Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Crowdfunding and Real Estate

 

How Crowdfunding is Reshaping the Real Estate Sector


Crowdfunding is no longer the only buzzword in the world of investment - it has recently diversified in exciting new ways. Real estate crowdfunding is one of the latest industry trends, even though it is still in its early developmental phase.

How it used to be


Before crowdfunding emerged, private real estate investments heavily relied on networking. Investors were sourced from a tight network of connected people, more or less like an exclusive country club. It was all about who you know. The reason for this is because of the Securities Act of 1933, a rule that stated that private investments could not be marketed in public. Once an investor was sourced from this limited source, there was yet another stumbling block - funding. Not all parties interested in real estate investment could afford the considerable funding required. Minimum investment thresholds could easily run into the six figure range. These factors shut the average investor out of the real estate market. It was not only bad news for investors, but also meant that real estate companies had limited access to capital. 

How it all changed with crowdfunding

In 2012 an act called Jumpstart our Business Startups was passed. The act made it possible for small businesses and startups to raise funds and advertise their business offerings in a more public way - crowdfunding being an ideal platform for this new approach. This change in dynamic has not only seriously benefitted investors; it created a shift in the real estate industry as a whole. The swift growth has also brought the wide-ranging benefits of crowdfunding to the market and effectively raised millions in a short space of time. 

Not just a trend


Through crowdfunding real estate businesses no longer have to rely on connections to source hundreds of thousands for a single deal; they can now access large amounts of money from a wider range of sources, from all over the world. With crowdfunding the global real estate sector got smaller, more effective - and friendlier.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Remote Revolution



Despite reservations, working remotely has become commonplace, especially for employees in technology roles. But programmers, web developers and SEO specialists are not the only workers enjoying the flexibility a virtual office gives. Copywriters, translators, designers and PR specialists are offering their freelance services to a global clientele. You don't even have to be self-employed to work from home. Call centres are increasingly offering virtual positions, as are travel agencies and research companies. These individuals choose their own surroundings and avoid the pressures of a daily commute.

But do they work?

Some may argue that a less stressful work environment boosts productivity; others disagree and believe employees out of sight are out of mind. Companies like Yahoo have thus far declined to join the remote revolution. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer claims that the reasoning behind the refusal is that working together physically creates a sense of unity. Even Google's CFO Patrick Pichette said that as few as possible Google employees work from home for the same reason: unity. The company do, however, allow this and leave it up to personal choice. When pressed with the decision of whether or not to allow top staff to telecommute, what would you do? Should you opt for offering this option and enjoying the freedom of being able to recruit talented employees from all over the world, or is it vital to keep your team connected?

How to keep in touch

Whether a company chooses to offer virtual working to secure or retain top talent or because of motivational or overhead concerns, it is important to approach this practice strategically. Here are some guidelines:

* Communication first -- Some of the biggest issues in companies stem from poor communication. When workers are not onsite, this can become an even bigger problem. Work out a clear plan that includes communication options and channels like VOIP, email and telephone. Establish a schedule for regular updates.

* Excellent tools - Communication will be impossible without the required tech tools. Make sure that this is accessible to all remote workers. Quality computer hardware, adequate internet connections and cloud-based software are essential tools for remote workers.

* A contact point network - Processes have to resemble an in-house operation and interdepartmental interaction forms part of this. Communications should be streamlined by matching up employees in technical and operational roles as points of contact for feedback and sharing information.

* Structure and expectations - Processes should be clearly stipulated. Every remote employee should know exactly what is expected of them and which process to follow to achieve results. Team performance metrics help employees feel connected and motivated.
Offer options for travel - The occasional face-to-face meeting is invaluable in most businesses. Travel should be pre-agreed and stipulated in the remote employee's contract. Be clear about who will be covering the expenses and how often this is expected.

Now is the time

Tech capabilities are now at an unprecedented level of innovation and speed. By investing in the right tools, and the right people, there has never been a better time to explore the potential a flexible virtual workforce can hold. 

Crowdfunding for Dummies

One, Two, Three - Crowdfunding


Crowdfunding is a method of acquiring funds from investors from across the globe by using Internet technology. The basic idea is to offer one of two things to investors; either rewards for investing money into businesses or shares in the businesses. Some crowdfunding sites offer options for short-term projects and are aimed at generous people who are passionate about their type of business. Other sites look for investors for long-term business ventures.

