’s also advisable to use soaps made with natural oils in order to add another source of moisture for your skin.

Additionally, steer clear of skincare products that have synthetic fragrances and colors, which can aggravate any skin issues. It helps to keep in mind the difference between unscented and fragrance-free—the former makes use of a masking scent while the latter has no additional ingredients and feature the product’s natural smell.

Wear soft clothing

taking care of your skin in cold weather

You may be prioritizing warmth over comfort for your winter wardrobe, but common cold-weather fabrics can aggravate your skin, making it itchy and irritated on top of being dry. If you have to venture out into the cold, having abrasive fabrics like wool and polyester directly on your skin can cause further irritation, especially around the neck area.

Soft fabrics like cotton are a better choice for inner layers and undergarments. Heavier and warmer outerwear can be safely layered on top of these fabrics.

Make sure to keep your hands protected from the elements with gloves or mittens made from fabrics that aren’t abrasive on the skin. If needed, have cotton or silk glove liners handy to layer under wool or other similar fabric gloves.

Change out of wet clothes immediately

Wet clothes and shoes caused by treading through the snow can contribute to further skin irritation and itchiness. Additionally, going out into the cold with damp skin can cause it to get chapped more frequently. Make sure to remove wet clothing as soon as possible and avoid letting wet skin be exposed to the elements.

You can’t change the weather but you can change and adapt to it. By following these steps, your skin will thank you once you return to more fair-weathered months. Should you experience excessive dryness or irritation, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist for a more specialized solution.

The post 8 Skin Care Tips for the Cold Weather appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Marriott International announces partnership with Grab in six Southeast Asian countries

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the hospitality industry especially hard, and hotels around the world are looking for ways to regain revenue. Today, Marriott International and Grab announced a partnership that will cover the hospitality giant’s dining businesses in six Southeast Asian countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Instead of room bookings, Marriott International deal with Grab focuses on about 600 restaurants and bars at its properties in the six Southeast Asian countries, which will start being added to GrabFood’s on-demand delivery platform in November. A joint announcement from the companies said the deal represents Marriott International’s “first extensive integration with a super app platform in Southeast Asia and Grab’s most comprehensive agreement with a hospitality group to date.”

Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel company. During the second quarter, as the pandemic curtailed travel and in-person events, it reported a loss of $234 million, compared to the profit of $232 million it had recorded a year earlier. Chief executive Arne Sorenson called it “the worst quarter we have ever seen,” even though business is gradually recovering in China.

The Marriott-Grab integration means the two companies will link their loyalty programs, so GrabRewards points can be converted to Marriott Bonvoy points, or vice versa. Marriott International’s restaurants and bars that accept GrabPay will also have access to Grab’s Merchant Discovery platform, which will allow them to ping users about local deals and includes a marketing campaign platform called GrabAds.

Other hospitality businesses that Grab already partners with include Booking.com and Klook. Klook is among several travel-related companies that have recalibrated to focus on “staycations,” or services for people who can’t travel during the pandemic, but still want a break from their regular routines.

Harley-Davidson is releasing an electric bicycle so you can say you ride a Harley

Harley-Davidson is releasing an electric bicycle so you can say you ride a Harley

On Nov. 16 Harley-Davidson is revealing its newest bike: an actual bicycle. 

The Serial 1 is the first electric bicycle in what will be a new product line from the American motorcycle maker. Harley-Davidson introduced its first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, last year, but hit production issues (with the battery) quickly.

The company isn’t sharing much about the new bike’s capabilities or even its price, but a spokesperson wrote in an email that it’s intended for motorcycle enthusiasts, commuters, and first-timers. It will be an electric-assist bicycle, meaning when you pedal the electric motor a battery will provide some extra power for your ride.  Read more…

More about Electric Vehicles, E Bike, Harley Davidson, Tech, and Transportation

Google Search Engine Ranking Factors To Change Search In 2021: Core Web Vitals, E-A-T, or AMP?

By now, everyone must be aware that the most popular search engine available is Google. Even though there are different search engines such as Yahoo or Bing, Google stands on top. Moreover, not to forget, it is already stated that there exists over 200 Google ranking factors. But you see, every ranking factor is different.

That’s why you cannot use the same Search Engine Optimization methods or focus on only particular ranking factors. Since the Google algorithm is never static, so is the top ranking factors. One popular way to enhance the search result or enhance search engine optimization is through premium quality guest posting services.

An added benefit of guest post services is that you can do optimization as per the newest Google algorithms. You can also expand and improve your digital marketing services by getting more exposure, growth in networking, high opt-in rate, and building relationships.

Whatever or however the search optimization is, it’s a fact that those 200 ranking factors are not vague. They are used by Google to influence the rankings of organic search pages. Out of loads of ranking factors, the few important ones considered are related to Backlinks, Content, Speed, Keywords, Domain factors, Core Web Vitals, Website structure, and many more. But here, we will specifically talk about Core Web Vitals, E-A-T, and AMP.

Core Web Vitals

core web vitals
Via akshayranganath.github.io

To understand Core Web Vitals, first, you have to know about Web Vitals. In general, Web Vitals help guide quality signals on the web to provide the users with a great experience (Page Experience signals). Thus, Core Web Vitals are the subset of the Web Vitals.

Other general Web Vitals evaluate page experience through signals like safe browsing, HTTPS, mobile-friendliness, and intrusive interstitials. These are the traditional ranking signals. But the Core Web Vitals are evolving and now have three specific metrics for user interaction: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

  • LCP/Largest Contentful Paint: It measures the loading performance of the webpage. LCP occurring within 2.5 seconds is considered as a good user experience.
  • FID/First Input Delay: It measures the interactivity of the webpage. Pages having an FID of not more than 100 milliseconds is considered a good user experience.
  • CLS/Cumulative Layout Shift: It measures the visual stability of the webpage. A page that has a CLS of not more than 0.1 is considered a good user experience.

Google has also set some specific guidelines of these metrics into Good, Needs Improvement, and Poor. Core Web Vitals are now going to be one of the top official ranking requirements. So, your webpage has to now reach the minimum threshold limit set by Core Web Vitals, since search engine rankings are one of the priorities for digital marketers.

E-A-T

google eat
Via blog.animonlive.com

E-A-T is the shorthand form of “Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness.” It is a set of quality standards set by Google to evaluate websites and review an individual. The evaluation is done offline, or to say, reviewed manually. E-A-T, each of them has a set of different criteria for evaluation.

  • Expertise: If you are to evaluate a guest post, here, the expertise will be to check the content-level related to the subject matter. And in the case of a website, it needs to have suitable credentials like recognition from an external party. To evaluate an individual, you can assess their relevant experience or degree in that field of work.
  • Authoritativeness: If you are to evaluate a website’s authority on a particular content, you can check the ratings and reviews given by the external sources and the rater. And in the case of an individual, you can assess the author’s number of citations, the content’s quality, and where they appear.
  • Trustworthiness: If you are in doubt and want to validate a website’s trustworthiness, you can simply have a look at the “About Us” page, the customer service information, or the site having a secure connection or not. And in the case of an individual, their authoritativeness will show their worthiness too.

It is safe to say that E-A-T is really effective in evaluating content related to Your Money or Your Life pages, which will be helpful for guest posting services. If you consider E-A-T as a ranking factor and wish to appear on top, then your attention should be specific toward the website’s content and its presentation.

According to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, websites that prioritize E-A-T should maintain a few guidelines like content quality, topical focus, brand strength, author’s name, and trust-building. E-A-T score can be improved by building more backlinks. In short, it might be crucial for guest posting services.

AMP

google accelerated mobile pages
Via digitalvidya.com

AMP is short for “Accelerated Mobile Pages.” Google described AMP as an open-source project designed to help the web publishers create optimized content that loads instantaneously on phones or any other device. It allows the user to access any page or website instantly on any device that is being used.

Google’s AMP product manager has stated that the duration of loading an AMP-coded content is just 0.7 seconds, and for a non-AMP page is 22 seconds. AMP HTML has also helped the site owners create light-weight web pages because AMP’s core is caching.

Nowadays, AMP has become a crucial part while forming a balanced marketing strategy because Google has been prioritizing AMPs in search results. In today’s competitive world, AMP is indirectly supporting the mobile users by enhancing the loading speed of the webpages in their search results.

But to be clear, it is not a search engine ranking factor. It is not designed to control the user’s data. Due to the fast load time of the page, the page views will also rise. There will be more ads too, which will result in a CTR increase.

The key advantage of AMP in the online marketing world or for digital marketing services is the speedier load time of the webpages. Thus, there may be a possible increase in the number of readers which may lead to higher rankings. Since Google has made AMP an open-source, developers get the opportunity to do additional developments too.

The post Google Search Engine Ranking Factors To Change Search In 2021: Core Web Vitals, E-A-T, or AMP? appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Harley-Davidson is getting into the electric bicycle business

Harley-Davidson has spun out a new business dedicated to electric bicycles and plans to bring its first line of products to market in spring 2021.

The new business called Serial 1 Cycle Company started as a project within the motorcycle manufacturer’s product development center. The name comes from “Serial Number One,” the nickname for Harley-Davidson’s oldest known motorcycle.

The pedal assist electric bicycle company is being launched amid a booming ebike industry fueled by growing demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global eBicycle market was estimated to be over $15 billion in 2019 and projected to grow at an annual rate of more than 6% from 2020 to 2025, according to Harley-Davidson.

The new Harley-Davidson brand Serial 1 didn’t provide performance details or other specs of its new line of electric bike products. However, the company did release several photos of its first model.

Harley-Davidson-ebike

Image Credits: Harley-Davidson

The new business launch also comes at a critical time for the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer, which has seen its sales slow as its core customer base ages out of its motorcycles.

In July, Harley-Davidson cut 700 jobs from its global operations as part of an internally branded restructuring plan called “The Rewire.” The plan, which Harley-Davidson chairman, president and CEO Jochen Zeitz first spoke about in the company’s first-quarter earnings call back in April, followed the launch of the company’s first production electric motorcycle the Livewire.

“The formation of Serial 1 allows Harley-Davidson to play a key role in this mobility revolution while allowing Serial 1 to focus exclusively on the eBicycle customer and deliver an unmatched riding experience rooted in freedom and adventure,” Aaron Frank, the new company’s brand director said in a statement.

Harley-Davidson said Jason Huntsman is president of Serial 1 Cycle. The rest of the executive team includes Ben Lund, who is vice president of product development and Hannah Altenburg as lead brand marketing specialist.

New ‘Magic: The Gathering’ Commander Legends cards give the gift of salamanders

New 'Magic: The Gathering' Commander Legends cards give the gift of salamanders

Magic: The Gathering‘s upcoming Commander Legends expansion isn’t like other sets. While most of the game’s expansions are designed to work with traditional two-player gameplay formats, the 361 new cards arriving in November have Magic’s four-player Commander format in mind.

