Getty Images

When was the last time you sent someone an attachment in an email? Have you noticed that when you type the word “attach” and don’t add something, Gmail even helpfully reminds you that you forgot something?

For many of us, this is an everyday occurrence–so frequent, we don’t even think twice about it.

For security professionals, it is the stuff of nightmares.

Last week, Boeing notified employees of a minor security breach from February when one of their workers requested help from his spouse in formatting a spreadsheet. Not so terrible, except this spreadsheet contained sensitive information about 36,000 employees, including employee names, ID numbers, and accounting codes in the visible columns, in addition to birth dates and social security numbers in hidden columns.

While this was just a careless mistake, Boeing was quick to act and cleaned up the mess immediately. They’ve destroyed all copies of the spreadsheet, informed the employees who are affected (and the Washington Attorney General), and offered identity theft protection to their employees.

IBM recently performed a worldwide security study that shows average cost of a data breach is $4 million. Each lost or stolen record containing sensitive information incurs an average cost of $158.

Companies like Boeing have playbooks and insurance for this type of thing. What can you do to keep yourself out of harm’s way?

Go old school

In this paperless age of the internet, it seems like we’ve gotten used to storing all our data in the cloud. However, some things are better left offline.

For certain types of information, especially things that contain personally identifiable information like social security numbers, the safest methods of delivery are still in-person or by fax.

For those of you (like me) who don’t own a landline anymore (much less a fax machine), Regus Business Center and FedEx Office both have many locations around the world where you can use an actual fax machine.

Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt

I know that probably 95 percent of you are shaking your heads and saying “She can’t be serious!” (I am.)

If you absolutely must use the interwebs to transfer your sensitive documents, you can be a little bit smarter about it. First, ensure that you’re uploading things over an SSL connection. Next, that you’ve encrypted and password protected your attachments with a secure program like 7zip, or the excellent Cryptup plugin for Gmail.

Finally, make sure you never send the password to the file with the attachment itself. Deliver passwords verbally or via some non-email method.

Use the right tools

Sending sensitive files within an email is just generally a bad idea overall, though. Instead, there are plenty of programs that exist to help pick up the slack.

Dropbox and Box are my two favorites, as both are certified for HIPAA-level data compliance, so your data is safe to store and share with them.

No matter what you do, no solution is 100 percent foolproof. New breaches are being reported almost daily, and excellent sites like Troy Hunt’s HaveIBeenPwned can give you a leg up in prevention.

Making such a costly mistake can sink your business, and as an entrepreneur, every penny counts.

Mar 20, 2017

4 Strategies You Need To Launch A New Product At Comic Con.Html


To Launch With a Bang, Try These 4 Surefire Conference Marketing Tactics

Twitter, Foursquare, Casper and others have successfully used conventions to launch their brands by focusing on their marketing goals.

Jun 1, 2020
To Launch With a Bang, Try These 4 Surefire Conference Marketing Tactics
Getty Images

For some, going to a mega-event like Comic Con, CES or SXSW is a life goal. For others, it’s annual riteof passage. For businesses, it can be a great way to launch your brand to the next level.

With over 130,000 attendees expected for 2018’s edition of San Diego Comic Con starting on Thursday, and 180,000 for CES 2018 (which took place in January), it’s easy to be overwhelmed. And that doesn’t even account for the people who show up without an official ticket to these events. By some reports, thereare at least 25 percentmore people in a town surrounding any given event than are actually registered.

This leaves entrepreneurs looking to get noticedwith an amazing opportunity: real people, gathered in one place who are in a clearly defined demographic. You can generate awareness, validate your product, build leads–all with a fairly receptive and captive audience.

This strategy has worked well to launch companies like Twitter and Foursquare. A nap pod marketing activation by mattress company Casper at SXSW brought a boost to the compantwhen it were able to fill in for sold-out hotel rooms after multiple flight cancellations left Austin unprepared.

While a budget helps,you can definitely stand outwithout breaking the bank. As a veteran of mega-events, here are my top five tips on how to navigate:

1. Define your outcome.

While the big players have resources to track multiple goals, you should probably have one thing that you’re going after. Some good things to think about are whether you want people to buy a product, become aware of something, or engage with you or your company.

2. Hatch a plan.

When you’re walking around CES and suddenly see a flash-mob of Elvis impersonators choreographed and singing about Google Fiber, recognize that there was some major planning that went into it. Likewise, take some time to figure out what would work best for you.

If your budget is small (or non-existent), find out where people are and get yourself noticed by them. At Comic-Con you can offer a distraction to the people who are waiting in the never-ending lines, for example.

3. Be social.

Unlike smaller events where there may only be one or two people using a hashtag, there are tons of people who use social media as their means of communication. Additionally, because of the popularity of these events, people who are not there will also follow on social media to see what’s going on.

To capitalize on this, post as much as you can, using the event hashtags, and make sure you engage with the top content you see.

4. Be prepared.

As a bonus, here are my general tips to survive conferences like ComicCon:

5. Be flexible.

No matter how prepared you are, these conferences can be overwhelming. Whatever schedule you planned ahead of time, be ready to drop it as soon as your boots hit the ground.

