Startups that made it big

6 Big Unicorns And Where They Are Today

6 Unicorn Startups That Made It Big

Unicorns are mythical beasts, and they share that name with startup companies that have an estimated value of over $1 billion, according to Investopedia. Unicorn startups provide a rare glimpse into companies that are able and willing to take good ideas and make them into great business opportunities. Companies that are unicorns, like their mythical counterparts, are rare. When they do show up, however, they make quite a splash. The investing world takes notice because when these companies enter the public market, they can make quite an impact on investors’ portfolios. The following unicorn startups have shown how success comes from companies whose ideas meet proper planning.

1. Jet

History: Everyone the world over knows about Amazon, the supplier of almost everything anyone could want. Jet takes that outlook and changes it to benefit the customer. According to Business Insider, Jet focuses on people who enjoy saving money through discounts but don’t want to go through the effort of finding and clipping coupons [https://www.businessinsider.com/jetcom-launches-today-ceo-marc-lore-interview-2015-7]. Launching in 2015, the billion-dollar company builds on the premise that the online retail market is likely to hit $1 trillion by 2030, and that Amazon can’t possibly control the entire market.

Valuation: Acquired by Walmart in 2016, the company’s value is estimated at around $3 billion as of the date of acquisition, according to Dealroom.

Outlook: The company remains live to date and still provides services to clients. If the growth of the online retail industry is any indicator, the outlook remains positive for Jet. However, the company doesn’t seem to have a lot of traction in the media, dropping off significantly since its initial launch. The lack of exposure may impact the company’s long-term growth.

2. The Honest Company

History: The Honest Company was started in 2012, and managed to hit unicorn status in 2015, according to Jilt. The billion-dollar company has gone through some ups and downs in recent years, losing its unicorn status and regaining it. The business model The Honest Company ascribes to builds on marketing healthy products that are eco-friendly to consumers that care about the environment and humanity’s impact on it.

Valuation: The company has raised several rounds of financing, and while current estimates are unavailable, Fortune reports that the latest series of funding by the company puts it below $1 billion.

Outlook: After raising $200 million in funding, The Honest Company is well on its way to recovering its unicorn status. Only time will tell if the company has the legs on it to return to valuation over $1 billion, but signs are strong, according to Built in LA, that the company may recover and prosper, thanks to its interest in international markets.

3. Instacart

History: The San Francisco-based grocery delivery service was founded in 2012 by former Amazon employee Apoorva Mehta. The LA Times mentions that before Instacart becoming a success, its founder was involved in over twenty failed startup ideas. The billion-dollar company achieved unicorn status in 2015.

Valuation: The startup has continued to see success, with its most recent estimate putting the company at over $7 billion, based on reports from Vox.

Outlook: After Amazon acquired Whole Foods, Instacart stated that they would not be involved in working with them anymore, reports CNBC, suggesting that the company has something planned to continue its meteoric rise upwards. The market for grocery delivery services is still sparse, and Instacart has a significant stake in it already which isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Outlook for future success for this startup is excellent.

4. Blue Apron

History: Started in 2012 as a company dedicated to sending complete meal ingredients to subscribers, this startup hit unicorn status in 2016, according to Inc. Blue Apron has expanded its operations to beyond meals and not offers wines as well with delivery customizable to clients.

Valuation: Pitchbook mentions that the company value stood at $3 billion as of its 2017 IPO offering, but recent reports and the current share price suggest that the valuation for the company may be much lower at present.

Outlook: The company’s fortunes have been a roller coaster ride, with competitions coming from all quarters. Severe curtailment of the company’s marketing efforts hamstrung the business, and it is only now starting to get back on its feet. While it has achieved unicorn status in the past, it remains to be seen whether the company will return to its previous heights. Outlook on this unicorn isn’t particularly good.

5. Slack

History: Slack was founded in 2014, as Tech Vibes informs us, from the ashes of a game studio. The software designed to connect the US and Canadian offices of Tiny Speck Ltd. were eventually retooled into Slack. The software was adopted in a big way by companies around the world, with its tag line of making work more fun coming true. Slack became a billion-dollar company in the middle of 2015.

Valuation: As of 2018, states Phys.org, the company was valued at approximately $7.1 billion.

Outlook: From the humble beginnings of a cross-border connection between offices, Slack has grown significantly. The Financial Times reports that Slack now competes directly with software giant Microsoft for the corporate communication market. If the recent strides in Slack’s acceptance in corporate environments are any indication, this unicorn seems destined for great things in the long term.

6. SnapChat

History: Initially developed at Stanford University in 2011, the application for sharing disappearing pictures was initially named Picaboo, according to Startup Stories. The billion-dollar company hit unicorn status in 2015 and has never looked back since, still making waves in social media and competing with giants like Twitter and Facebook head-on.

Valuation: Tech Crunch mentions that as of 2018, Snap, the parent company that operates Snapchat, was valued at $14 billion.

