An Inside Look at the Equestrian Business

A photo of a man riding a horse.

Jürgen Gabler (photo: A. Moser).

A business that one doesn’t hear much about (unless you are in the equestrian world) is horse training.

It’s actually somewhat of a lucrative market, considering that wherever there are horses and people riding them, there are horse trainers. I spoke with Jürgen Gabler, a horse trainer in Hannover, Germany, to find out more about the business.

Gabler explained that the primary purpose of a horse trainer is to teach the horse to perform specific behaviors. Most often, these behaviors are related to riding, racing, or therapy. It’s important to understand that a horse’s first instinct is to run, especially when someone is on its back. A good trainer will help a horse relax and be attentive to the rider’s needs.

Gabler started out as a horse farmer (Pferdewirt in German). He began training horses at the young age of 16. He went on to study breeding and stock (the handling of horses and their young) and then became a veterinarian’s assistant. After his Abitur (end of high school degree), he pursued a degree in veterinary medicine but dropped out due to financial reasons.

He then started riding full-time on a professional basis. He noticed that there were many problematic horses. But he also noticed that he had a knack for training them and smoothing out the issues, bringing the rider and the horse back to a harmonious relationship. This led to full-time horse training becoming his main form of income.

However, on a long-term basis, he feared that if he suffered a serious injury (a very real and common occurrence in horse training) he needed an additional activity to ensure that he would have a steady stream of income. So he obtained the necessary licenses to transport horses: driving a trailer and livestock transportation. This is also an activity he can pursue when he is too old to continue training horses.

His customers include horse owners from all over the world, and he often crosses European borders. He also holds a teaching license that allows him instruct riding courses.

Gabler also participates in the equestrian sport of dressage and frequently enters championships. In dressage, the horse and rider perform a series of predetermined movements from memory, which include specific gait sequences. Gabler reached the “M**” level, which is just two levels below the “last championship” stage.

Just recently, yet another happy horse rider said of him: “Without Jürgen, I would not be riding any longer, or [even] have my lovely horse. I was so frightened of riding him, and he was so confused. He [Jürgen] got us back together, built our trust in each other, and we are a great team again.”

This is Jürgen’s goal: to help riders and their horses work as a team.

Tech Leaders Warn of the Dangers of AI

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In one of Elon Musk’s ever-quotable interviews, he mentioned something that has spurred quite a bit of debate online. Should we be afraid of the development of artificial intelligence, also known as AI?

Speaking at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, Musk warned that we should tread carefully when it comes to AI.

“Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish,” Musk stated. “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”

Yes, Elon Musk compared working in AI to summoning a demon.

But it’s not just Musk. Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have also issued dire warnings on the topic. But the thing that is interesting about all of these tech leaders is that none of them are actually doing work in AI themselves; they’re merely reacting to the theoretical danger of AI without doing any of the practical work.

While there is a tendency to associate AI with sci-fi movies, in the real world AI is nothing close to the sentient computers shown in blockbuster movies. And while there’s a possibility that we might eventually reach that stage, it’s still quite a long ways off.

Some are so spooked by the idea that they propose federal regulation on this type of technology. But we have to remember that such regulation can often have a chilling effect. Look at the effect that making marijuana a Schedule I drug had on testing its medical capabilities, for example. For a fledgling technology that isn’t anywhere close to being a real danger yet, putting undue restrictions on it could cause the entire industry to be stillborn.

Should we worry? Maybe. But let’s not panic about our space elevators until they’re funded, okay?

Amazon Crushes It, and Possibly You

A photo of Amazon's website.

Image credit: Evan Lorne / Shutterstock

The Onion recently put out a wonderful parody article that was uncomfortably close to the sad reality of tech business these days. Purported to be written by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, it was entitled “My Advice To Anyone Starting A Business Is To Remember That Someday I Will Crush You.”

In it, Bezos provides advice for new entrepreneurs that is actually fairly reasonable, but which always ends with the idea that no matter what happens, eventually Amazon will step in and destroy whatever startup that you might hope to build.

The reason this article hits a bit close to home is because of a Gizmodo piece from earlier in July that argues that “At This Point, Amazon Can Crush a Company Just By Filing for a Trademark.” Jones points out that Amazon is such a large company that simply announcing a plan to compete in a specific market is enough to send other company’s stock toppling, citing the unfortunate state of Blue Apron’s IPO after Amazon announced it was filing a “meal-kit trademark that covers prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or vegetables . . . ready for cooking and assembly as a meal.”