Jul 19, 2018

This Ceo Raised 37 Million In 2 Years By Uncovering 1 Simple Problem.Html


This CEO Raised $37 Million in 2 Years By Uncovering 1 Simple Problem

Asking people to explain their existing pain points gives you a better chance of launching a successful business.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Covid Resource Center

How Everlywell’s Julia Cheek Makes Big Decisions Quickly

The Austin-based healthtech entrepreneur talked with Inc. about the strategic moves that led to her company’s breakthrough success.

This CEO Raised $37 Million in 2 Years By Uncovering 1 Simple Problem
Getty Images

While we don’t generally think about it this way, our email addresses are like digital ID cards. When companies ask us to fill out forms for access to a system like Facebook, or a simple data download, we often tie some combination of our name, email address, birthday, phone number — even our physical address — together to create an online profile. This takes only a few seconds of our time and we get access to the latest version of Candy Crush, and the majority of people never think about what happens on the other side.

And, frankly, it’s a mess.

As the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal showed with Facebook, even the data that is being collected isn’t even really useful to the companies collecting it. Itis faulty; records are incomplete and inaccurate. This leads to things like Facebook reporting they had more United States adult users for advertisers to market to than actually exist offline.

Kabir Shahani, CEO of Amperity, believes this is probably the biggest issue organizations face today.

“As I spoke to more and more companies, I realized that no one had the answer to what should have been a simple question — ‘How many customers do I have?'”

Hidden somewhere across all the CRM, marketing, SaaS and other tools that a modern organizationuses to track consumers, there was a missing piece. Each tool was creating individual user profiles in their own systems — and these records were not being connected. This led to inflated customer numbers, as someone may register for a newsletter with their personal email but sign up for an account with their work email — and follow company social media with their Instagram or Twitter account.

From a CRM perspective, that is four different customers, when in reality it is all one person.

Armed with the initial understanding of this problem, he set out to try to determine a way to fix it by scrubbing databases and joining user records — ultimately proving that a person is the same person, whether behind a personal or work email address, a social media account, street address,phone number, or whatever information is available.

“I knew this was a problem that needed solving. I told our investors honestly that I wasn’t sure that this could be done at all, and that maybe we weren’t even the right team to do it — and perhaps because of my authenticity they backed us.”

In less than two years, they’ve raised over $37 millionand announced partnerships with Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, GAP Inc. and others. Shahani has advice for others who want to follow in their footsteps.

1.Once you identify the problem, focus on it independent of constraints.

When he set out to start the business, he started by interviewing people to find their common problems. Once he found one, he ran with it.

“Market validation is the key first step to any business,” insists Shahani.

2.Don’t give in to pressure to say yes to things you can’t do.

Shahani’s thought experiment started to come closer to life when he met Dr. Dan Suciu at the University of Washington. Shahanirecalls: “It was a meeting that gave us the proof that what we were doing was theoretically possible.”

Until they could prove it was actually possible, however, they remained transparent and authentic with investors about the realistic limits of their abilities. In turn, this openness gave their investors the faith they needed to back them.

3.Engage your customers early on and let them build with you.

Whether you are building machine learning models or creating the next flavor of Pepsi, it’s always a good idea to involve your customers as early as possible.

Shahanisays, “We may have only ‘launched’ in October 2017, but we were in stealth mode building with partners for almost two years. That gave us time to work on the pilot and have something solid.”

When you’re early on in the development process, it’s much easier to course correct than later.

And as for their mission? Well, if it means we’llget threefewer advertisements from each company, the better off we’ll all be.

Apr 30, 2018
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of
How Everlywell's Julia Cheek Makes Big Decisions Quickly

When Julia Cheek founded Everlywell in June 2015, she was, by her own estimation, “perhaps the least qualified person to start a health care startup.” And yet, as her Austin-basedat-home lab testing companyapproaches its fifth anniversary, she finds herself overseeing a staff of about 100 people, providing home tests for allergies, food sensitivities, thyroid conditions, and, as of May 2020, Covid-19. The company raised $50 million in its last round of funding and was listed at No. 3 on the Inc. 5000 regional ranking for Texas this year.

In anInc. Real Talk: Business Rebootlivestream, Cheek, 36, spoke withInc. editor-at-large Tom Foster and took questions from viewers.Their conversation ranged fromhelping her team cope with quarantine to making big decisions. Here are some highlights.

Think Big and Think Fast

In May, Cheek and her board decided to give away $1 million to labs across the help them develop a working test for Covid-19. For a startup still counting every dime, it wasn’t an easy check to write.However, Cheek saysthey made the decision quickly. “It took about an hour,” she says. “It was one of the fastest and easiest decisions made in the history of the company.”

She knew that funding those labs would speed up development of an at-hometest. She also had to make decisions internally to offset that cost while doing everything possible to maintain head count. That meant scaling back every discretionary dollar her team could find–Goodbye, office coffee!–in order to do the right thing and keepher team. “I wanted to protect as many jobs as possible,” she says.

“It was the right decisionmade at the right time,” she says now. A month later, she’s hiring.

Look Out for Your People

When asked how she deals with the challenges of running a companyfrom home (with a new baby) as well as whilewitnessing the protests in the streets, Cheek was quick to stress the importance ofmakingsure her colleagues are able to cope. “I worry like a mom about every one of our team members,” she says. That means asking herself how her team is doing all the time and asking herselfhow she can make their days better. Sometimes that means encouraging them to disconnect from Zoom or other digital platforms and take care of themselves. “Our primary focus is: What does every employee need for their mental health?” she says.