Outlook: SnapChat continues to see regular use and isn’t likely to lose market share to other companies in the space any time soon. The business outlook for Snap is outstanding, especially since its popularity in the public arena has made it one of the most used apps on both Android and iOS.

Unicorns Don’t Live Forever

If one can see anything from examining these unicorn companies, it’s that having unicorn status doesn’t necessarily mean that the company will thrive. It is a useful stepping stone that some companies have managed to leverage to grow faster than their competition.

However, for every successful unicorn, there may be two that failed. Building on one’s success as an entrepreneur is as important as getting to the point of being recognized as an industry leader. Shooting stars tend to burn out, just like some unicorn companies.

AI Automation

Everything You Need To Know About AI Automation

AI Automation: Everything You Need To Know

A longtime trope of science fiction writers everywhere, artificial intelligence is emerging more as a help to humankind rather than a benevolent tyrant. AI or artificial intelligence, as Emerj states, is a branch of computer science that deals with imparting context to machines in such a way that they can think in a human-like manner.

Conversely, the term intelligent automation (IA) as defined by Deloitte, uses AI combined with automation to develop systems that can operate at a high level of competency in doing routine tasks. Automation cannot exist without AI, and as the technology develops, IA is being put to more sophisticated uses.

How is AI Automation Used?

As EY informs us, a globally competitive industrial and commercial environment usually requires a company to embrace whatever technology that it has to give them the edge. In the case of intelligent automation, AI offers companies a methodology they can use to be more efficient and more productive.

AI machine learning can be adapted to a wide variety of industrial applications and implementing patterns such as “process, predict, and prescribe” AI can guide businesses to better, faster, and more economical methods of production.

How Does AI Automation Benefit Us?

AI automation has the potential to affect every single aspect of our lives. By integrating machine learning with automation technology, the AI can even determine what it needs to automate. Witnessing humans doing a job and being told what the right way to do things establishes a rules framework that the AI can iterate on and get better. Within business, as MIT Technology Review mentions, AI automation can impact every employee’s job, making it easier and less time consuming to get tasks done.

Other applications of AI automation include the development and training of wholly automated cars. The Wharton University of Pennsylvania states that AI is helping to develop self-driving vehicle technology much faster thanks to its ability to learn and improve with each trip. Automation could apply to everything from grocery selection to scheduling for routine medical checkups.

Industries Disrupted by AI

As a transformative technology, AI has managed to make inroads into quite a large number of industries. Among the most noticeable disruptions to sectors are:

  • Agriculture: High-tech agriculture is incorporating the use of robotics alongside analytical predictive models and crop and soil monitoring.
  • Call Centers: thanks to new advances in voice recognition and synthesis, AIs can learn how calls are performed and even make decisions when ‘talking’ with customers.
  • Energy and Power: Smart electric grids have come online in several countries, making for a more efficient switching and distribution system.
  • Healthcare: IBM’s Watson has already featured in news reports as a prototype for diagnosis and may replace the general practitioner in time.
  • Manufacturing: One of the earliest industries to adopt AI, this field benefits from constant feedback of manufactured goods.
  • Transport: Developed nations like Finland and Singapore are looking at automated means of travel and automatic rerouting to deal with increased load through AI.

While these industries form the forefront of AI development technology, many other sectors are only just beginning to feel the impact of Ai automation on their activities. Among the industries that AI is slated to disrupt in the coming decade include the lifestyle market and the finance market. While both of these already have their own rudimentary AI applications, the depth to which AI can impact these industries over the coming decade may be a surprise.

The Future of AI Automation

Self-optimization is how machines will be designed to operate in the future. The prevalence of AI in the workplace raises a lot of questions about the replacement of workers from jobs that can easily be automated.

Despite the fear about job loss due to automation being high on the list of concerns, Information Week advises that the fear is overblown because of how AI automation will change the industries it impacts. The world of work will shift from being one where humans provide the labor into one where humans give the guidance. Instead of replacing jobs, AI is likely to augment existing ones, making them easier to perform.

Many Hills to Climb

Even though AI is such a significant part of each industry’s outlook, it is still in its developmental stages. Deep neural networks teach us that machines can learn to think and communicate, even with each other. With each breakthrough in the development of artificial intelligence, the last advance is being implemented in engineering and industrial applications. No one is sure how long it will take before AI automation becomes a necessity to industry, but it may be sooner than most think.

Branding Strategies

6 Brilliant Branding Strategies That Worked

6 Brilliant Branding Strategies That Worked

Branding strategies have always been a significant part of a business’ connection with the consumer. As Chron states, one of the core tenets of marketing is the establishment of brand identity to differentiate a product from other similar products. Despite the necessity of branding to a business’ success, not all attempts at creating a branding strategy that worked succeeded. These six branding strategies stand out for their effectiveness and serve as a perfect example of what a successful branding strategy can offer to a business.

