April 19, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Looking for new ways to innovate? The good news is: you don’t need to be harboring a secret technological breakthrough in order to do so.

Consider Peloton, the at-home exercise company whose sales grew 232% as of November, far beyond the company’s (or anyone’s) expectations. Intense cycling workouts are nothing new (see, e.g., Soul Cycle), and neither is breaking a sweat in the comfort of home. But combining the two during a pandemic, when millions were newly homebound and desperate for endorphins, and you get an exercise phenomenon—and that’s despite the bad press Peloton got at the end of 2019. In the wake of what some called a “tone-deaf” holiday promo, their stock instantly dropped 9%. Ouch. But it’s safe to say they’ve bounced back. 

Of course, there was some streaming technology involved, but the real kicker was timing and a massive demographic change. According to Harvard Business Review author Peter F. Drucker, a demographic change is one of several surprising places where entrepreneurs can look for their next big idea. Here, a closer look at some of those areas, including one that led to my company ’s latest product release. 

1.Demographic changes 

A population experiencing a notable change — for example, suddenly WFH — can be a quick win for generating innovative ideas. Writes Drucker, “Indeed, the innovation opportunities made possible by changes in the numbers of people—and in their age distribution, education, occupations, and geographic location — are among the most rewarding and least risky of entrepreneurial pursuits.”

Because along with those changes come new desires and needs and, of course, opportunities to meet them, without investing a ton in developing new technology. Take the urban flight we’ve seen since the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the New York Times, residents were fleeing to the country and the suburbs in 2020. One Hudson Valley house had 14 showings on its first day and received four all-cash bids that same day. Other properties even got offers, site-unseen.

Related: To Get Your Team Brainstorming Great Ideas, Start With Crazy

Now consider the potential for opportunities: services or products that these former urbanites might need on their journey — to find a new rental or purchase property, or to adjust to their new rural lifestyle. I’ll let you do the brainstorming but the opportunities are abounding.

Demographic changes always create moments for innovation.

2.Changes in perception

If you notice an area in which people’s perceptions have shifted, then you’re likely looking at another place for innovation. Continuing with the previous example, young professionals used to flock to cities, seeing their proximity to industry hubs and financial centers as key to advancing in their careers. But if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that for many people, an urban zip code is no longer essential to a thriving career. Many, in fact, have started focusing on the downsides of living in expensive, more densely populated cities. 

Companies like Slack, Zoom and have been able to capitalize on these shifting perceptions by enabling people to work from anywhere. (A new favorite of mine for working remotely, especially when my two young children are home, is — a music tool that uses scientific data to create “strong neural phase-locking” — music that essentially helps you do whatever you need to do.)

Or, consider the healthcare industry. Today, we’re living longer than ever, but the quest for and wellness seems to be just beginning. As Drucker observes, “Rather than rejoicing in great improvements in health, Americans seem to be emphasizing how far away they still are from immortality.” Every day, it seems like there’s a new innovation claiming to help us live better: from plant-based meat alternatives and gut-friendly elixirs to CBD snacks and infrared light therapy. Living longer is no longer enough.

Be on the lookout for perception shifts from a glass half empty to full, or vice versa, and you might find a new way to innovate.

3.Seeming incongruities

Sometimes, we get so used to the old way of doing things that we fail to notice pain points, like when something is harder or slower than it has to be. 

For example, originally, online shoe shopping seemed to give customers an easier buying option: they could skip the drive to the mall, the lines at the store, etc. But the concept was slow to gain momentum. As GQ explains: 

“At the time, Amazon was successfully hawking books—but moving a one-size-fits-all product is a lot different than trying to persuade customers to buy something much more subjective, like shoes.”

But the late Zappos CEO came up with a simple yet innovative idea that took the industry (and his company) to the next level: offering free shipping and free returns. Hseih eliminated the drawbacks that other shoe and apparel companies had taken for granted.

Related: The New Rules of Brainstorming

Or, take spreadsheets — almost every entrepreneur uses them daily. They might make business easier, but for a long time, they were more cumbersome than they had to be—especially when it came to sharing non-numerical information, like names, dates, file attachments, and more. You had to use another software to share the kind of data that doesn’t fit into neat columns. That’s why my team spent three years developing JotForm Tables — to collect all different types of info collected from online forms and organize them in one workspace. 

The old way may work fine, but there might be a better way yet. Search for pain points that your company or the industry may be avoiding or overlooking.

4.Unexpected failures and successes

By now, you may have heard the origin story of Wrigley’s: initially, the Chicago-based company sold soap and baking soda, only to discover that the free packs of chewing gum that came with were even more popular than their actual products. They pivoted their entire business in response to this unexpected success.

As Drucker writes: “Unexpected successes and failures are such productive sources of innovation opportunities because most businesses dismiss them, disregard them, and even resent them.”

If, instead of dismissing unanticipated events, we dig deeper to figure out the underlying causes, we might discover a way to innovate that differs from our original vision — but is exactly what our users need, and that, I’d argue, is an entrepreneur’s number one concern.

Related: How to Spot Business Ideas Worth Pursuing

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Innovate for your work, yourself and your team.

Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

Get a glimpse of how to overcome the mental and physical fatigue that is standing between you and your full potential.

April 19, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If everything feels off-kilter in your life and , just know that you aren’t alone. Last year was not easy and left many businesses desperate to stay afloat. Many simply focused on survival mode and tried to pivot to ensure their success. Even if you’ve had time to get used to the changes you made, it can still feel a bit off. As we move forward, it’s worth considering — is your “new normal” going to sustain you or is it time to reorient for a long term vision?

