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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider
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    Rosario-Dawson

    Celebrities have a long history of endorsing their favorite booze, from high-end tequila to Campari.

    Now it's an app for booze that's drawing the star power, and the celebrities are supporting the app with their own money. 

    Hooch, a subscription-based app that gets you one "free" drink every day of the month with a $9.99 monthly subscription fee, is amassing a collection of celebrity backers, with Rosario Dawson becoming the latest investor.

    Dawson was among the investors that pitched in on Hooch's $5 million funding round that closed last week, according to a company spokesperson. Other investors in the round FJ Labs, Blue Scorpion Investments, and Revelis Capital. 

    Dawson,  who starred Men in Black II and Eagle Eye, joins a list of celebrity investors in Hooch that already includes Shaun White and Russel Simmons.

    A drink a day

    The Hooch app is basically MoviePass but for drinking. Members sign up and can redeem a drink every day of the month in ten different cities and 450 venues around the globe. 

    Dawson was first introduced to the app at a charity event Hooch sponsored for CureBatten.org. Her and actor Scott Eastwood donned Hooch branded Santa hats, got behind the bar and started serving up free drinks on Hooch to everyone there. The next year, after a reintroduction from VC Blue Scorpion, the pair partnered up on the store launch of her fashion brand, Studio One Eighty Nine. Not long after, Blue Scorpion recommended she invest herself. 

    If  you've ever bought a drink in a major city you know that the $9.99 membership fee is a steal. So how does Hooch makes money? It's unclear, but it looks like the app is basically acting as a free promo service for bars. Customers are motivated to come in to get their "free" drink and end up staying and raking up tabs. In 2016, CEO Lin Dai told TechCrunch that members spent an average of $30-$40 at Hooch partner venues after getting their first free-ish drink. They also are scoring a lot of valuable data on their members, like what times of day are most popular for drinking in different cities, and purchasing trends of certain beverages. 

    Founded in 2014, Hooch has raised a total of $2.7 million so far. Cofounder Aleksey Kernes came up with the idea while working as a doorman for NYC's Hotel Chantelle and watching people react to their free welcome drink. Everyone loves feeling like they are the savviest consumer in the room, scoring "freebies" for their smarts.  

    Bar hopping enthusiasts shouldn't get too excited however – after redeeming your one drink of the day you have to wait until the next day to get another drink on Hooch, and you can't just move to another partner bar for your second round. 

    SEE ALSO: A new messaging app hopes to learn lessons from Yik-Yak and become the next big thing on college campuses

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We tried the $10-a-month movie theater service MoviePass — and it's more trouble than we expected


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    plated

    Sept 20 (Reuters) - Albertsons Companies Inc. has acquired meal kit startup Plated to transform the food experience for consumers.

    Plated, which delivers meal ingredients to customers in a subscription model, will continue to operate as a distinct consumer brand with its own leadership team led by co-founder and CEO Josh Hix​. Albertsons says ‍Plated will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Albertsons Cos​.

    According to a press release, Plated meal kits will become available in some Albertsons grocery stores.

    "Today's consumer is looking for a variety of personalized shopping alternatives, and this transaction is the latest example of Albertsons Cos. meeting our customers wherever and however they like to shop," said Bob Miller, chairman and CEO of Albertsons Companies. "With Plated, we've found a partner who shares our commitment to delicious, affordable food; superior technology and innovation; and world class customer service."

    Hix said: "Joining Albertsons Companies presents an amazing opportunity to accelerate our positive impact on the future of food in America by making fresh, delicious food more widely available. Albertsons Cos. is at the forefront of the changing food and grocery landscape with their customer obsession, their large national store footprint, and their exciting plans for the future of the grocery store."

    "We're excited to be partnering with them to shepherd our growth while preserving the unique strengths that define Plated today. There's tremendous upside for Plated’s customers whose experience with our brand will only get better. As meal kits continue to gain traction in the marketplace, we believe the winning formula combines choice, flexibility, culinary expertise, and the ability for customers to buy across channels — all of which we are now singularly positioned to deliver in collaboration with Albertsons Cos."

    Albertsons operates more than 2,300 grocery stores in the US.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Pointy

    Pointy, a Dublin startup with a device that shopkeepers can use to list their products online, has raised $6 million (£4 million) from a host of big name investors.

    The Series A funding comes from Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, Lars Rasmussen cofounder of Google Maps, Taavet Hinrikus cofounder of TransferWise, and Michael Birch cofounder of Bebo.

    Venture capital firms Draper Associates and Frontline Ventures also participated in the round, which brings total investment in Pointy up to around $7.2 million (£5.3 million).

    Founded by Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, who met while studying their PhDs in robotics, Pointy provides local stores with a way to list all of their products online.

    The company's "Pointy box" device connects to a store's barcode scanner and automatically puts scanned items on a website for the store. Pointy says that store pages are optimised for search engines, so that when local customers search for products, they find results from local stores.

    Pointy Box A

    "For many local retailers, keeping up with technology can feel like too much," said Cummins in a statement. "They have full time jobs to do already, they don't have the time or expertise to create digital stores as well. But consumers increasingly expect to find everything on their smartphones.

    "If someone takes out their phone to search for a product they want to buy, they're likely to see a result from Amazon, even if a local store 50 feet away has the product in stock. It's a frustrating for retailers and consumers alike. Pointy is solving that problem in a way that's effortless for retailers."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How to take a screenshot on a Mac — and 15 other useful keyboard shortcuts


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    grim reaper

    Savor the time you have with the companies in the S&P 500, because in 10 years half of them will be replaced.

    The length of time large-cap stocks have spent in the benchmark index has been declining, from 33 years on average in 1985 to 20 years as of 1990. And their window is forecast to get even smaller in the future, shrinking to 14 years by 2026, CLSA wrote in a client note, citing data from Innosight.

    Those dwindling S&P 500 shelf lives are being driven by record merger-and-acquisition activity as well as the rapid growth of startups that are achieving multibillion-dollar valuations faster than ever, the CLSA investment strategist Damian Kestel said.

    "A period of relative stability is ending," Kestel wrote in a client note. "An increasing number of corporate leaders will lose control of their firm's future."

    Screen Shot 2017 09 22 at 8.15.59 AM

    While getting the boot from a major index like the S&P 500 isn't the end of the world for a company, it can certainly have some adverse effects. After a stock is no longer included in various index funds and exchange-traded products tracking the gauge — some of which are among the most heavily traded in the world — it can see a large drop in trading volume and overall investor interest.

    Still, it's also important to note that increased turnover in major indexes isn't directly negative for the market as a whole. Each company that's removed from the S&P 500 is replaced by another, in what amounts to a simple rotation.

    Here's a look at which stocks have shuttled in and out of the benchmark during the eight-year bull market, according to CLSA:

    Companies that have entered the S&P 500 over the past eight years: Dollar General, Facebook, Regeneron, Accenture, Fossil, Level 3 Communications, Activision Blizzard, Trip Advisor, PayPal, Universal Health Services, Altera, Under Armour, Illumina, Seagate Technology, NRG Energy, Netflix

    Companies that have exited the S&P 500 over the past eight years: Family Dollar, Eastman Kodak, Covidien, Computer Sciences, Abercrombie & Fitch, Sprint, International Game Tech, J.C. Penney, National Semiconductor, Safeway, HJ Heinz, US Steel, Radio Shack, Dell Computer, Avon, The New York Times

    SEE ALSO: One of the market's hottest trades is riskier than ever

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    NOW WATCH: GARY SHILLING: If you don't like your job, you're 'wasting precious time'


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    Sharon Lin

    Sharon Lin is not your typical 18-year-old.

