Rolling out some new Blogs 

 

 

Black In Business: Celebrating The Legacy Of Black Entrepreneurship

 African-Americans have played a profound role in shaping the U.S. business landscape. Technological innovations like the traffic light, automatic elevator doors and even caller ID all sprung from the minds of creative black luminaries.To honor their business achievements this Black History Month, Forbes spoke to a number of founders, investors, activists, celebrities and experts on the black diaspora. What emerged from these conversation was a rich, complex portrait of black entrepreneurship, one that highlights the black community’s tremendous creativity, as well as a resilience that was born, in part, out of hardship and necessity.

Historically, black-owned companies, like Madam C.J. Walker’s hair-care line and the businesses that formed Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street, were developed in direct response to racial discrimination. “These segregation patterns then created market opportunities for black entrepreneurs to step in, make money and meet the demands of the black community,” says Mehrsa Baradaran, author of The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap. With few work opportunities and high job instability, many black pioneers took matters into their own hands, building small enterprises that served and employed fellow African-Americans.

The black community’s long history of entrepreneurship is marked by ebbs and flows. The Reconstruction era, the period after the Civil War, saw a sharp rise in the number of black-owned businesses as the country attempted to right some of the inequities of slavery. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the resurgence of Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation, coupled with the Great Depression, led to the decline of black entrepreneurship. “Black businesses were targeted and we saw a rollback in many of the advancements that were made previously,” says Tiffiany Howard, a small business and entrepreneurship fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The rate of black business creation continued to rise and fall throughout the 20th and 21st century, increasing in the ’90s, dipping during the 2008 recession and rising again post-recession. In recent years, the number of black-owned businesses has risen dramatically, with black women fueling much of that growth. In 2003, Oprah Winfrey, arguably the most notable black female entrepreneur, became the first black American

billionaire. And in just the last five years, four other African-Americans have reached the billionaire echelon.

But even with this forward momentum, black entrepreneurs still face a number of challenges: primarily, a lack of access to capital, says Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chambers. “We have the acumen, the creativity, the knowledge and even the manpower. But without access to capital, our ideas come to a standstill, are stolen or are manipulated.”

Many of the black 2020 30 Under 30 listmakers echo a similar sentiment in candid video interviews with Forbes, but they also note the black community’s collective ability to persevere against all odds. And in an effort to level the playing field for entrepreneurs of color, a number of corporations and wealthy black business leaders have created funds to invest in minority-owned companies. Real estate tycoon Don Peebles announced a $500 million fund for emerging minority and female developers in June 2019, and banks like JPMorgan and Citigroup have launched initiatives and investment funds to support underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Still, much remains to be done both in the private and public sectors. “In order for there to be a great America, there must be a great black America,” Busby says. “And in order for there to be a great black America, you must have great black businesses and a great black economy.” If history is any indication, black entrepreneurship will continue to grow and thrive in the coming years—an economic boon for Americans of all colors.

February 2020, CICO writer: CICO  Staff Reporter Ruth Umoh


With the speed at which modern technology is growing and evolving, it is no surprise that everything that relies on it must move at a similarly breakneck pace. Digital marketing is no exception. With constant updates, new techniques, and changes to algorithms, digital marketers are frequently scrambling just to keep up. Being aware of emerging or continuing trends is a vital part of staying on top of the game. With a brand-new decade rapidly approaching, here are some of the top marketing trends for 2020.Shoppable PostsIt’s highly unlikely that you know anyone who doesn’t use some form of social media. Given its ubiquitous nature, social media has understandably become an integral part of online marketing. What may not be as obvious is just how many users shop on social media networks. This represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses, given that 72% of Instagram users have purchased a product on the app. Even more impressive, a survey of more than 4,000 Pinterest users found that 70% use Pinterest to find new and interesting products. Fortunately for merchants, these platforms have made it easier for them to use the power of social media to reach their customers. Whether you use Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, there are now ways for e-commerce stores to create shoppable posts, making it easy for users to shop directly from your post. Social media offers you the ability to reach new customers quickly and easily, shortening the sales funnel and making it easier for users to shop. By 2020, shoppable posts are expected to be the norm.Virtual And Augmented RealityIn recent years, both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become massively popular and are emerging as top trends in marketing. In 2020, AR is expected to surpass VR in popularity, despite VR’s early lead. Already, many major companies are making use of AR. Ikea, for example, has an app that allows users to visualize what a piece of furniture would look like in their home before making a purchase.

