PayBright , startup that began at Furman University, grows in Raleigh
When Dustin Magaziner founded PayBright in 2012 while he was a student at Furman University, it was supposed to make “just a little money." It's done that – and much more......»»
Reed Hastings explains the psychology behind Netflix games in an exclusive interview: "We"re unafraid to fail"
"We have to learn by doing, learn by trying things," the billionaire co-founder and co-CEO of Netflix told Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer. "We're unafraid to fail, we're willing to try new things," said Reed Hastings, co-CEO of Netflix. Netflix Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings recently discussed the multibillion-dollar company's future with Mathias Döpfner. Döpfner is the co-CEO of Axel Springer, Insider's parent company, and a board member at Netflix. Netflix gained 40 million new subscribers during the pandemic and has plans to branch out into the video game space. You are perceived as a successful entrepreneur, and yet your first idea did not work out. You wanted to invent the foot mouse. Can you tell us what the foot mouse was, and why it did not work? I have lots of ideas, but not always the best judgment. I was using a keyboard and mouse, and I had this idea that I could use my hands only for the keyboard and use my foot to operate the mouse. It was the mid-1980s. And so, I worked with some designers and came up with the foot mouse. But then we found out that your leg cramps, and the floor is very dirty. After a couple days, it's disgusting. And so, my first big idea was a total failure. I was just as excited about the foot mouse as I was about Netflix. That's why, when I briefly tried to be an investor, I was totally awful at it, because I was just so full of hope for every person that came in. I was like,"Sure, that might work!" I have a very optimistic personality.Well, the foot mouse did not work out. But Netflix did! It now has over 200 million subscribers worldwide and a market cap of around 250 billion. How did Netflix do during the pandemic?The internet is becoming very widely adopted for smart TVs, so that has given us a pretty steady line. We gained about 30 million more members a year for five years as smart TVs rolled out. Under COVID, in 2020, we gained 40 million, and this year it will probably be about 20 million. It's all about staying on the same trajectory, but COVID's made it a bit lumpier. The fundamental fact remains: can we tell amazing stories? There are so many people now competing in streaming and it's really exciting. That will just drive more people to get a smart TV, and to watch television.What did COVID do to movie production?Shooting stopped it for a while. But we and others figured out how to get back to shooting, with testing, different zones for the teams on set and making it as safe as possible.Netflix is now entering the video game space. Is it a new strategic priority?Sure. You know, when you have a small child, a two-year-old, they're always saying "Papa, will you read to me?" They love to be told stories. And they also love playing with their friends and roughhousing with their cousins or their siblings. And these two main aspects of children's psychology - read me a story and I want to play - when they get older, one part grows into watching movies and series. People want to lean back and be told good stories; that's Netflix. And the other part is interactive play, which grows into video gaming.Until now, you've concentrated on telling good stories.Exactly. Now that we're big enough, we have been trying to expand from showing original series in the US to showing documentaries, German films, French films, and so on. We've continued to expand, and each one of these is a new area. We have to learn by doing, learn by trying things. We're unafraid to fail, we're willing to try new things. And so, we're going to try video gaming. Maybe the first game will be as good as "Among Us," the big game of last year. But more likely, it will take us many tries. About 10,000 games per year are launched on mobile. So, it's a big, crowded marketplace. We may not succeed, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try. And the thing about mobile games is that you get a lot of ads and upsells, trying to get players to buy this sword, buy this robe. The commerce really distorts the storytelling. But on Netflix, you get to just play the game. There is no upselling, no ads. We just want to provide you with the entertainment and the thrill of playing the game.Are there any other ideas for future growth pillars at Netflix? Sport or news, for example? Sports or news are not really compatible with entertainment. News is about trying to get to reality. And we're about escapism. We're on a very different kind of course, even if we offer documentaries. What we want is for people to feel, we want emotion. The main areas where we've still got a long way to go are getting better at films and series from around the world. We've had some great successes like Dark and Barbarians. And we're investing more. And the amazing thing is that the market will be much, much larger in five years than it is today. Before, I mentioned 10,000 video games produced per year. The figure for films is less than 1,000. In the German language alone, 70,000 books per year are published.And you don't feel overwhelmed by books, do you?No, of course not. You learn to choose what you want to read, you're perfectly okay with the huge selection. So, this idea that we're going to produce too much, and that the consumers won't love it is just not true. Consumers love greatness. And to get there, you have to try lots of things and give many people a chance to express their voice. For 100 years, you could only watch an episode of a show, say, at 8 o'clock on Thursday night, or you go to the theater. Now, it's much more flexible. You can watch what you want when you want, and you can also go to a theater. We just want to provide people with that choice, and that expands the market a lot.Netflix got famous, among other things, because it is a no-rule company. And you wrote an important book about that. Nevertheless, there is one unwritten rule, and that is that you don't like to talk about competition. Because you think we should just talk and care about the things that we can really influence ourselves, and not about things that other people are doing. Given the fact that there are now some competitors trying to get pieces of the cake that Netflix took so successfully: Does that rule still apply?Since I wrote a book titled "No Rules Rule," I can't say that there's a rule about what you talk about.So among the three categories of potential competitors: the platforms like Apple and Amazon; the original content creators like HBO, and Disney; and the unknown, young, disruptive startup. Which of the three would you take most seriously?I take all of them seriously. But I would say Disney and HBO eat, sleep, and breathe entertainment. That's what they do, it's what they live, and they have a 100-year history of doing that.If you talk to the creative community, there are two main reasons - at least that's what I hear - why they love to work with Netflix. The first one is that Netflix is fast, and secondly, it provides a lot of freedom. How do you make sure that an incumbent, which has become as big as Netflix, can still keep these two USPs?The thing that helps producers most is the big platform, because if you put your film or series on Netflix, the whole world sees it. So, our biggest proposition is that, if you want broad distribution around the world, then Netflix is really the superior platform. But in terms of freedom and being quick, we know that those are very important, as well as all the technical support we provide concerning production.Certain countries, like Turkey like Hong Kong for example, are now implementing rules that basically makes things very difficult for a freedom-oriented company like Netflix. How do you deal with censorship or more subtle interference with your products?In the US today, whether you get vaccinated or not is political. Nearly everything has become political. We have a series called "Queer Eye" that stars five LGBTQ men who share heartfelt and emotional makeovers with people all over the world. "Queer Eye" is in Saudi Arabia, in Indonesia, in Russia, and in Hungary. So, our ability to influence culture is not just in documentaries; it's really quite broad. "Sex Education," with season three coming out this week, is in every country in the world. And it's not banned anywhere. We do have about a half dozen or so per year that get banned in a certain country, which is unfortunate. And we would rather not have that, of course. All in all, though, we really do have very few takedowns in very few countries and we do report them annually in our ESG report.There has been some improvement over the last couple of years in getting data from Netflix to the producers, but it is still minuscule compared to all other exploitation means. What is the problem?I think that's a good point. We're moving towards providing more and more data and towards standardizing. You know how Spotify has the artist portal and you can look up lots of things. We're moving towards that, but we're not yet there. But we're making steps in that direction on a consistent basis, so you will get more and more information.You launched the company Netflix more than two decades ago. You had to pivot at least three times. Did you in your early days expect, imagine, dream about creating a company of that size and importance?I was very fortunate to be in internet companies in the 90s, and so I always believed that the Internet speeds would continue to do this, as they have. And so, when we named the company Netflix 25 years ago, that was because we believed in internet television and that possibility. I'd say what I did not see is us doing original content. The concept that we had is sort of blockbuster online, where you have everything from everybody, and then we would be a retailer. And I didn't understand the value producer, distributor, channels, exclusive content that HBO and others had done. Ted Sarandos, my partner, really figured out that part that if you looked at again, HBO, which was our model for a long time, having exclusive content was essential, and then we ended up pivoting towards that. The first part of that being "House of Cards," and then getting into building our own content. So, it's been a really two-part thing one is, yes, internet entertainment and second, doing original content.With Ted Sarandos you have established a co-CEO. You're still extremely active in the company but, nevertheless, establishing your co-CEO is also a sign that a kind of mid-term transition is in your mind. A sentence that I would like you to complete, and that is: In five years, I would like to spend much more time…Spending a little more time on philanthropy, that's where I'm taking time off. Not doing something else commercial. But I've had the great fortune to work with Ted for more than 20 years. He's been my partner and effective co-CEO for a long time and now he's formally co-CEO. Doing global entertainment competing with the people we're competing with, we need all the CEOs we can get. So I'm super happy to have him with me.And philanthropy? What is the next thing that you would like to do?Yeah, the project I just made a big investment in is MyAgro. It's a West African farming and savings collective. What they do is help farmers with scratch cards save money when they have the harvest. And then you build up these scratch cards that are mobile validated and then, when the planting time comes, you get fertilizer, or high-quality, great seeds, and some advice. We want to help it go from 100,000 farmers in Senegal and Mali to a million. I was a high school math teacher in southern Africa, which was my first job out of university. I got the chance to travel throughout most countries in Africa and so it's just kind of close to my heart. I love working to help these farmers, you know, with a little bit of fertilizer and good seeds, you can double the output of a small subsistence farmer so it's really a profound impact. So that's the current project.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Transcript: Soraya Darabi
The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Soraya Darabi, TMV, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This… Read More The post Transcript: Soraya Darabi appeared first on The Big Picture. The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Soraya Darabi, TMV, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest. Her name is Soraya Darabi. She is a venture capital and impact investor who has an absolutely fascinating background working for, first with the New York Times Social Media Group then with a startup that eventually gets purchased by OpenTable, and then becoming a venture investor that focuses on women and people of color-led startups which is not merely a way to, quote-unquote, “do good” but it’s a broad area that is wildly underserved by the venture community and therefore is very inefficient. Meaning, there’s a lot of upside in this. You can both do well and do good by investing in these areas. I found this to be absolutely fascinating and I think you will also, if you’re at all interested in entrepreneurship, social media startups, deal flow, how funds identify who they want to invest in, what it’s like to actually experience an exit as an entrepreneur, I think you’ll find this to be quite fascinating. So with no further ado, my conversation with TMV’s Soraya Darabi. VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. My special guest this week is Soraya Darabi. She is the Co-Founder and General Partner of TMV, a venture capital firm that has had a number of that exits despite being relatively young, 65 percent of TMV’s startups are led by women or people of color. Previously, she was the cofounder of Foodspotting, an app named App of the Year by Apple and Wire that was eventually purchased by OpenTable. Soraya Darabi, welcome to Bloomberg. SORAYA DARABI; GENERAL PARTNER & FOUNDER; TMV: My goodness, Barry, thank you for having me. RITHOLTZ: I’ve been looking forward to this conversation since our previous discussion. We were on a Zoom call with a number of people discussing blockchain and crypto when it was really quite fascinating and I thought you had such an unusual and interesting background, I thought you would make a perfect guest for the show. Let’s start with your Manager of Digital Partnerships and Social Media at the “New York Times” when social media was really just ramping up. Tell us about what that was like. Tell us what you did in the late aughts at The Times. DARABI: Absolutely. I was fresh faced out of a university. I had recently graduated with mostly a journalism concentration from Georgetown and did a small stint in Condé Nast right around the time they acquired Reddit for what will soon be nothing because Reddit’s expecting to IPO at around 15 billion. And that experience at Reddit really offered me a deep understanding of convergence, what was happening to digital media properties as they partnered for the first time when nascent but scaling social media platforms. And so the “New York Times” generously offered me a role that was originally called manager of buzz marketing. I think that’s what they called social media in 2006 and then that eventually evolved into manager of digital partnerships and social media which, in essence, meant that we were aiming to be the first media property in the world to partner with companies that are household names today but back in the they were fairly unbalanced to Facebook and Twitters, of course, but also platforms that really took off for a while and then plateaued potentially. The Tumblers of the world. And it was responsibility to understand how we could effectively generate an understanding of the burgeoning demographics of this platform and how we could potentially bring income into The Times for working with them, but more importantly have a journalist that could authentically represent themselves on new media. And so, that was a really wonderful role to have directly out of University and then introduce me to folks with whom I still work today. DARABI: That’s quite interesting. So when you’re looking at a lot of these companies, you mentioned Facebook and Twitter and Tumbler, how do you know if something’s going to be a Facebook or a MySpace, so Twitter or a Tumbler, what’s going to survive or not, when you’re cutting deals with these companies on behalf of The Times, are you thinking in terms of hey, who’s going to stick around, wasn’t that much earlier that the dot-com implosion took place prior to you starting with The Times? DARABI: It’s true, although I don’t remember the dot-com implosion. So, maybe that naivete helped because all I had was enthusiasm, unbridled enthusiasm for these new companies and I operated then and now still with a beta approach to business. Testing out new platforms and trying to track the data, what’s scaling, what velocity is this platform scaling and can we hitch a ride on the rochet ship if they will so allow. But a lot of our partnerships then and now, as an investor, are predicated upon relationships. And so, as most, I think terrific investors that I listen to, who I listen to in your show, at least, will talk to you about the importance of believing and the founder and the founder’s vision and that was the case back then and remains the case today. RITHOLTZ: So, when you were at The Times, your tenure there very much overlapped the great financial crisis. You’re looking at social media, how did that manifest the world of social media when it looked like the world of finance was imploding at that time? DARABI: Well, it was a very interesting time. I remember having, quite literally, 30-second meetings with Sorkin as he would run upstairs to my floor, in the eighth floor, to talk about a deal book app that we wanted to launch and then he’d ran back down to his desk to do much more important work, I think, and — between the financial crisis to the world. So, 30-second meetings aside, it was considered to be, in some ways, a great awakening for the Web 2.0 era as the economy was bottoming out, like a recession, it also offered a really interesting opportunity for entrepreneurs, many of whom had just been laid off or we’re looking at this as a sizeable moment to begin to work on a side hustle or a life pursuit. And so, there’s — it’s unsettling, of course, any recession or any great awakening, but lemonade-lemons, when the opening door closing, there was a — there was a true opportunity as well for social media founders, founders focusing on convergence in any industry, really, many of which are predicated in New York. But again, tinkering on an idea that could ultimately become quite powerful because if you’re in the earliest stage of the riskiest asset class, big venture, there’s always going to be seed funding for a great founder with a great idea. And so, I think some of the smartest people I’d ever met in my life, I met at the onset of the aftermath of that particular era in time. RITHOLTZ: So you mentioned side hustle. Let’s talk a little bit about Foodspotting which is described as a visual geolocal guide to dishes instead of restaurants which sounds appealing to me. And it was named App of the Year by both Apple and Wired. How do you go from working at a giant organization like The Times to a startup with you and a cofounder and a handful of other coders working with you? DARABI: Well, five to six nights a week after my day job at the “New York Times,” I would go to networking events with technologists and entrepreneurs after hours. I saw that a priority to be able to partner from the earliest infancy with interesting companies for that media entity. I need to at least know who these founders were in New York and Silicon Valley. And so, without a true agenda other than keen curiosity to learn what this business were all about, I would go to New York tech meetup which Scott Heiferman of meetup.com who’s now in charge LP in my fund would create. And back then, the New York Tech Meetup was fewer than 40 people. I believe it’s been the tens of thousands now. RITHOLTZ: Wow, that’s … DARABI: In New York City alone. And so, it was there that I met some really brilliant people. And in particular, a gentleman my age who’s building a cloud-computing company that was essentially arbitraging AWS to repopulate consumer-facing cloud data services for enterprises, B2B2C play. And we all thought it would be Dropbox. The company ultimately wasn’t, but I will tell you the people with whom I worked with that startup because I left the “New York Times” to join that startup, to this day remain some of the most successful people in Silicon Valley and Alley. And actually, one of those persons is a partner at our firm now, Darshan. He was the cofounder of that particular company which is called drop.io. but I stayed there very quickly. I was there for about six months. But at that startup, I observed how a young person my age could build a business, raise VC, he was the son of a VC and so he was exceptionally attuned to the changing landscape of venture and how to position the company so that it would be attractive to the RREs of the world and then the DFJs. And I … RITHOLTZ: Define those for us. RREs and BFJs. DARABI: Sorry. Still, today, very relevant and very successful venture capital firms. And in particular, they were backing a lot of the most interesting ideas in Web 2.0 era when I joined this particular startup in 2010. Well, that startup was acquired by Facebook and I often say, no, thanks to me. But the mafia that left that particular startup continues to this day to coinvest with one another and help one another’s ideas to exceed. And it was there that I began to build the confidence, I think, that I really needed to explore my own entrepreneurial ideas or to help accelerate ideas. And Foodspotting was a company that I was advising while at that particular startup, that was really taking off. This was in the early days of when Instagram was still in beta and we observed that the most commonly posted photos on Instagram were of food. And so, by following that lead, we basically built an app as well that activity that continues to take place every single day. I still see food photos on Twitter every time I open up my stream. And decided to match that with an algorithm that showed folks wherever they were in the world, say in Greece, that might want spanakopita or if I’m in Japan, Okinawa, we help people to discover not just the Michelin-rated restaurants or the most popular local hunt in New York but rather what’s the dish that they should be ordering. And then the app was extremely good was populating beautiful photos of that particular dish and then mirroring them with accredited reviews from the Zagats of the world but also popular celebrity shots like Marcus Samuelsson in New York. And that’s why we took off because it was a cult-beloved app of its time back when there were only three geolocation apps in the iTunes apparently store. It was we and Twitter and Foursquare. So, there was a first-mover advantage. Looking back in hindsight, I think we sold that company too soon. OpenTable bought the business. A year and a half later, Priceline bought OpenTable. Both were generous liquidity events for the founders that enabled us to become angel investors. But sometimes I wish that that app still existed today because I could see it being still incredibly handy in my day-to-day life. RITHOLTZ: To say the least. So did you have to raise money for Foodspotting or did you just bootstrapped it and how did that experience compare with what that exit was like? DARABI: We did. We raised from tremendous investors like Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures whom I think of as being one of the best angel investors of the world. He was on the board. But we didn’t raise that much capital before the business is ultimately sold and what I learned in some of those early conversations, I would say, that may have ultimately led to LOIs and term sheets was that so much of M&As about wining and dining and as a young person, particularly for me, you and I discussed before the show, Barry, we’re both from New York, I’m not from a business-oriented family to say the least. My mom’s an academic, my father was a cab driver in New York City. And so, there are certain elements of this game, raising venture and ultimately trying to exit your company, that you don’t learn from a business book. And I think navigating that as a young person was complicated if I had to speak economically. RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. What is purposeful change? DARABI: Well, the world purpose, I suppose, especially in the VC game could come across as somewhat of a cliché. But we try to be as specific as possible when we allude to the impact that our investment could potentially make. And so, specifically, we invest in five verticals at our early stage New York City-based venture fund. We invest in what we call the care economy, just companies making all forms of care, elder care to pet care to health care, more accessible and equitable. We invest in financial inclusion. So this is a spin on fintech. These are companies enabling wealth creation, education, and most importantly literacy for all, that I think is really important to democratization of finance. We invest in the future of work which are companies creating better outcomes for workers and employees alike. We invest in the future of work which are companies creating better outcomes for workers and employers alike. We invest in purpose as it pertains to transportation. So, not immediately intuitive but companies creating transparency and efficiency around global supply chain and mobility. I’m going to talk about why we pick that category in a bit. And sustainability. So, tech-enabled sustainable solutions. These are companies optimizing for sustainability from process to product. With these five verticals combined, we have a subspecies which is that diverse founders and diverse employee bases and diverse cap table. It is not charity, it’s simply good for business. And so, in addition to being hyper specific about the impact in which we invest, we also make it a priority and a mandate at our firm to invest in the way the world truly look. And when we say that on our website, we link to census data. And so, we invest in man and women equally. We invest in diverse founders, almost all of the time. And we track this with data and precious to make sure that our investments reflect not just one zip code in California but rather America at large. RITHOLTZ: And you have described this as non-obvious founders. Tell us a little bit about that phrase. DARABI: Well, not obvious is a term you hear a lot when you go out to Silicon Valley. And I don’t know, I think it was coined by a well-known early PayPal employee turned billionaire turned investor who actually have a conference centered around non-obvious ideas. And I love the phrase. I love thinking about investment PC that are contrary because we have a contrary point of view, contrarian point of view, you often have outlier results because if you’re right, you’re taking the risk and your capturing the reward. When you’re investing in non-obvious founders, it should be that is the exact same outcome. And so, it almost sort of befuddled me as a person with a hard to pronounce name in Silicon Valley, why it was that we’re an industry that prides itself on investing in innovation and groundbreaking ideas and the next frontier of X, Y, and Z and yet all of those founders in which we were investing, collectively, tended to kind of look the same. They were coming from the same schools and the same types of families. And so, to me, there was nothing innovative at all about backing that Wharton, PSB, HBS guy who is second or third-generation finance. And what really excites me about venture is capturing a moment in time that’s young but also the energy is palpable around not only the idea in which the founder is building but the categories of which they’re tackling and that sounded big. I’ll be a little bit more speficic. And so, at TMV, we tried to see things before they’re even coming around the bend. For instance, we were early investors in a company called Cityblock Health which is offering best in class health care specifically for low income Americans. So they focus on the most vulnerable population which are underserved with health care and they’re offering them best in class health care access at affordable pricing because it’s predominantly covered through a payer relationship. And this company is so powerful to us for three reasons because it’s not simply offering health care to the elite. It’s democratizing access to care which I think is absolutely necessary in term out for success of any kind. We thought this was profoundly interesting because the population which they serve is also incredibly diverse. And so when you look at that investment over, say, a comparable company, I won’t name names, that offers for-profit health care, out-of-pocket, you can see why this is an opportunity that excites us as impact investors but we