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Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 —Instagram is working on creator shops and a ‘branded content marketplace’ for influencers.

Instagram is in the process of developing a new suite of features and tools to assist influencers in making money off of the social media platform. Some of the tools include a “branded content marketplace” and creator shops. Creator shops are being developed as an extension of Instagram’s current shopping features, where businesses are already permitted to sell products. (Source: Engadget

Why this is important for your business:

Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes and there are countless influencer entrepreneurs who rely on Instagram for their livelihoods. If you’re one of these entrepreneurs, this is important stuff. The branded content marketplace being developed would also assist influencers to make money by pairing them with sponsors. While the new tools are still being developed, the features could potentially have a major impact on how influencers make money on Instagram.

2 — Mailchimp is adding stores and appointments eCommerce tools.           

According to an announcement this past week, Mailchimp has rolled out two new free ecommerce tools especially for merchants. (Source: Pymnts)

Why this is important for your business:

Stores—one of the new features—lets merchants make a digital storefront and edit or add products, manage tax, shipping and payments, and complete orders. Appointments—the second feature—makes it possible for businesses to manage schedules digitally and provide the option for service bookings. Both Stores and Appointments will also allow users to have access to the company’s marketing features.

3 —Google is making it easier to run your Windows app on Chromebooks.

Over the last year Google— in partnership with Corel Corporation— has been working to implement Parallels Desktop to Chrome OS, additionally announcing some support improvements to new hardware in order to let Windows apps operate on a greater number of Chromebooks. Using a virtual machine, Parallels lets Windows 10 run on macOS systems. While the product is geared toward enterprises, it assists in tackling the issue of legacy applications for businesses and corporations that are interested in adopting Chromebooks. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:

Google continues to make their Chromebooks more mainstream. Up until recently I had avoided considering a Chromebook for my business because I thought you’d need to always be online and couldn’t use Windows apps. That’s wrong. And the next time I’m up for a new laptop, Chromebooks will be strongly considered.

4 — JotForm is announcing approval and a no-code approval flow automation solution.  

Leading online form software company Jotform shared that it is rolling out a new tool, —called Approvals, —which was developed to help teams streamline workflows to make them more efficient and automate approval procedures. Approvals allows users to drag-and-drop elements in order for teams to more efficiently add emails, approvers, and perform other tasks. Additional features of the new Approvals tool include personalized emails that match approval flows, customized approval settings, over 100 templates for several industries, and more. (Source: PRNewsWire)  

Why this is important for your business:

Jotform is a very powerful workflow automation and collaboration tool that many of my clients use. I’ve also contributed content for them so I’m very familiar with their offerings. It’s an excellent and more affordable alternative to Microsoft, Google and other similar platforms because it’s so easy to use and adapt. 

5—These tech trends are shaping the mortgage industry in 2021.

Experts have identified a major digital shift and transformation when it comes to the mortgage industry, brought on by the rise in home buyers who are interested in technology and the obstacles created due to the coronavirus pandemic. Out of necessity, COVID-19 forced the mortgage industry into utilizing technology as a means to survive. (Source: MPA Mag)

Why this is important for your business:

Some of the trends include the adoption of API to streamline business procedures and processes, improving omni-channel capabilities and self-service options, heightened use of AI and machine learning, the use of blockchain technology, and greater collaboration with fintech.

This week, Basecamp CEO, Jason Fried, made an announcement about new policies published in a blog post titled ‘Changes at Basecamp.’ The most notable and divisive of them all include — “No more societal and political discussions on our company Basecamp account”, “No more committees” and “No more lingering or dwelling on past decisions.”

Although some of the new policies have incurred a positive response for the way tech companies should, could and will conduct business, readers were shocked to learn about its particular stance on free expression of speech, diversity and self-reflection because of the company’s historically transparent culture. 

Basecamp co-founders, Jason Fried and David Heineimeier Hansson, wrote memos referring to the policy changes, which have sparked widespread discussion in and beyond Silicon Valley. Fried and Hansson are both viewed and respected as opinionated thought leaders on company culture, remote work and collaboration. In its 22 years of operation, Basecamp has taken a large number of political stances, all of which employees were encouraged to discuss. 

Although the operational choices of many tech CEOs are often driven by ingenuine venture capital supposition, I thought I’d contribute to this discourse as a Black woman (she/her) running a tech company that’s rooted in the fact that diverse workforce representation is a business imperative and share why I believe that stifling employee speech is a dangerous game to play. If you’re thinking about how to advance DE&I at your company, then here are a few takeaways based on where—I believe—Basecamp failed.