Interactive Content

Today’s buyers are looking for new experiences when they go online, and for many, that means greater interactivity. In fact, a whopping 91% are seeking more visual and interactive content. There are several reasons for this:

• Interactive content is different and new, and as such, it stands out more.

• This type of content serves to keep visitors on your page longer.

• Interactive content is immensely shareable, and when users share this content, it helps to grow awareness of your brand.

• Simply put, interactive content is more engaging. Users enjoy it more than other content.

Personalization

2020 is going to be the year of personalized marketing. Consumers are quite adept at tuning out generic ads that have no real connection to them. Accordingly, traditional means of advertising are becoming much less effective. So, what can be done? Personalize it! In a survey of 1,000 people, 90% remarked that they found personalization appealing. More important for your business is the fact that 80% admitted they’d be more likely to give their business to a company that offered them a personalized experience. Email lists are an old standby of marketers, and they lend themselves well to personalization. Segmented lists with personalized email blasts have been shown to perform than generic emails sent to an entire list. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your audience in a meaningful way.

Google Ads Smart Bidding

Those involved in digital marketing are already familiar with automation, but now Google has announced Google Ads updates that will likely lead to automation and smart bidding becoming the new normal. Google Ads makes use of machine learning in order to optimize your bids. This gives you several new abilities to help you maximize your conversion, including:

• The ability to choose conversion action at the campaign level

• The ability to set your bids to change automatically when sales start or stop

• The ability to optimize bids over multiple campaigns with a chosen set of conversion actions

While there are a variety of new trends to keep your eye on, that doesn’t mean that all the old methods have become outdated. In fact, there are several marketing trends that have been big in the past and are expected to continue into 2020.

Content Marketing

For years, “content is king” has been the axiom of digital marketing. As we move into 2020, it continues to be true. High-quality content allows you to show your expertise and communicate with your customers from a place of authority. Your content is also what search engines provide to searchers online, so continuing to produce high-quality content is a must.

Video Content

Customers respond well to visual content, making video an important digital marketing tool in 2019. It will continue to be important into 2020 and likely beyond that. Don’t overlook live video. On average, live videos on Facebook Live and Instagram Live keep your audience watching three times longer than recorded ones. The daily watch time for Facebook Live videos have quadrupled in a single year, and they produce six times as many interactions as traditional videos.

SERP Position Zero

Being No. 1 is no longer the goal. The top spot in SERP is now position zero, a featured snippet of text appearing above the search results. This prime location often provides information relating to the search query, while also providing a link to the page from which the information is drawn. Position zero is the first, and sometimes only, result that some users will view. As such, it is highly coveted and should be the focus of your efforts. While many business owners appreciate the fact that marketing continues to change at a fast pace, those who are willing to adapt and evolve will continue to attract high-quality customers in a digital world.

February 2020, CICO writer: CICO  Staff Reporter Christian Thomson

Top 5 diversity trends for 2020s

At the verge of the new decade, some racial rows have sparked here in the U.K.. In late December 2019, two elite schools in the U.K. were embroiled in controversy after rejecting scholarship donations, earmarked for white working class boys. A Twitter announcement from the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to encourage young black women to apply for a creative programme has been met with accusations of him being raciston the cyberspace. Last but not least, on New Year’s Day, BBC News reports that a record number of primary school children are being excluded from school for racist bullying.

