TALES FROM THE TRENCHES OF RUNNING A START-UP

The externalities that influence creativity, adoption, and scale are often more important than the innovation itself. To be a successful innovator one has to be really in tune with what’s happening in the world on a global scale (or be really lucky, or better yet both). Venture capital has shortened the learning curve for some innovators, but bias has limited access to venture capital for many. Unconscious bias is like an odorless gas—it’s imperceptible to most, but pervasive and deadly.  Working among people with competing priorities takes more effort. It means encouraging communication so they’re aware of each other’s needs as they generate new ideas. You have to find a way to invite these ideas in, make it okay for people to disagree respectfully, and encourage the flow of ideas among the various groups. You need each person to focus on his or her task, but not so much that it creates boundaries and kills any sense of creativity in the group.  People tend to think innovation can be neatly placed into two categories: incremental or disruptive. They also assume that the only category that really matters is the disruptive kind, where you dramatically transform markets or introduce a novel product.  Read More >>

YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER ANYMORE

When the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2009, companies across industries came to a harsh realization. Years of researching, maneuvering, marketing, and investing to create the perfect customer products and services suddenly fell flat. The economy dramatically shifted consumer habits, with many focused on reducing spending amid the uncertainty of the economy, and a loss of trust in many institutions. Similar to the recession in 2009, customer needs and preferences are evolving at light speed as customers grapple with the impacts of the current situation. With many states reopening, companies need to quickly identify who their customers have become and how to fit into their new purchasing portfolios. The 2009 recession taught brands some hard lessons about relearning and reengaging their customer bases, and some of the changes and impacts were long-lasting. The pandemic has created an unprecedented situation of its own, but companies that act quickly and proactively to take the necessary steps will increase their chances of hanging onto their loyal customers long-term and avoiding the enduring consequences of failing to do so.  Read More >>

STARTUP LED BY EX-GOLDMAN SACHS HR CHIEF LAUNCHES DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION INDEX

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness, the firm said on Thursday.  Eskalera’s software collects information on employee sentiment and company culture and combines it with HR data to generate a score for inclusivity that can be measured against competitors.  The goal is to give companies actionable information on changes needed to increase diversity.  Eskalera is among a group of startups developing software to help corporations hire and retain more diverse staff.  Many U.S. companies have pledged funds and issued statements in support of racial diversity amid protests that erupted since George Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.  The gestures by corporate America have drawn some criticism from diversity experts, who say companies should also look at improving racial equity within their ranks.  Fewer than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are black, according to a 2019 study by the Center for Talent Innovation. Around 13% of Americans identify as black or African American, according to federal data.  Read More >>

ED TECH IS SURGING, AND PARENTS HAVE SOME NOTES

Unlike most sectors, edtech has been booming over the last few months.  But as tired parents juggle work, family and sanity all day, nearly every day, they say edtech is not a remedy for all education gaps right now.  Parents across all income groups are struggling with homeschooling.  Socioeconomically disadvantaged families have it even worse because resources are strapped and parents often have to work multiple jobs to afford food to put on the table.  One major issue for parents is balancing a decrease in live learning with an uptick in “do it at your own pace” learning.  In light of the struggles parents and educators alike are seeing with the current set of online learning tools and their inability to inspire young learners, new edtech startups are thinking about how the future of remote learning might look.  The missing piece to edtech: School isn’t just learning, it’s childcare.  Read More >>  

GROWING RESILIENCE IN UNCERTAIN TIMES


Managing the current crisis is an inside job.  When confronted with a situation weighed with anxiety and ambiguity, like a pandemic, a lock-down and frightening news from the economy, it’s impossible for most of us to imagine any upside. We become paralyzed; overwhelmed by events, we descend into a state of mind I call unproductive uncertainty. But there are some people who manage to see their way through that paralysis and find a positive path forward.  Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. We are all free to choose, and finding that freedom is key to finding a way forward in uncertain times.  With unprecedented levels of uncertainty about our health, our work and the world, it’s possible to nurture an uncertainty capability and find resilience.  Read More >>

HOW TO APPLY EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE TO YOUR LEADERSHIP

When it comes to building strong, lasting relationships with clients and team members, it’s time to start thinking like CEOs but under a different definition: Chief Emotional Officers. We business leaders are often trained to focus on data, numbers, and “hard skills.” As leaders, we must equally engage our other skill sets, to focus on the skills of emotional sensitivity and empathy. It’s these “soft skills” that are crucial to cultivating psychological safety — the sense of trust and well-being that helps teams thrive. These skills can’t run on autopilot. They require self-awareness and intentional behavior. The following is a model that can help leaders build these skills: the AAA Model for Cultural Agility. It consists of three steps: aware, acquire, and adapt. Aware. Reflect on your own state of mind, biases, and assumptions. Acquire. Ask questions. Explore and engage with others. The information you gather should help you to understand where others are coming from. Adapt. Bridge the difference by adapting new behaviors and mindset. We can all be Chief Emotional Officers. It just takes daily intention and practice. Remember “AAA” — aware, acquire, adapt — and the title can be yours.  Read More >>

