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Thursday, January 26, 2017

[METHOD] New Way to Create and Promote Dropship Business

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Business Idea: Dropshipping

Profit: $2,000 - $30,000 per month

Want to earn 6-7 figures a year? Why not try dropshipping! They are already hundreds and thousands of successful dropship entrepreneurs earning millions a year. And most of these entrepreneurs ordered products from AliExpress and sold it double at their online shop.

Did you know that most of the AliExpress/Alibaba items are sold on Amazon and eBay, and not only those that are delivered from China? AliExpress is the retail arm of Alibaba, the wholesaler. I've been looking at reviews and sales numbers for AliExpress items on eBay and Amazon to give me a superior thought of what sells best in USA and UK.

I've discovered that there is a considerable amount of low-quality items on Aliexpress and that you must be watchful who you purchase from. But I listed down some reliable sellers and items worth selling. A high rate of positive reviews doesn't really mean a lot – it's normal for sellers to give rebates or discounts as an exchange for positive reviews! Looking at the negative remarks, how long a supplier has been in business, and the amount they sell, all makes a difference.

Steps to Make a Dropship Site

1. Register with these Programs - register for Aliexpress account. You can track your earnings here easily. - register directly.

AliPlugin (for Wordpress only) - the plugin cost you $49.99.

Oberlo (for Shopify only) - the plugin has a free plan. Register with Shopify and activate the plugin. Try Shopify for Free.

Godaddy/Namecheap - for your domain name. If you just want to try or experiment on domain names, visit 1&1 $0.99 Domains.

BlueHost or iPage - if you plan to use WordPress rather than Shopify.

2. WordPress with AliExpress AliPlugin / Shopify with Oberlo

AliPlugin allows you to add thousands of AliExpress products to WordPress website quickly and easily. It lets you search for products in your niche and import in bulk or individually. Try researching for suppliers and products first before importing their products to your site using the plugin. This way you'll find reliable sellers and high-quality products to promote on your website.

Shopify is the easiest and quickest way to sell your products. You can avail for their free trial for 14 days or 30 days, depends on your location. You will receive your own domain name and web hosting on top of the paid plan. They have many free themes to choose from. Once you finish setting up your Shopify site, activate the Oberlo plugin in Shopify's App Store.

3. Site's Content

Now, you have worked on your site's design and installed the plugins. Assume you already have a list of suppliers and their products, what's missing is the content, images and price allocated for each product. You may need to add about 30-50% on top of the original price for profit and expenses. If the price of the chosen product listed on AliExpress is $100(Shipping&Handling included), you'll sell it for $130 or more on your site.

The item description posted in AliExpress is only minimal. Mostly, it's just basic information about sizes, brand, what it's made of, etc. You may want to add your own item description, just 1-2 sentences will suffice. It's important to insert keywords within the sentences for SEO(Search Engine Optimization).

For the images, it fills your post automatically once you run the importing tool in the plugin along with the basic item description of the product.

4. Social Media Marketing

If you aren’t utilizing the power of social media, you are definitely going to miss the boat! Social media is HOT and getting hotter every day as more and more social sites such as Pinterest explode on the virtual scene. The hard part of it is posting your products/articles to these social media sites. There are so many of them that you have to go to the sites one by one and that would be exhausting. The good news is you can automate your social media marketing! No more slaving away for hours on the internet, you just have to sign up for Make an RSS Feed of your site/shop then integrate it with Create or log in to your social media accounts before automating your feeds. Once you have a new article or product posted on your site, will share this to your social media accounts. It's that simple. You can only post up to three social media sites for a Free Plan.

Other marketing ways are buying for Instagram shoutouts, video content on Youtube with product link on the description box, Shopify with Pinterest Buyable Pins, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook Pages.

5. Other Ways To Promote Dropship Business

Aside from getting an AliExpress account at Admitad, you can also apply for their Advertiser Plan and promote your products. More affiliates will promote your advertising campaign once they find your products promising. You just have to be creative and your commissions enticing enough. There are many advertising methods out there. The two biggest advertising platform is Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. Limit your budget per day if you are just starting up then scale it up if you have more revenue.
If you have any questions regarding this method and/or you have other ways to promote dropship business, feel free to share/post in the comments below!

Monday, January 16, 2017

4 Ways to Make Extra $100 on Social Media

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What if I offered you an extra $100 today, would you take it? I know I would. Extra money definitely comes in handy.

Many individuals concentrate on saving money, yet expanding it is the opposite side of that coin. You can use your skills, your social media on your spare time to make few extra cash today.

Social Media

1. Sell Photos

Do you have many followers on Instagram? try selling some of your photos. Stock photo sites hire photographers, professionals, and amateurs alike.

2. Sponsored posts.

If you’ve got a large following on social media, brands will pay to get access to them. You can charge per post, or set up a long-term agreement with a company. Try applying for a Famebit Creator account, promote your social media profile to advertisers and make easily $100 or more.

3. Work as a freelance virtual assistant.

You can use your skills to build a company’s social media. You can charge $30 an hour easily, and make $100 in less than four hours. You may want to create a gig in Fiverr and offer your social media skills or examine gig buyer's social media accounts and suggest ways for them to grow. Give them detailed feedback, and hard data to really provide value.

4. Affiliate Marketing.

This is one of the most used methods of making money on social media for many years up to the present. There are lots of ways really but you have to use your creativity to enhance your post's visibility. The easiest way is to create a landing page and insert your affiliate link anywhere on the page then post the page link to your social media account.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

[METHOD] Make Money through Facebook Page + CPA Affiliate Campaign

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I recently saw some Facebook pages doing some giveaways . They were mainly about luxurious cars Range Rover, BMW, Mercedes etc. Maybe some of you have seen them too they are still out there.

I didn't like the idea but anyways I decided to test it. 

Results : I made ~ $1000 in 3 days. the fake page & FB account I was using got taken down.

I'm no longer using this method since it's not that sustainable but I feel it may help someone get started in IM or provide someone with new ideas on how to make money on fb

1.) Have a Facebook account. 

You should preferably not use your real Facebook account if you want to use blackhat on this method.

2.) Create a Giveaway Page.

Have a creative story on your page like this one:

Win 1 Of 2 Beautiful [car name] (Ends on [date])

This will be the first time in Facebook History that we at [car name] will be giving away 2 Beautiful [car name] to two winners that we will randomly select on [date]

Want to join this amazing giveaway for a chance to own a brand new [car]! Simply follow the steps below to enter our competition:

Step 1): Like This Page
Step 2): Like This Post
Step 3): Comment which color you would like? (White Or Black)
Step 4): Share On Your Wall
Step 5): Click on the Sign up button on our page

All winners will be messaged via Inbox Message

Good Luck!

Please create your own giveaway story. Here is one twist maybe even try giving out something real and legit, I'm sure you will bank more and your page won't be taken down.

4.) Create a Landing Page. 

It's advisable that you will not link directly your campaign ads in the inbox, you will lose credibility instantly. Message them with a link that will direct them to a landing page. Create a nice landing page with Wordpress. You could also apply for a Free Domain and Free Wordpress Blog at Hostinger. Want your own domain name? Try 1&1 $0.99 Domains. Register for a new account to be eligible for $0.99 Domain.

Make your landing page like this:
- do you like ..... yes/no
- do you own..... yes/no
- have a submit button
People will come to this landing page when they click the sign-up button on your Facebook page.

5.) Apply for Adworkmedia Publisher Account and choose a content locker campaign. Click HERE.

Put a content locker on the submit button such that when a person finally clicks the button, it will ask him to fill a survey before he/she is entered into the competition. Adworkmedia will give you the submit button code once you finish setting up the content locker tool.

6.) Likes, Comments and Shares.

Get some likes on your Facebook page and some initial comments, likes & shares on the specific giveaway post.

7.) View your earnings in the Adworkmedia dashboard, the earnings are instant.

Any questions? Comment below.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Business Tips Before Opening a Coffee Shop

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The retail value of the PH coffee market is more than P50 billion. But at P100 a cup, cashing in on our collective caffeine addiction isn't always a given. Savvy experts share what they've learned.

Maximize online

"Don’t forget the internet!," says Lehman. "There are many tools that can be easily used to capture additional revenue by offering your most unique products online.”

