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POINT-OF-SALE TERMINALS: How evolving merchant demands are pushing POS terminal providers to up their game in an increasingly competitive environment

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 01:00 PM PDT

pos terminals graphicThis is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

The downfall of US brick-and-mortar commerce is overblown — despite sharp gains in e-commerce, which will nearly double between now and 2021, the lion’s share of purchasing continues to take place in-store. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, since the online environment can’t yet compensate for the reasons customers like brick-and-mortar shopping.

That means the point-of-sale (POS) terminal, which merchants use to accept payments of all types and to complete transactions, isn’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean it’s not changing. As merchants look to cut costs amidst shifts in consumer shopping habits, POS terminals, which were once predominantly hardware offerings used exclusively for payment acceptance, are evolving into full-service, comprehensive solutions. These new POS terminals are providing an array of business management solutions and connected offerings to complement payment services. 

This is where the smart terminal, a new product that’s part-tablet, part-register, comes in. Merchants are increasingly seeking out these offerings, which afford them the connectivity, mobility, and interoperability to run their entire business. And that’s shaking up the space, since it’s not just legacy firms, but also mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) players and newer upstarts, that offer these products. 

As merchants begin demanding a wide variety of payment solutions, terminal providers are scrambling to meet their needs in order to maintain existing customers and attract new ones. This is leading to rapid innovation and increased competition in both the POS terminal hardware and software spaces.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a detailed report on the shifts in this landscape, how leading players can meet them, and who’s doing it most effectively.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Evolving merchant needs are impacting POS terminal players’ strategies. Merchants select terminal providers based on four key areas: payment functionality, user experience (UX), over-the-top (OTT) offerings, and distribution/customer service. Terminal firms need to innovate in these areas, or risk falling behind.
  • Larger players need to double down on existing success. Smaller players can often be more nimble, which gives them the opportunity to innovate more quickly and build in-demand solutions. That’s a disadvantage to market leaders; however, they can, and should, leverage their massive distribution networks when upgrading or updating their offerings. Meanwhile, smaller players can win by focusing on niches instead.
  • It’s all about the platform. No single feature is likely to make or break a merchant’s decision to pursue a specific provider. Above all, they want a robust ecosystem that can evolve over time. 

In full, the report:

  • Explains the current state of in-store retail and why terminal firms need to evolve to meet it.
  • Groups features that matter to merchants and explains why they’re important and what terminal providers stand to gain from focusing on them.
  • Determines the leading players in the space.
  • Assesses how the leading players stack up, and which offerings are the most comprehensive.
  • Issues recommendations about how to develop an attractive platform that best serves merchants' needs as the market continues to shift. 

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND more than 250 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> Learn More Now
  2. Purchase and download the report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

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Surreal photos from Coachella take you inside the most famous music festival on Earth

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 12:35 PM PDT

coachella 2018 beyonce

Coachella may be having its greatest year on record.

Fans are losing their minds over one jaw-dropping show after the next at the annual music and arts festival hosted in Indio, California. Though, Coachella is now being called "Beychella" on Twitter, after Beyoncé delivered the headliner-performance of a lifetime on Saturday night.

Here's what you're missing at Coachella 2018.

SEE ALSO: Beyoncé gave what fans are calling the greatest show in history at Coachella — here's what happened

Let's just jump right in: Beyoncé slayed Coachella better than any artist in history.



Queen Bey brought out Destiny's Child, Solange, and Jay-Z for a truly inspired set.



It took no fewer than a hundred backup performers, three months of rehearsals, and five costume changes. Critics and entertainers are calling it the GOAT Coachella show.

Read more: Beyoncé gave what fans are calling the greatest show in history at Coachella — here's what happened



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Inside the surprise success of 'A Quiet Place' — from a worrisome test screening to a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 11:32 AM PDT

A Quiet Place Paramount final

  • "A Quiet Place" is now a box-office hit, which isn't just a surprise for most in Hollywood, but also for those who made it.
  • The production company behind the movie, Platinum Dunes, told Business Insider about the test screening that left its audience confused, and the anxiety of showing the finished movie for the first time.

Warning: Mild spoiler below if you haven't seen "A Quiet Place"

This weekend Paramount's new horror movie, "A Quiet Place," about a family forced to live in silence to hide from monsters that kill anything that makes a sound, won the weekend box office after earning an impressive $50 million domestically — exceeding all industry projections.

Made for $17 million, the third (and by far most successful) directing effort by actor John Krasinski snuck up on everyone in Hollywood to become the latest hit horror movie. And according to the producers behind the movie, Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller of Platinum Dunes, no one involved with the movie knew they had a potential hit on their hands until about a month ago.

Horror remake kings

Form and Fuller, along with their mega-blockbuster filmmaker friend Michael Bay, started Platinum Dunes in 2001 and quickly made a name for themselves remaking classic horrors like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (2003), "The Amityville Horror" (2005), "Friday the 13" (2009), and "A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). They made a nice profit on all of them — "Chainsaw Massacre" made $107 million worldwide on a $9.5 million budget, "Amityville" made $108 million worldwide on a budget of $19 million, and "Elm Street" made over $115 million worldwide on a $35 million budget.

nightmare on elm street 2010 Warner BrosSince then, the company has expanded its portfolio. It got the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, releasing two movies on the characters for Paramount. It teamed with Jason Blum at Blumhouse Productions to make "The Purge" movies — three releases have earned a combined $319.8 million worldwide (all made for $10 million or under), with a prequel, "The First Purge," coming July 4. And it's developing TV projects like "The Last Ship" for TNT and the upcoming Amazon series, "Jack Ryan," starring Krasinski.

But Platinum Dunes' comfort zone will always be horror, and it proved this weekend it's a major player in the genre.

Krasinski's power play

Screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck wrote the "A Quiet Place" script on spec and 18 months ago, while deep into preproduction on "Jack Ryan," Form and Fuller got a call from their agents at WME that they wanted to pass along the script, which they described as a "high concept" genre movie.