As for her own self care, she’sbeen developingwellness routines, including taking many meetings while walking and doing her best to separate her home workspace from the rest of her house.

The Funding Challenge

Cheek spoke at length about the difficulties she encountered while seeking funding as a female founder, despite the fact that she went to Harvard Business School and had a strong network.

“It was hard for me,” she says. “So you can imagine how hard it is for people of color, especiallywomen of color. I heard a lot of noes. What I learned is that it only takes one yes.” Among those yeseswas one on-air boost from Shark Tank‘s Lori Greiner, which doubled Everlywell’s sales overnight.

Ultimately, Cheek says, people needto talk about funding obstaclesopenly and honestly and encourage entrepreneursand investors to confront theirbiases. “It’s important that founders hear stories and become part of the solution,” she says.


Jun 4, 2020

This 4 Step Plan Can Help You Make Meetings Less Miserable.Html


This 4-Step Plan Can Help You Make Meetings Less Miserable

Elon Musk says you should ditch meetings all together. Here’s how you can make them easier to tolerate.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
This 4-Step Plan Can Help You Make Meetings Less Miserable
Getty Images

When building a business, there’s an oft-repeated maxim that “it’s all about the hustle.” Many entrepreneurs take that to mean that everything to do with their business has a “life or death” urgency to it. No matter what your business, if you’ve got any sort of administration as part of your job responsibility, you need to start thinking differently about your role.

The 24/7/365 schedule is unsustainable.It’s really dangerous to assume that what is urgent for you must have the same importance for everyone else. This feeds into the same sort of anxiety feedback loop that is associated with social media addiction. Unfortunately, that’s not the only downside — by spending all your time hyper-focused on every aspect of their business, you tend to lose a grasp of the big picture.

While I was working on my first startup, I was intently focused on providing the best customer experience possible. I was up late every night and worked on weekends. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t spend thinking about how to make a better product.

Unfortunately, while I was making an awesome product, while I was down in the weeds with my customers I failed to notice that the economy had shifted — and there was no longer a market for what I was selling. It was a multi-million-dollar mistake.

This is especially prevalent for solopreneurs. When you don’t have a team, and you’re doing all the work yourself, then you may not feel you have the luxury of stepping out of the weeds to see things from above.

Here are a few suggestions to help you clear a path:

1. Remove any daily scrum.

If you have a small team, daily standups are huge time sinks.They’re useless: You should already know what each other are doing, and if you don’t, you have bigger problems.

Instead, try to capture the information wanted by having your team use iDoneThis or Suttna. Set up a Slack channel for people to communicate in real-time and share information. Your daily scrum can be replaced with a daily digest for everyone on your team.

Even if it’s just you right now, this exercise is still useful to track over time, especially for when you eventually hire new people. Anyone who cares to will be able to comment. Or not.

2. Stop the meeting madness.

Elon Musk has a theory that if you find a meeting unproductive, you should walk out. To that end, I suggest you have only one requiredweekly team meeting.

It should be no longer than one hour, with a set agenda. Make sure you all stick to the agenda, and don’t waste time on giving updates — only use the time for discussing things need input from other people.

Talk about what needs to be done this week and by whom. If there are any bubbling issues, bring them up here. Now’s your time. At my company TWIP, we have one team meeting at the same time each week with a set agenda, and it works well for keeping us all on the same page.

3. Set “block hours.”

Have specific hours where people can contact you. If anyone tries to interrupt you outside of those hours, ask them if it is an emergency, and if it isn’t, refer them to your office hours. For myself, I set up blocks of time for phone meetings, in-person meetings, and leave the rest for dedicated work, with my phone and computer set in do-not-disturb.

4. Be polite, but firm.

Putting these rules in place doesn’t always go smoothly, especially if you are on a team with people who don’t have the same understanding of time management. Be clear about your definition of what is urgent, what is an emergency, and what is worth being interrupted for.

At Evernote, an open office floorplan, I had a simple rule for my team. If my headphones were on, I was busy. If my headphones were off, they could interrupt me. As a point, I didn’t have my headphones on often, so they were encouraged to ask questions frequently.

With these simple rules you should hopefully be able to take back a little bit of your time — and sanity.

Apr 27, 2019
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

This 1 Change Will Make Your Meetings Run Like Elon Musks.Html


This 1 Thing Will Make You More Focused in Meetings

By using technology to take care of the note-taking, you can be present to what’s actually going on around you.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
This 1 Thing Will Make You More Focused in Meetings
Getty Images

I’ll admit it. My handwriting is atrocious. My hand aches just thinking about having to write something down on paper.

No matter how many times we tell our coworkers “I’m just taking notes” on your phone or your computer, they suspect you’re really checking your ex’s Facebook status or Donald Trump’s latest Twitter rant. (After all, that’s what we think they’re doing, right?)

According to a research study, people who take notes via computer instead ofhandwritingare significantly less likely to retain the information. Additionally, people who multitaskin meetings are50 percentmore likely to make errors, which can lead to over $450 billionin loss per year. Another studyshowed that “two out of three users will interrupt a group meeting” to answeremail, phone calls, instant messages, tweeting or updatetheir social network status.

