January 18, 2021 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Decentralization is the current trend in the global financial market. However, it’s far from the only innovation that the industry has seen in recent times. As aim to accelerate their capital raise, such businesses have taken to innovations toward opening their companies to public investment.

This can be accomplished in several ways. You may recall Bill Ackerman’s $4 billion blank check company created to buy a yet-to-be-named . Likewise, there is news about ’s planned shell company in the U.S.

Such shell companies are often utilized as special-purpose investment vehicles as part of a company’s strategy for reducing the financial risk or improving the efficiency of certain financial activities. For one, utilizing a reverse merger scheme with a public shell company can save millions of dollars in underwriting and listing fees, as well as shorten the time in which a business can get publicly listed on the .

Kings of Shells

The strategy being undertaken by Ackerman or Softbank is not exactly new. In the late 1990s, Aaron Tsai, Chief Capitalist at MAS Capital, Inc., used public shell companies as a strategy for bringing businesses public in a shorter amount of time and lower expenses than a regular IPO. Tsai created 101 shell companies, cashed in on the trend and became a multi-millionaire by the age of 29.

Tsai was described by the Wall Street Journal as a businessman “at the leading edge of the resurgence of ‘blank check’ or shell companies.” Not many were convinced it was a good idea to build a business model out of companies with very few assets and barely existing income, products, business activity or a long-term plan. But Tsai saw profitability in dealing with these “companies in the business of doing nothing.”   

Shell companies were not a new idea when Tsai saw the potential of generating millions with them. However, because of the ’s unexpected gains in the 1990s, largely driven by internet-related offerings, there was renewed interest in these instruments. Only a few discerning businessmen would have perceived this value, though. Tsai was one of them.

Tsai used his public shell companies for reverse-merger deals as an alternative strategy to underwritten IPOs. He merged his shell companies with other corporations, getting a portion of the merged company’s outstanding shares in return. This accelerated the public listing process for these businesses and resulted in considerable returns for Tsai, as well.

This strategy not only helped his own business, it also benefited other companies that struggled to raise capital during the dot-com era. Even before 2000, Tsai saw the potential of the internet to become a tool for investing success. “We believe the internet will open the equity markets to individual investors, create alternative stock-trading systems for them and thereby change the model of capital formation that exists today,” said Tsai in his Journal interview. 

Are shell companies still relevant now?

The way shell companies are used now may not be the same as how they were employed in the past. However, the core idea of the purpose of having these companies, at least in the legal or legitimate sense, remains unchanged.

In a way, they have evolved into something with a less disconfirming connotation: special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). A recent report reveals how SPACs have been booming and are likely to perform even better in the year ahead. In 2020, SPACs have outnumbered traditional IPO deals, 200 to 194. Interestingly, SPACs and traditional IPOs raised almost the same accumulated amounts of capital. Companies that went public using SPACs raised a total of $64 billion, while underwritten IPOs managed to generate $67 billion.

Paul Dellaquila, head of the Defiance Next Gen SPAC ETF, says that SPACs will only become more prominent in 2021, as many big names are already behind them. The entry of Virgin Galactic and DraftKings, for example, is giving SPACs more credence. Dellaquila adds that sports teams may also decide to go public, and SPACs will be their likely vehicle in doing it.

Moreover, a recently released Goldman Sachs forecast paints a rosy outlook for blank check companies, saying that a surge of these entities could drive $300 billion worth of in 2021 to 2022. Suffice it to say, Tsai’s expertise and experience with shell companies continue to be a live round in his ammunition stock. His insights on blank check companies are useful in light of the growing prevalence of SPACs. According to BTIG, there are more than 200 SPACs currently seeking acquisitions over the next 18- to 24-month period.

Moving forward with decentralized finance

Even before 2000, Tsai already saw the potential of the internet to become a tool for investing success. “We believe the Internet will open the equity markets to individual investors, create alternative stock-trading systems for them and thereby change the model of capital formation that exists today,” Tsai added to the Journal.

Inferentially, Tsai already had the idea of decentralized finance at the back of his head. He foresaw the concept of individual and institutional investors snagging investment opportunities of various types in different parts of the world. He did not see the advent of blockchain, smart contracts, FinTech and decentralized finance, but he knew that someday everyone would be able to participate in investments globally through the internet.

As the latter part of the 2010s saw disruptions in entire industries brought about by blockchain and digital token offerings, Tsai once again demonstrated his resilience, versatility and ingenuity. The relentless capitalist learned to adapt and explore new technologies and business models.

Thus, MAS Capital Group, Inc., was founded. This new venture operates as a financial advisory business under the management of financial professionals based in Asia. This marks Tsai’s foray into decentralized finance. He started testing new waters and again demonstrated his knack for innovation.

Tsai saw how billions of dollars in digital currency went to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). At the same time, he observed the gap in how investors conducted due diligence when it comes to securing capital. This new business landscape inspired the creation of new services, which led to the founding of MASEx.

MASEx has been in operation for more than a year now, and the company plans to pursue further growth by engaging emerging economies through an AI-powered decentralized platform. The company aims to expand its STO ecosystems to enable the unbanked and underbanked to participate in investment opportunities. 

Tsai realized how STOs are set to form part of the new normal in investing and capital raising, especially in Asia. “As we enter a new decade, do not be surprised to see the largest STO exchange in the world based in Asia or China.” 

To be clear, his message was not a rebuke to traditional financial institutions but a challenge for everyone to level up if they want to retain control or take the dominant role in the global financial industry.