    A freshman at MIT, Lin helped develop an Android app while interning at the US State Department. She's this year's Youth Poet Laureate in New York City. And She was named to Crain's 20 under 20 list

    She's also prospective entrepreneur who's CEO of her own company. And in that role, she could help reshape the tech industry and possibly change the world, if a recent contest is any indication.

    This week, Lin won the annual #BuiltByGirls startup challenge and its $10,000 prize. She was recognized for an app she developing to help impoverished communities around the world cheaply and easily find out whether their water supplies are contaminated with harmful bacteria. 

    "You only have to look at the finalists of the #BuiltByGirls Challenge ... to know that the future is in good hands," said Nisha Dua, the founder of #BuiltByGirls, the organization behind the contest. 

    Promoting women 

    Run by Verizon-owned Oath, #BuiltByGirls works to promote women in tech. It offers mentorships to young women and helps them get hands-on experience at top tech companies and venture capital funds. It also runs a yearly contest focused on encouraging women who are interested in becoming tech entrepreneurs. 

    At this year's contest, five finalists pitched their startup ideas to a panel of judges at Spotify’s San Francisco offices. They had been selected from among 450 applicants.

    The finalists, some of whom were solo entrepreneurs like Lin and some of which were parts of multi-person teams, had each taken a few days off school to fly in and compete for the prize. Gold and blue balloons waved from the stage and vegan cupcakes sat waiting as the entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for solving problems including autism-related anxiety, waste decomposition, and knee injuries.

    Lin was the the last entrepreneur to take the stage. Her presentation walked the audience through microbial analysis and the app she's developing. The app uses machine learning to analyze photos of water samples and can recognize different bacterial strains. To show how it works, Lin, who created a company called White Water to develop the app, tested it on photos sent from a family in China.

    White Water's app isn't fully developed; Lin still needs to build out a database of water samples. But the program could have a lot of promise — it was designed so that even people without a background in science could use it to test their water.

    The contest judges were obviously impressed. After only a brief deliberation, they named Lin the winner of the contest.

    Lin was excited not only about winning, but also what that might mean for her company and idea. 

    "It's given me the confidence of knowing that there are people who care about issues such as water quality analysis, and that there is genuine interest in developing enterprise software for developing nations," she said.

    From personal interest to winning app

    #BuiltByGirls Startup competitionLin's own interest in solving the problem of water quality came from personal connections. She has family in China who live in small villages that lack the money and resources to perform lab tests on their well water. She'd heard enough of stories about water-related disease outbreaks there to know they didn't have a good way to make sure their water was drinkable. 

    As a senior in high school, she participated in a Science Olympiad competition, where she saw presentations on water quality testing systems. She wanted to find out more, so she reached out to university professors for more information.

    Eventually, she came up with her idea for White Water. She decided to enter the #BuiltByGirls challenge to spur her to develop the White Water app past its prototype stage and figure out how she could scale the product to market. 

    "I was excited about the opportunity to meet other girls who were also pursuing innovative ideas, and who I could look to for inspiration as a female founder," Lin said.  

    She's not quite sure what she is going to do with her prize money. She knows she has a lot more research to do, and that building up a database of water samples will not be simple. 

    Right now, she's balancing White Water with her first semester at MIT. She starts each day at 7 a.m. and either finishes up homework or works on her app for a few hours before her 11 a.m. class. Balancing her time between classes, White Water, and off-campus activities can be tough, but Lin seems to know how to handle it better than most. 

    She still has a ways to go before making her full entrance into the tech world. But as her win at the #BuiltByGirls challenge indicates, she's already making a big impression.

    SEE ALSO: The 43 most powerful female engineers of 2017

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 'The future is female': Watch Hillary Clinton's first video statement since Trump's inauguration


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    tony robbins fiji

    While all of Tony Robbins' one-on-one coaching sessions are personalized, they're drawn from more than 30 years of experience in coaching — and for his business clients, what he's learned from running his own portfolio of companies.

    In September, the winners of Shopify's Build a Bigger Business competition won the chance to be personally mentored by Robbins at his Fiji resort, Namale. The winners are the founders of profitable online retailers bringing in millions of dollars in sales who are in the midst of scaled growth. While that's a mark of success by most measures, each of the entrepreneurs are in fragile positions that will determine the fate of their business.

    We went to Fiji to spend time with Robbins and the winners, and in a podcast interview — which you can listen to below — he told us that there were two fundamental insights that guided each of his mentorship sessions.


    Listen to the whole episode and subscribe for more Success!

    Apple Podcasts | RadioPublic | ACast

    Prioritize your customers, not your product ideas.

    "I'd say there's only one way to really succeed long term — and it's simplistic but it's true," Robbins said. "It's add more value than anybody else." And the way to do that, he said, is by falling in love with your customer, not your product.

    "If you fall in love with your product, you're screwed," he said.

    A common mistake new entrepreneurs make, he explained, is failing to notice changes in demand from their customer base because they've wrapped their identity in their company's first offering. That said, expanding the brand or pivoting to a new approach will be just as fruitless if the decision is catered to vague market developments rather than a relationship with a specific customer base.

    "You've got to figure out how to know more about them than anybody else does," he said. "Maybe they know about themselves in some areas."

    Pinpoint your 'threshold of control' and learn to overcome it.

    Throughout Robbins' week with the Shopify winners on Fiji, he repeatedly had them pinpoint their "threshold of control," to help them learn to overcome it.

    Robbins used an example from skiing: You're an intermediate skier who skis blue square (intermediate) slopes, but one trip up the mountain you realize you've accidentally begun going down a black diamond (expert) slope. Skiing is dangerous, and potentially fatal if you don't know what you're doing. You then have the option to either intensely focus and figure out a way to make it through the trail, or else slide or walk down the rest of trail. If you choose the former and make it down on your skis, even if sloppily, you've passed a threshold of control.

    This same fear is common among entrepreneurs who suddenly find themselves in charge of both a rapidly growing team and millions of dollars. Running a scaling company can seem like the black diamond slope for a founder who feels comfortable running a successful small startup.

    There are many factors, including luck, that determine whether a company can achieve long-term sustainability, but a crucial factor for success is the founder's ability to determine their threshold and push past it.

    "Courage isn't that you're not afraid, it's you're scared sh--less but you decide that you're going to focus on what you're here to do versus on what you fear, and you push yourself," Robbins said.

    SEE ALSO: Tony Robbins has done the same thing after every speech, meeting, or event for 40 years

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We tried kava — the national drink of Fiji that gets people high


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    kenzie academy

    In the US, computer science jobs are often confined to the coasts — particularly the one hugging the Pacific Ocean.

    In recent years, however, a growing number of startups have begun cropping up in America's heartland. A new coding bootcamp called Kenzie Academy hopes to capitalize on that budding interest.

    Instead of growing the bubble of Silicon Valley, Kenzie Academy wants to strengthen middle America by teaching non-tech workers, primarily those between 19 and 40 years old, the ins and outs of ones and zeroes.