don’t see the diversity of the team it’s impact. We actually see that as their unfair advantage because they are accessing a population authentically that others might ignore. RITHOLTZ: Let me see if I understand this correctly. When you talk about non-obvious find — founders and spaces like this, what I’m hearing from you is you’re looking at areas where the market has been very inefficient with how it allocates capital … DARABI: Yes. RITHOLTZ: … that these areas are just overlooked and ignored, hey, if you want to go on to silicon valley and compete with everybody else and pay up for what looks like the same old startup, maybe it will successful and maybe it won’t, that’s hypercompetitive and hyper efficient, these are areas that are just overlooked and there is — this is more than just do-goodery for lack of a better word. There are genuine economic opportunities here with lots of potential upside. DARABI: Absolutely. So, my business partner and I, she and I found each other 20 years ago as undergrads at Georgetown but we went in to business after she was successful and being one of the only women in the world to take a shipping business public with her family, and we got together and we said we have a really unique access, she and I. And the first SPV that we collaborated on back in 2016 was a young business at the time, started by two women, that was focused on medical apparel predominantly for nurses. Now it’s nurses and doctors. And they were offering a solution to make medical apparel, so scrubs, more comfortable and more fashionable for nurses. I happen to have nurses and doctors in my family so doing due diligence for this business is relatively simple. I called my aunt who’s a nurse practitioner, a nurse her life, and she said, absolutely. When you’re working in a uniform at the hospital, you want something comfortable with extra pockets that makes you look and feel good. The VCs that they spoke to at the time, and they’ve been very public about this, in the beginning, anyway, were less excited because they correlated this particular business for the fashion company. But if you look back at our original memo which I saved, it says, FIGS, now public on the New York Stock Exchange is a utility business. It’s a uniform company that can verticalize beyond just medical apparel. And so, we helped value that company at 15 million back in 2016. And this year, in 2021, they went public at a $7 billion market cap. RITHOLTZ: Wow. DARABI: And so, what is particularly exciting for us going back to that conversation on non-obvious founders is that particular business, FIGS, was the first company in history to have two female co-founders go public. And when we think of success at TMV, we don’t just think about financial success and IRR and cash on cash return for our LPs, of course we think about that. But we also think who are we cheerleading and with whom do we want to go into business. I went to the story on the other side of the fence that we want to help and we measure non-obvious not just based on gender or race because I think that’s a little too precise in some ways. Sometimes, for us non-obvious, is around geography, I would say. I’m calling you from Athens, as you know, and in Greece, yesterday, I got together with a fund manager. I’m lucky enough to be an LP in her fund and she was talking about the average size of a seed round in Silicon Valley these days, hovering around 30 million. And I was scratching my head because at our fund, TMV, we don’t see that. We’re investing in Baltimore, Maryland, and in Austin, Texas and the average price for us to invest in the seed round is closer to 5 million or 6 million. And so, we actually can capture larger ownership of the pie early on and then develop a very close-knit relationship with these founders but might not be as networked in the Valley where there’s 30 VC funds to everyone that exist in Austin, Texas. RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And so, yes, I think you’re right to say that it’s about inefficiencies in market but also just around — about being persistent and looking where others are not. RITHOLTZ: That’s quite intriguing. Your team is female-led. You have a portfolio of companies that’s about 65 percent women and people of color. Tell us how you go about finding these non-obvious startups? DARABI: It’s a good question. TMV celebrates its five-year anniversary this year. So the way we go about funding companies now is a bit different than the way we began five years ago. Now, it’s systematic. We collectively, as a partnership, there are many of us take over 50 calls a month with Tier 1 venture capital firms that have known us for a while like the work that we do, believe in our value-add because the partnership comprised of four more operators. So, we really roll up our sleeves to help. And when you’ve invested at this firms, enough time, they will write to you and say I found a company that’s a little too early for us, for XYZ reason, but it resonates and I think it might be for you. So we found some of our best deals that way. But other times, we found our deal flow through building our own communities. And so, when I first started visit as an EM, an emerging manager of a VC firm. And roughly 30 percent of LP capital goes to EM each year but that’s sort of an outsized percentage because when you think about the w-fix-solve (ph) addition capital, taking 1.3 billion of that pie, then you recognize the definition of emerging manager might need to change a bit. So, when I was starting as an EM, I recognize that the landscape wasn’t necessarily leveled. If you weren’t, what’s called the spinout, somebody that has spent a few years at a traditional established blue-chip firm, then it’s harder to develop and cultivate relationships with institutional LPs who will give you a shot even though the data absolutely points to there being a real opportunity in capturing lightning in a bottle if you find a right EM with the right idea in the right market conditions which is certainly what we’re in right now. And so, I decided to start a network specifically tailored around helping women fund managers, connecting one another and it began as a WhatsApp group and a weekly Google Meet that has now blown into something that requires a lot of dedicated time. And so we’re hiring an executive director for this group. They’re called Transact Global, 250 women ex-fund managers globally, from Hong Kong, to Luxembourg, to Venezuela, Canada, Nigeria, you name it. There are women fund managers in our group and we have one of the most active deal flow channels in the world. And so two of our TMV deals over the last year, a fintech combatting student debt and helping young Americans save for retirement at the same time, as an example, came from this WhatsApp deal flow channel. So, I think creating the community, being the change, so to speak, has been incredibly effective for us a proprietary deal flow mechanism. And then last but not least, I think that having some sort of media presence really has helped. And so, I’ve hosted a podcast and I’ve worked on building up what I think to be a fairly organic Twitter following over the years and we surprise ourselves by getting some really exceptional founders cold pitching us on LinkedIn and on Twitter because we make ourselves available as next gen EMs. So, that’s a sort of long-winded answer to your question. But it’s not the traditional means by any means. RITHOLTZ: To say the least. Are you — the companies you’re investing in, are they — and I’ll try and keep this simple for people who are not all that well-versed in the world of venture, is it seed stage, is it the A round, the B round? How far into their growth process do you put money in? DARABI: So it is a predominantly seed fund. We call our investments core investments. So, these are checks that average, 1 and 1.5 million. So for about 1.25 million, on average, we’re capturing 10-15% of a cap payable. And in this area, that’s called a seed round. It will probably be called a Series A 10 years ago. RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And then we follow on through the Series A and it max around, I think, our pro rata at the B. So, our goal via Series B is to have, on average, 10% by the cap. And then we give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room with our modeling. We take mars and moonshot investments with smaller checks so we call these initial interest checks. And initial interest means I’m interested but your idea is still audacious, they won’t prove itself out for three or four years or to be very honest, we weren’t the first to get into this cap or you’re picking Sequoia over us, so we understand but let’s see if we can just promise you a bit of value add to edge our way into your business. RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And oftentimes, when you speak as a former founder yourself with a high level of compassion and you promise with integrity that you’re going to work very hard for that company, they will increase the size of their round and they will carve out space for you. And so, we do those types of investments rarely, 10 times, in any given portfolio. But what’s interesting in looking back at some of our outliers from found one, it came from those initial interest checks. So that’s our model in a nutshell. We’re pretty transparent about it. What we like about this model is that it doesn’t make us tigers, we’re off the board by the B, so we’re still owning enough of the cap table to be a meaningful presence in the founder’s lives and in their business and it allows us to feel like we’re not spraying and praying. RITHOLTZ: Spraying and praying is an amusing term but I’m kind of intrigued by the fact that we use to call it smart money but you’re really describing it as value-added capital when a founder takes money from TMV, they’re getting more than just a check, they’re getting the involvement from entrepreneurs who have been through the process from startup to capital raise to exit, tell us a li bit about how that works its way into the deals you end up doing, who you look at, and what the sort of deal flow you see is like. DARABI: Well, years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a world-class advertiser and I was at his incredibly fancy office down in Wall Street, his ad agency. And he described to me with pride how he basically bartered his marketing services for one percent of a unicorn. And he was sort of showing off of it about how, from very little time and effort, a few months, he walked away with a relatively large portion of a business. And I thought, yes, that’s clever. But for the founder, they gave up too much of their business too soon. RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And I came up with an idea that I floated by Marina back in the day where our original for TMV Fund I began with the slide marketing as the future of venture and venture is the future of marketing. Meaning, it’s a VC fund where the position itself more like an ad agency but rather than charging for its services, it’s go-to-market services. You offer them free of charge but then you were paid in equity and you could quantify the value that you were offering to these businesses. And back then, people laughed us even though all around New York City, ad agencies were really doing incredible work and benefiting from the startups in that ecosystem. And so, we sort of changed the positioning a bit. And now, we say to our LPs and to our founders, your both clients of our firm. So, we do think of ourselves as an agency. But one set of our marketplace, you have LPs and what they want is crystal clear. The value that they derive from us is through a community and connectivity and co-investment and that’s it. It’s pretty kind of dry. Call me up once a year where you have an exceptional opportunity. Let me invest alongside you. Invite me to dinners four times a year, give me some information and a point of view that I can’t get elsewhere. Thank you for your time. And I love that. It’s a great relationship to have with incredibly smart people. It’s cut and dry but it’s so different. What founders want is something more like family. They want a VC on their board that they can turn to during critical moments. Two a.m. on a Saturday is not an uncommon time for me to get a text message from a founder saying what do I do. So what they want is more like 24/7 services for a period of time. And they want to know when that relationship should start and finish. So it’s sort of the Montessori approach to venture. We’re going to tell them what we’re going to tell them. Tell them what they’re telling them. Tell them what we told them. We say to founders with a reverse pitch deck. So we pitch them as they’re pitching us. Here’s what we promise to deliver for you for the first — each of the 24 months of your infancy and then we promise you we’ll mostly get lost. You can come back to use when your business is growing if you want to do it tender and we’ll operate an SPV for you for you or if you simply want advice, we’re never going to ignore you but our specialty, our black belt, if you will, Barry, is in those first 24 months of your business, that go-to-market. And so, we staffed up TMV to include, well, it’s punching above our weight but the cofounder of an exceptionally successful consumer marketing business, a gross marketer, a recruiter who helps one of our portfolio companies hire 40 of their earliest employees. We have a PR woman. You’ve met Viyash (ph), she’s exceptional with whom, I don’t know, how we would function sometimes because she’s constantly writing and re-editing press releases for the founders with which we work. And then Anna, our copywriter who came from IAC and Sean, our creative director, used to be the design director for Rolling Stone, and I can go on and on. So, some firms called us a platform team but we call it the go-to-market team. And then we promise a set number of hours for ever company that we invest into. RITHOLTZ: That’s … DARABI: And then the results — go ahead. RITHOLTZ: No, that’s just — I’m completely fascinated by that. But I have to ask maybe this is an obvious question or maybe it’s not, so you — you sound very much like a non-traditional venture capital firm. DARABI: Yes. RITHOLTZ: Who are your limited partners, who are your clients, and what motivates them to be involved with TMV because it sounds so different than what has been a pretty standard model in the world of venture, one that’s been tremendous successful for the top-tier firms? DARABI: Our LP set is crafted with intention. And so, 50% of our investors are institutional. This concludes institutional-sized family offices and family offices in a multibillions. We work with three major banks, Fortune 500 banks. We work with a couple of corporate Fortune 500 as investors or LPs and a couple of fund to funds. So that’s really run of the mill. But 50 percent of our investors and that’s why I’m in Athens today are family offices, global family offices, that I think are reinventing with ventures like, to look like in the future because wealth has never been greater globally. There’s a trillion dollars of assets that are passing to the hands of one generation to the next and what’s super interesting to me, as a woman, is that historically, a lot of that asset transferred was from father to son, but actually, for the first time in history, over 50 percent, so 51% of those asset inheritors are actually women. And so, as my business partner could tell because she herself is a next gen, in prior generations, women were encouraged to go into the philanthropic or nonprofit side of the family business … RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And the sons were expected to take over the business or the family office and all of that is completely turned around in the last 10 years. And so, my anchor investor is actually a young woman. She’s under the age of 35. There’s a little bit of our firm that’s in the rocks because we’re not playing by the same rules that the establishment has played by. But certainly, we’re posturing ourselves to be able to grow in to a blue-chip firm which is why we want to maintain that balance, so 50 percent institutional and 50 percent, I would call it bespoke capital. And so, the LPs that are bespoke, we work at an Australian family office and Venezuelan family office and the Chilean family office and the Mexican family office and so on. For those family offices, we come to them, we invite them to events in New York City, we give them personalized introductions to our founders and we get on the phone with them. Whenever they’d like, we host Zooms. We call them the future of everything series. They can learn from us. And we get to know them as human beings and I think that there’s a reason why two thirds of our Fund I LPs converted over into Fund II because they like that level of access, it’s what the modern LP is really looking for. RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about some of the areas that you find intriguing. What sectors are really capturing your attention these days? What are you most excited about? DARABI: Well, Barry, I’m most excited about five categories for which we’ve been investing for quite some time, but they’re really being accelerated due to the 2020 pandemic and a looming recession. And so, we’re particularly fascinated by not just health care investing as has been called in the past but rather the care economy. I’m not a huge fan of the term femtech, it always sounds like fembot to me. But care as it pertains to women alone is a multitrillion dollar opportunity. And so, when we think of the care economy, we think of health care, pet care, elder care, community care, personal care as it pertains to young people, old people, men, women, children, we bifurcate and we look for interesting opportunities that don’t exist because they’ve been undercapitalized, undervalued for so long. Case in point, we were early investors Kindbody, a reproductive health care company focused on women who want to preserve their fertility because if you look at 2010 census data, you can see that the data has been there for some time that women, in particular, were delaying marriage and childbirth and there are a lot of world-famous economists who will tell you this, the global population will decline because we’re aging and we’re not necessarily having as many children as we would have in the past plus it’s expensive. And so, we saw that as investors as a really interesting opportunity and jumped on the chance to ask Gina Bartasi who’s incredible when she came to us with a way to make fertility preservation plus expenses. So she followed the B2C playbook and she started with the mobile clinic that helps women freeze their eggs extensively. That company has gone on to raise hundreds — pardon me — and that company is now valued in the hundreds of million and for us, it was as simple as following our intuition as women fund managers, we know what our peers are thinking about because we talk to them all the time and I think the fact that we’re bringing a new perspective to venture means that we’re also bringing a new perspective to what has previously been called femtech. We invest in financial inclusion. Everyone in the world that’s investing fintech, the self-directed financial mobile apps are always going to be capitalized especially in a post Robin Hood era but we’re specifically interested in the democratization of access to financial information and we’re specifically interested in student debt and alleviating student debt in America because not only is it going to be one of the greatest challenges our generation will have to overcome, but it’s also prohibiting us from living out the American dream, $1.7 trillion of student debt in America that needs to be alleviated. And then we’re interested in the future of work, and long have been, that certainly was very much accelerated during the pandemic but we’ve been investing in the 1099 and remote work for quite some time. And so, really proud to have been the first check into a company called Bravely which is an HR chatbot that helps employees inside of a company chat a anonymously with HR representatives outside of that company, that’s 1099. That issue is like DEI, an inclusion and upward mobility and culture setting and what to do when you’re all of a sudden working for home. So that’s an example of a future of work business. And then in the tech-enabled sustainable solutions category, it’s a mouthful, let’s call that sustainability, we are proud to have been early investors of a company called Ridwell, out of Seattle Washington, focused on not just private — privatized recycling but upcycling and reconnaissance. Where are our things going when we recycle them? For me, it always been a pretty big question. And so, Ridwell allows you to re and upcycle things that are hard to get rid of out of your home like children’s eyeglasses and paints and battery, single-use plastic. And it shows you where those things are going which I think is super cool and there’s good reason why it has one of the highest NPS scores, Net Promoter Scores, of any company I’ve ever worked with. People are craving this kind of modern solution. And last but not least, we invest in transportation and part because of the unfair advantage my partner, Marina, brings to TMV as she comes from a maritime family. And so, we can pile it, transportation technology, within her own ecosystem. That’s pretty great. But also, because we’re just fascinated by the fact that 90 percent of the world commodities move on ship and the biggest contributor to emissions in the world outside of corporate is coming from transportation. SO, if we can sort of figure out this industry, we can solve a lot of the problems that our generation are inheriting. Now, these categories might sound massive and we do consider ourselves a generalist firm but we stick to five-course sectors that we truly believe in and we give ourselves room to kick out a sector or to add a new one with any given new fund. For the most part, we haven’t needed to because this remain the categories that are not only most appealing to us as investors but I think paramount to our generation. RITHOLTZ: That’s really intriguing. Give us an example of moonshot or what you called earlier, a Mars shot technology or a company that can really be a gamechanger but may not pay off for quite a while. DARABI: We’ve just backed a company that is focusing on food science. Gosh, I can’t give away too much because they haven’t truly launched in the U.S. But maybe I’ll kind of allude to it. They use crushed produce, like, crush potato skins to make plastic but biodegrades. And so, it’s a Mars shot because it’s a materials business and it’s a food science business rolled off into both the CPG business and an enterprise business. This particular material can wrap itself around industrial pellets. Even though it’s audacious, it’s not really a Mars shot when you think about the way the world is headed. Everybody wants to figure out how do we consume less plastic and recycle plastic better. And so, if there are new materials out there that will not only disintegrate but also, in some ways, feed the environment, it will be a no-brainer and then if you add to the equation the fact that it could be maybe not less expensive but of comparable pricing to the alternative, I can’t think of a company in the world that wouldn’t switch to this solution. RITHOLTZ: Right. So this is plastic that you don’t throw away. You just toss in the garden and it becomes compost? DARABI: Yes, exactly. Exactly. It should help your garden grow. So, yes, so that’s what I would call a Mars shot in some ways. But in other ways, it’s just common sense, right? RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about your investment vehicles. You guys run, I want to make sure I get this right, two funds and three vehicles, is that right? DARABI: We have two funds. They’re both considered micro funds because they’re both under 100 million and then we operate in parallel for SPVs that are relatively evergreen and they serve as opportunistic investments to continue to double down on our winners. RITHOLTZ: SPV is special purpose investment … DARABI: Vehicles. Yes. RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And the PE world, they’re called sidecars. RITHOLTZ: That’s really interesting. So how do these gets structured? Does everything look very similar when you have a fund? How quickly do you deploy the capital and typically how long you locked for or investors locked up for? DARABI: Well investors are usually in private equity are VC funds locked up for 10 years. That’s not usual. We have shown liquidity faster, certainly, for Fund I. It’s well in the black and it’s only five years old less, four and a half years old. So, how do we make money? We charge standard fees, 2 on 20 is the rubric of it, we operate by. And then lesser fees for sidecars or direct investments. So that’s kind of how we stay on business. When you think about an emerging manager starting their first fund, management fees are certainly not so we can live a lavish rock and roll life on a $10 million fund with a two percent management fee, we’re talking about 200K for the entire business to operate. RITHOLTZ: Wow. DARABI: So Marina and I, not only anchored our first fund with their own capital but we didn’t pay ourselves for four years. It’s not glamorous. I mean, there’s some friends of mine that thing the venture capital life is glam and it is if you’re on Sand Hill Road. But if you’re an EM, it’s a lot more like a startup where you’re burning the midnight oil, you are bartering favors with your friends, and you are begging the smartest people you know to take a chance on you to invite you on to their cap table. But it somehow works out because we do put in that extra effort, I think, the metrics, certainly for Fund I have shown us that we’re in this for the long haul now. RITHOLTZ: So your fund 1 and Fund 2, are there any plans of launching Fund III? DARABI: Yes. I think that given the proof points between Fund I and Fund II and a conversation that my partner and I recently had, five years out, are we in this? Do we love this? We do. OK. This is our life’s work. So you can see larger and more demonstrable sized funds but not in an outsized way, not just because we can raise more capital now but because we want to build out a partnership and the kind of culture that we always dreamed of working for back when we were employees, so we have a very diverse set of colleagues with whom we couldn’t operate and we’ll be adding to the partnership in the next two or three years which is really exciting to say. So, yes, the TMV will be around for a while. RITHOLTZ: That’s really interesting. I want to ask you the question I ask any venture capitalist that I interview. Tell us about your best and worst investments and what did you pass on that perhaps you wish you didn’t? DARABI: Gosh. The FOMO list is so long and so embarrassing. Let me start with what I passed on that I regret. Well, I don’t know she really would have invited me to invest, but certainly, I had a wonderful conversation a peer from high school, Katrina Lake, when she was in beta mode for Stitch Fix. I think she was still at HBS at the time or had just recently graduated from Harvard. When Katrina and I had coffee in Minneapolis were we went to high school and she was telling me about the Netflix for clothing that she was building and certainly I regret not really picking up on the clues that she was offering in that conversation. Stitch Fix had an incredible IPO and I’m a proud shareholder today. And similarly, when my friend for starting Cloudflare which luckily they did bring me in to pre-IPO and I’m grateful for that, but when they were starting Cloudflare, I really should have jumped on that moment or when my buddy Ryan Graves whom I still chat with pretty frequently was starting out Uber in beta with Travis and Garrett, that’s another opportunity that I definitely missed. I was in Ireland when the Series A term sheet assigned. So there’s such a long laundry list of namedropped, namedropped, missed, missed, missed. But in terms of what I’m proud of, I’d say far more. I don’t like Sophie’s Choice. I don’t like to cherry pick the certain investments to just brag about them. But we’ve talked about someone to call today, I’d rather kind of shine a light — look at my track record, right? There’s a large realized IRR that I’m very proud of. But more on the opportunity of the companies that we more recently backed that prevent damages (ph) of CRM for oncology patient that help them navigate through the most strenuous time of their life. And by doing so, get better access to health care. And we get to wrote that check a couple of months ago. But already, it’s becoming a company that I couldn’t be more excited about because if they execute the way I think Shirley and Victor will, that has the power to help so many people in a profound way, not just in the Silicon Valley cliché way of this could change the world but this could actually help people receive better care. So, yes, I’m proud of having been an early investor in the Caspers of the world. Certainly, we’re all getting better sleep. There’s no shame there. But I’m really excited now today at investing in financial inclusion in the care economy and so on. RITHOLTZ: And let’s talk a little bit about impactful companies. Is there any different when you’re making a seed stage investment in a potentially impactful company versus traditional startup investing? DARABI: Well, pre-seed and seed investing isn’t a science and it’s certainly not a science that anyone has perfected. There are people who are incredibly good at it because they have a combination of luck and access. But if you’re a disciplined investor in any asset class and I talk to my friends who run hedge funds and work for hedge funds about 10 bets that they take a day and I think that’s a lot trickier than what I do because our do due diligence process, on average, takes an entire quarter of the year. We’re not making that many investments each year. So even though it sounds sort of fruity, when you look at a Y Combinator Demo Day, Y Comb is the biggest accelerator in Silicon Valley and they produce over 300 companies, three or four times a year. When you look at the outsized valuations coming out of Y Comb, it’s easy to think that starting company is as simple as sort of downloading a company in a Box Excel and running with it. But from where we sit, we’re scorching the earth for really compelling ideas in areas that have yet to converge and we’re looking for businesses that may have never pitched the VC before. Maybe they’re not even seeking capital. Maybe it’s a company that isn’t so interested in raising a penny eventually because they don’t need to. They’re profitable from day one. Those are the companies that we find most exciting because as former operators, we know how to appeal to them and then we also know how to work with them. RITHOLTZ: That’s really interesting. Before I get to my favorite question, let me just throw you’re a curveball, tell me a little bit about Business Schooled, the podcast you hosted for quite a while. DARABI: So, Synchrony, Sync, came to me a few years ago with a very compelling and exciting opportunity to host a podcast with them that allowed me a fortunate opportunity to travel the country and I went to just under a dozen cities to meet with founders who have persevered past their startup phase. And what I loved about the concept of business school is that the cities that I hosted were really focused on founders who didn’t have access to VC capital, they put money on credit card. So I took SBA loans or asked friends and family to give them starter capital and then they made their business work through trying times and when you pass the five-year mark for any business, I’m passing it right now for TMV, there’s a moment of reflection where you can say, wow, I did it. it’s incredibly difficult to be a startup founder, more than 60 percent of companies fail and probably for good reason. And so, yes, I hosted business school, Seasons 2 and 3 and potentially there will be more seasons and I’m very proud of the fact that at one point we cracked the top 20 business podcasts and people seem to be really entertained through these conversations with insightful founders who are vulnerable with me about what it was like to build their business and I like to think they were vulnerable because I have a good amount of compassion for the experience of being founder and also because I’m a New Yorker and I just like to talk. RITHOLTZ: You’re also a founder so there’s going to be some empathy that’s genuine. You went through what they’re going through. DARABI: Exactly. Exactly. And so, what you do, Barry, is quite similar. You’re — you host an exceptionally successful business podcast and you’re also an allocator. You know that it’s interesting to do both because I think that being an investor is a lot like being a journalist. In both professions, you won’t succeed unless you are constantly curious and if you are having conversations to listen more than you speak. DARABI: Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret since it’s so late in the podcast and fewer people will be hearing this, the people I invite on the show are essentially just conversations I want to have. If other people come along and listen, that’s fantastic. But honestly, it’s for an audience of one, namely me, the reason I wanted to have you on is because I’m intrigued by the world of venture and alternatives and impact. