Thursday 30th March 2017

  • A rare venture capitalist - Female and Retail-focused

    Ms. Kirsten Green is an unorthodox venture capitalist for several reasons. Apart from having never worked at a venture capital firm before starting her own in 2012, she is also a woman in a male-dominated field. (Of the top 20 venture investors this year, only two were women.) And unlike many generalist venture investors, who work in a range of areas, Ms. Green focuses specifically on commerce and other retail-related start-ups. In one of her first moves as a venture capitalist, she was part of a $1 million investment into Dollar Shave Club, then a tiny company, which sells razors to consumers online. Later, she invested in, an e-commerce start-up that was vocal about wanting to take on Amazon. Last year, both those start-ups hit the jackpot: Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion, while Walmart purchased for $3.3 billion. More here

  • Meet the most connected man in the world!

    Chris Dancy is the most connected man in the world. He uses between 300 and 700 tracking and lifelogging systems at all times, from the fitness wristband Fitbit to the Beddit mattress cover. As he speaks, blinking lights are a visual reminder for Dancy to slow down and focus on his breathing. The lights, like so many aspects of his unassuming, cozy home, are connected to the devices he wears; in this case, they sense his heart rate is up and signal it's time for him to calm down. Similarly, classical music plays throughout the house if he loses his temper. By looking at his data, he's learned exactly what he needs to be his most productive self, such as setting the lights to a specific shade or programming the air levels in his bedroom so he can sleep soundly. He's even monitored his heart rate while watching porn to become more aware of his sexual preferences: "I thought I was into certain types of people, but learned what I actually like most." He's also lost more than 100 pounds along the way, just by tracking his daily habits and making small changes to be healthier. More here

  • Is the fear of public speaking limiting your career?

    The reason why we fear public speaking, is natural and deeply-embedded. Our brains are three to four times more likely to see a threat than a reward, says Gary Luffman, an Occupational psychologist. "So when faced with a group of people you don't know... We move to threat mode". Our brain then slips into "fight or flight" mode. When this happens, adrenaline is released into the body and the heart-rate increases - great if you want to run or fight, but if standing still this excess energy injection can constrict your throat and lead to blushing and sweating. Preparation is the secret of speaking success, says Luffman. Rather than learning your entire script verbatim, he recommends only memorising your opening two or three sentences, or first few minutes, so that you get off to a good start. After which, use cue-cards or slides to move through the subsequent stages of your presentation. More here

  • Your hiring strategy for your customer service team could be all wrong!

    Across industries, fully 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative. Self-service offers companies a tantalizing opportunity to reduce spending, often drastically. The cost of a do-it-yourself transaction is measured in pennies, while the average cost of a live service interaction (phone, e-mail, or webchat) is more than $7 for a B2C company and more than $13 for a B2B company. Corporate investment in self-service technologies has been enormously effective at removing low-complexity issues from the live service queue, and most companies report a steady reduction in such contacts over the past few years. All this creates a new challenge: As customers handle more of the simple issues themselves, frontline service reps get increasingly tough ones - the issues customers can't solve on their own. And today's reps are struggling with these complex problems. More here

  • How Amazon is trying to break into the $800 billion Grocery market!

    Grocery is the most alluring and treacherous retail category. It lures retailers with shopping volume and frequency, and then sinks them with low margin. Amazon Fresh has lost money from spoilage at more than double the rate of a typical supermarket. Amazon's goal is to become a Top 5 grocery retailer by 2025, according to a person familiar with the matter. That would require more than $30 billion in annual food and beverage spending through its sites, up from $8.7 billion - including Amazon Fresh and all other food and drink sales - in 2016, according to Cowen & Co. Reaching that milestone would require a new wave of store and warehouse investments around the country, costing billions of dollars. That's an existential change for Amazon, which initially stayed away from perishable goods and has mostly avoided the overhead of physical stores since it started in 1994. More here

