This Neuroscientist’s Strategy For Success: Reinvent Yourself Every Seven Years

Being an entrepreneur takes hard work. Continuing to create, innovate and ideate after experiencing failure takes grit. Success comes when one is open to pivoting careers, business strategies and life habits. A thriving example of this is Dr. Vivienne Ming, a five-time entrepreneur and an American theoretical neuroscientist. She is breaking the barriers on aged-old philosophies on innovation, education and inclusive economies through her company, Socos Labs, which is an independent think tank.

Dr. Vivienne Ming, five-time entrepreneur and neuroscientist, speaking at the UCSD Convocation in 2016

Erik Jepsen – UC San Diego

She credits her success to the philosophy of reinventing yourself every seven years. It is through these actions that skills are mastered and the ability to expand one’s potential multiples. On the surface, that philosophy sounds simple and straightforward. At its core, it is intricate and delicate, making a person analyze his or her actions and habits and step out beyond the comfort zone.

“It takes about seven years to master something,” Dr. Ming states. “I mean the science is more complex than that but the spirit of this statement is true. Therefore, starting at age 11, if you live to be 88, you have 11 opportunities to become truly great at something. These are your lifetimes…You’re all in on what you’re doing right now, but once you hit year three, year five, you should be thinking, ‘this is wonderful. I’ve truly made a difference in someone’s life. I have achieved as much as can be achieved here. I changed the world, even if maybe it’s just for one person. Now, it’s time to die and be reincarnated as a whole new person. But, I’m still serving that same purpose.’ If you take that path, it actually frees you.”

Dr. Ming has experienced failure like many of us will never know, and has achieved at the highest level like many of us will never know. She didn’t just go from being an academic to an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur to a writer. She went from being homeless to creating her life’s purpose.

Dr. Vivienne Ming giving the keynote speech as SXSW Edu in 2014

RobSantos

From a young age, people told her that she was going to win a Nobel Prize. However, within the first year of college, she flunked out. Almost five years later and homeless, one night she contemplated suicide. “I spent the night trying to figure out why not to kill myself,” she states matter-of-factly. “No cry for help here. This was just pure euthanasia. I was miserable. I failed everyone. I failed at everything…What pulled me through was there were only two people really meaningful left in my life. It was my parents, and I have to admit, I didn’t want to do this to them…I needed to come up with some reason to be alive. At the time, I thought, pretty rationally, that I never would be happy. So, I concocted this purpose. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time; it was just a way to make a decision that sounds very self-congratulatory. Literally, I just had failed at everything, I needed a different set. So, living a life that makes other people’s lives better.”

After deciding she was going to make a change in her life, Dr. Ming began working to earn money to pay for her tuition. Within 10 years after leaving college, she re-enrolled and completed her undergraduate degree in one year. From there she did Ph.D. work in psychology and computational neuroscience. Now, she is changing and improving lives through artificial intelligence, and, with the help of other creatives, is expanding the impact on global policy issues, both inside companies and throughout communities.

Dr. Vivienne Ming, five-time entrepreneur and neuroscientist, addressing the Adobe 99U Conference attendees

Ryan Muir

Dr. Ming shares the three vital steps for reinventing yourself:

Go all in. No matter what Dr. Ming is working on in the moment, she goes all in. “Your parents are making you get a degree in engineering or you’ve stumbled into a writing job on a television show you don’t love,” she explains. “Whatever it is. That’s great. Right now be the absolute best engineer in the world you could possibly be…Go all in! How will you know what you can be great at, if you don’t devote yourself entirely to it?”

Build your purpose. “There isn’t one thing you’re meant to do in this world,” Dr. Ming continues. “I feel it’s a tragedy every time I hear someone say ‘I’ve got to go find myself or find a purpose.’ No, tonight, you get to do it right now. You probably know yourself pretty well, not perfectly, but pretty well, whatever you choose, probably not going to be terrible. So now you’ve gone all in, and you’re building this purpose.”

Set a deadline. Dr. Ming explains that setting deadlines helps with mastering a skill, expertise. Reinventing yourself helps with seeing the world from a different point-of-view and understanding ideas differently. “If you’re that engineering student,” she states, “it’s going to end. You’re going to graduate probably in five years. Then, go be a journalist, and you will see the world differently than all of the other journalists because you’ll see it through the eyes of an engineer. Every one of those lives, set a deadline. When you master it, when you truly get great at something, that’s when you go do something else; not when you hit a brick wall, not when you feel like ‘God, why am I spending my life this way?’ No, when you’re having your peak impact on the world go do something different. Your job across all of these lifetimes, where you’re going all in, is to get better and better at that purpose.”

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3 Budget-Friendly Facebook Marketing Tips For Entrepreneurs

There’s a reason entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses use Facebook as part of their marketing strategy – it works. When you own a small business, competition is tough and keeping your customer’s interest can be a challenge.

The good news is that even with a small budget, you can make an impact and reach more of your market share using social media. And Facebook is one place to do it, giving you maximum exposure to existing and potential customers at no cost.

Here are the top 3 budget-friendly tips for Facebook marketing.

1. Create a Business Page.

Facebook Business is designed for the entrepreneur with a small and limited budget, helping you market your business without using any of your marketing budget. There is no cost to creating a Facebook page for your business and it comes with numerous tools for creating content and managing all your needs as a small entrepreneur.

When building your business Facebook page, you can get ideas on how to create and customize your Facebook business page in this article. The overall guidelines are to include as much information as possible about your brand and business, such as how to contact you, your website, hours of business, and of course your products and services.