1.  Nike: Just Do It

According to Creative Review, the tagline for Nike’s decades-long success in branding came from a meeting with their advertisers Weiden and Kennedy. The slogan resonated so much with both hardcore athletes and regular people that it started to be adopted across the board. The public approved the “can-do” attitude the company pitched in a big way and still forms a core part of the company’s branding message.

Why It Worked: The timing of the campaign was superb, with Americans buying lots of athletic equipment after getting caught up in the fitness craze of the 80s. Nike’s positive reinforcement attitude helped to motivate the average consumer to do the things they kept promising themselves. They intrinsically linked Nike’s products to the promise of getting things done, giving the consumer an aim and a purpose, all packed in a pair of $80 sneakers. The result is that Nike recovered from its poor showing during the 80s against rival Reebok. They went on to become one of the most ubiquitous brands in the US for sports apparel, even today almost forty years later.

2.  Taco Bell’s – Social Media Campaign

Taco Bell’s social media campaign provided a blueprint to all the other companies intending to ride the social media train. As Business 2 Community notes, the subsidiary of Yum! forged a real-time connection to their core demographic (millennials) through social media, but did so by creating a persona for their brand. The social media persona is groundbreaking in the way it humanizes the brand and allows it to interact with the customer. It’s definitive of a branding strategy that worked on social media.

Why it Worked: Taco Bell’s social media branding understood two things that resonated with millennials – a brand paying attention to them, and their love for humor. By combining both, they created a persona that is lovable, like a mascot, but who provides humorous posts that could come from any one of their friends. The brand’s humor is explored even more in exchanges between other brands, humanizing both and making for great publicity that can be shared around as memes. The result is that customers see Taco Bell as a fun-loving uncle or cousin that they don’t mind associating with who can even make them laugh from time to time. That popularity translates into the brand being the first thing they think when they’re looking for a pick-me-up snack.

3. Heineken – Open Your World Campaign

Today’s world is rife with divisive opinions that break down an interpersonal conversation. Heineken figured that they could capitalize on the difference of opinion by showing how people could sit down over a beer and discuss differences. The Open Your World campaign explored the humanity that people overlook when they enter into an argument against someone who holds extreme opposite social or political views.

Why it Worked: Humans are inclined to believe the best in other humans. To this end, when looking at people who were established beforehand to hold opposing viewpoints, the viewer can’t help but expect a fight to break out. The ad turns this expectation on its head, and both parties have a civil discussion over a beer. Heineken intended to show how having a beer, and a conversation could help people to come to terms with the opinions of others and help to heal the polarization of society.

With the difference of view being a major thorn in the sides of most politically conscious people, having a beer and a talk appealed to a wide range of consumers. The result is that the brand is recognized and remembered as trying to heal social ills rather than using it for its benefit. Consumers have a better opinion of the brand because of that risky move.

4.  GoPro – Make Everything Filmable

User-created content isn’t the most natural thing in the world to turn into an ad. However, Fast Company notes that GoPro successfully uses these user-generated videos positively, giving a trained athlete a wearable camera that they use while doing their thing, allowing the company to see their profession through their eyes.

Why it Worked: GoPro’s primary aim in developing an ad system like this was to promise the user that he or she could do these things. People on social media tend to have a very high opinion of themselves. GoPro capitalizes on this feeling of importance by letting them know that they too could be a “hero” like the athlete in the video ad. It’s said that when a company can leverage its users to produce content for them, the company is truly an icon of society. In this case, these fan-made productions form the basis of the company’s advertising.

5. Halo Ice Cream – Facebook Strategy

Healthy ice cream is the dream of most workout enthusiasts. Being able to consume this dairy treat without having to worry about how it affects calories can drive a lot of sales. Halo ice cream found out just how in-demand a healthy ice cream is when, according to Referral Candy, it grew 2500% through Facebook ads and word-of-mouth marketing.

Why it Worked: The ice cream space is so saturated with products that getting the message out to the right people may the most challenging thing the company does. However, thanks to targeted advertising through social media sites, the brand can get its message to the consumers that want to know about their product. Having a good marketing strategy is only the first step. The brand should also have an engaging business persona since social media is all about interactivity. The outcome is that consumers know and recognize the brand to such an extent that their products don’t remain on shelves for too long after distribution.

6. Toyota – “Feeling The Street” Campaign

Yet again, we see how fan-made content, along with authenticity, developed a branding strategy that surpassed the company’s wildest expectations. Stackla defined the “Feeling the Street” campaign as Toyota’s attempt at highlighting the world’s best street performers. The company put out a call on Twitter and Instagram for street performers to showcase their talent using the hashtag #FeelingTheStreet. The company used the resulting video to develop a series of Facebook ads which garnered widespread attention.

Why it Worked: The most significant reason the ad campaign worked is that it was genuine, and it appealed to consumers in a way that well-crafted and surgically designed ads don’t. It showed off moments of humanity and used that to connect to customers and send them a message. At the end of the ad campaign, the company recorded a 440% increase in total Facebook engagement thanks to the ad.