    From zero to engineer in two years

    One of the guiding missions, according to Kenzie cofounder and CEO Chok Ooi, is to equip those working in jobs vulnerable to automation with flexible skills that could survive the 21st century.

    "There's going to be a lot of new jobs coming up as new technology is being introduced," Ooi told Business Insider. "So we want to retrain people from all these jobs that are being automated away toward the new jobs that are coming up."

    kenzie academy officeIn early October, Kenzie set up shop at its first location in a coworking space in Indianapolis, Indiana. The goal will be to recruit about 25 students who can pursue one of three tracks.

    The first is a six-month program to become a junior front-end developer — someone who can capably design the face of a web application. The second is a one-year program to learn both the front and back ends, otherwise known as "full stack." The third is a two-year track that teaches not just coding, but computer science as a whole.

    "When they graduate, they'll have the capacity to architect and design more complex systems," Ooi said. "This is what will allow them to compete effectively against someone who's gone through a four-year computer science program."

    Dropping anchor into communities

    Not everyone shares Ooi's optimism that coding bootcamps are a ticket into the tech world. Over the past few years years, a number of graduates and tech executives have expressed doubt that these classes can actually compete with an undergraduate degree. At both Google and Autodesk, coding schools supply a small and sometimes negligible portion of the total staff, Bloomberg reported in 2016.

    "These tech bootcamps are a freaking joke," Mark Dinan, a Bay-Area recruiter for tech companies, told Bloomberg. "My clients are looking for a solid CS [computer science] degree from a reputable university or relevant work experience."

    At Kenzie, classes will run five days a week for about eight hours at a time. Students will have the opportunity to stream the classes online, but for the sake of increasing bonds between students and mentors, Kenzie cofounder and COO Rehan Hasan said the class needed a physical meeting space.

    "We're dropping anchor to be parts of communities, where we'll have a hyperlocalized view of things," Hasan told Business Insider. "There's no better way to do that than actually live and work within the coworking spaces where the community gathers."

    kenzie academyA step further than school

    Kenzie doesn't come cheap. The company charges $12,000 for the six-month program. If students choose the 12-month track, at the six-month mark they can start doing consulting work for Kenzie that can subsidize a $20,000 price tag. The two-year track is also $20,000 — the idea being that the entire second year will pay for itself through consulting work, Ooi said.

    The company has only just launched in Indiana, but already has its sights set on other cities, including Kansas City, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, or Detroit. Wherever it expands, Hasan and Ooi said, the goal will be to tap into an emerging market of talent, no matter the age.

    "Schools focus a lot on the education part," Ooi said. "Our focus is the education, the mentorship, and the job placement. It's actually integral to our program. We're actually going to be active advocates."

    SEE ALSO: Giving every American $12,000 a year in free money could grow the economy by $2.5 trillion, study finds

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Google Pixel 2 vs iPhone X: The biggest differences between the two


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    silicon valley

    Silicon Valley's "bro culture" was turned upside down earlier this year after a succession of women stepped forward with stories of sexual harassment and discrimination at the hands of male venture capitalists. 

    Influential executives like Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital, Dave McClure of accelerator 500 Startups, and celebrity investor Chris Sacca were implicated in allegations of misconduct and forced out. 

    As companies condemned the behavior and took steps to investigate claims, it seemed like Silicon Valley had finally started to move towards making the tech industry a better place for women. But a new report from The New York Times shows that all the well-intentioned promises may have resulted in some serious unintended consequences. 

    "A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyper-aware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters," an anonymous venture capitalist told the Times.

    The anonymous VC told the Times that he's actually cancelled one-on-one meetings with female engineers and potential recruits to protect himself from any "reputational risk."

    It's not clear how widespread this type of reaction might be. But it highlights the challenges facing women startup founders in an industry in which casual networking and meetings are critical to securing funding. 

    Women entrepreneurs are already under-represented when it comes to raising funding. Data shows that women led startups received $1.46 billion in venture capital funding compared to $58.2 billion given to all male companies in 2016.  The problem is made even worse by the fact that the majority of venture capitalists are male. The Harvard Business Review estimates that only 7% of venture capitalists are female. 

    Every workplace is different, and it doesn't seem like there is going to be a one size fits all solution in the near future. Women make up 48% of the entry level workforce but only 21% at the top.  To get past all of the roadblocks on the way up, both men and women need to remain aware of the consequences – unintentional or otherwise – at every level. 

    SEE ALSO: DEAR VCs: Here's why everyone thinks Silicon Valley has a problem with women

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Uber finally released their diversity report — here's how it compares to Facebook and Google


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    alphabet ceo larry page

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The same goes for large businesses -- putting all of your company's effort into a single product can lead to stagnation and stale ideas. Exploring new ideas is one way to keep your company relevant for the long haul, even if the side business doesn't have much to do with your main operations.

    You're about to see some examples of this from large household names in the American business world. We will explore some interesting side projects from Tesla, Walt Disney, Alphabet, IBM, and Amazon.com.

    These ideas may grow into their breeches over time, but they look kind of crazy right now.

    Disney tackles robotics

    You've seen Disney robots at their theme parks -- animatronics have been a vital part of the Disneyland and Disney World experience for decades. But the House of Mouse didn't stop there.

    The company is not only advancing the state of the art in basic robotics, but also working out better ways to interact with computers and machines. Disney is building two-legged robots with the ability to walk on top of a ball, a swarm of robots with colored lights acting as pixels in a larger image, and human-like machines that could play catch with actual humans.

    Some of these technologies will surely be used in future theme park attractions or in the movie studio, but that's not all. Look back at the ambitious Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow park, better known as EPCOT, for examples of Disney thinking far outside the theme park box, followed by the experimental community of Celebration, Florida. Those robots might find their way on regular city streets in the end.



    Alphabet wants to crack human aging

    The company formerly known as Google still collects more than 99% of its quarterly revenue from that division's online search and advertising operations. That hasn't stopped Alphabet from pursuing a number of interesting side businesses, many of which hold serious promise in the far future.

    Among Alphabet's many side bets, the most interesting one is the medical research lab known as Calico.

    Created as a division of Google, and later of Alphabet, Calico wants to stop or slow human aging. This is done by a combination of traditional medical research and advanced data analysis. Calico is led by a crack team of medical scientists, and is quick to collaborate with other medical experts and research universities along the way. Futurist Ray Kurzweil, who hopes to achieve immortality for himself and others, is an advisor to Calico.

    Stop aging, heal any ailment, live forever. That's probably the most ambitious business idea I've ever seen.



    Tesla's energy hobby, soon to be the main business

    We know Tesla as a maker of fast, upscale electric cars. That's what pays the bills today and how the company got to where it is.

    But the company's ultimate plan is to become an energy company, and those electric cars are only a small piece of that long-term strategy. The Gigafactory is building batteries on a game-changing scale, and the SolarCity buyout added solar panel installations and Powerwall battery packs to Tesla's business operations.

    Energy products accounted for just 12.5% of Tesla's total sales in the second quarter of 2017 and the growth rate is slowing down while Tesla shifts its focus from sales volume to profitability. That crazy side business is growing up in a hurry, and you won't think of Tesla as a pure car maker for much longer.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Venture capitalists have been on a spending spree so far in 2017, but have been funding significantly fewer companies than in the past. According to data from PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor, charted here by Statista, the number of deals that closed in the first nine months of 2017 is lower than it has been since 2011. Companies lucky enough to be part of these deals are being valued a lot higher than their predecessors, and are getting a lot more capital as a result. 