The need for regulation in decentralization

Even with all the promised benefits of decentralization, there are still crucial challenges. In STOs, in particular, there are stumbling blocks that prevent companies and exchanges from achieving optimum outcomes. Tsai points to regulatory compliance as the main challenge, especially its implications when it comes to due diligence and regulatory checks.

“We are going through a seismic shift that extends across the entire financial industry. This will disrupt the existing oligopoly of financial institutions in banking, securities and fund management sectors. Regulators must rise to the occasion,” Tsai said during a keynote speech in 2019.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the MASEx Founder and DeFi advocate calls for the urgent regulation of STOs which are decentralized by design. He describes the spirit and letter of the U.S. securities laws as in need of a refresh. They are not in tune with the disruptively accelerating trend of digital currency adoption, financial decentralization and self-regulated Security Token Offerings.

DeFi companies often feel challenged with regulations that limit what they can do. At the same time, they find it problematic when there are no regulations in place to assure customers, investors, or traders that the digital assets they are getting from a decentralized financial market bear real value.

Defying obstacles with DeFi

Decentralized platforms transcend geography, although partnerships with key industry players will be essential in achieving trust and traction. 

Technology has proven time and again that innovations have the ability to identify trends that enable success. It can also help businesses worldwide with their attempts to attract funding by going public.

Regulatory requirements make it difficult for many companies to get publicly listed. Through STOs and even with the innovative business model with shell companies, the long and tedious process of raising capital can be reduced significantly.

However, it is also important to take regulation into account. Decentralization has numerous advantages, but without regulation to provide assurances to investors and consumers, it will be difficult to attract investors into trusting new and security classes. Regulation and compliance build trust, and this may just be what DeFi needs to gain traction in the financial community.

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January 7, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In times of uncertainty, it is crucial for leaders to rally around the why behind their mission. There is a tendency to overlook the why when decisive action is needed, but it is essential to steering the course of the business. The why illuminates what needs to be done and how it can be accomplished. The why gives the whole team a sense of purpose. As Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted as saying, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Over the past decade, my perspective on has been guided by one simple mantra: Start with why, inspired by the book of the same title by Simon Sinek. In my time as an engineer, starting with why was fundamental to tackling every new product or feature. Starting with why meant understanding the pain points of the user and defining the success criteria for addressing the pain points. From there, we could specify the functionality needed (the what) and set a plan for developing the product (the how). As I became a leader, I found that these same principles apply to — always, but especially in turbulent times. 

When my company, like so many others, confronted the impact of a global , we were forced to reevaluate our criteria for success, short-term and long-term. We regained clarity that our purpose is to empower data engineers in building smart data pipelines to solve the biggest problems of our generation. This clarity of purpose, our why, caused us to retool the what across the company, from our go-to-market strategy, to our product roadmap, to our investment model. This is enabling us to weather the storm.

Leaders, before solving for uncertainty in your company or industry, align with your team on why you are there. Ask yourselves, “Why will we succeed?” The answer will help determine what matters most right now and your medium-term goals. And use these three key tenets to reaffirm a sense of belonging, restate what you stand for and keep your business and your leaders on track.

Related: What the Regime Uncertainty of the Pandemic Means for Entrepreneurs 

Use the why to anchor your business and your team

At the end of the day, your strategy is valueless unless all your employees believe in it. When my co-founder and I started our company, strategy was our sole focus for three months before we hired our first employee. It was , but we converged on a belief that data engineering would be the linchpin for modernizing business intelligence. And that DataOps would be the practice adopted by data engineers. This informed our activities for many years. As we grew and things were going well, we made a number of opportunistic product and go-to-market decisions that helped grow the business but didn’t always align with our why.

When the pandemic hit, the macroeconomic uncertainty meant that we had to be much smarter about where to invest our energy and resources. Reaffirming our point of view and ensuring that it was differentiated was the first order of business. Across the industry, not everyone agrees on the essential value of the data engineering role. Some may think it’s just a little bit of busywork for an application engineer. Others may think that it is a minor roadblock to the more important task of embracing data science. Still others may think of this as a design-time engineering problem rather than a full life-cycle problem. That’s okay! We are not in the business of changing everybody’s mindset, but if an employee doesn’t believe in our why, then maybe they aren’t a great fit for the company.

The why should ground leaders and their teams throughout the execution of a plan or vision. Come back to the why when you encounter a problem, a lack of confidence, or a difference of opinion. The why will keep your teams aligned in the face of adversity and centered on the end goal.

Related: ‘The Alignment Factor’: The Keys to Internal Alignment

Be comfortable without unanimity on the what

On a day-to-day basis, the focus is always on results. More simply put, the questions I regularly ask myself and others are “What should we do?” and “Are we accomplishing it?”

The what is rarely obvious because there is more than one way to tackle a problem. While it is helpful and important to listen to all points of view on a team, as a leader you must decide because you cannot implement multiple solutions to reach one goal. The challenge this presents to a leader is the need to pick and choose the best option available and then strive to gain unanimous commitment across the team. There will be contrarians — encourage them to give things a chance, and commit to revisit your decision periodically to ensure that it was the best choice.

In times of change, the what can seem especially amorphous, at least at first, but a leader needs to be decisive in these moments of uncertainty. When faced with the pandemic, we had to act fast. I acted based on my belief that a leader must be responsive to current needs but also forward-looking about how needs may change in the future. Thinking like an engineer means being agile and amenable to pivoting your what as obstacles arise or new learnings emerge. For leaders, these sorts of obstacles might take the form of budgeting constraints, or preparing for a different business outlook as industry conditions change, or prioritizing a new set of key results to track.