Branding is a Message

The underlying factor that links all of these campaigns is how much it sends a message to the viewer. Humans connect through our communication. For a long time, brands struggled to communicate with regular customers as humans. Slowly, they are beginning to understand that putting the human connection back into their marketing is likely to drive stellar results. That humanity helps to refine their message and make the brand more approachable and relatable.

3 Ways to Improve SEO Through Guest Blogging

3 Simple Steps on Improving SEO through Guest Posts

Guest posting brings targeted, convertible traffic to your website.  It also allows you to grow your leads list by capturing a different audience.  It’s vital to ensure that when you choose to guest post, it’s on a site that provides a backlink from an authority domain.  The goal is to create backlinks with high page authority

Blog writing can be time-consuming and require a high level of effort, you want to make sure that you have a strategy in place on whom to target, when often to post, and what to include in your post.

SEO Guest Blogging

Step One: Create a Target List of Guest Blog Sites

Create a list of sites that have had guest posts in your specific niche in the recent past.  The higher the page and domain ranking, the better.

The first page of Google is great place to start, but you need to determine what sites ave a high enough page authority that it will make the effort of guest blogging have a strong enough ROI.

The way to do that is using Moz’ Domain Authority 2.0: https://www.checkmoz.com. This tool allows you to view a sites average page authority and if they have a high Alexa rank.

Another option would be to check the backlinks of competitors for guest posts that they’ve written.  You can do that using Moz’ Open Site Explorer or SemRush.

The goal is to have a list of 25+ sites that have high rankings and accept guest posts.

Step Two: Craft the Perfect Pitch & Topic

Now that you have your list of sites to target, it’s time to ensure that you have a pitch that is strong enough to be accepted by the site but also highlights the product/information that you’re trying to promote.   It can be a tricky balance.

The way you word your pitch is going to have the most significant impact on its acceptance rate.  Moz did an excellent study of the factors of getting a pitch accepted.

They even dived into gender, title, and time of day, you can read more the details here.

A  bespoke pitch email that uses proactive language works best.

The topic of the pitch itself needs to be beneficial to both you and the site you want to partner with.  It’s also acceptable to include more than one topic idea but do your research.  Buzzsumo is a great app that analyzes a site’s content.

You can see what posts have done the best and model your pitch using the data.   You can even reference them in the pitch and how your topic has the same feel/reach/audience.

This is key because high-conversion guest blogging is very much about tying the article back to what it is you are trying to promote without looking salesy in the process.

Step Three: Content Creation

Once your pitch is accepted, it’s time to create the post.  According to Backlinko, you’ll want your post to be around 2,000 words to be more highly ranked.  If you’re writing posts of 500 words or less, there’s a good chance Google will penalize the link.

A good guest post also needs to have the following elements:

  1. SEO keywords that will lead consumers back to your site. Google Keyword finder is the perfect free resource.
  2. A readability difficulty score of 55 or lower. Readability can be checked at hemmingway.com or grammarly.com.
  3. Contextual backlinks through the article that point back to your site.
  4. An active Call To Action. “The best call to action phrases are brief and use strong verbs.

They speak directly to the user. Instead of weaker call to action words like click here, an effective call to action phrase example will use more specific words that speak directly to the desired outcome.”

Conclusion

The more powerful your authority, the more trusted your brand.  Guest Posting is an excellent way gain exposure and become an expert in your field.

It builds presence and promotes a website to your target audience.

Guest posting is also a crucial part of off-page SEO.  It creates backlinks from relevant sources which will not only prove  authority but also drive traffic.

Finally it’s a great opportunity to start networking and building connections.

Coworking Space

The Rise of Coworking and Remote Workers

Coworking is Changing the How the World Works

The smell of freshly made coffee, the squeak of a leather office chair, the soft clacking of keyboards, it’s just another day at work, but not quite. It may be a building full of office workers and look like any modern startup office, but it’s not. It’s a Coworking space.

With the increasing number of remote workers, having a space to work at that’s not a coffee shop or a home office is a must. Employees that worked from home used to be the unicorns of office workers, the lucky few that had the privilege of working from home.  But that’s all changing.

The Rise of the Remote Worker

The number of at work at home employees has skyrocketed in the last 15 years, growing 140% since 2005. The two biggest industries? Technology and Customer Service.

Over 30% of tech jobs in San Francisco are remote, and in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the US, it’s a perk that helps attract top candidates. Retention rates rise almost 10% when companies embrace remote work.

The numbers are even higher for startups, who outsource a majority of their work. 56% of startup freelancers work remotely.

It’s predicted that 50% of all office positions will be remote by 2025.

What is Coworking

Coworking is a term that refers to physical office space that houses groups of remote workers and the community built between members.  It allows employees that would otherwise be working from home, coffee shops, or libraries rent space in a dedicated office environment.