Once you’ve set up your business page, use some of these free Facebook page features to reach your customers:

Call-to-Action.

One of the best advantages of Facebook marketing is being able to add a call-to-action button on your page. Using this feature is the ideal way to drive more customer traffic to your business. You can customize call-to-action buttons that achieve different goals, such as a “Contact Us” or “Sign Up” button. You can also encourage customers to make direct bookings with you by creating a “Book Now” call-to-action button, which can be integrated with scheduling software.

Schedule Posts.

Create posts and schedule them to publish on your page on a future date. This allows you to create content in advance and engage with your followers even when you’re not online.

Similar Page Suggestions.

Turn on “Similar Page Suggestions”, found on your settings menu. When turned on, your Facebook page will be recommended when people visit a page that’s similar to yours. This can drive up the traffic to your own Facebook page.

2. Use Attention Grabbing Visual Content.

Visuals need to be an integral part of your marketing plan. Why? Marketing research shows that people engage 2.3 times more with Facebook posts that have images. Even on a limited budget as a small entrepreneur, you can effectively use images and video throughout your business page and within posts to capture the attention of your customers. You can do this by choosing free images from Unsplash, Pexels, or other websites offering free images.

Here’s how to implement effective visual content:

Optimize the cover photo.

The cover photo at the top is what people are going to notice first when they land on your page. Make sure your cover photo stands out and lets people know exactly who you are. Choose one that’s related to your business and make it memorable.

Eye-catching profile picture.

Choose an image that’s easy for people to recognize, such as your headshot or the logo of your brand. It’s this thumbnail image that’s going to be displayed when you post on other Facebook pages.

Content images.

Add images to content when appropriate – but don’t go too far with images, which can also be overwhelming if there’s too many of them.

3. Promote Your Brand.

As a small business owner, Facebook can help you build your brand and build a relationship with your customers. This is your platform to connect with customers and prove how amazing you are. Here’s how to gain more exposure on Facebook and reach more followers:

  • Focus on customer service by responding quickly to any customer messages or feedback.
  • Pin important posts to the top of your Facebook page – this way you get the most leverage out of one post.
  • Include special offers and contests on your page. 39% of Facebook users will follow pages that are offering a special promotion or a discount.
  • Share milestones and achievements with your followers, such as your first anniversary.
  • Share customer feedback and use it to open a discussion and engage other followers.

Final Words.

Facebook isn’t just a place for people to connect with family and friends – using Facebook as an entrepreneur is a smart and effective way to grow your business. As a marketing tool, Facebook lets you share your products and services and promote your brand in creative ways. Using these budget-friendly tips, you’re on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

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How To Effectively Handle Conflict Within Your Team Without Becoming the Bad Guy

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How To Effectively Handle Conflict Within Your Team Without Becoming the Bad Guy

Stop thinking about conflict as a fight and start viewing it as a chance to grow and collaborate

By Tanya PrivePartner, Legacy Transformational Consulting@TanyaPrive1
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From a young age, most of us were taught that conflict or fighting is bad. But is it really? It can be if the intention of the conflict is self-serving, but if everyone’s focus is on the greater good of the company or team, it’s an opportunity for growth. 

The best way to improve how you deal with conflict is to look inward first. Start by learning what your perception of conflict is. Do you associate conflict with dysfunction? Disrespect? Time loss? Something else? Then, see if you can create a new and more empowering perception, such as conflict is a learning opportunity or it means we care. Whatever works for you.

Here are some additional ways to take control of conflict throughout your organization and specifically among your team members.

Plan for conflicts by design.

No team is conflict-free. Period. And conflict presents itself in various forms, but many have predictable patterns. For example, every leader is tasked at one point in their career with how to manage an underperforming employee. It’s also common to deal with overly critical employees who harm the morale of a team. Another is serving as moderator for two employees who disagree with each other. The list is a long one.

So get in front of this by studying resources that help develop mental frameworks on how to handle conflicts, and you may also want to explore working with a coach. A good one will create scenarios for you to practice how to respond, and then help you develop your own leadership style that is adaptable to a variety of situations.

Don’t always come to the rescue.

Liane Hornsey, former Vice President of People Operations at Google, noted that she would never mediate a conflict between employees. She said there were instances at Google where two coworkers were openly upset with one another and the only message from management was for them to work it out themselves.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it sets a precedent for how much organizational leaders trust and empower their teams to solve personal conflicts.

Your approach to disagreements may be more hands-on than what’s practiced at Google, but here’s the important takeaway–while you can maybe fix the immediate conflict by jumping in, you likely are creating a bigger problem later from a cultural and team trust standpoint. 

When you must get involved, don’t add fuel to the fire.

As an example from my own experience, my consulting firm was hired to work with the executive team of a large public company. The CEO and his direct reports were all present. Mid-way through our second day, two senior executives in the leadership team start going at it, and it got ugly fast. One executive said to another, “you are a micromanager and the people around you don’t trust you.”

The receiving executive was enraged. The conversation quickly turned to threatening legal action. This moment erupted from the build-up of months of back-and-forth between them. As you can imagine, this dysfunction (which is not uncommon by the way), seriously got in the way of this team’s ability to perform.

It took several hours of guided coaching for each party to be able to hear each other, but they eventually reached a resolution, granted each other their trust, and worked together effectively through the following year. 