Related: Why Engineers Like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos Make Great CEOs

Don’t tell your team how to do their jobs

A good leader never specifies the how. Once you specify the method for attaining success, you are taking responsibility for the success of someone else, who is actually implementing the how and getting the job done. In this situation, an employee may approach a task in a way that is unnatural to them because they are mimicking the leader’s way of doing things. When dealing with ambiguity, they will be unable to think for themselves. 

Rather, leaders should stay focused on the why and what. Staying grounded in the strategy and the results you need to achieve allows for clear direction without micromanaging the method of execution (leave that to your teams). When leaders stay out of execution, teams have the much-needed room to innovate. 

At StreamSets, for example, supporting the data engineer is a top priority; so our product team mapped out monthly releases focused on the features and user experience that data engineers love. Our team interviewed data engineers and delighted them with the resources they would need to be successful. Our team educated the champions in the company about how to enable the whole data team. Our customer success team came up with a new Academy to offer self-directed training. Together our employees were innovative, all while solving for the challenges the pandemic wrought and staying true to the why.

This sort of , this freedom to determine the how, is key because it is furthering the results needed to achieve your why. The creativity that comes out when employees improvise tactics or explore new approaches to a project is powerful. People come for the why but they stay for the how!

Using the why-what-how framework has been instrumental in guiding my leadership philosophy throughout my career and as CEO. It reminds me to start with the big picture and then tap back into my engineering background, to think critically about our goals and then to arm my employees with the tools they need to achieve them. As you get more productive with the what, you are getting smarter with the how, but it all depends on why.

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The Innovation Lab will have a budget of 10 million dollars, will be located in the Rehovot Science Park and will begin operations in 2021. The partners will include the pharmaceutical companies Teva and Merck, as well as the Biotech Fund.

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December 28, 2020 2 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.
This story originally appeared on Alto Nivel

If we talk about big projects for 2021, this is one of the most ambitious. The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck and Teva , in conjunction with the Biotech Fund and Amazon Web Services , will build a Laboratory for Digital Health and Computational Biology in Israel, reported Israeli authorities.

The Innovation Authority and Israel’s National Digital Ministry announced the creation of the Innovation Lab. The budget for the computer lab is 32 million shekels, equivalent to 10 million dollars (about 200 million Mexican pesos). This amount, planned for the next five years, is made up of contributions from partner companies and the Israeli fund.

The powerful group’s proposal was selected in a contest where other projects competed. The new complex will start operations in 2021 and will be located in the Rehovot Science Park, where the Weizmann Institute of Sciences is also located.

The objective of the Innovation Lab will be to support entrepreneurs and startups to start projects related to the health industry. The companies that join the laboratory will receive funding from the Innovation Authority and the National Digital Ministry, which will give impetus to their creations.

“The rapid development of vaccines for the covid-19 virus owes its success in part to the Artificial Intelligence capabilities of leading pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna. These areas are expected to be more significant in the coming years ” , explained the Innovation Authority in a statement published on its official website .

The Innovation Lab will also help entrepreneurs with assistance from lab partners. In addition, they will have access to their scientific knowledge and world experts to develop revolutionary medicines and treatments.

“The purpose of the laboratory is to assist in the establishment and advancement of new startups that develop innovative computational technologies based on Artificial Intelligence and aimed at discovering personalized treatments and solutions ,” the statement concluded.

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December 17, 2020 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Chris Kanik, CEO and founder of Smart Cups, the world’s first printed beverage, took his earliest class at age 10. At 14, he’d joined a research team at University, and by 16, he was fully enrolled in courses. After a few twists in turns, including returning to finish out his studies and conceptualizing the core of a -funded Rutgers project, Kanick ultimately launched Smart Cups, a product that has caught the attention and support of folks as wide ranging as Mike Tyson and film producer Rob Hickman. 

We recently caught up with Kanik for some insight into how he went from teenage wunderkind to fully realized innovator and entrepreneur. 

Can you tell us about your background? Where did you grow up?

My parents were first-generation immigrants. My mom came to the U.S. from Cuba, and my dad came here from Turkey. No one in my family was educated, and I grew up in a poor New Jersey community. Our local school systems were less than ideal, so my mother bused or drove me 45 minutes away each day to attend private schools on scholarship.

When did you start to peform at such an advanced level in school?

I consistently performed at a higher level than every grade they placed me in, and teachers regularly told my parents that I was beyond advanced. After running out of ways to challenge me, they handed me a college course catalog and asked, “What interests you?” and told me to pick a course. Like many other 10-year-olds at the time, I was a huge MacGyver fan, and I wanted to learn how to blow stuff up. Chemistry happened to be one of the course options, and I figured that would be the quickest way to learn to make things explode, so that’s what I chose. No one expected me to succeed since I was only 10 years old sharing a class with college students, but I ended up doing very well.

Related: Project X Knows What It Takes to Produce the Biggest Names in Music

How did teachers respond to you being so advanced at such a young age?

Looking back, I feel like they sometimes underestimated my drive. I remember entering a science fair and chose to study the degradation of aspartame in diet sodas while at room temperature. I learned that aspartame at certain temperatures would convert to something else because heat manipulates its molecular structures, so it’s no longer aspartame. So, I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting, because aspartame is not a good ingredient. It causes cancer, and who knows what that turns into while it’s on a shelf?” And I wanted to explore that.