Coworking spaces come in a variety of sizes and layouts, some may be more traditional with cubicles and offices, while others favor a more casual coffee house vibe. They provide basic amenities, such as high-speed wifi, coffee, and snacks. More unique spaces even offer rooftop decks and in some tropical locations even have pools. Most are open 24/7 to accommodate all schedules.

The History of Coworking

Coworking got its start in San Francisco in 2005, when entrepreneur Brad Neuberg had an idea to “to combine the independence of freelancing with the structure and community of an office space.” He also created the term “Coworking” without a hyphen to describe his vision.

Coworking became popular in Asia Pacific during the early 2010s when office space was a premium. Companies realized they could save on brick & mortar costs by allowing employees to work from remote locations.

However, with most families living in small apartments in already busy cities, finding a quiet space to work was difficult. According to research firm JLL, “flexible workspace in Asia-Pacific, including both serviced offices and coworking, surged 150% from 2014 to 2017.”

Why People Choose Coworking

While working from home sounds like a dream, research shows isolation and lack of human interaction is a real fear of remote employees. Coworking helps to relieve that fear by creating space for a community without the pressure of having to arrive at a workplace every day.

We interviewed several remote workers that frequent a Coworking space at least twice a week. Their responses highlight both the community and efficiency aspects of working somewhere outside of the home.

Natasha Willis, a remote health coach, works for a large company where 100% of their coaches work remotely. She chooses to work at a Coworking space instead of her home, going in almost everyday. ”Community times two, coffee, family dinners, field trips, great people, and perfect location.”

Natasha’s coworking space, Bunker, located in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, is dedicated to work and play equally.  The two owners, David Leal and Gabo F.C., organize monthly trips to unique destinations from ruins to beaches. Even when not in the office, members of Bunker stay connected through a WhatsApp chat, where movie dates, dinner plans, and other events are planned weekly. The members of the coworking space routinely refer to themselves as a “family” and share not only a workspace but also their lives with each other.

When asked why they started Bunker, Gabo reiterated the need for community. “David and I decided to start Bunker because we thought that work at home was boring, we wanted to have a place for us and also for other people who want a place where they feel comfortable and happy when they are working. We never imagined the place as it is right now, I mean, the people become more like family than clients.”

Jessica, another faithful client of Bunker, sites the ability to focus and get work done as a primary benefit of coworking. “Coworking spaces like Bunker have greatly improved my productivity. I get to be apart of a community of intelligent, fun people.”

Conclusion

Coworking spaces continue to thrive because even remote workers need community. The act of being around like-minded people helps to foster creativity and productivity.

It also saves employers money, because instead of investing in physical buildings for their employees, companies can pass the cost of Coworking Spaces onto their workers.

2020 will be the year of the Coworking Space, with large companies such as Verizon and IBM moving more employees into remote spaces.

Video Marketing

Get Started with Video Marketing

The Beginner’s Guide To Video Marketing

In case you haven’t heard, video marketing is a hot topic in the business community. From Live Streams to Instagram Stories, videos can help present your brand or company to your primary customers in a way that is fresh, exciting, and above all, relatable. 51% of marketing professionals name video as the type of content with the best ROI.

So now that you know WHY you need to invest time and money into integrating video into your marketing plan; how in the world do you get started? Contrary to what many experts say, you don’t need fancy equipment, a videography crew or a large budget. In this article, we’ll show how to get started with video marketing in a way that is simple and effective.

Getting Started With Video Marketing

Equipment

To produce good quality, engaging video content, you only need a few simple tools. Sure, big-budget YouTubers might utilize green screens, lights, and HD cameras but don’t need to waste time investing in these expensive items.

To get started with video marketing, you simply need a source of good light ( from a window or a battery-operated ring light), a tripod, and a smartphone. As smartphones have evolved, so have their video capabilities.

Currently, top many brands and companies are producing high-quality content solely with an iPhone. By utilizing these simple tools, you can create unique content that gets your audience excited to watch and interact with you.

Live Video

Using live video in your overall marketing strategy is a fantastic way to connect on a more personal level with your company’s primary audience.

According to content producer Vimeo, “live video is more appealing to brand audiences: 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.”  The more you can connect with your customers on a human to human level, answer their burning questions, and showcase your products in real-time, the more likely you are to see higher purchasing behaviors and increased traffic.

Getting started with live video is as simple as pushing the “go live” button on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Linkedin but it does help to go ahead and sketch out the topics you’d like to cover so you don’t waste your viewers time.

Be sure to keep your video to 30 minutes or less to really capture your audience’s attention. Also, try to have a consistent theme or day of the week you go live on your social platforms to maintain consistency and build excitement.

Bite-Sized Informational Videos

If going “live” feels a bit daunting or not on-brand for your company then consider weaving shorter, informational, or motivational videos into your daily social media posts. If you don’t have the budget currently for a team of video editors trying using a tool like Wave, Promo or Adobe Spark.