“[F]our players means that just trying to go after one player quickly isn’t an effective way to win,” senior game designer Gavin Verhey told Mashable via email. “You have to play the long game, and think about how you can use your resources to fight off three opponents… ‘I’ll attack Gavin instead of you if you don’t attack me next turn… deal?’ is the kind of thing you hear plenty of.” Read more…

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Why TO-DO Lists Are Bad For Time Management And What To Do Instead

Being able to manage our time effectively is without a doubt one of the best “superpowers” we can possess. In fact, according to a recent study by IBM surveying over 2 million professionals, it was identified as the second most important skill to master in this new era of work.

Let’s be clear, time management is no easy task. However, I believe the main problem behind our poor relationship with it is our inability to look at it more holistically. We often consider it as a linear and isolated variable and, when in fact, there are at least two other factors profoundly impacting it the way we manage it: ourselves and unpredictability.

As we’ve all had the chance to experience directly, our mental and emotional states decide whether we’ll succeed in our best intentions or fall short in them. Moreover, while we’d love life events to be always straightforward, the reality is most times they’re not. As a result, what’s needed to develop greater time management is mental and emotional agility. Curious to know what the number 1 skill in the IBM study was? Adaptability to change!

THE PROBLEM WITH TO-DOs

why to do lists dont work

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to time management is believing a TO-DO list will do the trick for us. Nothing further from the truth! The problem with TO-DO lists is they are not time-bound as we are not assigning defined deadlines for each task: a rather poor approach considering time is the one element we are trying to master. No wonder studies show how bad we are at estimating how long it will take us to complete our tasks.

The second problem with TO-DO lists is they don’t tackle one of the most important aspects of time management: prioritisation.

Prioritisation is an art and while there is no one size fits all, it’s a necessary condition for greater productivity. It turns out, prioritising, according to science, is one of the hardest activities for our brain to perform. Therefore, having clear methodologies to help us make the most of our time is a great asset to own.

You might be familiar with the Eisenhower matrix where the idea is to categorise tasks by their level of urgency and importance in a two by two matrix. This is to identify and tackle the ones that score highest in urgency and importance. While this may be a useful approach, the problem is it doesn’t consider our mental and emotional relationship with those tasks, which inevitably impact our ability to be effective.

What to do INSTEAD

Despite the many great hacks out there, the most important aspect to cultivate for greater time management is self-awareness. Taking the time to understand when you are most energised in your day, knowing what comes easy to you vs what comes hard, and knowing what kind of work requires a different type of thinking are necessary conditions to operate efficiently as a professional.

Once you are clear on these aspects, applying different hacks and techniques to boost your productivity can indeed become fruitful. One useful framework to always keep in mind when thinking about time management is to view it as a combination of task-management with emotional and mental self-management.

Taking your TO DO list to the next level with 4 powerful tips

reasons why to do lists dont work

  1. Focus on time boxing. This means putting a deadline for each task as that forces you to be more accountable and accurate. While it might be tricky at first, over time, you will become much better at your predictions.
  2. Master time boxing. According to science, you can achieve the best results by using sprints: each task should not be longer than 60 to 90 minutes. This is because our brain energy is finite, and to keep sustainable productivity levels throughout our day, we must give our brain a break of about 5 to 10 min in between tasks so that it can regain its power and focus.
  3. Reimagine prioritisation. When doing this activity, make sure you are in the equation too. What does this mean? Consider your current energy levels and how inspiring or demanding your upcoming activities are. By taking this holistic approach, you’ll ensure not only to be more effective but also smarter in the way you tackle your day as you will have the motivation and energy needed to power through. No point in doing all the most important and urgent activities first if by midday you have no energy left to think straight!
  4. Reverse engineer your TO-DO. While knowing the things you need to achieve in your day is important, having a TO DON’T LIST is equally powerful. As we live in a world of constant distraction and temptation, listing out all the things you need to avoid what hinders your productivity and well-being can go a long way.

Time management is an ever-evolving process that goes hand in hand with your evolution and personal growth. Keep experimenting and have fun with it. You’ll learn things about yourself you never thought you would!

The post Why TO-DO Lists Are Bad For Time Management And What To Do Instead appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

This stacked cybersecurity bundle includes 22 online courses for under £50

This stacked cybersecurity bundle includes 22 online courses for under £50

TL;DR: The Complete InfoSec & Business Continuity Bundle is on sale for £45.22 as of Oct. 27, saving you 99% on list price.


The internet is a scary place. Now that people spend more time online than ever, the world wide web has become even more dangerous. Cybercrime is alarmingly rampant, costing companies billions and compromising the privacy of millions of individuals. It is not surprising that organisations of all sizes are tripping over themselves to hire cybersecurity experts to protect their networks from digital threats.

If you want to take advantage of this demand and explore a career in cybersecurity, the Complete 2020 Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking Bundle offers training in practically every corner of the industry. Boasting 22 courses put together by iCollege, this bundle will arm you with essential skills and prep you to earn the certifications you need to find success in the IT industry. Read more…

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Former Facebook and Pinterest exec Tim Kendall traces “extractive business models” to VCs

Last month, former Facebook and Pinterest executive Tim Kendall told Congress during a House hearing on the dangers of social media that Facebook made its products so addictive because its ad-driven business model relies on people paying attention to its product longer every day. He said much the same in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” in which Kendall — along with numerous other prominent early employees of big tech companies — warns of the threat that Facebook and others pose to modern society.

Kendall — who today runs Moment, an app that helps users monitor device habits and reinforces positive screen-time behavior — isn’t done campaigning against his former employer yet. On Friday morning, we talked with him about the FTC inching closer to filing an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook for its market power in social networking; what he thinks of the DOJ’s separate antitrust lawsuit against Google, filed last Tuesday; and how venture capital contributed to the “unnatural” ways the companies have commanded our attention — and advertisers’ dollars along with it.

Our conversation has been excerpted. You can hear the full conversation here.

TC: Like everyone else, you wrestle with addiction to the apps on your phone. At what point did you decide that you wanted to take a more public role in helping to identify the problem and potentially help solve it.

TK:  I’ve always been interested in willpower, and the various things that weaken it. I have addiction in various parts of my family and extended family, and I’ve seen up close substance abuse, drug abuse. And as I started to look at this problem, it felt really similar. It’s the same shape and size as being addicted to drugs or having a behavioral addiction to food or shopping. But it didn’t seem like anyone was treating this with the same gravity.

TC: What has been the reaction of your colleagues to you turning the tables on this industry?

TK: It has evolved in the sense that, at the beginning of this, I was kinder to Facebook. When I started talking publicly about my work with Moment, I said, ‘Look, I think that those folks are focused on the right issues. And I think they’re going to solve the problem.’ And I was out there throughout 2018, saying that. Now I’ve gotten a lot more vocal [about the fact that] I don’t think they’re doing enough. And I don’t think it’s happening quickly enough. I think they’re absolutely negligent. And I think the negligence is really about not fully and accurately understanding what their platforms are doing to individuals and what their platforms are doing to society. I just do not think they have their arms around it in a complete way.

Is that deliberate? Is that because they’re delusional? I don’t know. But I know that the impact is very serious. And they are not aligned with the rest of us in terms of how severe and significant that impact is.

I think everyone within Facebook has confirmation bias, probably in the same way that I have confirmation bias. I am picking out the family at the restaurant that’s not looking at each other and staring at their phones and thinking, ‘Look at Facebook, it’s ruining families.’ That’s my confirmation bias. I think their confirmation bias is ‘There’s so much good that Facebook has done and is doing for the world.’ I can’t dispute that, and I suspect that the leaders there are looking to those cases more often and dismissing the severity of the cases that we talk about, [including] arguably tipping the election in 2016, propagating conspiracy theories, propagating misinformation.

TC: Do you think that Facebook has to be regulated the FTC?

TK: I think that something has to change. What I would really like to see is the leaders of government all over the world, the consumers that really care about this issue, and then the leaders of the company get together and maybe at the start it’s just a discussion about where we are. But if we could just agree on the common set of facts of the situation that we’re in, and the impact that these platforms are having on our world, if we could just get some alignment in a non-adversarial dynamic, I believe that there is a path whereby [all three can] come together and say, ‘Look, this doesn’t work. The business model is incongruent with the long-term well-being of society, and therefore —  not unlike how fossil fuels are incongruent with the long-term prospects for Earth, we need to have a reckoning and then create and a path out of it.’

Strict regulation that’s adversarial, I’m not sure is going to solve the problem. And it’s just going to be a drawn-out battle whereby more individuals are going to get sick [from addiction to their phones], and [companies like Facebook are] going to continue to wreak havoc on society.

TC: If this antitrust action is not necessarily the answer, what potentially could be on the regulatory front, assuming these three are not going to come together on their own?

TK: Congress and the Senate are looking really closely at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that allows — and has allowed since it got put in place in 1996 — platforms like Google and Facebook to operate in a very different way than your traditional media company does, in that they’re not liable for the content that shows up on their network.

That seemed like a great idea in 1996. And it did foster a lot of innovation because these bulletin board and portal-ike services were able to grow unabated as they didn’t have to deal with the liability issues on every piece of content that got posted on their platform. But you fast forward to today, it sure seems like one of the ways that we could solve misinformation and conspiracy theories and this tribalism that seems to take root by virtue of the social networks.

If you rewind five or 10 years ago, the issue that really plagued Facebook and to a lesser extent, Google, was privacy. And the government threatened Facebook again and again and again, and it never did anything about it. And finally, in 2019, it assessed a $5 billion fine and then ongoing penalties beyond that  for issues around privacy. And it’s interesting. It’s been a year since those were put in place, and we haven’t had any issues around privacy with Facebook.

TC: You were tasked with developing Facebook’s ad-driven business and coming up with a way for Pinterest to monetize its users. As someone who understands advertising as well as you do, what do you think about this case that the DOJ has brought against Google. What’s your hot take?

TK: If you’re trying to start an online business, and you want to monetize that business through advertising, it’s not impossible, but it is an incredibly steep uphill battle.

Pinterest ultimately broke through when I was president of Pinterest and working on their revenue business. But the dominance of both Google and Facebook within advertising makes it really difficult for new entrants. The advertisers don’t want to buy from you because they basically can get to anyone they want in a very effective way through Google and Facebook. And so what do they need Pinterest for? What do they need Snap for? Why do they need XYZZ startup tomorrow?

That’s on the advertising side. On the search side, Google has been stifling competition for years, and I mean that less in terms of allowing new entrants into search — although the government may be asserting that. I actually mean it in terms of content providers and publishers. They’ve been stifling Yelp for years. They’ve been basically trying to create these universal search boxes that provide the same local information that Yelp does. [Yelp] shows up organically  when I search for sandwich shops in downtown San Mateo, but then [Google puts] their own stuff above it and push it down to create a wedge to hurt Yelp’s business so that [Google] can support and build up their own local business. That’s anti-competitive.