1. Eliminating free speech is as oppressive and silencing as ‘cancel culture.’

It’s possible to suffocate the goals and vision of a company that boasts the mission of ‘making the world a better place’ under the guise of operational efficiency. There’s an early Greek myth of Icarus that so clearly parallels this. Icarus’ father constructed wings so that his son could learn how to fly like a bird. Confounded by this gift, Icarus ignores his father’s warning and flies too close to the sun, causing his homemade wax wings to melt, leaving the dominance of gravity to plunge him back to earth. 

In this present-day equivalent, the sun and gravity is the juxtaposition of rightness, democratic fairness and social justice warriors roaming Twitter looking to dismantle systemic institutions by demolishing reputations and empowering ‘cancel culture.’

Over the past week, interviews with Basecamp employees depict a general desire to improve Basecamp’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by having sensitive discussions about where the company has failed in the past. After some emotionally-charged discussions, Fried and his cofounder decided to completely cancel those conversations.

“In the end, we feel like this is the long-term healthy way forward for Basecamp as a whole – the company and our products,” Fried wrote in the blog post. 

Although I believe there is a conscientiousness to its intention, cancel culture is very much an ideology that subscribes to the elimination of redemption, resolution and discourse, which is exactly what Basecamp leaders are promoting by dismantling DE&I committees, discouraging self-reflection and banning political dialogue.

Basecamp’s announcement to offer severance packages to employees who disagreed with the new policies—especially leadership banning political discourse and internal committees—is no different than Twitter communities politically and socially ostractising people for recent or past transgressions. Eliminating the sources of discourse and the environments through which that discourse was once embraced or nurtured is destructive to culture. It assumes that priority is given to comfort, or more specifically, white comfort, which has historically alienated generations of BIPOC folks from thriving, mobilizing or simply being in corporate spaces. 

2. Inconsistency between what you say and what you do is palpable. Once you declare change, commit to it.

Last year, the software company launched an email service called Hey that was widely recognized for producing “opinionated software.” Creating this software required the inputs and intellectual property of opinionated people, whose historically opinionated leaders have now invalidated, discredited and bashed opinion.

The only exception to this rule is whether or not those expressed opinions are “business-related.” To assume or promote, however, that DE&I is not business-related is to conduct business ignorantly. Even Fried, back in 2017, wrote an essay in Inc.’ about the cruciality of intention for all DE&I efforts. “If you want your workforce to reflect the rest of the world (and your customers), change your behavior,” Fried wrote. 

“A few years ago, some of our employees brought up their concerns about our general lack of diversity. It wasn’t prompted by reading a study or trying to hit some arbitrary diversity number. It was more of a gut feeling. It just didn’t feel right. We had to change.” 

The disparity in what you say and what you do is palpable. It’s impossible to ignore. Basecamp’s “change” or “prioritization” of DE&I was recognized, and subsequently mobilized, by opinions. If leaders only became conscious of this issue because of the free expression of speech and opinion, then eliminating that will only foster an environment for homogenous behavior and that, to Fried’s point in the Inc. essay, is ultimately detrimental to business.

3. A thriving company is a conscious one; self-reflection is an imperative preliminary step to growth.

According to the blog post, all things DE&I at Basecamp have been rolled up and packaged to fall under the jurisdiction of the Head of People Ops. The most troubling thing about this, is the reality of overwhelm and deprioritization. There’s a reason why there are entire roles created to address the problem of diversity of thought, experience and identity. In any other business case, it’s easy for issues to slip through the cracks when leaders are not being explicit about their goals and assigning parameters for accountability incentivization. What would make DE&I any different?

Pema Chödrön, an American-born Tibetan Buddhist, once said ‘It doesn’t do any good to get rid of our so-called negative aspects because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness.” Trying to avoid or eliminate “negative aspects” of our culture can oftentimes stifle the very innovation required to transform into something truly world-changing. If prosperity, in many forms, manifests when we fully and completely participate in all aspects of life, then it’s through this growth state that we can truly express our nature—or in a corporate setting—our culture.

Ultimately, we may be inspired to villainize Basecamp and its leaders for imposing and enforcing these kinds of policies, but we can’t ignore the reality of this being reflective of what Corporate America is and always has been in this country. It has always upheld white supremacist ideology under the guise of operational efficacy. It’s what inspired me and my cofounders to create PeduL, a diversity hack for corporations to source and engage with underrepresented talent through scholarship programs. To Fried’s point, diversity, equity and inclusion can’t be done by accident. It must be an intentional behavioral acknowledgement, and subsequently, a laborious and uncomfortable change. We can’t ignore that restricting internal conversations in the workplace can and will adversely affect and degrade all diversity, equity and inclusion advancements. If we want our workplaces to reflect the world we live in, investment and intention cannot be an afterthought. The companies who are winning are those who understand that they must find new and innovative ways to dismiss complacency, abolish laziness and denounce aversion of the problem that ‘no one wants to talk about.’