  • The truth about Blockchain

    Virtually everyone has heard the claim that blockchain will revolutionize business and redefine companies and economies. Although we share the enthusiasm for its potential, we worry about the hype. It's not just security issues (such as the 2014 collapse of one bitcoin exchange and the more recent hacks of others) that concern us. Our experience studying technological innovation tells us that if there's to be a blockchain revolution, many barriers-technological, governance, organizational, and even societal-will have to fall. It would be a mistake to rush headlong into blockchain innovation without understanding how it is likely to take hold. True blockchain-led transformation of business and government is still many years away. That's because blockchain is not a "disruptive" technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly. Blockchain is a foundational technology: It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems. But while the impact will be enormous, it will take decades for blockchain to seep into our economic and social infrastructure. The process of adoption will be gradual and steady, not sudden, as waves of technological and institutional change gain momentum. That insight and its strategic implications are explored in this HBR piece

  • Yuval Harari answers questions from Arianna Huffington and others

    Humans find it very difficult to know what is real and what is just a fictional story in their own minds, and this causes a lot of disasters, wars and problems. The best test to know whether an entity is real or fictional is the test of suffering. A nation cannot suffer, it cannot feel pain, it cannot feel fear, it has no consciousness. Even if it loses a war, the soldier suffers, the civilians suffer, but the nation cannot suffer. Similarly, a corporation cannot suffer, the pound sterling, when it loses its value, it doesn't suffer. All these things, they're fictions. If people bear in mind this distinction, it could improve the way we treat one another and other animals. It's not such a good idea to cause suffering to real entities in the service of fictional stories. More gems from Yuval Harari here

  • This man makes founders cry

    Many of the most successful tech founders have relied on coaches. A small handful of them have risen to celebrity status for coaching some of the valley's more iconic figures. The most famous was former Intuit CEO Bill Campbell, who passed away last year. Campbell worked with Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Marc Andreessen, among many others. More than one person has compared Jerry Colonna (accidental CEO coach) to Campbell. "Campbell had a testosterone-infused Silicon Valley kind of model," says investor Fred Wilson. "Jerry's model though is more Buddhism and less football." He makes founders cry. More here

  • How a Harvard economist can help explain the appeal of the note ban amongst the poor in India!

    The idea that the poor and the not-so-rich could come to resent the fortunes of the well-off in an unequal and socially stratified society was first articulated by the influential economist Albert Hirschman in a 1973 research paper. Hirschman, who taught, among other places, at Harvard University named this the "tunnel effect". The tunnel effect referred to a parable about multi-lane traffic that the authors used to describe inequality's impact. New York University development economist Debraj Ray presented a modified parable to explain this effect in a 2010 research paper. "You're in a multi-lane tunnel, all lanes in the same direction, and you're caught in a serious traffic jam," wrote Ray. "After a while, the cars in the neighbouring lane begin to move. Do you feel better or worse? At first, movement in the other lane may seem like a good sign: you hope that your turn to move will come soon, and indeed that might happen. You might contemplate an orderly move into the moving lane, looking for suitable gaps in the traffic. However, if the other lane keeps whizzing by, with no gaps to enter and with no change on your lane, your reactions may well become quite negative. Unevenness without corresponding redistribution can be tolerated or even welcomed if it raises expectations everywhere, but it will be tolerated for only so long. Thus, uneven growth will set forces in motion to restore a greater degree of balance, even (in some cases) actions that may thwart the growth process itself." Is this what's happening in India? And does this explain the note-ban benefit the BJP is enjoying right now? More here

  • Most people are secretly threatened by creativity

    We are not nearly as receptive to creativity as we like to think we are. And the reason has everything to do with our overwhelmed, overworked way of life. Thanks to technological advances, people today are inundated with a constant flow of information and stimuli. To cope with all this complexity, we strive for simplicity. We want correct answers to the problems we face. But by definition, a "correct" choice can never be a creative one. A choice can only be "correct" if it matches a paradigm. Creative ideas necessarily break paradigms. More here

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