Crowdfunding is popular


Although still a relatively new method, Crowdfunding is fast becoming more than just a rather recent entry into the business of obtaining funds for business ideas and projects. A specialist crowdfunding research company called Massolution reported steady growth in the industry. According to Massolution, crowdfunding generated over US$2.7 billion with more than a million campaigns across the globe in 2012 - and these numbers continue to increase every year. Sir Richard Branson once told a British newspaper that crowdfunding would have been his first choice if it existed in the sixties when he started the Virgin empire. 

Ready, steady, go!


You have an idea you have been working on. You have a prototype, you know your target market, and you have ideas for marketing - now all you need is funding. Although it takes a lot of knowledge gathering before you are crowdfunding fundi, everybody has to start somewhere, right? Here are some tips to get you going:

• If your project is on the creative side, try Indiegogo or Kickstarter. Other successful crowdfunding sites include MicroVentures, CircleUp and Crowdfunder - to name but a few. Just Google 'business crowdfunding'.
• Keep abreast of changing rules. Federal and SEC regulations change, as do crowdfunding site rules. For a smooth campaign, it is important to know what the authorities and the platforms expect from you.
• Be aware of the risks involved. Some sites will only facilitate the funding if your target is reached. So if you hope to raise US$10,000 and you have US$9,800 pledged - you can forget about it. Another obvious risk is that your idea may be stolen.
• Find your best fit. By reviewing the rules and campaigns on several sites you can determine which one will best suit your efforts.
• Don't make your business plan too heavy. Former head of Indiegogo, Adam Chapnik suggests that you should create a big plan, and then throw it away and make a simpler version. Business plans are optional on some of the sites, where questionnaires are preferred.

Research and network


While these tips can whet your appetite to get your goods out there, and help you to take the first step, there is a lot to learn about the industry. The best tip money can't buy is simply to research and network. The more you learn and the more time you spend with like minded individuals, the more likely your campaign is of success. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Instagram - the Newest Frontier in Marketing

Why Instagram Is a Great Marketing Tool

We have all heard of Instagram. It is for sharing photos and it has cool filters, right? Yes, the filters on Instagram certainly make simple snaps look like a million bucks. But, this site is not just about pictures. It is one of the latest and most popular social media platforms, and it became so popular so fast that Instagram photos have made it to the covers of Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Not to mention the fact that social media heavyweight Facebook acquired Instagram for around US$1 billion in cash and stocks.

The cool factor

When Instagram was launched in October 2010 it was almost instantly popular, especially with millennials -- over 40% of the some 300 million active users are aged between 16 and 24. Pictures speak a thousand words, and Instagram pictures look amazing. People like that sort of thing and the numbers continue to grow.

Using the cool factor for marketing

When something achieves this level of popularity and reaches such a massive audience, the next obvious step is to tap it as a marketing resource. Using social media platforms is now the cutting edge of marketing and visual marketing platforms like Instagram are at the front line.

Why it is working:

• Visual marketing is growing. There is a clear shift towards visual marketing, especial in B2C marketing.
• It is easy to stand out in a crowd. Because it is new to the market, Instagram is not yet heaving with marketing material. Those around in the early years of Internet advertising will remember that the first few pop-up advertisements were a novelty before becoming the nuisance they are today.
• Instagram is more human. By using a platform that is in tune with the contemporary millennial audience, you are engaging on a more 'human' level.
• Connectivity is king. Engagement is one of the top buzzwords around. The Instagram infrastructure consists of hashtags, tagging, liking, mentioning and making comments. This promotes ongoing interaction and exactly the kind of engagement companies are craving.
• Instagram is an ideal platform for Influencers. Another buzzword around, an Influencer uses a media platform to gain a following large enough to affect a level of influence on followers. By sharing interesting content and eliciting interaction, trust and influence is established.

It's not just about the numbers; Instagram has the feel-good factor

More companies are using Instagram every day to increase brand awareness and engagement and to grow consumer numbers. But that is not all it is about. Trust wins business and part of creating trust is injecting your market offering with a good dose of comfort and fun. What better tool to use than something with a feel-good factor?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Data Protection Laws Affect Startups

Data Privacy Laws vs. Advanced Tech for Startups

Two major developments happened in the field of data privacy and technology in Europe the past couple of weeks. The European Union announced their draft data protection legislation and the Moments app from Facebook was banned from Europe. At least until its built-in facial recognition technology includes an opt-in feature. This has made tech enthusiasts and innovators start wondering about the rules governing tech innovation when it comes to data protection.