    One of the biggest trends in venture capital so far this year has been the uptick in initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Companies are able to raise massive amounts of capital quickly by selling huge amounts of cryptocurrency tokens. Some critics are wary of the trend however, pointing out that much of the currency is being funneled into young startups that lack the mettle to become successful. 

     

    Chart of the Day 10/11

     

    SEE ALSO: Millennials are at odds with their parents over binge-watching TV

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Google opens up a 21,000-square-foot campus in South Korea for startups


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    Apple CEO Tim Cook

    Apple CEO Tim Cook opened a new startup hub at the University of Oxford on Wednesday called The Oxford Foundry. 

    The facility, based out of a Victorian building previously used as an ice factory and a student night club, has been backed with a $1 million donation from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

    It will aim to support entrepreneurial students as they look to set up and grow their own companies.

    The Oxford Foundry — a part of the university's Saïd Business School — will be open to all students, as well as Oxford alumni. There will be an exclusive startup accelerator programme where students with the best ideas will be housed and given mentorship.

    Speaking at the launch, Louise Richards, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, said The Oxford Foundry is "going to build on the entrepreneurial skills of 23,000 students across the university." 

    Cook told students about his own university experience, before passing on a few words of wisdom.

    "By the time I was in Duke [University] I had begun to think what is my purpose in life," he said. "I was struggling with a lot of things personally and professionally at that time. It began to dawn on me then that the purpose of life wasn't to love your job but to serve humanity. The outcome of that would mean that you'll love your job.

    oxford gowns

    "I began to switch companies and jobs and sort of be on this search and then one day out of the blue Steve [Jobs] has come back to Apple and essentially fired everybody that was working for him at that time and began to recruit. It was only after I joined Apple that my values and my work began to align."

    Not every startup succeeds and Cook gave some advice on what to do when things aren't working out.

    "Look in the mirror and watch the person breath," he said. It didn't kill you. You're not dead. So it's not the biggest thing in the world. I do that several times a day when things aren't going well."

    He went on to tell students at the launch of The Oxford Foundry how important it is to become a leader. "I think it's very important that everyone has leadership skills," he said.

    "Some people get tripped up on that leadership is a static thing or that the manager is the leader. We don't run Apple like that."

    The launch of The Oxford Foundry comes just weeks after startup investor Tom Hulme, a partner at Alphabet-owned GV (formerly Google Ventures), told Business Insider that Cambridge University has the edge on Oxford when it comes to technology startups. Oxford fired back, saying this was not the case.

    "One of the interesting challenges of Oxford is, if you look at their base of academic research, it is world class," said Hulme. "And I don't think that's ever translated into a throughput of startups."

    Cambridge has produced a number of sizeable technology companies including Autonomy, Cambridge Silicon Radio, and ARM. By comparison, Oxford has had fewer successes of the same magnitude.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Google Pixel 2 vs iPhone X: The biggest differences between the two


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    Boston skylineThanks to Free Enterprise for providing this content.

    Tech startups are the small but mighty heroes of the innovation revolution. They create jobs, stimulate the economy and bring bold, often life-changing new ideas and inventions to the fore. Reflecting this rising trend, cities all across America are home to an ever-growing crop of transformative startups — and the next generation of skilled tech talent propelling them forward.

    To better understand the U.S. cities driving the digital revolution — and to highlight exemplary patterns within their startup ecosystems that entrepreneurs and civic leaders can learn from to bolster their region’s competitive edge — 1776, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center and FreeEnterprise.com developed the Innovation That Matters (ITM) report.

    Drawing off of survey data collected from local tech startup founders and public and private sector leaders, the annual extensive research project, now in its third year, ranks 25 American cities’ readiness to capitalize on the shift to the digital economy.

    The 413 entrepreneurs and business influencers polled (via an 18-point questionnaire) are working to solve problems in the healthcare, energy, education and smart cities sectors through technology and innovation. The information and feedback they provided centered around six key areas — startup capital, connectivity, culture, density, industry specialization and talent — was used to rank the various metropolitan areas.

    “We’re in the midst of a digital revolution has the potential to make winners of some cities and leave others behind,” said J.D. Harrison, senior director of strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The cities that embrace this shift to a digital economy and actively support technology startups will be best positioned to unleash the power of high-impact innovation and cultivate vibrant, thriving communities.”

    Of the many tech hubs examined, 10 rose to the top as the hottest American cities to launch a tech startup from right now. They are:

    10. Portland, Ore.

    Nicknamed “Silicon Forest” and home to a booming green tech sector, Portland jumped up two spots in the overall ITM report rankings this year to nab the 10th spot. This ascent is mainly due to significant gains in startup density. Additionally, the city saw a two-place improvement in startup culture, as well as a one-place upward jump in availability of skilled talent.



    9. New York City

    Coming in at 9th in this year’s ITM report, New York City’s technology ecosystem, sometimes called “Silicon Alley,” is home to just about every startup niche imaginable, with notable sectors including education tech, health tech and financial tech playing a big role. Specifically, over the past year, the largest East Coast technology hub saw a 10-place increase in availability of skilled tech talent and a 10-place increase in startup culture.



    8. Seattle

    Seattle, increasingly known as “Silicon Canal,” climbed from 11th on the ITM report to 8th this year in the overall rankings. Washington state’s largest metropolis — home to Amazon.com and several other prominent tech firms, with Microsoft headquartered out of nearby Redmond — saw a 7-place improvement in startup density, a 3-place improvement in access to talent and a 1-place improvement in venture capital.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    steve wozniak

    Steve "Woz" Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer and inventor of the Apple II computer, announced on Friday the launch of his latest startup, Woz U.

    The venture is a "digital institute" meant to help people gain skills in computer science to fill gaps in high-paying technology roles. Wozniak, beloved for his affability, said Woz U was created to make tech less intimidating.

    "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it," he said in a statement. "I know they can, and I want to show them how."

    Many economists predict that robotics and artificial intelligence are poised to replace sizable chunks of the American workforce, particularly those working in low-skill jobs. Without the proper training, these predictions suggest, millions of employees could be out of a job.

    Woz U was launched in an effort to give people relevant skills as a kind of insurance policy. As tech becomes even more of a dominant presence in the US economy, America's tech sector will need more people to fill new roles. According to Wozniak, there's a way to do that without racking up thousands in college loans.

    "Our goal is to educate and train people in employable digital skills without putting them into years of debt," he said in a statement.

    Woz U is hardly the first coding school designed to make seasoned engineers out of novice techies. Udacity, for instance, was founded in 2012 and boasts more than 1.5 million users. Around the world, there are dozens more bootcamps with a similar mission. Critics, however, have said the tech industry rarely hires the bootcamp graduate over the person with the four-year degree, arguing the skills they gain still tend to fall short in the workplace.

    Woz U wants to separate itself through its various divisions. The primary one is the collection of online classes that people can enroll in to learn the basics of computer support and software development. In time, the curriculum will expand to include data scientists and cybersecurity experts. Woz U will also focus on getting students career-ready by helping them with their resumes, practice coding tests, and building out their portfolios.