ElonMusk reportedly — and rightly — demands the fullattentionof his colleagues, requiring anyone meeting with him to be prepared to answer any questions that come up so as not to waste anyone’s time.

Many companies have come up with solutions to combat this, such as blocking access tosocial networks, trackinginternet usage, offering relaxation classes, or simply giving up entirelywith broadBring Your Own Device policies thatmakeit a free-for-all. In the long run, thisdecreases productivity andworkplace morale from the increase in perceived rudeness and lack of attention.

There is a delicate balance between being attentiveand capturing relevant information. I am no stranger to this phenomenon in my own workplace, andbecauseof my aversion to handwriting, I needed asolution.

In large corporations, often there are secretaries who takenotes (sometimes more than one.) In courtrooms, there are court reporters capturing the proceedings. Doctors have medical transcriptionists.

So why should entrepreneurs be left out?

Thanks to tools like Google’s Speech API and Watson Speech to Text, smaller companies are able to create reasonably good, quick audio transcriptions from audio files for little to no money.

To get in on the action, when starting ameeting,you have your phone or computer (upgraded with a fairly good microphone) centrally located and set to record in aprogram that can output to MP3 format. Forremote meetings, using something like FreeConferenceCall or Zoom will allow you to automatically record. Make sure you alert everyone in the meeting that the proceedings are being recorded.

Once the meeting is over, you have some great options:

1. VoiceBase

This is my favorite, asit produces are near perfect results — you will rarely have to correct any mistakes. Rates are only $.02 a minute after your first 50 hours, and they also automatically tag content based on sentiment and context analysis.

2. HappyScribe ​

If you have non-English audio (they support 119 languages) and you want it automatically transcribed, these guys are great. At $.10 a minute for audio, you aren’t going to break the bank.

3. Deepgram

If you’d like a completely free solution, look no further than Deepgram. It works more like a traditional transcription tool in that you will have to train it in the beginning, but once it starts to know your voice pattern, its recognition gets much better.

4. Trint

In my tests, Trint’s transcription is on par with VoiceBase, but they offer monthly pricing that ranges from $.10 to $.25 a minute. They do have the best UI of the bunch, and their customer service is excellent.

5. SpokenData ​

While not as fast as some of the others, they do support some foreign languages (including Mandarin and Russian), and give you 60 minutes of free credit to try them out. Results in my tests weren’t as immediate as the others, but for $.12a minute it is still a great option.

6. BlueText

Using a phone? There’s a solution for that too. BlueText uses Microsoft’s AI to do the transcription, and everything is done directly on your device.

Don’t want to trust your important information to an online service? You’re not left out of the fun!Once you have your recording, you can go old-school and transcribe it manually with the help of Transcribe (or have an intern do it for you.)

Bridgewater Associates, a $150 millionhedge fund, not only video records the majority of their meetings, they go one step further. Any time employees mention a colleague not present, they send the recording to that person. They also keep all recordings available for the entire company use.

While that type of radical transparency obviously isn’t for everyone, sending the meeting audio and transcript to attendees can go a long way to making meetings more productive. By not worryingabout the tech, you can spend more time focusing on what really matters.

Nov 8, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Click Here for Official Rules

Jun 1, 2020

These 4 Steps Are Essential To Successfully Managing A Remote Team.Html


These 4 Steps Are Essential to Successfully Managing a Remote Team

Remote teams are the dream of many entrepreneurs. How can you make them work?

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
These 4 Steps Are Essential to Successfully Managing a Remote Team
Getty Images

Whether it is called flex-time, distributed, or simply “working from home,”it’s the dream of entrepreneurs to be able to be part of a remote team. For many, their ultimate goal is to be working from a tropical island, drinking out of a coconut as the waves lap gently on the sand. Unfortunately, for most, the perception does not match the reality.

However, for those left behind in the office, imagination can run wild. With their colleagues out of sight, it becomes too easy to fill in the blanks of their missing time with –anything, really. Too often, this becomes a two-way burden, as the remote worker must now work harder to be seen, and the office worker must remember to be inclusive.

At Evernote, we had a distributed company, with office locations around the world mixed with remote (at-home) employees.Managing this required tact, as we could not simply have “quick discussions” at someone’s desk, as that could leave out valuable input from someone who was not there face-to-face.

To that end, we came up with some great ways to encourage healthy team collaboration. Here are a few of them:

1.Set the culture.

I once worked with a salesman who had extremely high numbers –he could close any sale. It turned out, he would promise anything that the client wanted –whether we offered it or not, and then neglect to pass that information on to the development team. As this caused both sides to be unhappy, we had to let him go.

If you have people in one place, it’s relatively easy to monitor how employees are speaking about your company. However, if they’re in a satellite, it’s easy for them to “go rogue.” Having a strong company culture that is constantly reinforced ensures you are all speaking with the same voice, no matter where you are.

2. Start a shared chat.

As we were a 24-hour company, with offices around the world, employees were always working somewhere. I therefore created a virtual “water cooler”–where notifications were not turned on — for people could come in and say good morning, and goodbye when they were signing off.