TC: Along with running Moment, you’ve been talking with startups that are addressing some of the issues we’re seeing right now, including startups that tell you if a news outlet is left- and right-leaning so you’re aware of any biases ahead of time. Would you ever raise a fund? We’re starting to see these solo GPs raise pretty enormous first-time funds and people seemingly just as happily entrust their money to you.

TK. I think traditional venture capital, with traditional limited partners, and the typical timeframe of seven years from when the money goes in and the money needs to come out, created some of the problems that we have today. I think that companies are put in a position, once they take traditional venture capital, to do unnatural things and grow in unnatural ways. Absolutely the social networks that took venture capital felt the pressure at the board level from traditional venture capitalists to grow the user base faster and monetize it more quickly. And all those things led to this extractive business model that we’re looking at today with a critical eye and saying, ‘Oh, whoops, maybe this business model is creating an outcome that we don’t really like.’

If I ever took outside money to do more serious professional-grade investing, I would only take it from wealthy individuals and there would be an explicit term that basically said, ‘There’s no time horizon. You don’t get your money back in seven to 10 years necessarily.’ I think that’s the criteria you need to have if you’re really going to do investing in a way that doesn’t contribute to the problems and misaligned incentives that we’re dealing with today.

8 Logical Reasons Why Failure is the Pillar of Success

We have all experienced failures, either big or small. They are life events that, admittedly, are not great experiences and can bring us a lot of negative thoughts.

When we fail at something, we generally have two choices to consider. Either we keep going to try succeeding in what we’ve failed at, or we quit and say goodbye to our goals and dreams.

Choosing the former means that failures won’t stop us and persisting is always a good choice. Why? Here are some logical reasons why failure is the pillar of success, something that’s even crucial if we want to achieve our goals in life.

Failure gives us lessons to succeed that other experiences can’t

As Bill Gates said, “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” When we fail, we learn things such as what don’t work, possible mistakes, real risks, and others. We learn those that cannot be learned so clearly in other situations. This ability to see things more clearly is relevant for success.

Therefore, when failures happen, we should find the lessons that we can use as cautions in the future. They may become important notes to help us determine what next move to take.

Failure humbles us to think that nothing is easy to get

When we have the right mindset, we can acknowledge failures as signs that we must work harder. Nothing in life that is worth it comes easy and that is also true for the ultimate success that we’ve always dreamed of. Failures can remind us of that fact, making us more motivated to put in the effort.

Success, after all, is something that can only be achieved by working hard consistently.

Failure makes us fine-tune our work approach to perfection

reasons why failure is good for success

As failures help us realize our lapses, we will naturally learn what is right. It will force us to tweak the process and our approach of doing things in order to achieve progress.

Because of this, each point where we have failed should hone our work approach gradually. The new methods that will arise from our mistakes should be better compared to the initial ones we used when we were just starting.

Failure strengthens our mentality

A strong mentality is needed even after securing success. Many competitions and naysayers can knock us down if we don’t have the right mentality for maintaining our accomplishments. The journey that we take from the bottom to the position of success should prepare our mentality for that.

Each failure that we overcome during the journey rightfully strengthens our toughness. That should be a useful pillar for the mentality that we need to have when we achieve our goals.

Failure increases our appreciation of success

When we finally succeed after lots of failures on the way to the top, how do you think that feels? Immense satisfaction, right? Something that must be fought hard to get is much more valuable to us than the one that required less efforts.

The failures that we experienced on the road to success should make our achievements more valuable. This level of appreciation will also give us higher motivation to sustain our success or even improve it further to another level.

Failure sometimes creates valuable opportunities to succeed

Failures can also lead to other opportunities, which can be an important foundation for your success in the future.

To point out, let’s say that you are fired from your job. You may feel that you failed immensely because of this. However, this might also open the opportunity to start a business that you’ve always wanted. The time that you never had before is now at your disposal, allowing you to explore other possibilities.

When you fail, try to see it positively and carefully look at the opportunities that might be opened. They might become essential factors for you to succeed in the future.

Failure tests our resolve whether our goals are the right success for us or not

reasons failure is good for success

Do you have a strong resolve to something that you say you want to achieve? When your goals aren’t that meaningful, failures might be your wake-up call telling you that you’re supposed to do something else. It can also be the moment when you have to compare the efforts needed with the things you will get if you succeed.

If these goals are meaningful enough for you, then you should keep on pursuing them. If not, then you might want to think about your goals again and re-evaluate your definition of success. Hence, failures can also help you discover what your true aim in life is.

Failure is something that most successful people have experienced

It is always good to benchmark with those who have already made it before us. When we look at the success stories of successful people, most of them have experienced failures on their way to the top. Big or small, those experiences are important parts of the success that they now enjoy.

Do you want to succeed, too? Then there is little to suggest that you won’t go through struggles and setbacks like those before you have experienced.

The Takeaway

Failures make successful people who they are. They become the contributing factors that direct them to the top. Acknowledging this should make you believe more that failure is a crucial part of success. After all, this has been tested by those who have experienced success before us.

So, what do you think about the notion that failure is the pillar of success? Have you thought that, somehow, success is more attainable with lessons gained from failures?

Don’t let failures stop you in achieving the things that give your life joy, pride, and meaning. Instead, make them an essential part of your progress.

The post 8 Logical Reasons Why Failure is the Pillar of Success appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

This beginner-friendly course teaches you how to write a successful script

This beginner-friendly course teaches you how to write a successful script

TL;DR: The Screenwriting Made Easy: 2020 Beginner Course is on sale for £22.22 as of Oct. 26, saving you 85% on list price.


Great works of art are often created during times of complete chaos. When people are forced to stop, reflect, and think of new ways to use their voices in the world, the results can be truly amazing. While you may not have thought of yourself as a screenwriter thus far in your lifetime, now may be your moment.

And if cinema is your medium of choice, this Screenwriting Made Easy: 2020 Beginner Course could be your ticket to (virtual) Sundance. You’ve binged enough Netflix to know what it takes, so now, it’s your turn to write one. Read more…

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Esports pioneer Dino Ying talks to TechCrunch about the next phase of VSPN

Following the news that China’s esport giant VSPN (Versus Programming Network) has raised close to $100 million in a Series B funding round, led by Tencent Holdings, TechCrunch interviewed founder and CEO Dino Ying via email about his strategy for the company.

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Shanghai, VSPN was one of the early pioneer in esports tournament organization and content creation out of Asia. It has since expanded into other businesses including offline venue operation.

VSPN began hosting the first large-scale esport event with offline audiences in August, although tournaments now operate under strict COVID-19 prevention measures.

TechCrunch: VSPN has a large content production ecosystem surrounding its esports activity. Can you expand on the detail behind your stated short-form video strategy? Will this involve TikTok?

Ying: VSPN intends to use our world-class video production capabilities and industry insights to create different forms of content. We will give our existing fans and a wider audience a new and vivid esports experience. Kuaishou, as our investors and a strategic partner, will support in all ways as a media platform to help our content reach more users. Short-form video is an important part of our future strategy and we look forward to working with platforms all over the world in this regard.

TC: What is VSPN’s share of the eSports market?

Ying: There is no official estimation of the size of the esports market but VSPN is far the largest esports organization in China, with over 1000+ employees and covering every major esports tournament you’ve ever heard of. By many measures, we are the largest esports organization in the world and will continue to expand.

TC: Why do you think Shanghai has become a center for esports?

Ying: As the biggest and perhaps most international city in China, it has a vibrant and increasingly sophisticated economy. Tech innovation and new industries are actively encouraged to grow here.

The Shanghai government has implemented supportive measures and policies to encourage the growth of esports both domestically and internationally. Thanks to these measures Shanghai has become an international hub for the biggest and best tournaments in the world

VSPN events have returned, despite COVID-19

VSPN events have returned, despite COVID-19

TC: How important is research into eSports for VSPN and why?

Ying: It is vital for VSPN. As an esports total solutions provider aiming to build a sustainable global esports ecosystem, data and R&D allows us to give our fans a richer experience. The research center will allow us to continually improve as a company and develop the industry.

TC: You are the cofounder and chairman and CEO by title. What is the role of cofounder Ethan Teng?

Ying: Ethan Teng is Co-founder and president of VSPN. Ethan as one of the most important partners of VSPN, with his dedicated esports industry experience, he plays a vital role in leading and managing the company’s strategic goal setting and day to day management.

TC: What is the nature of the strategic relationship with Tencent?

Ying: VSPN is a key partner of Tencent in the esports industry. With Tencent’s support, VSPN has built a leading position in esports tournament content production. Since the emergence of esports in China, our deep-rooted industry expertise has helped further develop the esports ecosystem to grow and mature. Alongside Tencent we will continue to generate new opportunities within the industry.

TC: What made you choose these partners and why? What was the strategic thinking behind these decisions?

Ying: Together with Kuaishou, VSPN aims to establish an esports short-form video ecosystem to diversify existing content, and to build the connections between top quality creators and channels. With an extensive portfolio in the consumer and TMT sectors, both Tiantu Capital and SIG will utilize their industry insights and expertise to aid VSPN’s strategic development. With our investors, we will empower esports to be the new sports for the next generation.

TC: In addition to the core esports tournament and content production business, VSPN has branded esports venues. How important are these other businesses – like the venues – to the core offering of VSPN? What sort of growth do you expect in the next few years?

Ying: Regardless of business lines, VSPN’s core mission is to provide the best eSports experiences for our fans. And these experiences include not just online viewing experiences, but also offline ones where fans physically attend. We see our offline business as a natural way to extend our services to our fans; it is an important supplement to our overall offerings. We expect to grow it per our fans’ and partner’s demands.

TC: Mobile esports, especially the KPL and PUBG MOBILE (or Peacekeeper Elite in China), have attracted more and more female audiences. What is the future of eSports among women / girls?
Ying: Mobile gaming has really helped extend eSports’ reach to female participants and audiences. Rightfully so, we see a future of eSports where female participants take a more prominent role than they have done. Not just on stage as athletes, but also off stage as fans and more importantly backstage as top quality producers and decision-makers in the industry. The impact of having more female fans, athletes and professionals is exciting and will be hugely beneficial to the wider industry.

TC: What is the future of esports in Augmented Reality?

Ying: We think eSports in its full form will look and feel a lot different from what we’ve seen so far in sports and entertainment. The possibility of integrating real world gaming and virtual competitions is fascinating. VSPN is only beginning to test the boundaries of new technologies such as AR, VR. The emergence of these technologies will help us create fresher experiences, and the possibilities are endless.

VSPN headquarters

VSPN headquarters

TC: Please tell us more about your personal history?