This requires a degree of objectivity and clarity in addressing your business and its upcoming opportunities and challenges. The following tips will help you and your team to get ready for the future, aligning your vision and ensuring that you’re on a straightforward path to success. 

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Leverage Once-In-A-Lifetime Market Pressure

1. Consider how you can innovate to serve your customers.

Your customer’s needs and behaviors have changed. Can you meet them on this new terrain? Consider tweaking your products and services to fit their changing priorities. Remember that pretty much everyone had to shift some priorities since the pandemic. This re-innovation process is detailed in the book Sharper Image Success by Richard Thalheimer, CEO of The Sharper Image. His business has brought in revenues of $750 million and much of this is due to his customer obsession and his knack for scaling a business’ profits. 

“Your product is your direct line of connection to your customer,” Thalheimer explained. “It’s all about sparking that excitement from your customer, which inevitably means you’ll have to adapt as they begin to change. Look for the key indicators of unhappiness or boredom with your product, and never stop asking for feedback and reiterating on your creation.” Consider pushing out a survey or taking the extra time to talk with your customer about what they think you could do better or differently. Staying relevant and top of mind requires this due-diligence.

2. Use this period to reconnect with what you want to be doing in your business. 

Sometimes, we value profit over purpose, and it can become challenging to get back onto the passion that encouraged us to start our businesses in the first place. It’s easy to do. But as long as you’re pivoting, think about what you want your legacy to be and what type of work will be most fulfilling for you moving forward. Taylor Rochestie, author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book, 20/20 Vision, says this begins by shifting how you view the world. “By putting on a positive perspective and lens by which you view the world, you’re more in sync with what your soul really wants from your life and your business,” Rochestie noted.

“Begin by first seeking to find joy in the work that you’re currently doing. This will weed out anything in your work that isn’t aligned, while also making sure you’re as positive as you can be.” From there, Rochestie says it’s simply a matter of determining what is still within authentic alignment for you — and what isn’t. And since you’re changing how you do things anyway, it’s worth a change of pace for your within your business. Clients and customers can sense if you’re really doing what’s aligned with your soul’s .

Related: It’s Time to Disrupt Yourself

3. Recalibrate your business systems and team dynamic. 

Now that you’ve considered your customers and your own inner calling, it’s critical to check in on your team and the processes that have sustained your business. With recent challenges, some team members may not have the same level of passion they did before, whereas some may be more passionate than ever. It’s worth having honest discussions with your top teammates about their opinions on the state of the business and if they’re feeling fulfilled at work. 

Kristen S. David is a seven-figure business owner who specializes in helping business owners build systems around their businesses and boost team morale and culture. She discusses these concepts at length in her book Uplevel Your Business, Uplevel Your Life: 4 Pillars of Successful Business

“Many build out a team, stick to a process, and never change it because they’re surviving on how it’s been,” David explained. “However, there are ways to thrive, which means your employees are happy and your processes are smooth sailing, freeing up time and generating more profit.”  Much of this comes down to training employees within the culture, which may mean you need to hit the reset button in your company culture. Host a two-day virtual retreat to get everyone on the same page with values and priorities. Spend 1:1 time with employees to ideate on new systems and processes to make everyone’s lives easier. 

Think of a refresh on each of these vital components of your business as a “spring cleaning.” While many businesses have been called to do this work because of the nature of the necessary pivot, these reevaluations will continue to be important in the months and years ahead. Never stop improving your innovations for the customer, your personal connection to your work, and the processes for your team. This is the secret to staying forever objectively oriented in your business’s vision.

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July 26, 2017 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from and Dustin Mathews’ book No BS Guide to Powerful Presentations. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code CAREER2021 through 4/17/21.

There’s no limit to the types of events you can create. Do you want more leads? You can automate it. Do you want more ? You can generate them daily. Do you want to deliver paid content on autopilot? Done. Bonuses? Great.

Related: 2 Secrets About Online Media Presentations

Let’s look closer at three different case studies: a strategy session close, a direct product sale, and one in the financial industry.

The strategy session close

In more complex sales, it helps to speak to someone personally. These types of sales usually involve higher-ticket items or a lot of delivery variables.

: Strategy Session webinar

Organization: Clients on Demand™

Russell Ruffino is the entrepreneur behind Clients on Demand™. Ruffino is one of today’s most successful internet marketing gurus.

The challenge:

Rufino’s depends on generating leads, establishing trust, and qualifying the leads to guide those that are appropriate to the next step — a Strategy Session on the phone. Ruffino experimented with all different types of lead-generation strategies to achieve those goals, including downloads, mind maps, minicourses, videos and even a book. They were doing well but not as well as he wanted.

Then he tested an automated webinar. The webinar became his most successful strategy up to that point. His business was growing, but it wasn’t doing what it should have been doing.

The automated webinar software he was testing wasn’t StealthSeminar. He noticed the other automated webinar systems he tried weren’t stable — sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t.

In addition, he noticed none of the other automated webinar software converted for mobile traffic, which now makes up 51 percent of all traffic. StealthSeminar alone is the only one that runs webinars correctly on iPhone. All others show a video length and fast forward button. That isn’t good if you want to control how your attendees consume the content.

The solution:

Ruffino tried StealthSeminar and was amazed with the results. His business soared 1503.33 percent initially and since then, much more. Ruffino has found the best way to connect with potential clients, build trust and qualify them is via a StealthSeminar.