With the popularity of Slack, Telegram and other similar products, creating places for your employees to talk to each other is great. Make sure you enact policies around notifications and time usage lest they become overused.

3.Get creative with management.

While some jobs require you to have specific hours, many of the remote jobs in the world do not. One of my rules of thumb for managing remote workers has always been to tell people to get their work done on time, not dictate how or when they do it. One of my best employees was able to complete his full-day’s workload from midnight to 6am every day –no matter how much he had piled on him, simply because no one was bothering him.

Remember that each person on your team has their own sets of skills, and they wouldn’t be there unless they were good at their job. If you try to manage someone remotely the way you would in an office, they will likely not be as effective –or leave.

4.Bring them home.

Once a year, I ensured that we had a team get-together for everyone, so that they could meet face-to-face. No matter how much online meetings and talking online can substitute, you still need to be in person every now and then.

However often you can manage it, make sure that you build a teambuilding event into your schedule where your remote workers can become a close-knit tribe. This will help you to grow as a company faster than you’ve ever imagined.

Adding remote employees can seem like a big jump, but when you’re ready to make that extra effort and make your team a success, you can do wonders for your business.

Nov 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

4 Companies Want To Get You Home This Holiday.Html

Countdown: Holiday 2019

These 4 Companies Are Trying To Solve the Biggest Reasons You Can’t Go Home For the Holidays

With a record number of people not taking off for vacations, these four companies offer unique solutions to ensure you’ll be with your loved ones this holiday season.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Small Business Celebration

How an Unlikely Alliance Saved This Main Street Business During Covid-19

Things looked dark for Sweet Spot Skirts until a fast-growth entrepreneur showed up with a proposal.

These 4 Companies Are Trying To Solve the Biggest Reasons You Can't Go Home For the Holidays
Getty Images

Holidays can be rough.

Each year they start earlier and earlier, with the constant barrage of requests to buy gifts for the people we love. Not surprisingly, we tend to get more stressed and overworked at the end of the year than any other time.

Every year we promise ourselves to do better, yet come January 1, we end up making the same resolutions. Adding to the problem is that as entrepreneurs, we’re so attuned to long work hours that when holidays come, we tend to ignore them and treat them like any other day. This can have serious detrimental health benefits.

In Japan, the term “karoshi” means “death by overwork.” Multiple deaths have been linked to karoshi, including 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi, whose 105 hours of overtime in a single month at the Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, led her to leap from her company’s roof on Christmas Day in 2015. This led to the resignation of Dentsu’s CEO.

In the US, 16.4 percentof people work more than 49 hours or more a week, while 54 percent of people don’t take their paid vacation days. However, only 35 percent of Americans get vacation or holidays in the first place, which means if you’re not working, you’re not getting paid.

Combine that with another sobering statistic: The average credit card debt is $5,284 and one in 6 people have maxed out their credit cards at least once. People are less likely to spend money on themselves when in debt, further contributing to the cycle of working harder and longer hours.

So, when holidays come, many of us remain glued to our desks. How can we travel when we need to without breaking the bank and causing more stress?

Some companies have come up with intriguing solutions to the most common problems that keep us fromvisiting our loved ones.

1. Prices keep fluctuating

Hopper is a popular app that helps you to find the best prices and days to travel using their huge database of flight information. It sets up price alerts, and when the best price is achieved for your route, gives you the option to buy.

2. Can’t get away

Skiplagged is a site that lets you buy flights based on hidden-city routing. If you’re traveling last minute, you can often find great deals here, however you may not be able to check a bag.

Both Hopper and Skiplagged require you to purchase your tickets upfront. If you’ve maxed out your credit card or simply don’t have the money, there’s something for you as well.

3. Can’t find the cash

Enter Affirm, a financing company that has revolutionized the way people, especially Millennials, receive credit. Founded by Max Levchin, they take into account things other than your credit score to give you a temporary credit line to use specifically on sites like Expedia, CheapAir and Suiteness. Buying travel from a site that gives you Affirm as a payment option will give you an extended way to pay for it without having to add more to your credit card.

4. Need peace of mind

Once you’ve purchased your flight, you’ll want to make sure you get there. Freebird offers a unique solution for travelers who have already purchased their flight. For $19 each way, simply enter your flight information and if there are disruptions to your travel (delays, cancellations, etc), Freebird will rebook you on for no additional charge. You won’t have to worry about those hefty change fees, or sleeping in the airport when things go south.

After you’ve arrived, make sure you spend time actually relaxing and enjoying your time off. There will be plenty of work when you get back.

Nov 13, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of
John Bork and Stephanie Lynn, standing six feet apart.
John Bork and Stephanie Lynn, standing six feet apart.

Editor’s Note:Although the officialSmall Business Weekhas been postponed, we at Inc. feel it’s always appropriate to recognize the teams and companies that serve the needs of their communities and help keep Main Street humming–and not just for one week!

Sweet Spot Skirts and WellHaven Pet Health are just down the street from one another in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Until recently, location was about all they had in common.

Sweet Spot makes and sells derrière-cloaking skirts in funky colors and patterns for female bikers and runners to wear over shorts and tights.But despite owninga 12-year-old Australian shepherd, founder Stephanie Lynnhad never heard of WellHaven, a $50 million company operating 41 veterinary hospitals that employ 450 people in five states.