I went to my seventh grade science to explain what I wanted to do and asked for the equipment necessary for the project, and she said, “This is a little too advanced for you. Do you want to pick something else?” I insisted on doing the project, and she contacted the high school chemistry chair, who then took a meeting with me. This woman believed in me, mentored me and obtained university permission to do my research at Stevens Institute of Technology when I was 12.

When you graduated middle school, people told you to go straight to college. What was your family’s reaction?

My mom didn’t want me to go to college at such a young age. She wanted me to be “normal,” and she wanted me to stay close to home. So, my mentor put me in a research program at Rutgers University. I studied adipocyte fatty acid-binding proteins and knockout mice, and KFA BP knockout mice. My research helped show compensation occurring, which led to many accolades and additional scholarship offers.

You started studying at college at age 16. What happened after that?

I studied at college for a couple of months when I was 16, but I wasn’t emotionally ready for college. I went back to high school, and I eventually graduated at a “normal age.” After high school, I worked on a NASA-funded research project, creating biologically-based nanorobots at 18.

After graduation, I attended Cornell University as an American Chemical Society Scholar and started to burn myself out. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to do it anymore, and that pissed off many people around me. It was my roommate that talked me into staying by stressing the importance of the diploma.

How did you first come up with the idea of making a printable beverage?

The idea first occurred to me while I was at a crowded Taco Tuesday and couldn’t find a server to bring me a margarita. As I sat at the table waiting, I grabbed a pen and a napkin and began drawing out a protocol for making instant margaritas. The next day, I bought a bottle of Everclear alcohol and Maltodextrin and turned my kitchen into a lab. From there, the idea for Smart Cups was born.

What role do Rob Hickman and Mike Tyson play when it comes to Smart Cups?

Both Rob and Mike have been big supporters of Smart Cups for a long time. I first met Mike around four or five years ago, and he instantly loved the concept . Flash forward to this year, [his] company has acquired the license from Smart Cups to print cannabis on edibles.

What do you hope to achieve in the long run with Smart Cups?

Smart Cups is a sustainability-driven technology company whose mission is to provide a mindful path forward for the beverage industry. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the transportation of liquid and reduce packaging for all consumables. There is a lot of data showing how the life cycles of products manufactured, plastics and emissions all adversely affect our environment and contribute to climate change.

Related: NFL Superstar Bobby Wagner on Creating a Vision Off the Field

As the world’s first printed beverage, Kanik has created a solution that eliminates the need to bottle and ship liquids. With the ability to print ingredients onto any type of surface, the Smart Cups technology reimagines the way beverages are manufactured, packaged, transported and consumed. With this, the company says they are working to create a new standard for environmentally conscious products. 

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December 16, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For any startup or , gathering a base of active users or followers is essential for an effective marketing strategy. But community-building has become particularly imperative within the and sectors, whose adherents are digital natives who form global tribes around their favorite tokens, platforms and exchanges. 

However, in today’s crowded crypto-marketplace, building a loyal community means more than merely growing your following. After all, the lifespan of a typical tweet is a matter of minutes, which explains why crypto crowds tend to gather on other platforms such as Telegram or for a more meaningful conversation. 

Nevertheless, many projects have taken to more innovative ways of building their profile among the blockchain community beyond the boundaries of social media. Here are three examples of ways to create a more lasting, positive impression to inspire a long-term crowd of followers for your project or startup. 

Related: Getting Drawn Into DeFi? Here Are 3 Major Considerations

Hold a hackathon

Holding a hackathon is a sure-fire way of attracting programming talent and development activity to a blockchain platform. The concept is popular among many kinds of tech companies and developers. In the context of blockchain, a platform’s founders or operators will usually offer some type of incentive to participants in exchange for their creative contributions. 

Often, hackathons have been held as part of blockchain-developer conferences or events. However, with the social restrictions currently in place, many projects are forging ahead with remote hackathons, and with a high level of participation and success. 

One recent example is Maxonrow, an enterprise blockchain company developing regulatory-compliant products and services that recently hosted its first-ever hackathon, dubbed MAXathon, entirely online. Maxonrow was seeking creative input to develop blockchain-based solutions to some of the most critical challenges facing governments and businesses due to the pandemic. Participants could form teams to work on one of five tracks, covering solutions for managing physical distancing, issuing credentials and certificates for test results, and improving the transparency and efficiency of welfare programs. 

The event was a huge success, attracting participants from more than 30 countries who competed for a share of a prize pool worth more than $17,000. Winning projects included an algorithm that determines a safety score so that people can avoid crowded places and an application allowing people to apply for grants and stimulus packages. 

Along with the prize fund, participants in a hackathon also have the opportunity to connect with judges and mentors who are leading figures within their respective specialisms. Therefore, it can provide intangible networking benefits, particularly to newer programmers, creating a lasting bond to the projects and companies that enabled such an opportunity. 

Help to educate newcomers

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are chock-full of jargon, acronyms and technical concepts that can be off-putting to many newcomers. Not to mention, starting to invest or trade in cryptocurrency comes with particular risks that everyone should be aware of before they start. 

For this reason, those companies that can provide newcomers with a comprehensive library of educational materials have an opportunity to inspire loyalty from newcomers. One example is Indian cryptocurrency exchange Bitbns, which has created its own multimedia academy targeted at those eager to learn about cryptocurrency. 

