Next Generation Farming Techniques Involve the Clever Use of Technology

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The next generation of farmers believe that there are better ways to farm outside of mainstream techniques.

Millennial farmers are incorporating technology into everyday farming practices as a means of increasing productivity and streamlining conventional processes. For example, trends show that younger farmers are leaning towards organic and sustainable small-scale farming.

These small farms often gain support for their technology through crowd funding and are sustained by Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Many utilize farm shares where members subscribe for a portion of produce weekly, monthly, or yearly. They use technology that provides accurate tracking of their produce and livestock so that they are better able to plan for their farming needs and the production requirements to deliver goods to consumers.

Technology also offers opportunities to produce food more sustainably. A mixture of data, math, sensors, analysis, hardware and software allows farmers to go beyond what the eye can see. This data can be monitored all at once, creating greater efficiency in the agricultural process.

Forbes reports that “consumers have gravitated to mobile devices and smart technology to live healthier, safer, and more connected lifestyles–monitoring our thermostats and securing our homes and tracking our health. The migration of technologies that we use in our everyday lives into tools for farmers to grow crops more effectively and create sustainable farms is the model for a new generation of farmers.”

Farmers have successfully integrated such technology as moisture sensors, terrain contour mapping, smart irrigation, drones, and self-driving and GPS-enabled tractor technologies into their daily routines.

Drone technology is another powerful addition to smart farming. Drones allow farmers to map fields aerially in real time. Aerial imagery can expose heavily compacted fields and crop health issues, as well as show improvement in yields.

Drones can also help pollinate crops. Bio-inspired drones could have huge effects on the pollination crises and the decline of bees. They can be designed to fly from crop to crop, fertilizing plats mimicking natural pollination. These flight patterns might also provide researchers with some clues about how to help with pollinator declines.

The hope is that smart farming will help our agricultural industry reduce negative side effects on the environment, protecting our planet’s resources, while still producing the best food supply for a growing and hungry population.

The Battle of Free Shipping Continues

A wooden crate with the words "free shipping" stamped onto it.

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It’s hard to be a big box retailer these days and charge a hefty price for shipping. We keep seeing big-name stores that were once prosperous now closing up shop, and a lot of that has to do with the ease and affordability of online shopping.

For a time, many still chose to shop in-person because that option offered no shipping fees, but that era is slowly coming to an end–and major stores are now battling it out for the best free shipping deal.

This week, Amazon announced that it would be (once again) lowering it’s free shipping minimum for non-Prime members. Shoppers now only need to spend $25 to forgo shipping costsa price that is very reasonable for most people. At the beginning of 2017, the spending minimum was $49, but that changed when Walmart came out with their own two-day, free shipping deal on orders of $35 or more. With the $25 limit, Amazon is now the cheapest place for shipping.

Yet, that could very well change.

Target, which has been offering free shipping at the $25 rate for quite awhile, is planning to run a test program on next-day shipping, starting this summer. As of right now, the pilot program will only be offered in the company’s native Minneapolis (and only to REDcard members), but if it’s successful, the company would most likely branch out to Targets countrywide.

That said, Target plans on charging a “low, flat-fee” for shipping, although executives have yet to determine what that fee will be. If it’s something insignificant (say, $2.95) and you’re ordering a $500 dresser, that fee is worth the next-day shipping. If people are willing to pay a small amount to ensure their items are delivered in a timely manner, it will be one more sting against Amazon–which is exactly what Target wants.

New York Times and CB Insights Name Sandy Miller to Top 100 Venture Capitalists for Second Year

 

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For the second year in a row, Sandy Miller of Institutional Venture Partners has been named as one of the top 100 venture capitalists in the world, according to The New York Times and CB Insights. The list is determined using data analytics focusing on investments, consistency, and reputation, among other factors. Miller is joined on the list by fellow IVP General Partner Todd Chaffee.

In addition to co-founding Thomas Weisel Partners with Silicon Valley investment banker Thom Weisel, Miller has 35 years of experience in venture capital and technology investment banking. He’s served on more than 25 public, private, and philanthropic boards. In his work he has led investments in companies such as AddThis, Constant Contact, Datalogix, OnDeck, Zynga, and many more. He was also a Managing Director at Montgomery Securities, Merrill Lynch, and DLJ, as well as a strategy consultant at Bain. Since 2006, Miller has been a Managing Director and General Partner at IVP. He ranks at #41 on the list.