What can a coffee retailer do online? Plenty! Lehman’s site,, sells bags of beans, gift certificates, coffee subscriptions, home-brew necessities from respected brands and even books and travel guides -- because coffee can be a lifestyle as much as it is a drink.

Listen to your customers

"Define your identity, but adapt," says Phil Goodlaxson, the owner of Corvus Coffee Roasters. "When we started, we only did pour-over. Morning customers asked for a quicker option, so now we brew by the batch, too.”

Do the math

Wondering about sales needs? Estimates to start:

- P300,000 in equipment
- P100,000 in marketing
- 30 to 35 percent of monthly revenue should go to monthly operating expenses once you’re established

When considering a location, use this metric: Within one or two years after your shop opens, sales should be 10 times your rent -- so, if your rent is P50,000 a month, you should be selling P300,000-P500,000. Can’t do it? Consider a different spot.

Train your crew
"Empower some of your key people with the education needed to keep your staff’s skill level high and your drink quality consistent,” says Jess Steffy, co-owner, Square One Coffee, Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pa. She suggests the following:

- Partner with a roaster that provides a comprehensive barista course with a Coffee Quality Institute-certified instructor.
- Enroll in the Barista Guild of America’s Level 1 Certificate program to learn milk texturing, brewing and extraction principles, cupping, and more.
- Pick up extra skills with a SCAA Coffee Taster’s Certificate. Learn about farming, processing and green coffee grading.

Should you roast your own?

It’s the question many coffee shop owners will eventually contemplate.

Yes, do it!

Roasting your own beans gives you more control over cup quality and can ultimately lead to wider margins. All three of our featured experts roast their own. Lehman’s primary reason: He’s able to source coffee from producers he trusts. “There are many business benefits to this as well, like brand building,” he says.

Nah, no need.

If you don’t have buckets of startup capital or prior experience with sourcing and roasting, you’re better off working with a trusted local or regional roastery -- at least to start. “Roasting requires an entirely different skill set than running a shop and preparing drinks,” says Steffy. “Don’t put yourself in a position where your roasting learning curve is up against your shop’s opening deadline.”


10 New Ideas for Earning Money on the Side

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Consistently we make similar new year resolutions, such as losing pounds or to stop smoking. Shouldn't something be said about profiting?

While there proven approaches to make additional money on the side, regardless of the possibility that you have an full-time work, if those haven't worked out for you in years past, then consider these 10 new ideas for gaining some extra cash on the side.

1. Join the sharing economy.

"The sharing economy is growing at an exponential rate," says Nigel Wilson, managing director at Hitwise. "Thousands of sharing economy companies have sprouted up around the world, and consumers are actively engaging in collaborative consumption.

According to PwC, 44 percent of all adults in the U.S. are aware of the sharing economy and 19 percent have engaged in a sharing economy transaction. It is imperative for brands to consider how to support and participate in collaborative consumption, rather than compete against it."

The sharing economy is exploding and the largest demographic in the country, millennials, have embraced it. For 2017, look beyond Uber, Lyft and AirBnb when looking to tap into this market. You can rent out your car on Turo, camera equipment on Cameralends, snowboard or bike on Spinlister and, if you own one, your sailboat on Sailo. Besides renting out the stuff that you already own, you can deliver home-cooked meals with Umi-Kitchen.

2. Launch a box subscription service.

On the off chance that you need to tap your local or niche market then a box subscription service is the place to begin with. In the course of the last couple of years, we've seen a blast of box subscription benefits in niches going from excellence to nourishment to gaming to novelty items. Since the products or administrations are conveyed to the client every month, and it has a recurring billing model, it can rapidly turn into a lucrative and passive income. Here's a rundown of conceivable box service ideas to kick you off.

3. Take over a mobile food truck.

More and more people, especially those between the ages of 18 to 34, are patronizing food trucks and that's why the food truck industry is expected to surpass $985 million by 2019. For savvy entrepreneurs, food trucks are an appealing business because it’s inexpensive to start, isn’t strapped down to a one location, can be a part-time side gig and you don't have to start from scratch. Every day thousands of baby boomers retire. If you know any baby boomer looking to get out of the food industry, consider purchasing their established business, which should include customers, recipes, and equipment at the very least.

My colleague Keith Crossley could buy a few food trucks and as of late opened a few restaurants. It took him just about four years however over that time he could assemble a flourishing business for himself. Everything began trying to profit on the side and transformed into his full time flourishing business. It's possible for you to do likewise. His unique venture was under $35,000.

4. Earn cash by downloading apps.

I'll be straightforward, you wouldn't make a fortune downloading the following applications however you can make some additional money every month by doing practically nothing. Here’s some of my personal favorites:

The Swagbucks app pays you for answering simple survey questions.
Media Insiders pays you for watching television.
Stash gives you $5 to start investing.
Clink will give you $5 to start saving
When you walk, Bitwalking will pay you in a virtual currency called Bitwalking Dollars.
Nielsen Homescan gives you cash for scanning your grocery receipts.
Achievement pays you for completing healthy activities.
MobileXpression will give you cash, gift cards, and merchandise for surfing online.
The Ibotta app pays you for taking pics of your receipts.
Paribus scans your emails for receipts and will issue a refund if there’s a price drop.
Related: The Sharing Economy Isn't a Niche. It's the Future of Market Capitalism

5 Write to Congress.

Writing has long been a favorite part-time-gig for people. However, with the 2016 presidential election, don’t be surprised to see an influx of letters to Congress. And, you may be able cash-in on this trend. DDC Public Affairs and NextWave are bipartisan advocacy groups that launch grassroots political campaigns on issues ranging from energy, healthcare, taxes, and defense.

All of these hire people to call all constituents or advocates and then transfer their opinions into written letters. You’re assigned campaigns, but you can reject them if you want. They expect you to work 20-25 hours per week and you start-off at $12 to $15 per hour.

6. Invest in real estate.

On the off chance that you aren't working all day or are as of now strapped for money, then turning into a proprietor likely isn't the wisest decision. However, in the event that you're hoping to make some additional money, then you could consider invest into real estate. The reason? The real estate market is looking strong for the foreseeable future.

Best of all, sites like Realty Mogul allow you to invest in commercial real estate for as little as $5,000.

7. Become an Instagram consultant.

Instagram had an incredible 2016. And, expect 2017 to be even better. Thanks to the Facebook-owned platform getting serious about attracting businesses, and launching exciting features like live video and Instagram Stories, a lot of brands are going to start promoting themselves on ‘the gram.’ If you’re a frequent Instagram user, have a passion for photography, and are a social media whiz, then you can start your own Instagram consulting business on-the-side.

8. EMV security consultant.

There are now around 300 million chip-card in-use by consumers with 1.2 million merchants accepting chip cards. Even though the transition to EMV is in full-swing, it’s expected that there will be an increase in fraud.

If you have security experience, or are knowledgeable in EMV, then you could start your own EMV security consulting business where you can instruct small business owners and their employees how to properly use EMV readers and inform them on the latest security measures.

9. Invest in bitcoin.

Bitcoin had a very good 2016. That should carry over into 2017 and beyond. In fact, some experts believe that the price for bitcoin will reach $1,000 within the next year, which would be a 40 percent increase. This is because of an increase in usage, more adoption, an increase in investments, and remittance in emerging markets like India.

10. Go green.

Millennials are extremely conscious about the environment. For example, 61 percent of millennials want to sign up for a digital application which can allow them to track their energy usage and control their household climate. That means that there’s a huge demand for “green” businesses in the near future.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

6 Types of Businesses You Can Start With Almost No Cash

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6 Types of Businesses You Can Start With Almost No Cash

If you’re like millions of Americans, you dream of starting your own business. But of course, there are dozens of obstacles that may keep you from actually doing that. You might not have enough motivation, for example, or time to actually see the work through; or you might not even have a solid idea to begin with -- yet.

But where most people get stopped cold is their realization that it takes money to start a business -- money they don’t have.

Still, consider: There are loans, grants, and other fundraising options, like crowdfunding, available to get you what you need; so money is not a good excuse not to start a business. And, beyond that, there are certain types of businesses you can start with almost no cash.
What it takes to start a business

Your first step is to explore what it takes to formally “start” a business, and which of those items cost money.