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people have been somewhat disappointed in the results of ESG investing and impact investing that for — it’s captured a lot more mindshare than it has captured capital although we’re seeing signs that’s starting to shift. But then the real question becomes, all right, so I’m investing less in oil companies and more in other companies that just happen to consume fossil fuels, what’s the genuine impact of my ESG investing? It feels like it’s sort of de minimis whereas what you do really feels like it has a major impact for people who are interested in having their capital make a positive difference. DARABI: Thank you for saying that. And I will return the compliment by saying that I really enjoyed getting to know you on our one key economist Zoom and I think that you’re right. I think that ESG investing, certainly in the public markets has had diminished returns historically because the definition has been so bizarre and so all over the place. RITHOLTZ: Right. DARABI: And I read incredible books from people like Antony Bugg-Levine who helps coin the term the Rockefeller Foundation, who originally coined the term you read about, mortgage, IRR and IRS plus measurement and it’s so hard to have just standardization of what it means to be an impact investor and so it can be bothered but we bother. Rather, we kind of come up with our own subjective point of view of the world and we say what does impact mean to us? Certainly, it means not investing in sin stocks but then those sin stocks have to begin somewhere, has to begin with an idea that somebody had once upon a time. And so, whether we are investing in the way the world should look from our perspective. And with that in mind, it doesn’t have to be impact by your grandpa’s VC, it can be impact from modern generation but simply things that behave differently. Some folks with their dollars. People often say, well, my ESG portfolio is underperforming. But then if you dig in to the specifics, are you investing in Tesla? It’s not a pretty good year. Did you back Beyond Meat? Had a great year. And so, when you kind of redefine the public market not by a sleeve and a bank’s version of a portfolio, but rather by company that you think are making demonstrable change in the world, then you can walk away, realizing had I only invested in these companies that are purpose driven, I would have had outsized returns and that’s what we’re trying to deliver on at TMV. That’s the promise. RITHOLTZ: Really, really very, very intriguing. I know I only have you for a few minutes so let’s jump to my favorite questions that I ask all of our guests starting with tell us what you’re streaming these days. Give us your favorite, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or any podcast that are keeping you entertained during the pandemic. DARABI: Well, my family has been binging on 100 Foot Wave on HBO Max which is the story of big wave surfer Garrett McNamara who is constantly surfing the world’s largest waves and I’m fascinated by people who have a mission that’s sort of bigger than success or fame but they’re driven by something and part of that something is curiosity and part of it is insanity. And so not only is it visually stunning to kind of watch these big wave surfers in Portugal, but it’s also a mind trip. What motivates them to get out of bed every day and potentially risk their lives doing something so dangerous and so bananas but also at the same time so brave and heroic. So, highly recommend. I am listening to too many podcasts. I listen to, I don’t know, a stream of things. I’m a Kara Swisher fan, Ezra Klein fan, so they’re both part of the “New York Times” these days. And of course, your podcast, Barry. RITHOLTZ: Well, thank you so much. Well, thank you so much. Let’s talk a little bit about who your early mentors were and who helped shape you career? DARABI: It’s going to sound ungrateful but I don’t think, in like a post lean in definition of the word, I ever truly had a mentor or a sponsor. Now, having said that, I’ve had people who really looked at for me and been incredibly gracious with their time and capital. And so, I would absolutely like to acknowledge that first and foremost. I think about how generous Adam Grant has been with his time and his investments for TMV in Fund I and Fund II and he’s a best-selling author and worked on highest-rated business school professor. So shout out to Adam, if he’s listening or Beth Comstock, the former Vice Chair of GE who has been instrumental in my career for about a decade and a half now. And she is also really leaning in to the TMV portfolio and has become a patient of Parsley Health, an early investment of ours and also an official adviser to the business. So, people like Adam and Beth certainly come to mind. But I don’t know, I just — I’m not sure mentors really exist outside of corporate America anymore and part of the reason why we started Transact Global is to kind of foster the concept of the peer mentor, people who are going through the same thing as you at the same time and allowing that hive mentality with an abundance mentality to catalyze people to kind of go further and faster. RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about some of your favorite books and what you might reading right now. DARABI: OK, so in the biz book world, because I know your listeners as craving, I’m a big fan of “Negotiation Genius.” I took a crash course with one of the authors, Max Bazerman at the Kennedy School and it was illuminating. I mean, he’s one of the most captivating professors I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing lecture and this book has really helped me understand the concept of the ZOPA, the Zone of Possible Agreement, and how to really negotiate well. And then for Adam whom I just referenced, of all of his incredible books, my favorite is Give and Take because I try to operate with that approach of business. Give more than you take and maybe in the short term, you’ll feel depleted but in the long term, karma pays off. But mostly, Barry, I read fiction. I think the most interesting people in the world or at least the most entertaining at dinner parties are all avoid readers of fiction and history. So I recently reread, for instance, all of my favorite short stories from college, from Dostoyevsky’s “A Gentle Creature” to “Drown” Junot Diaz. “Passing” by Nella Larsen, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” by Fitzgerald. Those are some of my very favorite stories of all time. And my retirement dream is to write a book of short stories. RITHOLTZ: Really, really quite intriguing. Are they all available in a single collection or these just, going back to your favorites and just plowing through them for fun? DARABI: Those are just going back to my favorites. I try to re-read “Passing” every few years which is somehow seems to be more and more relevant as I get older and Junot Diaz has become so incredibly famous when I first read “Drown” about 20 years ago which is an original collection of short stories that broadened my perspective of why it’s important to think about a broader definition of America, I guess. And, yes, no, that’s just — that was just sort of off the top of my head as the offering of a few stories that I really love, no collection. RITHOLTZ: That’s a good collection. And we’re down to our final two questions. What sort of advice would you give to a recent college grad who was interested in a career in either venture capital or entrepreneurship? DARABI: Venture capital or entrepreneurship. Well, I would say, learn as early as possible how to trust your gut. So, this could mean a myriad of things. As an entrepreneur, it could mean under the halo effect of an institution, university or high school or maybe having a comfortable day job, tinker with ideas, get feedback on that idea, don’t be afraid of looking or sounding dumb and build that peer network that I described. People who are rooting you on and are also insatiably curious about wonky things. And I would say that for venture capital, similar play on the same theme, but whether it’s putting small amounts of money into new concept, blockchain investing, or whether it’s meeting with entrepreneurs and saying maybe I only have $3,000 save up but I believe in you enough to bet amongst friends in Brooklyn on your concept if you’ll have me as an investor. So, play with your own money because what it’s really teaching you in return is how to follow instincts and to base pattern recognition off your own judgement. And if you do that early on, overtime, these all become datapoints that you can point to and these are lessons that you can glean while not taking the risk of portfolio management. So, I guess the real advice to your listeners is more action, please. RITHOLTZ: Really very, very intriguing. And our final question, what do you know about the world of venture investing today that you wish you knew 15 or 20 years ago when you first getting started? DARABI: Twenty years ago, I was a bit of a Pollyanna and I thought every wonderful idea that simply is built by smart people and has timed the market correctly will work out. And I will say that I’m slightly more jaded today because of the capital structure that is systematically allowing the biggest firms in the world to kind of eat up a generous portion of, let’s call it the LP pie, which leaves less capital available to the young upstart VC firms, and of course I’m biased because I run one, that are taking outsized risks on those non-obvious ideas that we referenced. And so, what I wish for the future is that institutional capital kind of reprioritizes what it’s looking for. And in addition to having a bottom line of reliable and demonstrable return on any given investment, there are new standards put into play saying we want to make sure that a portion of our portfolio goes to diverse managers. Because in turn, we recognize that they are three times more likely to invest in diverse founders or we believe in impact investing can be broader than the ESG definitely of a decade ago, so we’re coming up with our own way to measure on sustainability or what impact means to us. And if they go through those exercises which I know is hard because, certainly, I’m not trying to add work to anyone’s plate, I do think that the results will more than make up for it. RITHOLTZ: Quite intriguing. Thank you, Soraya, for being so generous with your time. We have been speaking with Soraya Darabi who is the Co-Founder and General Partner at TMV Investments. If you enjoy this conversation, well, be sure and check out any of the prior 376 conversations we’ve had before. You can find those at iTunes or Spotify, wherever you buy your favorite podcast. We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Write to us at MIB firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up for my daily reads at ritholtz.com. Check out my weekly column at bloomberg.com/opinion. Follow me on Twitter @ritholtz. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack team that helps me put these conversations together each week. Tim Harrow is my audio engineer. Paris Walt (ph) is my producer. Atika Valbrun is our project manager, Michael Batnick is my head of research. I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio. ~~~ The post Transcript: Soraya Darabi appeared first on The Big Picture......»»
In Japan, you can pay a startup $144 to quit your job on your behalf
Exit's story began in 2017, when cofounder Toshiyuki Niino found himself trying to quit a job he was unhappy at. Workers in a Japanese officeGetty/ Michael H/ Creative #: 627617029/ DigitalVision Japanese startup Exit will quit your job and confront your boss for you for $144. Employers "try to make you ashamed and guilty that you quit your job in less than three years," the cofounder told Al Jazeera. Japanese culture — with deep-rooted practices for lifetime employment — sees success as a long-term commitment. Breakups are hard. They are even harder when you need to break up with your boss.That's the exact sentiment one company is capitalizing on: For 20,000 Japanese yen, or $144, a Japanese startup called Exit will quit your job for you. Exit's story began in 2017 when cofounder Toshiyuki Niino was trying to quit a job he was unhappy at, Al Jazeera reported."When you try to quit, they give you a guilt trip," he told the news outlet. "They try to make you ashamed and guilty that you quit your job in less than three years, and I had a very difficult time," he added.Niino teamed up with his childhood friend Yuichiro Okazaki and created a company that now sees about 10,000 inquiries each year, per Al Jazeera.Most of Niino's clients are men in their 20s. "The two major reasons I see are they are scared of their boss so they cannot say that they want to quit, and also the guilty feeling they have for wanting to quit," he told Al Jazeera. Japanese culture — with deep-rooted practices for lifetime employment and the concept of "karoshi," or working oneself to death — sees success as a long-term commitment, the cofounder told the outlet."It seems like if you quit or you don't complete it, it's like a sin," he said. "It's like you made some sort of bad mistake."In 2019, the average length of service in Japan across all industries was 12.4 years, according to Japan's health, labor, and welfare ministry. In comparison, the OECD average employment tenure was about 10 years in 2019.Exit did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Why Remote Patient Monitoring Has Just Gotten A Major Push Forward And How It’s Changing Healthcare Forever
Over the last several years, the healthcare industry has been changing rapidly due to a confluence of factors. One major ... Read more Over the last several years, the healthcare industry has been changing rapidly due to a confluence of factors. One major transition that picked up steam during the COVID-19 pandemic is the push from in-office or in-hospital care to remote patient monitoring. In fact, one estimate suggests the remote patient monitoring was worth about $4.4 billion in 2022. The same firm predicts a compound annual growth rate of 18.5% for remote patient monitoring through 2030, valuing the industry at nearly $17 billion by the beginning of the next decade. A major factor in this rapid growth is the aging U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the number of Americans over the age of 65 will rise from 43 million in 2012 to 84 million by 2050, increasing from 14% of the population to 21%. The Rapidly Growing Remote Patient Monitoring Industry Of course, as we age, many of us face increased needs for healthcare services, which is another reason remote patient monitoring is a healthy and growing industry. Yacov Geva, CEO of G Medical Innovations, shared some insights on the rapidly growing remote patient monitoring industry, the benefits it offers, and how it’s changing healthcare forever. Q: How important is home monitoring becoming as the global population ages? A: An aging population has increased healthcare needs, and many insurance companies are now pushing toward at-home care and continuous monitoring because it cuts costs. Patients need fewer office and ER visits and experience less stress because they’re treated at home. At-home care and remote monitoring also reduce the burdens on caregivers and on hospitals, which often face fines when patients are readmitted soon after they were released. As the share of older people versus the size of the entire population grows, these types of issues are becoming even more serious. The base period for readmission is 30 days, so if patients are readmitted after a few days, even if it’s because of what they’re eating or some other factor that’s not the hospital’s fault, the hospital will be fined because they weren’t monitoring him for 30 days. Hospitals are scored based on the quality of service they provide, so if patients are constantly being readmitted, the view is that it’s probably not a good hospital. Of course, that’s probably not true, but this is how it works. As a result, hospitals are pushing toward remote monitoring of discharged patients as a way to deal with those fines. Q: How can remote monitoring of critical health conditions save lives and reduce long-term costs for patients? A: When patients are being monitored remotely from home, their physicians have ready access to their data. For example, once the equipment detects abnormal heart activity, their doctor can act on it either with medication or a procedure. Remote monitoring services help prevent a more serious heart condition because they provide early detection of abnormal arrhythmias that may be asymptomatic or infrequent. They may even prevent the next stroke or heart attack that might affect the patient’s life forever. Remote patient monitoring also helps reduce costs for hospitals, insurance companies, and, of course, patients, by uncovering these arrhythmias before they become a major cardiac event that requires hospitalization and surgery. Additionally, monitoring patients at home keeps them from catching any infections that might be going around at the hospital. This is particularly true during periods when the hospital might want to keep the patient just for observation. There’s no need for that observation to occur at the hospital because it can be done at home via remote monitoring. Finally, people also respond better to treatment in their typical home environment because they’re more comfortable, and they learn more about their condition by being involved in the monitoring process. Q: What are some of the most important trends in homecare and remote patient monitoring? A: Technology is a key trend in remote patient monitoring. Although the technology needed to monitor patients at home has been around for 20 years, neither patients nor doctors were really ready for it. However, when COVID hit, it shut down clinics and doctors’ offices around the world and restricted access to hospitals. Suddenly, patients who stayed in the hospital couldn’t receive visitors. Because of all these issues, patients began to accept the idea of being monitored at home, and the technology we’ve had for the last 20 years was put to good use. In fact, I would say that COVID did more for remote patient monitoring than any marketing campaign over the last 20 years has done. The current generation of newer, younger doctors has also been more accepting of remote patient monitoring because they are much more tech-savvy than their predecessors, being digital natives. They have grown up with technology and already realized the advantages it offers. They also didn’t need to learn how to use it. Q: What should people understand about the difference between consumer-focused devices and medical-grade devices used for homecare monitoring? A: Most people are familiar with the Apple Watch and other smartwatches, which have many, many functionalities, most of which have nothing to do with healthcare. However, medical-grade devices like those prescribed by doctors offer far more capabilities from a monitoring perspective. For example, the Apple Watch only focuses on the ECG, but G Medical’s devices also monitor patients’ oxygen levels, temperature, weight, blood pressure, pain level, stress, and more. So let’s say you wake up at 2 a.m., and you don’t feel good, and you know something is wrong, so what do you do? You could call the hospital, or you could call your doctor, but they’re not going to answer the phone at 2 a.m. You have to decide whether or not to go to the hospital or call 911. However, if you’ve been monitored remotely through a company like G Medical, you can contact the call center for a consultation based on the data gathered from your monitoring equipment. This is a totally different way of monitoring patients because they don’t just have the devices. They also have someone who can show their data to them and help them decide whether to call 911 or go to the hospital or wait until the morning. You don’t get this kind of assistance with consumer-facing devices like the many smartwatches on the market. Q: What are some of G Medical’s best-selling and most important devices and services? A: All our services and devices are provided based on Medicare and commonly used healthcare billing codes, so physicians prescribe our services, and Medicare or the insurance company pays or reimburses for everything. Patients receive our devices and services either free of charge or with a deductible. Our Prizma ecosystem is the foundation for all our devices and services. It enables patients to build their own electronic medical record (EMR) using our suite of devices that monitor a wide array of vital signs, including ECG, oxygen saturation, body temperature, stress, heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, weight, and more. This EMR is accessible to them anywhere and at any time, and they have complete control over it. All the data that is recorded by the Prizma application, is being sent to the cloud and available to the patient on the patient’s portal. We also have a physician portal which allows the physicians to review the patient’s data and observe key trends. We also generate reports for the physicians based on all that data. Our monitoring services feed into Prizma and include an independent diagnostic testing facility, as I’ve mentioned. We also offer ambulatory electrocardiography (AECG), which is offline monitoring for heart patients over a period of seven to 14 days. After that period is finished, the patient goes back to their doctor, who uploads their data into the cloud, and we analyze that data to look for arrhythmias. Our AECG service uses the G Patch to monitor the patient. The Spider is one of the best cardiac monitoring devices on the market today. It provides real-time monitoring for specific arrhythmias. When these arrhythmias are detected, the Pre-event data, the event and the post-event data are transmitted to our data center. The patient’s doctor can understand their ECG readings before and after the event. We also offer home testing kits for a wide variety of health conditions so that patients can collect the necessary samples at home and send them into our CLIA certified lab for analysis. They can buy the relevant kit at the retail store or online, collect the sample in the privacy of their own home, and then ship it via the U.S. Postal Service to our lab. Patients receive the results within 48 hours of the sample arriving in our lab. G Medical is actually the only company offering both vital signs monitoring and at-home laboratory tests. A few others are doing either of these services, but we’re the only ones doing both at this time. Q: Where do you see healthcare going next? A: The future of healthcare technology is very bright. The sky’s the limit, and some of what we’re starting to see is almost like science fiction. One company received approval to offer tests using an implanted chip, and we’re also starting to see robots being used. For example, the robot might be in India, but the operators are in the U.S., and everything is done remotely. I was speaking with a well-known and respected doctor in Israel a while back, and he described the medical industry as a black hole because the gap between doctors and technology is 100 years. So every technology we’re throwing into the healthcare industry will be sucked into the black hole. Over time, more and more doctors are realizing what the technology offers, and of course, it has to be safe and cleared by the FDA and other regulatory agencies. When patients don’t feel well, they go to Google, start to read about their symptoms and possible related conditions, and ask their doctors about what they read. Of course, physicians want better tools to diagnose and monitor patients, so I think the future of healthcare is very bright because we have faith in technology. The author of the introduction, Michelle Jones, also edited this interview for clarity on behalf of Quantum Media Group, LLC and its client, G Medical Innovations Inc. This is a sponsored post. The views expressed represent the opinion of the author and are not intended to reflect those of ValueWalk or serve as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendations or an offer to buy or sell securities. Any content in this post is NOT investment, trading, legal, or tax advice, and none of the information available through this blog is intended to provide tax, legal, investment or trading advice. Nothing provided through these articles, whether by the owner or posted by other writers, constitutes a solicitation of the purchase or sale of securities/futures. THE DATA AND INFORMATION PRESENTED ON THIS WEB SITE IS BELIEVED TO BE ACCURATE BUT SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON BY THE USER FOR ANY PURPOSE. ANY AND ALL LIABILITY FOR THE CONTENT OR ANY OMISSIONS FROM THIS WEB SITE, INCLUDING ANY INACCURACIES, ERRORS, OR MISSTATEMENTS IN SUCH DATA OR INFORMATION IS EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED......»»