In this case, it is advisable to bring in a neutral party that is highly-trained to deal with this type of scenario, but if that’s not possible, here’s our core philosophy: don’t pick sides, give each party the opportunity to voice their discontent and guide each one to see and experience (notice I didn’t say agree with) what the other is feeling. But above all, stay neutral. Think Switzerland.

Identify and mitigate against your weaknesses.

Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict found that most people can be classified into two categories: those who avoid conflict and those who seek it. People who have a tendency to avoid disagreements are usually focused on not hurting the feelings of those around them, while the conflict seekers are focused on finding the truth.

It’s not bad to belong to either camp, but it’s important to recognize your weaknesses and work to improve them. She noted that working through conflict with another person forms a close bond between them.

So just because differences are sometimes expressed in a negative way, it doesn’t mean your team is going to fall apart. It may just show your team is becoming more like a family than a loose collection of acquaintances.

Published on: Aug 18, 2019
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16 Great Books for Anyone Who Wants to Get Ahead in Life

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16 Great Books for Anyone Who Wants to Get Ahead in Life

Reading is a daily habit commonly practiced by high achievers because it’s an effective method of sharpening oneself.

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Reading is a daily habit commonly practiced by high achievers because it’s an effective method of sharpening oneself. While non-fiction is the genre which likely comes to mind when it comes to self-improvement, even non-fiction is good for broadening your perspective and ability to be creative. Here are more than a dozen good titles to check out, according to successful executives who offer their rationale for reading them.

1. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

“While this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill motivational self-help read, [this book] breaks down how to create and maintain motivated cultures. Most entrepreneurs and professionals in leadership positions are pretty self-motivated, but fostering that motivation throughout an entire organization is often where the difficulty lies. Coyle starts with big ideas and dials them into systems, justifying them all with case studies. He defines three key skill sets successful cultures share: building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose. He clarifies organizational challenges we all face like ‘status management’ and breaks them down to their essence to be overcome. Using case studies from the Navy Seals to the San Antonio Spurs to elementary school students, he demonstrates both successes and failures in cultures and, more importantly, the ‘why’ behind them. I found it to be an informative and inspiring read on one of the most important motivational topics any leader faces — building culture.”

–Kelechi Okere, EVP of business development at RSP Nutrition, a nutrition brand distributed at retailers such as Amazon, Bodybuilding.com, GNC, and Vitamin Shoppe, in over 5,000 U.S. retail locations and over 80 countries

2. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman 

“The most valuable books I’ve read in my life are those that help me shape the principles that underpin the way I live my life, as opposed to practical business advice. [This book] is the perfect guide to stoicism, a school of philosophy which, at its root, is a philosophy for minimizing the negative emotions in your life and maximizing your gratitude and joy. Working for a fast-paced startup for the past four years, you encounter just about every emotion you can in business. Practicing stoicism helps you remain leveled throughout the highs and lows. Remaining leveled mentally is an underrated characteristic of leaders, and in times of uncertainty people will always seek support from the calmest person in the room.”

–Cathal Berragan, U.S. creative director at The Social Chain, an integrated social media company with clients including Amazon, Coca-Cola, Nokia, DreamWorks, and Disney

3. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

“There are so many distractions in business today — so many people trying to convince you that they have the next thing that will take your business to the next level. It is important to not let these people and tactics distract you from what works. [This book] is an evergreen reminder of the fact that the basics in business still work, and work well if you focus on them. In the book Greg renames the CEO from Chief Executive Officer to Chief Editing Officer, which is how I see myself when I step into a new business to lead its turnaround so that we can sell it for a multiple of revenue in one to two years. I need to edit out all the nonessential stuff for my team so that they are focused on revenue generating activities. The thing about being a Chief Editing Officer is that it is a never-ending job. You always need to be distilling the focus of yourself and your team into what matters most.”

–Chris Dominello, director of business development at Reliefband Technologies, which offers patented, FDA-cleared, wearable technology that treats motion sickness through neuromodulation and is available at retailers such as SamsClub.com, Amazon and FSAStore.com

4. How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick by Letty Cottin Pogrebin

“Shortly after undergoing a major surgery, I stumbled upon this book and have read it several times since. There is no manual on how to navigate life with a colleague, friend or family member who is sick yet this comes very, very close. This book makes you think about the ways in which you can improve your communication. Most people don’t know how to approach so many situations as it relates to illness and this book provides valuable tips on how to navigate this. Letty has been the patient, caregiver and friend as well as interviewed many patients for the book, so she tackles all angles necessary to write about this topic. It’s extremely heartwarming, tactical and valuable for anyone who is looking to become more compassionate.”

–Harper Spero, host of the Made Visible podcast which has featured guests including Ally Hilfiger, Genevieve Gorder, and Gunnar Esiason, with sponsors including LOLA, Beekeeper’s Naturals, NDOband, and Ouchie

5. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

“For anyone starting a company or thinking about it, they need to read this book. Startups aren’t for the faint of heart and Ben does a great job describing the personal and professional sacrifices [involved in them]. He also explains that startups are messy, full of mistakes and even big ones have many near-death experiences where not making next payroll is very real. There’s nothing that can prepare a startup founder better than jumping in the deep end. Future founders should take his messages literally and see if they have the fortitude and guts. The ‘struggle is real’ and this book is a great wake up call for the startup world.”