"They send it over and the script is 67 or 68 pages long, and I'm like, 'This is a movie? This is like a one-hour pilot,'" Form told Business Insider. "When we went through it you realize there's no dialogue in the movie. The script had a map of the farm and numbers on a page for a countdown. There were literally pages that were just one number. So it wasn't even like the script had pages of full text. But the story was there."

a quite place paramountThey took the project to Paramount, where Platinum Dunes has a first look deal, and the studio bought it. Then Form and Fuller reached out to their "Jack Ryan" star, John Krasinski, to see if he would play the role of the father in the movie, Lee Abbott.

"John called back a couple of weeks later and said, 'I definitely want to play the dad, but I also want to rewrite the script and direct it,'" Form said. He and Fuller quickly agreed.

The project became even more attractive when Krasinski's wife, Emily Blunt, signed on to play the role of the mother. On paper, it all seemed right. But would audiences get a "silent" horror movie?

A test screening leads to lots of anxiety

Form and Fuller said they only did one test screening of the movie before its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, and it got mixed reactions because of one obvious omission.

"The big problem was there was no creature in the test," Form said. "It was either plates or a motion-capture actor. Sometimes John was in the motion capture suit playing the monster. In that basement scene he was the creature down there."

a quiet place

Not having a creature in the test screening was most apparent in the scene where the monster runs away from the daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), because her hearing aid hurts its sensitive ears.

"When her hearing aid goes off in the cornfield you have her in the shot but there was nothing behind her, so the audience did not understand that a creature came up behind her," Form said.

But that scene worked incredibly well at the SXSW screening, when audience could see the terrifying creatures brought to CGI life by Industrial Light and Magic.

However, the uncertainty leading up to the night of that screening had everyone on edge. Though Paramount studio executives had seen cuts and liked what they saw, as Form put it, "1,200 strangers in a theater can tell you something very different."

"If there was optimism it was self-created," Fuller said of the lead-up to the SXSW screening. "Usually when you go into a screening like that you know what you have, this was totally blind. It was crazy. We were all very apprehensive. When the movie ended and the people started cheering I put my head on my wife's shoulder and cried because it was so fraught with tension and emotion. Because we had no idea." 

Bradley Fuller Andrew Form Nicholas Hunt GettyNow the movie is riding high. Leading up to its opening weekend it was sporting a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. And Form and Fuller now have some bragging rights on their horror colleague, Jason Blum, as "A Quiet Place" topped the opening weekend box office of Blumhouse's last two hit movies — "Get Out" ($33.3 million) and "Split" ($40 million).

"A Quiet Place" is the latest example that audiences will come out to theaters for more than just superhero movies and "Star Wars." And though Platinum Dunes has no problem getting into the blockbuster game — it's one of the production companies on the upcoming first Transformers spin-off movie, "Bumblebee" — the company is also striving to develop genre projects that are high in originality and will attract studios.

"It's a miracle that a major studio made a movie that is practically devoid of dialogue," said Fuller, who wouldn't address the possibility of a sequel to "A Quiet Place" (though with its big opening weekend number, it would be shocking if Paramount doesn't want one). "But I also think studios recognize they have to make concepts that get people to leave their homes, so as producers it's incumbent upon us to find things that will get people to go watch a movie in a movie theater. So if you find a strong concept, I think they will always get behind it."

"A Quiet Place" is currently playing in theaters.

SEE ALSO: The 44 worst movies made by iconic directors — from Spielberg to Scorsese

Join the conversation about this story »

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CHATBOTS EXPLAINED: Why businesses should be paying attention to the chatbot revolution (FB, AAPL, GOOG)

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 11:08 AM PDT

bii chatbot ecosystem

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Advancements in artificial intelligence, coupled with the proliferation of messaging apps, are fueling the development of chatbots — software programs that use messaging as the interface through which to carry out any number of tasks, from scheduling a meeting, to reporting weather, to helping users buy a pair of shoes. 

Foreseeing immense potential, businesses are starting to invest heavily in the burgeoning bot economy. A number of brands and publishers have already deployed bots on messaging and collaboration channels, including HP, 1-800-Flowers, and CNN. While the bot revolution is still in the early phase, many believe 2016 will be the year these conversational interactions take off.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we explore the growing and disruptive bot landscape by investigating what bots are, how businesses are leveraging them, and where they will have the biggest impact. We outline the burgeoning bot ecosystem by segment, look at companies that offer bot-enabling technology, distribution channels, and some of the key third-party bots already on offer. 

The report also forecasts the potential annual savings that businesses could realize if chatbots replace some of their customer service and sales reps. Finally, we compare the potential of chatbot monetization on a platform like Facebook Messenger against the iOS App Store and Google Play store.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • AI has reached a stage in which chatbots can have increasingly engaging and human conversations, allowing businesses to leverage the inexpensive and wide-reaching technology to engage with more consumers.
  • Chatbots are particularly well suited for mobile — perhaps more so than apps. Messaging is at the heart of the mobile experience, as the rapid adoption of chat apps demonstrates.
  • The chatbot ecosystem is already robust, encompassing many different third-party chat bots, native bots, distribution channels, and enabling technology companies. 
  • Chatbots could be lucrative for messaging apps and the developers who build bots for these platforms, similar to how app stores have developed into moneymaking ecosystems.  

In full, the report:

  • Breaks down the pros and cons of chatbots.
  • Explains the different ways businesses can access, utilize, and distribute content via chatbots.
  • Forecasts the potential impact chatbots could have for businesses.
  • Looks at the potential barriers that could limit the growth, adoption, and use of chatbots.
  • And much more.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are several ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

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There could be a $35 billion market to treat NASH, a 'silent disease' millions are living with — and the competition's starting to heat up

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 09:31 AM PDT

Liver transplant

  • NASH, short for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, is a type of liver disease in which liver fat builds up in people.
  • It affects an estimated 16 million Americans, but many don't know it until it leads to more serious problems like liver failure and cirrhosis. 
  • Work's being done to pinpoint how to treat the condition — both early and later as the disease progresses — as well as research that's being used to better understand the genetics and other factors associated with NASH. 