Ying: Firstly, thank you for having me – it is a real pleasure to speak to TechCrunch and be able to announce our fundraise to the world. I have been working in the gaming and esports industry all my life and I’m excited about the future. With the team at VSPN we are proud to be pioneers in the esports industry.

I live between Beijing and Shanghai, but I spend a lot of my time travelling to other Chinese cities like Xi’an, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shenzhen where we have esports arenas and business interests. Usually I travel internationally to some of our overseas operations and competitions, so I look forward to that when travel becomes easier.

I am a fan of traditional sports too and an avid football fan. I follow some of the European leagues – whenever I can, I go to matches to enjoy the atmosphere; I went to Stamford Bridge early this year and loved it, but seeing the AC vs Inter Derby live is hard to beat…

TC: Why did you get into this business and how?

Ying: Mostly because I am a HUGE gaming fan! I’ve been playing computer games since I was a teenager and enjoy playing all types. Earlier this year I played COD Warzone as soon as it came out and often play PUBG Mobile; I’m extremely lucky to be in an industry which I’ve loved since I was very young. It’s a great way to connect with friends and I am proud to have worked in game development and publishing for my whole career. 5 years ago, esports seemed like the obvious next step because of the competitive element. We saw the beginnings of a trend and founded VSPN with a world-class team to make that potential a reality.

VSPN is very proud to be leading the world in a relatively new industry. We think esports will continue to grow exponentially and will be an incredibly important part of the entertainment industry in years to come. To lead a Chinese company with a global future is really exciting.

TC: What motivates you as a businessman?

Ying: Bringing new forms of entertainment to millions of people around the world and building a global business.

TC: Who inspires you most in the business world?

There are so many fantastic businessmen in China who are doing some really innovative things at the moment. For example, the live-streaming industry has become enormous in 2020 due to the pandemic and has offered entrepreneurs a new way to sell products and engage with new audiences.

If I had to name one it would be Mark Ren (COO at Tencent Holdings) – he is an exceptional businessman. The way he has helped create sustainable ecosystems in the entertainment space and captured trends is something every businessman should aspire to. This is something VSPN works hard at and we are very proud to be such close partners of Tencent.

TC: What is your opinion of Silicon Valley?

Ying: It’s an amazing place and has shown the world how technology can improve lives all over the world. For many years it has led the world as a centre for creativity and innovation and continues to be an inspiration to entrepreneurs around the world. In China, we have lots of Silicon Valleys!

TC: Is there anything else you’d like to say to TechCrunch readers?

Ying: This has been a challenging year for many businesses and the esports industry has had to adapt, but I think the world has seen how big esports is and how it can bring communities and cultures together. As the industry grows there will bigger and bigger online and offline tournaments across the world, especially with 5G and mobile gaming becoming even more popular. We look forward to being at the forefront of esports for competitors all over the world and hopefully some of your readers will enjoy watching our original content and tournaments.

Finally, with celebrities and big brands seeing live streaming and casual gaming as a new way to engage with a wider audience, the future for VSPN is very, very bright.

Here’s how to unlock American Prime Video from the UK

Here's how to unlock American Prime Video from the UK

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We hate to break this to you, but there are absolutely loads of shows and films on American Prime Video that aren’t available in the UK. Geo-restrictions are to blame, and the only way of bypassing these blockades is to use a VPN.

Most of the leading VPN providers claim to be able to unblock the leading streaming sites like Prime Video, Netflix, and Disney+, but ExpressVPN is probably the best. ExpressVPN reliably unblocks Prime Video with super-fast connection speeds that make streaming easy. Read more…

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Samsung chairman dies at age 78

Lee Kun-hee, the long-time chairman of Samsung Group who transformed the conglomerate into one of the world’s largest business empires, died today at the age of 78, according to reports from South Korean leading news agency Yonhap.

The story of Samsung is deeply intertwined with the history of its home country, which is sometimes dubbed “The Republic of Samsung.” Lee, the son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul, came to power in the late 1980s just as South Korea transitioned from dictatorship to democracy with the political handover from military strongman Chun Doo-hwan to Roh Tae-woo. Under his management, Samsung spearheaded initiatives across a number of areas in electronics, including semiconductors, memory chips, displays, and other components that are the backbone of today’s digital devices.

Lee navigated the challenging economic troubles of the 1990s, including the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which saw a near collapse of the economies of South Korea and several other so-called Asian Tigers, as well as the Dot-Com bubble, which saw the collapse of internet stocks globally.

Coming out of those challenging years, Lee invested in and is probably most famous today for building up the conglomerate’s Galaxy consumer smartphone line, which evolved Samsung from an industrial powerhouse to a worldwide consumer brand. Samsung Electronics, which is just one of a spider web of Samsung companies, is today worth approximately $350 billion, making it among the most valuable companies in the world.

While his business acumen and strategic insights handling Samsung were lauded, he faced troubles in recent years. He was convicted of tax evasion in the late 2000s, but was ultimately pardoned by the country’s then president Lee Myung-bak (no relation).

Samsung has also been under fire from groups including Elliott Management over chairman Lee’s attempts to secure the financial future of Samsung for his son, Lee Jae-yong, who took over effective leadership of the conglomerate following the elder Lee’s heart attack in 2014. Lee Jae-yong has suffered his own run-ins with the law, having been found guilty of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison, which was ultimately suspended by a judge.

After his heart attack, Lee Kun-hee remained hospitalized in stable condition according to Yonhap. Rumors of his condition have percolated in the six years since.

According to Bloomberg, Lee leaves behind roughly $20 billion in wealth, and he is the wealthiest South Korean citizen. He is survived by his wife as well as four children.

Yale may have just turned institutional investing on its head with a new diversity edict

It could be the long-awaited turning point in the world of venture capital and beyond. Yale, whose $32 billion endowment has been led since 1985 by the legendary investor David Swensen, just let its 70 U.S. money managers across a variety of asset classes know that for the school, diversity has now moved front and center.

According to the WSJ, Swensen has told the firms that from here on out, they will be measured annually on their progress in increasing the diversity of their investment staff, from hiring to training to mentoring to their retention of women and minorities.

Those that show little improvement may see the prestigious university pull its money, Swensen tells the outlet.

It’s hard to overstate the move’s significance. Though Yale’s endowment saw atypically poor performance last year, Swensen, at 66, is among the most highly regarded money managers in the world, growing Yale’s endowment from $1 billion when he joined as a 31-year-old former grad student of the school, to the second-largest school endowment in the country after Harvard, which currently manages $40 billion.

Credited for developing the so-called Yale Model, which is short on public equities and long on commitments to venture shops, private equity funds, hedge funds, and international investments, Swensen has inspired legions of other endowment managers, many of whom worked for him previously, including the current endowment heads of Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania.

It isn’t a stretch to imagine these managers and many others will again follow Swensen’s decision, one that was inspired by the growing diversity with Yale itself. Should such metrics become standard, they could dramatically change the stubbornly intractable world of money management, which remains mostly white and mostly male.

Indeed, while the dearth of woman and minorities within the ranks of venture firms may not be news to readers, a 2019 study commissioned by the Knight Foundation and cited by the WSJ underscores how big an issue it remains across asset classes. Women- and minority-owned firms held less than 1% of assets managed by mutual funds, hedge funds, private-equity funds and real-estate funds in 2017, even though their performance was on a par with such firms.

As for why Swensen didn’t write this letter much sooner to universe of fund managers backed by Yale, Swensen tells that WSJ that he has long talked about diversity with them but that he held off on asking for systematic changes owing to a belief, in part, that there were not enough diverse candidates entering into asset management.

Inspired by the Black Lives Movement that gained momentum this spring, he decided it was time to take the leap anyway.

As for that perceived pipeline concern, fund managers will have to figure it out. For his part, according to the WSJ, Swensen offered a suggestion to those same U.S. managers. He proposed that they forget the similar resumes for which they’ve long looked and consider recruiting directly from college campuses.

This powerful online security service is on sale for under £2 per month

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Why You Need To Grieve The Old Normal

There is no denying that things have changed a great deal lately, and most will agree it’s not been for the better. Regardless of your opinion about the whys behind the changes, we’ve all been thrust into what’s being called a “new normal.”

The unspoken consensus is that we need to carry on, keep moving forward, and try to stay as positive as possible. And, yes, we really do, but it’s also not that simple.

The many changes 2020 has brought about mean that most of us have had to make some abrupt alterations to the way we do things. Whether it’s school, work, worship, socializing, or shopping, almost nothing is the same.

Changing suddenly to a new way of doing things on such a large scale comes with some pain and not acknowledging that pain can lead to bigger problems down the road. So, in addition to maintaining a chin-up attitude, there are some very good reasons to grieve the old normal.

Your Feelings Are Valid – No Matter What Your Situation

feeling sad at the new normal

No matter what your circumstances are, it probably feels like your world’s been turned upside down. Nothing feels secure anymore and it may seem like everything you could count on before is now gone.

So, the routines, process, and people that used to provide a stable framework for everyday life are now scrambled – and it probably feels bad, uncomfortable, wrong, and you feel powerless to change it.

But you’re okay, right? You look around and know that there are others who have it so much worse. So, what business do you have feeling sad and complaining about the way things are? You’re making it work.

The problem with that thinking, however, is that feeling guilty about feeling sad, frustrated, and scared, and ignoring those feelings doesn’t help things. No matter how well you are coping, it’s alright to feel upset and even angry.

And you need to acknowledge these feelings in order to get through them and on to a healthy place in this new environment. Of course, being angry and moping around complaining won’t change the state of things, but these feelings also won’t go away on their own.

Bottling Up Emotions Does Not Eliminate Them

If you don’t face them, share them, and give them their moment to be expressed, they will fester and eventually bubble up to the surface in a more destructive way. This is especially true when it comes to our children and teaching them to handle their emotions.

In an effort to make things less scary and difficult for kids, adults often set a poor example when it comes to handling uncomfortable feelings. We smile, tell the kids it’s all fine, that they need to stay positive, and many other well-intentioned platitudes.

What we don’t do very well is help them face their own feelings of sadness and let them grieve for the old normal. School, friends, sports, and all of the routines that made them feel safe and helped them define themselves and understand their place in their own world are now gone (or at least wildly different).

Kids need to be able to talk about how they feel and know that their feelings are normal, that they’re okay to have, and then be taught (and shown) how to cope with them. A skill that many adults still struggle with themselves.

Consequences – Further On

The repercussions of not acknowledging negative feelings can be even harder to deal with. Anxiety and depression are on the rise right now for many reasons and pretending that you’re okay and everything is fine is partially to blame. Things aren’t normal – it’s okay to say it.

Think about it like losing a loved one. Saying you shouldn’t be sad because they’re in a better place doesn’t make the sadness go away. It just makes you feel like you need to hide it and suffer alone. Neither adults nor children should feel like that.