–Patrick O’Leary, founder and CEO of Boostr, a media-specific CRM and order management platform which grew more than 250 percent last year

6. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

“This book is about Louis Zamperini, a problem teenager, college athlete, Olympian, WWII airman and Japanese POW. While he experienced countless achievements throughout his life, the book hones in on the most challenging of all, surviving Japanese entrapment. It’s a testament to the overwhelming power of the human mind and body to overcome desperate times and events. Not only is it an enticing read, but it also shows what you can really do if you put your mind to something and don’t let others or outside factors break you.”

–Michael Fox, vice president and chief commercial officer at Valid, a global provider of technology solutions for mobile, identity, data and payments that is the fifth-largest producer of SIM Cards in the world, and is among the world’s 10 largest manufacturers of banking cards

7. The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham

“Most entrepreneurs are going 100 miles per hour in dozens of different directions, but most of us don’t even take five minutes of quiet time to think and plan. At the very start of the book, Cunningham asks: ‘How much money would you have right now if I gave you the ability to unwind any three financial decisions you have ever made?’ We all have great ideas, but sometimes the best successes are the mistakes we didn’t make. Cunningham’s book is full of insightful concepts, and I have seen tangible results from an amazingly simple one — set aside thinking time every day to work out all the variables and consequences in your plan so as to avoid those mistakes.” 

–Avi Weintraub, Fort Lauderdale chair of TIGER 21, a peer membership organization with more than 700 high-net-worth wealth creators and preservers worldwide, and CEO of The Weintraub Companies, an Inc. 500 construction company

8. Feck Perfuction by James Victore

“My Stevie award-winning sister sent me [this] book… [T]he main theme: action over perfection. Everything about your life is a test of your character. From obstacles in front of you, to the fear inside you, to the naysayers beside you. Success is how you tackle these tests. And it’s all up to you whether you play the victim or the hero. The imperfect actions of the hero are far greater than the inaction of the victim. It comes down to fighting to find the light, by being resourceful and breaking through to the other side of your greatness, and most importantly influencing your employees and colleagues.”

–Lori Taylor, co-CEO of Better Choice Company, a global health and wellness business for animals, serving 150,000 customers with 62,000 product shipments per month 

9. The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma

“I live this methodology. I wake up at 4:45 a.m. and I am in the gym by 5:00 a.m. The mental clarity and focus that owning the morning provides me sets my day up for success. It gives me the opportunity to work through my thoughts and goals for the day to ensure I make every day a meaningful and productive one. The routine provides me with discipline that radiates throughout all aspects of my professional life.”

–Ryan Webber, VP of enterprise mobility at SOTI, a provider of mobile and IoT device management solutions, with more than 17,000 enterprise customers and millions of devices managed worldwide

10. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

“Written 2,500 years ago, this book is of a disconcerting pragmatism. Far from dogmas, principles or ideologies, the objective of this book is to give readers the information that they need to win. On the one hand, it’s a great manual for managers that advises leaders on humbleness, integrity and an inflexible fairness. On the other, it provides the keys to intelligence, observation and analysis for various cases so that leaders can act in a timely, composed manner. During my entrepreneurial life [this book] has always been a reliable source for me to look to during countless situations. It’s a must-read.”

–Dr. André Choulika, CEO of Cellectis, a publicly traded biopharma company that recently received approval from the U.S. FDA to initiate clinical trials with UCARTCS1 for the treatment of multiple myeloma with the first off-the-shelf CAR T-cell therapy

11. Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

“As an entrepreneur, I am always interested in how to take my company to the next level. [This book] is the secret to take a company from one to one billion as quickly as possible and truly stand out from the competitors. This book cites the stories of the rapid rise of great companies of Facebook, Netflix, and Airbnb. The tools to support successful ‘Blitzscaling’ are the right business model, right hiring and managing practice, evolving culture, marriage of responsibility and velocity for the greater good.”

–Dr. Lan Huang, cofounder, chairman and CEO at BeyondSpring, a late-stage biopharma company focused on developing cancer therapies for non-small cell lung cancer and for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, which recently raised $35 million during a public offering of ordinary shares 

12. Leveling the Playing Field: A Guide to Successful Business Development Transactions for Private and Small Public Life Science Companies by Larry Horowitz and Larry Ellberger

“This book is short step-by-step analysis of how to approach negotiations, auctions and development transactions. Both of the authors have immense experience and share it in a straightforward and honest read. While the book did not impact my personal life, it certainly provided me with a wealth of knowledge that has enabled more successful negotiations and better commercial outcomes. I would highly recommend it.”

–Dr. William Levine, chief scientific officer of CannRx, a company developing scientifically-based cannabis technologies and products, and founder of Izun Pharmaceuticals, a company specializing in botanical medicine with an IP portfolio of over 65 patents

13. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

“This is the book you need to read to realize that perseverance is probably the most important factor required to succeed both in business and in life, and may be more important than natural aptitude. The author illustrates through many examples how the power of interest, passion, and perseverance move people and ideas forward. I can really identify with this book’s message: ‘believe in your passion, identify a goal, and persevere through grit.’ Grit is really all about the reaction to getting knocked down again and again, and how success is achieved by learning from failure. In the book: ‘To be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight.’ I really cannot count how many times I have been down face first. A couple times not even sure I would be able to get up again. But I always seem to, and most times move forward after the knockdown with a better understanding of what I have to do to succeed. To me, this is really the essence of being gritty.”