Millions of people are living with a disease they've likely never heard of.

NASH, short for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, is a type of liver disease in which liver fat builds up in people. NASH has become more common in recent years, and it's estimated to affect about 16 million Americans.

It's often called a "silent" disease because most people don't know they have it until it leads to problems like cirrhosis and liver failure.

While the term NASH was coined in 1980, research into it didn't ramp up right away, partly because the disease was regarded as a mild one. It's a disease inextricably linked with our eating habits, or at least exacerbated by them. Although you might not know someone officially diagnosed, people with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance have an elevated risk of developing the disease. Its links to other conditions have researchers specializing in everything from the liver to diabetes and obesity interested in seeing if there are ways to treat the condition earlier. 

NASH is set to surpass hepatitis as the biggest reason for liver transplants by 2020, and the eventual size of the market for treating the disease is expected to be anywhere between $20 billion and $35 billion.

In the meantime, the competition is heating up to see who can find a way to treat it, with companies taking a range of approaches to treat it at different stages, varying based on the specialties of the scientists looking into the treatments.

"It's like everybody's feeling a different part of the elephant," Morrie Birnbaum, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of internal medicine at Pfizer told Business Insider. 

Why it's so hard to diagnose

The biggest hurdle to treating NASH, other than finding a drug, is diagnosing it in patients.

Most people in early stages aren't symptomatic, and to know conclusively if a person has NASH requires a liver biopsy — which involves sticking a small needle into your liver and extracting a few cells. Even if they do have it, some might not want to know, since there's no way to treat it.

Researchers are working on imaging and blood tests that could either determine whether people need to take the next step and get a liver biopsy, but those can pick up only certain levels of fibrosis, or tissue scarring.

That means there's no simple blood test to track how the drugs are doing, as there is with cholesterol-lowering medications or diabetes medications.

Even with the hurdle to find patients, the looming issue has led to a rush to develop new treatments, and a hot area for biotech investments, from smaller biotechs like Madrigal, Genfit and Intercept to major drugmakers like Novo Nordisk, Gilead, Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Allergan, and Pfizer. The farthest along drugs are expected to have late-stage trial results in 2019. 

Hopes to treat it early

Pfizer built out its NASH program with Birnbaum's help out of a diabetes program that hadn't been panning out. So the team started to look at whether the targets they were going after for diabetes could work instead for NASH. 

Pfizer's approach is to treat the condition early by clearing out fat that's accumulated in the liver. Birnbaum said the company may have a way to look instead at fat accumulation in the liver via MRI — a much less invasive way than the biopsy — to determine who to treat. Pfizer's farthest along program — a drug known as an acetyl CoA-carboxylase inhibitor — is in a phase 2 trial

Starting earlier can be trickier to prove in clinical trials though, where you need to show benefit that the drug is improving the patient's disease over a set period of time, Dr. Scott Friedman, dean for therapeutic discovery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, told Business Insider. If it's possible that some people in the placebo group will spontaneously get better, it could lead to a failed trial. 

It poses a tricky question: "When in the course of NASH does it stop being a biomarker and start being a disease?" Birnbaum said.

And there's another challenge: If it's used earlier by a bigger group of people who at the time don't have many symptoms, like drugs to lower cholesterol, it'll have to be really safe. 

"For a metabolic unit like our unit here that historically has developed drugs for diabetes, that has no change for us. We’re used to that high bar of safety," Birnbaum said. "If you were a liver group working on hepatitis C, the bar for safety would be very different."

Genetic and microbial factors

One thing that might help Pfizer and others looking to treat the disease earlier: finding people with a genetic link to NASH.

It's something researchers are starting to get a better picture of. Mutations in the PNPLA3 gene, particularly in Hispanic populations, have been associated with an increased risk of NASH and fatty liver disease. And in March, biotech giant Regeneron said it found a variant on the HSD17B13 gene associated with protection from liver disease and a reduced risk of NASH. Regeneron's plan is to partner with Alnylam to find potential drugs that can do something similar in people who don't have the variant.  

Another factor people are looking to crack, Friedman said, is the microbiome, or the collection of bugs that live in and on you. When it comes to our genes, they haven't changed all that much — at least not to the point where NASH has ramped up so suddenly. What has changed, on the other hand, is our diets and our use of antibiotics, both of which impact our microbiome. 

"To me, that’s the most compelling," Friedman said. 

Already, companies have tapped into this. Second Genome, a company focusing on microbiome-based therapies, has a treatment for NASH that's based on the microbiome that's expected to get into phase 2 trials in 2018.

SEE ALSO: The microbiome has been called the forgotten organ — and it could hold the 'next paradigm shift in science and medicine'

DON'T MISS: The search for new Alzheimer's treatments just faced another setback — and now everything hinges on an approach that's already run into trouble

Join the conversation about this story »

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A new study says older people want the same things from a job as millennials: A good boss and a chance to change the world

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 09:00 AM PDT

Culture AMP CEO Didier Elzinga

  • Older workers are more likely to look for work where they can have a positive impact, new data shows.
  • The study also found that regardless of age, workers want a job where they can develop personally and have confidence in leadership.
  • The survey collected responses from 500,000 employees at 750 companies.

Older workers may not be as jaded as you might think.

New data provided to Business Insider from employee feedback platform Culture Amp found that employees between the ages of 55-64 are more likely than their younger counterparts to want a job that does good in the world.

Culture Amp, which is used by Airbnb, Lyft, and a number of prominent tech companies, gives employees a platform to give feedback to employers. The startup has raised $36.3 million in venture capital funding since it was founded in 2011.

