From My Vantage Point

Focus is Key for Fledgling Companies

Maintaining focus is a serious issue for startup CEOs. Often they find themselves in a big hurry to launch and expand, but they don’t usually have the resources in place to do everything they desire. 

That’s the reason they need to concentrate on doing specific things right during the company’s development stage, but especially in the early stages.

Set Milestones and Easily Measurable Benchmarks

Keep your team on track by setting milestones. That way, everyone can work towards a particular goal with reasonable expectations. If a milestone is not appropriate, consider a series of benchmarks that are easy to measure. That’s a great way to motivate people, especially when the company may be a long way from profitability.

Use Transition Stages

You can set different transition stages as part of your developmental roadmap. Meet with your team and identify the phases that mark the critical periods of product development. This type of system keeps everyone aligned with shared goals. It also will put everyone on the same track so that achieving objectives becomes easier. You may even decide to hire people just for a specific stage in your cycle. Either way, it’s an asset to have a pathway that others can follow.

Limit Your Scope

Don’t set your eyes on too large of market. At first, you will be testing the waters to find out how viable your product is in the real world. As you discover demand, you can move to another phase of development. Losing focus is easy, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Most leaders have to deal with this issue (more than you might think). Execution and attention to detail will keep your ship running. If you start to bite off too much, you’ll see quality fail in the areas where you can least afford to let that happen.

Find the Right People for Key Positions

The biggest mistake you can make right off the bat is putting the wrong people in incorrect positions. Key individuals who can’t perform well in their roles will kill morale and slow or stop progress. Take the time necessary to match skills with available positions. You have to get people’s personalities to blend, and that’s a tough job, no matter how much experience you have.

People who hate their jobs complain. Eventually, they can poison a whole environment. It’s better to place the right individuals in roles where they operate best. That way, they’ll enjoy their work and be good at it. It may take more patience than you expect and an amount of skill to choose the perfect people, but it gives you a significant edge.

Are Users Returning?

If people don’t use your product or service repeatedly, you may have an issue. One of the central themes for success with apps (or any business) is repeat business, which also results in word-of-mouth advertising. App users are fickle, so you can’t count on high installation numbers to keep your business operational. If people refuse to come back and use your app more than once, you’re in trouble. Keep tweaking your core product and service until they can’t get enough. 

Settle on the Ideal Architecture

In the early stages, it’s essential to select the best architecture for the project. It will be much more comfortable than switching later. It will also help you assemble a team that’s comfortable using the best tools for the job. Architecture choices will come down to preference and cost. Your team has to live with this decision for a long time, so really dig in before committing. The fantastic news you’ll discover is that there are many robust platforms to choose from, so you can build an app with global potential.

Are Your Users Spreading the Word?

You need a viral push to make marketing effective. Do your users love your product enough to share it with others? Converting users into passionate customers  will help your product lift off as they pass it among colleagues and family. Nothing shoots your engagement through the roof like satisfied users. They are also the single best source of marketing because of their passion. Find ways to engage with and mobilize your most loyal users to improve your product throughout its lifecycle.

Tackle Scalability Issues

It’s always a good time to contemplate future growth. Scalability issues can’t sneak up on you if you don’t let them. It pays to plan for bursts of new activity and how you’ll handle it. Nothing kills growth faster than an app that doesn’t scale properly. Unhappy users will turn on you quickly. 

Realize that scalability problems only get worse! You don’t want to scale up customer complaints when you should be pushing revenues higher. Plan for the bursts, and you’ll be ready. Build the proper architecture and growth will be a given.

Get the Money

One thing is sure; startups always need more capital. You have to keep in mind monetization options every step of the way, especially when it looks like the product is taking off. You will need funds to fuel growth, so never let your attention drift too far from this essential objective. 

Building a business is always a challenge, but it’s rewarding. You have the chance to create something of lasting value while creating a fantastic work environment for yourself and others. It will take a ton of dedication and hard work to get there, but you’re in charge of your destiny. If you remain focused and do enough small things right, more significant and successful  results will begin to emerge.