These software systems make it easy to create videos that stop your audience from scrolling past them, and inform them about your company’s personality and values but using templates. If you are looking for inspiration on how to weave these types of videos into your social strategy, check out Marketing expert Mari Smith.

The Power of Instagram & Facebook Stories

If your brand hasn’t begun to integrate stories into your overall marketing plan, now is the time. Statistica reports as of January 2019 that there are over 500 million active stories each day. This means you have millions of engaged, potential customers ready to learn more about you and your brand via Stories.

Most audience members watch Instagram & Facebook Stories for a raw, unfiltered, behind the scenes view of your business. Yes, they want to learn more about your business, but they mostly want to connect and identify with your brand on a personal level. Using Stories is also a fantastic way to stay top of mind during the launch of a new product or service and create “insider” excitement.

Be sure to use calls to action in your stories to increase your ROI and website traffic.

Longform Video

If you want to up your brand’s marketing, you need to consider creating long-form videos. In June 2017, Ooyala reported that for the first time ever long-form video content across all the devices jumped to over 60% of video consumption. Long-form video (meaning video that is 10 minutes or longer) now makes up a majority of what people around the world watch every single day and those numbers are only growing each month. While bite-sized informational videos are fantastic at grabbing your customer’s attention, long-form video helps your audience learn more about your company and see you as an expert in your field.

To truly grow your online presence through a video, you need to be sure your content entertains, inspires, and informs your customer base.

The two most significant platforms to showcase your longer content are YouTube and IGTV.

Be sure to pay attention to the titles, descriptions, and keywords you include in each video to capture more organic search results.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to get started with video marketing, its time to implement what you’ve learned. We can’t wait to see how you up your engagement and ROI with video.

Ready Games

Weekly Disruptor: Ready Games

Disruptor of the Week: Mobile Gaming Platform, Ready Games

The mobile esports company, Ready (TheReadyGames.com), has closed a $5 million Series A funding round. Founded in 2016, the startup focus on the casual game market on IOS and Android platforms.

Ready has 23 employees and has created over 130 games in the last six months. It launches a new game every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Gamers who are in the top 20% of the players split a pot of tournament money weekly.

What is Hyper-Casual Gaming?

If you’re not an app designer or a follower of the mobile gaming community, the term hyper-casual gaming probably isn’t in your vocabulary. However, chances are you have at least one game that fits the description on your smartphone.

According to Forbes, that mindless game that requires you pressing a button over and over is the perfect example.

Hyper-casual games are snack-sized games. They are tiny, simple, and have become a worldwide sensation. These games often feature a simple mechanic, which makes them very easy to pick up and play. There is usually no tutorial, and the game can be played in short bursts of as little as a few seconds at a time. The idea behind these games is that players will become compelled by a mechanic and play through numerous sessions at a time. This means that mobile advertising served in the game regularly refreshes with each completed session, increasing views of banners and helping the publisher monetize.

The most well-known example of a Hyper-Casual game? FlappyBird. The mobile gaming sensation is no longer available to download, but the concept was simple: press the screen and keep your flying bird from hitting objects.  Tal Shoham, COO at IronSource in an interview with VentureBeat, called Flappy Bird a market breaker when it launched.

How Do They Make Money?

If you’re surprised on why some of the most prominent gaming investors poured $5 million in funding into Ready Games, the answer is advertising.

Shoham breaks down the difference in revenue streams for casual, mid-core, and hardcore gaming platforms:

80 to 90 percent, comes from ad monetization rather than in-app purchases. That’s probably the biggest differentiator compared to casual, mid-core, and hardcore. You have casual games from King and others where the majority of the revenue comes from IAP. In hyper-casual it’s the opposite. The revenue for those companies is coming from interstitials, rewarded video, banner ads, and maybe a bit of removing ads as an in-app purchase. ›But only 10 or 20 percent, or even in some cases 2-5 percent, comes from IAP, which is a huge difference in the economy of a game, how a game is built, and how much you need as far as rewards or currency within the game. There’s not necessarily a big incentive for players to purchase a currency and convert that into IAP when you monetize primarily with ads.”

Why Ready Games?

The startup has been widely successful and efficient when it comes to producing, launching, and monetizing gameplay.

But, its biggest draw: Focus on female gameplay.

The founding Partner of BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, Scott Rupp, which contributed heavily to the Series A funding, applauded Ready’s female-centric focus.

“The gaming industry often overlooks one of the most significant audiences – women. In the U.S., 65% of women play mobile games, and they represent almost half of the mobile gaming population. The Ready Games powered by Ready Maker game development technology has become one of the most prolific mobile developers in the App Store, catering to the rapidly growing audience of female gamers. We believe this team can continue their momentum with this funding and grow a global community of people playing competitive hyper-casual games for cash.”