Since the company has a wide user base, CEO Didier Elzinga tells Business Insider that he wanted to see if he could debunk some of the prevailing narratives about Millennial workers — especially the idea that younger workers want more autonomy and purpose than older ones. 

"It certainly surprised me," Elzinga said. "It's not just young people that want to make a difference in the world, it's us old fuddy duddies as well."

The survey, which collected responses from 500,000 employees at 750 companies, asked respondents to answer questions about "engagement drivers" — or what is important to them about a job. The companies surveyed were mostly in the U.S., Australia, and Europe. 

Across all age groups, employees indicated that confidence in company leadership and the ability to provide personal development were important. But where the responses differed, the survey found, was whether a job allows someone to make a positive impact. No other age group besides employees ages of 55-64 listed it in their top five "engagement drivers."

Elzinga has a theory about why this may the case: Older workers may be disillusioned by the prospect of earning lots of money, and instead want to focus on work that's meaningful. 

"You get to the point where making gobsmacks of money isn't all it's cracked up to be," he said.

With the exception of whether a job has a positive impact on the world, the responses were consistent across all age groups. Almost every age group listed personal growth, confidence in leadership, and being motivated by the vision of the company as major drivers of their connection to work.

This shows, Elzinga said, that workers regardless of age want the same basic things out of a job. And it debunks the notion that employers need to change company culture for a younger workforce.

"There's all these things out there about how you have to change the way your company runs because you're hiring Millennials for Gen Y," Didier said. "We want to help people use data in right way and the truth is most of the generational effects people are talking about are a complete sham."

SEE ALSO: An ex-Uber employee is littering the streets of San Francisco with scooters and claims the city wants to shut down his $300 million startup

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MORGAN STANLEY: Only 3 software companies will sustain 'hyper growth' — and their valuations could soar (NOW, YEXT, MDB)

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 08:41 AM PDT

MongoDB employees IPO

  • Software saw a lot of "hyper growth" last year, but that trend is likely to slow through 2019, according to Morgan Stanley.
  • Of the 48 companies the firm follows, only three are set to sustain 30% growth through 2019.
  • Those three — ServiceNow, MongoDB, and Yext — could see their valuations soar on such growth.

Software companies were high performers last year, with at least 18 growing more than 30% over the year. But Morgan Stanley thinks that trend is on its way out.

In a report published Monday, Morgan Stanley projected that just three of the top software companies — ServiceNow, MongoDB, and Yext — would sustain 30% growth over the next two years.

And those three companies could see their valuation surge on such growth.

"Hyper growth stories in software are becoming more scarce, which could force premium valuations for companies able to sustain these high rates of topline growth," Keith Weiss, an analyst, said in the report.

Beyond those three companies, Morgan Stanley identified five others that could also hit 30% growth if they outperform the firm's expectations: Workday, Splunk, Zendesk, Atlassian, and Proofpoint.

Nonetheless, Morgan Stanley's top picks in software aren't young, high-growth companies. Weiss and his team are expecting big things from old standbys at Microsoft, Salesforce, and GoDaddy.

The firm thinks that Microsoft could hit a market cap of $1 trillion thanks to its growing cloud business and that Salesforce and GoDaddy have the opportunity to significantly grow their margins.

Morgan Stanley Software April 2018

SEE ALSO: Morgan Stanley thinks Microsoft's cloud business could make it a $1 trillion company in the next year

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How often to clean everything you own, from your toilet to your phone, according to science

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 08:11 AM PDT

mrs doubtfire cleaning

Humans do not live in our homes alone. There are approximately 7,000 different species of bacteria floating around in your house right now. And that's just in the dust. 

The rich and complex web of dirt, viruses, and pollen floating around us isn't all bad. It's important to keep some microbes around to help us stay healthy and strong. Plus, you could say that microbes are the reason you're alive today — after all, ancient anaerobic bacteria came well before oxygen-breathing creatures, and thrived as some of the first life on Earth. 

Still, it's best to keep microbe levels in check inside your house. Some household items need a good wipe-down every day, while others do best when we scrub or sweep them once a week or every few months. 

Here's the perfect house-cleaning regimen to keep everything you own safe and squeaky-clean, without going insane.

SEE ALSO: There's now even more evidence that one type of protein is best for your body

Your sponge is one of the grossest things you own. Microbiologists say you should replace it once a week.

The warm, moist environment inside a sponge is a delightful spot for bacteria to grow.

Microwaving or boiling sponges won't sterilize them — it'll only kill about 60% of the bacteria they're hosting. Bleaching a sponge is more effective, and a solution with 10% household bleach and 90% water solution should do the trick.

Tasting Table suggests that you can bleach a kitchen dish sponge after week one and relegate it to countertop-wiping duties, then bleach it again after week two and move it to bathroom polishing. Bleach is strong enough to kill anthrax spores, and it's always good to bleach a sponge after it comes into contact with raw meat or vegetables.



Your phone should get a daily wipe down.

Smartphones are with us nearly every waking moment. They often come into the bathroom and fall on the ground. They sit in our palms at almost every stage of the day, regardless of where our hands have been or how clean they are — and then we nestle the phones next to our ears.

It's no surprise, then, that smartphones can pick up E. coli and Streptococcus bugs along the way. A phone can easily be dirtier than a toilet seat. So most infectious disease experts, like Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine, suggest giving it a wipe at the end of the day.

You can use a wet wipe or a gentle microfiber cloth. For extra cleaning power, add a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar to a corner of the cloth.



We spend around a third of our life rolling around in our sheets. Science says washing them every week is best.

Our beds are wonderful places for life to thrive. Skin cells, lotions, powders, and oils on our skin, as well as little crumbs of food, all contribute to a germy, microbial soup of growing filth that we sleep with every night.