Meet the typical Singaporean millennial. They live in one of the world"s most expensive cities, were raised to chase cars, cash, and condos, and say they feel torn between worlds.
Their parents taught them the importance of the 5Cs: cash, car, credit card, condominium, country-club membership. Now they're going their own way. Derek Chan and Bavani Palanivellu.Derek Chan, Bavani Palanivellu. There are 1 million millennials in Singapore — the largest generational group in the country. Their parents taught them the 5Cs: cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country-club membership. Insider spoke to six Singapore millennials to find out what makes them tick. Derek Chan, 34, has a dream, and he'll work 16 hours a day to achieve it. He knows it won't be easy — but Singaporean millennials know life is all about the hustle.Derek Chan drives Grab on the side while launching his business.Derek ChanFrom 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Chan works on launching his new solo venture, a B2B consultancy business. Then, from 5 p.m. to midnight, it's time for his side hustle: driving a rented car for Grab, a ride-hailing company.In April, he quit his job at a government-owned research company, which paid 100,000 Singapore dollars, or $74,200, a year.Backed by his wife of two years — the couple doesn't have children — he invested SG$35,000 of his savings into launching his startup. His side hustle with Grab earns him SG$1,300 a month. He said he has "no time for hobbies" now."Everything is about money, to see if I can earn something," Chan said. On the other side of Singapore, Adam Azali works as a food-and-beverage associate at Bacha Coffee, a Moroccan coffee brand. He dedicates his free time to performing dance and music shows with other freelance performing artists.Before the pandemic, Azali worked full time in the performing arts, teaching dance classes to children and performing at social and corporate events. But being an artist in Singapore is challenging, Azali, who is 40, told Insider. It's not a secure job, and artists often have to take part-time jobs on the side to make ends meet, he said."I believe why I survived that long is also because I'm not just a dancer. I'm not just a choreographer. I do makeup, I teach hairstyling, I do even lighting design for some of the performances and all of that, and I do music, too," he said. "So you have to be able to do a lot of things and not just stick to one."Over half of Singapore's millennials are college educated. Most of them are bilingual, and they fork out much less for college than Americans do.The Singapore skyline.Calvin Chan Wai Meng/Getty ImagesSingapore is home to one of the most literate populations in the world. As of 2021, 97.6% of people above the age of 15 in Singapore were literate, per a report by the Singapore Department of Statistics. Most public schools in Singapore teach in English. Learning a second language is mandatory, and so a significant proportion of the population — 74.3% — speaks more than one language, according to 2020 numbers from the Singapore Department of Statistics.The country's two public universities, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, ranked 11th and 19th worldwide in 2023, according to the QS Top Universities ranking.Singaporean millennials also don't have the exorbitant student loans their American counterparts do. University education is heavily subsidized for Singaporeans and permanent residents. For a Singapore citizen, four years at a local university costs an average of SG$38,250, a 2023 report by financial-planning platform Smart Wealth found.In comparison, as of 2022, Americans need to fork out $85,000 for four years of in-state tuition at public universities.A report by the Department of Statistics Singapore in 2022 found that 63.1% of Singaporeans over 25 have diplomas or graduated from university.Singaporean millennials were brought up by parents who instilled in them the importance of the 5Cs — cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country-club membership.Traffic in the streets of Singapore's downtown district.Didier Marti/Getty ImagesBetween 1986 and 1996, Singapore's economy grew at an average rate of 12.8% a year. At the time, Singapore was called one of the four Asian Tigers — the region's fastest-growing economies — alongside Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea.Some millennials were born during the period when the Singaporean government still pushed a two-child policy to manage population growth.Unlike in China, Singapore's system was not legally enforced. Even so, many Singaporean millennials come from a "middle-class background with a smaller household size" than their parents did, Tan Ern Ser, a sociology professor from National University of Singapore, told Insider.As a result, they reaped the benefits of being able to pursue higher education, Ser said. And from the economic boom came the Singapore dream of the 5Cs — cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country-club membership. The 5Cs have been an aspiration for many, notably Generation X, since the early days of Singapore's independence. These status symbols represented the equivalent of the "Singapore dream," and the race to collect all five Cs pointed to a culture of "kiasu," an intense fear of missing out. The push toward hustle culture has gotten stronger since. When asked to define his benchmark for success, Chan's answer was simple: He wants sales figures to shoot through the roof. "I need them to be successful, my sales figures. And also for customers to recognize my company," Chan said. The typical Singaporean millennial earns between SG$53,400 and SG$81,900 a year — but it's barely enough to stay afloat in one of the world's most expensive cities.Crowds in Singapore's Chinatown, close to Chinese New Year.Kokkai Ng/Getty ImagesSingaporeans between the ages of 25 and 44 earn between SG$53,400 and SG$81,900 annually, and Singapore has an unemployment rate of 2.1% as of 2022. But that sum doesn't necessarily translate to luxe living. With Singapore tied with New York City as the most expensive city in the world in 2022, per a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Singaporean dollar doesn't stretch too far for most.Singapore is the most expensive country in the world to buy a car. As of May, buying a car in Singapore comes with a minimum tax bill of SG$92,400. That's on top of the price of the car itself.Even so, most of the millennials Insider spoke to were focused on saving money.Chia Quan En, 27, who works in the media industry, said he saves 50% to 60% of his monthly income. He's saving for a house, to provide for his parents when they retire, and for his wedding."But I'm on track because I plot my expenses," En said. Mel Chia, 33, who works as a communications manager in Singapore, said she's earned between SG$80,000 and SG$100,000 annually over the past few years. But she spends up to 60% of her earnings on expenses including insurance and mortgage costs for her apartment."I'm not saving as much as I want to," Chia said.Millennials across Singapore continue to live with their parents well into their 20s, 30s, and 40s because of high property costs.Lyndon Ang, right, 27, stays with their parents and younger sister.Lyndon AngLyndon Ang, 27, works as a community manager in a gaming company and earns SG$48,000 a year. Despite working full time and being financially independent, Ang has stayed with their parents and sister all their life and does not have any immediate plans to move out. They work from home, spend most of their money on food and utilities, and try to save about SG$1,000 a month. But as a member of the queer community, Ang said it is "just impossible to afford housing." That's because Singapore does not allow single individuals under the age of 35 to purchase government-subsidized apartments — and because gay marriage hasn't been legalized in Singapore. Ang plans to move out with their younger sister, who is autistic. They said the two of them will live in what they call a "nonconventional dual-income family.""She can support herself. I can support myself," Ang said. "We are not really pursuing any of the Singapore dreams because it's unrealistic. And Singapore is not really open queer relationships yet."In the last quarter of 2022, the rental costs of government-built, two-bedroom apartments ranged from SG$2,200 to SG$2,850 a month, according to the Housing Development Board. Five years ago, apartments of the same size were on the market for SG$1,550 to SG$1,900."There is no policy of providing affordable rental housing except to the very poorest Singaporeans, or affordable private housing, as these are left to market forces," said Walter Theseira, an economics professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. "So for lower- to middle-income Singaporeans, there is very little practical alternative to buying an HDB flat directly from the government," he added.Some Singaporean millennials eschew the "condominium" part of the 5Cs.Housing Development Board apartments on Singapore's east side.Carlina Teteris/Getty ImagesIt's not just high property prices that are pushing millennials to stay with their parents. Many simply don't see a need to buy their own place. Francis Tan, the CEO of SLP International, a real-estate company, said millennials' parents were so fixated on securing the 5Cs that it takes the load off of their children to accumulate assets. "The funny thing is that the accumulation of Gen X assets is what is powering the choices that millennials are making," Tan said.Azali, the dancer, has lived with his parents all his life. His family home is spacious, he didn't want his parents to feel lonely, and it made sense financially, he told Insider. But he recently bought a small apartment for himself, which he plans to move into next year. "I think at this age, it comes to a point where you're no longer a kid, and parents will always treat you like a kid, no matter what," Azali said.For most, marriage is the only way to secure affordable housing. Sending in an application for a Build-to-Order, or BTO, flat is regularly seen as an unofficial marriage proposal in Singapore, with couples popping the "Do you want to BTO together" question before getting down on one knee.That said, BTOs are oversubscribed: Last year, there were 117,251 applications for the 23,184 units offered.In many ways, Singaporean millennials are like their global counterparts: They're putting off having kids, spend lots of time on their phones, and would rather splurge on experiences than things.Bavani Palanivellu, 32, on her trip to Nepal.Bavani PalanivelluAs of 2022, Singapore's fertility rate dropped to its lowest ever: 1.05 births per woman. That might be because of the cost of raising kids — but also because of the cost of taking care of their own parents. In February, Indranee Rajah, Singapore's second minister for finance, said her ministry expects more Singaporeans will face the "dual pressures of raising young children while caring for their elderly parents."Chan, for one, told Insider the decision to have children depends on his business: "I think it'll be very stressful if I have kids right now."For years, millennials worldwide have been chasing experiences and prioritizing living in the moment. A report by JPMorgan in 2016 showed that millennials devote 34% of their spending on Chase credit and debit cards to experiences like dining, entertainment, and travel.Bavani Palanivellu, 32, is one of them."When I was 25, I was so convinced that I'm gonna get married by the time I was 28, and then have kids like 30," said Palanivellu, who works for her family's pest-control business. "But now I think I don't want to let the biological clock influence my decision to rush the marriage or rush into having kids," she told Insider. "I just want to focus on finding a partner that is in line with me and then let everything else fall in place after that."She joked that she went on an "eat, pray, love" journey six years ago after a breakup. Since then, she's gone trekking in Nepal, attended a wedding in the Amazon rainforest, and gotten her yoga-teacher certification at an ashram in India.But what really makes Singapore's millennials globally unique is that they live at the crossroads between the East and the West.Azali performing a Malay-style dance.Adam AzaliSingapore's millennials live and breathe Asia, but they are deeply influenced by American pop culture — to the extent that some say they've felt torn between the pull of the Western world and being drawn back to their cultural roots.Some of the millennials Insider spoke to told us these undercurrents of tension — to go their own way or abide by more traditional life paths — have spilled over to their relationships with their families.They disagree on topics like which careers to pursue, whether to settle down and have a traditional family unit, and their views regarding the queer community.Azali said he faced intense pushback from his family when choosing to go into a career in the arts. His story is part of a recurring narrative among Asian families around the world, where parents believe a career in the arts is impractical, less respectable, and financially unstable."I came from a background where my whole family thinks that being in the arts is a joke," he said. While he hasn't fully received his parents' blessing, Azali said: "I guess it comes to a point when you're old enough and there's nothing else that they can really say."For others like Ang, being able to present themselves authentically is the greatest challenge they face in Singapore. When asked what success looks like to them, Ang responded: "When I have the capacity to be myself in public without judgment." "Being able to present my gender identity properly in public without judgment, especially in a place as conservative as Singapore currently is, it's going to be an uphill challenge, no matter what," they said. This story is part of a series called "Millennial World," which seeks to examine the state of the generation around the globe. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
SunCar Technology Stock Overheats… Will it Rise Again?
Key Points SunCar Technology Group Inc (NASDAQ:SDA) has been on a wild ride – and it’s only just begun. On ... Read more Key Points SunCar Technology provides auto insurance and aftermarket services in China. SDA began trading on the Nasdaq on May 18th and came crashing back down after an initial 7-day win streak. A heavy dose of Stocktwits and other social media chatter helped fuel a parabolic run. The highly volatile nature of the stock and lack of financial strength make SunCar a speculative name better suited for high-risk traders. 5 stocks we like better than SunCar Technology Group SunCar Technology Group Inc (NASDAQ:SDA) has been on a wild ride – and it’s only just begun. On May 17th, the Shanghai-based auto services startup completed its business combination with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Goldenbridge Acquisition Limited. The next day, SunCar began trading on the Nasdaq under its own SDA symbol. Then the fireworks began. Following a day one slump, the stock started generating interest. More than 12 million shares exchanged hands on May 19th, setting the stage for an explosive run. SunCar rode a stunning 7-day win streak as high as $45.73 as momentum traders piled into the hot name. At the peak, the gain from the de-SPAC open was more than 800%. The joy ride came to an abrupt halt on Friday, however, when SunCar crashed 46% to $23.30. Bandwagon bulls that flew too close to the SunCar got burned badly, a reminder of how hot new issues can produce huge losses just as easily as huge gains. What Does SunCar Technology Group Do? SunCar Technology has two related but distinct businesses. First, it provides auto aftermarket services in China, the world’s largest passenger vehicle market. Its digital platforms connect drivers with a nationwide network of parts, service and maintenance providers, essentially making it an online aggregator. The company’s second business is auto insurance. Similarly, its cloud-based platform helps enterprises manage their customers and gain broader access to China’s massive driver base. Drivers in turn get access to hundreds of independent insurance provider quotes all in one spot. The two businesses combined make SunCar an Amazon-esque pioneer in China’s auto aftermarket. What Ignited the SunCar Technology Rally? On May 25th, SunCar announced that it entered into a private share placement with Anji Zerun Private Equity Investment Partnership. The nearly $22 million investment stands to benefit the company in two ways: 1) it provides additional capital that can be used to build out the digital platforms and advertise the offerings, and 2) it helps legitimize the business by demonstrating significant interest from an institutional investor. The private placement news was a positive but it only got the ball rolling. From there, trader enthusiasm took over, helping SunCar soar to heights that were disproportionate to the news flow. A heavy dose of Stocktwits and other social media chatter helped fuel a parabolic run that was littered with trading halts. In the end, emotion and not fundamentals was the main driver. Is SunCar Technology Stock a Good Investment? SunCar is aiming to change how auto insurance and aftermarket services get purchased in China. Its digital platforms represent a novel shift from brick-and-mortar and single website alternatives, but they remain highly unproven. The company has yet to generate any significant revenue and is operating at a net loss. And yet two weeks into its public trading debut, it commands a $3.6 billion market cap. It’s a valuation that already exceeds S&P 500 components DISH Network and Newell Brands. As the Chinese economy continues to recover and more cars buzz around the streets, the SunCar concept could benefit from increasing demand for auto insurance and services. The one-stop cloud portal offers convenience and cost savings to service providers and drivers alike and could very well gain traction in China’s almost half trillion dollar passenger vehicle market. Until the company starts to show big-time revenue growth and improved profitability, however, fundamental investors may want to stay clear. Along with the highly volatile nature of the stock, the lack of financial strength makes SunCar a speculative name better suited for high-risk traders. Moreover, even after Friday’s selloff, SunCar looks stretched from a technical indicator perspective. Still warm relative strength indicator (RSI) and Bollinger band readings suggest there could be more near-term downside. Whether bullish or bearish, future press releases are likely to generate more buzz around SunCar shares. In reality though, social media discussions will probably be in the driver’s seat until signs of market adoption emerge. Should you invest $1,000 in SunCar Technology Group right now? Before you consider SunCar Technology Group, you’ll want to hear this. MarketBeat keeps track of Wall Street’s top-rated and best performing research analysts and the stocks they recommend to their clients on a daily basis. MarketBeat has identified the five stocks that top analysts are quietly whispering to their clients to buy now before the broader market catches on… and SunCar Technology Group wasn’t on the list. While SunCar Technology Group currently has a “hold” rating among analysts, top-rated analysts believe these five stocks are better buys. The post SunCar Technology Stock Overheats… Will it Rise Again? appeared first on MarketBeat......»»
SunCar Technology Stock Overheats...Will It Rise Again?