So, take the time to let yourself feel all of those things. They’re normal, understandable, and we are all feeling them. It doesn’t matter if you’re making it work and getting through things – let’s just say it – it still sucks.

I Admit It – I’m Sad. Now What?

the new normal

Now it’s time to focus on the good parts of what’s new in your world. Yes, if you’re making a list of bad versus good, the bad column is going to be a long one. That just means you have to look a bit harder to fill in the good one.

Your feelings of grief don’t change the reality of what we are all going through right now, so once you’ve acknowledged them you can’t allow them to become the only thing you feel. You can’t force them away either, but you can start to replace them by finding the positives. And you can also manage them by taking care of and being honest with yourself.

New routines come with new comforts. They may be hard to find at first, but they are there. Maybe it’s the pleasure of working in sweatpants, or an afternoon cup of tea or nap. I heard from one woman that her teenage daughter has now discovered the fun of talking on the phone – talking, not texting.

Finding The Silver Lining

Normal right now is a moving target, and there are likely to be several versions of it before we all feel connected to a secure and comfortable new routine. When and, if, we go back to some form of the “old normal”, there will be things we will miss about our current circumstances, too.

We may not grieve in the same way – political strife and pandemics won’t be missed – but we might look back and think it was good to have slowed down a bit, spent time with the family more, and to have found a little appreciation for being forced into reprioritizing and taking a new look at the old way of doing things.

The post Why You Need To Grieve The Old Normal appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Giants quarterback’s spectacular fall is the funniest football moment of 2020

Giants quarterback's spectacular fall is the funniest football moment of 2020

No matter how much we mature as individuals and evolve as a society, there’s one thing that will always, always be funny: people falling over.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones managed to turn lemonade into a football-sized lemon during the third quarter of Thursday night’s face-off with the Philadelphia Eagles. With the Giants down 10-7, Jones held onto the ball at the snap and decided to run it himself.

At first it was the dream play: Jones took off through a gap in the Eagles’ defense and found himself alone, covering a massive 80 yards in the biggest run by a quarterback since 2015. Read more…

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India’s Flipkart buys over $200 million stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail

Flipkart is acquiring a 7.8% stake in Aditya Birla Fashion as the Walmart-owned Indian e-commerce firm makes further push into the fashion category in one of the world’s largest retail markets.

The e-commerce group will pay $203.8 million for its stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, a conglomerate that operates over 3,000 stores including the Pantaloons brand. As part of the “landmark partnership,” Flipkart will also sell and distribute various Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail’s brands products.

“This partnership is an emphatic endorsement of the growth potential of India,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, which operates the fashion retail firm in a filing to the stock exchange. “It also reflects our strong conviction in the future of the apparel industry in India, which is poised to touch $100 billion in the next 5 years.”

Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart Group, said the two companies will work toward “making available a wide range of products for fashion-conscious consumers across different retail formats across the country. We look forward to working with ABFRL and its well established and comprehensive fashion and retail infrastructure as we address the promising opportunity of the apparel industry in India.”

In July, Flipkart also invested $35 million in $35 million in Arvind Fashions, one of the decades-old Indian firm’s subsidiaries.

More to follow…

Two Newcomers to the Milk Game: Flax and Pea Milk

There seem to be as many types of milk as there are letters in the alphabet these days, and two of the newer kinds are flax milk and pea milk. We’ll go over the pros and cons of each.

Flax Milk

flax milk

According to Jenna Gorham, a registered dietitian, flax milk can be slightly sweet and thicker than other milk alternatives. It can come unsweetened and in different flavors.

Flax milk contains less protein than cow’s milk but it has more fiber. Most of the fat in flax milk is unsaturated, healthy fats.

In addition, flax milk is safe for everyone to drink (unless you’re allergic to flax seeds, of course).

Flax milk also contains just 50 calories, unlike whole milk which contains 150 calories. Flax milk has less sugar, too, but that’s usually added, so unsweetened flax milk is better. Flax milk can also contain more calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin A than whole milk but might also contain more ingredients than whole milk like natural flavors, sea salt, gum, and more.

And, you don’t need to own a cow to make any of your own at home. You can make flax milk at home with flax seeds or flax oil and water. Allrecipes says you just blend flax seeds and water together a couple times, pour the mix through a nut bag or lined strainer, and then store it in the fridge.

By drinking homemade flax milk, you can get those beneficial nutrients like magnesium, fiber, and healthful fats without the additives.

One Green Planet author Caroline Lennon claims flax milk is also healthier for your heart because it doesn’t contain any cholesterol or lactose. Really, the only downside is the lack of fiber and maybe the taste, depending on your preferences.

Flax milk is high in omega-3 fatty acids, according to Food and Health. A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids could cause rough, scaly skin, and dermatitis. Omega-3s could be involved in cardiovascular health, infant health, neurodevelopment, cancer prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, cognitive function, age-related macular degeneration, dry eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.

The Nutrition Source provides that omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fats, for they play an important role in cell membranes and their function, as well as other bodily processes.

Pea Milk

pea milk

Pea milk certainly is one type of milk I’ve never heard of. And I have to be honest, I strongly dislike peas, so this does not sound appealing in the least. And no, I’m not five. I just really don’t like peas, the green kind (the black-eyed peas I’m okay with).

However, apparently pea milk doesn’t taste like peas. At least that’s what The Washington Post says. Reporter Maura Judkis says pea milk is better for the environment and more nutritious than other alternative milks.

Pea milk is also made differently than other plant milks. Peas are made into a flour that is processed to remove the pea protein. This is then blended with water and other ingredients.

As for its nutritional content, pea milk has less than 100 calories, 8 grams of protein, a high amount of calcium, and good amounts of vitamin D, protein, iron, and vitamin A. This can vary depending on the kind and brand.

According to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, “peas are one of the best sources of plant-based protein you can eat.” She also claims that regularly consuming such protein can help regulate appetite and promote weight loss. Not to mention, pea protein contains branched-chain amino acids that encourage muscle growth and maintain blood sugar.

Kubala says pea milk is also creamier and richer than other plant-based milks. The best part? It’s dairy-free and hypoallergenic! Plus, unsweetened versions are low in calories and carbs and contain zero sugar.

Takeaways

If you’re up for trying something new, try dabbling in different milks, particularly the newer flax and pea milk. They each come with their own benefits and you might find you like their unique tastes and textures. While flax milk provides some extra fiber, healthy fats, and other minerals to your diet, pea milk can help both you and the environment by being an excellent source of protein and other nutrients.

The post Two Newcomers to the Milk Game: Flax and Pea Milk appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

10 Zurich-area investors on Switzerland’s 2020 startup outlook

European entrepreneurs who want to launch startups could do worse than Switzerland.

In a report analyzing Europe’s general economic health, cost of doing business, business environment and labor force quality, analysts looked for highly educated populations, strong economies, healthy business environments and relatively low costs for conducting business. Switzerland ended up ranking third out of 31 European nations, according to Nimblefins. (Germany and the UK came out first and second, respectively).

According to official estimates, the number of new Swiss startups has skyrocketed by 700% since 1996. Zurich tends to take the lion’s share, as the city’s embrace of startups has jump-started development, although Geneva and Lausanne are also hotspots.

As well as traditional software engineering startups, Switzerland’s largest city boasts a startup culture that emphasizes life sciences, mechanical engineering and robotics. Compared to other European countries, Switzerland has a low regulatory burden and a well-educated, highly qualified workforce. Google’s largest R&D center outside of the United States is in Zurich.

But it’s also one of the more expensive places to start a business, due to its high cost of living, salary expectations and relatively small labor market. Native startups will need 25,000 Swiss Francs to open an LLC and 50,000 more to incorporate. While they can withdraw those funds from the business the next day, local founders must still secure decent backing to even begin the work.

This means Switzerland has gained a reputation as a place to startup — and a place to relocate, which is something quite different. It’s one reason why the region is home to many fintech businesses born elsewhere that need proximity to a large banking ecosystem, as well as the blockchain/crypto crowd, which have found a highly amenable regulatory environment in Zug, right next door to Zurich. Zurich/Zug’s “Crypto Valley” is a global blockchain hotspot and is home to, among others, the Ethereum Foundation.

Lawyers and accountants tend to err on the conservative side, leading to a low failure rate of businesses but less “moonshot innovation,” shall we say.

But in recent years, corporate docs are being drawn up in English to facilitate communication both inside Switzerland’s various language regions and foreign capital, and investment documentation is modeled after the U.S.

Ten years ago startups were unusual. Today, pitch competitions, incubators, accelerators, VCs and angel groups proliferate.

The country’s Federal Commission for Technology and Innovation (KTI) supports CTI-Startup and CTI-Invest, providing startups with investment and support. Venture Kick was launched in 2007 with the vision to double the number of spin-offs from Swiss universities and draws from a jury of more than 150 leading startup experts in Switzerland. It grants up to CHF 130,000 per company. Fundraising platforms such as Investiere have boosted the angel community support of early funding rounds.

Swiss companies, like almost all European companies, tend to raise lower early-stage rounds than U.S. ones. A CHF 1-2 million Series A or a CHF 5 million Series B investment is common. This has meant smaller exits, and thus less development for the ecosystem.

These are the investors we interviewed:

 

Jasmin Heimann, partner, Ringier Digital Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Consumer-facing startups with first revenues.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
AirConsole — a cloud-gaming platform where you don’t need a console and can play with all your friends and family.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I really wish that the business case for social and ecological startups will finally be proven (kind of like Oatly showed with the Blackstone investment). I also think that femtech is a hyped category but funding as well as renown exits are still missing.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
I am looking for easy, scalable solutions with a great team.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
I think the whole scooter/mobility space is super hyped but also super capital intensive so I think to compete in this market at this stage is hard. I also think that the whole edtech space is an important area of investment, but there are already quite a lot of players and it oftentimes requires cooperation with governments and schools, which makes it much more difficult to operate in. Lastly, I don’t get why people still start fitness startups as I feel like the market has reached its limits.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Switzerland makes — maximum — half of our investments. We are also interested in Germany and Austria as well as the Nordics.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Zurich and Lausanne are for sure the most exciting cities, just because they host great engineering universities. Berne is still lagging behind but I am hoping to see some more startups emerging from there, especially in the medtech industry.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Overall, Switzerland is a great market for a startup to be in — although small, buying power is huge! So investors should always keep this in mind when thinking about coming to Switzerland. The startup scene is pretty small and well connected, so it helps to get access through somebody already familiar with the space. Unfortunately for us, typical B2C cases are rather scarce.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I think it is hard to make any kind of predictions. But on the one hand, I could see this happening. On the other hand, I also think that the magic of cities is that there are serendipity moments where you can find your co-founder at a random networking dinner or come across an idea for a new venture while talking to a stranger. These moments will most likely be much harder to encounter now and in the next couple of months.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
I think travel is a big question mark still. The same goes for luxury goods, as people are more worried about the economic situation they are in. On the other hand, remote work has seen a surge in investments. Also sustainability will hopefully be put back on the agenda.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not much. I think we allocated a bit more for the existing portfolio but otherwise we continue to look at and discuss the best cases. The biggest worries are the uncertainties about [what] the future might look like and the related planning. We tell them to first and foremost secure cash flow.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Totally! Some portfolio companies have really profited from the crisis, especially our subscription-based models that offer a variety of different options to spend time at home. The challenge now is to keep up the momentum after the lockdown.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
What gives me hope is to see that people find ways to still work together — the amount of online events, office hours, etc. is incredible. I see the pandemic also as a big opportunity to make changes in the way we worked and the way things were without ever questioning them.