–Dr. Paul MacKoul, cofounder of The Center for Innovative GYN Care, a surgical practice with five practice locations in four states, treating complex gynecologic conditions with trademarked minimally invasive surgical techniques 

14. Alchemy by Rory Sutherland

“So many of us are trained to focus on data and the logical, and Alchemy makes a great argument for the irrational. I think everyone, myself specifically, could use a reminder that asking dumb questions, reframing old ideas and in turn, trying to create a bit of magic, can lead to unexpected solutions for some of our most difficult problems. Alchemy was a reminder of that and then some.”

–Daniel Kane, cofounder and CEO of The Ridge, an accessories company which makes a front-pocket wallet that has been purchased by more than 1 million people globally

15. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

“I was recently recommended this book and absolutely devoured it, and then immediately re-read it. The main concept, as told by Sinek, is that ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Although it is an admittedly challenging task, being able to articulate why your company is doing whatever it’s doing — and not just what it sells — is really powerful and helps to drive decision making with much more clarity. This book gives you the framework to better develop and more clearly express your ‘Why’.” 

–Adam Callinan, cofounder and CEO of BottleKeeper, which earned a $1 million combined offer from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner on Shark Tank in November 2018

16. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“I read this great classic by the Nobel prize winner Solzhenitsyn when I was in graduate school. [This book] is best known for its brilliant macro insights of Soviet life at the depth of the Cold War in the 1950s and micro insights of an individual confronting death. The story is told through characters representing different aspects of Soviet life, from the ex-political prisoner who survived years in the brutal gulags to the Soviet official who ratted out non-communists. For me, the inspirational aspect of the book was the change of behavior of a young cancer victim, who first entered the clinic with a stack of books he was committed to reading. As he realized his plight, his motivation was replaced with despair. Remarkably, he survives, but his outlook on life dramatically changes. Solzhenitsyn brilliantly addresses how life changes our motivations and how we view the world.”

–Dr. Jonathan Rothbard, chief scientific officer at cannabis biotech CannBioRx Life Sciences Corp., who was responsible for helping to establish a variety of successful biotech companies, including Amylin Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2012 for $7 billion), ImmuLogic, CellGate and Cardinal Therapeutics

Published on: Aug 18, 2019
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As Customers Begin to Shop Through Voice Assistants, What Can Brands Do to Stand Out? – Harvard Business Review

Executive Summary

Digital assistants with trustworthy recommendations will supplant the role of all but the strongest product brands. Competition will become even more brutal as consumers switch between only one or two verbally suggested options offered by digital assistants – one being their own private label or another low-cost product. Companies that have negotiated with retailers for shelf space up to now will have to find ways to convince the digital assistants to put their products at the top of verbal searches. That won’t be a problem for the strongest brands, especially those nearly synonymous with certain products – like Kleenex tissues and Q-tips cotton swabs in the United States; or a Thermos vacuum flask in the United Kingdom; and Scotch adhesive tape in France. Since many people have strong emotional attachments with these products, a digital assistant will have to suggest them – or else consumers will go elsewhere.

Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images

The Internet has overturned how people shop and reshaped the retail industry. Voice assistants are about to unleash another revolution. As people increasingly shop via the likes of Alexa and Siri, they will tend to demand generic products, starting with everyday items such as batteries and eventually including more complex purchases such as electronics. Digital assistants will use algorithms to compare product specifications, make suggestions, and do comparisons, so that customers can find “the longest-lasting battery pack” or “the cheapest bag of flour.”

If digital assistants with trustworthy recommendations become a significant source of sales – and we think they will – they could chip away at all but the strongest product brands. Competition will become even more brutal as consumers switch between only one or two verbally suggested options offered by digital assistants – one being their own private label or another low-cost product. Companies that have negotiated with retailers for shelf space up to now will have to find ways to convince the digital assistants to put their products at the top of verbal searches.

That won’t be a problem for the strongest brands, especially those nearly synonymous with certain products – like Kleenex tissues and Q-tips cotton swabs in the United States; or a Thermos vacuum flask in the United Kingdom; and Scotch adhesive tape in France. Since many people have strong emotional attachments with these products, a digital assistant will have to suggest them – or else consumers will go elsewhere.

But most other manufacturers will find conversational commerce a challenge. Some mass-market brands are already losing share as online shopping fragments the marketplace.  A survey of 10,000 American consumers that we recently conducted found that customers consider only one third of brands “go-to.” Customers are loyal to “go-to” brands because they perceive those brands to be for functionally superior products that they are emotionally connected to. Unfortunately, when asked to rate 169 brands on a scale of one of seven in terms of both attributes, respondents indicated they feel most brands stand out on only one or neither front.

So how can manufacturers compete for a voice assistant’s attention? And what sort of brands will survive in the new world of conversational commerce?

Make Product and Price Superiority Work

One approach is of course to sell at the lowest price. Without the expense of maintaining brand recognition, low-cost manufacturers can afford to give more margin to the companies behind digital assistants.  However, without funds to promote its own brand, the manufacturer will effectively become a contractor, always at risk of being replaced.

Convenient, reliable, and effective products can still become the kind of star brand that people refuse to go without. So this will remain a powerful strategy, particularly for complex products requiring significant research and development, such as smart speakers that are simply better than the alternatives or a newly-patented skin cream that really leads to better results.

But this advantage will not last long in less-complex categories, where manufacturers catch up with equivalent products quickly. After that happens, consumers rush to a rival brand of bathroom bleach, canned peas, or phone charger – unless they feel some loyalty toward the one they’ve been buying. So these manufacturers will have to use in-house data and primary research to persuade the company behind the digital assistant that featuring their brand will continue to please its customers. Alternatively, they can pay to play and give the assistant a slotting fee, just as they pay for shelf space in supermarkets. But this will likely be a fleeting, short-term fix that puts off a long-term problem.