Related: 6 Steps to Creating the Ultimate Webinar

He has a fantastic webinar that his attendees love. During the webinar, the attendees, who have no previous knowledge of Ruffino, are introduced to him and his system. Ruffino provides terrific content, builds trust, makes the connection with each attendee, and then drives those who are qualified to make an appointment. A link appears for the attendees to click on to set an appointment for a Strategy Session.

In the Strategy Session, the prospect learns more about the program and is further qualified. If the match is appropriate, the offer is made for the individual to join Ruffino and Clients on Demand.

The direct-sale webinar

In simpler sales, speaking to someone isn’t required and often can cost you sales. These types of sales typically run from $47 to $2,500. The sweet spot for direct-sales webinars is $197 to $1,497.

Case study: Direct-Sale webinar

Organization: Forex Trading Hispano

Christian Helmut is the driving force behind Alfonso & Christian. They are business growth consultants running multiple businesses and multiple different webinar types. They help people scale and automate their processes. Let’s look at a direct-sale webinar.

The challenge:

Helmut wanted to automate the sales cycle process. In addition, his company wanted to provide value and position itself as the best inside the marketplace — all without human intervention.

Helmut and his colleagues tried different ways to generate leads and establish their expert positioning. While successful, it didn’t satisfy the goals they’d set for themselves. They weren’t getting the number of leads they wanted at an acceptable cost to them. They also weren’t selling the number of products they knew they could.

The solution:

Helmut then created an automated webinar, and started to drive cold traffic from Facebook and YouTube video ads to the automated webinar. Helmut’s list started to grow rapidly, and the company’s positioning reached the top of the marketplace. The automated webinar started to generate sales on autopilot. In fact, it’s getting a 15x ROI. For every $1 the company spends, it gets back $15 — all automated.

The financial industry webinar

The financial industry is also being heavily impacted by automated webinars. In the past, a lot of individuals would do seminars in a live setting, such as a restaurant or hotel. Now it’s getting harder and more expensive to get people to attend such events. The online webinar allows you to reach those individuals much more cheaply and make it much more convenient for them to attend from their home or office.

Case study: Financial Industry webinar

Organization: AnnuityCheck™

Steve Hutchinson is the founder of AnnuityCheck™. He has a lifetime of experience in the financial industry and wanted to maximize his success with AnnuityCheck, a SaaS fintech firm.

The challenge:

Hutchinson wanted to help financial advisers automate their financial calculations and maximize the retirement income they generated for their clients. He spent the first two years doing live webinars and would waste 10 to 20 hours every week getting prepped for one or two webinars. It was a drain on him mentally and physically. It took away from other professional and personal activities.

Related: 4 Secrets to Becoming a “Presentainer” Who Grabs an Audience’s Attention

The solution:

Hutchinson finally turned to automation via Stealth Seminar for his webinars. He found a “whole new marketing gear” in online optimization and finally turned to the same type of automation his clients depend on to streamline the process. “Now I can update a simple file a few times a month as needed and get my life back,” says Hutchinson.

AnnuityCheck did its first two automated webinars on a Friday through Sunday and Monday. The statistics show they had 538 registrations, 272 attendees, and 46 signed up with credit card — 17 percent.

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to creating your own automated webinars. They’re a powerful tool that can be used for many different applications, such as list building, generating leads, or converting sales. Getting your webinar up and running is easy to do. I wish you much success!

Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code CAREER2021 through 4/17/21.

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April 5, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

At a Fintech conference in put on by Fordham University in the spring of 2017, an AI expert made a bold prediction: Someday there would be a company with a market cap of one trillion dollars. He predicted that this valuation, which at the time seemed incredible, would be based on that firm’s extensive use of AI.

He was correct in at least one regard: became the world’s first trillion-dollar company a little over a year later. But what of the second part of the prediction? Was Apple’s staggering valuation due to the power of AI? Are AI and, more broadly, , the key drivers of business growth?

Apple uses data analytics and AI extensively. combines speech recognition and expert systems to give you reminders based on your location. studies your listening habits and assembles playlists accordingly. Apple Fitness+ uses data from the Apple watch to help users build health. In 2018, Apple’s head of AI, John Giannandrea, was appointed to the company’s executive team.

Yet the same press release announcing Giannandrea’s appointment offers a fundamental insight into why Apple has been so successful. It notes that Apple “leads the world in innovation” — not AI. The company has spent decades creating entirely new product arenas and pioneering new business models around music sales (), app subscriptions (the ), cloud storage (), and digital payments (Apple Pay). It’s easy to forget that just 20 years ago, computers made up nearly all of Apple’s business. Last year, Mac products contributed just 10.4% of the company’s revenue.

Human creativity is visionary in ways that AI can’t be

Apple’s new products and business models relied on creativity and the ability to see beyond the known, not or AI. Creative leaders like and could see the deficiencies in portable MP3 players, but no algorithm could have told them how to build an entirely new way to listen to music. The iPod, the , and the iPad emerged from their ability to envision ways to apply new technologies and their outstanding sense of user-centric design. Services like iTunes and the App Store stemmed from the company’s commitment to provide entirely new and valuable experiences for consumers. Innovation, not AI or analytics, generated the returns that drive Apple’s trillion-dollar valuation.

Related: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Revolutionize the …

Nor could data be expected to produce such results. Quantitative techniques, even sophisticated ones like deep learning, are backward-looking, highly constrained, and reductionist. They begin with an established dataset and seek the best answer from a limited number of pre-defined choices. The very nature of data-driven tools makes them unsuited to coming up with bold, disruptive innovations — the kind of breakthroughs that lead to something entirely new. For example, one of the most promising AI technologies at the moment is the GPT-3 “few-shot” learning model, which has shown a modest ability to do some creative tasks like generating synthetic news articles and computer code. Today, though, its domain is primarily limited to natural language processing — and even that uses a model with 175 billion parameters.