Users can navigate through successive modules of videos and written articles, the latter of which can also be consumed in audio format. Starting from the very beginning with an introduction to cryptocurrency, would-be traders can learn about more complex concepts covering risk management, margin and investment analysis. 

Providing newcomers with the information they need to get started and protect their investments is an excellent way to inspire long-term customer loyalty. 

Collaborate with other projects

The fact that the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors have become so crowded isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Collaborating with other projects offers an opportunity to create something with value to users that’s greater than the sum of its parts, with the added benefit of cross-pollinating between the communities of different projects. 

is a concept familiar to the team behind Kava, an application that was founded on the principle of interoperability between blockchains and is part of the growing decentralized finance movement The project has a long history of collaborating with Binance, having launched its initial token sale on Binance’s Launchpad towards the end of 2018. 

More recently, Kava has announced a new collaboration with a club comprising investors of Binance’s BNB token, called BNB48. The collaboration is aimed at raising awareness of the opportunities in decentralized finance for BNB holders. The project has also recently launched its own automated money market, called Hard, allowing users to lend, borrow, and earn with assets including Bitcoin, XRP and BNB. 

By integrating and collaborating with different platforms and tokens, projects can tap into the support of a broader community of followers.

Related: Cryptocurrency Innovators Need to Simplify User Experience

The cryptocurrency and blockchain space may be tribal, but projects and companies should use this to their advantage. By taking a community-building approach, they can build a loyal following, creating a long-term user base that will, in turn, help to spread the word about their products and services. 

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December 15, 2020 5 min read

This story originally appeared on ValueWalk

Business is ever-changing, and so are the marketing strategies that drive business growth and success. Change is certainly inevitable. The COVID-19 pandemic made this very apparent with many brick and mortar businesses left with no choice but to digitize operations.

And this is where innovation comes into play. The innovation in technology has disrupted marketing in more ways than one. From enterprise companies to local businesses, innovation is no longer a side thought.

Innovate or close up shop is in many ways a mantra these days. Marketing is no stranger to innovation. Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and more continues to reshape marketing.

To get perspective on how innovation is changing marketing, we sat down with John Bertino, CEO of The Agency Guy, a premiere marketing and SEO agency that implements innovative marketing strategies for companies across multiple industries.

Here’s what Mr. Bertino had to say:

How important is innovation in terms of successful marketing?

Marketing is not a one size fits all solution in terms of growing a business into a successful company. This goes for local businesses on main street to global enterprise companies.

For every marketing strategy these days, innovation and digital technology comes into play. Even traditional marketing campaigns, like a store-wide sales event, have some form of innovative technology behind it.

Social media, for example, is used to create a buzz around an in-store event. And the innovative ad platform within a social media platform, like Facebook, can determine the online reach and visibility for a traditional marketing campaign.

Touching on those local businesses on main street, can small local businesses leverage innovation in marketing too?

Absolutely. And if they fall short doing this, small local businesses can lose a ton of business to local competitors that do utilize innovation within marketing strategies. This is also more important now more than ever, since COVID has pushed local small businesses to take a more digital approach.

Let’s take a look at Google My Business for example. When restrictions on COVID guidelines loosened for local businesses, consumers turned to Google to find out what businesses were open, when, and what services were offered.

Local businesses without a Google My Business presence, or businesses that didn’t have their GMB listing optimized, lost out on major profits. Profits that could have been a factor in business survival during the pandemic.

Is mobile still a powerful medium for reaching customers? How does innovation play a role in mobile marketing?

This is a great question. Mobile devices are certainly innovative, to say the least. And when it comes to reaching customers, mobile is exceptional. There is no other device that allows businesses to reach and connect with customers 24/7.

In terms of innovation and mobile marketing strategies, innovation comes via the mobile apps themselves. These apps could be served up from companies, or be advocates for companies through app features, ads, push notifications, and more.

Amazon and Walmart have done this to perfection. Walmart is a good example here, since the once brick and mortar superstore had no choice but to innovate using mobile technology to stay competitive with Amazon.

The Walmart app and mobile experience proves just how critical digital innovation is. And how important it will be in the future.

How important is it for businesses to align their marketing strategies with SEO?

Optimization is at the core of every successful marketing strategy. If a business wants to get a bit of viral attention for a social media marketing campaign, keywords are essential. Well placed keywords in YouTube titles, tags, and video descriptions can make the difference between mediocre to successful social attention.

Optimizing local landing pages utilizing keywords and local business data can make a huge impact on a business’ search engine rankings as well.

Schema markup, for instance, helps Google understand a business via specific data points, thus ranking the business accordingly. Without search engine optimization practices like these, businesses, and even mid-size companies can get lost in SERPs.

How do you make innovation a talking point for businesses when they come digitally knocking at your agency?

I believe it is important to address the goals of the business first. What do they want to achieve? What marketing strategies are currently in place? What tools do they have for tracking current marketing campaigns? And the list goes on.

To match up innovation with a business’ goals is the first step toward success. Many business owners don’t have time to research all the innovative marketing and SEO tools, platforms, and software available. They are busy running business ops. This is where partnering with the pros can come in handy.

Lastly, what advice do you have for business owners looking to grow via innovation?

The digital means by which consumers find businesses, and engage with them online, are endless. The most important aspect of marketing to understand is that there is no magic bullet. Combining multiple marketing strategies with innovative tools supporting campaigns proves the most beneficial.