 

Katrin Siebenbuerger Hacki, founder, Medows

Create better digital content with this stacked set of online classes

Create better digital content with this stacked set of online classes

TL;DR: The Digital Content Creators Master Class Bundle is on sale for £22.23 as of Oct. 22, saving you 98% on list price.


When it comes to content creation, quality is generally more important than quantity. But with many people stuck at home and living on their phones these days, it feels like quantity is gaining steam. People are digesting content at an unprecedented rate — it’s honestly hard to keep up.

While learning to create growth-worthy content for Instagram, YouTube, and more is never a bad idea, it’s especially smart these days. With more people online, more eyes will be on your content. And with more eyes on your content, there’s more opportunity for growth. Get it? If you need some help getting there, no worries. This Digital Content Creators Master Class Bundle can help. Read more…

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10 Thing To Consider While Designing A Live Chatbot

The current business world is extremely contentious. Now, meeting your clients’ expectations is not enough. You need to exceed them to stand out in the crowd.

If your customers are surfing the web at 4 A.M. in the morning with a fiery issue regarding your company, they await you to respond to it.

Usual working hours don’t matter a lot in the online world. What matters a lot is the way you handle the queries of your clients regarding your business.

If you can’t provide the customer with the solutions they are looking for, someone else will!

However, before hiring staff to work in the graveyard shift, there is a simple and effective solution – Chatbots.

Designing a chatbot is like whipping coffee; it always requires the exact ingredients to prepare it, but slight variations to the method can change the entire outcome.

However, a recent study has revealed that 60% of participants state that bots are disappointing when it comes to solving their concerns, and that they prefer human support over bot to solve their queries. The concerns are genuine but, possibly, this judgment can be corrected.

We will show you a few things you need to consider while designing a chatbot for your organization, which can satisfy the needs of your business and clients.

Identify your bot’s goal

It’s very crucial to determine the ultimate goals of your chatbot before starting its designing process. And if you are not sure about your bot’s purpose, then you need to rethink if you actually need one.

Here are a few reasons to choose chatbots for your business:

  1. They save your time and effort, as well as human resources for qualitative jobs
  2. Automate your client support process for related inquiries
  3. Enhance your brand value with minimum effort
  4. Affordable development cost
  5. Better user interaction
  6. Easy to use

First, set the goals of your chatbot. Is it for generating leads for your logo design company? Possibly for scheduling appointments? Responding to commonly asked questions? There is no limit!

The more specific the goal, the clearer it will be to both design your bot and analyze its progress. Users are preferring your bot for only one purpose – to get a solution for their problems. Set your goals around the queries of your users, so it becomes easy for you to handle their needs.

Choose between a rule-based and NLP platform

After establishing the goals of your chatbot, it’s time to decide how to design your bot. Most of the chatbot platforms mark their bots with AI tags, regardless if they actually apply clever self-learning algorithms or just cling to normal IF-THEN metrics.

So, you will have two options while choosing a designing platform for your chatbots – “NLP” and “rule-based”. These define how adaptable and smart your chatbot works within a discussion.

A rule-based bot responds according to specified decision trees. Similar to a flowchart, discussions are planned out to predict what a client might request and how the bot should answer.

For example, if a customer input includes words like ‘shop’ or ‘buy’, then send them a message with a list of products.

NLP bots or Natural Language Processing bots are capable of assuming the context even when problems are more complicated. Moreover, their capability to learn from their mistakes help them to develop greater efficiency.

Presently, rule-based bots are a cheaper, quicker, and more efficient option. Furthermore, transparency regarding their function range encourages users to engage efficiently.

Understand your customers and their input

developing a chatbot

While designing a bot, it’s really important to keep your customers in mind. What type of technical skills do they hold? Do they have time to use self-help? What kind of conversation do they prefer?

Do they want to keep it sober or casual? User choices are one face of a coin. The other face is the real user input and facts. What type of information do you need to provide in chatbot conversation?

Will users need to type the query or just select from the available options? If they need to type the query, then which language do they use?

It’s completely up to you how you want your user to interact with bot. According to a survey conducted, people want to see a company’s logo as a bot icon. Now coming back to basics, your logo should be attractive so it can connect with users. AI-powered tools such as Designhill can generate a user-friendly logo within fraction of minutes.

Identify the limitations and drawbacks of your platform

After deciding the preferred platform for your bot, you need to figure out the drawbacks and limitations of your platform.

Most of the rule-based platforms are based on multiple choice, without the opportunity to write unique answers.

You can guide the conversation in a particular direction through this platform, but you can’t compose proper answers to problems that may be asked during the conversation.

Moreover, a few platforms require input questions and their responses in a coded form, which needs knowledge and interest in coding to enjoy using them.

So, it’s better to select a thoroughly-tested platform as it has come along with comprehensive documentation on facilities and tools.

Furthermore, you can join various online communities and forums to know more about your platform. These platforms will help you in troubleshooting your issues effectively and quickly.

Set the tone and personality

Your bot represents your organization and it’s usually the first one that interacts with your clients. Consequently, it’s essential to set the tone of communication that matches your brand value.

You can treat your bot as your digital employee and even enhance your brand image by providing it a friendly persona.

A recent study has revealed that users favor bots with human traits. A personalized and friendly answer by the bot can make your users’ chatting experience more positive.

Siri by Apple is one of the best examples of a humorous chatbot. It’s a sweet and friendly character initiated by the organization.

However, don’t impose humor unnecessarily to audiences that don’t want those features. A simplistic, helpful, and friendly bot is the best option for several brands.

Maintain a simple conversation flow

Bots can be used to perform repetitive tasks where a simple and specified flow has been established. If you are trying to design a self-learn or self-aware chatbot, then you are destined to fail as such advanced technology has not yet arrived.

So, it’s important to include very specific topics that relate to the goals you have established for your chatbot. The more complex and branched out the discussion is, the greater the risk that it will become grouchy.

Apply prompts

If a bot usually asks indefinite questions like “what do you want to search?”, such type of conversation can turn into a guessing game.

The customer will get confused in deciding what a bot can do, and the bot will also get confused in presuming what the user expected.

However, using prompts on your website can help showcase the abilities of your bot. You can set a clickable menu or present recommended solutions, so there will be no confusion or doubt.

Furthermore, the clickable menus or elements will save time, as well as the efforts of the users.

Allow an easy shift from chatbot to human assistance

develop a chatbot

A bot can’t handle every possible question, particularly when it comes to criticisms or unusual cases. That’s when a human assistant comes into the picture.

A frustrated user prefers human assistance to resolve the issue. So, while designing your bot, make it simple so it can switch from chatbot to human assistant.

The most sensible alternative is to combine the chatbot platform with your live chat platform to make conversation handovers quick, easy, and simple.

Perform quality checks at the early stage

No matter how hard you try, there are a lot of things that are impossible to predict during the planning or designing phase.

If you start testing in the early phase, you will notice the places where the chatbot is lacking, even before the launch of the bot.

Furthermore, you will need a Live testing feature to perform this test. You can test every conversation or story created in the chatbot internally before its launch.

You need to ensure that it works as expected before users can use it for queries.

Maintain a balance among reactive and proactive

Chatbots can work as smart promoters for your brand. They can encourage users to begin a conversation regarding promotions and deals.

For example, after a user stayed on a webpage for more than 30 seconds, a bot can proactively prompt a message for a user stating – “Hey, just want you to know that today we are offering free shipping to the users on every order. Want a promo code?”

Or, you can share special deals with them. For example, a bot can prompt “Hey, we have designer sarees on sale? Click here to see.”

However, if you are planning to apply a proactive approach, it’s ideal to place the pop up in an unobtrusive place. According to research, the bottom right corner is the best place for it.

Furthermore, a human brain browses a page from top left to bottom right. So, it’s a good chance to showcase your products and services after your user has approved your chatbot’s assistant.

Looks Salesy and Clingy, Right?

That’s why it’s important to maintain a balance between replying to a user’s requirements and providing a complete service experience.

For example, if a bot is helping a user to find a new study table, but then the bot starts promoting fancy furniture, then obviously a user gets frustrated. The products are relevant, but not helpful for users. As mentioned, there needs to be a balance to avoid this.

The post 10 Thing To Consider While Designing A Live Chatbot appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

AOC and Ilhan Omar’s wholesome ‘Among Us’ stream did huge numbers on Twitch

AOC and Ilhan Omar's wholesome 'Among Us' stream did huge numbers on Twitch

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar made their Twitch debuts today, enjoying a few rounds of Werewolflike sleeper hit Among Us with several high profile streamers. AOC may be a highly intelligent, engaged politician, but it turns out she is an absolutely terrible space murderer.

The two Among Us newbies were joined by a constellation of Twitch stars, including Pokimane, Hasanabi, Disguised Toast, Dr Lupo, Myth, mxmtoon, Jacksepticeye, Cr1TiKaL, and Corpse Husband. Omar’s teenage daughter Isra Hirsi also jumped in for some mother-daughter bonding time.

However, it was AOC‘s stream that received the most attention. Twitch confirmed to Mashable that her channel reached a peak of over 435,000 concurrent viewers during the three-and-a-half hour broadcast. This is an incredibly impressive figure for a new streamer, especially considering the number one record is 667,000, currently held by hugely popular Fortnite streamer Ninja. Read more…

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Political strategist turned tech investor Bradley Tusk on SPACs as a tool for VCs

Bradley Tusk has become known in recent years for being involved in what’s about to get hot, from his early days advising Uber, to writing one of the first checks to the insurance startup Lemonade, to pushing forward the idea that we should be using the smart devices in our pockets to vote.

Indeed, because he’s often at the vanguard, it wasn’t hugely surprising when Tusk, like a growing number of other investors, formed a $300 million SPAC or special acquisition company, one that he and a partner plan to use to target a business in the leisure, gaming, or hospitality industry, according to a regulatory filing.