Breakthrough innovation occurs because of ideas sparked by a serendipitous conversation, an unexpected finding in a lab, or the ability to connect disparate pieces of information from very different domains into a keen insight. When Jony Ive was hired at Apple, he had designed products ranging from telephones to toilets but had done nothing in the computer industry. Yet he was at the heart of Apple’s new product successes for two decades because of his ability to envision how new technologies could build a world that did not yet exist.

Reliance on AI can actually hurt more than it helps

The danger companies today face is that an over-emphasis on AI and quantitative tools can potentially hinder breakthrough innovation. If each decision must be driven by data, how will a firm create something for which there is no relevant data? No algorithm can justify investing in and launching a breakthrough innovation.

Related: How Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Fight The COVID-19 Pandemic

Moreover, a firm’s bandwidth for business improvement can be consumed by the use of analytical tools. In such cases, incremental innovation will rule the day. Renowned computer scientist Melanie Mitchell summarizes the trap that businesses fall prey to: “The race to commercialize AI has put enormous pressure on researchers to produce systems that work ‘well enough’ on narrow tasks.” Quantitative tools are powerful and exciting, but they can come to dominate a firm, keeping it focused on narrow tasks to the detriment of breakthrough innovation.

This isn’t to say that there is no role for data analysis. Data tools are enabling technologies that can improve and extend existing products. Firms should use AI technologies within their breakthrough innovations. For example, while there is no algorithm that could have taken mobile phone data in the early 2000s and come up with the iPhone, the AI-driven assistant Siri added value to this breakthrough innovation. AI is one of a number of functional areas at Apple, where it sits alongside software, hardware engineering, design, and other business areas.

The importance of breakthrough innovation is further illustrated by the other members of the trillion-dollar club. Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft built their success not on AI or big data, but on breakthrough innovations that transformed the way we shop, work, and consume information. These companies have benefited substantially from analytical capabilities, but they are largely selling products that sprang from human .

The surest path to success isn’t through incremental advances, but breakthrough innovations. While a trillion-dollar firm built on AI may someday rise, it’s not here yet. Companies should not let the shininess of AI and big data distract them from the importance of human processes like creativity and discovery to unlocking breakthrough innovation.

Related: What Is Artificial Intelligence? Whether You’re a Student …

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April 2, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Leaders today have a problem. New products and services are being created and adopted at dramatically faster rates.  In measuring how quickly innovations reached 50 million users, we see a dramatic difference. Electricity took 46 years to reach 50 million customers after being installed in a small section of a New York City park. Telephones needed 50 years. TVs took 22 years, and cell phones took only 12 years. While Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are revolutionizing multiple sectors, urbanization, globalization, emerging middle classes worldwide and social media’s influence add to the barrage of change that businesses have never experienced. It’s challenging our ability as humans to make sense of the change and develop an appropriate action plan. We’re at risk of becoming the frog in boiling water.

While change has always been constant, it was slow enough to be absorbed into the planning processes and the business’s overall business culture and strategy. Not anymore. Today strategy executives with vast organizational resources at their command stay up at night worrying about five college students creating a product that can displace them overnight. Leaders fear that they aren’t innovating in the right way, at the right pace, or with the right partners. Employees worry that they may no longer be relevant when the next organizational changes and corporate direction occur. More and more, those leaders are calling for their employees to be more innovative as well. This quest for a more resilient posture that allows an organization and its employees to thrive amid the radically changing environment will require more resilience for their efforts to succeed.

At the risk of overusing the frog analogy — none of us want to be boiled in water. Yet dealing with constant change, change on a grand scale, or continuous change initiatives can leave people feeling less willing to engage in change. People exposed to ubiquitous change are wearing out like an old ball that’s lost its bounce. This mindset fatigue affects other critical employee thought and patterns in areas of work engagement and innovation, which can erode a company’s competitive advantage, make change initiatives more likely to fail, and cause high employee turnover. Inoculating your business against change fatigue requires a healthy dose of resiliency.

Related: 3 Reasons Investing in Employee Resilience Pays Off

Research bears this out. In fact, a recent survey of employees of large tech companies found a strong relationship between resilience, work engagement and innovative behaviors and suggested that a company’s competitive advantage directly relates to employees’ resiliency. According to scholars, individuals with high change acceptance readiness are likely to have high levels of resiliency. Furthermore, resilient individuals also show increased engagement, energy, curiosity — which align with the characteristics of innovative work behaviors. Those innovative work behaviors — including accepting change, leading change, and noticing problems and opportunities — drive employees to more readily create and adopt new processes, policies and products. 

What does this mean for you?

If you’re a leader, you’re going to need to build your employees’ resilience and innovative work behaviors. If you’re a strategist, you’re going to have to plan on the rapid, multifaceted change that causes pivots at an alarming rate. If you’re an individual contributor, it means that landing that next job, gig or contract could depend not only on your skillset or degree but also your ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing environment. What may surprise you is how much control you have over becoming that go-to person in many work environments. It’s a lot more about mindset and behaviors than finding the perfect job. Being resilient may be on the list of essential traits, and innovative work behaviors and engagement might factor into your interview questions. Resilient, innovative, engaged employees adapt to the organization’s needs while taking on new skills for themselves. Enhancing organizational resilience boosts an organization’s capacity to adapt to change. 