Focus on keeping your customers happy, and your job gets a lot easier. There are many apps and choices that they make every day. If you can discover what motivates them to use your product, you can capture market share from competitors. Every one of your rivals’ weaknesses can become your greatest strength. It’s an exciting time to compete, and you have as much chance to succeed as anyone. Never give up on your dreams and keep your eye on the ball at all times.

By |July 16th, 2019|

Exploring the Benefits of CBD for Women

If it feels like everyone is suddenly taking or talking about CBD, you’re not imagining it. CBD products have flooded the market and people are using it in various forms to treat medical issues ranging from depression to infertility. 

Cannabidiol oil (CBD) is a natural non-psychotropic compound of cannabis, the mention of which leads to ongoing confusion: Is it a cure-all or just the latest fad? Will it cause a high or is it like taking a vitamin? CBD is not a drug and is derived from the hemp plant; and though the verdict is still out on its treatment for many issues, it has been proven as a solid choice for treatment in many cases. 

The medical community is just beginning to study CBD and its efficacy in treating everything from cancer to irritable bowel syndrome, but early indications are that CBD can alleviate a variety of common ailments. CBD has been shown to have several health benefits; and for women especially, it can help with stress and anxiety as well as issues associated with PMS, migraines and even endometriosis. 

Research shows CBD can positively affect the physical and emotional impact of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) since it serves as an anti-inflammatory and many symptoms of PMS are caused by inflammation in the body. CBD interacts with the body to help control nausea, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances and even bloating and cramps. CBD can even work to improve sleep, mood and the ability to relax.

In fact, researchers have discovered that preparations of the hemp plant have been used to treat ailments in women for thousands of years. These cannabis-derived treatments were used to ease pregnancy and help with menopause, so it is not surprising it also can be effective for PMS pain and other symptoms. While science hasn’t proven CBD as a PMS treatment specifically, the anti-inflammatory, pain relief and mood-lifting benefits are undeniable.

CBD can also help with hormonal imbalances. Hormones are chemicals produced by the endocrine system that control things like metabolism and growth. When the body doesn’t produce consistent levels of hormones, it can have a big impact on overall health. CBD can help regulate hormone levels, including cortisol, which is the stress hormone.

CBD has also been proven in dealing with anxiety. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million people and women are twice as likely as men to be affected. CBD promotes general relaxation and has no proven side effects like prescription anti-anxiety medications can have. Several studies have shown CBD can reduce anxiety by activating dopamine production in the brain and in states where it is legal, health practitioners have started to use it as treatment along with other more traditional therapies.   

Menopause is another female-specific hormonal change that can be greatly alleviated by using CBD and is one of the main reasons women explore CBD use. Research has shown CBD can help with mood swings, weight gain, hot flashes, sexual health and insomnia — again because most of these symptoms are associated with inflammation and brain chemistry changes. 

Autoimmune disorders also affect one in five U.S. adults. Women with arthritis, lupus and celiac disease have found that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can help treat or lessen the symptoms of these conditions.

There is obviously still a lot to be learned about CBD and many treatments arguing in favor of its use must be put to the scientific test. However, with studies beginning to show many positive impacts, it’s no wonder CBD is showing up in everything from skin creams to suppositories. If you plan to try it yourself, make sure you check your source and read labels carefully. It’s important to understand your dosage and delivery method for the best results.

By |July 3rd, 2019|

5 Ways The IoT Will Change The Face Of Modern Cities

One of the very first things that generally comes to mind when most people think of a city is traffic. Thick, heavy traffic and congestion, in fact. Public transportation has helped significantly reduce traffic in most large cities, but it continues to be a fairly significant pain point, with parking being next. 

With the population of most cities rising, land that has traditionally been used for vast parking lots or even parking structures is now in high demand for housing, making less space available for parking. Thankfully, technology is also helping to not only help traffic in large cities run more smoothly and efficiently, but it is also helping to decrease the need for parking. One of the most prevalent technologies assisting this process is the Internet of Things. Here are five ways how the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the face of modern cities.