WellHaven founderJohn Bork was similarly unfamiliar with his neighbor.”I had seen Sweet Spot but I never used it,” Bork says. “I didn’t really know what it was.”

From the awarding of government loans to the designation of “essential” status, coronavirus frequently has set Main Street businesses at odds with larger companies. But in places like Vancouver, where a very active chamber of commerce is an enthusiastic yenta for its members, large and middle-market companies have formed surprising partnerships with mom-and-pops to fight the pandemic.

For example, when Chandelier Bakery was unable to obtain flour to fulfill all requests for bread donations for frontline workers, United Grain Corporation, among the Pacific Northwest’s largest grain exporters, supplied the wheat. Ryonet, a $50 million supplier of equipment to screen-printing businesses, not only stepped up to manufacture masks and face shields itself but has also contracted with two of its small local customers, Brainless Tees and Opake Screen Printing, to decorate them.

And in Lynn’s case,the larger companyhelped completely turn her business around. Sweet Spot does between $350,000 and $600,000 in annual revenue, much of itat sporting events. On March 12, Lynn was selling at a pickleball tournament in College Station, Texas, while thecountrywas rapidly shutting down.

“I got on the plane in Austin, and by the time I changed planes in Phoenix enough events had canceled to take $50,000 off my plate,” she says.

The next day, she was sitting with her landlord, in tears because she would not be able to make rent. The following Monday she laid off her entire staff of six.

Can you make this?

Bork, meanwhile, had approached the chamber for help. Government and industry leaders had begun asking veterinarians to donate their PPE to health-care workers who attend tohumans. Bork wanted to find a local business that could replace his surgical-grade masks and caps with something that would protect animals during procedures. The chamber quickly reached out to Sweet Spot.

The next morning, four days after Sweet Spot’s closure, Bork and his chief medical officer, Bob Lester, were at Lynn’s doorstep with a model surgical mask and cap. Lynn called in one of her seamstresses and over the next two days created prototypes from the fabric used for her skirts.

With check in hand for just over $10,000 to cover 500 masks and 500 caps,Lynn brought back her whole staff. “She would text me when she had 60 or 100 made,” Bork says. “I would walk over and fill up my backpack, bring them back to the office, box them up, and off they would go.” Sweet Spot filled the entire order in just under three weeks.

Bork ordered another 500 masks and caps, which he distributed to other veterinary hospitals in Vancouver and neighboring Portland, Oregon. With each donation, he included Lynn’s contact information.A few of those practices placed their own orders. Word spread, and other groups–Vancouver public schools, an organization of home inspectors–reached out.

With skirt orders down 90 percent, Lynn launched Facewear Fashions to go after the consumer PPE market. Those masks, with names like Pinch Me Pink Floral and Doilies for Your Face, retail for $14. (Businesses, which receive volume discounts, still account for 50 percentof mask sales.) Lynn plans to cross-promote her product lines. Buy a skirt, get a free mask made from the same material. “I match mine all the time,” she says.

The collaboration with WellHaven continues. Bork made an offer to match any donations of masks to worthy causes by other Vancouver businesses. When the Vancouver Farmers Market reopens, Sweet Spot will have a place in WellHaven’s booth.

“Had WellHaven not come about, I don’t know where I would be,” Lynn says. “They saved me completely.”

May 18, 2020

Attention Geek Girls 5 Trends Youll Love At Ces This Year.Html


Top 5 Tech Trends That Will Rock CES in 2017

Going to CES is like Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings all merged together into one super vat of awesome. Use this handy guide to hone in on what’s really important.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Inc. 5000

This Entrepreneur Hated PowerPoint So Much That She Invented Her Own Presentation Software

With the Digideck, Sportsdigita founder Angelina Lawton created a media-rich sales tool used by pro sports organizations all over the world. Now she’s seeking to corner a new market: the pitch-from-home sales team.

Top 5 Tech Trends That Will Rock CES in 2017
Getty Images

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, I’m not talking about the holidays (although those are ok too.) I mean only the BEST week of the entire year, my reason for living, one of the best things about Las Vegas – the Consumer Electronics Show.

OMG OMG OMG. It’s so awesome.

Just look at this if you don’t believe me:

That’s Paro, who is possibly my favorite invention on this entire planet. I simply love living in a world where a robotic baby harp seal therapy robot exists.

Anyway, every year, CES is where major companies come to announce their new products relating to tech, and as the world has become more tech-centric, it basically means that every company on the planet comes there to announce something.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched this show expand from its more humble COMDEX roots to take over pretty much all of Las Vegas (including its suites, restaurants, and nightclubs) for an entire week, with such an array of awesomeness that I can’t imagine being anywhere else the first week in January.

Here’s a sneak peak of CES 2017:

Augmented / Virtual Reality

There are a ton of VR devices already on the market, but content for them has been lacking. Expect more “augmented” experiences (heads up displays), entry-level VR tech as well as a plethora of content that are all geared to helping entrepreneurs save time by immersing yourself in a virtual world (rather than have to actually go outside and do stuff.)

I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of new compatible stuff for the super comfy Google Daydream.


Just like last year, CES is all about the self-driving cars. Expect entries from BMW, Faraday, Hyundai and others all vying to get your hard-earned dollars and while giving you some precious minutes back into your work day.