Related: 7 Excellent Reasons to Focus on Employee Engagement

Here are five ways to build resilience in your organization.

1. Focus on the positive 

Researchers have found that it takes three positive experiences to balance out each negative experience. So seek out and emphasize the positive experiences you, your and your organization have. Celebrations can be simple. Showcase the birth of a team member’s baby. Create a background screen of accomplishments. Send an organization-wide e-mail acknowledging the hard work of a team — even if the hard work means they have to find a different solution than the one they were pursuing.

2. Take one bite at a time

Handling multiple changes simultaneously can feel overwhelming, yet it seems necessary on a more and more frequent basis. Keep in mind, when put a man on the moon, it took 10 years. They developed all sorts of technology, letting each team focus on their area of expertise. So, manage your change by addressing the long-term goal and the critical path one step at a time.

Related: 5 Principles for Dealing With Constant Change

3. Create virtual time

If you’re anything like my team, coffee keeps you running from early in the morning to late in the afternoon as you move from meeting to meeting. Set limits on meeting length to allow for five minutes of uncommitted at the end of each hour. Then make sure meetings end promptly. Give people time to get up, move around and refill their mugs. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll buoy spirits with this simple time trick.

4. Host a happy hour

Getting together with coworkers shouldn’t be left to chance. Everyone is too busy. Let your employees know that their membership in your team is essential. Make it virtual if you’re team isn’t all in the same office, and emcee a trivia game — you may learn that you have enough aspiring singers on your team to form a quartet.

5. Provide air support

Perhaps this one should have been first because it’s vital. If you’re asking your team to change, you have to demonstrate your support for those who rush forward on your behalf in a concrete manner. Remember that change is hard.  Be vocal in your encouragement and appreciation of your change agents. Take the time to coach your team members who are asking questions to make sense of it all. Acknowledge the risk and challenge of tackling change head-on. Get excited about the attempts, not just the successes. Most importantly, get engaged when the team identifies a roadblock. Successful change leaders block and tackle the challenges for their teams more readily when they do it proactively — and it often only takes five minutes. 

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March 26, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If the 2020 hack on IT giant SolarWinds offered anything of substance to the business world, it should be an unquenchable desire to protect their employees. The hack — targeted to infiltrate SolarWinds’ Orion network management tool — affected thousands of customers, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to several government agencies. Unfortunately, the effects will be felt for years. 

Early this year, American intelligence agencies pinned the attack on Russia after discovering several similarities between the code used in the attack (referred to as UNC2452) and an older Russian malware (called Turla). The extent of the infiltration is still unknown, but the is already staggering. More than 18,000 customers downloaded the infected update, including national agencies like the U.S. Treasury, the  and the Department of State. 

The ramifications of this attack are sobering; nation-states and their agencies are able to infect a top-rated IT company’s software and spread it to thousands of companies when they patch their systems. Such an attack, known as a supply-chain attack, is insidious because patches and updates are considered a must for maintaining a defensive cybersecurity posture. When the patch gets compromised, the results can be devastating.

Related: 5 Signs of a Smartphone Hack (and How to Protect Yourself)

Tech-savvy users are more conscious about data-sharing

With such risks out there, enterprises should be doing everything in their power to protect their employees and data. When the resources of a hostile nation-state are stacked against you, you can’t afford to miss out on easy victories. Cue the recent controversy with WhatsApp, a messaging platform that owns. It started bleeding customers when it began sharing data with its parent company. With data an ever-present concern, enterprises should shy away from using apps that allow data to be shared with any outside party.

If the thought of sharing company data with one of the biggest data-harvesters in the world scares you, it should. With its pioneering of end-to-end (E2E) encryption on standard text messages, WhatsApp quickly built up a huge customer base among people concerned about their privacy with Facebook messenger and notoriously insecure SMS messaging. 

That customer base is quickly leaving as WhatsApp becomes that which it swore to destroy,  requiring users to consent to share their data with Facebook. Suddenly, there’s no real reason to keep using WhatsApp, so users are flocking to alternatives like Signal or Telegram. 

As of January 12, Signal reported it had 50 million downloads on Android devices alone. In January, Telegram hit 500 million users, with 25 million of their new users joining within a 72-hour period. For reference, it took Telegram about six months to add 100 million in 2019 and 2020. Clearly, WhatsApp’s mass exodus shows that secure messaging apps are still something most people want and need.

These apps are also using clever ways to get more people to download and use their app — like giving users the ability to migrate an entire group chat from WhatsApp to Signal with a simple link. Using this feature, Signal can grow its user base exponentially without asking people for their contact lists. Signal had around 20 million active users in December 2020. While the company hasn’t disclosed how many new users they’ve added since WhatsApp started hemorrhaging users, it was downloaded 7.5 million times in a five-day period in January 2021 after Elon Musk tweeted about it. 

Related: The Pivot to Remote, and What It Means for Security

Finding a Secure Alternative for Business

As more people join these secure messaging apps, they’re becoming a viable alternative for other users. A messaging app is only as good as its customer base, after all. If you can’t find a user on it, why use it? But are these apps suitable for widespread enterprise use? 

Truthfully, Signal is a pretty bare-bones app without a lot of features, and it can be clunky to use. Many believe it’s primarily useful for messaging, but enterprises need more robust features from an internal-communication app. Additionally, privacy advocates have their concerns because it requires a phone number to be associated with the account. Additionally, any contacts that are already using the app get a notification when one of their contacts signs up for Signal, which strikes many as a privacy issue. Enterprises simply can’t afford to have this type of unsecured platform as part of their communications. 

