Here’s a nice example of the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in the innovation method called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). It’s a great tool to make products and services that are “smart.” They adjust and learn, then adapt their performance to suit the needs of the user. Continue reading →

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The Internet of Things poses an industrial disruption potentially unmatched in history. Every business needs to reevaluate their identity and position, innovate to take advantage of new technologies, and decide to move with a sense of urgency. Continue reading →

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The stories of companies of tech startup darlings like Uber and AirBnB illustrate the power of modern technologies to create new, exciting business models. And while seeing the rise of these companies are both captivating and inspiring to many would-be entrepreneurs, there are other stories out there; stories not as visible, but inspiring and interesting nonetheless. Julia Kurnia is the CEO and founder of Zidisha, an online micro-lending community directly connecting lenders and entrepreneurs, bypassing local banks and intermediaries charging high-interest rates. Zidisha offers a person-to-person platform that lets lenders and entrepreneurs communicate openly and instantly; facilitating approximately 17,000 microloans worth $3.5 million. Julia shares how, without a background in technology but with guidance from Y Combinator, she was able to pursue her passion and create a platform/marketplace connecting borrowers with lenders half a world away, at a fraction of the cost offered by larger, better funded organizations. * * * * * Small Business Trends: Tell us a little bit of your personal background. Julia Kurnia: I’ve always been interested in using technology to bring better opportunities, better access to capital to the world’s poorest places. When Kiva got started in 2005, I was very excited by the idea and I got a job working with one of Kiva’s first intermediary banks in West Africa. Kiva is a non-profit website that allows you to fund loans, which are then managed by local banks in developing countries. So I worked with one of the local banks that actually raised money, and then managed loans from Kiva. There was kind of this immense desire on the part of people in wealthy countries to do something more direct that would help people in developing countries. The frustrating thing was that we had to spend a lot of money to manage the loans. We had to pay a loan officer to go and visit the borrowers and post their stories on the website, and to travel, and rent and office. And all of this ended up costing about a third of the value of the loans that we were making. So even though we received capital at zero cost from Kiva, we would have to charge the borrower’s 30 percent or 40 percent interest to cover our management costs. And that’s about the average rate charged for Kiva and also general micro-finance loans around the world. Small Business Trends: Fast forward a little bit to the idea that you had for Zidisha and why you were able to do what you did at such a lower cost, compared to Kiva. Julia Kurnia: In the following years, I started working with the U.S. Government managing grants in various countries in Africa. Over the years the internet just exploded, and cost of using the internet came way down in the world’s poorest places. Younger adults – people in their 20’s where they were growing up with Facebook and they were using the internet from cheap cyber cafes on every street corner. I imagined something like Kiva, but without the bank intermediaries. It would be directly between the lender and the borrower. And by doing so, we could eliminate that 40% cost that was eating into the borrower’s profit margin. Small Business Trends: Basically you were able to leverage the growth of the internet that was reaching into even the poorer parts of the world. Be able to leverage technology to create a marketplace that was more efficient, but also made it more possible for these loans to be done without having to pay exorbitant fees. Julia Kurnia: Yes. At Zidisha, we don’t have any loan officers or bank intermediaries. The lender and the borrower interact directly. And by cutting out the intermediary, we’ve been able to get that 30 percent, 40 percent costs down to just five percent. The borrowers pay five percent for each loan. Small Business Trends: Wow … Last year you were part of Y Combinator, and you mentioned that they helped you because your background isn’t necessarily in technology. But … Julia Kurnia: No. Small Business Trends: … they were able to help you to do things for yourself that you probably didn’t think you would have done four or five years ago. Julia Kurnia: Yes. Y Combinator made us much more like a tech startup and less like a traditional charity or non-profit, which is a good thing because they introduced us to a lot of expertise and resources that hadn’t been on the radar previously. One example is using data science to automatically detect a suspicious loan application that we would have previously had to scrutinize manually. Small Business Trends: So that’s another one of those areas where being able to use technology allowed you to not have to bring in these loans officers that add cost and make it maybe a little less efficient. Julia Kurnia: Yes. Yes, that’s right. Small Business Trends: Talk about the marketplace itself. How many people are getting loans, and how many people are loaning money. Julia Kurnia: We were founded in 2009. We grew very slowly at first, and more rapidly in the past year since completing Y Combinator. So today we’ve crowd-funded a little over $3.5 million worth of loans. And that’s about 17,000 loans between about 25,000 people – lenders and borrowers all over the world. Small Business Trends: That’s made up of loans averaging a couple hundred bucks. It’s not massive amounts of money per loan. It’s these $100, $200 loans that are going to folks in Africa and Asia, and that money goes a long way. Julia Kurnia: Yes. One example is college tuition. That’s a popular use of small loans among the young adults who are joining our platform. In Ghana, $200 is enough to go to university for a semester. Small Business Trends: Man, that