1. Rideshare services

Public transportation can significantly reduce city congestion, but it is often time-consuming and doesn’t take you right where you need to be. Taxis are much more efficient and help cut down traffic, but they are both expensive and often in short supply. Rideshare services, however, utilize GPS tracking with smartphone apps that allow almost anyone to put their car into use for a few hours as a taxi of sorts. Not only does this cut down on the need for parking, but it also reduces traffic, since one car can carry multiple people to various locations instead of each person  having to bring their own car.

2. Faster and more efficient parking

In most large cities, drivers spend anywhere from six to fifteen minutes just driving around looking for parking. That adds up to 35 to 105 hours per year that drivers are spending just looking for a parking space. In addition, studies have actually shown that when one driver is waiting for another driver to leave a parking space, that driver actually takes longer to vacate that space. New connected meters will allow drivers to use an app that will tell them exactly where and when a space becomes available, eliminating the need to drive around looking for one.

3. Better public transportation

One of the many difficulties with public transportation is simply how confusing it can be to get from Point A to Point B in many large cities. Google Maps integrates public transportation information directly into the app, allowing riders to get a detailed picture of exactly what they need to do to reach their destinations. No matter how many transfers they need to take, GPS from both their phone and public vehicles show them exactly where they are and exactly where their ride is.

4. More efficient traffic

Smart traffic systems can communicate with each other to better direct the flow of traffic. If it is slow or congested in one area, smart signage helps redirect traffic to an open route, which helps reduce congestion and even pollution. Traffic systems even communicate directly with most map apps to help the apps themselves reroute traffic and alleviate congestion in busier areas.

5. Better building management

While traffic may remain one of the most prevalent problems in cities, the cities themselves are also a major drain of resources and contribute significantly to a number of environmental problems. Smart buildings, however, will use IoT technology to create more efficient energy management. Smart windows can darken or lighten to help manage light and reduce energy usage. When the sun is brightest, the windows can darken to help cooling systems operate more efficiently. When it’s cloudy, they can lighten to let in available light. Smartphone tracking will also help increase heat or cooling in rooms getting used heavily and decrease heat or cooling in lightly used areas.

By |June 27th, 2019|

How Tech Giants Are Making Use of DLT

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is popping up in everything from healthcare to supply-chain management. Though tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon initially steered clear of DLT, they are now investing enough time and resources to indicate DLT usage is growing, and that its applications are becoming more wisely used.

The reasons Big Tech shied away from DLT — a secure online ledger that in its guise as blockchain is used for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin — is that at first pass cryptocurrencies and blockchain are difficult for even the most tech savvy to understand. The technology also has performance issues. Additionally, when the cryptocurrency bubble burst, the combined value of all the currencies declined 85 percent.

Despite the fact that the banking industry hasn’t been disrupted as predicted at the height of the cryptocurrency boom, most big tech companies are still investing in DLT and many have launched major DLT projects. These companies don’t want to be left behind knowing that DLT has many potential uses, including elections, because it is very difficult to hack; and that the technology may still prove valuable to the online banking industry.

IBM, arguably the largest player in the space, now has 1,500 employees working on DLT and has contributed HyperLedger Fabric, an open-source collaboration hosted by the Linux Foundation. HyperLedger can be used to set up a network where users can share information and is positioned to become one of the industry standards for enterprise blockchain frameworks. IBM also has its own blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) called IBM Blockchain, which allows users to build their own blockchain network, as well as a DLT platform aimed at banks. At present, IBM has secured the most patents related to blockchain.

Microsoft also has a BaaS, an Ethereum-based network on Azure, that will enable developers to build applications. Azure’s most well-known blockchain application is Blockchain Workbench, which simplifies app development. The company is also working to develop a framework that will improve throughput as well as a blockchain-based identity prototype that uses Azure and could help the 1.2 billion people worldwide without formal identities as part of the ID2020 Alliance.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) said in 2017 that blockchain wasn’t on the agenda for product development, then recently launched two products and stated AWS has the largest global platform for building end-to-end blockchain platforms. AWS Blockchain Templates allow the faster launch of networks and AWS’s BaaS could allow for testing international payments.