Because Tusk — a former political operative who ran the successful third mayoral campaign for Mike Bloomberg —  seems adept at seeing around corners, we called him up late last week to ask whether SPACs are here to stay, how a Biden administration might impact the startup investing landscape, and how worried (or not) big tech should be about this election. You can hear the full conversation here. Owing to length, we are featuring solely the part of our conversation that centered on SPACs.

TC: Lemonade went public this summer and its shares, priced at $29, now trade at $70. 

BT: They are down today last I checked. When you only check once in a blue moon, you’re like, ‘Hey, look at how great this is,’ whereas if, like me, you check me every day, you’re like, ‘It lost 4%, where’s my money?’

We got really lucky; Lemonade was our second deal that we did out of our first fund, and the fact that it IPO’d within four years of the company’s founding is pretty amazing.

TC: Is it amazing? I wonder what it says about the common complaint that the traditional IPO process is bad — is it just an excuse?

BT: [CEO] Daniel Schrieber was very clear that he and [cofounder] Shai Wininger had a strategy from day one to go public as quickly as they possibly could, because in his view, an IPO is supposed to represent kind of the the beginning. It’s the ‘Okay, we’ve proven that there’s product market fit, we’ve proven that there’s customer demand; now let’s see what we can really do with this thing.’ And it’s supposed to be about hope and promise and future and excitement. And if you’ve been a private company for 10 years, and you’re worth tens of billions of dollars and your growth is already starting to flatten out a little bit, it’s just much less exciting for public investors.

The question now for everyone in our business is what happens with Airbnb in a few weeks or whenever they are [staging an IPO]. Will that pixie dust be there, or will they have been around so long that the market is kind of indifferent?

TC: Is that why we’re seeing so many SPACs? Some of that pixie dust is gone. No one knows when the IPO window might shut. Let’s get some of these companies out into the public market while we still can?

BT: No, I don’t I don’t think so. I think SPACs have become a way to raise a lot of money very quickly. It took me two years to raise $37 million for my first venture fund, and three months was the entire process for me to raise $300 million for my SPAC. So it’s a mechanism that is highly efficient and right now is so popular with public market investors that there is just a lot of opportunity, and people are grabbing it. In fact, now you’re hearing about people who are planning SPACs having to pull [them] back because there’s a ton of competition right now.

At the end of the day, the fundamentals still rule. If you take a really bad company public through a SPAC, maybe the excitement of the SPAC gets you an early pop. But if the company has neither good unit economics nor high growth, there’s no real reason to believe it will be successful. And especially for the people in the SPAC, where they have to hold on to it for a little while, by the time the lockup ends, the world has probably figured out that this is not the greatest IPO of all time. You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

TC: You say you raised the SPAC very quickly. How is the investor profile different than that of a typical venture fund investor?

BT:  The investors for this SPAC — at least when I did the roadshow, and I think I did 28 meetings over a couple of days — is mainly hedge funds and people who don’t really invest in venture at all, so there was no overlap between my [venture fund] LP base and the people who invested in our SPAC that I’m aware of. These are public market investors who are used to moving very quickly. There’s a lot more liquidity in a SPAC. We have two years to acquire something, but ultimately, it’s a public property, so investors can come in and out as they see fit.

TC: So it’s mostly hedge funds that are getting paid management fees to deploy their capital in this comparatively safe way and that are getting interest on the money invested, too, while it’s sitting around in a trust while [the SPAC managers] look for a target company.

BT: Why it kind of does make sense for [them to back] VCs is they are basically making the bet to say: does this person running the SPAC have enough deal flow, enough of a public profile, enough going on that they are going to come across the right target? And venture investors in many ways fit that profile because we just look at so many companies before deploying capital.

TC: Do you have to demonstrate some kind of public markets expertise in order to convince some of these investors that you know what it takes to take a company public and grow it in the public markets?

BT: I guess. We raised the money, so I guess I passed the test. But I did spend a little under two years on Wall Street; I created the lottery privatization group of Lehman Brothers. And my partner [in the SPAC], Christian Goode, has a lot of experience with big gaming companies. But overall, I think that if you are a venture investor with a ton of deal flow and a good track record but very little or no public market experience, I don’t know that that would disqualify you from being able to rate a SPAC.

How Legendary Companies Fix Failed Payments

Most business owners know how much profit they’re raking in at the top of the funnel, but how many are aware of how much failed payments are holding them back?

The Cost of Failed Payments

Every year in America, customer churn costs businesses $136 billion. On top of that, 47% of companies lose auto-renewals due to changes in payment data. However, auto-renewals can be lost many other ways.

Customer churn is considered any instance in which customers, or subscribers, cease relations with a business or service. With that, reasons for cession may either be voluntary or involuntary.

Any instance in which a consumer, or subscriber, makes an intentional effort to leave a service is known as voluntary churn. On the other hand, involuntary churn refers to consumers who unintentionally leave a business or service.

What Causes Involuntary Churn?

failed payment

Most commonly, involuntary churn is caused by payment failure. In fact, payment failure is the #1 cause of involuntary churn.

That brings us to ask: what causes payments to fail? Most commonly, insufficient funds. 53% of failed payments link back to the consumer not having enough funds. However, not having enough money isn’t the only reason a payment may fail.

Submitting a payment with outdated card information (i.e. expiration date, zip code) can cause a payment to fail. This can easily happen with automatically renewing subscriptions. 35% of subscriptions automatically renew, but credit card changes account for 40% of payment failures.

However, payments may still fail for other reasons. For example, systemic errors. If a merchant’s system is down, it’s unlikely a transaction will succeed. Banks with autonomous firewalls can also cause any attempts over the customer’s daily limit to be blocked. Statistically, credit card limits account for 42% of payment failures.

Does Auto-New Increase Risk of Failed Payments?

From a business outlook, failed payments raise expenses.

For instance, 48% of businesses state that chargeback rates reduce their forecasted revenue. Comparably, there’s also an increased customer service contacts when payments don’t go through. Hence, it only makes it more expensive to retain customers, according to 43% of businesses.

Moreover, 35% of available subscriptions can be auto-renewed, and renewals constitute 62% of subscription-based revenue. Still, auto-renewals contribute to higher instances of failed payments. What’s more, 47% of businesses end up losing auto-renewals because of changes in payment information. What can businesses do to decrease this kind of involuntary churn?

Is Improving Customer Retention Effective in Reducing Involuntary Churn?

failed payment recovery customer service

65% of a company’s business comes from their existing customers, and 32% of people will stop doing business with a brand after just one bad experience.

Furthermore, 66% of consumers want companies to show they value their time, and 69% prefer shopping with merchants who offer consistent customer service. Still, only 15% of customers respond to emails seeking updated payment information.

With this information, businesses should work toward building trust while finding unique solutions to outstanding payments. These solutions, of course, will be contingent on each individual business’ weak areas.

Here are some facts to consider along the way:

  • Poor customer service experiences discourage manual renewal after a failed payment.
  • How do clients rate your brand’s customer service?
  • Many customers may only learn their payment has failed when their service stops.
  • How does your company contact customers regarding urgent account matters? If your typical approach is email, consider alternatives such as SMS or phone calls.
  • Creating on-platform software that can audibly or digitally interrupt clients concerning their subscription status may also improve communication.
  • Payment declines and fees create customer frustration.
  • Remember, the customer is always right. What tactics do your call representatives use to make administrative experience stress-free on the client?

Paying Attention To Failed Payments

Reducing card declines has proven potential to bring payment failure rates as low as 0.5%, which can produce a 70% reduction in involuntary churn. Knowing this, businesses using automated card updates, intelligent retry logic, and human personalization to dilute involuntary churn rates may find more financial relief than those who do not.

Research has also found it costs 6 times more to attract new customers than to keep existing ones. As a result, businesses actively working to reduce their involuntary churn rates will likely see more success than those strategizing methods to draw in replacement clients.

Every year, 34% of customer churn costs are due to involuntary churn and failed payments. By improving consumer retention, brands can save money on marketing expenses, increase profits, and improve their quality of service. What software to prevent failed payments are you using?

How Legendary Companies Make Money
Source: GravySolutions.io

The post How Legendary Companies Fix Failed Payments appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Intel agrees to sell its NAND business to SK Hynix for $9 billion

SK Hynix, one of the world’s largest chip makers, announced today it will pay $9 billion for Intel’s flash memory business. Intel said it will use proceeds from the deal to focus on artificial intelligence, 5G and edge computing.

“For Intel, this transaction will allow us to to further prioritize our investments in differentiated technology where we can play a bigger role in the success of our customers and deliver attractive returns to our stockholders,” said Intel chief executive officer Bob Swan in the announcement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported earlier this week that the two companies were nearing an agreement, which will turn SK Hynix into one of the world’s largest NAND memory makers, second only to Samsung Electronics.

The deal with SK Hynix is the latest one Intel has made so it can double down on developing technology for 5G network infrastructure. Last year, Intel sold the majority of its modem business to Apple for about $1 billion, with Swan saying that the time that the deal would allow Intel to “[put] our full effort into 5G where it most closely aligns with the needs of our global customer base.”

Once the deal is approved and closes, Seoul-based SK Hynix will take over Intel’s NAND SSD and NAND component and wafer businesses, and its NAND foundry in Dalian, China. Intel will hold onto its Optane business, which makes SSD memory modules. The companies said regulatory approval is expected by late 2021, and a final closing of all assets, including Intel’s NAND-related intellectual property, will take place in March 2025.

Until the final closing takes places, Intel will continue to manufacture NAND wafers at the Dalian foundry and retain all IP related to the manufacturing and design of its NAND flash wafers.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Dalian facility is Intel’s only major foundry in China, which means selling it to SK Hynix will dramatically reduce its presence there as the United States government puts trade restrictions on Chinese technology.

In the announcement, Intel said it plans to use proceeds from the sale to “advance its long-term growth priorities, including artificial intelligence, 5G networking and the intelligent, autonomous edge.”

During the six-month period ending on June 27, 2020, NAND business represented about $2.8 billion of revenue for its Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG), and contributed about $600 million to the division’s operating income. According to the Wall Street Journal, this made up the majority of Intel’s total memory sales during that period, which was about $3 billion.

SK Hynix CEO Seok-Hee Lee said the deal will allow the South Korean company to “optimize our business structure, expanding our innovative portfolio in the NAND flash market segment, which will be comparable with what we achieved in DRAM.”

Grab a free set of AirPods with your next iPhone contract

Grab a free set of AirPods with your next iPhone contract

TL;DR: Order the iPhone SE on Mobiles.co.uk and get a free set of Apple AirPods, with prices starting at £29.99 per month.


We know that fans of all things Apple will be monitoring the situation regarding iPhone 12 pre-orders at the moment, but we’re here to remind you that there are great opportunities to save on other top handsets.

We have scoured the web to bring you a selection of the best iPhone deals from top retailers, and yes, we have included some iPhone 12 pre-order deals. We think there are better opportunities out there, though.