This is quite a tense start to the decade, with the diversity and equality debate getting more and more polarized – even among the very young. How will the decade pan out, from the perspective of diversity and inclusion?

1) It is still time to talk about race

Race has been a major point of discussion in the U.S. for a long time, but across the Atlantic, the topic has been fairly muted. For the U.K., which is also racially diverse and has a colonial history, race only came to the government’s attention after the Race Disparity Audit, first published by the Cabinet Office in 2017. Race is now an everyday discussion, after popular figures in music, such as Stormzy, and in football, such as Raheem Sterling, spoke out against racism. In France and Germany, the two biggest European economies also with histories of colonialism, these conversations are starting to become more prominent.

At the BMW Foundation’s Berlin Global Forum in October, the ending plenary featured a crowd-sourced poll from the 200 attendees from all over the world, to answer the question, “What structural factors prevent more inclusivity?” The top ones included: Racism, capitalism, sexism, governments, power, education, hierarchy, prejudice, fear, and white supremacy. Race-related factors are featured twice among the top ten.

While there is more awareness about racial inequality across Western Europe, there is increasing backlash, mainly from white people. Writer Robin DiAngelo has summarised this response as “white fragility”, a reaction in which white people feel attacked or offended when the topic of racism arises. These tensions will likely continue as discussions on race gain traction in popular discourse, through the 2020s.

2) Gender is not just about women

The 2010s have seen a progress in discussions about gender equality, with the #MeToo movement and the intersectionality discourse. LGBTQ activists have also looked back on the 2010s as a decade with huge success, including the increase in trans visibility. Moving into the 2020s, these nuanced debates will likely continue and finally, discourse on gender will not be equated to women; instead, discussions will likely encompass broader issues, including issues relating to men and boys such as men’s health and fatherhood.

3) Re-emergence of class as a rallying cry

During the Cold War, when the dividing line was socialism versus capitalism, class was a rallying political cry in the world – or at least in the socialist world. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, class has retreated as a front and centre political issue, until its comeback in the latter half of the 2010s with the astonishing election of Trump and win of Brexit. The woes of the white working class were a central tenet of both the Trump and Brexit campaigns, and they will continue to preoccupy voters’ minds. On the New Year’s March in Hong Kong, which is entering into its seventh month of anti-government protests, protestors added a new chant about forming unions, which have traditionally been the organizing force of the working class. Increasingly, discussions about diversity will include class.

4) Age: The old versus the young

In the Brexit vote, and the subsequent general elections, has seen the old and the young occupying the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Traditionally, voting preferences are divided along class or racial lines, but age has now become the dividing line – not least because of the economic disparity betweeen the young and the old. A recent research showed that spending by retirees in the U.K. rockets while spending by youth has decreased. When it comes to the issue of climate change, the conflict between the young and the old becomes more apparent. Greta Thunberg, the face of climate activism, has long condemned the inaction of older generations. Last week, in Germany, a satirical song (#Omagate) mocking a fictional grandmother’s environmental habits was released, including lyrics that say “my grandma is an old environmental pig”, causing a huge controversy. The generational conflict will most likely continue and intensify in the 2020s.

5) More focus on cognitive diversity

In the past year, the world has grown more aware of how social media channels are creating echo chambers for all of us – people on one’s Facebook news feed may look diverse, but they all think the same. Cognitive diversity has always been on executives’ agendas, but the latest recruitment drive by Dominic Cummings, the aide to U.K.’s Prime Minister, has brought this to the limelight. He has called for the need for “true cognitive diversity” by hiring for a wide range of talent, including “weirdos and misfits with odd skills”.  It remains to be seen how successful he will be in pushing for cognitive diversity, but it will certainly be a word on people’s minds for 2020.