It has all happened too fast

The rapid pace of technological innovation has left the regulations lacking in many ways. For example, the data protection rules are uniform across the EU, as well as surprisingly ambiguous and flexible. In theory, uniformity should reduce business costs and strengthen privacy and security. In reality, the business climate, cultural expectations and ideas about privacy vastly differ in European countries. This results in each member state interpreting the rules in a different way. There is no consistency and therefore no concrete way of dealing with advanced technology like Facebook's facial recognition tech or the Whatsapp encryption software. Many of the current laws were drawn up when Windows '95 was the latest and greatest, long before social networking and high-speed Internet took off.

Bad news for startups with global ambitions

The very nature of data protection is in dull contrast to the high-speed and vibrant world of global tech. Face it, it is not likely that the two will ever become true friends. If a tech giant like Facebook can get into trouble, imagine what data protection laws can do to smaller startups. Even if the rules are clearly defined and set in judicial stone, it will likely still fall short when it comes to startups hoping to enter the international market. To make matters worse, what is happening in Europe is not isolated. Most of the world is debating the balancing act between privacy and tech development.

What is a startup to do?

Startups that are unleashing bleeding edge tech should get legal help if possible. If this is not possible, the only way to move forward is to be 100% ethical and to tread very carefully. European regulators appreciate transparency so it is usually wise to disclose how customer data is used. This is also a prime opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the market offering. By building in clear opt-in and opt-outs, the tech is more likely to be treated positively - obviously especially if there is some kind of facial recognition tech in the product.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Flow Hive Sets Crowdfunding Record

Buzz About a New Indiegogo Record

A dramatic prediction, which was allegedly made by Albert Einstein, claimed that mankind would have no more than four years on earth should bees become extinct. Whether the world's most famous physicist made this prophecy or not, the fact remains that, without bees, pollination would be drastically affected. Certain plant life like almond trees, melons and berries would be in serious trouble, not to mention the knock-on effect on the beef and dairy industry when alfalfa hay becomes extinct, along with its pollinators. After launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, the inventors of Flow Hive soon saw that investors share this concern.

What is Flow Hive?

Claimed to be 'the most significant innovation in beekeeping since 1852', Flow Hive is an invention that helps the carers of honeybees: the beekeepers -- as well as the bees. With Flow Hive, honey can safely be collected without opening the hive. Beekeepers simply turn on a tap to extract the honey. By using this method of extraction, bees are not being disturbed as much as they are with conventional honey harvesting methods, leaving them healthier and happier.



Raising interest in bees

Besides the obvious technical innovation, Flow Hive also brings social innovation. Because it is safer and simpler for people to keep bees, it will increase interest in beekeeping and encourage laypeople to try their hand at keeping hives and caring for bees. 

Not just about the money

The Indiegogo Flow Hive campaign realised its goal of US$70,000 within eight minutes of being launched -- and it didn't stop there. A record-breaking US$2.8 million was achieved in 24 hours and by the last week of June it reached a whopping US$12,301,367. This goes to show that it is not only the latest and greatest in tech gadgets making waves in the crowdfunding world. A campaign with a more significant impact on the world than being a mere money-maker can hit the right notes with investors. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bet You Didn't Know This about Siri


Why Siri Is Not Just Any Digital Girl

Every technologically inclined person knows at least the basics of Apple's knowledge navigator and so-called 'intelligent' personal assistant. Her name is Siri and she uses a language-based interface to perform various actions for the user. For example, making recommendations, answering questions, and acting as an interface between the user and a range of Web services like Wolfram Alpha. If that doesn't sound clever enough, believe it or not, Siri evolves - in a way. Perhaps adapt is a better term. Because what she does is adjust results and language usage based on individual preferences picked up through ongoing use.


Amazing! But that is not all...

Siri is a lot more capable than what most people think. From checking the calories in your Coke to reminding you to pack your lunch, your new digital friend can be very helpful indeed, and just like most software, she has some very interesting features.