Frankly, I don’t need my car to actually drive for me – if it can just take care of finding a parking spot on its own, I’ll be in heaven.

Cell Phones

There are tons of rumors circulating about the phones we’re going to see, with LG, Samsung and Huawei all expected to come out with some sort of “foldable” phone, giving you a smaller profile to fit those skinny jeans.

I’m honestly a bit “meh” about this. I had a phone that folded on itself 20 years ago, so these would have to be something special to make me interested.


Under Armour, Fitbit, Samsung and others are expected to have a lot of interesting things on the table this year. This is the geek mother lode category – any part of your body that you want data about can and will be tracked.

This is one of my favorite categories every year because it is so broad and creative. There’s a company with designer IoT gowns, as well as some truly beautiful reasons to start wearing a watch again that don’t rhyme with “Mapple”.

Everything Else

Really, there are so many categories and things and all around “stuff” at CES that whatever your interests, you will find it here. The busy entrepreneur will definitely want to stop over at the smart kitchen area, to see how quickly and easily your meal prep will be thanks to innovative companies like Drop.

And, when you happen to get overwhelmed, there’s always a little Japanese baby harp seal that just adores being petted… just don’t be surprised if you have to fight me off him!

Dec 20, 2016
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of
Angelina Lawton
Angelina Lawton

When Angelina Lawton ran communications for the Tampa Bay Lightning, she could never understand how a company with such an exciting product–professional hockey, for goodness sake–managed to be so dull when it came time to pitch potential sponsors.

“We were doing these huge pitches for naming rights with these boring PowerPoint presentations. It felt very stale,” says Lawton. “I kept thinking, we can do better.”

Her frustration spurred her to start a boutique agency, Sportsdigita, whichspecializesin making flashy presentations for pro sports sales departments–“a movie-trailer for franchises” is how she describes them. Nine years later, executives at more than450 teams, stadiums, and arenas haveused her multimedia slideshows, called Digidecks, to sell everything from merchandise licenses to luxury suites, she says.

But now the pandemic haspostponed professionalsports seasons, and widespread protestshaveLawton’s bread-and-butter clients–the sales groups–lying low. To keep revenue growing and her company afloat,Lawton ispivoting to target customers in new fields from financial services to health care.

Work-at-home sales teams at all kinds of businesses must now figure out how to close deals from afar–and they can use all the help they can get.

“Covid-19 has opened up people’s eyes to remote selling and collaborating,” says Lawton. “Our product is perfect for that.”

When Lawton first started marketing souped-up sales decks to sports and events companies, the multimedia opportunitieswere obvious.Looking to sell advertising rights to the billboards in the outfield? Show a star centerfielder leaping for a catch in front of them. Marketing the luxury suites for your arena? Play clips of the games, concerts, and monster truck rallies that clients will be able to see up-close from the box.

In 2016, she decided to focus on the hard part, the software–andbegan selling it as a service sosalespeople could produce the digidecks in-house. The move put her into direct competition with legacy competitors like Microsoft PowerPoint, as well as subscription-based online software, such asPrezi. Even so, since pivoting to this software-as-a-service model, Sportsdigita revenue has grown over 200 percent, to $4 million in 2018, which putthe company at No. 1,993 on last year’sInc. 5000 ranking of fastest-growing private U.S. businesses. It ranked at No. 146 on this year’s Inc. 5000 series Midwest list. Today, 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from software subscriptions, and the rest fromservices. Clients include the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Now, with sporting events on hold and tensions high from weeks of protests, high-profile sports teams don’t want to be seen as tone-deaf amid the unrest. Like entrepreneurs across the world, Lawton was forced to rethinkbasic assumptions about her company and customers.

Her company has already made some early scores: insurerMutual of America, Cargill, the giant food conglomerate, and Jostens, the seller of high school yearbooks and class rings, have signed on as clients. They haveexisting libraries of media–salespeople can populate the decks with pre-loaded photo and video options from their ownexisting ads, and then present them in tandem with Zoom calls or other videoconferencing software.

Next, Sportsdigita is planning to add videoconferencing to Digideckas well, requiring new kinds of software expertise and putting the company up against the likes of Zoom.

For Sportsdigita, the new revenue has offset the slump in sports, andLawton says the company is once again on track with its pre-Covid growth targets.And her new clients? Their presentations may lack the same jaw-dropping action of their pro sports counterparts–but their infographics and bullet points are leaping off the screen like all-stars.

Jun 15, 2020

The Simple Hack Amazon Uses To Get Us To Try New Products.Html


The Simple Hack Amazon Uses to Get Us to Try New Products

By cleverly connecting us to our childhood, Amazon is getting us all to become early adopters.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Working From Home

How This Founder Cuts Distractions During Quarantine

Modern Fertility founder Afton Vechery has made some concessions to a difficult situation, but not when it comes to productivity.

The Simple Hack Amazon Uses to Get Us to Try New Products
Getty Images

Recently, I started taking part in an experiment. I began the process of adding voice controls to my home. As part of this, one phrase started to become commonplace:

“Alexa, turn on the tv…”

These same five words can be heard in houses around the world, at least once a day. They’re words that help people segue into using something that is, at its core, something extremely complex and technologically advanced. And yet, what I realize as I listen to those words is that they are also cleverly meant to connect with us.