HOW TO HANDLE VIDEO NEGOTIATIONS

With so many of us confined at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is fortunate that much economic activity, from buying groceries to banking services, can be carried online. As it turns out, many business deals and negotiations also happen online these days. As opposed to email, phone calls or instant messaging, video-conferencing is the tool that resembles regular face-to-face meetings the most. That being said, it can’t convey as much information about the parties’ non-verbal cues. And sometimes, during technological glitches, we might miss a few words and refrain from asking the person to repeat, thus missing out on verbal cues as well. In these challenging times, video-conferencing has the benefit of being a considerably cheaper means to conduct negotiations than face-to-face meetings. Given the fact that many companies are struggling due to contracting economic activities, videoconferencing may be a more sensible way to conduct business going forward, at least until the situation returns to normal, which could take months if not years. Hopefully, business negotiated via video-conferencing will help companies save costs and navigate stormy waters to a calmer and safer harbor in the future.  Read More >>

CAN EMPLOYEES MONITOR EMPLOYEES WHO WORK FROM HOME DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS?

To ensure employees do what they’re supposed to, some employers have begun using surveillance apps and programs to monitor worker productivity.  This has raised some worker privacy concerns and the questions of whether this is legal or proper.  Employers have been monitoring employees since the dawn of the employer-employee relationship. In the Internet age, with the ubiquity of laptops, tablets and smartphones, what the employer can do has gone up a notch.  Employers can keep track of what employees type, record internet activity, take screenshots, and use the company-owned device’s webcam.  As a general rule, when using your employer’s equipment while on your employer’s network, your employer will have the right to monitor what you do. If you’re on your own device and using your own Internet connection, it’s less likely to be legal if your employer monitors you, although it still is often perfectly legal. Employees in some states may have slightly more employee privacy protections.  For example, some states, like Maryland, Illinois and California have “all-consent” or “two-party consent” laws that require everyone involved in an electronic communication or telephone call to consent to the monitoring.  A few states require employers to give notice to employees before monitoring can take place. Connecticut and Delaware are two such states with specific laws on the books, although Connecticut’s law might not apply when the employee is working from home.  The bottom line: most employers can legally monitor what you do while working as long as it’s for legitimate business purposes or they have your consent. If you decide to engage in personal activities during business hours, you will usually do so at your own risk.  Read More >>

FOUR TIPS FOR START-UP ENTREPRENEURS IN THE POST-COVID19 ERA TO REFRAME REJECTION INTO CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT

In the life of a startup founder, it is normal and to be expected that she or he will inevitably face rejection in many areas, and for a long time. Invariably, rejection has many forms and faces. Many smart people have prognostications on how to handle rejection. If you get a “no” from a potential customer, consider asking for feedback on why they went with another solution. At minimum, thank everyone that you meet with for their time and interest. Find common areas of interest that will allow you to follow-up over time. Be kind, courteous, fair and consistent in all of your behaviors. Make sure your reputation online reflects who you are and how you want to be perceived. If the fit was never there, consider whether it was not meant to be. Is there a lesson to be learned? Some startup founders take rejection the wrong way, either ignoring the nay-sayer, or worse, taking personal offense and even lashing out. While you may suffer from a bruised ego, the way you prepare for, conduct and follow-up from each meeting speaks volumes to your target audience about your aptitude for future success.  Read More >>

HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY IN OUR BATTLE WITH COVID-19

Tech companies are pumping out new services and products to tackle pandemic challenges. For all the misery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks certain to leave us with at least one benign legacy: technological innovation. Across sectors and industries, from medicine and biotechnology to logistics and communications, existing technology is being repurposed while new innovations are emerging within a matter of weeks in the battle against the coronavirus. n the race against COVID-19, getting technology innovation up to speed is key. Since COVID-19 laid siege to the Chinese city of Wuhan in January, one of us (Xian-Sheng Hua) has been heading an “intelligent healthcare team” – a kind of rapid response team – at Alibaba’s DAMO Academy to develop or repurpose technologies quickly to meet the specific needs of the epidemic response. The Alibaba team followed an Agile-like strategy, as solutions needed to be developed in a matter of days. From day one the team worked on multiple things simultaneously, such as data analysis, model definition, parameter modelling, parameter learning, verification and deployment. Increasingly, however, privacy is becoming a concern as technologies are deployed for a “new normal” of living with the coronavirus while the search for a vaccine or treatment continues. The epidemic response is very much inter-sectoral; it is not just a public health issue. Social media has enriched epidemic intelligence and become an essential channel for risk communication. The emergence of AI in medicine and health security today is sowing the seed of tomorrow’s technology for worldwide epidemic intelligence and global coordination of pandemic response.  Read More >>

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