10 Quirky or cool things Siri can do:        

    
Phone screen showing list of things Siri can do

 * Your name:
 Since you are going to be interacting with Siri by talking,  you may as well be on a first name basis. If Siri  pronounces it wrong, simply say, 'You pronounced my  name wrong.' If you want her to call you something else,  like a nickname, tell Siri, 'Call me (nickname) from now  on.'

 * Calories:

 Ask Siri, 'How many calories are in (food item)?' and she  will tell you.    

 * Play a song:

 If you use your iPhone to play music in your car, you can  tell Siri to play a specific album or song without taking  your eyes off the road.

 * Morse code:

 Siri speaks Morse code and you can learn words by  asking her, 'What is Morse code for (word)?

 



* Get to app settings quickly:
 When you have an app open, hold the Home button down to bring Siri up. Say, 'Settings' and she will bring you to the apps settings.

*A safer password:

Say to Siri, 'Wolfram password' and she will give you a secure password instantly.

* Be a better poker player:

By asking, 'Wolfram, what are the odds of a (poker hand)?' you can learn about the rarity of hands.

* Reminders:

Instead of a string around your finger, ask Siri to remind you of specific things like, 'Remind me on Thursday at 8:30 am to order sushi'.

* Text messages:

Listen and respond to your latest text message by telling Siri, 'Read my last message'.

* Bye:

When you no longer need Siri, simply dismiss her by saying 'Bye'.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Is Your Business Idea the Height of Innovation, or Just Weird?

Ready for a venture?


Why Some Venture Capitalists Go for 'Weird' Ideas


When you start pitching ideas to venture capitalists, one of the first things you learn is not to go in blind. Because VCs tend to stick to the same industries, it is vital that entrepreneurs do their homework thoroughly. It is a good idea to find investors who have previously backed products or services similar to yours. Also find out other factors, like the stage at which they make investments and the level of involvement they have. A lot of this information is available on company websites. But what happens if you have a product or a service that serves an industry that does not exist? 

Maybe you are a pioneer

Just because you are not finding an overlap in what you are offering and in the VCs' profiles, that does not mean there is no hope for your idea. Perhaps you are onto something genuinely innovative. Remember the investors who first backed 3D printing or wearable tech did not have anything like that in their investment portfolios at the time. A few years ago these multi-billion industries did not exist. 

From crazy to viable

Some investors out there are even asking for so-called 'crazy' ideas to invest in. Look at Braintree founder Bryan Johnson, who told Fortune recently: “I want to get a company from ‘crazy’ to ‘viable,'” He has already invested in drones that service third-world countries, AI computers and interplanetary mining. The question for innovative entrepreneurs with is how to find somebody who will back their novel ideas. Not everybody can rely on Johnson; he only takes on a very small percentage of businesses.

Take it everywhere and pitch it hard

Nothing sells like conviction. Talk to anybody who will listen and hopefully it will eventually resonate with a VC with enough flexibility and capital to launch your futuristic brainchild. In the 70s, a university student called Fred Smith wrote an economics paper about an overnight shipping service and got graded a 'C' for it. Smith ran with his crazy idea anyway and it is now known as FedEx. In the 90s a financial analyst called Jeff Bezos noticed a marginal increase in online sales, which at that stage hardly existed. He thought that books would be a logical product to start selling online and started a website to do that. It took as many as 60 meetings to get the capital together with venture capitalists Nick Hanauer and Tom Alberg, who were some of the first to invest. That website now attracts millions of users globally and is called Amazon. 

Even though your idea may end up being more crazy than constructive, you never know. Today's outlandish idea may be tomorrow's Amazon, Facebook, Dropbox, or even Crocs.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When You Have a Great Product but a Failed Crowdfunding Campaign




Why Some Great Products Are Not Successful in Getting the Required Crowd funding

Crowdfunding success stories get all the attention, and for good reason. Somebody somewhere thought up something amazing and worked on turning it into a marketable product. They then shared their vision with the masses and got some much deserved financial backing to get the wheels turning. The thing is, not all brilliant ideas can turn into crowdfunding superstars. Even if you have an amazing product, your crowdfunding campaign could still go very wrong. Although there could be many reasons, two of the most common problems are: the campaign is not hitting the right spot, or the product is great, but just not at the cutting edge of innovation -- like these two clever products that very nearly did not fly.