Partnering with the large company is a not a good option, either. Just ask Nucleus cofounder Morley Ivers, who had received an investment from Amazon through its Alexa Fund to create an intercom that allowed non-Amazon devices to work with Amazon’s Alexa. Nucleus returned the favor by giving Amazon insights into how its system worked and its user behavior, only to find out that Amazon was using that information to create their own Echo Show—a device that completely made theirs obsolete.

The worst thing is that, while they were aware that Amazon was working in the space, they did not know that the new device would make theirs truly obsolete until the product was officially announced.

Ivers warns that other companies that work with Amazon to develop Alexa-related devices should be careful that they don’t make the same mistakes he did, although he doesn’t believe that the company is actually malicious.

But with quotes like, “Be prepared, among other things, for my company to duplicate your product or service and sell it at prices you can never compete with, all the while turning your board members against you one by one and, eventually, buying your company for less than it’s worth just so we can shut it down,” clearly The Onion doesn’t see things the same way.

KKR Appoints Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall as Co-Presidents and Co-Chief Operating Officers

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Multinational private equity company KKR has announced a new line of leadership. As of July 17, 2017, Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall will oversee KKR’s day-to-day operations as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers.

Unusual? Yes. Unheard of? No.

Other companies have appointed co-presidents before. Take Santander Bank, for example. This past June, Santander appointed Robert Rubino and Michael Clearly as co-presidents of the bank.

And even more recently, on July 24, 2017, Sony named Jason Clodfelter and Chris Parnell as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television Studios.

But what’s particularly unique about KKR is the fact that the firm also has co-CEOS: cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts. Kravis and Roberts co-founded KKR in 1976 alongside their former colleague Jerome Kohlberg, Jr.

According to The New York Times, the appointment of Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers is “the biggest shakeup in the 41-year-old firm’s history since KKR’s other co-founder, Jerome Kohlberg, Jr, left it in 1987.”

But in all honesty, the announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. Kravis and Roberts, both 73, have already passed retirement age. This new level of leadership will act as a line of succession for whenever Kravis and Roberts decide to step down.

“Having joined the firm together over 20 years ago, Joe and Scott have a strong foundation of trust, professional respect, and personal friendship that is critical for success,” Kravis and Roberts said in a joint statement. “They think and act globally, they embody KKR’s core values, and they are two of our most accomplished business leaders, with proven track records of managing large teams, building new businesses, and driving value for our fund investors and our public unit holders.”

Together, Bae and Nuttall will oversee more than $90 billion in KKR assets. It’s a huge responsibility to take on, but one that both men are prepared for.

4 Benefits of Working for a Startup

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If you’re seeking employment but haven’t had any luck thus far, perhaps it’s time to look into startups. New companies are hidden gems of opportunity, especially for young professionals who are entering the workforce. Before you go dismissing the idea entirely, check out the top four benefits of working for a startup.

1. Faster Upward Mobility

Because there are generally fewer employees at a startup, the opportunities for advancement are significantly increased. Factor in high turnover rates and you’ve got some great odds working in your favor. Sure, you may not be getting paid as much as you would at a major corporation, but in the long-term you’ll get to where you want to go a whole lot quicker.

2. Interaction with Leadership

When working for a startup, it’s not uncommon to see the CEO in office every day. Because startups are so small, it puts you in direct communication with the company’s top executives. In other words, you’ll have the opportunity to make your voice heard and wield some influence.

3. Your Work is Directly Impactful

Starting a company is not easy. That’s why launching a new product or service requires a great amount of effort on behalf of everyone involved. If you happen to snag a position at a startup, it means that your role is vital to the overall function of the organization. That often translates to incredibly fulfilling work, as you’ll feel valued and appreciated.

4. They’re Unstable

For some people, this is more of a con than it is a pro. But for those of us who prefer to live life on the edge, it’s incredibly exciting!

There are no guarantees when it comes to startups. The company can go under at any time, which either terrifies you or motivates you depending on the kind of person you are. The fact that you’re always walking a tight rope between employment and impending doom means that you have to stay on your A-game 100% of the time.

Tell me: have you ever worked for a startup? What was your experience like? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The Smart Money is Investing in Tech

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Where is the smart money going when it comes to tech companies? Some leading experts will be exploring that subject at Fortune’s upcoming Brainstorm TECH conference.

Anton Levy of General Atlantic, Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures, and David Trujillo of TPG will share the stage in a panel discussion on what industries, ideas, or trends they’re betting on; what they’re seeing in the tech space; and the changes they’re watching for.

It’s no surprise that technology is on people’s minds, with the June ransomware attacks and Microsoft’s announcement of its new SMB-oriented software-as-a-service bundle. A recent article in Institutional Investor says that tech deals are booming in the PE sector.