SunCar Technology Group Inc (NASDAQ: SDA) has been on a wild ride — and it's only just begun. On May 17th, the Shanghai-based auto services startup completed its business combination with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Goldenbridge Acquisition Limited. The next day, SunCar began trading on the Nasdaq under its own SDA symbol. Then the fireworks began. Following a day-one slump, the stock started generating interest. More than 12 million shares exchanged hands on May 19th, setting the stage for an explosive run. SunCar rode a stunning 7-day win streak as high as $45.73 as momentum traders piled into the hot name. At the peak, the gain from the de-SPAC open was more than 800%. The joy ride came to an abrupt halt on Friday, however, when SunCar crashed 46% to $23.30. Bandwagon bulls that flew too close to the SunCar got burned badly, a reminder of how hot new issues can produce huge losses just as easily as huge gains. What Does SunCar Technology Group Do? SunCar Technology has two related but distinct businesses. First, it provides auto aftermarket services in China, the world's largest passenger vehicle market. Its digital platforms connect drivers with a nationwide network of ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»
Green juice no more: Elizabeth Holmes can expect hot dogs, macaroni, and tacos in prison
Disgraced Theranos founder and avid green-juice consumer Elizabeth Holmes will have to make changes to her diet during her 11-year prison sentence. Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to 11.25 years in federal prison.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Elizabeth Holmes reported to prison on May 30, 2023, after being convicted of fraud and conspiracy. Before her sentence began, Holmes maintained a vegan diet and regularly drank green juices. Her prison camp in Texas serves foods like hot dogs, tacos, hamburgers, and macaroni. A vocal proponent of green juice, disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will have to get used to some changes to her usual diet during her 11-year prison sentence. According to Inc., Holmes started a vegan diet while developing her medical tech startup, Theranos, because she felt that abstaining from animal products allowed her to function on less sleep. An integral element of her daily routine as a vegan was a green juice made of spinach, parsley, wheatgrass, celery, and cucumber, according to Refinery 29.In "Bad Blood," author John Carreyrou wrote that the juices were prepared by Holmes' personal chef, who would make multiple servings throughout the day at her request. Green juice was such a staple of Holmes's diet that they made it onto the big screen. In "The Dropout," the Hulu series that chronicles the rise and fall of Theranos, the semi-fictionalized version of Holmes is asked, "If you are what you eat, what are you?""Green juice," responds Holmes, depicted by Amanda Seyfried.The show suggests that her long-term boyfriend turned business partner, Sunny Balwani, encouraged her to make the beverage a part of her routine.Green juice wasn't the only constant in her diet. In 2014, Fortune reported that Holmes' dinners generally consisted of salad without dressing and oil-free spaghetti with tomatoes.Elizabeth Holmes arrives at the Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas, on May 30, 2023.MARK FELIX/Getty ImagesNow, over a year after being convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy in 2022, Holmes is just one week in to what will ultimately be an 11-year prison sentence at Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas. The founder and former CEO of Theranos will no longer enjoy her at-request juices.According to the BBC, the food offerings at the facility are typical of a Federal Bureau of Prisons menu, including chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, and macaroni. Holmes is allotted one hour per meal at the facility, in accordance with the prison's rules.Other changes to her daily life will include limited access to technology and daily headcounts, Insider previously reported.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Meet the "new predators in higher education" who are driving students deeper into debt
Online courses provide huge profits to colleges — while saddling students with mediocre classes and massive debt. Expanding online courses using a third-party company is any easy win for colleges, but for many students, the classes are a raw deal.Getty; Marianne Ayala/InsiderHow online college courses saddle students with mediocre classes and massive debtIola Favell wanted to go back to school to get her master's degree in teaching.Favell is a first-generation college student from California, and according to documents filed in a recent lawsuit, she felt it was important to earn her degree from a prestigious school. When she reviewed US News & World Report's "2021 Best Education Schools" list, one program caught her eye — the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. It seemed like the perfect fit: USC was in her home state, its online option offered the flexibility of remote learning, and it was ranked No. 12 on the list. She applied and was accepted to the online program in 2020. But when she graduated in May 2021, Favell took home more than just a degree — she was also stuck with a $100,000 student-debt load. Just over a year after she got her degree, Favell and two other students who attended Rossier filed a lawsuit against USC with the help of the borrower-protection group Student Defense and Tycko and Zavareei LLP, a public interest private law firm. They accused the program of providing misleading information that pushed them into paying for a program that wasn't what it had been made out to be."Ms. Favell incurred significant debt and out-of-pocket expense in reliance on USC Rossier's position in the US News ranking," the lawsuit said. "She regrets her decision to attend USC Rossier because of the false rankings information. She would not have attended had USC Rossier been ranked in a lower position given the high price tag of the school and/or would not have paid nearly as much." USC denied the claims in the lawsuit.The crux of the issue was USC Rossier's partnership with an online-program-management company. OPMs partner with schools to build out online classes, providing everything from technical support and software to, in some instances, a curriculum that would typically be taught by university faculty. In exchange for expanding course offerings and recruiting students, OPMs receive a big chunk of the tuition revenue from the online programs, which usually cost the same as in-person schooling. The OPM model was a great deal for schools as online learning surged earlier in the pandemic: Fewer students wanted to take classes in person, and OPMs were there to do all the legwork to boost enrollment in virtual course offerings, which helped generate much-needed tuition revenue.The OPM model may seem like an easy win for colleges, but for many students, the courses are more of a raw deal. The companies' aggressive recruitment tactics suck in as many students as possible by promising convenience and a well-paying job after graduation. Instead, many students find themselves shouldering a huge debt load from a program that was a pale imitation of the in-person learning experience. While it's not always the case, many experts and grads told me that OPMs were offering online students a worse education for a sky-high price."These programs can increase access to higher ed," Eric Rothschild, Student Defense's litigation director, said in a statement. "But too many students have been defrauded by the misleading marketing of companies whose profits depend on enrolling as many students as possible at all costs." The root of the problemJohn Katzman has been deep in the OPM trenches for years. In 2008, he cofounded the OPM company 2U and eventually grew it into one of the biggest online-course providers in the country. Katzman told me that in its early years, he felt confident that the company was having a positive influence on the higher-education industry. When he started creating partnerships, Katzman said his goal was to bring in "really well-qualified students" and ensure they would succeed in the programs. "I'm going to go find USC or Georgetown, or any of our early partners, the best students I could," he said. A third-party provider to those schools, 2U signs a contract to offer services such as recruiting and technology to boost online enrollment.The landscape for OPMs changed in 2011 when the Education Department upended the industry with an under-the-radar tweak to the rules governing OPMs. In 1992, the government barred college recruiters from making profits and receiving bonuses based on the number of students they succeeded in enrolling — they instead were paid a flat fee no matter how many people they signed up. The new guidance, however, created a loophole that allowed colleges to use OPMs for "bundled services" that included recruiting, marketing, and course development. Since recruiting was only a piece of what OPMs were offering, schools were now allowed to share a percentage of their tuition revenue. The change distorted the motivations of many OPMs: Since they got a cut of every tuition dollar, it made more sense to sign up as many students as possible to increase enrollment — and their profits. Clare McCann, a former senior policy advisor with the Education Department and a higher-education fellow at Arnold Ventures, told me that because the online programs were so new, it was "not widely understood what kinds of problems this would bring." But as the OPM industry exploded, the issues became clear."The schools see it as a way to not have to put up capital up front," McCann said. "The OPM basically fronts the money to start the program and then takes a cut of the tuition revenue. But because they're outsourcing those recruitment activities to the OPM, there is a strong incentive for the OPM to engage in aggressive recruitment.""There are schools spending 10 times as much on marketing and recruiting as they spend on teaching and learning."It proved quite the incentive: OPMs generated $5.7 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $1.3 billion in 2015. Some industry analysts estimate that by 2025, schools will fork over $13.3 billion annually to OPMs. But as the industry grew and the incentives changed, Katzman said, the quality of the programs began to suffer. OPMs started aggressively recruiting students by emailing and calling them multiple times a week — according to the Government Accountability Office, the most common service colleges used OPMs for was marketing online programs. OPMs put more of their money toward programs that weren't as selective because it allowed them to cast a wider net, recruit more students, and make more money. And a lot of OPMs started to offer "high-cost and high-risk" courses that set students up for uncertain job prospects, like Favell said she experienced, but brought in big profits for the providers."Their feeling was: 'Which program generates the largest profit? Because that's where we should put our marketing dollar,'" Katzman told me.He became disillusioned in 2012 when 2U went public. In 2013, he stepped down as CEO and left the company. But even without one of its founders, 2U continued to grow along with the rest of the industry — the company now has a market capitalization of roughly $300 million. "The company and the industry took a left turn at that point in ways that were not in the interest of students or universities," Katzman told me. "I left in 2013 with a feeling that we could do better as an industry."A raw deal for studentsAs the industry grew, scandals surged right along with it. Beyond Favell's lawsuit, USC's online social-work and teaching programs have long been ensnared in a legal mess. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2019 the university was looking for a way to boost enrollment — and revenue — without investing in more on-campus housing and in-person resources. So it turned to OPMs. After it hired 2U, enrollment in the social-work program surged from 900 in 2010 to 3,500 in 2016. Under the contract, 2U would get 60% of the program's tuition revenue, according to the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to the perverse incentives of the industry, former students of the online programs told the Journal that 2U recruited far more students than it was equipped to give a quality education to, charging over $100,000 for a program that the students said did not pay off. A 2U spokesperson told me that USC maintains "exclusive control" over the program, including setting tuition and administering financial aid.The social work lawsuit also claims that USC misrepresented its partnership with 2U and that the OPM "intentionally" targeted people of color, forcing them into massive student-debt loads they could not afford to pay off. The suit also claims that USC's use of the US News report to recruit students into the online teaching program was misleading because the ranking was based on in-person offerings only. The OPM said following the lawsuit's filing, "we categorically deny the baseless and frivolous allegations made against our company in the lawsuit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against these unfounded claims." USC said that it disagreed with the claims brought up in the lawsuit, and the case is pending.Grand Canyon University also made headlines in 2019 when a former student sued the school after enrolling in the school's online doctoral program — managed by Grand Canyon Education — accusing it of misrepresenting degree requirements and breaching their contract. The university denied the claims, and while a federal judge dismissed the case in 2019, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of the ruling in January, saying the student demonstrated a failure on the school to fulfill some of its contractual promises. But beyond scandals, the everyday business of OPMs is leaving many online students with exorbitant bills, despite how cheap it is to administer the courses."The university is agreeing to charge, at a minimum, the same amount for the online students as they are for on-the-ground students, even though the online program costs a fraction of what it is to offer the ground students," Aaron Ament, the president of Student Defense and a former special counsel at the Education Department under President Barack Obama, told me. That's led to dramatically inflated tuition for online courses — and a ton of student debt for those who enroll.And along with inflated costs, there can be a significant disparity between the quality of programs offered online and in person. A 2019 report from the Century Foundation that analyzed 79 contracts between schools and OPMs found that with 68% of contracts, OPMs were tasked with developing curriculum, which could mean they contributed to differences between on-campus and online learning.OPMs have helped fuel the student debt crisis, saddling may students with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and an uncertain future.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty ImagesA recent lawsuit former USC social-work students filed against the school alleged that the online program was advertised as being the same as the one offered in person while the curriculum was different and even out of date in some cases. "Borrowers have really struggled for decades to try and manage that debt, despite not having earned high-value credentials," McCann said.Katzman now runs a new OPM company, Noodle, which is trying to distinguish itself from the rest of the industry by being more transparent about its offerings. Noodle puts more money into the actual classes, rather than marketing, and collects 37% of a program's revenue on average, compared with the up to 65% a traditional OPM might take."There are schools spending 10 times as much on marketing and recruiting as they spend on teaching and learning," Katzman said. "If you're spending 30% or 40% on marketing and recruiting, there's only so much you can spend on teaching and still keep your doors open."To be sure, some schools have thrived off OPM partnerships. Helen Drinan, the interim president at Cabrini University — a private college in Pennsylvania — and previously the president of Simmons University in Massachusetts, told me that her partnership with 2U at both universities helped facilitate programs that "really, really worked out." Drinan said 2U was instrumental in helping the school with marketing and technology support and that she could not have grown the schools she led in a competitive marketplace without the help of an OPM."If we want to be in bigger markets, we cannot do it by ourselves," Drinan said. "And I think it really scares me that someone would tinker with the OPM model, not understanding there are many institutions like ours that will never be able to afford to build in all these services, that will be closed out of market opportunities if the OPM model is tampered with significantly."'The new predators in higher education'The growing influence of OPMs isn't raising alarm just among students and advocacy groups; lawmakers have also begun to look into some of the more exploitative parts of the industry. In January 2022, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith, and Sherrod Brown sent a letter to the CEOs of the eight biggest OPMs seeking updated data about the contracts they served and the outcomes of their programs. "We continue to have concerns about the impact of OPM partnerships on rising student debt loads," they wrote to the CEOs.In a response to the lawmakers that 2U shared with me, the company defended its practices and said its "contracts don't have incentives for our partners to charge higher tuition" and that "lower tuition prices benefit both students and 2U." Pearson, another OPM that received the letter, said at the time that it "welcomes the opportunity to engage with policymakers and officials about the benefits of online degree programs." The OPM Academic Partnerships similarly said it would "continue our differentiated strategy focused on regional public universities across the country and continue our open dialog with all stakeholders."There's a lot of risk to students and a lot of risks to taxpayers with these kinds of programs Rep. Rosa DeLauroA few months after the lawmakers sent their letter, the Government Accountability Office published a report on the rise of OPMs. Its conclusion: The government needs to be regulating them a lot more. The GAO said that despite the Education Department expecting independent auditors to review arrangements between OPMs and schools, the oversight investigations often overlooked the money spent on recruiting and marketing to students — a critical piece of the industry.The Education Department agreed with the GAO's recommendations to clarify the information colleges needed to provide to auditors about OPM arrangements. In February, it announced it would be asking for public feedback on whether to change the 2011 guidance that led to the OPM free-for-all, but so far, efforts have been stymied by the slow wheels of bureaucracy, pushback from the industry, and opposition from Republican lawmakers. GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx, the chair of the House education committee, argued in a recent opinion piece that changing the OPM rules would hurt students and raise costs. Universities large and small leverage outside providers to improve their overhead efficiency, she wrote. "But as written, the new guidance will increase regulatory burdens, stifle innovation, balloon administrative compliance costs and reduce access to education, particularly for nontraditional learners."Despite the resistance, advocates maintain that reforms are long overdue. Student Borrower Protection Center said the Education Department had been "asleep at the wheel" when it came to regulating OPMs, and it called on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to step in and prevent students from taking on massive debt loads for low-value programs.Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro said in a recent opinion piece that OPMs were "the new predators in higher education." And without bolstered regulation, they won't go away — especially as remote learning persists. "There's a lot of risk to students and a lot of risks to taxpayers with these kinds of programs," she added.If OPMs' revenue wasn't so strongly linked to the number of students who enrolled, the predatory behavior would likely see a steep decline, advocates such as Ament and McCann say."What the 2011 guidance has done is let this industry grow really big, really fast," McCann said. "Schools have not had to put a lot of thought into how they are establishing their programs. They can outsource them pretty quickly, pretty cheaply. They can let another company take care of it. And there just hasn't been as much consideration given to what the long-term consequences of doing that are."Ayelet Sheffey is a senior economic policy reporter covering student debt on Insider's economy team.Editor's note: June 5, 2023 — This piece has been updated to better reflect the relationship between 2U and USC.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Crumbs Bake Shop floundered after defining the Y2K cupcake craze. Here"s what went wrong, and what its founders are doing next after buying the defunct brand for $350.
Mia and Jason Bauer founded Crumbs Bake Shop in New York City in 2003. The cupcake bakery closed in 2016, but now it's back. Crumbs Bake Shop went out of business in 2016. But founders Mia and Jason Bauer are trying to revive the cupcake brand.Crumbs Bake Shop Crumbs Bake Shop popularized fancy cupcakes in the early 2000s before the brand floundered in the 2010s. But Crumbs' founders returned to the brand last year and are rebuilding it with a new strategy. From the first store in New York City to their delivery-savvy reboot, here's the full story of Crumbs. Twenty years ago, Crumbs Bake Shop was one of the biggest names in cupcakes. Then, it all crumbled. The husband-and-wife team who opened the first Crumbs store in Manhattan grew their business to dozens of locations in an effort to become America's local bakery. But the company entered a downward spiral when the cupcake craze lost steam. After laying dormant for several years, they're trying to bring the brand back. Here's the complete story of Crumbs:Three years after Sex and the City inspired a cupcake craze, Crumbs was born.Sex and the CityIt all started in 2000 when character Carrie Bradshaw ate a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery's West Village location. Tourists began flocking there and a "Sex and the City" tour bus made the location a destination. The cupcake craze had officially begun.Mia and Jason Bauer, respectively a legislative counsel and a consumer product entrepreneur, were quick to jump on the trend, opening the first Crumbs on the Upper West Side in 2003."My expectations were very simple, and they came to fruition immediately," Mia Bauer told New York Family in 2012. "The goal was to have a neighborhood bakery where I knew everybody and their kids, and I made all their birthday cakes."Crumbs was a huge hit. View this post on Instagram A post shared by The Original CRUMBS Bakeshop (@originalcrumbs) People went crazy for Crumbs' cupcakes, and the company was able to sell its gourmet product for as much as $4.50 a pop.In an interview with Newsweek, Jason Bauer explained why the cupcakes were such a hit."If you rewind to 2002, cupcakes were vanilla, chocolate, lemon, or strawberry, maybe with sprinkles," he said. "When we opened our stores, Mia created three types of cupcakes with cool fillings, frostings, and decorations. Every day they sold out, so we decided to expand that line and continued to grow it. We started making gourmet cupcakes and [that's] what has now become the industry standard."Crumbs' cupcakes now come in more than 75 flavors and range from the 1-inch-tall "Taste" cupcake to the 6.5-inch-tall "Colossal," which can feed up to six people.Next came a nationwide expansion.REUTERS/Fred Prouser Crumbs started opening more shops in New York and expanded to Philadelphia, D.C., and Beverly Hills, among other cities.But at the same time, hundreds of other cupcake bakeries opened across the U.S. Among them were Sprinkles Cupcakes, which launched in 2005; Cupcake Nouveau in 2007; and Georgetown Cupcake in 2008.As the cupcake craze ballooned, television networks began taking notice. The Food Network started airing "Cupcake Wars" and TLC launched "DC Cupcakes," a show about Georgetown Cupcake and its owners.The Bauers sold half their stake in Crumbs for $10 million in 2008, and the empire kept growing.Fred Prouser/Reuters Two years later, Crumbs was named one of Inc. Magazine's 500 fastest-growing companies in America and it moved into new corporate headquarters near Bryant Park in Manhattan.With more than two dozen shops open around the U.S. in 2010, Crumbs generated about $1.8 million in net income on $31.1 million in sales and estimated that it would double its profit to as much as $3.9 million the following year, according to Daily Finance.In 2011, the average check size was $19, with most customers buying cupcakes in bulk. That year, the typical Crumbs store generated more than $1,000 of annual sales per square foot, which was comparable with McDonald's when it came to sales volume, according to Daily Finance. The company revealed an aggressive plan for cupcake market domination.Fred Prouser/Reuters When Crumbs opened in 2003, there were only three bakeries devoted to cupcakes nationwide, according to Newsweek. By 2011, there were hundreds.Bauer said Crumbs would remain competitive by expanding rapidly."We're looking to open 200 stores by the end of 2014. I want to be the national neighborhood local bakery," he told Newsweek. "Twenty years ago, people didn't go to Walmart to buy a birthday cake. They went to a bakery. We want it to be that way again. We want to be the neighborhood bakery in every town across the country. We're trying to position ourselves as the dessert destination."Crumbs was acquired for $66 million in 2011 as it prepared to go public.Max Nisen/Business InsiderA holding company called 57th Street General Acquisition Corp. acquired Crumbs and took it public in June 2011 at a price of $13 per share. Crumbs had 35 locations at the time.But beneath the surface, trouble was brewing.Katherine Kallinis Berman, left, and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne pose with cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, their bakery in Washington, DC.Courtesy of Georgetown CupcakeCrumbs' troubles began in mid-2011, when it was orchestrating a massive expansion, according to former Crumbs President and CEO Julian Geiger.Same-store sales started declining as the cupcake market was rapidly growing more crowded, and analysts began warning of a possible cupcake bubble.Crumbs was also plagued by high real estate costs, according to Darren Tristano, executive vice president at the food industry research firm Technomic.The company's shops averaged about 1,000 square feet, with one outlet near Chicago measuring 3,300 square feet, Tristano told Crain's New York Business reporter Aaron Elstein."That meant high rents and lots of extra space in places where shoppers seldom lingered," Elstein wrote.The Wall Street Journal would later conclude that Crumbs' downfall was the result of mass "gourmet-cupcake burnout."After a lackluster earnings report, Crumbs' stock suddenly crashed.Matt Sayles/APThe company reported in August 2011 that same-store sales fell 6% in the three months ending June 30 of that year. By September, Crumbs stock had plunged to $3.75 from its $13 IPO price.In November, Jason Bauer resigned from his position as president and CEO. In 2013, the Crumbs empire finally began to cave.Julie Zeveloff/Business InsiderDespite falling same-store sales, the company kept opening new locations for several years, climbing to 70 locations in 2013, up from 35 in mid-2011.Eventually, the chain started closing stores."We have talked repeatedly about wanting to close certain underperforming stores within our real estate portfolio," former CEO Julian Geiger said in an August 2013 conference call. "We are making real progress."The chain shrank to 58 locations, according to a filing with the SEC.The company searched for other ways to make a profit.Fred Prouser/ReutersCrumbs reported a net loss of $15.3 million in 2013, up from a $7.7 million loss in 2012.The company tried to offset its declines by licensing its treats, with coffee and bake mixes sold in grocery stores. Crumbs began selling the Crumbnut — which is a twist on the much-hyped cronut — as well as assorted cupcakes and ice cream cakes at BJ's Wholesale Club."We have known for quite some time now that we needed to evolve our business model," CEO Edward M. Slezak said in a March 2013 release. Our focus for 2014 will be on executing our initiatives and strategies of licensing our brand for complimentary product categories, positioning ourselves to move toward a franchise store model, and continuing to close under-performing stores. We believe these actions will put our business on a trajectory toward increased growth and vitality in the future."But in 2014, Crumbs had to make a tough choice to stay in business.Shannon Stapleton/ReutersIn July, the company suddenly closed all of its stores and said that it was considering its options, including a bankruptcy filing. Its stock was also delisted from the NASDAQ.Instead, the company ended up taking new investments from Marcus Lemonis, known for his CNBC show "The Profit," and Fischer Enterprises. The deal led to the reopening of Crumbs' stores, though the company shut unprofitable locations, whittling its store base down to 24.Lemonis told Insider in October 2014 that the Bauers and Crumbs oversaw "an obscene expansion that cannibalized their own stores.""They literally killed the brand," he said at the time.Meanwhile, the Bauers had moved on from Crumbs. View this post on Instagram A post shared by The Original CRUMBS Bakeshop (@originalcrumbs) Crumbs co-founder Jason Bauer launched a real estate brokerage firm in 2014 called Voda Bauer. Since then, he's also worked as a senior vice president and WeWork and co-founded a cocktail shot brand called Liqs.While he and Mia retained an 8.5% stake in Crumbs, Jason said he's "moved on" from the cupcake business."I'm disappointed with the company's performance and stock price," Bauer told Crain's New York Business, "but I've moved on."Crumbs' first turnaround attempt failed, and the chain shuttered its last store in 2016.A Crumbs cupcake shop in 2014.Denise Marcotte/Getty ImagesLemonis left Crumbs and took a "significant loss" on his investment in 2015, the New York Post reported at the time. In December 2016, Crumbs closed all of its stores permanently.In 2022, the Bauers bought back the rights to Crumbs. Today, they're working on reviving the business.Crumbs Bake ShopJason Bauer applied for trademark rights to the "Original Crumbs Bakeshop" brand in 2021, Insider reported this month. The cost to register the brand, once the mark of a $66 million business? Just $350.The Bauers are taking a different approach to growing the brand, they told Insider. Instead of trying to be a neighborhood bakery, Crumbs is selling its baked goods through grocery stores and directly to consumers through its website. Customers in New York City can also order for same-delivery through services including DoorDash and Uber Eats, thanks to a partnership between Crumbs and ghost kitchen startup Reef.Crumbs is also selling cookies in addition to its signature cupcakes."This time we want to elevate the cupcake category in supermarkets with a superior product or something you have never been able to get at a supermarket, but only at a local bakery," the Bauers told Insider.But the Bauers told Insider they haven't ruled out eventually selling the brand again. "Whether we sell it, whether we take it public, whether we continue to build it, we're in it to build the brand," Jason said. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Meet a millennial radio host in England with 62,000 pounds in student debt who says he"s "not that worried about it" — even though "there"s no option to pay it all off"