Change your sheets once a week to keep the dirt levels in check, as Tierno suggests.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Best Buy's CEO reveals why the company is closing 250 mobile stores (BBY)

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 08:10 AM PDT

Hubert Joly

  • Best Buy announced it would be shuttering all of its small-format mobile stores in March.
  • CEO Hubert Joly told Business Insider that the stores were no longer as profitable as they had been since smartphone sales "matured."
  • Best Buy will open its first new store since 2011 later this year.

In March, Best Buy announced it would close all 250 of its small-format mobile locations by May 31.

These stores sold smartphones and accessories in a small footprint — around 1,400 square feet — and mostly in malls.

"We had opened them about 12 years ago, at a time when the penetration of smartphones was very low, so this was a great growth opportunity. The margins in smartphones were very good," Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly told Business Insider in a recent interview. "Fast forward to 2018, smartphone penetration is a very mature industry."

Best Buy decided to instead invest in its big-box stores, where the company can provide "a better experience because there's more space."

Most Best Buy stores still have mobile phone kiosks.

By the time the store closures were announced, they were contributing a very small portion to the retailer's bottom line, according to Joly. The stores comprised only 1% of Best Buy's total store square footage and 1% of its revenue.

"In business, you have to constantly optimize what you do," Joly said. "If you don't optimize, you're stuck."

"Our VCR department, for example, is not doing so well anymore," he added in jest.

Best Buy now has around 1,000 stores and just recently announced it will open its first new store since 2011, a 36,000-square-foot location in a Salt Lake City, Utah suburb. Joly called its stores of between 30,000 and 45,000 square feet "the right size."

"They really feel good because we have so much stuff to show, and the economics work from these two types of stores," Joly said.

Best Buy makes decisions every month about which stores to keep as leases come up for renewal. That has resulted in closures of around 10 to 15 stores per year on average, according to Joly.

"Many retailers were probably late in the cycle before the recession, and there was a diversification strategy, so we probably built a few too many stores," Joly said. "That's why we're optimizing gradually."

Best Buy, according to Joly, does not have "as a structural problem, too many stores."

"We have the right-size stores, they're in great locations, they're a great asset for us, and every year, we're going to tweak the margin, because things evolve, and so forth," Joly said.

Read the full interview with Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly on BI Prime.

SEE ALSO: Walmart.com blows Amazon out of the water in one key way

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The new 'God of War' is a major technical achievement — here are 5 ways it nails the fine details

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 08:00 AM PDT

god of war ps4

"God of War," which launches as a PlayStation 4 exclusive on April 20, is a major technical achievement that raises the bar for all other video games.

While we've already shared many of our (very positive) thoughts on the game itself, we also wanted to highlight the important ways in which "God of War" nails the little details.

Take a look:

1. "God of War" kills the loading screen, and it's a beautiful thing.

Sony's Santa Monica Studios did something with "God of War" that's never been done before in a video game: It's made a complete video game that takes place in one continuous shot, in real time, with no loading screens at all. The game's cinematics, or movies where you don't control the characters, are seamlessly woven into the actual meat of the game, where you play, fight, and explore. The result is a level of intimacy and immersion rarely explored in the video game medium.



2. You can pause and quit the game at any time — even in the middle of a fight, or a cinematic.

This is a nice little touch that only some of the best video games do, but it's certainly appreciated here in "God of War." Since the game does take place in one continuous shot, it makes it feel like you can "pause the movie" at any given time, and come back whenever you feel. It's a game that respects the player's time.



3. Characters will tell stories — but not if you're in the middle of an activity.

Without giving anything away, you'll meet plenty of different characters on your journey, and some of them even come along with you.

And it's great to have company, because the side characters in "God of War" have lots of great dialogue and stories to share — but the game is extremely good at timing these things so you're not getting an important speech in the middle of a fight.

The game saves these great quiet moments for when you're not close to any action — like while you're on the way to a destination, for example. It's a subtle touch that shows an understanding of how and when to keep the player engaged.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Here's every class of ship in the US Navy

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:51 AM PDT

carrier strike group

The US Navy is the most powerful group of ships, carriers, and sailors on Earth.

The Navy is older than the US — founded in 1775 as the Continental Navy — and is currently made up of 430 ships and submarines. It's been involved in more than 10 major wars, and combat has taken the Navy all over the world.

The surface fleet is made up of 16 different classes of vessels, and includes amphibious assault ships, aircraft carriers, command ships, mine sweepers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and more.

We put together a list of all the types of surface ships in service with the US Navy:

SEE ALSO: These are the 20 aircraft carriers in service today

Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier

The Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier is the newest carrier in the US fleet, and the intended replacement for the Nimitz-class.

The ship is 1,106 ft long and can carry more than 75 aircraft. The Ford-class carriers are intended to have a large compliment of F-35Cs, but delays in their development have put their deployment on hold.

The ship has a number of new technologies, like the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, which is intended to replace the current steam-powered launch system on current aircraft carriers. As the Navy's newest carrier, new weapons may be added to the ship in the coming years, including lasers.

One carrier is in active service, with another two under construction and two on order.



Zumwalt-class destroyer

The Zumwalt-class destroyer is the newest class of ship in service with the US Navy, and is intended to serve as a multi-mission stealth ship.

The focus of the Zumwalt is supposed to be surface warfare and naval gunfire support. However, the rounds required for its Advanced Gun System were judged too expensive (ranging from $800,000 to $1 million for a single round), making them inoperable. 

The Navy announced in March that it was planning on arming the Zumwalt with a suite of new missiles that can be used for anti-air, anti-surface, and ballistic-missile defense. 

 



America-class amphibious assault ship

The America-class amphibious assault ship was built to replace the aging Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship. Unlike other ships in its role, the first two America-class vessels have no well deck. 

The ship can carry a number of different aircraft, like the F-35B, AV-8B Harrier II, V-22 Osprey, and the AH-1Z Viper.