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December 11, 2020 5 min read

This story originally appeared on PCMag

No matter how you spell it, Hanukkah is a holiday that doesn’t have a lot going for it. The comparison to Christmas is only because the two have a relative proximity in the calendar. Beyond that, one holiday is, “Our messiah is born! We now have everlasting life!” and the other is, “Oh good, we got the lamp to work.”

Like all Jewish holidays, something bad happened to us, but we managed to get through it enough to arrive at the next bad thing to happen to us. When you’re Jewish, it’s always 2020, and that we keep making it through dark times should be a lesson everyone absorbs. In the shadow of billions of Christmas lights, we should all claim every glimmer of seasonal joy we can.

With anti-Semitism on the rise in the United States and in Europe, it seems more important than ever to keep traditions alive. So while we’re the proudest we’ve ever been of Adam Sandler, thanks to Uncut Gems, we should sing his classic carol and celebrate the way our ancestors didn’t on this sort-of-holy holiday.

Related: ‘Shark Tank’ Update: The Mensch Is Off the Bench

Don’t Be Jelly

Don't Be Jelly

Image credit: via PCMag

If you are not a Jew and you wander into a Dunkin’ Donuts during Hanukkah with a jelly donut craving and can’t find one, you might think there’s a conspiracy to keep you from calories. There’s not. It’s just that jelly donuts, or sufganiyot, are one of the traditional foods of the holiday. Don’t wander the streets like a putz; make your own with a fryer like the Breville Smart Fryer.

Let There Be LEDs

Let There Be LEDs

Image credit: via PCMag

The Maccabees were pretty impressed with themselves when they got a tiny bit of oil to light a menorah for eight nights. But did they make their own menorah on a 3D printer? Or build one out of LEDs? Think how proud your mother will be. If you’re not handy, that’s okay, you’re still her bubbeleh even if you’re not as smart as your cousin Jeffrey who went to MIT. You know what? Buy one made out of a circuit board and lie to her.

Don’t Dread the Dreidel Song

Don't Dread the Dreidel Song

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There are maybe five Hanukkah songs, and yet you still don’t know the words to any of them. The Hanukkah Sing-Along Microphone keeps a beat and has a booklet with the lyrics, which is more than you can say for anyone else at your gathering.

Chai Crimes and Misdemeanors

Chai Crimes and Misdemeanors

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Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of…code? Forget that wooden dreidel you think your cousin Aaron weighted to get all the gelt. Download the augmented-reality Dreidel ARena app for iOS and save yourself a family fight that could go on for eight nights.

Festival of Lights, Camera, Action!

Festival of Lights, Camera, Action!

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If Jews really controlled Hollywood, don’t you think we could do better than The Hebrew Hammer when it comes to Hanukkah movies? This heartwarming holiday tale of an orthodox Jewish blaxploitation hero wresting Hanukkah from Santa’s no-goodnik kid isn’t even streaming anymore. There aren’t any true Hallmark Hanukkah movies, but you can rent Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights or buy A Rugrats Chanukah or the Chrismukkah episode of The O.C. And while it’s not about Hanukkah, Russian Doll on Netflix is the perfect Jewish show, plus it has eight episodes so you can watch one per night, a true miracle.

Shpilkes Stopper

Shpilkes Stopper

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Hanukkah might be eight nights, but in some ways it’s the shortest of the Jewish holidays. There’s no staring at the brisket, wondering why, “Will we ever eat?” isn’t the first of the four questions, or spending all day in synagogue without food just so you can get a bagel with lox later. That doesn’t mean you have patience, though. Get this dreidel-themed take on the fidget spinner.

You Don’t Call

You Don't Call

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If you still have your bubbe, you’re blessed with good advice. Or at the very least an opinion. Should you have a direct question that needs a direct answer and also a little Yiddish, there’s Ask Bubbe. She knows you as well as your own bubbe, since she says, “I don’t even know why you ask. You’re going to do what you want anyways.” Brought to you by Mensch on a Bench.

Shofar, So Good

Shofar, So Good

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Your Hanukkah party is going pretty well but something’s missing. Music. Mix it up with a little Matisyahu or Vampire Weekend on Spotify or tune into Pandora’s Hanukkah station and shake what your mamaleh gave you.

Just Like Nana Used to Make

Just Like Nana Used to Make

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In the same way that your Uncle Mordy will never tire of saying that the only thing your Aunt Molly can make are reservations, you will never tire of latkes. It’s time you learned to make them and other Hanukkah favorites, too. Download the book 1,000 Jewish Recipes (iOSKindle) for the cooking lessons you never got.

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December 10, 2020 5 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today I came across a wonderful article about the creative capacity of one of the characters that I find most fascinating: Albert Einstein and I remembered something I learned from my professor in neuroscience, Dr. Irena O’Brien, when she was talking to me about the science behind the insight generation process or those “Aha Moments!” that we have all lived at some point.

He just gave Albert Einstein as an example, who described his own process of generating these “Aha Moments!” take a big speculative leap to a conclusion and then trace the connections to verify the idea .


But, perhaps like me at that moment, you are wondering what is it to make a speculative leap to a conclusion, and the answer is to think of unconventional, non-obvious explanations or solutions, even without apparent logic, and then how Einstein did trace the connections to verify the idea.

When Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity, he made a huge leap over the traditional laws known so far. And when I think of great innovators, like Steve Jobs and his idea of the creation of the first iPod, John F. Kennedy and his speech of the first trip to the moon at the beginning of the 60s, or Bill Gates and the creation of the first operating system for personal computers, I realize that everyone has started making these great “mental” leaps .