You’ll need to come up with a business plan and financial model, of course, but you can do this on your own, for free.

Business license. 

If you’re planning on creating a partnership, LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file some paperwork -- but it probably won’t cost you more than a few hundred dollars, depending on what licensing you need. The Small Business Administration has plenty of resources to help you figure out what you need, how to obtain it and how much it will cost.

A domain name. 

You’ll need to invest in your online brand early on; while I suggest going as professional as possible, you could also use a bare-bones approach to launch, if yours is a minimum viable product. Often, a catchy domain name is all you need to define your brand at the start, and one can be bought for as little as $10 (if you can find one that isn’t taken!). Try Godaddy and Namecheap to buy domain names. You may also check out 1and1's $0.99 Domain.

A Website. 

Website builders these days are free and intuitive to use. You won't expend anything but time to build your first site. I recommend starting simple with a widely-used website platform, like Wordpress or Blogger.


While marketing has a reputation for being very expensive, there are actually a ton of really effective tactics that can be performed with only an investment of your time. Social media marketing, SEO and content marketing all fit within this category -- and, honestly, those are really all you need.


Equipment, offices and other tangible assets are cash killers, but not all businesses need them. Some businesses don’t require any of these things, as I’ll explain shortly.
Products. Finally, all businesses need to sell something, which usually means some up-front investing. However, many services can be performed with an investment of time rather than money.

Types of businesses to start

So, which types of businesses can be started without a heavy financial burden in any of the above areas?

1. Personal creations

First off, there are personal creations, like arts and crafts. For example, if you’re a painter, you could sell your works of art with an investment of nothing more than art supplies and your own time. Platforms like Etsy, eBay and Amazon cater to creators and make it easy to turn a profit from your work.

2. In-home services

Services don’t cost you any money up-front because they’re intangible goods. And if you’re working in people’s own homes or neighborhoods, you won’t need a physical headquarters for your business. For example, you could start a babysitting service, a dog-walking or pet-sitting service or something like landscaping or snow-plowing.

3. Repair or skill-based services

If you have a specific skill, you could use your skilled labor as the main revenue driver for your business. For example, if you’re a handyman, you could cater to homeowners who don’t know much about home repairs.

Just like in-home services, these types of gigs don’t require you to have a physical establishment and don’t require you to invest in anything up-front, except perhaps the tools or equipment you’re going to need for the job, which will vary in cost.

4. Consulting

Many workers think about becoming entrepreneurs only after getting several years of professional experience under their belt. Think about the industry you’re in, and how much you’ve been able to learn in that time. Up-and-coming professionals, or startup business owners will likely be glad to pay you for your expertise. Consulting is a service that costs only time to produce, but can be highly valuable as a career opportunity.

5. Resale

The idea behind resale is simple: You acquire products and sell them to other people. You can use dropshipping or wholesaling to acquire these goods. With dropshipping, you’ll ship directly from the manufacturer (and turn a lower profit), but you’ll need almost no startup cash. With wholesaling, you’ll need more money and space up-front, but you’ll end up with more control and more money.

6. Micropreneurship

Of course, you could also piece together your own miniature business through micropreneurship and shared-economy opportunities. For example, you could drive for a service like Uber, or rent your home out through AirBnB or find similar services that make use of what you’ve already got.

After you get your business started and start earning revenue, your lack of startup capital will become less of a problem. You can reap the profits from your venture and reinvest them, or use them to start an even bigger business.

Hopefully, you now realize that you don’t need a lot of up-front money to start a business. In fact, you can start one for almost nothing. You just need to know what types of businesses work best in that model.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Podcast: How to Make Your Start-up Idea a Reality

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Podcast: How to make your start-up idea a reality
Financial Times

In 2017 you are going to make that great business idea a reality. But who do you turn to for advice?

In this bonus episode of FT Start-Up Stories, I chair a discussion in front of an audience with a panel of successful entrepreneurs to offer helpful insights. All my guests have built multinational businesses from scratch.

Shakil Khan is co-founder of, a university accommodation marketplace, while Tristram and Rebecca Mayhew are the husband and wife team behind Go Ape, a treetop adventure business.

They are joined by John Lynch, founder of apparel manufacturer Lynka; Diane Young, chief executive of marketing industry magazine and events company The Drum, and Lopo Champalimaud, co-founder of Treatwell, a health treatments booking service.

The audience puts questions to our panel members, who answered on matters relating to start-up ideas, such as whether it is wise to go into business with your spouse.


Slack Makes Another 11 New Investments in its Slack Fund

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Slack makes another 11 new investments in its Slack fund

As Slack’s rapid growth begins to slow a little bit, the company is looking to become a wider productivity platform — and that includes getting as many developers as it can building applications that can figure out new and unique use cases for it.

That’s part of the reason it established the Slack Fund, which makes investments in startups that are building tools on top of Slack. Jump-starting that ecosystem is going to be critical as Slack, as a startup, needs to allocate its resources properly and let other people figure out new ways to use its slick work messaging platform. The company is announcing that it’s making 11 new investments today as part of its continuing effort to invest in the ecosystem.

In July, the company said it invested $2 million in 14 startups through the Slack Fund. With these companies, Slack has made 25 total investments. Slack described the latest startups as ways to improve a variety of work tasks — which, naturally, is code for filling the holes in existing productivity suites that Slack proper might not.

Slack is one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley — but it looks like the shine may start wearing off as its rapid growth starts to slow down a bit. Slack launched the Slack Fund at the tail end of 2015 along with an app directory. All this was an effort to try and cultivate an ecosystem of startups and tools that would not only entice developers but also new users. Slack is still growing fast, and is now up to 4 million daily active users with more than 1.25 million paid users. But as all startups’ growth inevitably slows, Slack has to get creative.

Here are some short explanations of the new investments:

Statsbot: an analytics bot that connects with Mixpanel, Salesforce, and Google Analytics so users can receive alerts about data or query reports from Slack.

SwayFinance: keeps users up-to-date with their company’s finances to help keep track of health of their company without leaving Slack or constantly pinging team members.

Guru: creates a searchable knowledge base for your team based on conversations in Slack.

Bold: an internal blog for your team’s knowledge and big ideas. Bold pushes content to the appropriate Slack channel(s) to keep everyone in the loop.

Demisto: automatically alerts users if a malicious URL or file is shared in Slack.

DataFox: automates prospecting by providing real-time alerts for the companies users care about. Users can customize notifications so they know the right time to reach out.

Troops: brings Salesforce data into Slack so users can search records, schedule automatic reports, and celebrate company wins.

WorkRamp: a next-generation training platform built on Slack. Create training and development paths to keep employees engaged and get visibility into how your team is progressing.

Synveroz: an always-on voice chat platform that helps distributed teams communicate simultaneously.

Twine: bridges the gap between your conference room and Slack. Plug Twine into your HDMI port then start a video call, share content, or move rooms without leaving Slack.

Donut: pairs teammates for coffee (or donuts!) on a regular basis.

and more »


5th Edition of the Puerto Rico Investment Summit, Scheduled for March 2017

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5 th edition of the Puerto Rico Investment Summit, scheduled for March 2017
Business Wire (press release)

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Puerto Rico Investment Summit, the Caribbean’s premier investor’s conference, will celebrate its 5th edition on March 2nd and 3rd, at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. This Summit is the most important conference to learn about Puerto Rico’s tax incentives program, the Island’s competitive advantages and new investment opportunities that the Island offers, now that it’s undergoing a great fiscal crisis.

Investors like John Paulson and Nicholas Prouty have identified Puerto Rico as a key place to do business, and are in the process of construction of extraordinary real estate projects in the Island. International companies such as Lufthansa, Honeywell, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard have also identified the opportunities to do business in the Island, and have moved operations to Puerto Rico.

“This Summit provides the information that investors and business people are looking for in Puerto Rico. There is a lot said about the fiscal crisis, but there’s a great story of opportunity here because of our tax incentives, costs, human resources and privileged location,” expressed Brenda González-Santini, President of the 2017 PRIS, “it is a must see conference for those interested in investment opportunities.”

In past editions, keynote speakers have included top executives, tax experts, institutional investors, investment bankers, private equity professionals, professionals who see Puerto Rico as a business destination, among others.