Crowd fouding

Campfire in a Can 

Although this portable propane fire pit is a great product, it initially failed to ignite the passions of the crowdfunding community. Inventor Leo Knight launched his ambitious campaign at the beginning of June 2014 with a goal of US$80,000. Knight cancelled it in late July, after a mere 297 backers pledged only 30-something thousand. Beaten but not discouraged, the inventor spent the rest of the year plotting his comeback. After looking into other campaigns Knight introduced his product yet again, this time with an improved promotional video, more in-depth descriptions and a more conservative funding goal of US$48,000. His efforts were rewarded with a whopping pledge amount of nearly US$125,000.

BeActive Brace

Akiva Shmidman is a physical therapist who invented a pressure brace that helps relieve back pain. He made a prototype in 2008, tested it with great success and called it BeActive Brace. For the next five years Shmidman spent time refining his product, until he felt ready to start promoting it. In May 2013 he launched his crowdfunding campaign. Unfortunately he raised a mere two percent of his US$50,000 goal. Shmidman realised that the crowdfunding community is more interested in innovative products than solving an old problem, like aching backs, and decided to ditch crowdfunding altogether. He took his life-changing device to an inventor's speed pitch event, where he impressed the audience with a live demonstration on one of the judges. In a matter of months, well over one million units were sold and in 2014 BeActive Brace became the most successful product sold under the 'As Seen on TV' category.

Not All Losers Are Losers

What we can learn from this is that even though a failed crowdfunding campaign can be disheartening, it does not mean it's the end of the road. The trick is to do some research, make some changes and try again, or try a different route.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Clash of the Tech Titans


Apple,Amazon and Google
Three tech giants are vying for your attention. They not only want you to buy their products, they also want you to invest in their future vision by buying shares. When you hear the names Amazon, Apple and Google, it seems like a no-brainer; investing in one of these three greats is bound to be lucrative, right? Not necessarily. As with any other investment, only looking at it superficially could land you in hot water.

Tech success in three easy steps

Creating a successful tech company used to be clear-cut: 

  1. Create a progressive product people need
  2. Take control of the market 
  3. Rake in the serious cash involved with controlling a bit of popular tech

This is how Bill Gates did it with Microsoft in the 90s, not to mention Cisco Systems and Intel. At the turn of the millennium things changed; the new-fangled industry greats are completely different.

Amazon, Apple and Google


These companies have huge product lines, all tied together in some way supporting the core revenue stream. Think of them as well-run towns: to figure out whether a town has strong future potential, it takes careful consideration of every aspect. Let's take a look at how these companies measure up to one another.

Amazon


The biggest online vendor in the world still rakes in millions of dollars in sales every month, but the losses have been snowballing over the past few quarters. Although CEO Jeff Bezos' idea of establishing long-term market leadership instead of focusing on short-term gains may work out in the long run, bad decisions like the Fire phone (Amazon's smartphone) is cause for concern.
The verdict: Don't buy Amazon shares. If you have Amazon shares, sell them asap.

Apple


Apple sells experiences rather than products, and it seems like the iPhone is the top selling 'experience' around. More than half of the company's substantial revenue is made up of iPhone sales; it is even eating into Android phone sales for the first time in two years. Apple stock is available at discounted rates despite having a higher yield, and the company's revenue growing more than a third faster than the current average of big tech companies.
The verdict: Buy Apple stock now.

Google


Not many company names have been converted into a verb. Even though Google Glass and other nifty gadgets are available on the market, advertising is still where most of the company's revenue comes from. The hardware serves a dual purpose; although not a lot, it brings in some money and it puts the search engine (the real money-maker) out there. Google stock is reasonably cheap now and prices appear to be steadily dropping. Whether this is a temporary setback or cause for long-term concern is not certain. But, Google is Google so may be worth hanging onto for a while.
The verdict: Hold on to shares and keep a watch on prices.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CIOs Risk Being Marginalised Through Obsolete Thinking

Big Data (source: Wikipedia)
Big Data (source: Wikipedia)
Emerging digital technologies have the power to either excite or irritate corporate kingpins responsible for company tech. It presents pressing challenges to Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT managers to keep up with the ever-changing maelstrom of development, and it downright harasses the unfortunate CIOs who maintain a mindset of: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Not embracing tech for various reasons


Even CIOs not stuck on outdated tech, are falling behind in terms of technological progress. According to research from the progressive analysts at Gartner, a disturbing percentage of CIOs are not grasping the full spectrum of opportunities that the state-of-the-art tech of the 21st century offers. The excuse? "There is just too much tech to come to terms with these days", they allegedly say.