There’s no longer any doubt that virtual reality (VR) is poised to revolutionize the world. Though the technology got off to a rocky start last decade, experiences have improved and prices lowered to the point that the technology has turned from a novelty into a potentially transformational tool. Even so, as of last year only about 1 in 5 Americans had ever even tried on a VR headset — meaning that there are significant opportunities for growth in the space.

Whether it’s for a “traditional” purpose like gaming, something a bit more adventurous such as digital travel, or a cutting edge experience like VR college classes, the opportunities for innovation are growing by the day. And, despite tech’s notorious reputation as a primarily male industry, it’s women that are leading the charge this time around. Here’s how they’re managing to do it:  

The “Godmother” of Virtual Reality

No discussion about how women are changing VR can take place without a mention of Nonny de la Peña, founder and CEO of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality company Emblematic. Appropriately dubbed the “Godmother of VR,” de la Peña was one of the first people to recognize just how compelling virtual reality experiences could be — and just how widespread their appeal might one day become. 

By working on experiences ranging from a showcase of climate change’s impact on the landscape of Greenland to a harrowing look into the realities of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, de la Peña and Emblematic laid the groundwork for later VR innovators hoping to compel people in the same way that they did. The ultimate power of VR will always rest in its uncanny ability to recreate genuine experiences, and all future entrepreneurs, artists, and visionaries looking to use the medium to that extent will have no choice but to take inspiration from their “godmother.”

Solving Old Problems in New Ways

The buzzwords around VR can make it sound like a slick, futuristic technology for slick, futuristic people, but the fact of the matter is that it’s ultimately a tool — a tool with the remarkable ability to transport people to new and exciting places. It was that realization that led Sarah Hill to create Healium, a company dedicated to helping people improve their focus, sleep, and human performance through virtual and augmented reality. 

Hill, who herself has suffered from debilitating anxiety attacks, saw that popular neurofeedback treatments for anxiety could be recreated and even made more accessible through virtual reality headsets. Healium’s capabilities are wide-ranging, encompassing everything from taking elderly veterans on VR tours of war memorials to helping athletes improve their performance by learning to self-regulate their brain patterns. The goal here was never to reinvent the wheel: it’s to allow people an easier way to engage with treatments they may not have had access to otherwise.

Uncharted Frontiers for Empathy

“Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” was always a figure of speech — until VR made it more possible than ever. The opportunity to don a headset and enter into a completely new experience is one full of promise, and women leaders are finding out just how far it can go. 

Morgan Mercer had always believed that others might have greater empathy for her experiences in the workplace as a biracial woman if they could just see what she has seen; VR gave her the opportunity to make that happen. It was for this reason that Mercer founded Vantage Point, a company offering workplace diversity and equity training through the medium of VR. Vantage Point puts employees straight into situations where they’re forced to confront their own prejudices and beliefs — what other format allows for such poignant training opportunities?

The belief that empathy could effect positive change was also the driving force behind Carrie Shaw, the founder of Embodied Labs. Through her experiences watching her mother suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, Shaw knew firsthand the difficulties of caring for someone undergoing something you seemingly can’t understand. Embodied Labs’s VR experiences allow caregivers to step into the shoes of patients suffering from hearing loss, macular degeneration, or other chronic conditions that can have an outsize impact on behavior and wellbeing.

It’s easier to provide top-quality care to someone when you can recall back to exactly how you felt when you were simulating their experience; in that sense, VR can serve as a reference for caregivers, something to use in order to better understand a patient. The same principle is true for on-the-job equity training through VR: if there’s a visceral situation to which you can call back, you’ll feel much better equipped to navigate a 21st century office effectively.

Make no mistake: every industry is currently being led and overhauled through the efforts of women leaders. Their impact on VR, though, goes all the way from the origins to the present. As the technology continues to evolve, it will be innovators like these who help make it happen.

15.5 million small scale investors own a vast majority of the single family rental properties in the United States today. These investors are typically individuals or families who have inherited properties or have purchased 2-10 units as a source of passive income or capital gain. But managing these properties is also an investment of time. Setting prices, finding good tenants, collecting rent, and responding to maintenance requests can become a part-time job for property investors, and many don’t have the skills or desire to handle these tasks. As a result, more than a third of single family rental owners turn to property management services for help.    

Property management is a broken and antiquated industry. Prices aren’t informed by dynamic market data and are often set unrealistically high. Units sit vacant for weeks or even months and the property managers, who get paid regardless, have little incentive to adjust prices to secure a tenant quickly. This common scenario comes at a high cost. Small property owners suffer $7B in lost revenue every year due to inefficient pricing and unnecessarily long vacancies. This causes financial hardship, and some owners are forced to sell their properties to prevent further losses. 