Go Niche

Another strategy is to develop brands that algorithms recognize as the first choice for niche audiences. These “tribal” brands can develop strong emotional connections with customers that go beyond product specifications: They relate to people’s values and reflect their aspirations. The attraction may be the brand’s style and image – think Harley Davidson in motorbikes, Tom’s shoes and ethics, or Method in Household and consumers’ desire for natural things. Mass-market brands can aim to meet specific niche needs, while retaining a coherent brand expression across many tribes.

Tribal brands can help digital assistants identify their products’ natural customers. Since they sell beyond digital assistants’ footprints, manufacturers can show they are likely to have a high rate of conversion with voice shoppers by sharing customer data to demonstrate their products’ connection to certain types of consumers. To do this, advances in social listening and machine learning will be especially useful now that communications about a brand are owned less and less by the brand and more and more by their audiences. Manufacturers will retain an edge if they can map out how millions of consumers’ preferences are changing in real time by analyzing social media comments, audio, pictures, and video.

Manage Customers, Not Categories

Manufacturers will also need ways to convince digital assistants that their products will realize high returns when sold in combination with others. Companies have traditionally done this by suggesting to retailers ways to grow categories, such as detergent and skin care products. Now, online commerce is triggering a shift from category management to customer management. With the customer no longer physically confined to a supermarket aisle, algorithms can suggest products from an entirely different category – an insurance plan with an electric scooter; a recipe book with a new rice cooker; or baby toys and diapers with a car seat.

In the voice era, this practice will spread and become more sophisticated through an understanding of customer loyalties. For example, a customer who buys an environmentally-friendly detergent may trade up to a bundle of eco-products including dishwasher tabs, soap, and shampoo. A customer who buys a new pair of running shoes may also buy some running clothes and energy pouches.

The savviest manufacturers will develop portfolios of products for different affinities. Some consumers see themselves as the kind of people who buy the detergent that cleans most effectively; others worry primarily about their children’s sensitive skin; and another group is concerned about the environmental effects of the chemicals used. Tide, for example, makes Core Tide for the most effective wash, Free & Gentle for hypoallergenic users, Purclean based on plants, and the low-cost Simply. Such portfolios will be attractive to digital assistants as a way to cover customers with a single supplier relationship.

The Window for Action is Closing

Large manufacturers with deeper proprietary insights into customers than those of digital assistants are now in a strong position. Online retailers only have data for shopping habits within the scope of the products they sell. Search engines know what consumers look for, but this can be different from what they end up buying. Moreover, most of this analysis is based on past actions, which have their limits for predicting future behavior. Manufacturers’ innovation pipelines make it easier for them to envision future trends.

Some of the largest manufacturers are also investing in global data centers that build individual data profiles. These can help spot trends and predict future needs – “future-casting” – while also facilitating real-time customer management. For instance, one consumer packaged goods firm can identify supply chain issues in real time through social listening, enabling it to resolve issues before they become a major problem for a retailer.

But companies that don’t act now risk seeing profits migrate to the small number of winning brands that will remain.  The skills required are scarce and the capabilities are expensive to build.

Today, five-year-olds – who can’t yet type – are some of the most eager users of voice technology. In a decade or so, we believe a significant share of commerce will be carried out by a generation used to shopping by voice. The adoption curve will be much steeper than that for online shopping, which has built up over the last 20 years. So manufacturers should review their portfolio of brands, focus on those that fit one of the three strategies above, and exit the rest.

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5 Lessons I Learned from Selling My Startup – Harvard Business Review

Executive Summary

The M&A process can be treacherous, especially for startups. Here’s what one founder learned when he sold his company.

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For entrepreneurs, selling their startups can be an important affirmation that all their hard work led to the creation of something with lasting value. But it can also be a treacherous process in which founders end up losing control and putting their own interests at risk. I learned the lesson firsthand starting in February 2017, when I set out to vet investment bankers to assist BestReviews (which I co-founded in 2014 with two others) as we considered selling to a strategic partner. Below, I share some of the lessons I learned during the M&A process.

Don’t let bankers, lawyers, or other advisors run the show. Some people think that the bankers are going to create a perfect outcome, and we were fortunate to work with a great team from Lazard. Never forget you hired them as advisors, and that is exactly what they will offer: advice. When it came to setting a purchase price, our bankers and accounting advisors had one opinion, the sellers had a very different opinion, and we ourselves had yet another opinion that fell somewhere between the two and that we firmly believed was fair to all parties. This is what guided our decisions and led to an outcome we could live with. If you allow advisors to become decision makers, then realize the outcome may not be what you want, and you will be the one living with it.

Recognize the limits of non-disclosure agreements. It’s important to understand that an NDA prohibits people from sharing information, not from using it themselves. That’s why we were super careful about disclosing information around our organic search tactics, technology stack, and operational processes — all elements of our “secret sauce” — even to people inside the NDA. And yet, not surprisingly, before our sale process was even over we saw potential buyers who had read our Confidential Investment Memorandum replicating key aspects of our business. An NDA only means so much.

Invest in building trust with potential buyers. If you are not traveling to build in-person relationships with these key partners, you are probably missing out on potential; phone calls alone are rarely adequate. We drew up a list of potential strategic buyers early on (some of whom were already partners or had shown interest in buying us) and regularly engaged with them to build authentic relationships; we heard from a couple of them that our efforts on this front were the critical factor in their decision to bid on BestReviews. Remember that a business or corporate development leader may be putting his career on the line in bidding for your company. Trust matters.