At present, scientists have studied in depth how the process of creativity and innovation works within our brain and what conditions can favor the appearance of these “Aha Moments” in human beings.

There are 5 fundamental steps that I want to talk to you about very quickly:

1. Exploration. A creative brain is a brain that has been exposed to different stimuli, learnings, experiences, that has an open and flexible mind. I love to think, for example, of the great Salvador Dalí , who, of course, was an extraordinary architect, but in turn had a great passion for nature, history, theater, painting and literature. It was the combination of all these passions that fueled his extreme creativity.


2. Focus. A brain that, on the other hand, achieves mastery through practice and repetition is also capable of finding innovative solutions to complex problems in a given area. One of the artists I admire the most is named Ed Sheeran, once in one of his interviews he was asked about how his creative process flows. He replied that he spends more than eight hours a day writing songs, he can write up to 10 a day, to end up with more than 200 songs, of which only 12 or 15 are selected for the new album.


He reinforced that out of 200 songs only 12 or 15 are really very good, but that the rest are part of his creative process. This really surprised me! But I loved hearing it because it debunks that myth that people like him are given everything easy. If it is true that they have great talent, but where the real magic occurs is in the hours and hours of dedication, focus and practice.

3. Incubation. This stage, after exploration and focus, tells us about letting that creative idea rest, that solution we are looking for, perhaps taking a relaxing walk, doing meditation, taking a bath, going to sleep, taking a nap, clearing our mind. , have a pleasant conversation with someone. It is a stage in which we let our unconscious mind (or diffuse mode of thinking, if you’ve read my e-book Learning to Learn , you know what I’m talking about, if you can’t download it for free here) to work to find a creative and innovative solution to our problem.


4. Insight (“Moment Aha!). According to the scientific study done by Kounios, J., and Beeman, M. in 2009 ” The Aha! Moment: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight “, although it seems that these” Aha! Moments “were sudden and disconnected from previous thought processes, studies carried out through electroencephalograms have been able to determine that these” revelations “really – that creative idea and The only one that comes to our mind without apparent explanation, that sudden understanding of a problem we were facing and its corresponding solution, even the understanding of a joke or the resolution of a riddle, is given by previous thought processes in different areas of our brain .

All have been originated by the previously described stages: Exploration , Focus and Incubation .

That is, while we can’t force ourselves to have these “Aha! Moments” At a specific moment, what we can be sure of is that the process to be able to show them more frequently in our life is to precede them enough: Exploration, Focus and Incubation . They will simply appear because this is their natural process of occurrence.

Isn’t that amazing? That’s how wonderful our brain is.


5. Monitoring or evaluation. This last stage consists of the analytical evaluation of this new creative idea and its validation, and for this we will be using the areas of our brain that are in charge of our critical thinking and decision making.

I hope that knowing these five steps to unleash your creative and innovation process will help you a lot.

Thanks for getting here! I really wanted to share with you this information that I find so fascinating and so important in these times in which we live, in which creativity is one of the most powerful skills we have for the growth and expansion of our life and our endeavors.

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December 10, 2020 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many years, much of American innovation — particularly tech innovation — was concentrated on the coasts. Just five metropolitan areas (Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and San Jose) accounted for 90% of all U.S. high-tech job growth between 2005 to 2017.

Those days are coming to a close. The modern map of innovation and entrepreneurship is starting to shift as companies and innovators move inward toward the heartland. U.S. states primarily known for their agro business are becoming known for their hubs of innovation, with high rates of startup growth and growing networks of business owners and entrepreneurs.

This is an important migration of people and ideas. It allows for the unlocking of the private sector for job creation investment, which will in turn stimulate economic growth and speed up America’s Recovery by investing heavily in geographic areas that typically do not get as much infusion of funding. 

Which cities are already proof of this inland innovation explosion? Well, for starters, here are eight of the most prominent. 

1. St. Louis

The gateway to the west has spent the last decade building innovation infrastructure, including three gems in Cortex Innovation Community, BIOSTL in Midtown and the coming National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on the city’s northside. At the same time, innovators have access to: 

With the presence of several fortune 100 companies, a huge supply of VC funds and public grats, plus a vast amount of resources designed specifically for innovators and entrepreneurs St. Louis is on the precipice of leading the United States in 21st century innovation. 

Related: The Best Cities for New Small Businesses (Infographic)

2. Novi, Mich.

Located just outside of both Detroit and Ann Arbor, MI, Novi is one of the most innovative and fastest growing cities in the Great Lakes State. Recent news shows Cold-storage specialist Lineage Logistics raised $1.6 billion in funds. The city itself is committed to fostering more businesses to start and build in the city, shown by its own investment in the community through free startup counseling. Plus, the nearness to Detroit gives innovators in Novi access to endless resources throughout Southeast Michigan. 

3. Indianapolis 

Indianapolis hosts huge events as well as any city in America, its downtown has been reinvigorated over the past 20 years due in part the state and the city has invested in entrepreneurs and innovators. Indianapolis has several tech startups moving tech forward in the fields of bioinformatics, SaaS optimization, virtual training from industry giant Lessonly, could tech and customer management systems to name a few. There are many funders available to innovators in the Indy area such as High Alpha, Innovate Indiana, and Xcap Angels to name a few. If that wasn’t enough, Indiana has dedicated $1 billion over the next 10 years to advance innovation and entrepreneurship in Indiana. 