January 2020, CICO writer: CICO  Staff Reporter Bonnie Chiu

Highsnobiety: From Niche Blog To The Height of Hype

Creating shoppable content that people actually buy from has been an elusive goal for brands, retailers, publishers and influencers alike. Conde Nast’s style.com, a luxury e-commerce business, was shut down just after 9 months, despite a hyped launch. Influencers, whose recommendations used to be trusted in the early days of Instagram, now often serve as a source of amusement when featuring products they are clearly paid to promote.

Yet if the purpose of going to a website is to get inspiration on what to buy and read product reviews, does it not make sense for the publisher to make its recommendations shoppable? Incentives make this area murky and blunt execution erodes audience trust, thus ultimately damaging the publisher.

Some companies are doing this well however, notably Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop, which focusses on women’s wellness and Highsnobiety, a streetwear media and e-commerce destination for men.

Highsnobiety began as a blog for male sneaker fans in 2005. To put this in context, YouTube was founded just three months before, so the company grew its audience on, and along with, the big social media channels.

“I had to make money before I could spend money,” said David Fischer, Highsnobiety founder when we met at the Wired Smarter conference in London. Unlike many of the other Berlin-based digital companies, Highsnobiety was self-funded for the first 13 years.

Fischer describes the company’s early stages as “normal slow business growth,” which is a stark contrast with the break neck growth of venture funded companies. He made his first hire two years into running the business, and added the team gradually as revenues and audience climbed.

A growth spurt began in 2012, when Highsnobiety moved from a traditional advertising-based revenue model, to making branded content. For the past 5 years, the business has seen strong double digit growth and headcount went from 20 to 200. In 2018, venture capital firm Felix Capital, led by Frederic Court, became Highsnobiety’s first investor. It is no accident that Felix has invested in other businesses that have blended content and commerce well, including goop.

Keeping trust

I asked Fischer how Highsnobiety managed to grow its revenues via branded content, while also keeping their audience’s trust. Fischer says that as a content first company, as opposed to a retailer, which grew up in the digital age, Highsnobiety had experience in making trending content. They also understood the behavior of the sneaker obsessed young male audience because this is who they spoke to every day.

Perhaps the issue with failures like style.com is that traditional publishers were going into a digital world, which they were not familiar with, and were tin-eared to the changing needs of their target audience.

To keep trust, Fischer says that Highsnobiety only creates branded content about products they genuinely think have the cool factor that their audiences crave. Authenticity is at a premium, because in an age of rising audience distrust, one false move could place Highsnobiety in jeopardy.

Competing with clients

When the company evolved from being a publisher and branded content studio into e-commerce, another set of issues arose. By selling products, Highsnobiety put itself into competition with its branded content clientele of brands and retailers.

While Amazon has no qualms about turning its clients into competitors on Amazon marketplace, as a smaller player, Highsnobiety had to be more careful. They opted for the drop model, whereby a limited edition collection of sneakers is sold on Highsnobiety media properties.

Building hype around the upcoming limited edition sale, and playing on consumers’ desire for scarcity, the company sells product, limits inventory risk and also boosts the brand value of its clients. Fischer says that product drops on Highsnobiety lead to increased sales on their brand and retail clients’s sites. “When we do a Nike drop, people spend more time with Nike content. This means we can continue being a true partner to these brands.”

Highsnobiety has proven that the branded content and product drop models can work well together, and now Fischer’s task is scaling the offering. For brands, retailers and publishers competing in the content and commerce space, the lesson is that they need a team who thinks digital first. That team needs to understand their target audience and be empowered by the CEO. It is no use hiring people who know what to do and not listening to them, which is what often happens when established companies hire a Chief Digital Officer.

Consumer trust is what helps Highsnobiety win in this competitive space, because consumers do not mind getting product recommendations, as long as they are good and relevant. As retailers and legacy publishers consider their options after a turbulent year, Highsnobiety’s experiments are worth learning from.

December 2019, CICO writer: CICO  Staff Reporter Sophia Matveeva.