Doorstead is a full-service property management platform that tackles these issues through technology and data science. The company offers a unique upfront rental guarantee by analyzing millions of market-specific data points on a daily basis to calculate a rental price that maximizes rental income while minimizing vacancy. Within 24 hours of a request for a given property, Doorstead provides a guaranteed rental rate, occupancy date, and a year of monthly cash flow for the owner. The service offers true peace of mind to property owners, and has been growing rapidly across the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Orange County in California.  

I had the privilege of sitting down with Ryan Waliany, Doorstead’s Chief Executive Officer, and he gave me an inside view into the company’s mission and focus. 

1. Tell Us about your background and why you started Doorstead?

During my time at Uber, I came to realize that there was a new wave of innovation that was occurring in what I call technology-operations companies. These companies build two-way applications that bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. Generally, these companies create services that are better, cheaper, and faster than the alternatives. 

With this thesis, Jenn (my co-founder) and I set out to revolutionize the property management space. We saw an opportunity in the story of a customer who was overpromised rent and had to sell her home, and we became passionate about eliminating this pain for customers with a service guarantee. 

2. What is the problem and what does Doorstead do?

Today, full-service property management is broken and this leads to $24B in unnecessary vacancies due to inefficient pricing. The current system to set the price high and lower it each week to find the market-efficient price creates 23-days of lost rent. The small investor who owns 95% of urban SFRs experiences $7B of this loss every year, incurring cashflow stress, and in some cases, financial hardship from lack of liquidity.

The Doorstead Guarantee is a new class of full-service property management that provides small investors a guaranteed rental offer in less than 24 hours (ex: $3,400/mo starting in 35 days). This creates cash-flow certainty and peace-of-mind from day one, and is the first step toward a lifetime relationship with the most valuable network of real-estate investors who have $3.7T under management. 

3. How do you provide guaranteed rent to property owners? 

Our patent-pending pricing system compares 11M+ rental price points in a region to predict the likelihood of success on a daily basis. This results in smart price changes to get renters in a home faster. Doorstead’s leasing and placement time is 57% faster than the industry average. 

Doorstead has rebuilt the operations stack leveraging gig workers, central operations, and support operations. This enables seamless scaling across the US without the diseconomies of scale from an employee-based workforce (i.e. utilization goes down with scale due to driving time). Doorstead’s NPS is 79 without having any local employees. When we compare this to the industry average of 8, the potential impact of Doorstead is pretty exciting. 

4. How many markets does Doorstead operate in? Across How Many Units?

Doorstead operates in three markets today. In San Francisco, our first market, we have over 300 properties under management in less than 2 years. Our second and third markets, Los Angeles and Orange County are still within weeks of launching and already ramping up faster than San Francisco with hundreds of owners in our sales pipeline. 

5. I own a home and want to use Doorstead to rent it, what is the process?

Press a button, and get a rental offer within 24 hours (ex: $3,400/mo starting in 40 days). 

  1. Owner Visits to Get a Doorstead Offer: We’ll let you know your minimum guaranteed rental income and when your property will start generating rent.
  2. Owner Signs the Agreement: After verifying your property details with a Doorstead partnerships member, you’ll receive a final offer and agreement to sign.
  3. Doorstead Makes Property Rent-Ready: We inspect your property, manage repairs and cleaning, and take high-quality photos so that your property earns the highest income.
  4. Doorstead Lists Your Property Online and Finds a Great Tenant: Once your property is rent-ready, your guarantee clock starts. We’ll list your property, conduct showings, and screen prospects to find the best tenant for your home.
  5. Owner Receives First Payment: You start receiving your monthly payments guaranteed and risk-free. Doorstead takes care of everything else from maintenance requests, tenant questions, rent collection, etc.

6. I know you recently just raised a Series A, can you tell us more about that?

We raised a $12.5M Series A from Madrona and M13 with an incredible roster of angel investors.

The most gratifying thing about this fundraising process was how some of our mentors evolved into Doorstead investors as they provided feedback and worked with us to improve our story. We were thrilled as the brightest technology-operations executives started getting onboard with our vision. From Opendoor, we have Eric Wu (CEO), Tom Wilder (CPO), Nathaniel Faggioli (former VP of Operations), and Manu Gupta (an early investor) participating in the round. From Uber, we have Manik Gupta (CPO of Uber), Lior Ron (GM Uber Freight), Jason Droege (GM of Uber Eats), Stephen Chau (Product Head at Uber Eats), and Andy Szybalski (Design Head at Uber Eats). Finally, we have Court Lorenzini (CEO/Founder of Docusign) who is a long-time friend and mentor.  Having these folks in our corner is a huge validation, and gives us more confidence to aim even higher with Doorstead.   

It took us about four weeks from the first scheduled investor call to get to a term sheet. 

7. What are the biggest opportunities you see for the business?

In the next five years, Doorstead will reach $1B GMV by capturing 1% of SFR marketshare in the top-10 metropolitan areas. To date, Doorstead has captured about 1% of new rental listings in its first market.