4. Columbus, Ohio

Home to such promising startups as Sollis Therapeutics, Root Insurance and 2Checkout, Columbus has been consistently ranked by the Kauffman Index as a top city for scaling startups. The funds per capita available to startups in Columbus rank among the highest in the nation, meaning that startups internally grown and experts from across the nation see Columbus as a prime spot to lay down roots and begin to scale, as witnessed by former Sequoia Capital partners Chris Olsen and Mark Kvamme leaving Silicon Valley in 2012 to establish Drive Capital, which now ranks as the biggest VC firm in Columbus.

The overall Columbus community, including The Ohio State University and the Short North neighborhood, all work together to attract and foster a vibrant startup community. Innovators such as SafeChain and wireless-powered “internet of things” provider Nikola Labs and Ohio’s first unicorn, CoverMyMeds, now have roots in Columbus.

5. Omaha, Neb.

Other than being home to one of the most vibrant independent music scenes in the United States, Omaha, NE is an unexpected innovation hot spot. They recently became home to Facebook Inc.’s newest data center, have an incredibly supportive local chamber of commerce and are home to highly rated innovative companies from the fields of web security, video conferencing, Cardiothoracic Surgery and supply chain technology among several others. One of the biggest advantages they have is the presence of Nebraska Innovation  Campus which works to connect “the talents of experts, companies and the university to create a unique culture of innovation.

Related: Infographic: The 10 Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

6. Denver, Co.

Home to renowned companies like Welltok, Reven Pharmaceuticals, Accera and others, Denver has a proven track record of fostering innovators and innovative companies to max potential. A huge factor contributing to this is the over 150,000 college students in and around the area, providing local companies with homegrown talent that is part of Denver and fully invested in its growth. 

One thing that all of the cities on this list have in common is that each has at least one hub for brilliant minds to work in close proximity. Denver continues this trend with Built In Colorado, a home to startups in ecommerce, fintech, health tech, ad tech and ed tech.  

7. Wichita and Kansas City, Kan. 

Wichita and Kansas City, Kan. sit 200 miles apart but have a symbiotic relationship in the funding and supporting of innovators in eastern Kansas. Just look at Wichita-based Accelerate Venture Partners, which is throwing its support behind two of the Kansas City area’s rising startups. In the midwest, people are less concentrated in metropolitan areas, so cities within proximity look to each other for talent, support, innovation and investment.

Wichita also is home to innovators like Kingfit, which is fighting diabetes through education that is accessible to patients on an app, or a company like Grit Virtual, changing the way construction companies project mange to eliminate waste and make large scale projects more efficient. 

Meanwhile, Kansas City ranks among the best cities in the entire United States in terms of funding and supporting female entrepreneurs and innovators. This exponentially strengthens the entrepreneurial and innovative communities and overall talent pools for larger businesses to recruit from. 

8.  Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

Last, but in no ways least, is the Twin Cities. In recent news, Google awarded African American-founded startups Civil Eagle, Watch the Yard and The Black Women’s Wealth Alliance $200,000 in funding as a part of its Black Founders Fund. This is not the first time the Twin Cities have been recognized as home to amazing innovators, and it is far from the last. The region is home to over 150 startups and growing. 

In October, Silicon Valley-based Arctic Wolf announced that it plans to move its corporate headquarters to Minnesota as well as create a $200 million Series E round of venture capital. This will add to the ability of the area to continue to grow innovators. As home to food giants Cargill, General Mills, Hormel and Land O’Lakes, the Twin Cities have the infrastructure and experience to scale and support their growing minds. 

What comes next?

How do we foster this growth and keep the movement growing exponentially? We need to first establish incubation spaces and facilities for innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Then, establish a virtual technology commercialization marketplace. Startups and small businesses would identify a market or problem and propose a solution instead of relying on large companies and enterprises. There must be investment of time and resources from the local, state and federal governments as well as capital from private VC firms  — this cannot be an either/or situation. Grants must be established and awarded based on merit and inventiveness. These must then be supplemented by private investment to get them across the finish line, and scaled to a level that positively affects the general public. 

The future of American Innovation is in safe brilliant hands. You just need to scan more of the map than the coasts. Between the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River Valley, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain lies a new better world. A stronger and smarter United States of America.

This article was written in collaboration with William Saulsbery

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Nicolás Ángeles, Lizbeth Gutiérrez and Luis Lira, graduates of the IPN of Guanajuato, won with an environmental scientific project.

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December 7, 2020 2 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

As the Mexican saying goes, if there is talent, you just need to support it. Three young graduates from the National Polytechnic Institute of León, Guanajuato , won first place in the Latin American innovation competition with an environmental project.

Biotechnologists Nicolás Ángeles, Lizbeth Gutiérrez and Luis Lira developed bioreactors with microalgae that reduce industrial greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and PM2.5 and PM10 particles by up to 85 percent.

Image: Via IPN

According to the IPN page , the project of the startup formed by polytechnic graduates, called Ecoscience Lab , proposes to connect a bioreactor directly to chimneys or to any source of industrial pollution and through a biological process to use these highly polluting gases as nutrients so that a group of microalgae produces oxygen and biomass, which is later used in the production of other products.

This competition was organized for all of Latin America by the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires , the Tecnológico de Massachusetts and the Sloan Latin America Office .
This contest began in March of this year and Mexicans stood out among 1,400 participating projects.

According to the young entrepreneurs, with this biotechnological advance, industrial gaseous waste can be managed and revalued, thereby implementing a circular and sustainable business model based on three axes: the leasing of the reactor, its maintenance service and the marketing of biomass extracts to the cosmetic, food and agricultural markets.

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