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How to Keep Motivation High in the Era of Office Shutdowns

As people are preparing for their third month of work-from-home, the office is beginning to seem like a more attractive place. Struggling to balance work with the other priorities like the virtual education of children, staying healthy, and other personal commitments has left many employees feeling burnt out and drained.

Few thought it would come to this, but a growing number of people are missing their physical place of work. The office, a subject of countless TV shows, movies, and other media depicting it as a mundane necessity in modern life, is increasingly missed by workers. The disconnect between colleagues, the lack of a clear boundary between work and home, and the feeling of isolation are challenging individual motivation and team spirit.

For those who are experienced in remote work, these aren’t necessarily new difficulties. However, in the novel reality brought on by the pandemic, the challenges of remote work are amplified. So what can be done to raise motivation levels and team spirit in these days of the home office? Read on to find out.

Eliminate the technical glitches

As a first priority, it’s important to eliminate the challenges that are in your direct control, namely your technical set up. Whether it’s your internet crashing, being forced to use an inconvenient teamwork app, or issues with hardware, technical issues can make an already challenging situation all the more difficult.

Investing time, and potentially money, in making sure that you have the right set up will save you countless future frustrations. This could mean a number of fixes and improvements to your remote office, including:

While you may be telling yourself that you can just push through technical difficulties for a couple more weeks until your office reopens, that quick return might not be in the cards. It’s difficult to tell what will happen in the coming months. However, it’s best to be prepared for an extended shutdown or even a second shutdown at some point in the future.

Connect with your team

stay motivated while working from home

Months ago you may not have looked at your office relationships in the same way you do now. Before the shutdown, many people dreaded going to the office and having the same boilerplate conversations. Many of these same people are now craving any type of social interaction.

The desire to connect with colleagues isn’t a surprise. In fact, there’s a strong link between having friendships at work and the level of employee engagement. So recreating social interactions while working remotely is crucial.

Working remotely doesn’t mean that you can’t create opportunities to catch up and spend time with colleagues. Many businesses are turning to virtual happy hours in order to create space for social interactions.

One good practice is to schedule a recurring happy hour a couple times a week at the end of the work day. Each team member can take a turn leading the team in an activity – cooking, exercise, drawing, or anything else that comes to mind. In this way you’ll be able to spend time together doing something outside of the normal work routine.

Set clear boundaries

One of the most challenging things about the remote home office is the lack of clear boundaries between your work and your personal life. Whereas, previously, you needed to get in your car or hop on public transport to travel to a completely separate work environment, now you’re living in it.

This can easily lead to overdoing it- rolling out of bed and jumping on the computer to start work. Then working throughout your waking hours without a clear endpoint. This situation can easily demotivate you and lead to a feeling of burnout.

In order to maintain the right balance, it’s important to set clear boundaries. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should be available 24/7. Try the following approaches in order to clearly divide your personal life from your work:

  • Share your working times with your colleagues, and ask that they do the same with you. In this way, you’ll hold each other accountable.
  • Start your day as you would if you were going to the office. Wake up, stretch, exercise, read the news, have breakfast, or whatever other routine you’d normally have.
  • Get dressed for work, and change clothes for your downtime. It may not seem like much, but these small external changes can set the right tone for your day.
  • Don’t try to work 8 hours straight and take breaks when necessary. In the office you’d likely have normal interruptions in your day – chatting with a colleague, going out for lunch, buying a coffee, etc. Try to replicate some of these by setting standard break times.
  • If possible, separate your working space from the space you normally spend your time. In this way, you’ll be able to more easily transition from work to downtime.

Creating the right balance takes some trial and error, so give yourself time to experiment.

Take care of your health

working from home motivation

It’s no news for anyone that mental health and physical health are directly related. Despite this fact, many people are still deprioritizing their physical well-being. This is particularly easy to do during the present crisis when social distancing measures have you locked up at home.

Taking care of your health through proper diet and exercise is more important than ever. While you may have had some physical activity each day in your daily routine (for example, walking to the office), working from home eliminates much of this.

Be realistic and try to create a routine that you’ll enjoy and follow. When it comes to healthy living, you’re more likely to fail if you set goals that are too ambitious. Start off with something small, like a daily walk and one more piece of fruit a day, and build from there.

Building healthy habits is difficult to do on your own. Try to form a workplace support group with your colleagues. In this way, you’ll be able to motivate each other and create a feeling of accountability.

Final thoughts

As with any larger transition, the current switch to remote work has left many people feeling lost. At a time when so many things are out of our control, it’s important to take proactive action where we can.

By taking steps to create a comfortable remote work set up, connect with your colleagues, set clear boundaries, and maintain your health, you’ll be well on your way to transitioning from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving.’

The post How to Keep Motivation High in the Era of Office Shutdowns appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Master SEO and audience growth with these discounted courses

Master SEO and audience growth with these discounted courses

TL;DR: The Complete 2020 Google SEO & Growth Hacking Bundle is on sale for £19.37 as of Oct. 19, saving you 98% on list price.


Remember when you told yourself that 2020 would be the year you finally followed through with your New Year’s resolution? Well, you have about 70 days left to ensure this year’s goal doesn’t join your graveyard of past promises 

Before you start panicking, know that this is a glass-half-full situation. For those whose goal was to better their career, there’s plenty of time to master a new skill. And we’d even argue that now is the best time to do so. 

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Start a new career with this 11-course coding bootcamp

Start a new career with this 11-course coding bootcamp

TL;DR: The 2020 Ultimate Web Developer & Design Bootcamp Bundle is on sale for £30.98 as of Oct. 18, saving you 98% on list price.


The year 2020: what an absolute doozy. Hopefully, your job is steady despite the circumstances — and cutting it for you in terms of wage and fulfillment. But if that’s not the case, you may need to beef up your CV a little to make it shine for (better paying) potential employers.

If you’ve got your heart set on a lucrative position in tech as a web developer, here’s something to get you started: the 2020 Ultimate Web Developer and Design Bootcamp Bundle. This in-depth training packs 11 courses on a wide array of tools and languages, so you can learn them all or poke around to focus on just the specialties you’re pursuing. At just £30.98, it’s worth it for even just a few of the courses.   Read more…

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VCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

It was an active week in the technology world broadly, with big news from Facebook and Twitter and Apple. But past the headline-grabbing noise, there was a steady drumbeat of bullish news for unicorns, or private companies worth $1 billion or more.

A bullish week for unicorns

The Exchange spent a good chunk of the week looking into different stories from unicorns, or companies that will soon fit the bill, and it’s surprising to see how much positive financial news there was on tap even past what we got to write about.

Databricks, for example, disclosed a grip of financial data to TechCrunch ahead of regular publication, including the fact that it grew its annual run rate (not ARR) to $350 million by the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in Q2 2019. It’s essentially IPO ready, but is not hurrying to the public markets.

Sticking to our theme, Calm wants more money for a huge new valuation, perhaps as high as $2.2 billion which is not a surprise. That’s more good unicorn news. As was the report that “India’s Razorpay [became a] unicorn after its new $100 million funding round” that came out this week.

Razorpay is only one of a number of Indian startups that have become unicorns during COVID-19. (And here’s another digest out this week concerning a half-dozen startups that became unicorns “amidst the pandemic.”)

There was enough good unicorn news lately that we’ve lost track of it all. Things like Seismic raising $92 million, pushing its valuation up to $1.6 billion from a few weeks ago. How did that get lost in the mix?

All this matters because while the IPO market has captured much attention in the last quarter or so, the unicorn world has not sat still. Indeed, it feels that unicorn VC activity is the highest we’ve seen since 2019.

And, as we’ll see in just a moment, the grist for the unicorn mill is getting refilled as we speak. So, expect more of the same until something material breaks our current investing and exit pattern.

Market Notes

What do unicorns eat? Cash. And many, many VCs raised cash in the last seven days.

A partial list follows. It could be that investors are looking to lock in new funds before the election and whatever chaos may ensue. So, in no particular order, here’s who is newly flush:

All that capital needs to go to work, which means lots more rounds for many, many startups. The Exchange also caught up with a somewhat new firm this week: Race Capital. Helmed by Alfred Chuang, formerly or BEA who is an angel investor now in charge of his own fund, the firm has $50 million to invest.

Sticking to private investments into startups for the moment, quite a lot happened this week that we need to know more about. Like API-powered Argyle raising $20 million from Bain Capital Ventures for what FinLedger calls “unlocking and democratizing access to employment records.” TechCrunch is currently tracking the progress of API-led startups.

On the fintech side of things, M1 Finance raised $45 million for its consumer fintech platform in a Series C, while another roboadvisor, Wealthsimple, raised $87 million, becoming a unicorn at the same time. And while we’re in the fintech bucket, Stripe dropped $200 million this week for Nigerian startup Paystack. We need to pay more attention to the African startup scene. On the smaller end of fintech, Alpaca raised $10 million more to help other companies become Robinhood.

A few other notes before we change tack. Kahoot raised $215 million due to a boom in remote education, another trend that is inescapable in 2020 as part of the larger edtech boom (our own Natasha Mascarenhas has more).

Turning from the private market to the public, we have to touch on SPACs for just a moment. The Exchange got on the phone this week with Toby Russell from Shift, which is now a public company, trading after it merged with a SPAC, namely Insurance Acquisition Corp. Early trading is only going so well, but the CEO outlined for us precisely why he pursued a SPAC, which was actually interesting:

  • Shift could have gone public via an IPO, Russell said, but prioritized a SPAC-led debut because his firm wanted to optimize for a capital raise to keep the company growing.
  • How so? The private investment in public equity (PIPE) that the SPAC option came with ensured that Shift would have hundreds of millions in cash.
  • Shift also wanted to minimize what the CEO described as market risk. A SPAC deal could happen regardless of what the broader markets were up to. And as the company made the choice to debut via a SPAC in April, some caution, we reckon, may have made some sense.

So now Shift is public and newly capitalized. Let’s see what happens to its shares as it gets into the groove of reporting quarterly. (Obviously, if it flounders, it’s a bad mark for SPACs, but, conversely, successful trading could lead to a bit more momentum to SPAC-mageddon.)

A few more things and we’re done. Unicorn exits had a good week. First, Datto’s IPO continues to move forward. It set an initial price this week, which could value it above $4 billion. Also this week, Roblox announced that it has filed to go public, albeit privately. It’s worth billions as well. And finally, DoubleVerify is looking to go public for as much as $5 billion early next year.

Not all liquidity comes via the public markets, as we saw this week’s Twilio purchase of Segment, a deal that The Exchange dug into to find out if it was well-priced or not.

Various and Sundry

We’re running long naturally, so here are just a few quick things to add to your weekend mental tea-and-coffee reading!

Next week we are digging more deeply into Q3 venture capital data, a foretaste of which you can find here, regarding female founders, a topic that we returned to Friday in more depth.

Alex