Not only that, but 2017 has been a boom year for tech IPOs, with Snap going public in March, and Carvana, Cloudera, Elevate Credit, Mulesoft, Netshoes, Okta, and Yext also making their public trading debut. The aggregate value of these IPOs is a whopping $37.5 billion, with Snap making up the lion’s share at a valuation of approximately $20 billion.

Today’s tech IPOs are already light years ahead of those in 2016. By May of 2016, only two companies had gone public. Between January and May of 2017, more than four times that number went public, and more public offerings may be on the horizon. (Tech companies that have been floated as possible IPOs, despite rigorous denial from some of them, include Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, Spotify, and Uber.)

Because of the growing success and valuation of tech companies, private equity money is now flowing into the sector, accounting for almost 40.1 percent of U.S. buyouts last year. This is the highest proportion on record. Firms with a broad range of investment interest, such as General Atlantic, KKR, and Carlyle, are jumping into the game and are being joined by tech-focused PE firms like Golden Gate Capital and Siris Capital.

“An increasing number of tech-related companies have moved beyond the traditional territory of venture capital funds, and the sector as a whole has increasingly become a target for the wider private equity industry,” Christopher Elvin, Head of Private Equity at Prequin, told Institutional Investor.

China has also become a PE magnet. However, concerns about the possible imposition of U.S. trade tariffs, plus concerns about its credit, real estate, and technology sectors seem to be cooling interest in the nation. However, when risk and potential are calmly weighed, China may be the most promising private equity market in the world.

This echoes sentiments that General Atlantic CEO Bill Ford shared in a recent interview with Bloomberg. “We’ve been bullish on China despite lots of mixed sentiment—the country is succeeding in pivoting its economy from export and manufacturing to services and consumption,” he said. “We’re seeing companies there generating 15 to 20 percent-plus nominal GDP growth.”

With so many potential IPOs on the horizon, and some really promising companies to be found in emerging markets, it’s no wonder that the smart money is betting on tech to be the next private equity profit-maker.

I will be curious to see what Levy, Green, and Trujillo share at Brainstorm TECH about their vision for private equity in the tech sector and if it matches up with what other observers have been saying.

MIT Grad Built $110 Million Company in Less Than a Year

An emblem that reads "Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

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$110 million is a lot of dough… especially for a company that’s less than a year old. But believe it or not, that’s how much Function of Beauty is rumored to be worth.

Function of Beauty is an online, direct-to-consumer hair product company that creates customized shampoos and conditioners based on the client’s needs. They have a solution to combat nearly every type of hair care problem, including frizz, oily scalp, dry tresses, and dull color.

The New York-based startup has already raised $12 million in funding through Y Combinator. The company just launched in October of last year.

CEO and founder Zahir Dossa says he came up with the idea of creating tailor-made hair care products during his studies at MIT. The “aha” moment happened when he began researching different industries for his dissertation, which focused on ecommerce and value chain optimization.

“I saw that was the most bloated [industry] was beauty, and more interestingly, the value chain for beauty hadn’t really changed over the last 100 years,” Dossa said in an interview with Business Insider. “There were all these middlemen in the way.”

He quickly saw an opportunity in hair care due to the various different problems that people are trying to address. From a business standpoint, that makes for a near endless amount of solutions—well, almost endless. According to Business Insider, Function of Beauty can generate 12 billion different formulas.

“If we know what a person’s hair profile is and how they’d like their hair to behave or look or feel, then basically we can combine those two data points to be able to come up with a unique base for each person based on their profile, and then various performance blends that we can add that appeal to each hair goal that they fill out,” Dossa stated. “And then there are other various ways to personalize it, like the fragrance or the color.”

Better yet? If the client doesn’t like the product, they can return it and receive a new formula, free of charge.

It’s easy to see why Function of Beauty is doing so well, given how focused the company is on the consumer’s needs.

This New Job Searching Tool Was Created Specifically for Millennials

 

A Millennial man searching for jobs on his laptop.

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With the U.S. unemployment rate hitting a 16-year low, it’s important for Millennials to sharpen their interview skills, hone their resumes, and equip themselves with the best job searching tools available. Typical job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Glassdoor are all great places to start. But if you’re a recent graduate you might want to try WayUp, a job search startup aimed at Millennials.

Founded by recent University of Pennsylvania graduate Liz Wessel, WayUp is a platform that connects college students and recent graduates with job opportunities that fit their unique skill sets. WayUp’s Chief Technology Officer J.J. Fliegelman reported that since their launch in 2014, the site has registered 3.5 million user profiles. Wessel believes that the success of WayUp thus far has been rooted in their dedication to democratizing the job search. Wessel believes that this unique job searching platform could eliminate the “who you know” aspect of employment.