    In addition, Woz U will look to enter schools to encourage kids in K-12 to pursue science, tech, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); it'll build an accelerator program to "develop elite tech talent"; and it'll work with companies to recruit and train new talent on-site, through Woz U programs.

    Over the coming years, Woz U will set up 30 brick-and-mortar locations around the US to expand its digital institute into the physical world. The company said it will announce the specific locations within the next couple months. The accelerator school will be based out of Arizona.

    Woz U couldn't disclose exact costs for students, but a spokesperson said "cost of tuition would vary based on the students program or retraining needs." The flexible approach comes from Wozniak's lifelong belief that technology should be available to everyone, beginning with Apple's earliest computers, which his cofounder Steve Jobs believed should be sold, not given away.

    Woz U is the tech veteran's latest project intended to stick to his original and enduring vision.

    SEE ALSO: 32-year-old investor with ties to Elon Musk wants to upend America with a crazy utopian plan for the future

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch Google repeatedly mock Apple at its October Pixel event


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    John Zimmer

    • John Zimmer is the cofounder and president of the $7.5 billion ride-hailing service Lyft.
    • In an interview on Business Insider podcast "Success! How I Did It," he said that the keys to scaling the company were staying close to the product, and saying "no" to opportunities that would make them scale too fast.
    • To stay close to the product, Zimmer drives every New Year's Eve, and plans to do more driving in the future.

    If you're planning to take a Lyft ride this New Year's, look out for a 30-something driver named John.

    That's John Zimmer, by the way, cofounder and president of the $7.5 billion ride-hailing service.

    On an episode of Business Insider's podcast, "Success! How I Did It," Zimmer told Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell that he and his cofounder, Logan Green, make a point of driving for Lyft on occasion.

    Zimmer does it every New Year's; more recently, he said, he's committed to driving every month.

    "It's been really helpful to be close to our product," Zimmer said. Driving for Lyft — and using it daily as a passenger — is one of his secrets for scaling his company, which he founded in 2012 and which now exists in more than 600 cities.

     

    Another one of his secrets: learning how to strike a balance between "expand quickly" and "don't expand too quickly."

    Zimmer said: "Sometimes some of the best decisions we made were to say no. So whether that was international expansion or we learned sometimes we expanded too quickly in the US and sometimes we had to redo it in a better way."

    Indeed, a 2011 report from the Startup Genome Project found that 74% of high-growth technology startups fail because of premature scaling, which is a "result of firms focusing on one dimension in their operation and advancing it out of sync with the rest of their operation." The report indicates that "startups that scale properly grow about 20 times faster than startups that scale prematurely."

    As Zimmer put it, "It's finding that right balance of speed."

    SEE ALSO: How Lyft's John Zimmer went from sleeping on a couch and eating frozen Trader Joe's meals to running a $7.5 billion company

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Barbara Corcoran reveals what separates successful entrepreneurs from those that fail


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    Lyft driver car

    • John Zimmer and Logan Green met through a mutual friend on Facebook. Both were thinking about starting a ride-sharing service.
    • Lyft, then called "Zimride," was a side project for a few years.
    • The cofounders moved together to Silicon Valley, where they focused on bringing Zimride to college campuses.
    • Lyft officially launched in 2012.

    It was 2007, and a new college grad named John Zimmer was browsing Facebook. He noticed that a guy named Logan Green had posted on a mutual friend's Facebook page that he was launching a carpooling network called "Zimride."

    Zimmer might have paid no notice and continued browsing. Except Zimmer had also been contemplating starting a ride-sharing service. And the resemblance to his own name was a little weird.

    On an episode of Business Insider's podcast, "Success! How I Did It," Zimmer shared the story with Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell:

    "I reached out to our mutual friend and I said, 'How well do you know Logan, and why the hell did he call his company Zimride?' Zimmer recalled. It turns out Green had named the service after taking a trip to Zimbabwe, where many people needed to share rides.

    "I reached out to the mutual friend, Logan flew to New York, and we met each other," Zimmer said. "This was 10 years ago, and we started working together."

      

    Zimride would later become Lyft, a ride-hailing service that, today, is worth $7.5 billion and operates in more than 600 cities.

    Zimmer and Green didn't start building their startup immediately after connecting. At the time, Zimmer was working for Lehman Brothers in New York City. Once Zimride entered the picture, Zimmer's goal was to save whatever money he made and put it toward his entrepreneurial ventures.

    "I just was way more passionate about working on Zimride and felt like that was really important to be doing, and so I decided I was going to leave after my two-year analyst program. I was told that I was crazy to leave a sure thing like Lehman Brothers for a silly carpool startup."

    Three months after Zimmer left Lehman Brothers, the firm went bankrupt. Zimmer used Zimride to carpool across the country to meet Green, and soon after they moved to Silicon Valley. They started focusing on bringing Zimride to college campuses.

    Lyft was officially born in 2012, when Zimmer and Logan had an epiphany of sorts. Zimmer said:

    "Logan and I looked at ourselves and said, 'How are we doing? It's five years in, we had this dream of starting a business, we've done that.' We had raised a couple of million dollars, which was fantastic. We had this great team of about 20 people.

    "But the bigger vision, which we've always had, was providing a full alternative to car ownership. Our actual mission is to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation and, in doing so, to change our cities so that they are designed around people instead of cars. And we were just scratching the surface. We really didn't feel like we were doing enough."

    They asked themselves: "What if we were starting Zimride over today? What would it look like?"

    Now that smartphones were becoming more prevalent, Zimmer and Green wondered if adding a mobile component would encourage people to use the service more often.

    "At the time, Uber existed, but they were just doing this for black cars and limos, and to us that was uninteresting," Zimmer said.

    "And so I thought, well, getting rides for people who are working at banks — that's definitely not what I want to work on. But providing a full alternative to car ownership and allowing people to use their existing car to make money, that was really exciting. And so within three weeks we launched what we were about to call Zimride Instant, and luckily called Lyft, and that was the beginning of Lyft, in the middle of 2012."

    Within the next three weeks, two engineers built the Lyft app.

    Zimmer said: "It's been crazy since then."

    SEE ALSO: How Lyft's John Zimmer went from sleeping on a couch and eating frozen Trader Joe's meals to running a $7.5 billion company

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    NOW WATCH: The first question Richard Branson asks entrepreneurs about their business ideas


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    raise small

    • PayPal executive Kathleen Pierce-Gilmore left the company in October to join Raise, a gift card marketplace startup, as chief operating officer and president. 
    • Pierce-Gilmore, who grew up poor, thinks Raise can disrupt the credit industry in ways that PayPal and traditional finance companies can't.
    • The COO and president was one of three executives hired around the time that Raise got $60 million in funding — including an investment from PayPal.

    Gift cards may not be the most obvious place to disrupt the banking industry, but Kathleen Pierce-Gilmore doesn't see it that way.

    After two years as the vice president and general manager of PayPal's US credit division, and over a decade spent between American Express and Capital One, Pierce-Gilmore decided to leave corporate America to join Raise, a Chicago-based startup that runs an online gift card marketplace.

    And it's all because she thinks Raise can have a serious impact on how low-income families manage their finances.

    Katheen_Pierce_Gilmore_Headshot"I grew up incredibly poor and below the poverty line. I didn't realize it when I was younger, but it created a very strong condition in me of financial discipline," Pierce-Gilmore told Business Insider. "I started to have this growing need to help others have that same sense of financial security."