Similarly, using WhatsApp across devices is difficult. It may be cloud-based, but it requires all data first be sent to your phone. Then, other devices can sync from that. 

Although it is not end-to-end encrypted by default (you must enable it), Telegram is somewhat better for businesses because it allows customization and lets users access their group chats and messages from any device simultaneously. It also allows direct-to-consumer marketing, similar to emails, by offering companies the capability to send one-way messages to people who sign up for notifications. 

It’s worth noting, though, that as these free, widely-adopted apps expand their customer base, they become more of a target. For example, a collection of 13 different vulnerabilities was recently discovered in the Telegram apps for both Android and iOS. The vulnerabilities existed in a library that Telegram uses to parse and render animated stickers in chats and created an attack surface for potential remote code execution.

Also, these apps are still in their nascent stages without the server capacity to handle huge migrations of large enterprises or government organizations. Already in widespread use across many government agencies, apps like Teams offer much more robust options for enterprises, such as file storage, two-factor authentication and voice/video chat. It still lacks in the security arena, however. All in all, many of these solutions are not viable for securing employee communications, leaving their devices vulnerable to intruders. The best solution is a secure messaging app that is end-to-end encrypted.

Companies looking to secure their employees’ online activity, devices, and messaging need to seek out innovative solutions. Research is critical for enterprises to understand whether or not their communications and data are as secure as they think. With threats lurking everywhere online, they can’t afford to leave anything to chance. While not the only solution, using encrypted messaging platforms is an important way to secure vital communications and keep employees safe — especially in an era when more and more professionals are working remotely. The SolarWinds hack should be a wake-up call that organizations can never stop innovating.

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The UK-based pharmaceutical maker’s two-shot solution appears to be even more efficacious against symptomatic infection than Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose injection.

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March 22, 2021 2 min read

Every major vaccine developed in the race to ward off Covid-19 has experienced a similar narrative arc: initial optimism over its potential; momentary wariness over its efficacy and/or side effects; and eventual acceptance and desirability. AstraZeneca‘s two-shot offering — already in widespread use around the world, though not without intermittent hesitancy — appears headed toward its ultimate destiny in the U.S.

This morning, the UK-based, British-Swedish pharmaceutical company released partial results from late-stage testing on more than 32,000 adult U.S. participants. Of those, only 141 developed symptomatic Covid-19, according to AstraZeneca’s press release, which summarized its findings. That amounts to a 79% efficacy rate against symptomatic cases (80% for participants 65 and older). The test results yielded a 100% success rate in shielding against hospitalizations and deaths related to Covid. The studies were conducted under a randomized, 2:1 distributions vaccine versus placebo. 

Related: FDA Says Johnson & Johnson’s One-Dose Vaccine Is Safe and Effective

As AP reports, AstraZeneca will apply for authorized FDA use of the vaccine in early April and, if approved, be prepared to deliver 30 million doses right away and another 20 million by the end of that month. As of this writing, the CDC tabulates that more than 13 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Roughly half of those have been 65 or older.

Recent fears over a possible link between administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine and subsequent blood clots have been largely allayed by the global scientific community. 

Related: AstraZeneca Claims to Have the ‘Winning Formula’ for Its Vaccine

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The next revolution in data privacy is coming. Be ready.

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March 19, 2021 4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this digital-oriented world, hackers are evolving in parallel to technological advancements. Fortunately, engineers, mathematician and physicists are simultaneously working on innovative concepts that harness the progression of classical methods. New devices are utilizing principles of quantum physics and deploying sophisticated and powerful algorithms for safe communication. 

Related: Platform With International Community Adopts Quantum For Humanity

What is cryptography? 

Cryptography is a means of securing data and information to dodge malicious hackers. Thanks to cryptographic methods, everything from web conferences to individual browsing history remain privileged and safe. Data are protected using  algorithms that require a unique key for decryption and encryption. Utilization of the same private key, i.e. a specific string of bits for decryption and encryption, is called symmetric cryptography. Utilization of public keys for encryption and private keys for decryption — each of which are created by algorithm-fueled random number generators — is called asymmetrical cryptography. 

Genuine randomness is considered unachievable by purely classical means, but can be accomplished with the added application of quantum physics.

Quantum key distribution 

There are two methods by which large-scale quantum and classical computers can obscure private information. 

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a quantum cryptographic primitive designed to generate unbreakable keys. QKD ensures key agreement, including well-known BB84 and E91 algorithms. In 2017, a Chinese team successfully demonstrated that satellites can perform safe and secure communications with the help of symmetrical cryptography and QKD. 

Still, it’s clear that QKD alone can’t satisfy all protection requirements, but there are other mechanisms for security enhancement by utilizing “quantum-safe” encryption algorithms based on solving mathematical problems instead of laws of quantum physics.

An optimistic view of quantum-computing obstacles 

The most immediate challenge is accomplishing the most sufficient number of fault-tolerant qubits to boost quantum computing’s computational promises. such as , , and Honeywell are taking this problem under consideration and investing in it to come up with a solid solution. 

Currently, quantum computers are programmed for individual quantum logic gates. This might be acceptable for small-scale quantum computers, but less so once we come across a large number of qubits. Organizations such as IBM and Classiq are developing more and more abstract layers in the programming stack, allowing developers to nurture incredible and powerful quantum applications to provide solutions to real-world problems. 