8. What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Today, property owners receive their guaranteed rental offer within 24 hours after submitting a request. In a few quarters, we will be rolling out the ability to get an instant offer within seconds. This will help accelerate our growth and unlock our vision to press a button and get an instant offer. 

Additionally, we will be doubling our team to 50 FTE and plan to expand our service to 5 major markets across the U.S by the end of 2021.

Nexon Co., the South Korean online gaming company founded by billionaire Kim Jung-ju, said it has bought $100 million worth of bitcoin amid a rebound in the cryptocurrency.

Tokyo-listed Nexon joins a growing list of global companies, including Elon Musk’s electric carmaker Tesla, that have invested in the digital currency. Nexon’s bitcoin investment represents less than 2% of the company’s cash hoard as of December 2020.

“In the current economic environment, we believe bitcoin offers long-term stability and liquidity while maintaining the value of our cash for future investments,” said Owen Mahoney, president and CEO of Nexon.

The gaming giant has been on an investment spree since June last year, when it announced its plan to invest $1.5 billion in listed entertainment companies. So far, Nexon has invested $874 million in U.S. toy maker Hasbro and Japanese game companies Bandai Namco, Konami and Sega Sammy.

While bitcoin has been volatile, Mahoney said the investment “reflects a disciplined strategy for protecting shareholder value and for maintaining the purchasing power of our cash assets.”

Kim, who founded Nexon in 1994, was one of the biggest gainers on last year’s South Korea wealth rankings. He was ranked No. 3 with a net worth of $9.6 billion, up 52% from the previous year, as global lockdowns and social distancing gave people more time at home to play games. Major games published by Nexon include MapleStory, KartRider and Dungeon & Fighter.

“I think we’re going to look back in 20 years and we’ll say [the pandemic] was the turning point in the entertainment industry,” Mahoney told Forbes Asia in a video interview in July.

Singapore-based gaming gear company Razer has established a $50 million fund focused on environmentally-friendly startups as its peers across the tech space chase millennials and extra dollars by stressing eco-friendliness.

The fund, called Razer Green Fund, emerges a month into Razer’s 10-year plan to “preserve nature and protect the environment” through renewable energy and carbon-neutral projects, the company said in a statement. Over time, Razer, founded and led by Singaporean billionaire Min-Liang Tan, plans to make gamers worldwide “contribute to green causes,” the statement adds.

“Asian technology companies are morphing into global stakeholders,” says Abishur Prakash, a Toronto-based author on technology and politics. “This means these companies are beginning to rethink their relationship with the world, especially when it comes to sustainability and climate change. By acting this way, they are attracting certain demographics, like Gen Z and millennials, who care about sustainability and the environment.”

“I agree that millennials care about that kind of thing,” says Sean Su, an independent tech sector analyst in Taiwan. “And there’s money in this. If you have extra capital, I don’t see why you wouldn’t devote to doing this. E-corporations grow faster than regular ones because people feel good when they buy from them.”

Last year, Razer reported its first profit in six years, making $5.6 million in net income from $1.2 billion in revenue—up 48% from the previous year—as more people played games at home during the pandemic.

More on Forbes: Korea’s Gaming And Internet Moguls See Fortunes Soar During Covid-19 Pandemic

Razer Green Fund’s first investment is in The Nurturing Co., a Singapore-headquartered sustainable consumer products company, best known for its Bambooloo brand of toilet paper that uses environmentally-friendly paper packaging. In addition to its seed investment in The Nurturing Co., Razer will use Bambooloo at some of its offices, including its soon-to-open Southeast Asian headquarters and Malaysia office.

Investors of Razer Green Fund, which is managed by Razer’s corporate ventures arm, zVentures, will get a piece of Asia’s growing interest in sustainability while “alternative” vehicles are likely to drive transactions, says Alastair Sewell, a senior director of fund and asset management at Fitch Ratings.

A lot of companies have extra funds to invest because of the pandemic, Prakash adds, another reason for buying into green startups. “There is a massive amount of pent up demand in the corporate world,” he says.

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 —Amazon is opening a hair salon in London in a bid to test new technology and sell more beauty products.   

Amazon announced that it will be opening a hair salon in London. The tech giant is looking to use the salon to boost visibility for hair products sold on its platform and test new and developing technologies such as hair consultations and testing hair colors and styles using Augmented Reality. Customers will also be able to learn more about products at the salon through “point-and-learn” tech and then scan a QR code to be taken directly to that product’s Amazon page to make a purchase. The new salon will—initially—only be open to Amazon employees and will open for the general public over the next few weeks. (Source: GeekWire)  

Why this is important for your business:

If you’re in the hair salon business – in fact, if you’re in any type of retail business – it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on the new Amazon hair salon in London. Why? Because Amazon is testing technology that will likely spread across your industry and you’re going to want to be ahead of that curve, not behind it. What’s most intriguing will be their of Augmented Reality. Already many retailers are testing AR devices and Amazon’s may provide the kind of vision into the future that will help you make your AR investment decisions going forward.