A simple solution in a veritable tech jungle


Gartner not only identified the problem but also offers a clear-cut way forward. To make things easier for CIOs who are feeling overwhelmed, the intrepid company has identified six of the core areas of technology:
  • Wearable tech and human augmentation - Social, religious and ethical issues have not stunted the rapid growth of making tech so accessible you literally wear it. Human augmentation takes it one step further and is not lagging far behind in development. CIOs will have to consider the implications of not accepting this as the next step to maintain a competitive edge.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) - Big Media and Big Data is big news, as is environmental monitoring and energy management. CIOs can also expect to start hearing more about IoT technology in areas like interactive building automation and fleet management integrated with geo-location. According to Gartner, the biggest problem is the potential for political tension between departments when faced with the ultimate in integration.
  • Cyber safety - Unfortunately, corporate espionage is fast becoming an integral part of unscrupulous corporate companies' agendas. It is a dog-eat-dog world and serious players need to protect themselves. 
  • 3D printing - The possibilities are endless for this particular technology, and are already being applied in areas like manufacturing, art and even in domestic use. CIOs should become familiar with 3D printing before it becomes a crucial element as part of routine tasks. 
  • Robotics - Automation has been, and continues to be a priority in progress. With every passing year more has to happen in a shorter time-frame. Simply put: we need machines just to keep up with the rest of the world in daily life. In business, this is becoming even more vital.
  • Cognitive machines - A scary notion, but that will not make it go away. CIOs should look at ways of using this as complementary technology and not a replacement for human work.

Say yes to innovation


According to Gartner, CIOs will have to look at restructuring as soon as possible to accommodate overlapping areas of responsibility. Operations-focused technologies would fall under operations as well as IT and the same applies to HR-focused tech, marketing tech etc. The trick to seamless integration is planning, but before that can happen they have to say yes to the tech and take responsibility, or they will get left behind.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Advisors to Avoid When you Start your Startup

are you launching a startup?
are you  launching a startup?

As soon as people hear you are launching a startup you will start getting all sorts of advice - good and bad, sensible and silly. Mention your ideas, and people around will turn into a variety of 'experts'. Suddenly the mailman will want to add onto your product line, your sister's new boyfriend will insist you add particular functionality and some person you met on the bus will know a top secret way to get Google to buy into your business. You will undoubtedly hear suggestions so ridiculous you'll have to insist that a generous pinch of salt is served alongside them.

Advice: to ignore advice, or not to ignore?

As a fresh entrepreneur rolling with a new idea, you could probably use good advice from people with experience. The problem is how to filter useful advice through an ocean of irrelevance. Start by taking a good look at the source of the advice: the advisor. There are many kinds of advisors, and some have to be avoided at all cost.
  1. The know-it-all - This kind of advisor comes across as being very knowledgeable without asking any questions about your business or paying much attention to your ideas. They launch into advice almost immediately; they spout out technical terminology and industry statistics at a rapid rate, and leave you wishing you had a pen, a notepad and some serious shorthand skills. The know-it-all is likely giving advice just to feel important and the advice is probably about their business, and not yours. 
  2. The blinkered - Blinkered advisors are assumed to be experts because they have had entrepreneurial success. This sort of advisor starts every bit of advice by using the distant past as an example and is only able to apply experience in a single context. Times change and it is important to get current advice from a wider scope of experience. 
  3. The snake - Although there are many honest people in the world, you may come across advisors with ulterior motives. Watch out for somebody who persists in trying to change your mind about something you instinct says is a good idea - good ideas are often stolen. 
  4. The yes man - You know if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some advisors will be 100% positive about your startup and fall in with whatever you say. It is better to lend your ears to somebody with a balanced view than someone who agrees with you all the time.

