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Retail

That’s the bottom line from a report conducted by Boston Retail Partners (BRP) in May 2019. As more shoppers turn to e-commerce, their shopping habits in brick-and-mortar stores are evolving too. Unfortunately, most retailers are failing to meet customers’ changing expectations of the retail shopping experience, suggests the BRP study. Key Findings Shoppers use phones to research product features, prices, and availability while they are in a store. Thanks to the widespread use of e-commerce, consumers today can easily look up product information on mobile devices, compare prices and decide what to buy and where to buy it before leaving the comfort of their homes. The latest research on shopping habits conducted by BRP in 2019 reveals that 63% of consumers use their phones to find information about the products they’re interested in even while they are in a brick-and-mortar store. Retailers can use this consumer habit to their advantage by making relevant information about their products easily accessible on their websites. Consumers prefer retailers that offer a shared cart across different platforms. According to BRP,  modern shoppers’ expectations of retail experience are blurring the lines between on and offline shopping. Surveyed customers have indicated they want access to a single shopping cart across different sales channels and they’d like to be able to reach it via phone, computer or even in the physical store. Being able to start the shopping experience on using one channel, an online store, for example, and finish it in an actual store is becoming increasingly appealing to customers. With 56% of consumers saying they would rather shop from a retailer that offers a shared cart feature and only 7% of retailers offering it, there is a huge discrepancy between supply and demand. The greatest challenge to delivering on this expectation is the real-time inventory check. Most merchants have trouble updating their inventory data in real time, but this is a challenge worth tackling. Personalized shopping experience leads to customer loyalty. When shopping online, customers get a personalized shopping experience in the form of customized emails, loyalty rewards, coupon codes, and product suggestions based on previous purchases. Apparently, customers would like to see more of these advantages in offline stores too. “79% of consumers view personalized service from a sales associate as a determining factor when choosing the store they will shop in,” says Brian Brunk, principal at BRP. And retailers are catching on to this trend - over 50% of them indicate that personalization is one of their top priorities when it comes to their customer engagement goals. In Conclusion The main conclusion one can draw from this BRP’s research is that customers of today enjoy crisscrossing channels when shopping and that retailers need to focus on providing a consistent experience across all of them in order to gain and keep customer loyalty. To read the complete study, visit brpconsulting.com.

June 10,2019
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Startups

The United Arab Emirates has finally approved the $3.1 billion Uber-Careem deal. With proper regulatory approval, the deal has been finalized. That’s $1.7 billion in convertible notes and $1.4 billion in cash - the most successful startup exit ever in the Middle East & North Africa. The early investors, such as STC Ventures, got 100x returns on their original investment.MENA’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is bound to see severe changes in the aftermath of the acquisition. The former biggest rival in the Middle East can now offer a strong foothold in the region for Uber. Mudassir Sheikha, the co-founder, and CEO of Careem offered his take on the deal, noting it’s probably a significant lift-off moment for the Middle Eastern market.Uber is to acquire Careem’s delivery, mobility, and payments business across the entire region. Luckily, Careem is allowed to maintain its brand identity and merely become Uber’s subsidiary. The co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha will remain in the leading position, and all three co-founders are staying with the company.Uber will cut its losses in the Middle East by taking over its main competitor. They will also gain unique access to Morocco, Iraq, and Palestine, making use of the existing infrastructure. Back in 2012, Careem started as a corporate chauffeur service. In 2012, McKinsey consultants Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson, two former McKinsey consultants, created their first mobile app. With high ambitions for the future, Careem initiated their first round of external investment. They went for around $600,000, too much for some investors. Luckily, some angel investors as well as STC Ventures, and Oqual Investment Network raised $1.7 million, more than three times the original sum. Scaling quickly became an issue for this astonishingly successful company, and the simple pitch deck continued to evolve. Their innovative, local solutions took on quickly in the Middle East, changing the urban mobility landscape. In his letter to Careem employees, Mudassir Sheikha said that “A transaction of this magnitude puts the region’s emerging technology ecosystem squarely on the map of regional and foreign investors. It will radically and irreversibly enhance the support and funding opportunities for local entrepreneurs. Every ecosystem needs a landmark transaction, and we hope this will be ours.”Still, the deal is not without minor inherent setbacks. Back in 2017, when Careem was to expand to the Egyptian market, government officials agreed to allow access to users’ location data. Uber declined the offer, and Careem provided real-time access to the Egyptian government. As a result, 14 million users were affected in a 2018 data breach. Uber will assist Careem in solving the issue, offering advice and counseling to Careem’s security and legal teams. With Uber by its side, Careem is likely to expand their business at a faster pace, overcome past mistakes, and launch the region into a brighter digital future.