The Summit provides a dynamic forum and the opportunity to establish important contacts both from Puerto Rico and abroad.

The Puerto Rico Investment Summit is a private event that provides a unique platform where investors, executives, government and private companies meet. Over 2,000 people have already attended prior events, featuring presentations by more than 100 public and private companies worldwide.

and more »


Small Business of the Month, January 2017

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Small Business of the Month, January 2017

Tell us about the origins and impetus of Highland Gardens.
Started as a mom-and-pop grocery store and decided it was more fun to sell tomato plants than canned tomatoes! Started selling vegetables and fruit trees and expanded into a full-service garden center. Our impetus was being perfectly timed and situated to grow with the Highland Park and Camp Hill area.

For readers who may be unfamiliar, describe Highland Gardens.
We are a full-service garden center. Great plants – many unusual and collector plants, as well as the usual. Over 1,500 perennial types, heirloom tomato varieties, fancy annuals, many, many hydrangeas, dwarf conifers, Japanese maples, awesome trees. We love trees! Garden embellishments, such as granite bird baths, chimes, benches, frilly and silly, too! Fertilizers, seeds, mulch, top soil, rocks and flagstone – lots of organic garden choices! Full-service department selling top-of-the-line Honda and Stihl equipment. We are also wild-bird lovers, and stock bird seed, houses, feeders and wildlife accessories.

What is one aspect of Highland Gardens that readers might be surprised to know?
Employees stick around and root in. Between 13 full-time employees, we have been here 253 years (5 of us are over 25 years each here).

Sum up Highland Gardens in one sentence.
Highland gardens is growing to please your green thumb!

What is your definition of an entrepreneur?  How do you fit that definition?
A person who has a pulse on future needs of the community and shifts and adjusts to satisfy these needs. We keep an eye to our established customers and have realized more mature plant needs are something we have adjusted to. Keeping an eye on our younger customers – we keep a constant presence on social media and try to give extra info to the newbies to ensure their success. So always watching, always listening.

What's the best part of owning your own business?
I enjoy watching our team pull together for the big games (April, May and Christmas weekends), realizing we foster a great working environment. I love the family type atmosphere that is our team. This is not a "punch the clock" business. Watching the excitement of new ideas and changes, laughter and friendship gives me great satisfaction.

What's the most difficult aspect of owning your own business?
Because we are a garden center, we can do every preparation there is, and we are still at the mercy of the weather. The weather dictates a very successful, or an unsuccessful, season.

What advice would you give to those thinking of opening up a small business in general, and in the Central Pa. region?
To start a new small business would be a daunting task. There are so many new regulations to comply with. For advice? Schmooze, listen, watch. Keep an eye on similar businesses to know your competition. I think Central Pa. is a bit more insulated from the ups and downs of the general economic swings of the country.

What does it mean to you to be a small business owner?
You have to stay on your toes and be fair and reliable within the community. You are depending on repeat business to stay in business. You are a neighbor of the community, and you are part of the economy of the community. You are hiring people within the community, which supports the whole area. To be a small business owner is to be aware of your role in the community. How you ripple the spirit of togetherness and of all of the support the community also provides in return.

In your opinion, how important are small businesses to the Central Pa. region?  How important are they to the nation as a whole?
Small businesses are the root system of information, customer service and sense of community, both in the micro and the macro. Small businesses keep more green (dollars) in the local communities, serving the libraries, the food pantries, etc, the needs of the small towns.

Owning a small business requires a tremendous amount of work and dedication.  What is the single most important moment for you that represents the reason for all of your effort and time?
When I am away from the shop in a social engagement, appointment or just out and about, and I receive unsolicited compliments about the staff or a plant they bought or how they love their lawn mower – all the hours, all the years, all the going-home-tired melt away like the spring thaw in a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Where and with whom do you find inspiration as a small business owner?
From a young age, watching my dad work seven days a week, doing what it took, exploring, trying new things – that's what it takes to be successful. I grew up with the idea that you committed to what you were doing, and you did it. My father inspired me early to be a moving part of the business, not a guy at the desk. Other garden centers out of our direct region can inspire some ideas and fortify knowing that we have some cool unique ideas ourselves! Gardeners asking for special items, trade shows, co-workers who report in fresh ideas, the weather and seeing customers with smiles on their faces.

Do you have any events, happenings or specials coming up in the near future?
Not until spring when the Georgia Peach Truck pulls in again.

Anything else?
Thank you. It is a real honor to be an established part of the Central


Top 9 Biased (And Bearish) Investment Picks For 2017

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Top 9 Biased (And Bearish) Investment Picks For 2017
Seeking Alpha

Behavioral investment biases have led to excesses in history and our learning curve is not steep.

The top 9 stocks that are subject to distinct behavioral investment biases, presenting opportunity in 2017.

Tesla is subject to multiple biases, in my biased opinion.

It is the new year and it is the time for resolutions and forecasting lists. I do not know what it is about lists, but for some reason my likelihood of reading something drastically increases if it is presented in list form! Information presented in a list instantly becomes more interesting and credible.

Now admit it, you are subject to it too. You know that "the 10 facts about Trump he does not want you to know" article suckered you into reading it! Only to find out it did not contain commentary on the picture that compelled you to start clicking on it in the first place. That is ok, you are in good company because we all do it from time to time.

There are actually a number of psychological reasons that compel you to read it. List-style headlines often provide that optimal balance of information and ambivalence, intriguing you just enough to click, on the chance that you will come across something particularly relevant or exciting, according to physiologist Maria Konnikova.

Do not stop reading, though, the list in this article is different!

Behavioral biases in investment decision-making

Our investment success is undermined by biases to a much larger extent than we probably recognize, let alone are willing to admit. For most money managers there are strict guidelines and investment criteria that place guardrails around how the money is invested. An investment mandate, as it usually is called, is commonplace in virtually all funds and investment houses. Even proprietary traders at banks have restrictions put upon them. An investment mandate is supposed to prevent us from doing stupid things and to keep biases from creeping in and wreaking havoc. Having those constraints is what is attributed to traders having success, where they tend to fail when they trade privately in the absence of defined restrictions. Mandates or no, biases invariably creep in, and in the best case you lose a little money, at worst you lose your livelihood or life in the case of famous speculator Jesse Livermore

One of the best books on the subject is "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay. It describes some of the most staggering examples that have occurred in history, and it illustrates that the learning curve for human behavior is not very steep. Examples date back to the 1600s when the Tulip mania in Holland reached its peak during the winter of 1636, when some bulbs were reportedly changing hands ten times in a day for prices of over 10 times the equivalent of an artisan's annual wage. No deliveries were ever made to fulfil any of these contracts because the tulip bulb contract prices collapsed abruptly and trade came to a halt. The collapse was reportedly triggered when a sailor at a tavern - oblivious to the fact that it was a tulip trading hub - cut into a priceless tulip mistaking it for an onion. It was the unpredictable ah-ha moment that burst the bubble. Just imagine that mania, a tulip trading at the equivalent of 4 Tesla model S cars (assuming average skilled worker of $36k and $90k model S)


9 Key Resolutions for Your Small Business

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9 key resolutions for your small business

If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably making up a list of new year’s resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, be nicer to your in-laws. While those resolutions may be long forgotten by February, I’ve got a list of resolutions you’ll want to keep to help you succeed in your small business in 2017.

1. Simplify.

You’re almost certainly doing too many things in your small business life. The New Year is a perfect time to pare things down. Do you have many different product or service lines but only a few big sellers? Focus on those that bring in the most money. Do you have meetings about meetings? Cut them out. Still doing your accounts, payroll (or anything else) on paper or an old-fashioned way? Find a faster, better online solution. Finally, hire some help. You can’t do everything yourself.

2. Say no. 

Entrepreneurs are people who say "yes" — they take on challenges, join in, help out. But if something won’t get you ahead, bring you joy, or build your community, why do it? Are some business activities now just habit and no longer profitable? Could you eliminate or outsource them to free up time for more profitable — and enjoyable — activities?