"If you worry about it too much, then you'll get really depressed because it's an awful amount of money," Jordan Lee, 28, said of his student loans. A protest outside Parliament in Westminster against spending cuts, tuition fees, and student debt.In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images Jordan Lee, 28, has 62,000 pounds in student debt and works as a radio host in Manchester, England. He said because of the UK's repayment system that clears debt after 30 years, he's not too uneasy. That's despite high interest rates on the loans making his balance surge. This story is part of a series called "Millennial World," which seeks to examine the state of the generation around the globe.Jordan Lee always knew he was interested in the entertainment industry. He probably could have avoided the debt that came with preparing for it.He said he and his peers were told that attending a university was the natural next step after high school. At the time, he knew that he loved to dance, so he decided to go to a dance conservatory in London — and no one ever suggested to him that he do anything else.Lee, who's now 28 and living in Manchester, England, graduated in 2016 and has a steady job as a radio host — but he also has 62,000 pounds, or about $76,900, in student debt that's always sitting in the back of his mind."When I got a slip recently where I paid 1,300 pounds on my student loan, I was like, this doesn't feel right," Lee told Insider. "This is way too much, and it does kind of affect you. It definitely makes you feel like, was it a waste of money? But you can't go back, so you're kind of stuck in this catch-22 vibe."Jordan Lee, 28, has 62,000 pounds in student debt.Jordan LeeBut unlike for many Americans, Lee's student-debt load is not a constant worry for him. That's because in the United Kingdom, student-loan borrowers know their loans will be written off after a certain number of years in repayment. In the meantime, monthly payments are required to receive eventual relief, and spiking interest rates have made that more of a burden. Plus, broad relief like President Joe Biden's plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers isn't even a part of the national conversation."There is no way that any party in the UK would just go, 'There you go. There's your debt gone,'" Lee said. "If they do, my jaw will be on the floor."'The interest is just an unbelievable amount'On Biden's proposal, Lee said he felt "a bit jealous.""I think in a lot of people's eyes, it doesn't impact people enough for that to happen in the UK," he said.But that's not necessarily the case. Monthly payments for undergraduate debt amount to 9% of borrowers' incomes, and the interest rate on those payments varies depending on the borrower's income bracket.With the promise of forgiveness comes consequences for failing to make payments. According to the UK government, anyone who does not fulfill their repayment obligations could be subject to a court order requiring them to repay the total debt, plus interest and penalties, in a single payment.And the time to relief varies depending on income. Lee said he fell within the second income bracket, meaning his loans are set to be written off 30 years after the first April he began repayment."I'm not that worried about it," Lee said. "Because if you worry about it too much, then you'll get really depressed because it's an awful amount of money."In addition, because of the rising cost of living in the UK, the government in August capped interest rates on student loans at 6.3% after they were expected to rise to 7.3%. Still, that increase has hit borrowers hard, and Lee said the surging interest made it impossible for him to stay on top of the original amount in student loans he took out."I think once I left, it was about 45,000 pounds, and now it's 62,000. The interest is just an unbelievable amount," Lee said. "There's no option to pay it all off because the way that it's set up, I owe more money now than I did this time last year because the interest is so high."High interest rates that prevent borrowers from paying off their principal balance is not unique to the UK. As Insider has previously reported, many Americans with student debt are being crushed by high interest rates that are keeping them in a cycle of repayment far longer than anticipated. One couple, for example, started with $54,000 in student debt, paid $140,000 toward it, and still owe $130,000 — all thanks to surging interest rates on student loans in the US.Despite the high interest on the monthly payments, Lee said "the one good thing about it" was the debt load did not show up on his credit score. Still, according to the government website, mortgage lenders might consider the student-loan amount when determining how much a person can borrow.Lee said he's grateful he had the experience of going to college — but he added that he "probably would not have gone" if it weren't so easy to take on such a large amount of debt."If you were constantly reminded you will owe 50,000 pounds, I think that would put off so many people," Lee said. "And I think that's probably the reason why they don't hammer that home and they make it so easy."If I'm not thinking about the money, no regrets doing it. If I was thinking about it more, absolutely, I probably wouldn't have gone."Lee said he thought the education system in the UK needed to change because it's difficult for a teenager to understand the consequences of taking on five figures in student debt for a degree that might not end up being useful."At 18, you're supposed to decide what your life plan is," Lee said. "When it comes to university and getting a degree, it's like, there's the 50,000 pounds debt there. There's the degree. You've got to choose one thing to do. And I think it's just so heavy to put that on people at that age."He added: "Education, when it comes to money, is not good enough in this country, and it really needs to be better, especially when you're making life-changing decisions like that. The government may argue that it's small, but no, it's 50,000 pounds of debt that you're putting students in."Some people are lucky enough to be able to pay that off, and some people will never pay it off."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
I made $250,000 in sales last year making digital templates and usually work 4 hours a day. Here"s how I started my business and quit freelancing.
Ali Rahmon started as a freelance graphic designer but moved into templates when he saw the income potential. Now he usually works four hours a day. Ali Rahmon built up his digital-template business by focusing on sports as a mock-up niche.Ali Rahmon Ali Rahmon is a Syrian refugee who moved to Romania as a graphic-design freelancer in 2014. He's since built a business selling customizable Photoshop design templates and mock-ups online. He shares how he pivoted from freelancing to selling digital products that have been used by ESPN. This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ali Rahmon, the owner of Sports Templates. Rahmon's revenue has been verified with documentation by Insider. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.I started my career in 2011 as a freelance graphic designer in Syria, where I grew up. In 2012, I started selling templates on GraphicRiver — a marketplace where you can sell digital templates, vectors, and Adobe add-ons — to diversify my income.My income as a freelancer meant I could move to Romania I moved to Romania in 2014 because of the constant war in Syria. My freelance earnings and professional portfolio were sufficient for the refugee visa.In Romania, I pivoted my freelancing efforts from creating printable graphics to designing templates for clients' branding, web design, and 3D design. A printable graphic, such as a logo or illustration, is a static visual asset. It's less appealing to buyers because they can use it only once and there's a risk other projects use the same graphics. After two years in template designing, I decided to focus on sports templates as my niche. I was inspired by the importance of visual identity to American sports teams.I posted a sports template on GraphicRiver and got an overwhelming response. My $15 design has 1,600 sales on the platform, which puts me in the top 20 sellers. I built a website and focused on sports graphicsI always considered showcasing my work in one place, and my sports-template sales gave me the push. I paid a professional website developer $2,000 of my savings to make a custom WooCommerce site. The website went live in February 2016. I sold Photoshop templates and mock-ups for the sports industry, such as for helmets, sports jerseys, and tickets. Within the first month, I stopped working as a freelancer and gradually pulled away from my long-term clients to focus on marketing my digital product.I started Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, all linked to my website, and shared demos of how people could use my templates. These posts attracted some early sales.Additionally, I reached out to YouTube influencers in the design and sports space who had about 50,000 subscribers. I paid them $50 to $100 to promote my work in a video. This helped me gain credibility and trust in the industry. In 2017, I was approached by the creative director of ESPN, who found me through a Google search. He asked for a custom template.ESPN paid me $2,500 for the template. I put a lot of effort into the template, and while the payment didn't cover the time I put in, it was worth it for the credibility of having ESPN as a client.After I worked with ESPN, the Minnesota Timberwolves used one of my templates on their website during the 2017-18 NBA season to display their new jerseys. They bought the template for $60 off my website.I advertised that I'd worked with these big names on my website, which helped me attract other clients.The Phoenix Suns used my "Slam dunk basketball uniform template" to reveal their new uniforms. The Los Angeles Kings used my hockey jersey template for content and user engagement on Twitter. I was making five times as much from my template business as I was as a freelancer and it was less stressful. TikTok helped skyrocket my business and increase my revenueI began experimenting with TikTok in 2020 to scale my business amid the pandemic. I made a "What if NBA logos were minimalist" series to show off my templates in use. I converted NBA logos into minimalist designs and put them on my templates to show how my reimagined logo would look on a fan T-shirt or a jersey. These videos went viral, with some receiving over 4 million views.When a video went viral, I would notice my website revenue increase between 20% and 40% in the days after. The NBA teams started engaging with this content on TikTok. I got about 20,000 to 30,000 followers within two months of being on TikTok. I also reused the content to grow my followers on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I now have nearly 200,000 followers across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. After establishing a successful online presence, I was making between $10,000 and $15,000 monthlyIt was enough to hire a small team to help diversify my product offerings. We now make a lot of animated graphics to compensate for social media moving into video formats. My team grew from one designer to five working remotely. Now my work involves checking my website daily for updates, conducting extensive research, analyzing market trends, and informing people about what's new and valuable. I spend two to four hours on daily updates and eight to 10 hours when releasing new template designs. I was successful because I found a niche that combined my love of sports and graphic-design skills. I could leverage my personal interest to make a great product.In all my years of struggling to build this business, I've learned the importance of having a personal presence on the internet, especially as a graphic designer. Investing in a professional online presence was also crucial. A well-designed website showcased my work and lent credibility to my business, helping attract clients and establish trust. It's also very important to keep up with industry trends and customer needs and be prepared to adapt your offerings. I adapted to artificial-intelligence trends and designed a startup that could create sports logos in seconds from text prompts.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
I"m a private jet broker who arranges $500,000 honeymoon flights and $60,000 pet rescues
Dan Cook is sales director for private jet charter company Victor. It arranges flights for celebs and royals, but some go private for other reasons. A Gulfstream jet and Dan Cook, director of sales at Victor.RyanFletcher/Getty Images; Victor Dan Cook is the director of sales at Victor, a private jet charter company. He's arranged flights like a $500,000 honeymoon tour, and "secret weekends" for a group of friends. But some charter jets for health reasons, and Victor is trying to help decarbonize the industry. This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dan Cook, sales director at Victor. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. My dad has a pilot's license, so ever since I was a kid I've been around planes and helicopters. It seemed like an exciting industry.Private jets are obviously a sexy product. I was young and hungry and wanted to join a company that seemed to be doing exciting things.I'm a musician at heart so I came to London to do music. At the end of my university course I was lucky enough to get myself a record deal. Unfortunately, it didn't work out.In my early 20s, I was just working in a shoe shop seven days a week, basically to just stay in London. And then I managed to get a job at a startup through friends, going door to door in central London restaurants trying to flog an app.And through somebody that I met along that journey, they advertised an opening at Victor. The prospect of dealing with some of the most influential and successful people in the world took my fancy. I reached out to my friend, and she kind of helped put my resumé on the top of the pile.I started at the very bottom of the sales team. Over the years, I found my groove and eventually became the top salesperson.I wasn't the manager or the director, but I was the leader in the troops. There came a point where our sales director had left, and they asked me if I wanted to take the position.One client paid nearly $60,000 to rescue five dogs and catsYou have a flier that wants to arrange the flight and you have an aircraft management company that manages the jet. And our job is to find the customer, the best-suited aircraft and service provider based on what they've given us as their requirements.The majority of the people we deal with are ultra-high-net-worth individuals. They tend to be cash-rich, time-poor. So they want things done well, and they want them done well fast. There are certain things that have to happen in more formal channels like bookings, but you'd be surprised at how many people these days are happy to just do all of the communication over WhatsApp.Jet charter with Victor starts at about $6,000 for an hour's flying. A trip from London to New York would set you back about $100,000. Extensive schedules which include multiple destinations tend to rack up the largest bills. A recent music tour we serviced cost over $3 million for 16 flights across one continent. The interior of a Gulfstream G400 jet.GulfstreamWe've had a member of a royal family pay more than $500,000 for their honeymoon – traveling from the Middle East, into Europe, over to the US, back through Europe, and then home.There was a client who was rescuing something like five dogs and cats from Riyadh and wanted to bring them back to the UK. They paid nearly $60,000.There was a client I used to help arrange "secret weekends." He'd book an aircraft for him and his friends, who wouldn't know where they were going until they boarded.So we had to call ahead to the gate and let them know their names so they didn't ask them where they were going. Once they got on board, there was a big announcement we'd arrange with the crew, and they would go off and have some fun.'We're not pretending this is a normal thing'Confidentiality is a massive part of what we do. I think a lot of people think about private jets as just pure luxury, when actually it's not the case. You have people who are flying with close protection officers, for example, members of royal families and government officials required to have security with them at all times.There's a genuine risk on their life if they're out in public spaces. And they use private aviation for the assurance that they have minimal risk throughout their journey.Elon Musk boards a private jet in Beijing.Jade Gao/Getty ImagesIn some cases, like a medical emergency, the private jet could be the difference between that person living or dying.An interesting one that I dealt with was helping a man who had an illness that seriously compromised his immune system. They chose to start flying private during the pandemic, because catching COVID was a serious risk.He was exploring booking the whole first class cabin on a commercial airliner for his family, in the region of $200,000. The jet was about $235,000, so he chose that.Flying private is a serious luxury. We're not pretending that it's this normal thing that we just deal with.We say that our clients have a responsibility to address the negative impacts when they're using that luxury.We've stopped carbon offsetting and moved onto the most credible and most impactful way to reduce CO2 emissions, which is sustainable aviation fuel made from waste products like used cooking oil. We're seeing one in five of our customers replacing fossil fuel with it.There are clients replacing 100% of the fossil fuel with sustainable fuel. It's not cheap, so they're paying thousands of dollars extra. We need to decarbonize the aviation sector, and sustainable air fuel is the most credible way to do this.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
CNN"s new CEO mostly ignored his staff at a holiday party and read critical coverage about himself on his phone instead: report
A damning profile in The Atlantic also shows the CNN CEO criticizing Don Lemon's on-air outfit and claiming to speak for public housing residents. CNN chief executive Chris Licht attends the 16th Annual "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan on December 11, 2022.Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Angry staffers and low ratings have plagued CNN CEO Chris Licht's first year on the job. At a holiday party, Licht mostly kept to himself and read bad publicity about himself instead of interacting with his staff. That anecdote is from a revealing new profile about Licht in The Atlantic. CNN CEO Chris Licht has been on the job for just over a year. In that time, CNN has suffered through low ratings and even lower employee morale, fired one star anchor, hosted a widely-criticized town hall with former President Donald Trump, and dismantled its much-touted new morning program. A damning new profile of Licht in The Atlantic written by Tim Alberta reveals the CEO was as fascinated with his own bad press as everyone else:At a holiday dinner for his D.C.-based talent, Licht went around the private room at Café Milano, shook hands and spoke briefly with each of the journalists, then sat down and spent much of the dinner looking at his phone. Not only did he say nothing to address the group—as they all expected he would—but Licht barely interacted with the people seated near him. It became so awkward that guests began texting one another, wondering if there was some crisis unfolding with an international bureau. When a pair of them caught a glimpse of Licht's phone, they could see that he was reading a critical story about him in Puck."It's unclear which Puck story caught Licht's attention, but the new media startup has made the CEO and CNN a repeated target of its reporting.Alberta was granted a tremendous amount of access for the profile, allowing him to witness firsthand all kinds of behind-the-scenes interactions, like Licht criticizing then-anchor Don Lemon's on-air outfit."What the fuck is he wearing?" Licht said of Lemon's fur-lined white jacket. A producer told Lemon they weren't a fan of the jacket and after the next commercial break it was gone.Later in the profile, Licht explained some of his views on diversity to Alberta."Licht recalled a recent dustup with his own diversity, equity, and inclusion staff after making some spicy remarks at a conference. "I said, 'A Black person, a brown person, and an Asian woman that all graduated the same year from Harvard is not diversity,'" he told me.A minute later—after noting how sharing that anecdote could get him in trouble, and pausing to consider what he would say next—Licht added: "I think 'Defund the police' would've been covered differently if newsrooms were filled with people who had lived in public housing." I asked him why. "They have a different relationship with their need with the police," he said."If Licht elaborated on his plans to hire more public-housing residents into the ranks at CNN, Alberta didn't quote him on it.A representative for CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
A TEDx speaker shares his 10 best tips to nail a presentation and improve your public speaking
Don't memorize your presentation, warns author Arian Adeli, and use the 'power pause' to help your words resonate with your audience. Arian Adeli (not pictured) says he learned more about public speaking from giving a TEDx talk than from all his other past speeches combined.Ryan Lash/TED Arian Adeli delivered a TEDx talk on 10 principles he implements daily to give himself direction. To prepare for the speech, he made his slides clear and succinct and trained himself to pause. He advises perfecting your body language and not memorizing your talk, but understanding it. Growing up, I was social and outgoing, but I was never fond of putting on a show, even in smaller settings. In my high school years, I hosted several online and offline events that improved my public speaking skills.Shortly after moving to the Netherlands, I got a speaker slot at a TEDx event happening at the University of Groningen. Funny enough, I'm a first-year student at the university myself, so the pressure from age discrimination was definitely on. Plus, my family and friends were in the audience, making it infinitely harder.I could not mess this up. After endless practice, I learned more from this singular experience than from all my past speeches combined.1. Don't overload your slidesSpeakers often use their slides to drive attention away from themselves to ease the pressure. Don't do that. Visual aids make the talk more engaging, but people come to watch you, not your Canva slides.You should only include what's necessary to make the audience follow what you're saying. Don't include sentences, use graphics to enhance the experience, make it visually appealing, and do not write paragraphs.2. The more is not the merrierAs a speaker, it's natural to want to include as much as possible in your talk to increase its value. However, this is a terrible mistake. With each section, imagine if you could only use one sentence to convey the point — focus on that and eliminate the rest.When I began writing my talk, I structured it more like a lecture. I dedicated a few minutes to introductory topics that would fit my talk. However, I later realized that I would only get the audience's attention for a short while, so I should cut to the chase.3. Don't eat your words at the end of a sentenceThe start of a sentence is arguably the hardest part. Raising your voice after a pause that felt like an eternity is no joke. However, we all know that you should start your sentences with a strong tone to engage the audience.What many ignore is how they finish their sentences. I also used to confidently begin my sentences but get quieter as I progressed. Ending your sentences with a firm tone will make your talk considerably more memorable.4. Power pauseI understand how long one-second pauses can feel on stage; however, maintaining a slow pace and pausing at the right moments can significantly enhance your talk.Another speaker that night even had a habit of counting to five in her head before she began her next sentence.Retaining information while listening to someone is not easy, especially given the declining attention spans among younger generations. You must give your audience a chance to process your statements before you move on.5. Talk about personal experiencesWe live in a time where it's easier than ever to find information on any topic you desire. Your audience will not want to listen to you for 10 minutes to save them the hassle of a Google search. Base your talk on your personal experiences and provide a unique angle.6. Perfect your body languageYou may be the speaker, but your body language does the talking for you as a person. Learn the art of engaging your audience with gestures, movements, and facial expressions.For example, slouching, having crossed arms, negative facial expressions, and avoiding eye contact can hurt the audience and lower your credibility in their eyes.7. Avoid "umm's" and "uhh's"Although this is a hard habit to break, avoid using "filler" words when you speak. Train yourself to be comfortable with pausing when necessary. It will make you appear more competent and comfortable, which makes it more likely for your audience to pay attention.8. Don't memorize your talk, understand itYou shouldn't read off anything during your talk, even small flash cards. It lowers the quality of your talk. There's just a different feel when a speaker genuinely understands his talk and delivers it as if it's a regular conversation.You have to structure your talk in a way where each sentence reminds you of the one after so that even if you were to talk without preparation, you would still follow the same order.9. Be likableI don't mean to alarm you, but in my experience, audiences tend to be more alert to a speaker's flaws than their strengths. If you come across as boring or arrogant, the audience will likely discard your talk immediately, even if it's actually good.Be humble, friendly, and engaging. If the audience can relate to you, they will be far more inclined to listen to you.10. Use strong statementsAs much as you hate to face the fact as a speaker, people have narrow attention spans. They will probably not remember much of your talk. So, use strong statements that provide a takeaway from your talk, even if the supporting sentences aren't present.For instance, I structured my TED talk around 10 principles I implement daily to give myself direction. Even if people spent the duration of my talk on their phones, likely, they would still remember the one-liners I used for each principle.Similarly, I concluded my talk with a story that led to a quote, "Life is good." The audience might not remember my story, but they will definitely remember how it ended.Remember, a great speaker embraces imperfections and performs regardless. Practice, get comfortable, and never lose sight of the purpose of your talk.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Meet Sunny Balwani: Theranos No. 2 and Elizabeth Holmes" ex-boyfriend who"s serving a 13-year prison sentence and was just ordered to pay $452 million in restitution with her
While Elizabeth Holmes is well-known in the Theranos saga, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani is more of an enigma. Here's what we know about his life and career. With Elizabeth Holmes, former Theranos president and COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani is on the hook for $452 million in restitution to victims of Theranos' fraud.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, Elizabeth Holmes' ex and right-hand man at Theranos, reported to prison in April. In mid May, he and Holmes were ordered to pay $452 million in restitution to victims of their fraud at Theranos. Here's everything you need to know about Balwani's life and career. The fraud trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes rocked Silicon Valley.The one-time star founder was found guilty on three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy last January after a four-month trial. She was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison, with three years of supervised release. Holmes reported to prison in Texas in late May.Meanwhile, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and Theranos' former president and COO, was also been convicted of fraud and handed a prison sentence. In July, a jury found him guilty on all 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy that were brought against him. He was sentenced to just under 13 years in prison, with three years of probation.In April, he reported to a low-security federal prison in California to begin serving his sentence, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons records. This week, a judge ordered that he and Holmes pay $452 million in restitution to victims of their fraud at Theranos, including $125 million to media mogul and Theranos investor Rupert Murdoch.While Holmes was once lauded as the next Steve Jobs and deemed the world's youngest self-made female billionaire, Balwani has largely remained an enigma. Online information and photos of him predating the DOJ's case are scarce, especially considering his tenure in the tech industry and position as a C-suite executive.Here's a closer look at what we do know about Balwani's often-mysterious life and career:Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani was born in Pakistan in June 13, 1965.Stephen Lam/ReutersTo this day, it's unclear why his nickname is Sunny.Source: The IndependentHe and his parents later moved to India before coming to the US.Shihan Shan/Getty ImagesSource: The IndependentIn 1986, he began studying information systems at The University of Texas at Austin.Eric Gay/Associated PressSource: The Independent, NewsweekHe later went on to work as a sales manager for Microsoft in Northern California.Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesSource: The New York TimesHe also worked at Lotus Software, but his position and tenure there are unclear.ReutersSource: NewsweekAmid the dot-com boom, Balwani joined a startup called CommerceBid as president in October 1999. The software development company hosted online business-to-business auctions.Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images (Holmes). Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (Balwani).Source: ABC NewsIn June 2018, Balwani was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Holmes was indicted on the same charges.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSource: DOJHolmes' trial may have shed some additional light on Balwani, as many witnesses, including Holmes herself, spoke about him on the stand.Vicki BehringerSource: Business InsiderHolmes testified that Balwani emotionally and physically abused her, which he has denied.Brittany Hosea-Small/ReutersSource: Business InsiderFormer Theranos employees testified that Balwani dismissed concerns they raised about the company's testing capabilities.Melia Robinson/Tech InsiderSource: Business InsiderTheranos whistleblower Erika Cheung, a former lab worker at the company, said Balwani told her, "What makes you think you're qualified to make these calls?" when she raised testing issues with him.Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBOSource: Business InsiderAlan Eisenman, a retired money manager and financial planner, first invested in Theranos in 2006 and said he grew concerned when he stopped receiving quarterly updates about the company from Holmes. When Eisenman tried to get information about Theranos' happenings, he said Balwani was "hostile" and "aggressive" towards him. When Eisenman discussed potentially selling his shares in Theranos, Balwani responded, "Your emails are insulting full of inaccurate statements and wasteful of our time. Our next response to this email and all your future emails will come from our counsel."Kimberly White/Getty ImagesSource: Business InsiderThen, Balwani's own trial kicked off.With Elizabeth Holmes, former Theranos president and COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani is on the hook for $452 million in restitution to victims of Theranos' fraud.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSource: Law360Experts speculated that Balwani would likely not fare well at his trial, and would meet the same fate as his former partner......»»