June 11,2019
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Small Business

Leveraging decades of experience in enterprise networking, Aruba has introduced Instant On, a safe and feature-rich WiFi solution for smaller organizations.Aruba Networks is a Santa Clara, California-based wireless networking company, founded in February 2002. Currently, it’s a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise that’s ranked No. 107 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by revenue.To deliver these cutting-edge results in the WiFi market, Aruba is leveraging decades of enterprise networking, and a partnership with Synnex, winner of Distributor of the Year in the US and Canada at 2019 the Aruba Americas Partner Summit. Specifically built for small organizations and businesses, the new Aruba Instant On WiFi solution promises to deliver a unique synergy of secure, and high-speed WiFi. Hyper-competitive and ambitious small businesses understand that they cannot lead the way in their industry without a reliable and fast WiFi connection. This is especially true of successful businesses struggling to keep up with overwhelming expansion. Aruba’s Instant On solution is flexible enough to accommodate for growth and changes in the future.The Instant On family of solutions will deliver indoor/outdoor WiFi access points. It will be an easily deployable wireless solution that even non-tech-savvy folks can manage remotely from any mobile device. Still, this simple, speedy, and connected solution might be cause for some concern — after all, 43% of cyber crimes target small businesses, according to data compiled by SCORE. Consequences can be severe as 60% of targeted companies go out of business within the first couple of months of being hacked. Most SMBs have a relatively small client base, so a tarnished reputation can prove detrimental. Joining together top-notch security and speedy, quality WiFi is, therefore, a particularly ambitious goal Aruba has accomplished. The overall necessity of an internet connection for any employee to complete daily tasks in today’s economic landscape has forced small businesses to rethink their networking requirements. SMBs must align with the latest technology shifts and trends with relatively limited resources. Aruba’s easy-to-use, intuitive mobile app offers simple and secure set-up and management services. Two management modes are available on its Instant On mobile app or cloud-based web portal. This is matched by top-of-the-line security capabilities, including compliance with the latest authentication protocols such as WPA2/WPA3. Instant On combines Aruba’s industry-leading 802.11ac Wave 2 technology with a WiFi solution built specifically for small businesses. It also provides unique flexibility to scale up as a business’s needs change.The shipping of the first set of Aruba Instant On APs will begin in July, with the price starting at $119.

June 12,2019
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Small Business

Canadian small business owners now have a strong incentive to boost their cross-border sales. PayPal has recently partnered with netParcel, a Toronto-based tech company offering access to substantial shipping rate discounts. The new discount solution can save up to 75% on shipping costs, not only outside of Canada but within Canada as well.As a result of this partnership, over 250,000 businesses that use PayPal can now enjoy aggressive shipping discounts, whether they are shipping parcels within Canada or internationally. Additional features include a one-day shipping service to the US and tracking links on every parcel. An integrated platform allowing sellers to meet all their shipping needs is also available. Sellers importing from eBay, Shopify, Etsy or WooCommerce can now choose the fastest and cheapest way to send their parcels in one place. The shipping rate comparison option allows users to select the best carrier and service. PayPal’s Seller Protection is available on all eligible shipments, and it enables users to schedule free parcel pick-ups.The lack of efficient shipping options and high shipping costs has been holding Canadian sellers back for years. Despite the 14 trade agreements with countries all over the globe, only 12% of SMBs were able to trade internationally on a substantial scale.The one-day shipping service to the US is particularly important. The US is one of the most profitable export markets, offering some of the most significant international growth opportunities. The mutual support between these countries allowed goods valued up to $800 to be sent free of tax, brokerage fees, and duties.Offering link tracking for every parcel relieves one of the biggest buyer anxieties - whether or not the product will even reach them. Now, they can keep a close eye on the shipping process every step of the way. Finally, unlike most other subscription-based shipping solutions, this shipping tool comes with no extra charge.One of the beneficiaries of the new shipping discounts agreed to share his take on PayPal’s latest shipping solution. Michael E., the owner of HockeyAuthentic.com, has been selling licensed NHL jerseys for decades. He estimates that the new shipping option is saving him $1000 per month. He cites high shipping costs as one of the biggest setbacks to his business, as most customers expect free shipping. According to Michael, the new rates are the best he’s seen in his 28 years of doing business. Michael also said his hockey-loving customers are happy with the one-day US shipping option. "Thousands of times we've next-day delivered a hockey jersey to a fan in the U.S. or Canada going to a game that night. This absolutely blows away our customers with that kind of delivery speed," he said. Pampering fans and customers is never a bad idea, and the strategic netParcel partnership can help introduce Canadian SMBs to a world of new opportunities at breakneck speed.