For the implementation of complex problems including error-correction schemes, organizations need to prove that they can control numerous qubits. This control must have low latency and it must come from adaptive-feedback control circuits based on CMOS. Ultimately, the issue of “fan-out” must be addressed. The question that needs to be answered is how to pace up a number of qubits within a quantum chip. Multiple lasers or control wires are currently required, but it’s hard to see how we can develop multiple qubit chips with millions of wires connected to the circuit board or coming out of the cryogenic measurement chamber.  

Applying quantum computing to cybersecurity 

In recent years, researchers and analysts have been striving for the development of quantum-safe encryption. According to American Scientist, the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology is presently evaluating 69 new methods known as “post-quantum cryptography,” or PQC. Quantum computing offers an eminent, potential solution to cybersecurity and encryption threats. Any security-forward organization ought to develop an understanding of crypto agility.

Related: AI For Cybersecurity: Maximizing Strengths And Limiting Vulnerabilities

Quantum revolution is uncertain. While the intense impact of extensive fault-tolerant quantum computers may be far off, near-time quantum computers still present enormous advantages in enhancing levels of communication privacy and security. All organizations must consider developing innovative strategies around the long-term benefits and risks of quantum technology and computing, and be ready for the forthcoming quantum revolution.

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March 17, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Growth hacking. MVPs. Beta-testing. Pivoting. These strategies are now practically clichés — start-up principles that drive almost every high-growth company hitting the market. I’ve experienced them all firsthand in my career, working everywhere from scrappy five-person operations to powerhouses at the cutting edge of AI. 

Here’s the thing: Sure, these principles can help businesses. But in key respects, these same tenets can also be used to supercharge your own career — especially at a time when the way we do is in flux. 

The fact is, for many of us, the world of work has been turned on its head during the global health crisis. People have had to switch roles, return to school to reskill or start totally fresh in new markets after a job loss. 

This has only accelerated existing trends. In the past, staying at a company for decades wasn’t uncommon; today the average person stays at a job for less than five years. Then there’s the gig economy boom in full swing, and the added impact of digitization and automation on workplace roles. The bottom line is that being able to evolve and adapt is key, during a global crisis and beyond.

With that in mind, here’s how to apply start-up principles to yourself — whether you’re climbing the ladder inside a growing company, looking for a new job or even thinking of blazing your own path as an entrepreneur. 

Related: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur, According to Reid Hoffman

Identify your unfair advantage

In a business sense, start-ups need to have that special something if they’re going to compete with the big, established players. This is something that can’t be bought or copied by competitors. Ali Ash, marketing director at Just Eat, wrote the book on The Unfair Advantage and has documented how the world’s most impressive start-ups have defined their own categories and offered something no one else was providing. 

If you look at your own career, the same question applies: what’s your unfair advantage? By leaning into your unique strengths, you’re positioning yourself to offer what no one else can — just as put its own unique spin on photo-sharing and pioneered high-performance electric cars. When you lean into your own personal value proposition, you’re eliminating the competition and setting yourself up to be a of one.

I was an accounting major in college, a qualification that’s a dime a dozen. But early on in my career, I possessed a willingness to explore new fields and untested companies. Instead of sticking to my lane, I developed a diverse sales background — jumping, for instance, from selling multimillion-dollar software contracts to $9-per-month SaaS subscriptions. Ultimately, that breadth of experience, lateral flexibility and pattern recognition became my unfair advantage.  

So how can you isolate and leverage your own unfair advantage? Think about the unique intersections of your passions, training and personal disposition. You may be trained as a lawyer but have a passion for languages and a knack for networking. That’s a combo not everyone can replicate. Once you’ve found your unfair advantage, think like a start-up and leverage it every chance you get. Look for roles and opportunities where you, uniquely, can shine, and don’t be shy about your unique skill set in interviews and networking opportunities.  

MVP your next role 

Another tenet of start-up philosophy is “”: the idea of testing an early version of a product in the market before investing tons in R&D. By measuring consumer response and iterating, you can either improve the offering or pivot to a new direction — all without spending a lot of time or money. 

In a career sense, this means being open to testing the waters for new opportunities, even ones you may not be entirely comfortable with yet. Instead of waiting to be fully “ready” for something (a new career, a new role), be willing to dive in and learn some elements on the go. You may need to scramble, adjust, even backtrack. But — just as in the start-up world — the opportunity cost of not going for it is too big to ignore. 

In the middle of my own career, for example, I left business software behind to join a company, just years after started. Though I could see the growth potential was huge, this was a brand-new industry for me. And there was always the chance social media might be just a passing fad. But I put myself out there, acquired skills on the job and grew into the role. (My unfair advantage — curiosity — definitely came in handy.)  

So how do you MVP yourself? Understand that no role will ever be perfect, nor will you ever be perfectly positioned to seize it. Exploring lateral roles within your own organization is a great way to test the waters and observe what “sticks” and what doesn’t. Above all, give yourself permission to set aside perfectionism. (I’d go so far as to say you should always feel a bit unqualified for a role.) And don’t be afraid to switch gears or pivot when you need to. Just as in the start-up world, career iteration never ends.   

Related: Resilience Is One of the Most Essential Entrepreneurial Traits. Practicing This Can Help You Build It

Disrupt yourself

The best businesses, even when they’re all grown up, still think like start-ups. describes its corporate culture as one that “avoids rules.” That means the company prioritizes innovation, autonomy and risk-taking in everything it does. Rather than resting on its laurels, Netflix is constantly exploring ideas and isn’t averse to disrupting the status quo of its own organization.  

That same philosophy can be applied to our own careers. Far too many people fall in love with their product. They put themselves in one category and are unable to evolve beyond that. They get too comfortable — with a role, a company, a city — and stop being curious and pushing themselves. In this process, career prospects are curtailed or short-circuited altogether.   