Conclusion

Ready Games has an excellent pedigree of founders, including Christina Macedo. Macedo is a legal consultant and advocate for women in tech. You can read more of her vision Ready on the Games on Games Podcast: https://girlsongames.podbean.com/e/the-ready-games-interview-with-christina-macedo-gogcast-203/

The startup is also a powerhouse at producing. Launching three to four new games every week means that there is an option for anyone interested in hyper-casual gaming.

We’re excited to see a women-led gaming company that is focusing on women gaming earn a substantial Series A backing. Let’s hope more gaming investors follow suit.

Apple Launches iPhone 11

Apple Launch features iPhone 11 and Slofie

Apple iPhone 11 Launch Unveils the Slofie but No 5G

Let me take a Slofie. And no, that’s doesn’t mean a selfie with a sloth, it’s Apples new slow-motion selfie. Yes, you read that right, slow motion. It’s one of the new features Apple debuted on its September 10th press event.

The event, held in the Steve Jobs Theater, located underneath the Spaceship campus building in the heart of Cupertino, followed the typical Apple launch keynote.

And while there were presentations from Tim Cook and Phil Schiller, the absence of Jony Ives and Angela Ahrendts was palpable.  The company sought to fill the void left Ivy and Ahrendts with an odd mix of filmmakers and game designers.  The first 13 minutes of the event didn’t show much than video gameplay.

What Launched

Despite a lackluster show, Apple still brought the goods, launching new phones, iPads, and Watches. Let’s break it down.

3 New iPhones

The company launched three new handsets this year: the Apple iPhone 11, Pro 11, and the Pro Max 11.  All three phones come with an upgraded camera and IOS 13 standard.

The standard iPhone 11 came with something even more surprising, a reduced cost, starting at $699 (the price dips even further, to $399 when trading in a previous generation). It’s also colorful, taking a page out the short-lived Apple 5c headset, the 11 is available in six bright colors (but not in gold, rose gold, or the Apple developed color Space Gray).

The  iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max still come with hefty price tags, weighing in at $999 and $1099 respectively. They also come with four more hours of battery life, which may make the upgraded price worth it to power users.

Watch Series 5

When the Apple Watch first launched back in 2014, there were doubts that we’d see a Series 2, much less a series 5. But here we are, and while it’s still clunky, the feature list continues to grow.

This new generation of Apple Watches wants to be more phone-like. It’s added an always-on Retina display so that there’s always a watch face visible (and they’ve expanded the customized face options).

Some of the new “features” make you wonder what was the watch doing before? It’s finally added a compass, access to the App Store, and the ability to stream audiobooks. Did they need five generations to add these features?

One of the most surprising features is the addition of a built-in period tracking app. Since half the population experiences this event usually once a month, it’s great to see a company like Apple making tracking periods mainstream.

iPad

This year only one iPad got an upgrade, and that’s the flagship model. The iPad Pro, Air, and Mini were left on the back shelf for the event. The iPad will sell for $329, a great price on an entry-level tablet.

The new iPad now comes with a large retina display, with 10.2 inches of screen space. It also allows users to connect the Smart Keyboard formally reserved only for the Pro Model.

But the most exciting feature is the ability with iOS 13 upgrade to be able to use an iPad as a second monitor with any Apple computer. This long-awaited feature will double the screen real estate value for some users.

Services

Apple TV+ is almost here. Launching on November 1st, just in time for the Holidays, it will be the lowest priced streaming service at $5 a month. But there’s a catch; you won’t be able to stream Friends or any of your favorite tv shows, the Apple service will only host original Apple series. At this point, does anyone want to pay for another streaming service?

Apple Arcade was front and center during the live event, the first 13 minutes of the keynote focused on it exclusively. Yet, we’re still unsure who it’s for and what’s the point.

It launches on September 19th and will include a catalog of 100 games. Its priced at $5 a month and can be shared with up to five family members.

Want to watch both Jason Momoa and play some iPhone games, it’s going to cost you $10 a month for both subscription options. No discount bundling here.

 Conclusion

Apple Keynote events used to be one of the most exciting days in the tech world, but over the past few years, the lack of innovation and constant leaks has put a damper on the excitement.

While we’re glad to see Apple rolling out more affordable iPhone options and the addition of a more powerful camera, we were expecting more.  Hopefully, next year will see the integration of 5G and a thinner camera bezel.

As for Apple’s foray into the subscription and services realm, we’ll pass for now.

Podcasting

Increase Brand Exposure with Podcasting

3 Easy Steps to Increase Page Rank by Podcasting

Podcasting can be a fantastic way to increase your brand’s exposure online. Forty-two million people in the United States listen to a podcast weekly, and 58% of them listen up to five hours a week.

Podcasting also has the added benefit of helping to optimize your business to appear higher in online search results through back-linking.

Not sure how to get started in the podcasting world. This quick guide will show you how to get booked on podcasts and increase your SEO rankings.