Registration is a simple process that takes less than five minutes. WayUp can link to your Facebook account or you can manually set up an account. A student or recent graduate then fills out personal information, their work experience, uploads their resume and photo, and even answers a fun fact about themselves. WayUp profiles are designed to frame a candidate’s experiences in relevant ways to hiring managers.

“A lot of employers just don’t realize that a year of working part-time during the school year is very valuable experience,” says Wessel.

Here’s how it works. WayUp matches users using machine-learning algorithms. The algorithms then crunch data to compare new members with similar users’ accounts. The application is a one-click process that is designed to provides hiring managers with candidates who would be a good fit.

Since WayUp focuses on non-traditional experience, this could give an edge to the younger demographic that companies are targeting. Millennials look at their careers thematically as opposed to other generations that had a more linear approach to professional growth. That’s why WayUp founder Liz Wessel believes that this new approach to job search will be the way of the future.

McDonald’s to Use Snapchat for Summer Jobs

A McDonald's sign.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart at Flickr Creative Commons.

Many teens turn to the fast food industry when it’s time for their first summer job, and McDonald’s has found a way to reach this new crop of potential employees.

This week McDonald’s will be releasing a series of 10-second ads on Snapchat, aimed at teens who are looking for summer work. These ads will feature current employees talking about why they love their jobs, with the hope of enticing viewers to become its new batch of hirees. Jez Langhorn, a McDonald’s human resources executive, believes this is the best way to reach their target audience.

“As we see the younger generations seeking out their first jobs, we want to make them aware of the great opportunities available at McDonald’s,” Langhorn said in a statement.

McDonald’s plans on hiring 250,000 seasonal employees for jobs starting this month and ending in August–just in time for the new school year.

Clever advertising and intelligent marketing are just two of the reasons McDonald’s is one of the most ubiquitous companies in the world. It’s no surprise that McDonald’s is using the most popular social media platform with teens to engage them, especially one that comes with a catchy name: Snaplications.

“We thought Snaplications was a great way to allow us to meet job seekers where they are—their phones,” said Langhorn.

While some may say kids would have McDonald’s in their mind anyway, it’s still a very smart way of interacting with today’s teens and young adults. It’s also not entirely new.

McDonald’s began using Snapchat in Australia earlier this year (with positive results), and in keeping up with the online/social stratosphere, it’s looking to engage jobseekers on both Hulu and Spotify.

Job seekers are encouraged to find out more by going to McDonald’s website (via the Snaplication, of course) or any local restaurant.

Stifel Looking to Weather Fiduciary Storm

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Stifel Financial is one of many firms looking to weather upcoming regulatory changes. Though Stifel’s 2,282 financial advisors are currently in good shape, and the company doubled net income in the fourth quarter of 2016, the June 9 fiduciary rule could make or break recent progress.

Co-chaired by Thom Weisel and Ron Kruszewski, Stifel will “always look at good deals,” according to Kruszewski. And that’s likely to be the company’s saving grace in tumultuous times to come. Capitalizing on forward thinking, Stifel currently manages over $235 billion in assets, and the company’s net income doubled to $24.5 million, or $0.31 per share, with sales rising 14% in Q4.

But it’s not all champagne and roses, despite the robust health of the company. Some investors are cutting their stakes in Stifel, including Ameriprise Financial Inc., which reduced its shares by 23.7% during Q1 of 2017, according to its most recent filing with the SEC. And Instinet analyst Steven Chuback downgraded Stifel to “neutral” in late May, citing the cautious messaging coming from Kruszewski regarding the upcoming fiduciary rule.

“Our decision to downgrade SF does not come lightly,” Chuback noted, “as the company has executed well in recent quarters (bank growth, expense management, etc.). However, after hosting meetings with CEO Kruszewski earlier this month, his cautious messaging on the DOL rule…reinforced our view that this latest announcement/enforcement of the June 9 deadline could weigh on broker multiples (litigation risk) and slow advisor recruitment.”

Certainly the June 9 DOL rule is likely to shake things up. For Stifel, however, the future is still looking bright overall. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, Macquarie Group Ltd., FMR LLC, and Bank of New York Mellon Corp have all recently increased their shares of Stifel stock. Dimensional raised its stake by 17.7%, Macquarie by 1.2%, FMR by 27.5%, and Bank of New York by 7% just within Q1 of this year. Institutional investors and hedge funds now own 84.09% of Stifel’s total stock, which was trading at $43.475 as of June 5. The company has also announced that their quarterly revenue is up 9% as compared to the same quarter last year.

While the effects of the DOL rule remain to be seen, for the moment, Stifel is looking good to weather the storm.

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