I continue to try to live by this self-disrupting philosophy. Case in point: I recently jumped from almost 20 years in the SaaS space to the world of AI and software-enabled robotics. A more traditional route would have been to stay in my vertical and stick to senior roles in industries I was familiar with. But I would have missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity with a robotics company. And more importantly, I would have missed out on a chance to grow personally and professionally.  

How do you disrupt yourself? For starters, keep an ear to the rails for the next big thing — technologies or cultural shifts that promise to upend how we live and work. Right now, for instance, automation and AI are opening up brand-new horizons. Continue to push and stay curious, even as you grow more senior in your career. And I’d even go so far as to say you should be downright skeptical of your comfort zone. If you’re not moving forward, you’re bound to go stagnant. 

That being said, start-up principles can be taken too far — in business, and in life. “Move fast and break things” doesn’t really work in sensitive industries such as health care, security, even social media. Likewise, in life, adopting “lean start-up principles” shouldn’t be about being flighty or disloyal. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be building the necessary nimbleness to thrive in a shifting terrain, but providing stability and leadership for your team even when things are chaotic. 

Related: 5-Step Formula to Rewire Your Brain for Entrepreneurial Success

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March 16, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Demand for machine learning is skyrocketing. This growth is driven not only by “middle adopters” recognizing the vast potential of machine learning after watching early adopters benefit from its use, but by steady improvements in machine-learning itself. It may be too early to say with certainty that machine learning develops according to a predictable framework like Moore’s Law, the famous precept about power that has borne out for nearly 50 years and only recently began to show signs of strain. But the industry is clearly on a fast track.

As machine-learning algorithms grow smarter and more organizations come around to the idea of integrating this powerful technology into their processes, it’s high time your enterprise thought about putting machine learning to work, too.

First, consider the benefits and costs. It’s quite likely that your could leverage at least one of these five reasons to employ machine learning, whether it’s taming apparently infinite amounts of unstructured data or finally personalizing your .

Related: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Revolutionize the World of Art and Creativity

1. Taming vast unstructured data with limited resources

One of the best-known use cases for machine learning is processing data sets too large for traditional data crunching methods to handle. This is increasingly important as data becomes easier to generate, collect and access, especially for smaller B2C enterprises that often deal with more transaction and customer data than they can manage with limited resources.

How you use machine learning to process and “tame” your data will depend on what you hope to get from that data. Do you want help making more informed product development decisions? To better market to your customers? To acquire new customers? To analyze internal processes that could be improved? Machine learning can help with all these problems and more.

2. Automating routine tasks 

The original promise of machine learning was efficiency. Even as its uses have expanded beyond mere , this remains a core function and one of the most commercially viable use cases. Using machine learning to automate routine tasks, save time and manage resources more effectively has a very attractive paid of side effects for enterprises that do it effectively: reducing expenses and boosting net income.

The list of tasks that machine learning can automate is long. As with data processing, how you use machine learning for process automation will depend on which functions exert the greatest drag on your time and resources.

Need ideas? Machine learning has shown encouraging real-world outcomes when used to automate data classification, report generation, IT threat monitoring, loss and fraud prevention and internal auditing. But the possibilities are truly endless.

3. Improving marketing personalization and efficiency

Machine learning is a powerful force multiplier in marketing campaigns, enabling virtually endless messaging and buyer-profile permutations, unlocking the gate to fully personalized marketing without demanding an army of copywriters or publicity agents.

What’s especially encouraging for smaller businesses without much marketing expertise is that machine learning’s potential is baked into the top everyday digital-advertising platforms, namely Facebook and Google. You don’t have to train your own algorithms to use this technology in your next microtargeting campaign.

4. Addressing business trends 

Machine learning has also proven its worth in detecting trends in large data sets. These trends are often too subtle for humans to tease out, or perhaps the data sets are simply too large for “dumb” programs to process effectively.

Whatever the reason for machine learning’s success in this space, the potential benefits are clear as day. For example, many small and midsize enterprises use machine learning technology to predict and reduce customer churn, looking for signs that customers are considering competitors and trigger retention processes with higher probabilities of success.

Elsewhere, companies of all sizes are getting more comfortable integrating machine learning into their hiring processes. By reinforcing existing biases in human-led hiring and promotion, earlier-generation algorithms did more harm than good, but newer models are able to counteract implicit bias and increase the chances of equitable outcomes.

5. Accelerating research cycles

A machine-learning unleashed in an R&D department is like an army of super-smart lab assistants. As more and more enterprises discover just what machine learning is capable of in and out of the lab, they’re feeling more confident about using it to eliminate some of the frustrating trial-and-error that lengthens research cycles and increases development costs. Machine learning won’t replace R&D experts anytime soon, but it does appear to empower them to use their time more effectively. More and better innovations could result.

Related: Develop a Basic Understanding of Machine Learning With These Courses

If the experience of competitor businesses that have already deployed machine learning to great effect is any guide for your own experience, the answer to this question is a resounding yes.

The more interesting question is how you choose to make machine learning work for your businesses. This prompts another question, around what operational and structural changes your machine learning processes will bring. These changes, up to and including reducing headcounts in redundant roles or winding up entire lines of business, could be painful in the short run even as they strengthen your enterprise for the long haul.

Like all great innovations that increase operational efficiency and eliminate low-value work, machine learning does not benefit everyone equally. It’s up to the humans in charge of these algorithms to make the transition as orderly and painless as possible. It seems there are some things machine learning can’t yet do … yet.

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