almost left me speechless there. That might get you a book in one semester here in the States. Julia Kurnia: Yes, but the amazing thing about connecting people directly and doing so at low cost is that you can take advantage of the huge differences in purchasing power. For the price of one night’s dinner in New York, you could start an entire restaurant in Indonesia. Small Business Trends: Wow. Now let’s talk about the folks that are lending to the borrowers. How is this marketplace done differently from their perspective? Julia Kurnia: For one thing, it’s very transparent. When you go on our website, you aren’t interacting with us or our employees. You’re interacting directly with the borrower. You can ask them questions. You’re reading the story that they wrote themselves with no editing from anyone. You can exchange photos. Lenders also like being able to see the exact cost the borrower is paying for their loan, and being able to choose to whom their funds go. They also like being able to renew it over and over, so on average, $100 put into a loan fund at Zidisha funds about $200 to $300 worth of loans in a year. Small Business Trends: So basically, kind of to sum things up, you’re able to leverage technology to create a marketplace that allows you to reach the same folks, and for them to only pay 5% as opposed to 40 percent transaction fees. Julia Kurnia: Yes, and this would not have been possible 10 years ago. Small Business Trends: And I’m kind of looking at it also from the perspective of looking to the future. Kiva actually had — I think you mentioned — hundreds of employees if not more. And … Julia Kurnia: I believe so. Small Business Trends: And many more resources at their disposal, but you were able to basically make it a little different business model. But it’s actually better for the borrowers because now they’re not having to pay those higher transaction fees. Julia Kurnia: That’s right. We never had major backing, or millions of dollars worth of grants the way Kiva did. And that forced us to stay very lean. So almost everything is automated and decentralized to our users. Small Business Trends: So if I asked you to peer out into the future — maybe a year or two out — as we know technology is constantly morphing. But where do you think technology is going to take your marketplace? Julia Kurnia: I think, in hindsight, we were very early to market. So when we started doing this in 2009, perhaps two percent of the people in Kenya or the other countries where we operated were online. These days it’s more like 10 percent to 20 percent. So it’s an exploding market that’s driven a lot of our recent growth. And I expect that to continue. Small Business Trends: Very good. And you said you’re up to about 30,000 members, borrowers and lenders total? Julia Kurnia: Yes. Yes, almost 30,000. Small Business Trends: And it sounds like the growth rates, you could be seeing those kind of numbers double over a year or two period. Julia Kurnia: Yes, at least. Our monthly loan funding volume has more than tripled in the past year. Small Business Trends: You’re seeing that kind of growth and that kind of scale, but it seems like you’re able to do that without adding a whole bunch of additional employees. And, you’re right now the main employee. Julia Kurnia: Yes. We’re mostly a volunteer-driven community similar to Wikipedia in that respect. We expect to add many more volunteers and have our users very involved in the process. And we try to stay out of the way as much as possible and make the platform useful for everyone. Small Business Trends: Even from that perspective, it’s the collaboration that you need to do – technology makes that easier for you to do and have this army of volunteers ready to help out. Julia Kurnia: Yes. Small Business Trends: Where could people learn more about Zidisha, and maybe how they can play a role in this? Julia Kurnia: I would recommend going to our website. It’s Zidisha.org. This article, ” Julia Kurnia of Zidisha: How Non-Profit Used Tech Startup Tactics to Build a Microlending Marketplace ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of my recent favorites has been StartUp. And while I’m not a startup per se, when you’re a one-person business like me, it often feels like you’re perpetually in startup mode. Anyway, one of the episodes last season addressed the “trough of sorrow.” That’s the demoralizing period in the development of a business where things seem stuck and unlikely to ever get better. I’ve been there, but I thought it was just me. And then I find out it’s so common it has a really great name like “the trough of sorrow!” Not only did having a name for it help, but it also suggested this cartoon. Maybe the trough isn’t so sorrowful after all! This article, ” There’s Plenty of Company in “The Trough of Sorrow” ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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So it doesn’t seem like a big deal at first because it’s just something new to look at, but the recent introduction of a new Google logo actually has a lot of layers to examine. But first and foremost, above is a screenshot of the new logo that Google unveiled on their blog in an official announcement  this week. If you visit the homepage of Google, you’ll see a video that doodles the new logo into action, except of course this time it isn’t one of their fun daily doodles because it’s here to stay. Why Google Decided to Make a Logo Change Again, at first glance it doesn’t look like much, but Google actually explained in the announcement that the new logo and “identity family” reflect Google’s new reality — that they are being used across many different platforms, devices, apps, and more, sometimes all in one single day. To take things one-step further, a Fast Company Design article reminded us that the company makes whole operating systems for laptops, phones, watches and smart home products. They’re building cars that don’t need you to drive them. It responds to your voice, maps you based on location, and so much more. They aptly say, “Google went from being a way we find trivia to becoming the digital infrastructure of our lives.” Aside from just the way that Google has changed over the years, Google also announced a new parent company called Alphabet last month on August 12. The new company will acquire Google and become a collection of companies with Google being a wholly-owned subsidiary. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will run Alphabet while Sundar Pichai, Page’s deputy at Google, will become CEO of Google. In short, it makes sense that now is the time to make the change as Google continues to make other major shifts. You can learn more about Google Alphabet here . The New Logo is More Than Just a Change of Font and Color The idea behind the logo is to make it easy to see when Google is working for you regardless of your device or input (such as tap, talk, and type). In the past the Google logo would just be present whenever you were using a Google service, but now that Google has become so interactive and different in so many places and in so many ways, it made sense for them to show you how Google is working for you at a given time. A few of the changes you’ll see include: There will be a new colorful Google mic so that you know whether you’re talking, tapping, or typing. There will be no more blue “g” icon anymore; it will now be a four-color “G” to match the new logo. The new logo should look better on small screens because the simpler lettering scales better and is more distinct. According to The Verge , it is easier for Google to display on low-bandwidth connections because the new version is only 350 bytes compared to the current logo, which is 14,000 bytes. The new four colored “G” and a new Google+ logo are now a part of your Drive. In regards to the recent formation of Alphabet, the new logo change will help to keep Alphabet and Google more related from a design standpoint. What do you think of the new Google logo? Let us know in the comments below. Republished by permission. Original here . Image: Small Business Trends This article, ” You’re Not Seeing Things, Google Has a New Logo ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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If you’ve ever experienced the headache of assembling your own furniture, particularly from low-budget stores like Ikea, then you understand the frustrations of Brad Sewell. Sewell, a former Apple engineer, moved from California to Boston for business school a few years ago. And he had difficulty finding furniture that fit somewhere between IKEA’s inexpensive, do-it-yourself model and the high-end stores that weren’t exactly affordable. He explained to Entrepreneur: “I had this taste in quality, but a budget that was like ‘graduated IKEA.’ There wasn’t much between your disposable furniture and the really high-end stuff.” He knew that there had to be a way to make and ship furniture so that it was both high quality and easy to assemble. So, in 2012, he started his own furniture company, Campaign . He even left Harvard Business School to focus on the project. The eCommerce site launched earlier this month, offering chairs, loveseats and sofas made from laser-cut steel tubing and organic cotton. It’s not a large enough line to rival the likes of IKEA just yet, but Sewell has big plans for the future. He wants to get into dining tables, bedroom sets and even outdoor furniture. And, he has plans to partner with other designers to release limited edition covers for the various furniture pieces. He also has a goal of opening a storefront at his Emeryville, California headquarters. But in the meantime, he has some creative ideas for showcasing the products to those customers who might be too far away or can’t make it into the showroom. He said to Entrepreneur: “Whether it’s your favorite coffee shop in Brooklyn or a hotel lobby in San Francisco, or a bar in downtown Los Angeles or a startup [company’s] lobby, we really want to curate list of great places to showcase a few pieces. So your buying experience would be visiting the website, seeing all the features, and then seeing a list of locations where you can try them out.” While the business is still in its very early stages, Sewell’s idea does show some promise. Born out of his own desire for furniture that fits somewhere in the middle of the market, the company’s offerings are likely to fit the budgets of plenty of others who have experienced that same conundrum. So if the company can both expand on its offerings and get the word out about them, there are likely plenty of consumers out there just waiting to pay a bit more for nicer furniture that won’t take hours of frustration to build. Image: Campaign This article, ” Campaign Furniture Markets Quality on a Budget ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Facebook made history recently by reaching a significant milestone: a billion users in a single day. CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a post to announce that “1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their family and friends.” This big feat reinstates Facebook’s leadership in the social media space and gives a real sense of its incredible reach across countries and continents.” In his post, Zuckerberg further added: “I’m so proud of our community for the progress we’ve made. Our community stands for giving every person a voice, for promoting understanding and for including everyone in the opportunities of our modern world.” Making Big Strides Since its launch in 2004 as a social network for college students, the company has evolved rapidly to expand the scope of its services. It has strived to become more user-friendly and accessible to people across the globe. As part of its plans, Facebook introduced Internet.org, a partnership with other big tech players to improve net connectivity throughout the world in 2013. The group aims at developing affordable smartphones and other tools that would cut the amount of data needed to run various apps. These tools would also provide basic Internet services for free. What It Means for Your Business Facebook’s massive reach has created a plethora of opportunities for businesses of all sizes. It has made businesses realize the tremendous potential of social media marketing to reach their target audience. A study conducted by G/O Digital Marketing confirms the growing stature of Facebook among its users. According to the study, 68 percent of respondents have used social media sites to look for local businesses. What’s even more fascinating to note is that about 58 percent of participants expect a response to their queries and complaints on