2 — Microsoft is reportedly launching a cloud PC service this summer.   

It was discovered this past week that Microsoft is potentially looking to roll out a Cloud PC platform over in June or July of this year. The Cloud PC would allow Windows users to access their desktops remotely and use Microsoft Office and other software. Cloud PC would allow companies to provide their workers with the basics in terms of hardware and also handle their networks through the cloud. According to reports, this service will be sold as a part of Microsoft 365 at a flat price. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your business:

There’s been a substantial growth in PC sales thanks to the pandemic and, despite the software industry’s push to move everything online, many people are still saving things locally. This may be due to lack of trust or simple laziness.  Not only that, but many are still using local applications. I have a number of clients that use remote connectivity tools. Microsoft’s offering will compete against those and if you’re a Microsoft user, it sounds like a service worthwhile looking at.

3 —Marketing automation startup ActiveCampaign raised $240M.  

ActiveCampaign—a customer experience automation startup—shared this week that it raised $240 million. The company shared that usage of the platform has gone up since last year, which included 2 million predictions each day, 150 million automated campaigns per month, and 4 billion automated experiences each week. Over the last year ActiveCampaign—which added 300 employees last year— also saw its partnerships grow to over 850. With the additional funding, the company plans to increase to over 1,000 workers by the end of this year. (Source: Venture Beat)  

Why this is important for your business:

ActiveCampaign is an excellent marketing automation tool. But – as you can read here – there are pros and cons of these tools, particularly for small businesses.

4 — This drywalling robotics startup is attracting investors.

Construction robotics startup Canvas is attracting investor attention and funding. Canvas— which combines trained workers and robot technology to finish drywall— explained that its process and technology cuts down project times to 2 days as opposed to seven and also enhances the quality and safety of the drywall. According to a press release shared this past week, the company raised $24 million and plans to put the funding toward further developing and advancing the robot which does the drywalling. (Source: For Construction Pros)  

Why this is important for your business:

Automation is replacing employees, and it’s not limited to the office. As I write here, many companies in many industries – including the construction industry – are leaning on new robotic tools to help them get work done faster while reducing their labor costs.

5—PayPal is bringing crypto support to Venmo.         

According to an announcement earlier this week, PayPal will extend its cryptocurrency support feature— initially launched early this year— to Venmo, a very popular payment service used by millions of very small businesses. (Source: ZDNet)    

 Why this is important for your business:

Venmo users in the United States will now be able to sell, hold, and buy cryptocurrencies. In March, PayPal rolled out a new feature— called Checkout with Crypto— which provides customers with a way to sell crypto through PayPal—and now Venmo—in order to pay for certain purchases made online. The feature converts crypto into US dollars during the checkout process with no added fees while providing a distinct conversion rate.

Thought leadership is essential for entrepreneurs, innovators, and business leaders alike because it demonstrates why your voice matters in your field. It’s important to communicate in a way that shows your expertise and authority within your industry and become the person people go to for advice on a certain subject matter.

Ralph DiBugnara is a good example of this in action. He has established himself as a thought leader in the real estate industry by creating a platform where he can educate others in his field.

DiBugnara’s company, The Disruptors Network, draws from his success in the industry and makes it possible for other real-estate-hopefuls to do the same. The company provides content to educate entrepreneurs, too, not just those working in real estate. Through free educational tools, DiBugnara and his team of thought leaders work to make the real estate industry accessible for others and give back to the community in the process.

Know That Social Media Is Your Calling Card

Social media is a universal language. Everyone in business should know how to speak it. Whether you’re interacting with a future client, a colleague, or an outside observer, social media is often the first place that person will “meet” you. 

DiBugnara said that social media provides people a place to “get someone comfortable with our voice before they even meet us”. To become a thought leader, you need to be accessible to potential clients and followers. 

Convey Your Message Quickly

People have short attention spans. In 2015, Microsoft Corp. found that people generally lose concentration after 8 seconds. Imagine how much the human attention span has shortened since then.

DiBugnara learned that it’s vital to make sure your message is clear, concise, and actionable from the start. Make sure that this message is present across platforms and is tied together in each post, promotion, and endeavor.

This doesn’t just apply to social media. It’s an elevator pitch that can be conveyed online, through your brand or company communications, in a conversation with a potential client, as part of how you educate others in the field.

Show Your Expertise 

A solid personal brand stems from a trustworthy, cohesive message that connects to your target audience. How do you establish this trust? By being transparent in your message, telling people the truth, and backing it up with facts. Your expertise in your industry is the foundation of credibility. Take your time to become an expert in your field and show your audience why they can trust your advice. 