3. Take a risk. 

What? Your whole business is a risk. But if you’ve been running your small business for a while, you’ve probably gotten in to a rut. It’s time to grow. Identify one area where a calculated risk has a good chance of return without distracting you from your core business. The risk might be calling on a big potential customer you’ve been afraid of, bringing in your first employee, or expanding to another location. Don’t be rash, but extend your reach.

4. Choose a “theme” for 2017. 

Having a theme for your year helps you focus on your goals. For example, in my small publishing business, 2009 — the year after the economy fell off a cliff — was our “spaghetti year.” To survive, we knew we had to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” to make money. Much of it stuck, and we had a great year. 2012 was “the year of the cloud” — when we devoted ourselves to moving all our processes to web-based solutions.

In 2017, our theme is “active optimism.” The world seems fairly gloomy these days, but entrepreneurs are by their very nature, optimistic. They — we — see the possibility of a better life, a better way of doing something, a better world, and we work hard to make those dreams come true.  We know that optimism isn’t just a passive positive outlook, but a commitment to work diligently to make our best hopes and dreams come true. We’re going to expect — and work — towards positive outcomes in all our endeavors.

5. Be kind. 

In an optimistic world, there’s room for kindness because you don’t view the world as a zero-sum game, where for every winner there’s a loser. Do something nice for others, especially the people who help make your small business a success. Thank your employees, referral sources, and suppliers more often. Take your spouse, family member, or friend to a thank you dinner to show you appreciate their support. Spend a special weekend with your kids as “honored guests” to recognize the sacrifices they make for your work. Remember what really matters.

Use your area of expertise to help strengthen your community. For example, if you’re a caterer, you could hire at-risk youth and teach them culinary skills. A yoga studio could offer a free class to seniors or adults with disabilities. Try to make the world a better place.

6. Live in the moment. 

Entrepreneurs are visionaries — they can imagine things being different, better, in the future. But we often fail to concentrate on what life is bringing us right now. Sure, we’re on top of the “fire” that has to be put out with our biggest customer, but we often fail to appreciate the freedom that having our own business was supposed to bring us. We wanted more time to spend with our family or friends, to take time for exercise or travel, but we often become slaves to our business.  When you run your own small business, be sure to enjoy the ride.


Jan. 17 Info Session in Boone for 2017 ScaleUp WNC Small Business Program

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Jan. 17 Info Session in Boone for 2017 ScaleUp WNC Small Business Program
High Country Press

The deadline to apply to the competitive program is January 29

It is a well-known fact that small businesses have led new job creation in the U.S. economy for the last decade. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), businesses with fewer than 20 employees account for 90 percent of all U.S. firms and are responsible for more than 97 percent of all new jobs.

scaleup-wnc-logo-mbw-300x86Less well-known however is that the vast majority of these new jobs are created by the sustained, incremental expansion of existing small businesses, and that start-ups account for only 7% of net new jobs. The ScaleUp WNC program offered by Mountain BizWorks is specifically focused on this economic opportunity: providing targeted growth strategy development and implementation assistance to existing small business owners with strong opportunities for growth.

“Since the ScaleUp program, we have added a whole new division of our company, we were able to get our operation manuals on track and now we’re even looking at opening another location!” – Tyler Garrison, CEO of Regeneration Station (ScaleUp WNC alumni)

Using a cohort based approach, with 15 businesses accepted into each group, ScaleUp WNC provides mentorship, management training, growth capital connections and other critical resources to help companies achieve sustained and profitable growth. Cohort members also gain a strong peer CEO network within their cohort and with the now more than 60 ScaleUp WNC alumni as well (listed below).

Applications are now being accepted for the two ScaleUp WNC cohorts for 2017. The deadline to apply is January 29. Visit for more information and to apply. Cohort 5 will begin in late February in Asheville. Cohort 6 will start in June and will be based in Boone, the first cohort to be held outside of Asheville. Based on previous interest, Mountain BizWorks expects to fill both cohorts from applications received during this application window. Interested applicants are also invited to attend one of the following informational sessions:

Tuesday 1/17 4:30pm at Basil’s & Booneshine in Boone

Wednesday 1/18 4:30pm at the new East Fork Pottery store in Asheville

Thursday 1/19 4:30pm at Innovation Brewing Sylva
Details and registration at

In addition to the caliber of companies selected, a strength of ScaleUp WNC is the diversity of companies participating. Industries represented in the prior cohorts ranged from food & beverage to outdoor industry, and from manufacturing to professional services. Accepted companies hailed from Boone to Asheville to Bryson City and places in between. Mountain BizWorks strongly encourages applications from women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and rural-based businesses. Over half of the 2016 participants met one or more of these criteria.

“This year it looks like we are on track to double our revenues, which we really attribute to the ScaleUp Program.”  -Kim Celetano, CEO of (ScaleUp WNC alumni)

Fifteen founders or executive managers of growth-oriented small businesses will be selected through a competitive, merit-based application process for each ScaleUp WNC cohort. Businesses must be based in Western North Carolina, have at least one full-time employee, and have identified opportunities for business expansion. Additionally, accepted businesses typically have been in for business for at least 2 years and have annual revenues between $150,000 and $750,000.

This unique program is offered at no-cost thanks to funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration, however companies chosen are expected to make a firm commitment of time to participate in the program. Western North Carolina has been selected as one of the first eight places nationally to launch an SBA ScaleUp America program, a recognition of the vibrant entrepreneurial community in WNC.

Additional program details, dates and the online application form are available at

ScaleUp WNC alumni companies include:  Cohort 1: Brightfield Transportation Solutions, Carolina Native Nursery,, Dolci di Maria, Equinox, Farm to Home Milk, Hi-Wire Brewing, Lusty Monk, Mother Earth Produce, New Appalachia, Outrider USA, SimpleShot Shooting Sports, Strivven Media/Virtual Job Shadow, The Filling Station Deli And Sub Shop, Ultimate Ice Cream.  Cohort 2:  APEX Brain Centers, Appalachia Cookie Company, BearWaters Brewing Company, Cab Hound, Covenant Health Products, Destination by Design, Dog Door Canine Services, eCBiz Solutions, Go Yoga, GoWorx, Heurista, Odyssey ClayWorks, Sherpa Hunting, Spectra3D Technologies, The Regeneration Station. Cohort 3: Black Mountain Ciderworks, Blue Ridge Energy Works, Brian Boggs Chairmakers, Copper Pot & Wooden Spoon, East Fork Pottery, Innovation Brewing, Kudzu Brands, Medea’s Espresso & Juice Bar, No Evil Foods, Organic Planet Cleaning, Outfitter Bicycle Tours, Pisgah Pest Control, Port City Music, Printville, Still Point Wellness. Cohort 4: Addison Farms Vineyard, ADORAtherapy  , All American Food Fights, Big Boom Design, Blue Ridge Solutions, Brewed For Her Ledger, Bright Star Touring Theatre, DuinoKit, Duncan & York, Elements, JB Media Institute, Jennythreads, Jukebox Junction Restaurant & Soda Shoppe, Sunburst Chef and Farmer, The Sunset Motel, Wishbone Tiny Homes


Opinion: Forget Buffett — Four Unsung Investment Gurus are Picking These Eight Stocks for 2017

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Opinion: Forget Buffett — four unsung investment gurus are picking these eight stocks for 2017

Here’s a worthy New Year’s resolution for you: Stop paying so much attention to financial-market icons.

You know who I mean. I’m talking about the likes of Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, George Soros and Bill Ackman.

Instead, look beyond the media spotlight to a lesser-known group of successful gurus: investment-newsletter writers.

After all, these unsung market heroes regularly perform well. And they are more open about their favorite stocks.

One problem here is that you’ll have trouble identifying the best investment letter writers in the future. That’s because Mark Hulbert sadly pulled the plug on his long-standing letter-writer ranking service last year.

Fortunately, a little secret to Hulbert’s system was that a small group of letter writers consistently dominated the performance lists.

I’ve gotten to know this small group of elite performers because I’ve consulted with Hulbert over the past 15 years to tap the best letter writers for an annual New Year’s outlook and favored stock picks.

Below is their take for 2017.

These are all value investors who are normally loath to make market forecasts. But most of them were good sports about it, and went along anyway. And as money managers, they treasure the value of diversification to reduce risk. So, two stock picks is like fingernails on the chalk board for them. But that’s what I asked for, and they went along with that as well.