    Pierce-Gilmore, who has spent most of her career in credit divisions across the financial industry, thinks prepaid cards could be a key step in helping low-income consumers escape heavy credit debts – the type of which she saw often when working at as a vice president at Capital One. 

    "Capital One serves some of the most vulnerable people in America. I learned during my time there that a lot of people that worked there didn't have a deep appreciation of how their products impacted their customer's  lives," Pierce-Gilmore said. 

    "The opportunity I saw at Raise was a bit more pure. There's no credit aspect, it's prepaid. There isn't the kind of bad out come possible, where someone can get in over their head," she said. "I believe technology is the better way to deliver financial services to more people and more fairly."

    "We're not hurting anyone, only helping" 

    Raise was founded in 2013 by CEO George Bousis, who launched the company as a place where individuals could sell gift cards they no longer wanted in exchange for cash.

    It's since expanded to include discounted gift cards directly from retailers like Macy's and Fandango, which sell the gift cards for less than their cash value. Dunkin' Donuts, for example sells $50 gift cards for $40.50 — a 19% discount. Others, like Amazon, only discount their cards by 1.1%.

    Raise makes a transaction fee on each purchase, and the retailers benefit because they don't have to pay credit card fees on purchases made with their gift cards. Raise is also working on various data and marketing products aimed at these retail partners. 

    Customers also benefit from the often deep discounts, and convenient budget management that comes with pre-paid cards.

    "We're in a unique position," Pierce-Gilmore said. "We're not hurting anyone, only helping." 

    Pierce-Gilmore joined the growing team of 200 in October, around the same time as two other poached tech executives — chief people officer Tenia Davis, a Harpo alum who joined Raise from her role at iManage, and chief marketing officer Gaurav Misra, who joined from Vroom. 

    shopping, women, drugstore, mallAll three execs were hired around September, when Raise announced $60 million in series C funding led by Accel Partners, which included an investment from, coincidentally, PayPal.

    Now, with her staff in place and ample funding in tow, Pierce-Gilmore is on a mission to make Raise the go-to place for shoppers looking to manage their budgets with prepaid cards, as well as retailers looking for an escape from the high transaction fees that come with processing credit card payments. 

    "There is so much room for disruption. I love PayPal, and I think they're doing great work globally. However I think that they're not disrupting the ecosystem as much as they might have had the opportunity to," said Pierce-Gilmore. 

    Pierce-Gilmore believes that Raise can someday have the large-scale presence of companies like Amazon, in which checking the Raise app for discounted gift cards becomes a natural part of any and every shopping process.

    "I'm already finding my own addiction driving my own behavior," she said. "Every time I am trying to buy something, I look in the category that I am going to shop in."

    SEE ALSO: Bill.com is the latest fintech heavyweight, with a $742.8 million valuation and big-name backers

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows what would happen to Asia if all the Earth's ice melted


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    libro library yongrim kyurim juju rhee

    • Libro Library is an app that turns your bookshelves into a public library that anyone can borrow from.
    • It's run by an unusual founder team — three siblings in different cities — something that can cause unusual challenges.
    • The business has been bootstrapped to date, but the trio are now on the hunt for outside investment.


    Around two years ago, Yongrim Rhee had a problem: Too many surfboards.

    The then-Google employee's Californian home was overflowing with more than 40 boards, and he wanted to do something with them. So he and his siblings came up with a plan for a business: An app that let you lend out your spare boards to others. Surfboard sharing-as-a-service!

    They didn't end up making it.

    But from there, a new and broader idea emerged: A neighbourhood sharing app, where users could list their spare possessions for others in the neighbourhood to borrow.

    They didn't end up making that either.

    Instead, the Rhees decided to focus on a single, narrow segment: Books.

    And from there, Libro Library was born.

    It turns private bookshelves into public libraries

    libro libraryIn a nutshell, Libro Library is an app that turns your private book collection into a public lending library. You list the books you're willing to lend out, and users can then select to borrow them — and vice versa.

    It's still in the early stages, and the three siblings — JuJu, Yongrim, and Kyurim — are currently its only three employees (chief executive officer, chief product officer, and chief strategy officer respectively). It's being tested in specific regions, and book exchanges become available in an area if enough people "enroll" for it.

    Right now, that's only in South America, in cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile. Around 400 books are scanned into the system a day, Kyurim said, while it has thousands of active users.

    (Also, it's iOS-only for now, though there are plans for an Android app further down the line.)

    It's an almost anachronistic idea in an era of ebooks and digital sharing — but in an interview with Business Insider in London, Yongrim and Kyurim emphasised the importance of the physicality of books and the emotional attachment they provide.

    "We have a lot of books ourselves, print books we're talking about, and we grew up pre-ebook times," Yongrim said. "We never fell out of love with print books, we share this sentiment with users, they tell us 'oh, we love the smell of the books, and these almost intangible thing that ebooks don't [have]."

    The team is still working out how to make money

    This nostalgic sentiment is informing certain design choices the trio are making on the app. "We want to maintain the features of libraries we really like. In the old days, you can open the book, you can see who checked out a book before," said Kyurim, as he explained Libro Library is trying to implement something similar. "So you can see who the book's passed through. This is a feature we think will be really compelling for our readers."

    They've bootstrapped the business with their savings so far, but are now on the hunt for outside investment. They're not yet certain how they'll make money off the app ("this might sound naive, we don't really have a monetising strategy," Yongrim admits), but they're exploring a few different routes.

    They might charge independent authors to distribute books through the platform, or put up relevant adverts on the app. Or they could provide analytics to publishers, letting them track the movement of their titles as they change hands.

    They're keen, however, to keep it free at the point of use — so the actual users on the hunt for new books to read won't have to pay to see what's available in their area.

    Working with siblings has 'its own set of challenges'

    libro libraryBefore Libro Library, Yongrim worked as a software engineer at Google in Mountain View, California, and now lives in London. Kyurim was a network engineer in Washington D.C., where he still lives. And JuJu, who lives in New York, has worked as an artist and coordinator.

    All this adds up to an unusual dynamic — not only are they siblings, but they also lives thousands of miles from one another, across timezones. 

    It makes communication far easier, they said — but it can also be far harder to switch off. Startups can already be all-encompassing, and the trio will sometimes find themselves chatting work at family get-togethers in the States. ("It's going to come up, it's like this ugly beast that's in the corner," said Kyurim.)

    And in professional situations, things can sometimes get too familial: "The word 'let's be professional' comes up quite a lot," Yongrim joked.

    "It comes with its own set of challenges," he said of working with his brother and sister. "When it's bad ... sometimes I feel like 'what have I done, why did I start this business with my siblings?' But then it gets really bad, I feel like with anyone else it would've been over but because it's my siblings I think ... 'let's thin this through and stay together.'"

    Kyrurim added: "If something bad happens, if we have a bad fight, we have to get over that. I can't stop being your brother. I can walk away from my coworkers, yeah, I don't wanna talk to that person any more, but I can't stop being a brother to him."

    But despite this optimism — there's still a danger that if things do go badly wrong, it could seriously damage some of their relationships. It's a risk that Yongrim has encountered before.