What to look for in an advisor

Don't let this put you off taking advice; mentors and advisors can provide invaluable support. Look for good listeners with broad and current experience. Follow your gut, especially when it comes to insistent advisors, and don't get despondent if you get constructive criticism: appreciate it and learn from it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Electrifying Crowdfunding Campaign

Sondors eBike

Sondors eBike (source:crowdfundinsider.com)

Sky News devotes some time every week to look at which crowdfunding campaigns are hot in the popular social media streams. One of their top picks is a campaign that exceeded £2.2 million since it was launched, and is expected to make a few more bob before closing on the 3rd of March 2015. This campaign is not only trending, it achieved over 4,000% more than what it set out to, long before the closing date. A trending crowdfunding campaign is every budding entrepreneur's dream; a campaign like this is like winning the entrepreneurial lottery.

The company

The company consists of two American entrepreneurs, an industrial designer and surfer called Storm Sondors and his partner Jon Hopp. Not much is known about Jon besides him being a 'manufacturing design genius'. According to Indiegogo the team decided that Storm Sondor's name is too cool not to name the product after him. Jonathan Chaupin is the man behind the crowdfunding campaign.

The product

The Sondors eBike is punted as the world's most affordable electric bike. It is a gorgeous piece of kit available in a range of colors. Riders will apparently be able to travel up to 20 mph for up to 50 miles per charge, and it takes around 90 minutes to charge the eBike's lithium ion battery. A relatively lightweight bike at 55 lbs, the Sondors eBike is all-terrain and is due to make its eagerly awaited arrival in May 2015.

What makes this eBike special

Although there are many other electric bikes around, the intrepid team claims that the Sondors eBike is unique because it is a top quality product, despite being a lot cheaper than other market offerings.

Cheap? Just how cheap is this funky electric bike?

The Sondors eBike is available on Indiegogo for a donation of £453 or for £1,182 for a family pack of four bikes. I wouldn't mind a family pack for myself, one in every color, thank you!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

3D Printing - 'The Non-Investable' Wave is Coming to Shore

The new kid on the block is the 3D printer
The new kid on the block - the 3D printer
A modern-day marvel in 1439, the Gutenberg printing press is a dinosaur in comparison to what we have on the market now. Technology moves so fast that our home printers are now Wi-Fi enabled, compact, fast and movable and our office printers look like space-ships and work 'in the cloud.' We have dye-sub printers, inkless printers, super-high resolution printers and super-fast printers. The new kid on the block is the 3D printer. Although 3D printing has been around for about two decades, nobody really knows this and there is a reason why it is only now gaining a toehold in the industry – money.

Investing in Tomorrow

There has been very little activity in the private sector when it comes to investing in 3D printing, possibly because of the calculation methods used by private investors. Hardware companies come up as capital-heavy and this is an instant deterrent, making 3D printing companies 'non-investible.' Investment strategists also hesitate because the business development of 3D companies has a longer than usual lead-in time, which in turn leads to a lack of revenue. Luckily crowd-funding is filling the gap and paving the way for the future.

The Future is Here

Prosthetics, mechanical parts, customisable gifts, measuring jugs etc. The possibilities are limitless. Current investment trends show that this is an industry about to boom, despite its lacklustre performance among private sponsors. Deal sizes are increasing as is interest from public investors. General Electric plans to bring 3D printed parts into commercial aircrafts by next year, and HP has announced that the first HP 3D printer is also due to be launched around the same time.

Multi-dimensional Prospects

While crowd-funding campaigns will likely continue to be the lifeblood for the enterprising startups hooking up with 3D printing, it is only a matter of time before the other industry giants like Epson and Canon get on the bandwagon along with HP. The growth potential is colossal and it is going to be exciting to watch it take shape and expand.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Does Your Startup Have the Power to Disrupt?

If so, Richard Ji wants to hear from you, and probably give you large amounts of money. A former tech industry analyst at Wall Street's Morgan Stanley, Ji took half a dozen of his colleagues and co-founded an investment company in Hong Kong. They called it All-Stars Investment Ltd. and have since been raising impressive amounts of cash for enterprising start-ups. Don't rush off to give Richard Ji a call just yet though... All-Stars is very selective and is known to take on only what they call 'category leaders/killers,' loosely translated as startups with the power to disrupt. According to Ji their focus is on late-stage prospects, instead of companies still finding their feet in the growth stage. “These companies have a disruptive product or business model, and they are the winners of tomorrow” he said.

know where to place your bet

China's Apple, Alibaba etc.