Was mass hysteria behind the mysterious case of 227 middle school students fainting last fall?
Mass hysteria is likely behind a mysterious case of 227 middle school students fainting last fall, despite being hundreds of miles apart. Tara Anand for InsiderThe students were hundreds of miles apart. Drugs were blamed at first. But now, researchers believe the truth was far stranger: It was likely one of the first cases of mass hysteria spreading online. On September 23, 2022, 12-year-old Esmeralda walked out of the girls' bathroom at her middle school in Tapachula, Mexico, and fainted. Her best friend Diala came out behind her and also fainted. Over the next hour, nine other girls and one boy at the Federal 1 public secondary school would spontaneously collapse in their classrooms, in the bathroom, and in the school's courtyard. Another 22 students would report other unusual symptoms like vomiting and headaches.Esmeralda's mom, Gladys, got a text message from her niece, Esmeralda's cousin, telling her to come to the school immediately. She found Esmeralda lying on the pavement in the school's central courtyard, unable to speak or stand. Diala was slumped beside her. A cluster of other sick children lay on their backs."Esmeralda fainted and started convulsing on the ground," Diala said later. "I didn't expect to faint too, but then I woke up on the ground. I couldn't breathe right, it was really fast, and my eyes were red."Several of the affected students reported smelling something smoky — Esmeralda said it reminded her of the smell of leaves burning up in the mountains — leading to suspicion marijuana was involved. But drug tests later came up negative. Several students also remembered seeing a powder in the bathroom that had a distinct, mustard-like hue. School administrators later turned up a sandwich bag with chicken soup base and a toxicology report came up clean for drugs.At the hospital, doctors concluded Esmeralda and the others had suffered a panic attack. By the next morning, all of the children appeared to have fully recovered. Classes resumed the next week.EsmeraldaEva Alicia Lépiz for InsiderTwo weeks later, on October 7, at a middle school in Bochil, a rural pueblo 150 miles from Tapachula at the northern edge of the Mexican state of Chiapas, at least 68 children fainted, vomited, or became disoriented. Dozens were hospitalized. An affected girl told a reporter from the magazine Gatopardo that her mouth felt like it was "crawling with ants." This time, tests found traces of cocaine in four of the affected students. Four days after that, on October 11, there was a second incident at Federal 1 in Tapachula; this time, 18 children — again, mostly girls — fainted. Once again, Gladys got a frantic text and rushed to the school. She found her daughter walking and talking normally. But when Esmerelda went back inside to use the girls' bathroom, she again smelled the strange burning odor and thought she saw blood. Through a cloud of dizziness, she made it back outside. "Mami I don't feel good," she told Gladys, and fainted.Yet again, within twelve hours, Esmeralda was back to normal. But this time, the school shut down while administrators puzzled over what to do next. A team of canines swept the halls, searching for drugs. None were found.Over the next two months, episodes of mass fainting were reported in at least six middle schools in four Mexican states, hundreds of miles apart, affecting 227 children, most of them girls. Several students were sick for days or weeks.Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador began including regular updates on the government's investigation into the fainting episodes in his daily press conferences.But Gladys and the other parents felt they were getting no closer to an answer. The theoriesGladys didn't buy the doctors' verdict that Esmerelda had suffered a panic attack. Like other parents, she worried her daughter had been drugged. During the first hospital visit, the family had paid extra for blood tests for marijuana, cocaine, opioids, methamphetamine, and other amphetamines. The tests cost 350 pesos, or around eighteen dollars. It was a hefty expense. The tests all came up negative, but Gladys remained skeptical. "It's possible there's something going on at the school and they don't want us to find out," she said. She later ordered a second test, from a better resourced and more expensive lab in Mexico City. Months passed and the results never arrived. A diverse set of theories was floated on social media and in the Mexican press: fertilizer poisoning, a rare bacterial illness, "probable smoke inhalation." An article in El Pais, a Spanish paper, posited an "unknown substance" could have been hiding in water sources. Other news sites mentioned a possible gas leak.In time, the consensus mostly settled around drugs. The episodes were evidence of a rise in adolescent drug use, or, even more frightening, of a twisted play by drug cartels. Proof of this, such as it was, mostly came down to the fact that the first episodes had occurred in Chiapas — a well-worn path at the southern edge of Mexico for drug and migrant smugglers heading north from Central America. The cartel theory was further fueled in mid-October, when investigators in Bochil announced they were looking for a man with a large tattoo who was seen hanging around the school on the day of the fainting episodes. Gladys and EsmeraldaEva Alicia Lépiz for InsiderLuis Villagrán, a prominent migrant advocate in Tapachula who happened to have nieces enrolled at Federal 1, said the episodes could be part of a cartel initiation ritual, where teen-aged recruits would be tasked with drugging their peers to prove their loyalty.While the majority of the parents avoided the press, Gladys agreed to multiple interviews.She was incensed that Esmeralda and the others were being vilified, and that investigators were dragging their feet and banking on the public simply moving on. "They need to do something, because what if a child dies?"If Esmeralda and her cousins bristled at this, Gladys would tell them: "Look at the news that's coming out and how they're saying you were the bad guys!"'Putting a lid on the truth'After the fainting episodes became national news, I was among a throng of journalists who traveled down to Tapachula from Mexico City. Journalists packed into the sidewalk in front of Federal 1, which is located in a quiet residential neighborhood near the center of town.One parent, who identified herself only as Susanna because she worried her son would be targeted in retaliation for her speaking out, said she believed drugs were involved, most likely brought in by the adolescents themselves.The school was "definitely putting a lid on the truth," and she was sure there would be a third fainting episode. "You know why? Because there's no punishment for the person responsible."Indeed, Tapachula was awash in rumors. Diala's mother tried to enroll her daughter in another school but Diala was rejected. Since she had been among those who fainted, administrators there said they were worried Diala was an addict and would bring drugs to class.Gladys joined dozens of parents at a press conference in front of Federal 1, where they asked for greater transparency from the school and the local district attorney. A banner went up saying "We demand an immediate response!" in large, red lettering. On October 18, Esmeralda and six other students from the original episode were called to the Chiapas district attorney's office to be questioned by a psychologist. "These depositions are going to give us lines of investigation," the lead investigator, José Eduardo Morales Montes, told us. A specialist in cases involving children, his office was investigating the episodes in Tapachula and Bochil. "If one child says they gave candy to someone else, we're going to follow that thread until we know what role which foods played." Over four hours, the kids were interviewed one by one. Each child was made to stick their thumbs in blue ink for prints, and they mischievously pressed the leftover ink on their fingers into the arms of their friends and parents, making little, smudgy tattoos. As each emerged from their interview, the others teasingly demanded to know if they'd cried.On the drive back to the neighborhood, everyone sat silently, except Esmeralda and Diala, who whispered to one another as they shared a bag of Doritos.Students by the kiosks across from the Federal 1 school in Tapachula, Mexico.Eva Alicia Lépiz for InsiderBut little seemed to come of those interviews. As various investigations reached their close, locals were left with muddled summaries and dead ends, rather than answers.An internal report from the Chiapas DA's office would later tentatively list the cause of the second episode as "probable intoxication through food." But, on the very next page, the report listed "probable transmission through the air" as the culprit. In another report, the Bochil episode was blamed on "probable intoxication with stimulants." The theory in that case was that water at the school had been spiked with cocaine, which explained why four of the students had tested positive for the drug, but didn't seem to account for the fact that 64 other students, who had tested negative for the drug, had also fainted. The families in Tapachula, Bochil, and the other affected towns further north near Mexico City — Tlaxcala and Hidalgo — expressed frustration that their children could still be in danger. But there was little they could do. I returned home to Mexico City along with the last of the national media, resigned that we might never know what was behind the brief but alarming epidemic of fainting spells.'I've been anticipating something like this'Back in Mexico City, I learned that not everyone had given up. Dr. Carlos Alberto Pantoja Meléndez, one of Mexico's few field epidemiologists, had taken an interest in the fainting episodes. When I reached him at his office at Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México, the country's premier medical school, he told me that he had gathered what had been collected by investigators in the affected states and conducted his own analysis. One by one, he had ruled out almost every possible theory. Drugs — still the favored narrative — could be excluded, Pantoja Meléndez said, since nearly all of the affected students had tested negative for the most common recreational drugs. "If it were drugs, we would already know," he said. (As for the four children in Bochil and one student from Hidalgo who had tested positive for cocaine, Pantoja Meléndez noted that they could have used the drug weeks or months prior to the incident, since cocaine tests are extremely sensitive.)Streptococcal bacteria from contaminated food, insecticide poisoning tied to nearby farms, or heatstroke, were plausible explanations, but would have required a multitude of coincidences to occur simultaneously.Because the symptom onset was immediate — many of the students, including Esmeralda, did not feel sick before fainting — Pantoja Meléndez says the epidemic could not have been caused by anything ingested orally, as the internal organs would have no time to process the toxin.The pattern of spread through the schools did not match an inhaled toxin either. The epidemic left a scattered signature, instead of taking out entire classrooms as is customary in cases of aerial contamination. Furthermore, many of the schools are not close enough to farms and factories to be affected by pesticides, fertilizers or other industrial chemicals. There was only one possibility remaining in his view - albeit an unlikely one: mass hysteria, otherwise known as mass psychogenic illness. Intrigued, I set up a Zoom call with one of the world's leading experts on mass hysteria, Dr. Robert Bartholomew, a psychology professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Bartholomew has a graying mustache and a habit of interrupting himself as he talks. In his Zoom background is a bookshelf featuring a large volume on the Roswell UFO sightings. For years, he has collected cases of mass psychogenic illness like coins or pokemon cards, and maintains a database of 3,500 examples going back to the Middle Ages. Since the nineties, he has written over 60 academic papers and several books on the subject."I've been anticipating something like this for years," he told me. The Federal 1 school in Tapachula.Eva Alicia Lépiz for InsiderIn fact, mass hysteria was the theory put forward by a medical team in Veracruz, following fainting episodes at the state's Técnica 67 school on October 17, after a microbiological analysis of food and water samples taken from the school had revealed no bacteria, drugs, or toxins.Mexican President Lopez Obrador had also hinted at the theory during his daily press conference on October 25, calling the fainting episodes a "mass effect". But the idea got little traction as his own government seemed focused on investigating unintentional poisoning.It was almost Christmas when we spoke, and Bartholomew told me he planned to devote his winter break to researching the Mexican fainting episodes. Soon, Bartholomew was busily requesting documents from the district attorney's office in Tapachula. Still skeptical, I contacted another mass hysteria expert, Dr. Simon Wessley, a professor at Kings College in London, and told him about the fainting spells. He replied in an email, and agreed that the facts appeared to be consistent with an epidemic of mass psychogenic illness. "It looks like a new case," he said.'An extension of our senses' Mass hysteria is a rare psychological phenomenon where one person exhibits an unexpected behavior like fainting, screaming, or twitching, and then others in the person's proximity replicate the symptoms involuntarily. Outbreaks can last a matter of hours, or months, and they occur especially in environments with a strict hierarchy and where people spend a lot of time together, like places of work, religious centers, and schools. While it is often contagious among people who are emotionally close, like Diala seeing Esmeralda faint and then fainting herself, it can also spread between people in the same space who don't know each other.In the Middle Ages, mass hysteria was known as "dancing mania"; an uncontrollable need to dance. During the renaissance and later the Puritan era, mass hysteria was given religious significance, and sufferers were labeled as witches or were thought to be possessed by demons. In modern times, cases have often been triggered by a strange odor, like the burning smell in Tapachula. The odor is perceived as a threat, which sparks a fight or flight response. Adolescents, specifically adolescent girls, are more susceptible to mass psychosis, but it is unknown exactly why. In all but one of the fainting episodes in Southern Mexico this fall, more girls were affected than boys. The only previous documented case of mass psychogenic illness in Mexico was at a girls' boarding school in 2007. "Adolescents tend to be more naive to the way the world works, right? They're more likely to believe in things like conspiracy theories, bigfoot, space aliens," Bartholomew said. "I know I did when I was that age."School groups have been the quintessential setting for cases of mass psychogenic illness in this century and the last. In 1962 in Kanshasa, Tanzania, over 1,000 schoolchildren were affected by fits of uncontrollable laughter for months. In 1965 in Blackburn, England, 141 adolescent schoolgirls fainted in one day. Several had fainted from fatigue at a church service and were made to sit in a hallway to recover, where they were seen by their classmates walking through, which is likely how the epidemic spread.In the early aughts, refugee children in Sweden began experiencing a new psychological condition in which they retreated into a state of reduced consciousness dubbed "resignation syndrome." Between 2016 and 2018, fifty children at a school in Pyuthan, Nepal would cry and shout en masse in periodic episodes. A diagnosis of mass psychogenic illness can be contentious. It is perhaps uncomfortable for doctors and local officials to blame a psychological effect, especially when people are presenting with physical symptoms that could suggest there's a concrete danger to a community.In 2011, several students at a high school in Leroy, New York developed uncontrollable twitching and began to garble their words. When the diagnosis of mass psychogenic illness was presented by the New York State Health Department, parents appeared on national television to campaign to get it discredited. What made the episodes in Mexico so interesting, Bartholomew said, is that they may represent something relatively new, because they spread without immediate social contact between the people affected. How could hysteria spread across hundreds of miles, through multiple different states, between people who never physically interacted?'Maybe we'll finally get some answers'From the outset, the working assumption had been that there was no connection between the middle schools where fainting episodes had been reported. But in late March, Pantoja-Melendez heard from an epidemiologist in Veracruz who gave him information that challenged that assumption. During her visit to the Técnica 67 school, several students mentioned that they were part of a WhatsApp group that also included students from Federal 1 in Tapachula. News of the initial fainting episodes had been shared there, the epidemiologist, who asked to remain anonymous, told Pantoja-Melendez. It was the first concrete social media connection between two pools of affected people.I had mentioned Pantoja Meléndez and Bartholomew to one another and soon discovered that they were working together. Both believe that the fainting episodes in Mexico were examples of something new and alarming: mass hysteria spreading online.The first signal that this could happen had come during the COVID lockdowns in the UK, when an epidemic of tics was identified in teen girls in the UK, and then in several other countries. The tics appeared to have started after they watched TikTok videos about people with Tourette's syndrome.In Mexico, according to Bartholomew, as word spread over special media, messaging platforms, and in the news about a "poisoning" or a cartel attack in Tapachula, so too did fear of it spreading to more schools. This, Bartholomew said, led to other kids replicating the very symptoms they'd heard about, often after they sensed something out of place, like a weird smell."It used to be that you had to be there. You had to be in the room," Bartholomew said. "But now social media is an extension of our senses, and we're always playing catch up… I think we are on the verge of a much bigger, global epidemic." Eight months after that first episode in Tapachula, Pantoja Meléndez and Bartholomew are now the only people left investigating the fainting epidemic. Their focus now is mapping out how each episode is linked to the ones that followed. This summer, teams from Pantoja Meléndez's university are set to visit the six affected schools to interview students and their parents about their social media use and what they had heard about other schools in the days preceding each fainting episode. Their working theory is that the Internet, coupled with the psychological and developmental disturbance of the pandemic, was the agent of transmission for a mass hysteria episode."These children were in their homes for almost two years. That is significant in relation to the connection between the brain and the immune system," Pantoja-Melendez explained. "We've seen all sorts of weird things happen the past year."EsmeraldaEva Alicia Lépiz for InsiderBack in Tapachula, Esmeralda is the only one among the 11 students who fainted in that first episode who's still enrolled at Federal 1. The other ten, including Diala, have transferred out. I called Gladys to tell her about Pantoja Meléndez and Bartholomew's theory, and to let her know the team of epidemiologists would be coming to Tapachula. She still suspects her daughter was drugged, but she told me she was keeping an open mind. After such painful uncertainty, Gladys says it's meaningful to her that someone cares enough to see the investigation through. "Maybe we'll finally get some answers," she said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
The under-the-radar companies making a killing on the student debt crisis
Online courses provide huge profits to colleges — while saddling students with mediocre classes and massive debt. Expanding online courses using a third-party company is any easy win for colleges, but for many students, the classes are a raw deal.Getty; Marianne Ayala/InsiderHow online college courses saddle students with mediocre classes and massive debtIola Favell wanted to go back to school to get her master's degree in teaching.Favell is a first-generation college student from California, and according to documents filed in a recent lawsuit, she felt it was important to earn her degree from a prestigious school. When she reviewed US News & World Report's "2021 Best Education Schools" list, one program caught her eye — the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. It seemed like the perfect fit: USC was in her home state, its online option offered the flexibility of remote learning, and it was ranked No. 12 on the list. She applied and was accepted to the online program in 2020. But when she graduated in May 2021, Favell took home more than just a degree — she was also stuck with a $100,000 student-debt load. Just over a year after she got her degree, Favell and two other students who attended Rossier filed a lawsuit against USC with the help of the borrower-protection group Student Defense. They accused the program of providing misleading information that pushed them into paying for a program that wasn't what it had been made out to be."Ms. Favell incurred significant debt and out-of-pocket expense in reliance on USC Rossier's position in the US News ranking," the lawsuit said. "She regrets her decision to attend USC Rossier because of the false rankings information. She would not have attended had USC Rossier been ranked in a lower position given the high price tag of the school and/or would not have paid nearly as much." USC denied the claims in the lawsuit.The crux of the issue was USC Rossier's partnership with an online-program-management company. OPMs partner with schools to build out online classes, providing everything from technical support and software to, in some instances, a curriculum that would typically be taught by university faculty. In exchange for expanding course offerings and recruiting students, OPMs receive a big chunk of the tuition revenue from the online programs, which usually cost the same as in-person schooling. The OPM model was a great deal for schools as online learning surged earlier in the pandemic: Fewer students wanted to take classes in person, and OPMs were there to do all the legwork to boost enrollment in virtual course offerings, which helped generate much-needed tuition revenue.The OPM model may seem like an easy win for colleges, but for many students, the courses are more of a raw deal. The companies' aggressive recruitment tactics suck in as many students as possible by promising convenience and a well-paying job after graduation. Instead, many students find themselves shouldering a huge debt load from a program that was a pale imitation of the in-person learning experience. While it's not always the case, many experts and grads told me that OPMs were offering online students a worse education for a sky-high price."These programs can increase access to higher ed," Eric Rothschild, Student Defense's litigation director, said in a statement. "But too many students have been defrauded by the misleading marketing of companies whose profits depend on enrolling as many students as possible at all costs." The root of the problemJohn Katzman has been deep in the OPM trenches for years. In 2008, he cofounded the OPM company 2U and eventually grew it into one of the biggest online-course providers in the