Show that you are doing work in the background — even if that means sharing your mistakes. DiBugnara said that part of how he uses his expertise to educate the community is by sharing what he learned through hard lessons and helping others avoid those mistakes in the future. 

Give Back By Making Your Knowledge Accessible for Others

DiBugnara demonstrates how thought leaders can give back to their communities: by sharing what they have learned and creating environments where others can learn from them. The Disruptors Network, which now has a show available on Roku and YouTube, does this for their community by providing free classes with industry leaders.

It doesn’t have to be limited to your industry, either. DiBugnara started by educating others in the real estate industry but now has expanded the reach of his influence to help other entrepreneurs meet their goals.

Thought leaders can expand their reach outside of their industry by collaborating with other like-minded leaders, or by expanding their message to include broader concepts. In this way, they can give back to the community by providing valuable information. 

Think of the Next Generation

Thought leadership isn’t just about expanding your reach, or the reach of your network. It is about teaching others the skills and lessons they need so that they can innovate within your industry, or within another, and move the needle forward.

DiBugnara fosters a collaborative spirit by incorporating the expertise of other leaders within his training and educational forums. This allows a wider group of people to be impacted and learn from each other, and it also helps propel the next generation of leaders toward success by teaching them which mistakes to avoid.

Thought leaders can provide a lasting impact in their industry and beyond when they offer valuable insights that empower the next generation.

Leaders like DiBugnara are paving the way in their industry by creating resources for others to learn, and for their industry to grow. Thought leadership is essential for any leader’s success, but it also propels others in the industry to learn and grow alongside. The best thought leaders add value with every piece of information they share, and every interaction they have with their followers, clients, and prospects.

Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are major players in sports, Hollywood, music—and investing. What does the A-List break-up mean for fortunes?

Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have officially called it quits, splitting up one of the world’s richest power-couples. The pair, who started dating in 2017 and got engaged two years later, wielded a pop-culture and commercial influence that rivaled other dynamic duos like Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and (while they were still together) Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

J. Lo, 51, is one of America’s wealthiest self-made women with a net worth of more than $150 million from her music, film, and endorsements. Over her decades-long career, she appeared in nearly 30 films, has dropped eight studio albums, staged a series of world tours (her 2019 tour with stops in Egypt, Israel and Russia grossed $55 million) and earned money from a Las Vegas residency. She has also pulled in millions a year from endorsements from such brands as Versace and DSW.

A-Rod, 45, one of the top earning athletes ever, has amassed a fortune of at least $400 million based on Forbes estimates.  Rodriguez has used his star power, network of billionaire business leaders, and roughly $130 million in take-home pay (after deducting taxes, fees, and A-list spending and before compounded interest) to build A-Rod Inc—a sprawling portfolio with stakes in tech start-ups, trophy high-rises, construction firms, hospitality companies, and thousands of multi-family homes. “I came from very little,” says Rodriguez, whose family was often pushed out of apartments by rising rents. “I remember as a young boy, getting down to my knees and praying that one day, I would trade places with the landlord.”

Together the celebrity duo had started investing their astronomic earnings into a branding, real estate and investment empire that, if the relationship had held, could have made them America’s latest billion-dollar power couple.  “Alex made me realize as an artist, I was a scarce asset and the business world was searching for people like us so they can build billion-dollar businesses,” Lopez told Forbes in December. “He got me comfortable with investing my own money into other companies and into myself.” That includes skin care line, JLo Beauty, which launched in January online and at Sephora.

The romance is over, but A-Rod and J. Lo’s fortunes are likely to continue to boom on their own in the current frothy markets. The couple has joint investments beyond JLO Beauty including luxury real estate and venture-backed start-ups. Two early tech companies, in which they invested together, went public earlier this year, insurance company Oscar Health and telehealth startup Hims & Hers Partners, in whose ads she appears (A-Rod says he put $5 million into the latter, for a stake that is now worth nearly $13 million).

But the bulk of their portfolios are largely separate and focused in different areas (J.Lo in music and endorsements, A-Rod in real estate and tech). And because they were never married, the business split is simpler. “We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects,” the duo said in a joint statement.

A-Rod, for one, isn’t missing a beat.  This week, before the break-up news hit Hollywood, Rodriguez shocked the sports world, announcing that he and founder (and former Walmart executive) Marc Lore were in talks to purchase a majority stake in the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal that would value the team at $1.5 billion.  (He and Lopez led a group of investors in an unsuccessful $1.7 billion bid for the New York Mets last summer.)  

In February, he listed his own SPAC, Slam Corp, which he started with hedge fund founder Himanshu Gulati. Investors gave Slam $500 million—and free reign to invest the cash in whatever business it wants. Rodriguez is Slam’s CEO and, in the strange calculus of SPAC structure, stands to reap significant equity shares (without risking much capital) if Slam finds a company to buy.