Todd Chaffee, also of IVP, has been a Managing Director and General Partner since March of 2000. He has more than 25 years of experience with operating and investment, including investments in Akamai, Ariba, Business Insider, Netflix, Pandora, Yahoo, and many more. Prior to his work with IVP, Chaffee was Executive Vice President of Visa, overseeing Visa’s Advanced Technology, Strategic Planning, Corporate Development, and Equity Investment divisions. He ranks at #97 on the list.

IVP was one of the first venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road in the Silicon Valley. Founded by Reid Dennis in 1980, IVP focuses on financing later stage companies and helping with overall strategy to ensure company health.

This is the second year CB Insights and The New York Times have put together this list using CB Insights’s Investor Mosaic Algorithm. The algorithm uses straight data as well as submissions to determine the best firms and individual professionals in the venture capital market. Determining factors include investor exits, network centrality, illiquid portfolio company value, and recency of performance. Putting it all together, CB Insights and The New York Times are able to come up with a list of the current best-ranking VC professionals.

Best Practices for Responding to a PR Disaster

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When it comes to PR disasters, how you respond can be the deciding factor in whether your company sinks or swims. That’s why it’s important to have a plan put in place should a crisis come your way.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes. Take action now.

You should prepare for a PR disaster for the same reason you prepare for a natural disaster: just in case. Regardless of whether or not you anticipate trouble coming your way, you should have all your steps outlined so you know exactly what to do if the situation occurs.

Respond within 8 hours.

This is an incredibly short time frame, which is exactly why statements need to be crafted ahead of time. There should be two statements: one from the CEO and one from an official spokesperson. For smaller companies, just one statement from the CEO will suffice.

While it’s difficult to craft a statement when the circumstances of the situation are still unknown, you should still have a general outline ready. Specifics can be inserted later and you can always make changes to the document. Basically, the last thing you want is to have no plan, no statement, and no clue what to do next.

Acknowledge the situation.

This doesn’t mean admitting fault. It means that you’re aware that the situation occurred.

Let the public know what you plan to do.

The public wants to know what steps you’re going to take moving forward. This can mean cooperating with law enforcement officials, it can mean launching your own internal investigation, or it could mean offering some type of compensation to your customers. The idea is to show the public that you’re doing everything in your power to make things right.

Follow through on your promises.

Following through on your promises is even more important than letting the public know what your course of action is. If you do not follow through on what you said you would do, the public will view you and your company as being untrustworthy.

There are many other best practices that you should implement in order to further prepare yourself for a PR disaster. This article is intended to be merely a beginner’s guide to the subject matter. For more in-depth tips, check out the following books:

Damage Control: The Essential Lessons of Crisis Management
Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control
The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management: How to Manage the Media in the Digital Age

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em Out

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It’s not an uncommon occurrence: two companies duking it out in the marketplace, their battle only ending when one buys out the other. Whether it’s GoDaddy buying up European rivals to expand its reach or Billtrust taking its competition, Invoice Connection, out of the game to do away with constant low ball pricing scares, there are plenty of reasons why a company might choose to buy out a rival.

Of course, ideally, the situation is more of an amicable, strategic merger. San Francisco investment banker Thom Weisel is no stranger to this sort of development: his Montgomery Securities was sold to NationsBank in 1997, and in April of 2010, Stifel Financial purchased Thomas Weisel Group.

Montgomery Securities, a privately held investment bank that focused on lucrative IPOs of high tech companies, ultimately became a subsidiary of NationsBank called NationsBanc Montgomery Securities Inc. Weisel continued to serve as the unit’s chairman. This came after Weisel announced several months earlier that Montgomery was looking for strategic partners. So rather than a foundation of anger and distrust, this deal was made based on a desire for compromise.

“The combination of our two companies is a great fit and will allow us to reach our goal of providing one-stop shopping to our clients,” Weisel said at the time.

As for Stifel’s acquisition of Thomas Weisel Partners, the all-stock transaction, involving more than $300 million, definitely sweetened the deal. And while Stifel did basically buy Thomas Weisel Partners out, Stifel made the purchased investment bank a fairly autonomous subsidiary with Weisel himself a co-chairman of the board.

