A Home Away from Home

Ecocapsule from Ecocapsule on Vimeo.

Billed as “the first truly independent micro-home,” the Ecocapsule is the brainchild of Slovakian company Nice Architects. Measuring a mere 14’ x 7’ x 7’ and able to be hitched up and carted around by car, this itty-bitty household’s big selling point is sustainability. The little camper’s battery boasts over 9700 Wh, used to power a kitchenette (complete with stovetop range), heat water for the tap and shower, and even charge an electrical vehicle (thereby offering extra incentive to invest further in green technologies). Electricity is regularly replenished by a 600 W solar panel array across the top and a 750 W built-in wind turbine on a retractable pole. Nice Architects claim that the egg-like shape is designed to be energy efficient, conserving battery output. The shape is also supposed to assist in the collection of rainwater and dew, which is then purified with onboard filters for safe, clean use through the sink and shower. The bathroom includes a full toilet, stated as flushing on the Ecocapsule site but described as composting in Gizmag’s coverage of the product. Many details are yet to be laid out in their entirety, but each toilet version would carry unique challenges: a flushing toilet would rely on the structure’s limited water supply and would need a decent way of disposing of sewage afterward (especially given the “truly independent” claim), whereas a composting toilet might consume battery power and require a secondary absorbing compound.

The first public display of the Ecocapsule is scheduled for May of 2015 at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, with the first deliveries taking place in early 2016. The price has yet to be established, though shipping to New York will cost the better part of $2,500. Despite the hefty delivery price, Nice Architects claim that it could have been a lot worse: the Ecocapsule’s small size allows it to fit in a standard shipping container, thereby avoiding the costs of less traditional shipping methods.

Investors Flock to Booming Companies

Big Business

Many small businesses believe that finding funding from venture capitalists is a great way to break into becoming a larger company. While this is certainly something that happens, recent trends seem to indicate that some venture capitalists are actually shying away from new companies and instead are going for the sure bet—already booming companies with an established history of success.

On the face of it, this type of shift makes a great deal of sense; why wager that some start-up will achieve success, when you could provide funding and get return on a larger name with pre-established success?

Below, I’ve gathered a quick round-up of successful companies and organizations that are receiving the type of funding I described above.

DocuSign

DocuSign is one of the successful companies that have recently received funding. DocuSign CEO Keith Krach has led the company to becoming the leader in Digital Transaction Management. Due to its success and exciting product, investors are wagering that the business of electronic documents will continue to grow in the future. On Tuesday May 12th, DocuSign raised $233 million in a new round of financing. Brookside Capital and Bain Capital Ventures led this round of funding. DocuSign also received another $85 million in March alone.

Lyft

Carl Icahn, an activist billionaire investor, has invested $100 million in ride-sharing startup Lyft Inc. Icahn believes that Lyft can thrive in a world that is also inhabited by Uber, another ride-sharing company that has been slightly more successful. The activist billionaire investor said he is backing Lyft because he consider its valuation of $2.5 billion a “tremendous bargain” compared to Uber, which by comparison has recently been valued by investors at $41 billion.

Uber

Speaking of Uber, the ride-share company has raised a total of more than $2 billion from investors in June and December last year. Wow!

Yik Yak and Zenefits

Yik Yak, the anonymous social media platform that has been gaining steam over the past year, collected $73.5 million in three financing rounds in seven months and Zenefits, a human resources start-up, raised $580 million in less than two years.

 

What do you think about the current trend of investors flocking to businesses with a history of success? Let us know in the comments section below!

Nintendo of America Hires Bowser as New VP of Sales

Nintendo of America has hired a new Vice President of Sales to lead their US sales organization. Conveniently, their new VP of Sales has a name that will make him fit right in with the Nintendo crowd—Doug Bowser. Although he is of no relation to the King Koopa and Mario’s arch nemesis, he’ll fit in just fine.

Bowser will oversee a variety of sales-related functions at Nintendo, including sales, in-store merchandising, retail strategy, and retail marketing. He will also oversee retail marketing for the Nintendo World store in New York City.

Bowser (we’re still getting used to imagining him not as the lizard Bowser) will report to Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

“Doug Bowser is an outstanding addition to our Nintendo team, as he brings a deep blend of both consumer package goods and video games sales experience,” said Moffitt in Nintendo of America’s press release. “I know he will work tirelessly with our internal and external partners to ensure the broad Nintendo product lineup of hardware, software, and accessories are strongly represented throughout US retail points of distribution.”