Rodriguez realized early on that he needed to start investing.  “Your baseball career will take you to your mid-30s, if you’re lucky. While you’re old on the baseball field, you’re a kid in the business community,” says Rodriguez, who, following the lead of many MLB team owners, has plowed his earnings into investment properties. “I loved that as your playing career winds down, your real estate should be appreciating.”   

For advice, he leaned heavily on other sports and business moguls, like NBA great Magic Johnson. “Alex was the first athlete I met who really committed to be a great businessman. He was really serious so we clicked right away,” says Johnson, who made a fortune investing in sports, food, entertainment and real estate. “It’s funny how we’re so much alike. We don’t gravitate towards mediocrity. We want to be the best so we get with the best and do what it takes to get into those rooms with powerful people that have accomplished things we aspire to.”

On road trips with the Rangers and Yankees, Rodriguez would reach out to the most powerful people in the city. “Magic taught me that when you go into all these cities, pick up the phone to see [if] the top business folks in town will meet you for lunch and you’ll be surprised at how many people will say yes,” says Rodriguez. “The trade was pretty simple. They taught me business. I taught them baseball. It was a good currency exchange.”

For two decades, A-Rod collected business mentors the same way fanboys accumulate sports memorabilia. In 2000, after learning that Berkshire Hathaway had insured part of his record-breaking $252 million contract with his then team, the Texas Rangers, A-Rod cold-called Buffett’s longtime assistant Debbie Bosanek. “I said ‘It looks like Warren and I are in business together,” says Rodriguez. The call launched a twenty-year long friendship.

A-Rod laughs when recalling how he wrangled his way into White Sox billionaire owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s office dripping in sweat, dragging orange dirt from the field behind him and still wearing his metal cleats after batting practice. “First of all, I probably smelled terrible,” says A-Rod. “Second, we never talked about baseball—it was all business.” 

A-Rod impressed Reinsdorf with his early portfolio and eagerness to learn. “He had been acquiring a lot of apartments in Florida and I told him the sunbelt was a good market,” says Reinsdorf.  “I also told him he should try to acquire his assets relatively in the same geographic region so it’s easier to manage.” 

Rodriguez says there is one lesson he still follows. “Jerry said ‘Alex, if your occupancy is at 99%, your rents are too low; 88% means rent is too high. You should always be dancing around 95%.’ And that’s been our policy over the past 15 years.”  

There’s also an eagerness to teach himself the ropes. “In all the years I’ve known him, Alex has never shown up for a meeting without a notebook and five minutes after he leaves I always get a follow up with a to-do list,” says Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of J.P. Morgan’s $3.8 trillion asset and wealth management division.

A-Rod has plowed much of his energy and money into real estate in now red-hot southeastern Florida.  Since inception, A-Rod Corp. has amassed a stake in more than 14,000 multifamily residential properties and developed more than 15 million square feet of real estate. The majority of the investments run through Monument Capital Management, which Rodriguez cofounded in 2012 to focus on multifamily developments. Monument’s playbook is to buy properties at a 15% to 25% discount, fix them up with its own construction team and, after years of appreciation, sell for a profit. 

“The thing that people don’t see is Alex has a relentless pursuit of being the best. It’s one thing to want it, and another thing to accomplish what he has already done.”

—Jennifer Lopez

It has since launched four funds, which hold properties worth at least $270 million net of debt, according to data provider Real Capital Analytics. Rodriguez won’t disclose how much of his cash he’s plowed into Monument’s funds, his stake in the firm or the company’s fee structure, but others say he’s hitting it out of the ballpark. “He convinced me to invest in his real estate funds, which have had incredible returns—amongst the best of anyone in the space,” says hedge-fund billionaire Daniel Loeb, who Rodriguez met at Art Basel in Miami over a decade ago.

Says billionaire Jonathan Gray, the COO of private equity and real estate giant Blackstone:  “It’s clear that he has this attraction to real estate and a very good instinct to do a lot of it in rental housing where there’s been a shortage of quality housing.” 

The cash flow from Monument has built a foundation for flashier bets. A-Rod has more than a dozen strategic joint ventures including deals with billionaire real-estate financier Barry Sternlicht of Starwood Capital, property management firm Stonehedge and Miami-based CGI Merchant Group. For the CGI deal, which was announced in mid-December, A-Rod is using his starpower to help raise $650 million to buy and develop hotel properties in white-hot Miami and other locales. (It recently announced a $30 million investment into Atlanta’s Morris Brown College with plans to convert it into a luxury hotel and training center).  

While he’s hung up his bat for good, A-Rod remains as competitive as ever. “The thing that people don’t see is Alex has a relentless pursuit of being the best,” Lopez says. “It’s one thing to want it, and another thing to accomplish what he has already done.”