Facebook. What this means for you as a business owner is that you cannot underestimate the potential of Facebook in helping you connect with your customers. The one billion milestone in itself reflects the incredible size of the Facebook community, which continues to thrive. And Facebook is very keen on leveraging its position and reach to attract more small businesses. Recently, the social networking giant announced that it now has 40 million active small business pages. Significantly, nearly all of the 2 million who use the platform to advertise their products and services are small business owners. Inspired by the numbers, Facebook is planning a slew of changes aimed at keeping business owners like you using the site. Its chat function, for example, will offer live one-on-one support to respond to all of your queries in real-time. With Facebook trying to position itself as a mainstream marketing solution, it will be harder than ever for small businesses to ignore its necessity. Image: Mark Zuckerberg/ Facebook This article, ” Milestone for Facebook: One Billion People in a Day ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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I am an artist. There, I’ve said it. This statement may confuse some people who know me, and come as a shock to others. Braden, what do you mean you’re an artist? You’ve got an MBA from London Business School, you’ve led change programs for global organizations, helped companies build their innovation capabilities and cultures, are an expert in digital transformation, and you can’t even draw a straight line without a ruler. What makes you think you’re an artist? Continue reading →

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As the business owner of a company that creates commercial videos, I often get asked where the best place is to post video content. The obvious answer is your website and YouTube. But there’s another less obvious place I’d like to suggest: LinkedIn. If you’re in business, you probably know it’s about getting more people to know, like, and trust you and your product or service. You probably also know that great video content is one of the best ways to do that. So, if you have great video content you’ll want to post it where ever you can. And, that includes posting video on LinkedIn. As we all know, LinkedIn is often the first place people go to check someone out. So why don’t most people post video on LinkedIn? I have my theories: They don’t realize they can. They assume they can, but don’t think it’s a big deal not to, especially since most don’t. They aren’t technically inclined, assume it’s a pain, and can’t be bothered to learn. They have no video to post. Regardless of the excuses, as more and more people fully realize the need for video content — which is happening — I predict you’ll be seeing a major shift in video on LinkedIn. For those that don’t need convincing the only question is: “ What kind of video do I need ?” If you have a business, you’ll obviously want to post something that explains your product or service in a way that gets folks interested and, ideally, excited. Whether you have a business or not, you should post video content that helps people know, like and trust you. How you successfully do that is probably the subject for another article. But, whatever it is, it must be decent quality and a positive reflection on you. So, are you ready to create and post video content ? LinkedIn Mobile Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Why Isn’t Your Video on LinkedIn? ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Traditionally, metals need to be extracted through mining and then shaped into usable materials using large amounts of heat. But now, a Seattle-based startup thinks it has found a better, more energy-efficient method for creating metal. Modumetal has developed a way to “grow” metal using electricity and nanotechnology. This method allows the company to control basically all of the charicteristics of the metals. Christina Lomasney, CEO and co-founder of Modumetal, is a physicist who has spent years working with this type of electrochemistry and materials. She told Fortune that the company’s process is “the ideal way of making materials.” She said the method to grow metal, which involves manipulating the matter on a molecular level, is similar to how trees grow. With trees, the sunlight, water and other environmental factors control their growth. So, Modumetal simply controls some outside factors that impact the material’s characteristics so they can control just about every aspect of the metal. Oil rigs off the coasts of Australia, Africa, and the U.S. are already using some of the company’s metals. Aside from the manufacturing process, the other benefit to Modumetal’s products is that they can withstand the ocean’s corrosion for up to eight times longer than traditional metals, according to the company. Since they can both last longer and cost less to produce than other metals, Modumetal could be onto a huge innovation that could potentially impact a lot of industries. Metal is such a useful and popular material that has so many practical applications. If this method to grow metal takes off, it can save quite a bit of energy and money for the companies that use it. Modumetal just secured a $33.5 million round of funding led by the Founders Fund so it can continue to develop and grow its technology. But that doesn’t mean the company won’t have some big hurdles to get past. Gaining business from large companies that use a lot of metal, like auto manufacturers, can be difficult for new companies since they often represent a significant risk. In addition, larger materials and metals companies with more resources could try and emulate what Modumetal is doing. And more established names could have an easier time gaining the trust of those businesses that Modumetal is after. But if the company can really protect its patents and gain the confidence of some more big names, they could certainly disrupt the metal industry. And by extension, they could impact all of the other industries that use a significant amount of metal, which is no small accomplishment. Image: Modumetal This article, ” This Startup Can Grow Metal Like a Tree ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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