Eleven America-class ships are planned, with one in service, one awaiting sea trials, and another under construction.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

How Soviet troops taunted the Nazis during their final drive to Berlin in World War II

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:47 AM PDT

Adolf Hitler Nazi Germany Berlin World War II

  • The final weeks of April 1945 saw Soviet troops advance on Berlin, bringing World War II in Europe to an end.
  • Amid the Soviet onslaught and the confused Nazi retreat, Russian troops found ways to torment their foes.
  • Soviets troops found ways to taunt the Germans using their own phone lines.

The violence of the final weeks of World War II on Europe's Eastern Front was matched only by its chaos, as exhausted and outmanned German forces withered under attacks from well-equipped and highly motivated Soviet troops.

The front line became more fluid, with Soviet forces quickly enveloping Nazi units that then made shambolic retreats and launched desperate breakout attempts.

At times, Soviet forces arrived at vacated German positions so quickly that the Russians found opportunities to taunt their reeling enemies.

The Soviet race to Berlin began on April 15 from positions east of the city, and by the morning of April 21, 1945, staff officers at the German army and armed forces joint headquarters at Zossen, south of Berlin, were girding themselves for capture after Hitler denied a request for them to relocate away from the Soviet advance.

But Soviet tanks ran out of gas south of the headquarters, and the delay allowed Hitler's staff to reconsider, ordering the headquarters to move to Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. The officers at Zossen got the order just in time.

Berlin Germany World War II wwii

"Late that afternoon, Soviet soldiers entered the concealed camp at Zossen with caution and amazement," historian Antony Beevor writes in his 2002 book, "The Fall of Berlin 1945."

Just four German defenders were left. Three surrendered immediately. The fourth was too drunk to do anything.

"It was not the mass of papers blowing about inside the low, zigzag-painted concrete buildings which surprised [the Soviets], but the resident caretaker's guided tour," according to Beevor. The tour, he writes, took the Soviet troops down among the two headquarters' maze of bunkers, filled with generators, maps, and telephones.

"Its chief wonder was the telephone exchange, which had linked the two supreme headquarters with Wehrmacht units," Beevor writes.

"A telephone suddenly rang. One of the Russian soldiers answered it. The caller was evidently a senior German officer asking what was happening," Beevor writes. "'Ivan is here,' the soldier replied in Russian, and told him to go to hell."

Soviets troops found other ways to taunt the Germans using their own phone lines.

A few days later, as Russian armies advanced to the outskirts of Berlin, the senior officers in the Fuhrer bunker, which didn't have proper signaling equipment, were increasingly in the dark about troop movements. In order to supply Hitler with up-to-date information, they had to turn to Berlin's residents.

Nazi Germany officers military surrender World War II wwii

"They rang civilian apartments around the periphery of the city whose numbers they found in the Berlin directory," Beevor writes.

"If the inhabitants answered, they asked if they had seen any sign of advancing troops. And if a Russian voice replied, usually with a string of exuberant swearwords, then the conclusion was self-evident."

In the final days of April 1945, Berliners started calling their city the "Reich's funeral pyre," and Soviet troops were calling them to rub their looming victory in to their nearly vanquished enemy.

"Red Army soldiers decided to use the telephone network, but for amusement rather than information," Beevor writes.

"While searching apartments, they would often stop to ring numbers in Berlin at random. Whenever a German voice answered, they would announce their presence in unmistakable Russian tones."

The calls "suprised the Berliners immensely," wrote a Soviet political officer.

Amid those taunts, the battle for Berlin and the fighting that preceded it left widespread destruction and death.

The battle began with one of the most powerful artillery barrages in human history, and by the time it was over on May 2, about 100,000 German troops — many of them old men and children — and more than 100,000 German civilians had been killed. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 7 and 8.

Soviet forces lost about 70,000 troops in the fight for the city. Many of their deaths were caused by the haste of the Soviet operation, which was driven by commanders' desire to impress and please Stalin and by Stalin's own desire to seize Nazi nuclear research.

SEE ALSO: What it was like in the room when Nazi Germany finally surrendered to end World War II in Europe

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A world-record holder who runs 100-mile races says the high-fat diet Silicon Valley loves transformed his body and performance

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:39 AM PDT

man healthy eating palo keto meat eggs milk

  • Many experts think that by eating a high-fat or keto diet, it's possible to become a more efficient fat burner and get more energy from ketones.
  • Intermittent fasting may have a similar effect, helping people become better at fueling themselves from fat.
  • Ultramarathon world-record holder Zach Bitter recently explained how changing his diet helped improve his performance.

Our bodies might work better when we're burning fat as fuel.

From a health perspective, burning fat rather than primarily getting fuel from carbs might help stabilize blood sugar. From an athletic perspective, being a fat-burner might help some people recover more quickly and perform at a higher level.

Zach Bitter is an ultra-marathon runner who holds the world record for the longest distance run in 12 hours (101.77 miles). On a recent episode of his new podcast, Human Performance Outliers, Bitter discussed his decision to switch to a keto-like diet designed to turn him into a more efficient fat-burner. 

In 2011, Bitter said, he'd been eating what most would consider a healthy, whole-food, high-carb diet that might be expected of someone running 50-mile races. But he was hurting, waking up throughout the night, seeing his energy levels fluctuate, and dealing with chronic swelling in his ankles.

Instead of cutting back on racing, he changed what he ate, embarking on a whole-food, high-fat diet. He cut out most carbohydrates, relying instead on foods like stir frys, bacon, eggs, nuts, and seeds. He often cooked with coconut oil or duck fat.

Although he still consumed some carbs while racing, Bitter said the dietary changes made him feel less need to eat while running. And overall, he felt better.

"It was pretty eye-opening to me — in the first four weeks, all of those symptoms going away, the swelling, the sleeping [problems], the energy levels throughout the course of the day," Bitter said on the podcast.