Step 1: Find the Perfect Podcasts

Before you get started pitching to appear on various podcasts, you need to research who and where your target customers are. By doing this, you will have a better understanding of which categories, topics, and subjects to go after in the podcasting world. Then create a spreadsheet of podcasts you’d like to pitch yourself to.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to search within Apple Podcasts or Spotify for the top podcasts in your primary subject or category. It’s especially important to check within the New & Noteworthy section as well as the top 100 for your primary subject matter.

Another great tool is Podbay.FM, it can rank podcast by genres and niche categories. It even allows the user to drill down to podcasts that use an interview format, which means they’re always looking for guests to share the limelight.

Step 2: Establish your Credibility with a Media Kit

Once you’ve compiled a list of at least 20 podcasts to pitch yourself to, it’s time to perfect your media kit. A media kit often has a brief bio about you, a description of your company and products, social media and web statistics, and speaking points/questions you could touch on in an interview setting.

If you feel nervous about creating your media sheet or feel, your design skills are lacking, utilize a service like Canva.

Canva has easy to use, drag, and drop templates that make design a breeze.

A media kit is essential to build credibility, and when creating your document, you need to ensure that the keywords used on the media kit are as strategic as the keywords used in your SEO marketing. Use the Google Keyword Finder to develop a list of keywords that both promote your business and your credibility in the field.

Step 3: Make Contact

With your spreadsheet compiled and your media kit created, it’s now time to start putting on your detective hat and track down contact information for hosts you want to speak with.

While some podcasters have contact forms or email addresses on their sites, direct contact on social media platforms tends to be the best way to reach hosts. Don’t be shy about sending a direct message on Instagram, @ them on Twitter, or commenting on a live stream they do on Facebook.

The more personalized and engaging your conversation with these hosts, the better the chance of getting booked on their shows. Be sure to mention what makes you and your business unique, and the story/angle you’d want to use on their podcast.

Final Thoughts on Podcasting

So you’ve booked and recorded your first podcast interview, now what? Once the interview goes live, be sure to share the link to the episode on your social channels, on your blog, on your website, and with your email list.

To significantly improve your SEO rankings from this podcast appearance, be sure the host shares your site in their show-notes.

It might also be a good idea to offer a lead magnet or coupon code just for listeners of that particular podcast to increase your overall visibility and ROI.

Stripe Payments

Innovation is Changing the Payment Industry

Stripe’s Innovation is Changing the Payment Industry

Stripe, one of the leading online payment platforms, was recently recognized as a Unicorn by CB Insight’s Global FinTech Report. The company is currently valued at $22.5 billion.  This should come as no surprise, as the company has been experiencing rapid growth since its launch in 2010.

The company is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in 13 countries and operations in 34. In early August, Stripe announced its first office in Latin America, taking advantage of the exploding FinTech scene in the South American continent.

Stripe Payments

Stripe is a third-party payment processing startup founded by a pair of visionary co-founders. Their goal: to make it easy for a business to collect money online. Also, while Stripe does accept credit card payments, that’s only one of the many parts of their ecosystem.

The company has invested heavily in its tools and reliability. Their developer tool set is the strongest in the payment processing industry, allowing SaaS and eCommerce, businesses to take full advantage of online sales.  The company even offers 24/7 customer support.

Stripe prides its self in creating easy to implement solutions that is based in code and not in finance.  Their API platform allows developers to quickly implement the tool in multiple coding languages.   For small businesses that may not have the need for a full development team, Stripe offers 300 different partners that it can be automatically integrated with.

Key Players

Since its launch, Stripe has become the preferred payment processor for some of the biggest online companies in the world:  Lyft, Wish, Blue Apron, and Task Rabbit are only a few of the top names.  The company states that 89% of cards that their merchants’ process have been used previously on the Stripe platform with another business. ‘That’s an incredible level of saturation for a company ‘that’s only been around for nine years.

Its key players aren’t just limited to the companies it services. Its valuation of $22.5 billion comes from well-known investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Google.

Latam Expansion

In 2019 Stripe has expanded into five new countries: Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Malaysia. Then in August, the company announced its first office in Mexico City. They hope to take advantage of the booming eCommerce growth in the region in combination from the extensive engineering tech scene in MXCD.

In an interview with CNBC, Billy Alvarado, Stripe’s Chief’s Business Officer, reiterated the need for mobile payment expansion in South America.

Our goal is to make sure that the internet works the way it was intended to — it should be global, and it should be borderless. There’s a very rich ecosystem for us in Latin America.”

Stripe will work with well known FinTech card companies like Visa, Mastercard and America Express, along with smaller Latin startups that focus on the unbanked.

Conclusion

Only 10% of business is performed online, so the opportunities for payment processing companies are wide-open.  Stripe has positioned itself in a prime spot to take advantage of the growth, especially with a $100m influx of investment capital from Tiger Global.  Stripe is going to expand rapidly and be at the forefront of the industry.

Alvarado confirms that vision:

We really want to lean into global commerce, and this is central to building an internet platform for economic progress, There’s no question that there are strong headwinds.