June 12,2019
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Small Business

According to the 2019 Center for the Urban Future report, since 2008, Brooklyn’s tech start-up growth rate has been second only to that of San Francisco, home of the Silicon Valley.Their 356% growth rate exceeded that of New York City (308%), Philadelphia (290%), Los Angeles (279%), and Chicago (270%). Brooklyn also outperformed the remaining 16 major tech hubs in the US.While researching and producing the 2019 report, the CUF also collaborated with  Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Industry City, and Dumbo Improvement District. Their detailed data analysis comes from Churnbase—a global tech-startup-tracking database operating with a mix of public, private, and self-reported sources. Since 2008’s startup score of 264, Brooklyn has come a long way, with 1,205 tech-enabled start-ups operating in 2018. The Center for Urban Future found that the Brooklyn startup count amounts to more than that of Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx put together.  The proliferation of tech startups resulted in a rise in tech sector employment by 175% from 2007 to 2017. That’s double the 86% growth in Manhattan, and then some. The CUF analysis identified three core areas that have brought Brooklyn the spectacular growth in the innovation economy: creative companies, tech startups, and finally, next-generation makers and manufacturers.Startups in industries such as media and entertainment (249 start-ups), commerce and shopping (174), financial services (102), and data and analytics (81) have been growing at a breakneck speed. The innovation economy has also seen a noteworthy concentration of creativity and tech startups, including artificial intelligence (23 start-ups), blockchain (14), and virtual reality (8). Brooklyn tech startups have also ventured into fusing traditional manufacturing processes with innovative design and technology. Many tech startups are operating in areas closely related to manufacturing, including hardware (102 startups), food and beverage (53), consumer electronics (44), consumer goods (41), and others. Still, all this skyrocketing tech success in Brooklyn has come at a price. The new report shows a significant drop in more traditional manufacturing jobs, although an increase in net job gains in areas such as electrical equipment and jewelry manufacturing has been observed. As Brooklyn has evolved into an oasis of groundbreaking opportunities in tech and tech-fused industries, the locals have faced the resulting gentrification problems and an exponential increase in housing prices, further exacerbating the issue of housing affordability. Overall, the new report’s analysis of Brooklyn’s tech sector supports the claims of Brooklyn’s growing advantage over Manhattan, second only to San Francisco, the heart of the Silicon Valley.

June 13,2019
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Small Business

The rates of suicide, drug and alcohol-related deaths are the highest they’ve been since records began. The Commonwealth Fund report released on Wednesday raises concerns over U.S. citizens’ mental health. The report covered all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The researchers performed complex, multi-factor analyses in their search for the cause of these alarming death rates. As many as 47 different factors were analyzed over a five-year period, some of which included the growing burden of working families, insurance coverage, obesity, and even smoking. The biggest problem, however, turned out to be the rising cost of healthcare and poor healthcare coverage.The newest data on these aptly named “deaths of despair” casts a shadow on the citizens’ right to the pursuit of happiness. The number of people who are able to afford proper medical care continues to drop, even among the employed. In the 2019 Silicon Valley Bank U.S. Startup Outlook report, startup owners cited healthcare costs as the second most troubling public policy concern, at 44%. As data from the Commonwealth Fund report indicates, business owners’ inability to afford health insurance for either themselves or their employees can have grave consequences on large groups of people, even entire communities. Still, even though the average rates are troubling, rising suicide rates and the opioid crisis show striking regional disparities. The ongoing opioid crisis has hit a number of states in The Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic region and, New England hard. In West Virginia, the drug OD death rates amounted to more than double the national average in 2017. That’s 57.8 deaths per 100,000 residents. Ohio was the follow up with 46.3 drug-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The next highest drug OD death rates were noticed in the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Delaware, and New Hampshire. As for suicide and alcohol-related deaths, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oregon, Montana, and the Dakotas had the highest death rates. On the bright side, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, Connecticut, and Vermont ranked the highest in health rankings. Arkansas, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi showed the lowest health rankings in all 50 states. The most telling difference between said states, according to the CF report, was the way they handle health care and coverage. The inability to afford proper psychiatric assistance, time in a rehab center, or even healthcare coverage in broader terms results in significantly higher suicide rates and opioid-related deaths.All five of the 17 states that did not offer access to Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act had the highest rates of uninsured adults.The most common reasons Americans cite as the leading cause of stress is healthcare (43%)  and the economy, at (35%) according to the 2017 Stress of America, the State of Our Nation report. Around 28% of U.S. adults claimed that high taxes were the highest source of stress, followed by unemployment and low wages at 22%.With healthcare costs going up, Medicaid has become a necessity for many U.S. citizens. At 4%, Massachusetts, which expanded access to Medicaid, had the lowest rate of uninsured adults while Texas, which declined to do so, had the highest rate of 24%. The National Center for Health Statistics found that 12.7% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 took antidepressants. Given the significant regional differences in all deaths of despair, any incentives and efforts to combat the epidemic ought to be tailored to local circumstances, the Commonwealth Fund report authors concluded. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

June 13,2019
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Startups

Bitrefill has just closed a $2 million seed round led by Coin Ninja, with participation from Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, Fulgur Ventures and BnkToTheFuture. This veteran startup provides cryptocurrency gift cards for big brands and mobile refills. It’s also building Lightning Network-based products and services. In addition to previous funding from Boost VC and others, the new seed round adds up to $2.4 million total in Bitrefill capital. At the moment, Bitrefill is only offering its services to U.S. and European clients. The new funding round will enable its expansion to new jurisdictions, and help it launch other innovative products. As their CCO John Carvalho stated for CoinDesk, they plan on achieving “worldwide coverage within the year.” It’s also highly likely Bitrefill will hire new people and expand its creative staff. Charlie Lee and Bitrefill stated in a press release that the startup’s increased participation in the lighting network ecosystem “opens up even more potential for Bitcoin and beyond.” In 2019, Bitrefill launched its Thor & Thor Turbo products to facilitate onboarding to the Lightning Network. This enabled users to give lightning channels to other people with no need for new setup on the recipient’s end. 1ML.com claims that Thor is the main lightning network capacity increasing service in terms of value with almost $19,000 worth of Bitcoin. Thor is also the top service provider running nodes on the network.Although Carvalho refused to comment on the exact revenue his 16-person team generated in 2019, he stated cryptocurrency gift card sector is growing at a breakneck speed. With regards to broader plans for allocating this capital in 2019, Sergej Kotliar, the Bitcoin startup’s founder and CEO added:“We see it as a big token of trust that investors from the Bitcoin and broader cryptocurrency community have chosen to put their money behind us and support us in our growth journey.” One should bear in mind that several funding rounds are often a necessary step in the startup growth lifecycle, according to the 2019 Startup Failure Deep Dive Report. In fact, every subsequent seed round is increasingly more difficult to obtain. Of the 1,098 tech companies CBInsights tracked that raised seed rounds in the US during a two-year period, 46%, could raise a second seed round, and only 14% had successfully raised a fourth round of funding. With proper backing by Coin Ninja, Bitrefill is much more likely to rise to more ambitious, innovative outcomes, and work with more Bitcoin businesses to grow the network.

June 14,2019
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Startups

General Electric (GE) is considering selling GE Ventures, a startup that has invested in over 100 early-stage companies.The world-renowned conglomerate and employer of two Nobel prize winners has been short on cash for years now, after a series of poorly-timed acquisitions and generous share buybacks. GE Ventures owns stakes in many successful startups, including Elon Musk’s high-speed transportation business - Virgin Hyperloop One. Other examples include PingThings, a big data and machine-learning company, and a smart window manufacturer called View."During this time of transformation for GE, we are evaluating strategic options for GE Ventures to continue delivering returns for our shareholders and partners," GE stated on Thursday. News of a potential sale of GE Ventures was reported earlier by CNBC.A wide array of companies GE Ventures is interested in backing are listed on its website. The startups come from sectors such as logistics and medical technology, as well as ones dealing with cutting-edge AI and blockchain. GE offered no comments on sales-related details, but it did mention a plan on remaining "committed to supporting our portfolio companies, business units and partnering with the entrepreneurial ecosystem." The exact amount of money the GE Ventures sale could generate is uncertain. The sale of GE Ventures is the latest in a series of GE business sales, some of which are integral to the company’s public image and perceived identityAnother long-standing representative that had to go is BioPharma unit, a drug maker instrument and software manufacturer. BioPharma was sold to Danaher for over $21 billion. GE is also likely to get rid of most of its stake in Baker Hughes (BHGE), the oil services company GE acquired only 2 years ago, under its former CEO, Jeff Immelt. GE has also been working on selling its famous light bulb unit for years now, but to no avail. Still, according to Fitch Ratings, even if it fails to sell the light bulb unit, GE ought to be able to raise at least $37 billion from the announced transactions. So far in 2019, GE has succeeded in improving its financial situation to a degree, with its shares spiking more than 40%Wall Street has complimented the immediacy with which GE has approached the business sales and raising cash under CEO Larry Culp. If it keeps up the pace, it could do a lot to stabilize the business.Also, as Fitch noted, GE is leveraged higher than its peers, and this position is threatened unless the balance sheet is fixed, and the company manages to turn its business around. 

June 14,2019
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