Unfortunately, not all buyouts are this smooth. Flint Lane’s Billtrust, an electronic and paper billing service aimed at plumbing, electrical, and lumber supply wholesalers, suffered from years of bitter rivalry with Invoice Connection, a rival company who consistently went after Billtrust’s clients by offering much lower prices.

Still, Lane wasn’t going to let the simmering animosity affect his business decisions. He met with Invoice Connection co-founder Earl Beutler, and on June 6, 2011, the two companies signed a letter of intent for Billtrust to buy out Invoice Connection. The deal closed in September of that year.

The world of mergers and acquisitions is, at least in theory, a realm of utmost professionalism. Companies make decisions about expanding, partnering, and buying based on the market and what’s best for each individual business. But there’s always the cutthroat underbelly, where sometimes the best solution to the problem of competition is to…well, buy it out. No matter what unpleasantness may (or may not) occur during the actual handoff, the positive outcomes are usually worth it: the subsequently formed businesses are stronger and can offer their clients more services and opportunities.

So in the end, having a rival might not be such a bad thing after all.

Print Media Isn’t Dying

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For a while there, everybody was concerned that print media was going extinct because people were reading newspapers and books online. That’s turning out to be a false alarm though, as several studies have shown that physical books are experiencing a resurge in popularity.

Newspapers, which have been seen as struggling in the digital age, are also doing fine (at least in the United Kingdom, anyway). According to a recent study, print newspapers are more popular than their digital counterparts, with readers spending 89% of their time with print editions and only 4% and 7% with web and mobile versions.

Other studies have shown that in Germany, print newspapers are 38% more likely to be used as a weekly news source than the web, while in the U.K. that number is only 13%. The authors of the British study think that German readers could spend even more time with their print papers. So while not everybody is reading print newspapers, or maybe newspapers at all, those that are seem to prefer print.

What this tells us is that digital technology hasn’t been as “disruptive” as we’d thought (disruptive in this case meaning that it would kill print media). The people lamenting the death of print media have mostly been people who were slow to embrace digital media in the first place. But there’s no reason that print and digital media can’t coexist, since they serve different purposes for different people.

Could print media eventually die out? Sure, but that’s still a ways down the road. In the meantime, it’s here to stay.

What does that mean for publishers, whether that be books, newspapers, magazines, or comics? It means that they need to pay attention to the way readers actually engage. Better than wasting their time trying to find ways to hinder digital media, they should find ways to work with it, or to find audiences that prefer print products they already make. Adaptability, and paying attention to what’s actually happening, is key here.

Study Shows That People With ADHD Add Value to Business

A clipboard that reads "ADHD." There are several prescription medications and medical devices surrounding it.

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There are numerous traits associated with entrepreneurial success, including risk taking, passion, persistence, and time commitment. But these traits are also associated with something else: ADHD. Most of us are used to hearing ADHD discussed as a problem, making it hard for students or workers to focus. But that’s only because we’re used to discussing ADHD in the context of structured environments that expect the same thing from everyone.

New evidence gathered from an international study found that, “some of the symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship—in a positive sense.” Some of the symptoms even had “a decisive impact on the subjects’ decision to go into business and on their entrepreneurial approach.”

These symptoms include impulsiveness, which allowed the study participants to make decisions without getting bogged down by details and concerns. Additionally, their boredom with their jobs often led them to start their own businesses. Hyper-focus allowed them to hone in on a task and really go after it, which contributed as well to their high activity level. But all of these pros could just as easily become cons, such as when impulsiveness makes it difficult to focus on routine tasks like bookkeeping.

It’s worth nothing that not all ADHD participants were successful, and sometimes their businesses failed, but so do a lot of business, regardless of who starts them. What this study does is gives us a new light in which to look at both entrepreneurship and ADHD, which should help us develop better understandings of both.

The markers by which we measure the success of a business might not be telling us everything about what makes a successful business, or who should start one. And by finding these connections to their symptoms, we can take a more positive look at ADHD as something other than a problem. It’s not something that needs to be treated or cured, but something that people need to learn how to make work to their advantage.

Private Equity Tycoon Reveals How He Turned His Company into a $90 Billion Business

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Everybody loves a good story about the American Dream, and this one’s pretty big. In a recent interview with Institutional Investor, American financier Henry Kravis gave the inside scoop on how he built one of the biggest private equity firms in the world.

It all started in 1976, when Henry Kravis and his cousin, George Roberts, decided to start their own investment company. Both men were 32 years old at the time. With limited financial resources, they each invested $10,000 into the company. Their partner, Jerome Kohlberg, was about 20 years older and was able to put $100,000 into the company.