    "I've done a startup before with my best friend from college, and we don't talk any more," he said. "So I am somewhat experienced in that. So they know what I've gone through, it was such a painful experience, so in that sense we were somewhat prepared ... I was like 'I'm never going to let that happen again,' because in retrospect it really wasn't worth destroying my friendship over.

    "I don't think it was my fault," he added with a laugh. "He shouldn't have done that, but that's sort of what I'm talking about. Being siblings you never let it go that far."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Google Pixel 2 vs iPhone X: The biggest differences between the two


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    beijing

    • China's tech industry isn't as exclusive as Silicon Valley's, but it's still hard for expats to connect to the right person.
    • The work culture in Chinese tech is intense, reflected by slogans like “996,” which means “working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.”
    • The Chinese tech industry has the unique advantage of having a strong manufacturing base.
    • There appears to be a reverse brain-drain, with many people who have worked at big tech companies globally returning to the Chinese market.

    Ten years ago, people undoubtedly trained their eyes on Silicon Valley garages for an answer. But now, seeing the rapid growth of aspiring competitors in the East, even tech savvy observers may request more time to give it a thought.

    China, India, and Southeast Asia have all shown their great ambition as well as fast growing competence in the tech industry. Each of them enjoys a large population with numerous emerging needs in internet business. And at the same time, they also represent the most significant target markets for each other.

    In this series, China Tech Insights partners up with Blume VC, a leading venture capital fund from India, to navigate through Asian markets, and to discuss the potential of entrepreneurship and globalization in these markets, as well as challenges they are currently facing.

    In the first article of the series, we will discuss whether China has become an ideal destination for global entrepreneurs.

    China shows great attraction as a prosperous market and also as a rich mine of thought, experience, and capital. Its high mobile internet penetration rate along with a tech-savvy user pool save entrepreneurs efforts to educate the market. Its well-established IT infrastructure and active venture capital market also contribute to a favorable environment for tech startups.

    However, in this market, we see strong global competitors in most cases, leading players in the world – retreat from the battle against their local counterparts. The most recent and significant case might be Uber China’s epic merge with Didi. On top of the list, we can also find a few other well-known names such Yahoo and Ebay, among others.

    Does this imply that China is still a long way from creating an ideal tech hub for global payers? We interviewed representatives of each different stakeholder group to hear their opinion.

    China

    Information transparency: a systematic problem

    Mettl, an Indian SaaS startup operating in more than eighty countries, tried to enter the Chinese market. However, at the moment, it is yet to see substantial progress.

    “The biggest challenge during our current attempt to enter China has been inadequate knowledge of the market,” commented a Mettl employee in an email interview with China Tech Insights.

    The interviewee stated the following reasons that may have ushered in the current situation:

    1. Due to the language barrier, it has been very difficult for startups to do research, competitive analysis, etc. about any company/sector at an acceptable cost.
    2. Quite a number of tools which Indian entrepreneurs thought were a default choice don’t work in China. For example, “Linkedin in China has only half the number of users of India”, which makes it harder to connect with the right person.
    3. Since English isn’t the official language in China, it can be challenging to find available and clear English translation even for administrative documents or procedures.

    “We had to talk to at least 7-8 Chinese consultants to get a clear idea of what the requirements for an ICP license are,” said the interviewee.

    Dealing with the language barrier is just the first step. Apart from that, the differences in legal systems can be an even bigger headache. In China, where it requires immediacies in law establishments to regulate the market, the governments may release sets of regulations, statutes, and guidelines for immediate use. This is also often the case in a fast changing business sector, such as the tech industry.

    “Most startups are in the internet business. The past two years witnessed a burst of new statutes, regulations, and rules intensively aimed at regulating the internet sector,” a Chinese lawyer familiar with the scene commented. “And in some areas, there can also be detailed rules for execution at the municipal level, which startups also need to comply with.”

    Regulations launched last November for ride-hailing services in China can be an example. After national regulations for ride-hailing services launched, municipal governments in Beijing and Shanghai each released their own stricter rules that required local household register and local car plates for drivers to limit the numbers of cars on the road, considering the population and congestion in these two mega cities.

    “And sometimes, these rules and regulations can be ambiguous,” such as the regulations for live streaming business in China. “It leaves space for development for emerging sectors. But at the same time, there is also the risk that administrators may impose more restraints and tighten the regulation when it's considered necessary. This kind of sudden changes in the regulatory climate may take away the chances for business in emerging sectors. Thus this also appears as a sort of uncertainty for startups in daily operations,” said the lawyer.

    As for global startups, it first takes much effort to find trust-worthy agents to familiarize startups with the scene; then they also need time to learn to adjust to such a fast changing regulatory environment while navigate through all these uncertainties.

    uber china

    Want a Mr. Clutch? Not an easy thing

    What’s also noteworthy is that in some instances, through the right person is hired, the previously mentioned issues do not cause too much trouble. A skilled lawyer or an excellent government relations coordinator can help the company earn a lot more leverage in critical issues. However, hiring isn’t an easy thing.

    Although the degree of exclusiveness in China’s tech industry is not as severe as the notorious Silicon Valley scene, it is still hard for expats to connect to the right person. In many cases, a degree from a top university, or a stunning working experience in BAT or other top tech companies, can be the required ticket for entry to the right social “circles” in China. These circles normally include the best investors as well as outstanding entrepreneurs. When it comes to the right circle, term sheets and contracts can be signed in minutes.

    In addition, considering the great cultural conflicts between headquarters and the local team, it is always challenging to find an appropriate candidate to be the cushion between the two. “Building up Chinese leadership has been an issue for MNCs even since Yahoo entered China in 1998,” said Hans Tung, partner at GGV Capital.

    “Foreign leadership is normally alien to the Chinese market while headquarters normally would not be comfortable with a too-localized Chinese CEO. This contradiction has led to a lot of problems.” Uber China, as an example, was not able to see the assignment of its CEO to the local company even when it merged with its competitor Didi.

    However, good news for some global startups is that as the Chinese tech industry prospers, there appears to be a reverse brain-drain – many Chinese tech practitioners who have worked in celebrated global tech companies are willing to return to the Chinese market to meet new challenges, such as Qi Lu, the current president of Baidu, and Hong Ge of Airbnb.

    It took Airbnb three years to finally come to the decision of nominating Ge as the head of its China operation. He seems to have the quality that fits both the need of a global team and a local market.

    “Ge is a great choice. He’s a Yale graduate with a good performance in product development at Facebook. So he’s able to communicate well with the overseas team, fit into the company culture, and at the same time, he has a good understanding of the Chinese market,” commented Tung. GGV is an early investor of Airbnb. “And based on our communication with the headquarters of Airbnb, we see strong trust in Ge.”

    “Also because of his experience of product development at Facebook, he’s trusted with a stronger say in product decisions. This, to an extent, ease the problem that local teams didn’t have enough decision making power in product localization as it happened before to global tech companies upon their entry to China.” Tung said. 

    In many cases, investor recommendations are a key source for global startups to hire the right person. Flitto, for example, is a global translation community incubated in London. When it entered China, it decided to build up a local team starting with a local responsible person. Henry Huang was a product manager at Baidu and previously at Weibo, and was one of the candidates recommended to the Flitto team by one of their investors. He is now the company’s China president who built its Chinese branch from scratch, and now leads the company’s partnership with top Chinese tech companies including NetEase and his previous employers Baidu and Weibo.