Hire board members carefully. We had a chance to bring on an A+ independent director/advisor to our board — a highly seasoned investment banker — but didn’t move forward because we were worried about equity dilution and lack of value creation. This is a mistake that a lot of founders make. Had we hired this person, he’d have brought not just experience but valuable relationships with influential people in the companies that were contemplating bidding. When considering someone for the board, ask yourself: Is the person knowledgeable about the business and industry itself? Do they have insights or relationships that can create value? And most importantly do they have the inclination, passion, and time to use these assets to create value for your company? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then they are probably worth hiring.

Finally, remember that the M&A process is a marathon, not a sprint. In our case, it lasted about a year. In that time, there were multiple deals that fell apart at the last moment. You have got to keep running the business during this emotional roller coaster; in fact, you need to do even better since your most recent results will likely determine the price someone will pay — or if they bid at all. Hire extra talent to help if needed; there will be plenty of work to go around under most circumstances. Remember to take care of yourself.

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New Zealand just became the first country to legalize salary payments in cryptocurrencies (BTC)

bitcoinDavid Ryder/Stringer

  • New Zealand will legally allow companies to pay salaries in cryptocurrency starting September 1, becoming the first nation to do so, according to a Financial Times report.
  • The country requires the preferred cryptocurrency to be pegged to a standard currency and directly convertible into a normal form of payment. This stipulation allows bitcoin to replace the New Zealand dollar on workers’ paychecks.
  • Companies paying workers in cryptocurrency can deduct income tax through the country’s pay-as-you-earn plan.
  • Visit the Markets Insider homepage for more stories.

New Zealand has become the first country to legalize cryptocurrency salaries, according to a report Monday from the Financial Times.

The country’s tax agency ruled salaries and wages may be paid in cryptocurrencies so long as the preferred digital coin is pegged to at least one standard, or fiat, currency. New Zealand also requires that the crypto of choice be directly convertible into a standard form of payment.

This allows bitcoin — the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market cap — to serve as a form of payment for New Zealand workers when the law goes into effect September 1.

The decision was originally filed in an August 7 note, which also detailed New Zealand’s plans to allow for bonuses to be paid in cryptocurrency. The salary option will still fall under the nation’s income tax scheme, and the ruling excludes self-employed workers from switching their income to cryptocurrency.

The move brings the controversial digital asset further into the realm of everyday payment methods. Cryptocurrencies are relatively free of regulation, and their untrackable nature helped them grow popular with anonymous online purchases. The move serves as "another step towards governments recognizing that actually people are wanting to be paid in" cryptocurrencies, said Thomas Hulme, a solicitor at London-based law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett, to the FT.

Markets Insider is looking for a panel of millennial investors. If you’re active in the markets, CLICK HERE to sign up.

Cryptocurrencies are also considered a novel — and volatile — investment asset. Bitcoin currently trades at a 19-month high, surging as investors flee stocks on trade-war fears. It’s still down about 42% from its record high price of nearly $20,000 per coin in December 2017.

New Zealand’s decision comes nearly two months after Facebook announced its own cryptocurrency, named Libra. Though the reveal stoked privacy concerns from investors and government officials alike, the tech giant’s interest in digital currency added new legitimacy to the technology.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

An RBC analyst was just charged with insider trading barely a year after finishing undergrad

Goldman Sachs CEO: The chance of recession is ‘still relatively low’

‘We see everything that happens’: Real-estate data is changing the game —execs at Cresa, Niido, and other firms explain why

NOW WATCH: How Area 51 became the center of alien conspiracy theories

See Also:

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Verizon Is Selling Tumblr to Parent Company of WordPress, Reportedly for Far Less Than 2013’s $1.1 Billion Sale

Technology

Verizon is Selling Tumblr to Parent Company of WordPress, for a Deal Reportedly Far Less Than 2013’s $1.1 Billion Sale

The deal marks the latest change of ownership for Tumblr, a social-media infused blogging platform that at one time ranked among the web’s hottest properties

Getty Images

Verizon is selling blogging site Tumblr to Automattic, the parent company of publishing site WordPress, the companies announced on Monday.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, though a source told Axios the price was “well below $20 million”– an astounding discount to the $1.1 billion that Tumblr fetched when Yahoo acquired it in 2013.

Automattic will take on 200 Tumblr employees as part of its deal with Verizon.

The deal marks the latest change of ownership for Tumblr, a social-media infused blogging platform that at one time ranked among the web’s hottest properties. Launched in New York in 2007 by web enterpreneur David Karp, Tumblr quickly became popular among artists and writers for its niche culture and easy-to-use services.

Automaticc CEO Matt Mullenweg said in a statement on Monday that Tumblr, which has 475 million blogs on its service, represents an “iconic” brand known for helping people share ideas, culture and experiences.

But the fire-sale price of the deal underscored how far Tumblr has fallen from its heyday, and the nearly insurmountable challenges facing consumer web companies trying to mount a comeback.

Verizon, formerly known as Oath, has been reportedly shopping around for a buyer for Tumblr since May as part of the ongoing restructuring of the media portion of its business that includes HuffPost, AOL, and TechCrunch, among others.

Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan described the Tumblr sale as the “culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process.”

A billion dollar sale and then a downard spiral.

Verizon inherited the popular blogging site through its 2017 acquisition of Yahoo, which had itself acquired Tumblr in 2013.

Yahoo paid a premium price for Tumblr in 2013, hoping Tumblr’s younger users could revive the fortunes of its aging web portal. But the $1.1 billion deal was deemed excessive even at the time, given that Tumblr barely generated any revenue. And as Tumblr’s popularity faded in the following years, as larger sites from Reddit to Facebook proved more adept at attract and retaining traffic, Yahoo was forced to write off hundreds of millions of dollars for its acquisition.

When Yahoo was swallowed up by Verizon, Tumblr’s fate only worsened: Many devoted Tumblr users who turned to the site for its lax rules around hosting adult content were outraged over Verizon’s decision to ban all adult content from the site in 2018.

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news of the sale, that he intends to keep the ban in place.

Automattic oversees several publishing companies in addition to WordPress, including long-form site Longreads, a comment filtering and tracking service, and an avatar generator.

The deal is subject to customary closing conditions.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Published on: Aug 13, 2019
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3 Ways to Build a Culture of Collaborative Innovation – Harvard Business Review

Executive Summary

You’ll have a far more innovative, resilient organization if you follow three practices. 1) Create tools that allow everyone to communicate strategically about innovation. Materials science company W.L. Gore puts its key innovation criteria in the form of a one-page “Product Concept Worksheet.” The template allows anyone to propose a new idea — and everyone to judge its merit. 2) Vet and refine ideas collectively and continuously. In nimble organizations, innovation ideas aren’t reviewed once or twice a year by a senior committee. Instead they undergo a constant process of review, refinement, and — if necessary — death. The goal is for only the best ideas to survive. 3) Keep top leaders focused on helping those close to the coal get the resources and support they need. The job of top leaders is to serve people who are close to the market.

Andy Roberts/Getty Images

All organizations have the ability to be smarter than the sum of their members’ intelligence and talent. Unfortunately, most are actually dumber. The good news is there are a handful of practical steps to boost collective intelligence.

Create tools that allow everyone to communicate strategically about innovation. Good ideas can come from all corners of a company, but would-be innovators may need help developing a strong strategic argument. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the innovative government agency focused on transformational breakthroughs in national security, uses a set of simple questions called the Heilmeier Catechism (named after a former director), to think through and evaluate proposed research programs:

  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the mid-term and final “exams” [that will allow you to measure] success?

Materials science company W.L. Gore puts its key innovation criteria in the form of a one-page “Product Concept Worksheet,” which contains: a concise statement of the product concept, the technology to be utilized, the form of the product, and the customer needs that the product will address.

Either approach can easily be adjusted for use in most organizations; they provide common language that allows anyone to propose a new idea — and everyone to judge its merit.

Vet and refine ideas collectively and continuously. In nimble organizations, innovation ideas aren’t reviewed once or twice a year by a senior committee. Instead they undergo a constant process of review, refinement, and — if necessary — death. The goal is for only the best ideas to survive. In our research, we found that successful collective vetting depends on at least two things.

The first is clear, commonly understood guidelines (also known as simple rules) by which to judge proposed innovations. In an effort to rejuvenate its innovation pipeline, Corning created a set of simple rules, derived from successful past innovations:

  • address new markets with more than $500 million in potential revenue
  • leverage the company’s expertise in materials science
  • represent a critical component in a complex system, and
  • be protected from competition by patents and proprietary process expertise.

Second, diverse stakeholders are invited in early and often to help judge and refine the idea. At Gore, “passionate champions” for new innovations use the company’s tools to frame the strategic case for their idea, vetting it with customers and colleagues in the process. If the idea gains support, the champion schedules regular peer review sessions with people from manufacturing, R&D, sales & marketing, and other areas of expertise who are in a good position to judge and refine the idea. The company’s culture of frank talk drives these review sessions. People understand that their collective job is to kill bad projects as quickly as possible and accelerate those that show the most promise.

Guidelines make it easier for everyone to judge the value of new innovations and avoid large, bad bets on relatively untested ideas. Senior leaders periodically review the portfolio of project ideas that are bubbling up and knit them together, using their knowledge of organizational capabilities and market/technology trends to create organizational strategy.

Bust through barriers that block innovation. Most organizations have regular  procedures for leaders to determine which new projects should get funded and who will be assigned to these initiatives. But at nimble organizations, leadership is flipped upside down. The job of top leaders is to serve people who are close to the market. They do whatever they can to clear the way for promising new projects and get innovation teams the resources they need.

NASA’s leaders are undertaking an intensive effort to understand and transform several major barriers to innovation. They asked their employees to help; people responded with nearly 300 recommendations. Some of these aimed to encourage more idea generation by giving people more time, money, recognition, and dedicated physical space for innovation. Others focused on reducing process requirements for innovations, for instance, fast-tracking low-cost missions and giving special treatment to high-potential technologies. One proposal would require new flight programs and projects to include an element of innovation to encourage informed, appropriate R&D risk, as a means to counter the agency’s risk-averse culture. The outcome of this effort remains to be seen, but NASA’s leaders are certainly making a concerted effort to tackle the blocks to innovation.

Using these three practices, companies can harness the insights and energy of all of their people through a collective “prediction market,” in which innovation ideas are examined, improved, and pushed forward by the many, not the few. An innovation prediction market makes many small bets on new ideas at early stages, only a few of which will pan out after intensive collective vetting. In so doing, nimble companies aggregate the intelligence of their workers to better predict future success, and act to make that future real.

 

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