As a stock-letter writer myself, it’s tempting to chime in here. But I’ve never been ranked by Hulbert, so I will stay out of this, other than to mention that Seattle Genetics SGEN, +2.19% was recently a top suggestion in my own letter, Brush Up on Stocks.

Its stock was recently hit because it had to cancel some studies of one of its key cancer drugs due to patient deaths. But not all studies of the drug were halted, and Seattle Genetics has many other irons in the fire. So while the patient deaths are obviously a tragedy, the company should overcome this obstacle, which means the current weakness offers a good entry point.

Now, on to the investment-letter gurus.

Go with turnarounds

George Putnam, a money manager who pens Turnaround Letter, expects modest market gains of around 3% in 2017. “The economy is still pretty strong, and I think earnings are going to be OK. But the S&P 500 has had a great run over last several years, and it may run out of gas,” says Putnam.

Of course, the big unknown is President-elect Donald Trump. “He may be able to regenerate some optimism about business,” says Putnam. “The risk is he does something dumb that causes a real problem.”

Now, for Putnam’s picks.

Crocs CROX, +0.86% Recent price: $6.85

People either love or hate Crocs’ weird rubber shoes. There’s not much in between. Ten years ago, Crocs lovers ruled the day. The company’s stock was a high flyer, trading above $70 in 2007. Then Crocs crashed and burned. It brought in new management. But they didn’t have the right experience, so the company had to reset again in 2013, with help from Blackstone Group BX, -0.13%

This time they brought in management with experience in shoes and turnarounds. They’re now doing basic block-and-tackle work like closing unprofitable stores and revamping distribution networks. Crocs may never be a high flyer again. But Putnam is betting that as the overhaul continues, the stock will move significantly higher. “They are starting to get traction,” he says.

Oaktree Capital OAK, +0.12% Recent price: $37.50

Companies issued high-yield debt at record levels for much of 2010-2015. Now, a huge amount of it comes due over the next five years. With interest rates going up, it will be harder for many companies to refinance that debt. “Some fraction isn’t going to make it,” predicts Putnam, who follows this market closely. “It is going to have to be restructured.”

That will play right into the hands of Oaktree Capital, which specializes in helping companies refinance and restructure distressed debt. “I think this is going to be a great opportunity for all kinds of distressed security firms and for distressed debt firms like Oaktree,” says Putnam. “The climate should be good for them.”

Oaktree is well-positioned, because it has more dry powder, or funds available for this use, than it has ever had, notes Brian Frank, president of Frank Capital and manager of the Frank Value Fund FNKCX, +0.00%

Meanwhile, Oaktree pays a 6% dividend yield. So you get paid while you wait for this thesis to play out.

Speculate, but be prudent about it

John Buckingham, who manages the Al Frank Fund VALUX, -0.59% and pens the Prudent Speculator, expects 10% market gains for 2017, driven in part by an increase in business confidence under Trump. “The big thing is animal spirits,” he says. “Small business has been under a lot of additional regulation. So if we have some relief with some of those things, there will be more bounce in everybody’s step.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises RCL, +0.26% Recent price: $82

Even without robust economic growth, this cruise line would benefit from the aging of the population since older people like to go on cruises. But this pastime isn’t just for the elderly. “It’s a great way to see the world, and more people are starting to realize that. People are getting interested in cruises at a younger age,” says Buckingham.

Another favorable trend is the growth of the middle class in China.

Meanwhile, the three main cruise companies — Royal Caribbean, Carnival CCL, +0.07% and Norwegian Cruise Line NCLH, +0.32%  — have an oligopoly because they control about 90% of the market. They seem to be in a friendly standoff on pricing. And they enjoy barriers to entry, because building ships is so expensive.

Amgen AMGN, +1.31% Recent price: $146

Biotech stocks have been hammered on fears about government controls over drug pricing, worries that peaked during the election and haven’t worn off. That’s left Amgen, one of the best in the space, trading at just 13 times earnings. To Buckingham, that’s too cheap to pass up, for a quality company with a strong balance sheet.

Amgen has important drugs like Repatha, for controlling cholesterol. And it’s rolling out biosimilars like Amjevita, a copy of a blockbuster anti-inflammatory treatment called Humira made by ABBV, +0.66%

Amgen also has a boatload of cash that it’s using for stock buybacks, and to fund research that will keep the hits rolling. Buckingham also likes the 2.7% dividend yield.

Give a “fool” his due

Motley Fool Inside Value editor Richard Greifner unabashedly has no market view for 2017. “I have no special ability to call the market. I don’t know of anyone who can constantly do that, and certainly I can’t.”

He does have favorite stocks, of course. Though like many of the best investment letter editors, he feels a little queasy about a one-year time horizon. He prefers to look at stocks as “holds” for three years or more, which makes a lot of sense.

Starbucks SBUX, +1.87% Recent price: $55.50

Like its coffee, Starbucks stock has never been cheap. At least by any of the yardsticks favored by value investors. It probably never will be.

But after the December pullback that shaved about four points off its stock price, Starbucks now looks “attractively” priced, and that’s good enough for Greifner. “For a company of this caliber, if you can buy it at a good price, you should do very well over time,” he says.

Starbucks stock has been weak because third-quarter sales growth slowed to 4%, after 25 consecutive quarters of 5% growth or more. But Starbucks still has a lot of growth left, especially abroad in places like China, India and Brazil. “I think people underestimate that,” says Greifner. “It has such a strong, beloved brand worldwide. The brand is the biggest thing the company has going for it.”

Starbucks, for example, estimates it can increase its store base by almost 50% over the next five years.

Priceline PCLN, +0.60% Recent price: $1,466

The key to this investment is to look beyond the cheesy William Shatner commercials — to Europe. There, Priceline’s is the top travel website. Unlike the U.S., where the hotel business is dominated by a few chains, Europe has a lot of smaller, independent hotels. “So they are more reliant on to bring in guests,” says Greifner.

The website got into the business in Europe early. So it was the first to build up a network of hotels that is tough for competitors to replicate. This makes for a good barrier to entry. “They have a couple years head start over the competition, which turned into this insurmountable barrier,” says Greifner. is a “tremendously profitable business” with solid growth prospects as more hotels come online, says the Motley Fool Inside Value editor.

Use this little-known trick to spot value

Near term, there could be market trouble because the Trump rally may fade, says Investment Quality Trends editor Kelley Wright. “There’s an awful lot of enthusiasm right now. I am not sure how long it will last, when the reality sets in on how hard it is to get through a legislative agenda.” Ultimately, though, greater infrastructure spending will spur jobs and wage growth, and help produce 8%-10% gains for the S&P 500 this year, says Wright.

To find stocks that might do the best, Wright looks for financially sound companies with a long history of paying dividends. Then he favors those whose stocks have been beaten down to extreme lows.

Wright doesn’t gauge this by looking for historically low stock prices on a chart. Instead, he looks for companies whose dividend yields have risen to historically high levels. As stock prices fall, dividend yields rise. Every company has a yield that has served as the peak over the decades. That’s the yield Wright looks for, to serve as a guide on when to enter a stock. Right now, companies in money management rank high by his methodology.

Franklin Resources BEN, -1.08% Recent price: $40

Take Franklin Resources, for example. Historically, it looks cheap whenever its stock has fallen so much that its dividend yield approaches 1%. But now it’s at 2%. “From a pure valuation standpoint, this is a layup the market is handing it to you. You have to go take it,” says Wright.

Franklin Resources’ stock has traded down in part because it runs a lot of bond funds, which have been hurt by the selloff of bonds on worries about interest-rate increases. But money could flow back into bonds as rates rise, Wright says.

Franklin Resources has also been hit by the recent investor preference for exchange traded funds (ETFs) over managed funds. But since Franklin Resources owns the prestigious Franklin Templeton family of funds, it should benefit nicely if this trend reverses.

Eaton Vance EV, -1.72% Recent price: $42

The repetitive high dividend yield for Eaton Vance over time has been 3%. It’s pretty close, with a current yield of 2.87%. Eaton Vance is plagued by the same problems Franklin Resources faces. Bond funds have recently performed badly, and investors favor ETFs over managed funds.