Google has been more vocally supportive of using DLT technology from the beginning, investing in Ripple and LedgerX. The company announced in 2018 it would partner with Digital Asset and BlockApps, two DLT start-ups, to allow customers to figure out ways they can use DLT on the Google Cloud Platform. In February, Google announced it is making Bitcoin blockchain data available to encourage transparency.

Facebook was interested in digital currency even before Bitcoin, and Mark Zuckerberg publicly said he was looking into the technology in 2018. He placed high-profile executives on a DLT team and there has been much speculation about Facebook’s blockchain intentions. It has even been said that Facebook may be developing its own currency to be used through Facebook or WhatsApp.

DLT is still in the early stages of evolution, and its usage is held back by throughput and cost. However, it is evident that the tech giants remain open to its possibilities and continue to invest time and resources. Forbes even recently released a list of “blockchain’s billion dollar babies” — 50 companies actively implementing DLT.

Another recent study done by KPMG states 41 percent of tech companies will implement DLT over the next three years.

Irrespective of where the big tech companies fall on the growing list of  DLT advocates and champions, make no mistake that DLT is here to stay. As it becomes better understood — and fully appreciated for its empowering functionality and resulting benefits and advantages — it is my belief that DLT will ultimately improve efficiencies in virtually every industry on the planet in some way, shape or form. Mark my words.

By |May 24th, 2019|

What’s the Roadblock for Driverless Cars? Humans

The first car appeared in late 19th century Europe. It would soon revolutionize transportation and society as people knew it, offering new independence and economic possibility. It wasn’t until the 1939 World’s Fair that people envisioned a futuristic society in which humans didn’t have to always be in the driver’s seat, literally and metaphorically. Cars that could drive themselves were a fantasy that would signify a new age.

While it seemed like the Twilight Zone back then, that future is closer than we may think. The self-driving car has been in stages of research, testing and production for the past several years. In 2017, the hype for driverless cars reached a peak with companies like Google, Uber and more starting to produce them. If the idea comes to fruition, connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) could dramatically reduce the 1.3 million people per year who die in automobile-related incidents. They could also improve traffic conditions in congested metropolitan areas, reduce stress, and free up humans to spend time outside the confines of the vehicle.

However, excitement from these technological advancements have met some roadblocks, no pun intended. In March 2018, two tragic accidents alarmed everyone in the industry. A self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian, and a Tesla autopilot Model X car killed a customer when it crashed into a lane divider.

These incidents poured cold water on a burgeoning idea. Google’s Waymo, which didn’t have any such tragedies, slowed its rollout of vehicles in showrooms. Manufacturers need to conquer the remaining technical challenges before our roads consist of empty driver seats. Now, experts are predicting that self-driving cars may not enter the market for several more decades. Automation poses a challenge to self-driving cars succeeding, but it is humans who are, ironically, the real hindrance.

Artificial intelligence shines brightest in the self-driving car. So what’s missing? Human intelligence in situations like avoiding a jaywalking pedestrian. What’s more, the computer systems that CAVs rely on are at risk for hacking. Fiat Chrysler recently recalled 1.4 million Jeep Cherokees after discovering they were easily hackable for functions like acceleration and radio. The CAV would rely 100% on similar computer systems, requiring much more robust security. Another challenge is ensuring sensors read signs correctly after suffering  harm by things such as  vandalism or weather damage.

How can the automobile industry overcome these challenges and persevere with the self-driving car? Finding a way for humans and computers to mesh well on the road is key to breaking through barriers to this technology entering the market. Until then, fully automated vehicles pose great risks to humans, whether they are in the vehicle or on the sidewalks as pedestrians. Emergency vehicles like police and ambulances will likely still need human drivers who can communicate with the automated vehicles on the road.