The Best And Worst Advice For Job Seekers And Interviewers In A Neurodiverse World

This piece is full of tips, but it also takes a more holistic look at work, who we hire and why exuding confidence and embracing difference is what brands (and people who build them) need most in 2020. In addition to offering job interview advice you’ve probably never heard put in quite this way, my hope is to reboot the way the corporate world sees ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, executive function and processing deficits and the people who live, work and succeed with them. These are basic tips—for both job seekers and interviewers—to get a difficult conversation about thinking and working differently started:

Tips for Job Seekers

  1. Don’t Label Yourself. Be Yourself. Medical labels are only your friend when you are seeking a diagnosis or treatment. In the workplace, there’s no need for you to talk about them unless you want to.
  2. Quit Trying On Normal. If you’ve been raised with a learning disability, the number of times you have been shamed as a young person for your behavior may be indelibly etched in your brain. One way to gain confidence is to openly talk about those battles in the past tense. They are successes. 
  3. Purposely Position Yourself As Different. Why shy away from it? Who do you know who gets excited about meeting a super-average person? Unique is very 2020. Talk about your flexibility or creativity, your self-awareness and your empathy for others. You’ve survived all the crap doled out in high school and beyond. That means you had to be resilient, make frenemies, use humor as a shield or empathy to gain buy-in. Reframe learning disabilities as leadership qualities in the workplace.
  4. Question Monoculture. Maybe you’ve noticed—the world has no normal these days, whether you are talking politics, bioethics or work-family balance. Think of the business world as being in its teenage years when it comes to disruption. If you have a teenager who asks constantly at school functions, you’ve heard: Can’t you just act normal for once? Of course normal isn’t possible, few parents seem normal to high schoolers. Unless you can self-destruct and disappear in a Lebron-style poof of colored chalk or arrive in JVN style to the parent-teacher conference, they’ll have to deal with you.
  5. Zig When Others Zag. The worst five words my parents ever said to me as a teen? We’re not like other families. Thankfully, times are changing. Standing out and standing up is becoming the new normal. Some people say that not doing things the way other people do makes you uniquely qualified to bring new solutions and ideas to work. If so, maybe you rolled your eyes as inRight, who would believe that line? Interviewees need to be sure they tell their story in a unique way but make their point clear, instructive, interesting and relevant. Most interviewers haven’t yet enough outwardly proud neurodiverse candidates to understand where you are coming from. When they do, you’ll be unforgettable in a good way. No interviewer forgets a great story of redemption, change or caring.
  6. Know Your Craft or Be Enthusiastic About Learning. You will need the hard skills to back up those soft ones. But you may already be a curious, lifelong learner. The more adept you are in your field, the less anxious stressed or blindsided you’ll feel when change happens at work.

Tips for Hiring Managers 

As an interviewer, you also need to get comfortable with neurodiversity. This can’t come from a training webinar alone. It comes from talking to real people who are neurodiverse. Meet with or speak with as many different sounding, different-thinking, different looking candidates as you can.