But Eaton Vance recently bought Calvert Investments, a pillar in so-called sustainable investing. So, like Franklin, it is well-positioned if managed funds return to favor among investors.

Will that happen? No one really knows for sure. But market trends tend to move in cycles. So if indices stall after years of steady, seemingly “easy” gains, stock pickers and managed funds could once again have their day in the sun.


This First-of-its-kind Accelerator is Going to Make It Way Easier for Nordic Startups to Take on China

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This first-of-its-kind accelerator is going to make it way easier for Nordic startups to take on China
Business Insider Nordic

Last month Finnish investment firm Pivot5 launched the first business accelerator between the Nordics and China, the Nordics-China Innovation and Startup Acceleration program. It is run in cooperation with Beijing-based business incubator COMB+ and aims to help startups based in the Nordics establish and grow their presence in China.

Pivot5, formerly known as KoppiCatch, is one of the most successful investment companies for early-stage startups in Finland. Their portfolio includes IndoorAtlas, who went on to raise $10 million from Baidu, as well as Minun Sports, a Danish startup that provides football training tools and is endorsed by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Arsenal FC. Both of these startups have also enjoyed success on the Chinese market.  

COMB+ is owned by SkyOcean, a publicly listed company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK). It has two campuses, with room for hundreds of companies, as well as an established investor network.

Regarding this new partnership Mr. Ling "Leo" Zhu, COMB+’s CEO, explained:
"We see Helsinki and the whole Nordic region as the natural bridge between Europe and China. No one should attempt to enter the Chinese market by themselves. However, finding the right partner is easier than generally thought.”

Looking at how the need for this kind of accelerator came about, Torsti Tenhunen, founder of Pivot5, points to perceived stereotypes about launching a startup in Asia’s biggest economy. 

For him, this partnership “helps firms overcome their concerns when it comes to doing business with China, which tend to fall into three groups: 1) Bureaucracy, censorship and government complexity, 2) A challenging contextual culture and language, 3) Fraud, copycats and the fear of violent IPR-transfer.”

As for why Pivot5 chose to work with COMB+, Tenhunen went on to add that the Beijing incubator “has a very close relationship with local and provincial governments, uses trusted experts full of useful advice, and works with a strong network of investors.”

The kick-off event took place just before Slush, and was attended by over 100 entrepreneurs and investors. It also involved a pitching competition, with 10 pre-selected startups pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges. The top prize included a free “acceleration week” in Beijing, including investor meetings and pitchings, customer meetings, and workshops.

Among the ideas pitched was Reverse Resources - a startup that has developed software for recycling and reusing the billions of tons of leftover material from the fashion industry.

Another impressive idea came from Heliostorage, with their concept for harnessing the power of the sun all year round (even during the sunlight-starved months of Finnish winter!). But the eventual winner was Jakamo, a supply chain collaboration platform for the manufacturing industry.


The Top Niche Business Ideas Set to Flourish in 2017

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The top niche business ideas set to flourish in 2017
Real Business

With findings taken from Google Trends, there are a handful of niche business ideas that are set to achieve success in 2017.

New trends pop up all the time, with Pokemon Go a perfect example. But findings from Yell Business have revealed that niche business ideas look set for greatness this year.


Looking ahead at what niche business ideas the UK market can expect to see, hygge – a Danish term for cosines in English – interior design is expected to come into its own.

The digital marketing company found that hygge achieved 163 per cent more Google searches in Q4 2016 than it did in Q3.

Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation at Ambius, said of hygge: “The Danish philosophy of ‘hygge’ – pronounced ‘HUE-gah’ – is a state of mind that embraces comfort.

“Instilling this concept into our workspaces through the use of greenery could be the natural solution to delivering some cosiness to our cold, sterile offices – it could help improve employee engagement and inspire staff.”

Performing arts

Elsewhere, Google searches for jive classes were up by 50 per cent on 2015, while August to October alone experienced a 20 per cent search spike. Yell suggested that any entrepreneurs considering niche business ideas may want to look at teaching the dance.

In autumn, we spoke with London Cabaret Club founder Evelina Girling. While she doesn’t teach dance, she is benefitting from the arts thanks to moving ahead with her venture.

“We found people want something from a bygone era. They want us to go back to the days where you can dine, be entertained and dance after – that’s what’s appealing with our concept, people love to be entertained but also entertain themselves,” Girling told us.

It’s worked out well, with Simon Cowell among the customers visiting the Holborn venue.

Continue on the next page to see what other niche business ideas are set to take off this year.

Food and drink

Although mass amounts of food and drink will have been polished off during the Christmas period, craft gin has experience a popularity surge. It had 285 per cent more Google searches last year than in 2015, while October generated the most searches with 182,000.

Similarly, craft beer, which is already wildly popular thanks to brands like Brewdog and Camden Town Brewery, as searches for craft beer shop was up 86 per cent in 2016 on 2015.

There’s also an appetite for niche business ideas in the form of gourmet sweetshops, Yell found, as they experienced a 200 per cent spike in Google searches.

Jamie Laing of Made in Chelsea is one such individual benefitting from the marketplace with his Candy Kittens brand. Flavours include Eton Mess, Sour Watermelon and more, while the the gourmet tag relates to the price of bags which are between £1.80 and £3.

In an interview with Laing and business partner Ed Williams, Real Business heard: “We’re trying to sell our sweets as a premium product to style-conscious consumers – something that hasn’t been done before, a premium gummy sweet.” Additionally, vegan food experiencing an 83 per cent rise.


According to the findings from Yell Business, other areas of interest that could gain traction this year include streaming services, eSports, beer delivery and cycling companies.

“The emerging trends present a real opportunity for entrepreneurs to capitalise on in 2017. It’s even more exciting that many of these business types play into people’s everyday passions,” said Mark Clisby, marketing director at Yell Business.

“Whether it be teaching jive dancing classes or a setting up a vegan cafe, 2017 could be the year to take the leap and do something you’ve always wanted to.”

Having surveyed 1,500 UK consumers, Yell Business found that 40 per cent have considered starting up a venture, but only 13 per cent had gone through with it.

Of those that hadn’t pursued their ideas, the top three reasons cited were:

(1) Lack of finance – 61 per cent

(2) Unsure where to start – 50 per cent

(3) Risk of failure – 26 per cent

Yell Business also surveyed 1,500 business owners, however, and found 68 per cent made a profit in year one. In fact, 31 per cent generated profit in two months.


4 Healthcare Investment Trends to Watch in 2017

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Four healthcare investment trends to watch in 2017
MedCity News

Every year at this time the market is buzzing with predictions of how health care innovation and venture investment will shape up in the new year. As we enter 2017, the market is substantially different than a year ago when unicorns were being anointed weekly and aspirational valuations defied gravity (and company performance). Pundits were scrambling to be the first to predict the bubble bursting.

Instead, we have been surprised to see that the healthcare venture market is still open for business – with capital flowing into new investments, but with investors becoming more cautious around the edges. We are tap dancing, but with the knowledge that we’re tap dancing on increasingly thin ice – as longer sales cycles, slower consumer adoption, and a wholesale turnover of the status quo in D.C. call into question many of the assumptions that underpinned the digital health boom. In short, investment capital is there, but who gets it, what those companies will need to prove to get it, and at what price, will be different in 2017.

Given this disruption, we don’t feel there’s value in making outlandish predictions. Instead, we share below four trends we will be following over the next 12 months as we try to drive consumer-centered change in an uncertain, transforming market:

Platforms over point solutions  

Digital health investment has fueled a flurry of point solutions designed to tackle discrete problems in (sometimes) novel ways. Although narrow, standalone solutions – such as disease-specific care management programs or population-specific tools – bill themselves as targeting large total addressable markets with high ROI, most rely on large payers, employers, or provider systems to fund their clients.  These large organizations are increasingly challenged to manage a complex and overlapping vendor stack, creating a real advantage for platform businesses that tie together programs and capabilities in a modular approach.

Equally important to client preference are the comparable economics of selling platform solutions: It’s not much more expensive to sell high average revenue per user, or ARPU, platforms into large client organizations than lower revenue point solutions. Finally, it takes a lot of effort and time to sell solutions to large healthcare enterprises – point solutions rarely have the capital (or the investor patience) to see this sales cycle through. They will need to partner with companies with more established distribution to get to scale. We expect to see broader solutions outperform the narrow band companies, many of which should ask themselves: “Am I a product feature or a company?”

Trouble Growing into Peak Valuations

Entrepreneurs and investors have been dazzled by many of the marquee funding rounds that have seen companies raise enormous rounds of capital at dizzying valuations.  The markets celebrated at the time and anointed these companies as “successful” based on post-money figures without scrutinizing other merits of actual company performance. As the dust settles, investors will be expecting these companies to have grown into their shadows, and we can expect many of these VC darlings to struggle.

Meanwhile, the healthcare companies that opted for a more conservative approach to fundraising have headroom to grow and continue to raise. As one of our CEOs recently said when considering term sheets, “Given all the uncertainty in the market, I would rather enter 2017 growing from my valuation than into my valuation”

Impact of #IvankaCare

The early year healthcare headlines will center on the incoming Trump administration and its approach to reshaping the federal government’s role in affecting health care.  Stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum are anxiously waiting to understand the implications of the impending shakeout.

As the markets watch to see if we end up with “repeal and replace”, how CMS, CMMI, and MACRA are impacted, and what exchange plans will mean beyond 2018, we can expect this transitionary uncertainty to impact the companies that depend on federal intervention for reimbursement or market making. Many health care buyers – large and small – will sit on their pocketbooks in 2017 until a clear picture emerges.   We expect many of those dollars to shift toward investment in data capabilities and areas that support quality and efficiency in care. The real breakout opportunity is for the consumer-oriented companies that have been building innovative solutions will continue to fuel their growth.

Consumers drive healthcare delivery offerings

The healthcare venture community has invested heavily in channel offerings like telemedicine, retail clinics, and housecall fleets to deliver healthcare more affordably and less traditionally, meeting consumers where they want healthcare and when. Although each seeks to be the preferred channel of choice, 2017 will be the first year in which consumers in numerous markets can begin to make clear decisions about site and type of service based upon transparent cost, convenience, and personal preference.

Consumer adoption of these services has not been utilized in great numbers, historically. However, we have not yet seen a shakeout where consumers are presented with multiple options and shifts between channels, basing healthcare choices on their preferences and factors mattering to them individually. These results will translate into investment shifts in the healthcare system.

While Trump and consumerism will be driving forces in 2017, we’re looking forward to the emerging stories, science, startups, and solutions that will have us looking back a year from now, realizing how much more we’ve matured and looking optimistically at the road ahead.  As such, we raise our glasses to the entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly and risking it all to make our system a little better and wish you a Happy New Year!


Small Business Security Priorities for 2017

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Small Business Security Priorities for 2017
Small Business Computing

A New Year has arrived, along with some big security challenges.

In 2017 the expected proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices across all types of environments will make it tough to ignore the security ramifications. The continued popularity of the cloud will continue to attract the attention of cyberattackers and ransomware authors will keep the IT security industry on its toes.

Here are some of the small business security trends to follow going into a brand-new year.

The Growing IoT Security Threat

There's plenty of excitement surrounding the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) technology market.

Soon, offices will be littered with equipment that monitors its own performance and can schedule preventative maintenance, averting unplanned downtime and costly repairs. Smart homes will adapt to the habits and preferences of their inhabitants while enhancing safety and lowering energy bills.

The downside of this hyperconnected future is that cyberattackers have some sinister ambitions.

In 2016, a couple of massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks highlighted the dangers of an IoT ecosystem that fails to prioritize security. Botnet operators used the collective traffic-generating power of millions of compromised IoT devices, including digital video recorders (DVRs) and IP cameras, to knock a website belonging to Brian Krebs, a prominent security researcher, offline. They disrupted access to major sites including Twitter and Netflix by targeting Domain Name System (DNS) provider Dyn.

In some cases, vulnerabilities in seemingly harmless home automation devices can enable hackers to sneak onto a small business network. Malware-infested servers and other systems could soon follow.

To avoid becoming a victim, security researchers suggest replacing the trivially easy to crack default passwords set by the factory on an IoT devices with a strong one. It's a good first move, but there are additional steps small business owners can take to safeguard their environments when the IoT inevitably invades the workplace. Get more IoT Security Tips to Protect Your Small Business here.

Keep a Lid Cloud Credentials

It's no secret that businesses of all sizes are flocking to the cloud for their IT services and software needs.

The cloud subscription, pay-as-you-go approach appeals to organizations seeking to control IT costs and enable "anywhere, anytime" collaboration by using cloud storage, sync and sharing services. As an added perk, they generally get to enjoy enterprise-grade security and reliability, aside from the occasional outage, of course.  

Unsurprisingly, some crafty attackers have found a way to steal data from cloud storage accounts. Microsoft's latest Security Intelligence Report warns of Man in the attacks (a variation of man-in-the-middle attacks, of sorts).

In a Man in the Cloud attack, "an attacker induces a prospective victim to install a piece of malware using a typical mechanism, such as an email with a link to a malicious website," states the report (PDF), offering another reason to be on the lookout for phishing attempts. "After the malware is downloaded and installed, it finds a cloud storage folder on the user's computer. It then switches out the user's cloud storage synchronization token with the attacker's token."

In the wake of a successful infection, a copy of each file uploaded to the victim's cloud storage account is delivered to the attacker. Making matters worse, attackers can cover their tracks by immediately removing the malware after the tokens have been switched, rendering the breach practically untraceable by anti-virus software.

Ransomware Targets Databases and Microsoft Office

There's another good reason not to fall for phishing emails. Attackers are banking on the likelihood that your small business network is home to a business database and valuable Office applications.

In November, security firm Trend Micro warned of alarming new behavior being exhibited by the popular Cerber family of ransomware. Version 4.1.5 of the malware targets Microsoft Access, Oracle, and MySQL database files, sometimes shutting down those databases to encrypt files that are currently in use.

Ransomware authors are also hoping victims will pay up to recover their business files. Earlier this month, security researchers at Microsoft cautioned that the latest Cerber variant is targeting folders associated with the Office productivity software suite. 

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Lumini Scans Your Skin to Reveal Exactly How You'll Age

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Lumini scans your skin to reveal exactly how you'll age (and helps you prevent it)

From tags that can make any toy smart to devices that could replace expensive dermatologists, Samsung has unveiled its latest Creative Lab (C-Lab) projects ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. 

Created in December 2012, C-Lab is a startup business programme designed to develop business ideas from Samsung employees.

This year’s projects include Tag+, an electronic device that adds extra functionality to toys; S-Skin, a home skincare and analysis solution; and Lumini, a portable device that checks your skin to identify and prevent skin problems.


Lumini is a portable device that spots skin problems before they happen. After taking a picture of the face with Lumini, it analyses the information using an algorithm and sends the information to an app.

The device will then identify issues under the surface of the skin, such as pimples, freckles, increased pores, wrinkles, redness, and sebum. Lumini recommends cosmetic products based on the analysis and offers a remote consulting service with a dermatologist or a skincare specialist.


Tag+ is a button-type device designed for children to use easily. It works like a digital companion that connects to toys and an app through Bluetooth to add new interactions.

Depending on whether children click, long-press, shake or bump the smart tag, the companion app responds accordingly, adding smart-style features to even dumb toys. With Tag+, Samsung claims children can “have multiple experiences with a toy without losing interest”.


S-Skin has been designed to save on the time and cost of professional dermatological care. It uses a microneedle patch with a portable device that analyses the skin.

This microneedle patch penetrates the skin to deliver skincare products, while the device can measure the hydration, redness, and melanin of the skin to provide customised skincare using LED light. The condition of the skin is saved in the accompanying app to track changes over time.

Since the start of 2016, Samsung has been showcasing C-Lab ideas to gauge the public reaction. This can help improve the devices and also generate potential financial investment.

Five additional C-Lab projects that have successfully spun off, and will be demonstrated at CES 2017, include MANGOSLAB, a compact printer that creates memos from smart devices; Jameasy, which helps you practice an acoustic musical instrument using a sensor attached to the instrument; MOPIC, a smartphone cover that helps view 3D content without glasses; Analogue Plus, a hands-free device for headgear; and WELT, a smart belt and health tracker.

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