When I was younger, not only did we not have internet, or cell phones, or even personal computers in most homes – our televisions didn’t have remote controls. A common phrase heard in every home was “<insert name of youngest child>, turn on the tv.” This was followed up by asking the same person to change the channel (often one channel at a time), by going forward and back, to change the volume up and down (often multiple times), and then to go turn on or off the lights. As I’ve been experimenting more with Alexa, I can’t help but think about “her” as that young child.

Jennifer Prenner, global head of marketing, growth, andengagement at Amazon Fire TV, offered a similar take on the new Fire TV Cube with Alexa. “We wanted to take everything that was great about the Echo, including Alexa, and make it even better with visuals from a FireTV,” she says.

And, as a visual version of an Echo, it is certainly an upgrade. Says Prenner, “Our goal is to give people an open ecosystem where they can have the type of entertainment they want, on their own terms.” In my experiments, though, I’ve had some hiccups getting the Fire TV Cube to open third-party apps like Netflix or HBO over the Amazon Prime app, and it won’t turn my television off, no matter how politely I ask.

Interestingly, as I asked Alexa to pause Netflix, she told me of new commands added in an update that I could now utilize. This made me realize something–like the young child changing the television, Alexa is growing up, and learning along the way.

This just highlights one of the most difficult choices you can make as a business owner: knowing the right time to set your child — I mean, product — out into the world. Here’s a few guidelines to help you out:

1.Consumers are asking for it.

It may seem obvious, but the first step in releasing any product is to have some sort of consumer base to release it to. If you have gotten into the unenviable position of developing a product with no built-in customers, then you will have a long road ahead to try to convince them that they need it.

Instead, try building on something that is familiar. With the iPhone, Steve Jobs took an MP3 player, a computer, a camera and a cell phone and combined them into one unit to give people something they’d purchase.

2.The product is done-ish.

While we all wish it weren’t the case, most products do not work correctly 100 percentof the time. In early releases, products have a higher percentage of failure as early bugs are being worked out of the system.

Research indicates that customers are willing to put up with a few glitches, especially in technology. However, they want a product they consider reliable. As LinkedinFounder Reid Hoffman famously said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

3.You have a communication plan.

There’s nothing worse than finally releasing your product after working on it for months (or years) to the resounding silence of the internet’s indifference. Instead, prior to launch you need to spend some serious effort letting people know you exist and building up a targeted userbase. Then, you can release it when you’re fairly sure they’re ready to buy in.

Of course, the other option is toassumepeople will come on their own. From my own personal experience, going this route means certain failure.

Like all young children, Alexa has a lot of growing up still to do. By opening up the ecosystem for development and giving users the reigns, Amazon is giving us a chance to grow with her.

Hopefully, she’ll learn to turn off the TV soon, so I can get back to work.

Aug 22, 2018
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of
Afton Vechery, co-founder of Modern Fertility.
Afton Vechery, co-founder of Modern Fertility.

For Modern Fertility’s Afton Vechery, the biggest adjustment to going remote during the coronavirus crisis has been minor but symbolic: “I’ve had to switch from contacts to glasses because of all the screen time and video calls,” she says. Vechery co-founded her home-fertility-test startup, which has $22 million in funding, in 2017. While many now have plenty of time on their hands for, well, fertility, Vechery is busier than ever. Here’s how she stays productive.

Climb Every Mountain

The alarm clock buzzes at 6:30 a.m. “A lot of founders have these amazing morning productivity hacks, like meditation,” says Vechery. “For me, the single greatest motivating factor is to just be doing something I love. And so, uh, that translates to emails in bed when I wake up.” After that, Vechery typically bikes to work. During the crisis, she’s swapped her commute for an early-morning ride to the top of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks. It doubles as me time. “It’s really helpful to understand what’s going to bubble up from your subconscious when you’re not being stimulated sitting in front of a computer,” she says.

Face Time

Vechery’s days in quarantine include more one-on-one meetings than they did before, but that’s the cost of keeping information flowing. Modern Fertility has implemented daily meetings at which employees can check on current and upcoming projects. And the staff has organized optional virtual lunches and happy hours, which Vechery will drop into when she can. Whether at home or in the office, she and co-founder Carly Leahy generally eat dinner while working and wrap up around 9 p.m.–though they encourage staffers to leave earlier.

Clear Screen, Clear Mind

Vechery relies on an app called Captio, which lets the founder email a note to herself with one click. But you won’t find the Captio icon on her iPhone’s home screen, which is clear of everything but three apps: Calendar, Clock, and Notes. Manually searching for apps lets Vechery ignore distracting notifications. “As a founder, there’s constantly something else you could be doing,” she says. “But when you have space to think through what you’re working on, you’re a better leader.”

Portion Control

When she makes time for a TV show, Vechery starts with the season finale and views the episodes in reverse order. The strange habit helps prevent the urge to binge. “I have an incredibly addictive personality,” she says. “So this is better for everyone.” Vechery also unwinds by playing the trumpet. “It’s a total break from everything else in life,” she says. “It lets you process your thoughts in a really different way.”

May 13, 2020

Want to keep up to date with all the latest news and events?