Why going high-fat or keto might help

AvocadoDicing thumb08

Becoming a more efficient fat-burner is the main idea behind the popular keto diet and behind intermittent-fasting programs as well. There are even new supplements designed to push your body to become a supercharged, fat-burning — or "fat-adapted" — machine.

Most of us burn sugar for fuel first. Our bodies burn through easily accessible glycogen energy stores, which we get from breaking down carbohydrates. After we burn through our supply of those, our bodies can eventually start getting energy via ketones, which are produced from fatty acids (basically, energy from fat).

People whose bodies are more used to burning fat tend to get more energy from ketones on a regular basis, not just after they run out of sugar fuel.

Fasting may be the most efficient way to get your body more accustomed to fueling itself via ketones. But a low-carb, high-fat diet can do the same thing over time.

Zach Bitter ultrarunner

Becoming fat-adapted for performance's sake

The effect that fat adaptation has on performance has been debated over time. 

In 2015, sports nutrition researcher Louise Burke wrote in the journal Sports Medicine that although she had thought researchers put the "nail in the coffin" on the idea that fat adaptation was beneficial, there did seem to be evidence that low-carb, high-fat diets may help in certain cases.

Bitter credits his dietary switch with helping him build the strength to become a world-record holding racer.

Within a few weeks of the change, he said he noticed improvements. But it took about two years before things really "clicked" with regard to his performance, Bitter said on the podcast.

"In the fall and winter of 2013, I was able to race and recover and race again and hit some training blocks in between at a frequency that I never would have thought possible earlier," he said.

That December, he set his world record.

When it comes to nutrition, however, approaches that work for some people don't work for everyone. Bitter understands that.

"Everyone is different — it was developing what worked for me, for my lifestyle," he previously told Business Insider.

Still, he said most of the runners he's coached have gotten at least some boost from trying a high-fat approach during their training.

"From middle- to back-of-the-packers to people who are looking to podium ... if they follow the program right, I have not seen any athlete that has come to me not have a successful outcome from it," he said.

SEE ALSO: The amazing ways intermittent fasting affects your body and brain

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These are the 10 biggest navies in the world

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:30 AM PDT

How drones will change the world in the next 5 years

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:05 AM PDT

drone hardware market 1

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

The fast-growing global drone industry has not sat back waiting for government policy to be hammered out before pouring investment and effort into opening up this all-new hardware and computing market. 

A growing ecosystem of drone software and hardware vendors is already catering to a long list of clients in agriculture, land management, energy, and construction. Many of the vendors are smallish private companies and startups — although large defense-focused companies and industrial conglomerates are beginning to invest in drone technology, too. 

In a report from BI Intelligence, we take a deep dive into the various levels of the growing global industry for commercial drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This report provides forecasts for the business opportunity in commercial drone technology, looks at advances and persistent barriers, highlights the top business-to-business markets in terms of applications and end users, and provides an exclusive list of dozens of notable companies already active in the space. Finally, it digs into the current state of US regulation of commercial drones, recently upended by the issuing of the Federal Aviation Administration's draft rules for commercial drone flights. Few people know that many companies are already authorized to fly small drones commercially under a US government "exemption" program. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • We project revenues form drones sales to top $12 billion in 2021, up form just over $8 billion last year.
  • Shipments of consumer drones will more than quadruple over the next five years, fueled by increasing price competition and new technologies that make flying drones easier for beginners.
  • Growth in the enterprise sector will outpace the consumer sector in both shipments and revenues as regulations open up new use cases in the US and EU, the two biggest potential markets for enterprise drones.
  • Technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance will make flying drones safer and make regulators feel more comfortable with larger numbers of drones taking to the skies.
  • Right now FAA regulations have limited commercial drones to a select few industries and applications like aerial surveying in the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas sectors.
  • The military sector will continue to lead all other sectors in drone spending during our forecast period thanks to the high cost of military drones and the growing number of countries seeking to acquire them.

In full, the report:

  • Compares drone adoption across the consumer, enterprise, and government sectors.
  • Breaks down drone regulations across several key markets and explains how they’ve impacted adoption.
  • Discusses popular use cases for drones in the enterprise sector, as well as nascent use case that are on the rise.
  • Analyzes how different drone manufacturers are trying to differentiate their offerings with better hardware and software components.
  • Explains how drone manufacturers are quickly enabling autonomous flight in their products that will be a major boon for drone adoption.

Simply put, The Drones Report is the only place you can get the full story on the rapidly-evolving world of drones.

To get your copy of this invaluable guide, choose one of these options:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
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The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the fascinating world of drones.

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Trump is turning a blind eye to a much bigger trend with Amazon

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:03 AM PDT

Jeff Bezos

  • President Donald Trump has lashed out at Amazon.
  • But he hasn't focused much on a trend involving the company in his own backyard.


As President Donald Trump attacks Amazon over sales tax collection, its deal with the US Post Office, and for CEO Jeff Bezos' ownership of The Washington Post, the company looks poised to become the biggest player in Washington, DC, outside of the federal government.

Consider:

  • Signs have increasingly pointed to Amazon locating its much-hyped and sought-after second headquarters in the Washington, DC, metro area — a project that could bring with it some roughly 50,000 new jobs.
  • The company is competing for a bevy of lucrative government contracts, including a deal worth billions with the Pentagon to provide the military with cloud computing services. A source told Business Insider earlier this month, they "can't imagine any possible way that the deal could be stopped" between Amazon and the Pentagon.
  • The company already has a contract for $600 million to provide similar services to the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • Amazon employs one of the largest lobbying staffs in the city, and its lobbying efforts are growing. Amazon spent $15.4 million on lobbying in 2017, up more than $3 million from the prior year, Reuters reported

"Up until now, Washington, DC, has largely been a company town of one. The US government," Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential bid, told Business Insider. "Amazon appears poised to dramatically change that dynamic."