Bowser’s previous experiences include experiences at video game company Electronic Arts, where he has worked since 2007. Bowser was EA’s VP of Global Business Planning, which made him responsible for EA’s console, PC, and mobile game forecasting. He received his bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Utah.

This appears to be a great hire for Nintendo of America. Bowser saw great success during his time at EA. In fact, during the end of his tenure at EA, he saw EA pull in $1.4 billion in net revenue during the 2014 fiscal year. This experience might help steer Nintendo of America in a direction where they can better compete with competitors Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo of America has suffered from low sales numbers on their Wii U next generation gaming console.

What do you think about Nintendo of America’s hiring of Doug Bowser?

Eight Steps to a Healthy Workplace

Healthy workplace

The success of your business largely depends on your employees. Take a moment to reflect on your relationship with those who work for you. Do you have what it takes to be a motivational employer?

  1. Value

Valuing your employees is essential to your company’s success. It is important to value the work, but also take time to value individuals. Call out people’s strengths, and when needed, offer advice and guidance.

  1. Balance

Never overlook work-life balance. Your employees will maintain their ability to do their best and generate results if they are not overworked and burnt out. Be understanding about time off and flexible about schedules.

  1. Listen

Your employees listen to you, make sure to make time to check in with them and embrace their feedback.

  1. Gratitude

Appreciate your employees. Always remember that please and thank you go a long way. Acknowledging someone’s hard work is a great incentive for employees to continuing producing quality work product.

  1. Support

Stand up for your employees. Accept that sometimes mistakes are made, and when necessary, share responsibility when something does not go as planned. Support from an employer helps to cultivate loyal relationships with employees.

  1. Environment

Be conscious of the space where your employees work. When possible, create workspace that is inspiring. Spacious environments with natural light have proven to make productive work environments.

  1. Goals

Set goals and be clear about priorities. Employees want to succeed, and as an employer you should do everything you can to enable them. Being transparent about strategies and deadlines will help work get done efficiently and employees understand expectations.

  1. Reward

When employees do great work, make sure to give them something in return. There are numerous ways to reward employees including meals, time off, or bonuses. However you choose to reward, it will show your employees that their work is appreciated.

Do You Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Social Media Followers?

Social media followers

The relationship you cultivate on social media is no different than any other relationship. It takes work and requires thoughtfulness and understanding. Here are five ways to maintain a healthy relationship with those who follow you online.

ONE: Know Your Audience

In order to successfully share content through social media, it is important to know your followers. Social media success is often measured by reach and engagement, such as the amount of followers who see and share your content. Keep track of this engagement, and let these results guide your feature shares. Understanding your audience will help you generate content that is relevant and interesting.

TWO: Have a Plan

Have a plan for how you share information and remember that sharing is a marathon, and not a sprint. You should develop a strategy that includes campaigns that lead you to a goal. For example, if your goal is to publicize an upcoming event, think of a strategy to share relevant and engaging information leading up to your event date.

THREE: Have a Purpose

Remember to prioritize quality as well as quantity. Think about what you are trying to say, and share content with a purpose. Be selective and don’t share information that detracts from your primary message. Also, make sure to share original and creative content that your audience wants to see.

FOUR: Don’t Forget to Listen

Like any relationship, listening is essential. You can’t expect your followers to listen to you, if you ignore them in return. Social media is not just about self-promotion, but it is also about engaging your audience. Listen to what your followers have to say and how they respond. Try creating a survey that provides your followers with an opportunity to give feedback.

FIVE: Understand Your Relationships

Different social media platforms serve different purposes. Although part of maintaining a strong digital presence includes utilizing multiple social media outlets, make sure you have a purpose behind each of your social media accounts. You can share some of the same content across your various channels, but be aware of the individual strengths of each channel. For example, Twitter is designed for sharing direct real-time information, whereas Facebook allows for more in depth discussions.

KCG Profits Up Due to Hotspot Sale

Foreign Trade

KCG Holdings Inc., the New Jersey-based financial services firm, reported significantly increased profits this quarter, thanks to the sale of Hotspot, their foreign exchange trading program. The program was sold to BATS Global Markets in March of this year for $365 million.

KCG’s board, which includes industry veteran Rene Kern, has been working to increase profits and streamline the company’s processes ever since it was created with the merger of financial services firm Knight Capital Group and high tech frequency trading firm Getco.

Daniel Coleman, KCG’s chief executive, admits that the combination of the two companies has been “tough,” but the newly combined organization is looking to come out on top. “We’re figuring out ways to bring a new firm to life, rather than shed vestiges of other firms,” Coleman said.

KCG’s new positioning is as a securities firm using high frequency trading technology to support and build on traditional trading services. Coleman is particularly interested in developing a new trading algorithm called Catch, designed to help clients buy and sell stock affordably.

Certainly KCG’s fourth quarter earnings are helping matters: They collected $26.5 million on a total revenue of $346 million. Net income rose to $2.19 per share from $0.30 per share from the comparable quarter last year. And they can continue to receive up to $70 million in additional consideration over three years, thanks to the tax arrangements involved in the BATS Global Markets deal.

Industry analysts note that most of KCG’s profit still comes from wholesale market making, which involves paying retail brokerages like Fidelity Investments and TD Ameritrade for the right to do retail stock trades.

As KCG stabilizes and finishes incorporating various merger-related changes, they will need to show further positive financial results and an ability to work in tandem with the ever-changing financial world. If financial gains like those from this quarter continue, it’s a goal KCG will likely be able to meet successfully.

Zappos Employees Leave Company in Droves

I quit!

In 2013, the online shoe-empire Zappos began a transition from the typical manager-employee corporate culture to a structure known as Holacracy, where self-management and self-organizing rule. By March of this year, Zappos had fully eliminated management roles and job titles.

Many were not pleased with the change.

Nearly 14% of the company – that’s 210 out of its 1,503 employees – left Zappos after CEO Tony Hsieh offered a severance package to any employee not on board with these drastic changes. Those concerned that their lack of title could hurt potential job prospects in the future jumped ship, and all within a matter of weeks.

Last month Hsieh sent out a company-wide memo detailing his plans, his worries and his thoughts on correcting the misconceptions so many employees were having about this new Holacratic approach. While his goal was to assuage their fears and get them on board, he was forthcoming in how these fears were holding back Zappos from where he envisioned they would be.

Per the memo:

While we’ve made decent progress on understanding the workings of the system of Holacracy and capturing work/accountabilities in Glass Frog, we haven’t made fast enough progress towards self-management, self-organization, and more efficient structures to run our business… After many conversations and a lot of feedback about where we are today versus our desired state of self-organization, self-management, increased autonomy, and increased efficiency, we are going to take a “rip the bandaid” approach to accelerate progress…

Hsieh ended the email offering a three month severance and COBRA package to anyone unwilling to move forward with the new plan. All employees with more than four years with the company were offered one month of severance per year worked, along with three months of COBRA benefits. Qualified employees had to:

  • Be in good standing
  • Read “Reinventing Organizations” by April 15, followed by watching a talk with the author
  • Give notice to leave before April 30.

 

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Drawing up the Future of Drones

Drone

Amazon has submitted a patent for aerial delivery drones that are able to track the recipient by their smartphone’s GPS. Already news outlets are hypothesizing how creepy this will be, with a horde of drones stalking customers to deliver them their box set of Game of Thrones.

Right now, Google and Amazon are the two companies primarily staking out drone us in the US, but inevitably the law will catch up as more smaller companies take to the skies. Here are a few problems that will have to be solved, and such solutions provide a possibility for entrepreneurs.

Drone Insurance

It seems obvious, and already companies are jumping to expand their businesses to include specialized insurance for aerial unmanned vehicles. Just Google “Aerial Drone Insurance.” The business will inevitably changes as cities and states begin to enact their own requirements for drone insurance—insurance for civilians and property injured or damaged by drones, and possibly insurance for damaging other drones. There are opportunities for businesses to offer drone insurance as well as for lawyers to specialize in relevant laws, existing and future.

Drone Zoning

In major metropolitan areas, drone traffic could increase to a point where cities enact regulations on how many drones can be present, what hours drones can operate, and possibly restrictions on where drones can operate. In large enough cities, one can imagine concerns about a mini Kessler Effect where the skies are too crowded with drones with many concerns about mid-air drone collisions. (There can’t be an actual Kessler Effect because debris doesn’t float this close to earth, it falls.) This leaves room for law firms to help have a guiding hand in crafting legislation that strikes a balance between private and public interests.

Additional Drone Services

Drones are ideal for delivering all manner of products, not just those sold by Amazon and Google. With apps like Eat24 and Grubhub popular, it makes sense that such apps could make use of drones—they could either develop their own or outsource their drones to a third party.

Moreover, computers aren’t always the best at plotting routes or dealing with unstable conditions. There’s a market space for companies that have actual humans manning drones, for areas that have regular bouts of inclement but navigable weather or for cargoes that are time sensitive or have a very particular place they need to be delivered (such as drones carrying urgent medical supplies, to hospitals or emergency areas).

Not only will drones drastically affect the legal landscape, but they will also change the landscape of what we expect from companies and our skies. If the internet was the Wild West of the 90s, we’re now entering the Wild West of the skies. For better or for worse, the skies will be tamed and legislated, so it’s better to become involved in that process earlier rather than later.

SpaceX Tests Emergency System for Manned Space Flight

Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, has begun testing on a new system to transport humans into space. Currently, SpaceX uses their Dragon capsule to fly cargo to the International Space Station. They are working to develop a similar system for manned flights in order to break Russia’s monopoly on manned flights.

After NASA retired the space shuttle program in 2011, the Russians stepped up to handle transporting humans from Earth to the station. They currently charge NASA $63 million per person to fly astronauts to the ISS, utilizing their Soyuz system.

A recent test at Cape Canaveral witnessed a modified Dragon capsule being launched 1.4 miles into the air over the Atlantic Ocean. The capsule deployed parachutes and splashed down shortly thereafter. The goal was to test an ejection system for future flights, which would allow astronauts to eject the capsule in case of emergencies. Since the current Dragon system is rocket based, it cannot be landed like the old orbiter system NASA used for the space shuttle program, hence the need for something akin to an eject system. In fact, the space shuttle didn’t have an ejection system, according to NASA astronaut Eric Boe, who flew the orbiter twice on shuttle missions. This new system lands like the Apollo modules did, by splashing into the ocean.

The emergency system will be tested again as early as this summer with a larger rocket for a higher altitude, faster test of the system. The recent test had no humans in the capsule, although it was heavily instrumented and did feature a crash-test dummy. The capsule will return to SpaceX labs in California for tests, though the same capsule will be launched on the next test as well.

If these tests go well, and stay on track, NASA hopes to be using American systems to take astronauts to space by 2017.

Mu Sigma Plans Nasdaq Listing by 2019

NASDAQ

On April 21st, Mu Sigma, a data analytics outsourcing firm by Sequoia Capital, announced its plan to achieve a Nasdaq initial public offering within four years as the company seeks to tap into the demand for processing the vast amounts of information companies gather.

The Chicago-based company aims to increase annual sales to $1 billion within five to seven years from about $250 million currently, according to their founder and CEO Dhiraj Rajaram. At their present rate, Mu Sigma is boosting its revenue roughly 6–7% every month.

Mu Sigma has attracted a great deal of investment, finding funding most notably from Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic. These companies have strong ties to Mu Sigma, with Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital and Gary Reiner of General Atlantic on Mu Sigma’s board of directors. William Ford, the CEO of General Atlantic, was formerly on the Mu Sigma board as well. This is likely money well spent, as Mu Sigma services over 140 members of the Fortune 500, including Microsoft.

While Mu Sigma is quite hopeful for the future, the road to achieving its public offering goals will not be an easy one. Mu Sigma will have to compete with several other data analytics outsourcing companies including Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, as well as dozens of other start-ups including LatentView Analytics Corp. and Fractal Analytics Inc.

“There are several start-ups willing to do the same work as Mu Sigma, and for much cheaper,” Jack Chen, the chief data scientist for marketing decision sciences at Dell Inc., said. “Now, I tend to send work their way.”

Mu Sigma has over 4,000 employees who dig through huge piles of data for their customers to help them make the best decisions. In addition, Mu Sigma has began offering its own subscription-based software that products can purchase a subscription to and use to analyze and visualize their own analytics information.

What do you think about Mu Sigma’s ambitious plan to increase their annual sales to $1 billion by 2019?

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