After 11 years in the industry Richard Ji knows where to place his bets. As the chief investor of the Chinese smart phone makers Xiaomi, Ji did not disappoint the company now known as 'China's Apple' and worth US$45 billion after only three years of operation. The company sings his praises and is entrusting him with continuing its fundraising drive. Other high-tech investments include the online fashion merchant Meilishuo, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and taxi-hailing app Didi Dache. What do all these companies have in common? Besides being technology driven, apparently they are all 'category killers' and 'winners of tomorrow.'

It's all a bit hush-hush, but moving ahead fast anyway

Richard Ji declined to divulge the identity of his investors. The only mysterious clue was that part of the vast sums of money come from top Asian corporations and the rest from influential business leaders in the financial, consumer and IT industries. He also wouldn’t reveal how much more money he hopes to raise.

Since raising impressive investments seems to be a walk in the park for Ji, the challenge will be to expand internationally and take on technology investors from all over the world – which I believe is on the cards.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's all Happening in Okanagan

A Prime Place to Start a Technology-Driven Business


Okanagan Valley (source: Wikipedia)
A recent study commissioned by Accelerate Okanagan presented some interesting findings on the business location potential of Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Conducted by an independent third party, the study found that this peaceful valley is not only a popular retirement and holiday destination known for having many summer and winter outdoor activities on offer. This beautiful area is also an ideal location for business if you are in the tech industry.

How a holiday destination can also be a tech hub


Beautiful lakes, magnificent mountains and a mild climate are perfect ingredients for excellent leisure time, but are not usually the right recipe for business success. What makes Okanagan Valley different is that it is one of those rare gems that provide the perfect balance between beautiful surroundings and viable commerce. There are a few reasons for this.

The money


The financial side of the research report had great news for future tech business startups interested in the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan technology industry has contributed over $1 billion to the local economy through 2013 alone. With that sort of cash injection, the community certainly welcomes the industry.

High quality workers


The vibrant culture of the valley attracts people from far and wide and has resulted in an influx of highly skilled workers. There is a good mix of employed workers and self-employed contractors. 'Good help is hard to find these days' is more of a fact than it is a cliché all over the world nowadays. A high quality lifestyle is something that attracts quality people - the building blocks of every good tech company.

Resources


Although it would be idyllic to work on a remote and beautiful island or in another beautiful area, this is not always practically possible. Okanagan is picturesque and offers fantastic leisure options but also has every resource required by big business companies. It boasts an international airport with regular flights to 64 destinations and a support structure that includes programmes geared for acceleration and growth. Okanagan is also already home to well over 500 tech businesses and has a technologically advanced infrastructure ready to support many more.

My advice for budding tech companies is to jump in while there is still space.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tech Skills Needed in 2015

become the top IT dog in today's competitive industry
Become the top IT dog in today's competitive industry
What moves faster than a speeding bullet? Superman, right? Wrong. Technology moves even faster than the Man of Steel. Those brave souls scouting for a new career path or the fresh-faced individuals straight out of college have to keep up with the trends or lose out. Imagine spending years, and in some countries a small fortune, on a top education in the latest tech only to find that your skills are outdated. The only thing for job hunters to do is to try keep abreast of the industry expectations and also to make sure that the popular non-certified tech skills form part of their repertoire.

What's hot?


According to an analysis made by LinkedIn recruiters, the IT skills that are making the tech world revolve these days are:

  • Mobile development
  • Web architecture
  • Virtualization
  • Algorithm design
  • Development framework
  • Middleware
  • Integration software
  • Java development 
  • SEO/SEM marketing
  • Channel marketing
  • IC design

Non-certified skills


Candidates not only need to work hard to achieve some of the above hard-earned skills to ensure their place on the high-tech corporate ladder, they have to stock up on non-certified skills to ensure fiscal growth. David Foote of Foote Partners and CIO magazine conducted a study recently with the aim of finding out which non-certified IT skills are lately required for higher compensation in the workplace - with some interesting findings. Foote and CIO.com discovered that there is a completely new set of skills that are vital before recruiters start hammering on doors, including:

  • Cloud skills
  • Big data analytics
  • Business intelligence
  • Apache Cassandra and Apache CouchDB
  • NoSQL
  • MongoDB
  • Security skills - including mobile security
  • Management process and methodology skills
  • Prescriptive analytics


Although this is by no means an all-inclusive instructional list of how to become the top IT dog in today's competitive industry, it would certainly pay candidates to explore further learning options in these areas.