At the moment, driverless cars remain in controlled testing environments where structures like lane-changing systems, post-accident braking and crash avoidance systems are being improved. The University of Michigan is leading the effort with its autonomous city. There may be a long way to go, but the future is bright with the combination of seamless technology and the power of the human mind.

By |April 26th, 2019|

Mining the Untapped Potential of DLT

I have long believed that digital ledger technology (DLT) will be so disruptive in so many sectors throughout the world that it will one day be bigger than the Internet, and I am not alone in that view.

Computerworld.com senior reporter Lucas Mearian wrote in January 2019 that DLT displays the same sort of potential once shown by TCP/IP, the framework for the worldwide web. No one could have pictured a quarter-century ago that the Net would be such an integral part of our everyday lives, yet here we are.

And here comes DLT, a decentralized ledger most often associated with cryptocurrencies. Such ledgers are, in essence, asset databases capable of being shared among countless participants, with any changes made by any party shared in real time, resulting in increased transparency and security.

DLT is a term often used interchangeably (and erroneously) with blockchain, when in actuality the latter is a form of DLT used in conjunction with bitcoin, the much-hyped crypto launched in 2009.

Mearian cites a Gartner study of CIOs concluding that whereas just one percent of companies had put DLT to use in the spring of 2018, that number had increased to 3.3 percent less than a year later. Mearian believes that that trend will only continue, and others agree, noting the way in which DLT is expected to reduce infrastructure costs by no less than $20 billion by 2022.

DLT’s reach is expected to be wide-ranging. One report lists 13 use cases, another 21. Particularly notable are the following:

  • Elections: Because e-voting is secure and convenient — i.e., there’s no need to travel to a polling place — it is viewed as a method by which turnout can be increased, while minimizing the possibility of voter fraud. It was enacted in a non-governmental situation in 2016, when Nasdaq and the Republic of Estonia put in place a system that enabled shareholders of companies listed on the Tallinn Stock Exchange to vote in shareholder meetings. Pursuing this same approach to managing voting in U.S. elections could prove to be materially effective, particularly in view of the fact that according to a 2018 Pew Foundation study, the U.S. ranks. as 31st among 35 developed nations in voter participation. In 2016, West Virginia became the first state in the Union to employ DLT-based technology in a primary, representing a potential sign of things to come in evolving election processes in this country.
  • Healthcare: DLT is seen as being particularly critical in this space, where patient identification and information blocking remain enormous concerns. There is no uniform method for identifying patients, which can lead to errors on the part of the provider and harm to the patient. Information blocking — described as “an unreasonable constraint imposed on the exchange of patient data or electronic health information” — is widespread. Both issues can be alleviated by DLT, since electronic medical records can be made accurate, secure and free from potential interference.
  • Real Estate: DLT’s most significant impact here is in the area of smart contracts, since it is possible for a buyer and seller to complete a deal more efficiently (and, again, more securely) via this technology; neither brokers nor attorneys need to be involved. ShelterZoom, a New York City-based startup, is planning to launch a platform that does just that in early 2019, and some 90 brokerages around the world have tested it. Property data could also be stored in an online ledger, though Hunter Perry, Senior Manager of Strategic Growth at Compass, cautioned in a piece for Forbes that transferring current records would be a Herculean task.
  • Supply Chain: Because of DLT, it is possible to track all facets of logistical  processes. Any party involved can know the nature, quality, quantity and ownership of whatever item (or items) are being moved through the pipeline, and can be aware of it in real time through such technology as barcodes. That is of no small consequence to producers, manufacturers and inspectors, as well as consumers. Anyone can be involved in quality control, which is particularly critical when it comes to matters like food safety.

From my vantage point, the future value proposition of DLT cannot be adequately quantified, because the opportunities are so vast and boast disruptive potential for game-changing innovation and enhanced efficiencies across a growing number of sectors and industry applications. Nonetheless, make no mistake: DLT is the future and great wealth will undoubtedly be created for those who embrace it and successfully harness its dynamic potential.

By |April 19th, 2019|

Recent Posts