Their strategy was to build a company with a unique workplace culture. Both Kravis and Roberts had worked for global investment bank Bear Stearns in the past, which Kravis described as being an “eat what you kill” environment. Kravis and his partners decided very early on that they didn’t want that type of culture, so they set out to design a company that was centered on active involvement and collaboration.

“We set a firm up that everyone would participate in everything we did, and that way we got everybody to work together. And today, 40 years later, that’s the same kind of culture that we have,” Kravis stated.

Being the optimists that they are, Kravis and his partners set an extremely high goal for themselves: raise $25 million. But they soon figured out that they couldn’t raise $25 million on terms that were acceptable to them. So they decided to regroup and set the bar a little lower: raise $500,000 to cover overhead costs.

“And so we said, ‘okay. Let’s go out to have a group of individuals that will put up $50,000 each for a commitment for five years, and if they put that kind of money up, we’ll show them every deal we do. They can come in or not come into the deal, but if they come in, we want 20% of the profits.’”

And that’s how KKR was born. Kravis says that to this day, neither he, Roberts, or Kohlberg have needed to put another penny into the company. With just $120,000, the three of them built the second largest private equity firm in the world, managing a total of more than $90 billion in assets.

Burger King Buys Popeyes Chicken

A photo of the outside of a Popeyes Restaurant.

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Restaurant Brands International, the company that owns Burger King, will be buying Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for $1.8 billion. Popeyes is known for its Cajun cuisine and extremely popular fried chicken which can be found in its 2,600 restaurants worldwide.

Daniel Schwartz, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, is excited about the new venture.

“RBI is adding a brand that has a distinctive position within a compelling segment and strong U.S. and international prospects for growth,” he said in a statement. “As Popeyes becomes part of the RBI family we believe we can deliver growth and opportunities for all of our stakeholders including our valued employees and franchisees. We look forward to taking an already very strong brand and accelerating its pace of growth and opening new restaurants in the U.S. and around the world.”

Restaurant Brands International is already doing well in the fast food market due to Burger King’s rising sales, but this Popeyes purchase can make it a formidable opponent in the fried chicken arena, where KFC is still king. Wall Street seems to think it has a chance. As of Tuesday morning, the company’s value rose 19% (up from Friday’s closing numbers), bringing Popeyes’ stock up to $79 per share.

Popeyes was founded in the early 1970s in New Orleans, and has since become a staple for chicken lovers in more than 25 countries. Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes, is just as excited as Schwartz when it comes to the RBI/Popeyes partnership.

“As Popeyes enters its 45th year,” she said, “it’s success reflects the amazing brand entrusted to us by founder Al Copeland, Sr. and the unique high trust partnership that we enjoy with our franchise owners. RBI has observed our success and seen the opportunity for exceptional future unit growth in the U.S. and around the world.

Restaurant Brands International also owns Tim Horton’s, the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain.

Online Ads Result in Offline Sales

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The question of whether or not online ads are a worthwhile investment is one that plagues many companies. Unless customers are clicking on ads and those ads are directly resulting in a sale, its hard to gauge whether or not they’re beneficial. That’s where statistics and experiments come in, which can help make more sense of online advertising. But there’s still a gap in the data, namely, how do you know if online ads are working if the vast majority of your sales are in-store?

To investigate that question, researchers from the University of Rochester, Netflix, and Pandora worked with Yahoo! and an unspecified clothing retailer to figure out how effective that retailer’s online ads were. It turns out that, according to the data, they’re pretty effective. On average, the ads increased revenue by 3.6%.

While that may not sound like a lot, it’s actually about three times what the company spent on those ads, which is a really good return on investment. What’s really interesting though, is that about 84% of in-store sales increases came directly from online ads. In other words, the ads were working and driving people to the physical stores, instead of driving them to the online store.

There are likely a few reasons behind that, which may not be applicable to all retailers. Shopping for clothes is, generally speaking, a more personal experience than shopping for home goods or books. Buying clothes generally requires trying them on, unless you have a very good understanding of how a specific company sizes and cuts their clothing.

So while people might buy books and movies online with no worry, a lot of them seem to be still buying clothes in stores. But the online advertisements are still working, because those same people are spending enough time online that this is where the ads are having the most effect.

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