country. Katzman told me that in its early years, he felt confident that the company was having a positive influence on the higher-education industry. When he started creating partnerships, Katzman said his goal was to bring in "really well-qualified students" and ensure they would succeed in the programs. "I'm going to go find USC or Georgetown, or any of our early partners, the best students I could," he said. A third-party provider to those schools, 2U signs a contract to offer services such as recruiting and technology to boost online enrollment.The landscape for OPMs changed in 2011 when the Education Department upended the industry with an under-the-radar tweak to the rules governing OPMs. In 1992, the government barred college recruiters from making profits and receiving bonuses based on the number of students they succeeded in enrolling — they instead were paid a flat fee no matter how many people they signed up. The new guidance, however, created a loophole that allowed colleges to use OPMs for "bundled services" that included recruiting, marketing, and course development. Since recruiting was only a piece of what OPMs were offering, schools were now allowed to share a percentage of their tuition revenue. The change distorted the motivations of many OPMs: Since they got a cut of every tuition dollar, it made more sense to sign up as many students as possible to increase enrollment — and their profits. Clare McCann, a former senior policy advisor with the Education Department and a higher-education fellow at Arnold Ventures, told me that because the online programs were so new, it was "not widely understood what kinds of problems this would bring." But as the OPM industry exploded, the issues became clear."The schools see it as a way to not have to put up capital up front," McCann said. "The OPM basically fronts the money to start the program and then takes a cut of the tuition revenue. But because they're outsourcing those recruitment activities to the OPM, there is a strong incentive for the OPM to engage in aggressive recruitment.""There are schools spending 10 times as much on marketing and recruiting as they spend on teaching and learning."It proved quite the incentive: OPMs generated $5.7 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $1.3 billion in 2015. Some industry analysts estimate that by 2025, schools will fork over $13.3 billion annually to OPMs. But as the industry grew and the incentives changed, Katzman said, the quality of the programs began to suffer. OPMs started aggressively recruiting students by emailing and calling them multiple times a week — according to the Government Accountability Office, the most common service colleges used OPMs for was marketing online programs. OPMs put more of their money toward programs that weren't as selective because it allowed them to cast a wider net, recruit more students, and make more money. And a lot of OPMs started to offer "high-cost and high-risk" courses that set students up for uncertain job prospects, like Favell said she experienced, but brought in big profits for the providers."Their feeling was: 'Which program generates the largest profit? Because that's where we should put our marketing dollar,'" Katzman told me.He became disillusioned in 2012 when 2U went public. In 2013, he stepped down as CEO and left the company. But even without one of its founders, 2U continued to grow along with the rest of the industry — the company now has a market capitalization of roughly $300 million. "The company and the industry took a left turn at that point in ways that were not in the interest of students or universities," Katzman told me. "I left in 2013 with a feeling that we could do better as an industry."A raw deal for studentsAs the industry grew, scandals surged right along with it. Beyond Favell's lawsuit, USC's online social-work and teaching programs have long been ensnared in a legal mess. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2019 the university was looking for a way to boost enrollment — and revenue — without investing in more on-campus housing and in-person resources. So it turned to OPMs. After it hired 2U, enrollment in the social-work program surged from 900 in 2010 to 3,500 in 2016. Under the contract, 2U would get 60% of the program's tuition revenue in exchange for developing the course curriculum, marketing it to prospective students, and operating the online infrastructure. Thanks to the perverse incentives of the industry, former students of the online programs told The Wall Street Journal that 2U recruited far more students than it was equipped to give a quality education to, charging over $100,000 for a program that the students said did not pay off. A 2U spokesperson told me that USC maintains "exclusive control" over the program, including setting tuition and administering financial aid.Favell's lawsuit also claims that USC misrepresented its partnership with 2U and that the OPM "intentionally" targeted people of color, forcing them into massive student-debt loads they could not afford to pay off. The suit also claims that USC's use of the US News report to recruit students into the online teaching program was misleading because the ranking was based on in-person offerings only. The OPM said following the lawsuit's filing, "we categorically deny the baseless and frivolous allegations made against our company in the lawsuit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against these unfounded claims." USC said that it disagreed with the claims brought up in the lawsuit, and the case is pending.Grand Canyon University also made headlines in 2019 when a former student sued the school after enrolling in the school's online doctoral program — managed by Grand Canyon Education — accusing it of misrepresenting degree requirements and breaching their contract. The university denied the claims, and while a federal judge dismissed the case in 2019, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of the ruling in January, saying the student demonstrated a failure on the school to fulfill some of its contractual promises. But beyond scandals, the everyday business of OPMs is leaving many online students with exorbitant bills, despite how cheap it is to administer the courses."The university is agreeing to charge, at a minimum, the same amount for the online students as they are for on-the-ground students, even though the online program costs a fraction of what it is to offer the ground students," Aaron Ament, the president of Student Defense and a former special counsel at the Education Department under President Barack Obama, told me. That's led to dramatically inflated tuition for online courses — and a ton of student debt for those who enroll.And along with inflated costs, there can be a significant disparity between the quality of programs offered online and in person. A 2019 report from the Century Foundation that analyzed 79 contracts between schools and OPMs found that with 68% of contracts, OPMs were tasked with developing curriculum, which could mean they contributed to differences between on-campus and online learning.OPMs have helped fuel the student debt crisis, saddling may students with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and an uncertain future.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty ImagesA recent lawsuit former USC social-work students filed against the school alleged that the online program was advertised as being the same as the one offered in person while the curriculum was different and even out of date in some cases. "Borrowers have really struggled for decades to try and manage that debt, despite not having earned high-value credentials," McCann said.Katzman now runs a new OPM company, Noodle, which is trying to distinguish itself from the rest of the industry by being more transparent about its offerings. Noodle puts more money into the actual classes, rather than marketing, and collects 37% of a program's revenue on average, compared with the up to 65% a traditional OPM might take."There are schools spending 10 times as much on marketing and recruiting as they spend on teaching and learning," Katzman said. "If you're spending 30% or 40% on marketing and recruiting, there's only so much you can spend on teaching and still keep your doors open."To be sure, some schools have thrived off OPM partnerships. Helen Drinan, the interim president at Cabrini University — a private college in Pennsylvania — and previously the president of Simmons University in Massachusetts, told me that her partnership with 2U at both universities helped facilitate programs that "really, really worked out." Drinan said 2U was instrumental in helping the school with marketing and technology support and that she could not have grown the schools she led in a competitive marketplace without the help of an OPM."If we want to be in bigger markets, we cannot do it by ourselves," Drinan said. "And I think it really scares me that someone would tinker with the OPM model, not understanding there are many institutions like ours that will never be able to afford to build in all these services, that will be closed out of market opportunities if the OPM model is tampered with significantly."'The new predators in higher education'The growing influence of OPMs isn't raising alarm just among students and advocacy groups; lawmakers have also begun to look into some of the more exploitative parts of the industry. In January 2022, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith, and Sherrod Brown sent a letter to the CEOs of the eight biggest OPMs seeking updated data about the contracts they served and the outcomes of their programs. "We continue to have concerns about the impact of OPM partnerships on rising student debt loads," they wrote to the CEOs.In a response to the lawmakers that 2U shared with me, the company defended its practices and said its "contracts don't have incentives for our partners to charge higher tuition" and that "lower tuition prices benefit both students and 2U." Pearson, another OPM that received the letter, said at the time that it "welcomes the opportunity to engage with policymakers and officials about the benefits of online degree programs." The OPM Academic Partnerships similarly said it would "continue our differentiated strategy focused on regional public universities across the country and continue our open dialog with all stakeholders."There's a lot of risk to students and a lot of risks to taxpayers with these kinds of programs Rep. Rosa DeLauroA few months after the lawmakers sent their letter, the Government Accountability Office published a report on the rise of OPMs. Its conclusion: The government needs to be regulating them a lot more. The GAO said that despite the Education Department expecting independent auditors to review arrangements between OPMs and schools, the oversight investigations often overlooked the money spent on recruiting and marketing to students — a critical piece of the industry.The Education Department agreed with the GAO's recommendations to clarify the information colleges needed to provide to auditors about OPM arrangements. In February, it announced it would be asking for public feedback on whether to change the 2011 guidance that led to the OPM free-for-all, but so far, efforts have been stymied by the slow wheels of bureaucracy, pushback from the industry, and opposition from Republican lawmakers. GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx, the chair of the House education committee, argued in a recent opinion piece that changing the OPM rules would hurt students and raise costs. Universities large and small leverage outside providers to improve their overhead efficiency, she wrote. "But as written, the new guidance will increase regulatory burdens, stifle innovation, balloon administrative compliance costs and reduce access to education, particularly for nontraditional learners."Despite the resistance, advocates maintain that reforms are long overdue. Student Borrower Protection Center said the Education Department had been "asleep at the wheel" when it came to regulating OPMs, and it called on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to step in and prevent students from taking on massive debt loads for low-value programs.Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro said in a recent opinion piece that OPMs were "the new predators in higher education." And without bolstered regulation, they won't go away — especially as remote learning persists. "There's a lot of risk to students and a lot of risks to taxpayers with these kinds of programs," she added.If OPMs' revenue wasn't so strongly linked to the number of students who enrolled, the predatory behavior would likely see a steep decline, advocates such as Ament and McCann say."What the 2011 guidance has done is let this industry grow really big, really fast," McCann said. "Schools have not had to put a lot of thought into how they are establishing their programs. They can outsource them pretty quickly, pretty cheaply. They can let another company take care of it. And there just hasn't been as much consideration given to what the long-term consequences of doing that are."Ayelet Sheffey is a senior economic policy reporter covering student debt on Insider's economy team.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Elizabeth Holmes Begins 11-Year Prison Sentence for Blood-Testing Hoax
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes entered Texas prison where she could spend the next 11 years for overseeing a blood-testing hoax. BRYAN, Texas (AP) — Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes entered Texas prison where she could spend the next 11 years for overseeing a blood-testing hoax that became a parable about greed and hubris in Silicon Valley. Holmes, 39, on Tuesday entered a federal women’s prison camp located in Bryan, Texas — where the federal judge who sentenced Holmes in November recommended she be incarcerated. The minimum-security facility is about 95 miles northwest of Houston, where Holmes grew up aspiring to become a technology visionary along the lines of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. As she begins her sentence, Holmes is leaving behind two young children — a son born in July 2021 a few weeks before the start of her trial and a 3-month old daughter who was conceived after a jury convicted her on four felony counts of fraud and conspiracy in January 2022. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Holmes was free on bail up until Tuesday, most recently living in the San Diego area with the children’s father, William “Billy” Evans. The couple met in 2017 around the same time Holmes was under investigation for the collapse of Theranos, a startup she founded after dropping out of Stanford University when she was just 19. More from TIME [video id=tvJU1JNq autostart="viewable"] While she was building up Theranos, Holmes grew closer to Ramesh, “Sunny” Balwani, who would become her romantic partner as well as an investor and fellow executive in the Palo Alto, California, company. Together, Holmes and Balwani promised Theranos would revolutionize health care with a technology that could quickly scan for diseases and other problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick. The hype surrounding that purported breakthrough helped Theranos raise nearly $1 billion from enthralled investors, assemble an influential board of directors that include former Presidential cabinet members George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and James Mattis and turned Holmes into a Silicon Valley sensation with a fortune valued at $4.5 billion on paper in 2014. But it all blew up after serious dangerous flaws in Theranos’ technology were exposed in a series of explosive articles in The Wall Street Journal that Holmes and Balwani tried to thwart. Holmes and Balwani, who had been secretly living together while running Theranos, broke up after the Journal’s revelations and the company collapsed. In 2018, the U.S. Justice Department charged both with a litany of white-collar crimes in a case aimed at putting a stop to the Silicon Valley practice of overselling the capabilities of a still-developing technology — a technique that became known as “fake it ’til you make it.” Holmes admitted making mistakes at Theranos, but steadfastly denied committing crimes during seven often-fascinating days of testimony on the witness stand during her trial. At one point, she told the jury about being sexually and emotionally abused by Balwani while he controlled her in ways that she said clouded her thinking. Balwani’s attorney steadfastly denied Holmes allegations, which was one of the key reasons they were tried separately. Balwani, 57, was convicted on 12 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy in a trial that began two months after Holmes’ ended. He is currently serving a nearly 13-year sentence in a Southern California prison. Maintaining she was treated unfairly during the trial, Holmes sought to remain free while she appeals her conviction. But that bid was rejected by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila, who presided over her trial, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving her no other avenue left to follow but the one that will take her to prison nearly 20 years after she founded Theranos. Attorneys representing Holmes did not immediately respond when contacted by The Associated Press for statement on Tuesday. FPC Bryan, a minimum-security prison camp located about 95 miles northwest of Houston, encompasses about 37 acres of land and houses about 650 women — including “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah, who was sentenced earlier this year to 6 1/2 years in prison for defrauding thousands of people in a yearslong telemarketing scam. Most federal prison camps don’t even have fences and house those the Bureau of Prisons considers to be the lowest security risk. The prison camps also often have minimal staffing and many of the people incarcerated there work at prison jobs. According to a 2016 FPC Bryan inmate handbook, those in the Texas facility who are eligible to work can earn between 12 cents and $1.15 per hour in their job assignments, which include food service roles and factory employment operated by Federal Prison Industries. Federal prison camps were originally designed with low security to make operations easier and to allow inmates tasked with performing work at the prison, like landscaping and maintenance, to avoid repeatedly checking in and out of a main prison facility. But the lax security opened a gateway for contraband, such as drugs, cellphones and weapons. The limited security has also led to a number of escapes from prison camps. In November, a man incarcerated at another federal prison camp in Arizona pulled out a smuggled gun in a visitation area and tried to shoot his wife in the head. The gun jammed and no one was injured. But the incident exposed major security flaws at the facility and the agency’s director ordered a review of security at all federal prison camps around the U.S. —AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke is in San Francisco. AP U.S. Law Enforcement News Editor Mike Balsamo and AP Business Writer Wyatte Grantham-Philips contributed to this report......»»
Photos show Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes reporting to a Texas prison to begin serving her 11-year sentence
Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes was also recently ordered to pay $452 million in restitution to victims with her co-defendant and ex, Sunny Balwani. Elizabeth Holmes reported to a women's prison in Bryan, Texas, on Tuesday to begin serving her sentence of more than 11 years.AP Photo/Michael Wyke Elizabeth Holmes reported to a Texas prison Tuesday to begin serving her sentence of more than 11 years. The Theranos founder was convicted on four counts of fraud and conspiracy last year. She was also ordered to pay $452 million to victims with her co-defendant, Sunny Balwani. Eight years after infamous blood-testing startup Theranos began to implode, its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is now in prison.On Tuesday afternoon, Holmes reported to a minimum-security women's prison in Bryan, Texas, about 100 miles from Houston, where she grew up, to begin serving her sentence of 11.25 years, with an additional three years of supervised release. She was convicted last January on four of 11 counts of fraud and conspiracy.Holmes was escorted by prison officials into a federal women's prison camp on Tuesday.AP Photo/Michael WykeHolmes' life will change drastically at Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas. She'll go from living in an estate she rents for $13,000 a month to a small cell with no door. She'll be waking up at 6 am and working for as little as 12 cents an hour — a far cry from what she earned running Theranos. Prisoners at the facility are already anticipating Holmes' arrival, and some even want to be friends, The Wall Street Journal reported.As Holmes reports to prison, the 39-year-old leaves behind two children — a son born in July 2021 and a daughter born this February, both of whom she shares with her partner, William "Billy" Evans.In 2003, Holmes dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to found Theranos and quickly became a star of Silicon Valley. She was once hailed as the next Steve Jobs and named the world's youngest self-made female billionaire with a net worth of $4.5 billion at one point.Theranos quickly attracted high-profile investors and board members including former US senators, presidential cabinet members, and billionaire CEOs.Holmes reported to Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas, on Tuesday.AP Photo/Michael WykeThough Theranos was lauded for its potential to revolutionize healthcare, it never delivered on its promises.By 2015, federal regulators were investigating Theranos, and an exposé on the company from The Wall Street Journal prompted further scrutiny. Theranos shuttered in 2018, and the Department of Justice announced Holmes and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani — her ex-boyfriend and Theranos' former president and COO — were charged with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.Holmes duped investors and patients by exaggerating Theranos' financials and falsely claiming its devices could run hundreds of medical tests with only a single drop of blood, prosecutors argued during her monthslong trial last year. The defense argued that Holmes was in the dark about much of the company's finances and technology issues, and Holmes alleged she was abused and controlled by Balwani while CEO, which his lawyers have denied.Holmes has been sentenced to 11.25 years in prison with three years of supervision following her release.AP Photo/Michael WykeAt her sentencing in November, Holmes said she was "devastated" by her failings at Theranos."I loved Theranos; it was my life's work," Holmes said tearfully. "I am so, so sorry. I gave everything I had to building and trying to save our company.""Every day for the past few years I have felt deep pain for what people went through because I failed them," she added at the time. "Looking back, there are so many things I would do differently if I had the chance. I regret my failings with every cell of my body."Last January, Holmes was found guilty on four counts, all related to investors' losses in Theranos. She was acquitted on four other charges, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the three remaining counts. She is still appealing her conviction.Balwani reported to a California prison in April to begin his nearly 13-year sentence. He was convicted in July on all 12 charges brought against him.Besides their prison sentences, Holmes and Balwani have been ordered to pay $452 million in restitution to victims of their Theranos fraud, namely investors like media mogul Rupert Murdoch and companies Walgreens and Safeway, both of which had partnerships with Theranos.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»