  1. Know About Neurodiversity. Five years ago, Steve Silberman’s award-winning examination of autism, Neurotribes, was published. In it, he explains the idea of neurotypical behavior as existing on a spectrum. He reframes the word normal in positive, human, understandable ways. Another respected researcher and writer, Judy Singer,  Neurodiversity: The Birth of An Idea   also discussed diverse behaviors that make up a spectrum. The Australian sociologist became well known best for coining the word neurodiversity. In the 1990s, she coined the term as shorthand for a way to explain how there is a variation in the way the human brain socializes, learns and functions. Since then, another word for differentiation has emerged—neurodivergence. Still, many companies persist in wanting to boil their brand and the people who create it down into one culture—one norm. I don’t think one company culture will thrive in 2020.
  2. Don’t Dwell On Labels Or Personality Tests. From a business standpoint, I think it’s important to know about these terms, but also not to dwell on them when it comes to assessing or learning more about different types of employees. More important to me than a label is an intention. Your why? and how? may be different than mine. But the least-acceptable way to use it as a source of discrimination. That discrimination, bias (or ok, unconscious bias) still runs rampant in the business community. Start talking about bias openly.
  3. Listen Or Ask About Preferred Language. Take cues on language from interviewees. Some people want to be referred to as people with disabilities (people-first language) while others want to be referred to, for example, as autistic (vs. a person with autism) because it’s proudly part of their identity. I lean toward not separating a diagnosis and the person. One way is to think about whether you are coming at language in a respectful way or with a positive or negative bias. Do you set up firewalls or create bridges? Businesses today have a lot of firewalls. Build more bridges.
  4. Quit The Normal Business.  The rebel leader in me often asks: Why would anyone want to be normal? The disruptor in me asks: What does it mean when something is normalized? In the future, it will mean powerful teams creating more relevant, useful products through collaboration. Few organizations will be in the business of trying to be normal. It even sounds ridiculous when you say it today. Our mission is to save lives and be normal. Our vision is a normal world. We are in the business of creating normal things for normal people. If I was normal, I would say, good luck with that normal project. But proudly, I am not.

November 2019, CICO writer Denise Brodey – Staff Reporter.

Google may have just ushered in an era of ‘quantum supremacy

Google says that it has achieved quantum supremacy, a major milestone towards the development of quantum computers. At least, it seems to have. The announcement came in a paper that was reportedly published on the NASA website before being pulled, according to the The Financial Times which retrieved a copy before it disappeared. “To our knowledge,” Google’s paper read, “this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor.” The Google research paper was titled “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor.”

Google’s quantum computer was reportedly able to solve a calculation — proving the randomness of numbers produced by a random number generator — in 3 minutes and 20 seconds that would take the world’s fastest traditional supercomputer, Summit, around 10,000 years. This effectively means that the calculation cannot be performed by a traditional computer, making Google the first to demonstrate quantum supremacy.

Despite hitting the milestone, it’s likely that quantum computers capable of tackling practical tasks are still years away. However, once developed, the computers are expected to have huge implications for areas as diverse as cryptography, chemistry, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Google expects the power of quantum computers to expand at a “double exponential rate,” whereas traditional computers have long been pegged to Moore’s Law, which saw power double every 18 months or so.

Google previously said that it hoped to achieve quantum supremacy by the end of 2017, however the 72-qubit system it developed proved too difficult to control. Following this, Google developed a 53-qubit design called Sycamore, which was used to achieve the recent breakthrough.

However, the significance of Google’s announcement was disputed by at least one competitor. Speaking to the FT, IBM’s head of research Dario Gil said that Google’s claim to have achieved quantum supremacy is “just plain wrong.” Gil said that Google’s system is a specialized piece of hardware designed to solve a single problem, and falls short of being a general-purpose computer, unlike IBM’s own work.

IBM is a fierce competitor of Google’s in the race to develop quantum computers. Earlier this year it unveiled the Q System One. Although it was still far from being a practical computing device, IBM’s breakthrough was to make it much more reliable than previous quantum machines. Quantum computing chips are very unstable, and prone to interference from heat and electricity. IBM’s new design was able to minimize this interference, the company said.

Others were more optimistic about the development. “Google’s recent update on the achievement of quantum supremacy is a notable mile marker as we continue to advance the potential of quantum computing,” the director of quantum hardware at Intel, Jim Clake, said. “We along with the industry are working to quickly advance all of those areas to realize the true potential of quantum computing. And while development is still at mile one of this marathon, we strongly believe in the potential of this technology.“

The University of Southern California’s Daniel Lidar also praised the way Google’s system reduced the problem of “crosstalk,” which is where a quantum computer’s qubits interfere with one another. “[Google has] demonstrated a path to scalable quantum computing,” he told the FT, “Once you have a fully error-corrected quantum computer, the sky’s the limit.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

October 2019, CICO writer   – Staff Reporter.