    Another challenge for startups concerning this long and tiring hiring process is that, even if you are fortunate enough to find the right person, chances are you will find the cost to be quite a burden. In the past few years, the labor cost in China has risen significantly. People’s Daily reported in 2016 that from 2013 to 2016, “the percentage of labor cost in a company’s overall cost rose from 5.8% to 9.17%.”

    In the tech industry, a good offer can be more financially demanding for companies. And for startups, even a lucrative package isn’t enough to attract a wanted talent. “It’s common that someone you consider suitable won’t be willing to join your team, and wants to join a big company like BAT,” said Henry Huang, the president of Flitto China. “Cost isn’t the biggest problem. For startups, it’s even harder for you to meet and then be able to hire the right person.”

    Ya-Qin Zhang, center, president of Chinese search engine and technology firm Baidu, speaks during a panel discussion at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing, Thursday, April 27, 2017. At left is Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures and the former head of Google China and at right is Vanessa Gao, CEO of The Jiangmen.

    Before you’re ready to come in, they are ready to go out

    Another challenge faced by foreign startups is how to adjust to the fast pace and fierce culture of entrepreneurship in this market.

    “Chinese companies scale a lot faster than companies in India. The tremendous pace at which companies grow is a striking feature of the Chinese startup ecosystem,” said Dhanasree Molugu, analyst from Blume VC, in a comparison of the distinctive features of the two markets. “Besides, we also find a greater sense of discipline and hunger in Chinese entrepreneurs.”

    This sense of hunger shared by Chinese entrepreneurs can be reflected by slogans like “996,” which means “working from 9AM to 9PM, and six days a week.” In this swiftly changing market, no one dares delay one iteration or two of essential features compared with their rivals. In exchange, they are willing to sacrifice leisure and even health. These sacrifices are, somehow sadly, the foundations of the achievements of Chinese tech companies today, and to a certain extent, one of their core competence that stops outsiders to easily gain any market shares in this market.

    “In China, there have already been pretty competent local players,” said Tung from GGV Capital. “They’re not only competent in the domestic market. They’re even ready to expand to the global market. With such competitors at home, of course it’ll be even more demanding for MNCs to enter the Chinese market.”

    According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, in the first half of 2017, Chinese investors have made outgoing non-financial direct investment to over 145 countries and 3,957 companies with a total number around 48.19 billion USD. Despite a sharp year-over-year decrease of 42.9% in total volume, Chinese investors have become more active in the Asian markets. According to CB Insights, since the end of 2015, Chinese tech companies have invested at least 3.27 billion USD in Southeast Asian startups.

    Top companies such as Alibaba and Tencent have made vast investments in companies related to their core businesses, such as Alibaba’s investments in Lazada for its e-commerce business, then Ascend Money and Mynt, in alignment with its online financial services. Apart from financial support, entrepreneurs also value the experiences brought to them by Chinese investors.

    “Chinese investors have witnessed the fastest growth of any economy in their country. They have first-hand experience of scaling in a short time and yet creating a strong business. This learning is rare and is of great value to startups in India,” concluded the founders of MechMocha, an Indian gaming company with investments from Shunwei Capital, the venture fund founded by Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun, when asked about their observations on the most distinctive features of Chinese investors.

    Back to the question at the very beginning: is China ready to be the center of the Asian tech market and have its own Silicon Valley?

    Based on her observation of the Chinese market, Dhanasree Molugu from Blume VC gave her answer as an outsider. “We believe that a lot of cultural factors, such as globalization and a reverse brain drain, and structural changes, like the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative and the ongoing economic reform, are shaping China’s path ahead in the tech world as a leader.

    “The Chinese tech industry has the unique advantage of having a strong manufacturing base which supplements the software and consumer internet businesses really well. Another factor favoring China is the depth of the venture capital industry. It can be regarded as the most advanced in Asia in terms of experience and scale compared to others, including India’s nascent VC ecosystem.

    Baidu's company logo is seen at its headquarters in Beijing December 17, 2014. 
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon“We also observe that the Product Managers of Chinese consumer tech startups have a very keen insight into the customer's psyche and deliver a great user experience. All these factors definitely make China a strong contender for the title of ‘The Silicon Valley of Asia’.”

    “However, after spending a few weeks in China meeting investors, startups, entrepreneurs, and college students, we realize that the focus on localization of Chinese startups is relatively high, and the government support for local business is pretty strong, which limits the scope of global companies to enter China. Also, having seen a few of our portfolios struggle to tap into the Chinese market, we think the regulatory and legal aspect of doing business in China for international startups still is very hazy. A more expat-friendly environment in terms of information availability, communication efficiency, and many other aspects, is still needed before China can finally claim the title.”

    Although China is yet to be a perfect destination for global entrepreneurs, we have already seen impressive stories happen every day. Raz Galor is a 23-year old Israeli content creator who speaks fluent Chinese and is currently a junior student at Peking University.

    He was a guest host of a Chinese reality show featuring young people from various countries who can speak fluent Chinese, introducing cultural differences of different regions, and he is now a content producer and entrepreneur. His online video channel Foreigner Study Association has 1.54 million followers on Weibo, and each of his videos has millions of views on Chinese social media. This is one of many successful expat entrepreneur stories in China.

    According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, from January 2015 to May 2017, 66,634 new wholly foreign owned enterprises have been set up in China. And hopefully, with a steadily rising tech industry and a more open attitude, we may be able to see a more international, intercultural, and vigorous Chinese tech market.

    SEE ALSO: China's highest-paying jobs have shifted from finance to tech

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    diversity

    All the recent focus on sexism and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley has obscured another long-festering diversity problem for the tech industry: ageism. 

    Now job hiring website Indeed is shining a spotlight on the issue. The company recently conducted a survey of 1,011 currently employed US tech workers. The survey results indicate how little age diversity there is in tech and how little tech companies are doing to change the situation. 

    One glaring finding: 46% of respondents said that the average employee age at their company was between 20 and 35.

    Here's some of what Indeed found and how the industry is approaching the issue of age discrimination:

    SEE ALSO: If you're lucky enough to have a tech salary, these are the 10 cities to get the most bang for your buck

    Survey respondents said they mostly work with younger workers.

    Only 26% of respondents to Indeed's survey said that the average employee at their firm was over 40.

    That's not surprising given findings of other studies. According to data from 2014 collected by PayScale, a salary analysis company, the median age at Facebook is 28, and 30 at Google.

    By contrast, the median age of members of the American labor force as a whole is 41.9, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics.



    Employees generally aren't worried about the paucity of older co-workers.

    Only a fifth of survey respondents think the Baby Boomer generation is underrepresented at their company.



    Older tech workers are more likely to look for jobs outside of Silicon Valley.

    San Jose and San Francisco are the top two places tech workers of all ages seek to work. But Baby Boomers are much more likely than younger workers to look elsewhere for employment opportunities, Indeed found. And Boomers are more likely to seek employment in places younger workers shun.

    For example, Huntsville, Alabama, ranked third on Boomer techies' list of most desired places to work in Indeed's study. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, ranked seventh and ninth, respectively. None of those cities made the top 10 list for either Millennial or Gen X tech workers.

    Meanwhile, for younger tech workers, Austin, Texas, ranked number four after Seattle, but it didn't make the Boomers' list at all. 



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider