Tag Archives: idea

The CEO of a billion-dollar brand shares his best strategy to help anyone find a great business idea

You probably won't have a Eureka! moment. Neil Blumenthal pictured. Neil Blumenthal

There's nothing magical about starting a company. In all likelihood, you will not have a Eureka! moment in which you discover the next world-changing business idea.

That's not to say you won't discover the next world-changing business idea — you'll just have to be proactive about it.

Neil Blumenthal, a cofounder and co-CEO of billion-dollar glasses brand Warby Parker, recommends a specific strategy for finding a business idea. In an interview with Business Insider at the Success Makers Summit in April, hosted by American Express OPEN, Blumenthal explained how it works:

"Every day, write down a few frustrations. And then at the end of the week, you'll have maybe 10 problems. By the end of the month, maybe you have 40 to 50 problems. And then you can spend time thinking about: Is there a viable business in solving any of these everyday frustrations?"

Blumenthal said he and his cofounders didn't use this exact technique — the inspiration for Warby Parker came when cofounder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa lost an expensive pair of glasses. The cofounders asked their friends if they'd ever had a similar experience and discovered that overpaying for glasses was a relatively widespread problem.

But Blumenthal emphasized that "successful entrepreneurs are pretty methodical about the problem they're trying to solve." He went on:

"Sometimes, it's not that they just started it in high school or college, because they've actually needed to live a little and experience a little bit of life to identify where there are problems that need solving.

"For every Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, there's 30 other entrepreneurs that started their business after working for several years."

In other words, coming up with a solid business idea — never mind actually building the business — probably takes more time than you think. A combination of patience and a can-do attitude is a must.

 

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Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as "remarkable".

Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.
 
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It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.

The researchers say fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.

"It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

"And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.

“Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

In trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.

Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to ageing and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth.

"We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system," added Prof Longo.

"When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged," Dr Longo said.

"What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?"

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

"While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy," said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

"More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

"We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system," added Prof Longo.

However, some British experts were sceptical of the research.

Dr Graham Rook, emeritus professor of immunology at University College London, said the study sounded "improbable".

Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at UCL, said: “There is some interesting data here. It sees that fasting reduces the number and size of cells and then re-feeding at 72 hours saw a rebound.

“That could be potentially useful because that is not such a long time that it would be terribly harmful to someone with cancer.

“But I think the most sensible way forward would be to synthesize this effect with drugs. I am not sure fasting is the best idea. People are better eating on a regular basis.”

Dr Longo added: “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.

“I have received emails from hundreds of cancer patients who have combined chemo with fasting, many with the assistance of the oncologists.

“Thus far the great majority have reported doing very well and only a few have reported some side effects including fainting and a temporary increase in liver markers. Clearly we need to finish the clinical trials, but it looks very promising

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NASA astronauts may soon be able to 3D-print pizzas in space

NASA astronauts may soon be able to 3D-print pizzas in space, thanks to technology built by Columbus and Silicon Valley-based startup BeeHex. American startup BeeHex, born from a NASA project, is set to soft launch its flagship 3D Chef robot, which can print pizzas in less than five minutes.
 Tas Bindi
By Tas Bindi | March 9, 2017 — 01:08 GMT (01:08 GMT) | Topic: Innovation

 

BeeHex's flagship Chef 3D robot — which can print 12-inch pizzas in less than five minutes — could mean that space travellers will have a more terrestrial alternative to freeze-dried, prepackaged meals that are designed for nutrition and ease of consumption in microgravity.

In addition to producing a range of toppings from fresh ingredients, Chef 3D can fabricate gluten-free and custom-shaped pizzas, according to BeeHex. Like other 3D printers, Chef 3D connects to a computer that tells it which dough, sauce, and cheese to use.

The cartridges are filled with all the necessary ingredients, and the robot's nozzle starts layering liquefied dough, followed by sauce, toppings, and melted cheese.

The reason pizza was chosen as one of the first foods to be 3D-printed is because it involves layering ingredients, which suits the capabilities of the technology, BeeHex said. Unlike traditional additive manufacturing technologies, Chef 3D relies on pneumatic systems to move ingredients around.

While BeeHex was born out of a NASA project — NASA provided a $125,000 grant to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy to research how 3D printing could be used to make food — the startup is focusing on broader commercial applications in places like theme parks, festivals, shopping malls, and sports arenas.

It recently closed a $1 million seed funding round led by food automation specialist and Donatos Pizza founder Jim Grote to support commercial development and deployment.

BeeHex's pre-production prototypes have been exhibited at various conferences, with a soft launch slated for later in the year. The startup will be working with pilot customers in the food business to test the efficacy of the technology.

The startup's co-founders, Anjan Contractor, Chintan Kanuga, Jordan French, and Ben Feltner, as well as investors, are looking to provide printing solutions to high-volume pizza restaurants like Domino's and Pizza Hut.

BeeHex hopes that in the near future, 3D-printed meals will be ordered via an app, with customers also having the ability to customise meals according to their preferences.

While consumers are yet to fully digest the idea of 3D-printed food, there is interest among food companies to adopt the technology. In July last year, for example, London saw the arrival of a restaurant celebrating 3D printed food, furniture, and cutlery.

For three days and three special meals, pop-up restaurant Food Ink took up temporary residence in a Shoreditch side street to showcase the versatility of 3D printing.

The global market for 3D printed food is anticipated to be driven by a need for mass customisation, as 3D printing saves time, labour, and waste.

http://www.zdnet.com/video/beehex-develops-delivery-app-for-3d-printed-pizza/

 

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Digital transformation: Making it work in the real world

It takes more than shiny new technologies to remake business processes. Here are a few ideas on how to make digital transformation projects work in your organisation.
 Mark Samuels
By Mark Samuels | March 1, 2017 — 16:17 GMT (16:17 GMT) | Topic: Digital Transformation: A CXO's Guide

Having the right skills in place is key to engendering full cultural change, both in terms of understanding the customer and linking those trends back to the business."

Digital transformation is the process through which companies can take a new look at their existing processes and remake them with the help of new technologies and new ways of thinking.

The aim might be to cut costs, understand customers better, or create new revenue streams. It's a relatively simple concept but hard to put into practice; here we look at some of the issues involved in such a project.

Marketing: How to create a digital-first attitude

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Customer experience (CX) is the big priority for marketing professionals through 2017, says Jim Clark, research director at Econsultancy. He draws on evidence from the research firm's recently released Digital Trends 2017 report, which surveyed over 14,000 marketing professionals globally. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of marketeers say CX is their key concern this year.

Clark, however, issues a word of warning and suggests great experiences are by no means a given: executives must focus on techniques that help their business exploit data in an integrated manner. "CX is in itself important, but marketing professionals must think now about how they implement experience as a strategy," said Clark, speaking at Adobe's recent Digital Trends Forum in London.

The good news is that almost half (46 per cent) of firms believe that digital now permeates their marketing efforts. Clark says easy access to the cloud and software-as-a-service is helping marketeers to harness digital technology quickly in their attempts to change business processes and customer experiences for the better.

There is interest in technology to spread insights, too. Almost half (49 per cent) of marketing professionals intend to increase their investment in analytics this year. However, the research suggests that digital transformation is a far from straightforward process. Just 14 percent of marketing chiefs described their business as a digital-first organisation in 2015; today, that figure is even lower at 11 per cent.

"The reality of the situation is that implementing digital transformation is tough," says Clark. "Some boards might not be as fully behind change as others. Having the right skills in place is key to engendering full cultural change, both in terms of understanding the customer and linking those trends back to the business."

Clarke points to best-practice examples in strategy. He says smart companies are findings ways to converge sales and marketing teams, ensuring customer data is pooled across the business, rather than being held in isolated and unconnected stove pipes.

Leadership matters, too. More than three quarters (77 percent) of blue-chip firms now have a chief customer officer or equivalent, according to analyst Gartner. These C-suite executives are focused on building and pushing the focus on customer experience across the business' various operational activities.

"Data-driven marketing technology is now a lot more accessible but there needs to be an awareness in terms of engaging audiences," says Clark. "Your business needs to fully understand the key trends to engage with customers personally. As new technologies like VR roll out, that focus on personalisation becomes even more critical."

All firms, he says, must look to continually surprise and delight their customers. "It can be difficult to engender digital-led change, particularly in a sector like finance," says Clark. "One way is to start small on key projects, and to hope these examples pick up traction and that the benefits permeate across the rest of the organisation."

Building a digital foundation in financial services
Chris Worle, digital strategy director at Hargreaves Lansdown, is one executive driving transformation in a finance firm. Worle manages digital-led change at the FTSE 100 business, which manages £70 billion of assets on behalf of its 876,000 clients. Worle and his team run a website that receives more than 100 million visits a year.

"We find ourselves today in a constant cycle of measure, understand and improve," says Hargreaves Lansdown's Chris Worle.

"We're seeing huge growth in mobile, both in terms of the use of our apps and direct visits to the website," he says. "The number of trades via mobile is up 200 per cent year-on-year. This has consequences in terms of the experiences we provide, because we pride ourselves on a high quality of service."

Worle recognises the number of channels to market has grown rapidly since the firm started its transformation journey in 2008, as has the number of products offered to clients. The digital team started sifting through huge volumes of data to keep a tight grip on customer experiences, but found itself swamped with information.

"We took a breath and decided to start small instead," he says, looking back on the digital change process. "We then took a strategic approach to testing and optimisation. Rather than focusing on the entire website, we focused on quick wins connected to high-volume web pages. We used that insight to drive improvements."

Worle and his team honed website content and launched the firm's first app in 2011. Yet transformation in the mobile age remains a work in progress. "We find ourselves today in a constant cycle of measure, understand and improve," he says.

The modern digital challenges facing Hargreaves can be summed up by three key terms, says Worle: complexity, speed and expectations. "There's a requirement to create a consistent experience across multiple channels and that's incredibly difficult," he says, referring to the issue of complexity. "We're actively working on cracking that approach."

When it comes to speed, Worle says his organisation feels the pressure to innovate and deliver solutions increasingly quickly. "Technology is moving faster than ever before," he says. "People will drop off, and you will lose their business, if they have to wait even just a few seconds for a web page to load."

The final challenge is around expectations and the ever-demanding nature of modern customers. "Your business will be judged against the digital experiences that people get everywhere else, be that from technology companies like Google or via online retailers," says Worle. "Customers don't care that you're a regulated finance firm — they just expect the same high quality of service, regardless of sector."

The good news is Worle continues to deliver great customer experiences. The key lesson for other CXOs is to recognise the importance of mobility. "Most of our clients use mobile as their main communication channel of choice," he says. "The business needs to focus on the fact that mobile is more than just another channel — and that's a constant battle."

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