Aside from his frequent attacks linking Bezos and The Post, which has no direct relationship with Amazon, Trump has barely touched on any of these Amazon developments. He has yet to make any comment about the company's extensive HQ2 process, and he has only publicly discussed Amazon's lobbying efforts in terms of The Post, falsely claiming the publication is a vehicle for Amazon lobbying.

Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz, whose company is in direct competition with Amazon for the massive Pentagon contract, did bring it up at a recent dinner with the president. Catz complained to Trump that the bidding process was designed so that Amazon could win the bid, but Trump did not give any indication that he would put his thumb on the scale.

donald trump

Where Trump has focused

Trump has instead zeroed in on sales tax collection and the company's deal with the US Postal Service. Both of his attacks are misleading.

For instance, on the sales tax issue, Amazon recently moved to collect sales taxes on its inventory in the 45 states that have such taxes as well as Washington, DC. The Trump Organization's online retailer, Trumpstore.com, collects sales tax in just a couple of states. Online retailers are obliged to collect the taxes only in states where they have a physical presence.

Trump's most concentrated attacks are, predictably, on the connection between The Post and Amazon via their mutual owner, Bezos.

He has falsely accused The Post of being a "lobbyist weapon" for the company, seeking to keep politicians "from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly." He baselessly called the publication a "big tax shelter" for Amazon, the stock of which he said would "crumble like a paper bag" if the company "ever had to pay fair taxes." And he attempted to brand the paper as the "#AmazonWashingtonPost."

The Post has pushed back on any assertion that Bezos has influenced coverage, or that Amazon is paying its bills.

Trump's attacks on the connection between The Post and Amazon often happen when the publication publishes critical articles on him.

"There isn’t anybody here who is paid by Amazon," Martin Baron, the publication's executive editor, told The New York Times. "Not one penny."

Baron said Bezos has "never suggested a story to anybody here."

Kurt Bardella, a former spokesperson for Breitbart News and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, told Business Insider that Trump's "targeting of Jeff Bezos, Amazon and the Washington Post clearly stems from petty jealousy," not from concerns about Amazon's continually growing stature — including right in the president's backyard.

"Trump has created a fictitious conspiracy in his mind where Jeff Bezos is the reason why the Post scrutinizes the Trump Administration," Bardella, who is no longer a Republican, said. "Trump also views Bezos as a rival in both wealth and stature. He desperately craves the acceptance and stature that Bezos is the beneficiary of."

Bardella said that "unlike Trump," Bezos won't be "derailed" by "a public tantrum on Twitter."

"Putting HQ2 in the DC, Maryland and Virginia region will give Bezos a game-changing presence in Washington that will outlast the Donald Trump presidency," he said. "At a time when the Trump Administration is unraveling before our very eyes absorbing resignations and terminations, Bezos is essentially creating his own economy within Washington that will allow him to out-maneuver and outlast Trump."

'Amazon must be very careful and walk a tightrope'

rubio

Lawmakers have put Amazon under the microscope as Trump has lashed out.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, told CNN earlier this month that Amazon has gotten too big and that Congress needs to take action. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, tweeted that potential "'new economy' monopolies will require close monitoring," pointing to Amazon.

One Republican lobbyist told Business Insider that the sense is that Capitol Hill lawmakers will move on to scrutinizing Amazon and Google following Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to both the House and Senate this week.

"I would be shocked if Congress didn't do something on tech this year," the lobbyist said.

Others have put Amazon's lobbying and political donations under the microscope.

The company's PAC actually gave a majority of its 2016 donations to Republicans. But some on the right view Amazon as having a liberal bend. Certainly, Trump has made such connections regarding Bezos, Amazon, and The Post.

"I think the lesson for all of the tech companies is that having a corporate political viewpoint is not conductive to generating shareholder value," Barry Bennett, an adviser to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, told Business Insider. "When companies like Google and their executives invested millions in Hillary, they made friends and enemies. Amazon must be very careful and walk a tightrope."

SEE ALSO: Amazon filed an under-the-radar protest hinting that it's ready for a battle with Trump over a multibillion-dollar contract

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A digital-media veteran spent $350,000 to fly hundreds of publishers to Whistler, Canada and recruit them to battle Facebook

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:00 AM PDT

heckman

  • Digital publishing startup Maven just flew more than 250 independent publishers to Whistler, Canada – at a cost of roughly $350,000.
  • Led by serial entrepreneur Jim Heckman, Maven is trying to build a coalition of small digital publishers to join a common tech platform and reclaim some of the audience and ad budgets swallowed up by Facebook.
  • The three-day recruiting session featured a host of panels, as well as skiing, spa days and lunch on a gondola riding up Whistler mountain.
  • The company sees an opportunity amidst the recent fallout from Facebook's algorithm changes as well as the ongoing mishaps that have made some marketers skittish about digital advertising.

During one of the final ski weekends of the season, 250 people gathered atop Canada's Whistler Mountain.

They squeezed together while a photographer climbed up on nearby lodge's deck. He waved a black flag with a white diamond key — the symbol of a digital media startup called Maven — while the crowd below cheered.

Maven was literally planting its flag in a battle for the future of the Internet.

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Maven is the latest venture from Jim Heckman, a serial entrepreneur who's helped start and sell a number of companies, including sports blog networks Rivals.com and Scout Media, and also held top roles at Fox and Yahoo.

Heckman and ad veteran Josh Jacobs are touting Maven as a digital coalition that will bring together hundreds — if not thousands — of independent publishers. The idea is that these media companies will all use the same publishing technology, ad tech and sales operations to create one powerful network. 

A big part of their pitch: publishers will no longer have to rely on Facebook. And advertisers will be able to run their messages on a network of clean websites, without worrying about what kind of content they'll be associated with.

Everybody will own a piece of the company, Heckman says.

It's a compelling pitch. The thing is, most advertisers have no idea what Maven is.

So on April 11, Heckman flew the publishers to Whistler to hear Maven's vision.

Maven has been in the works for a few years. But following Facebook's recent decision to tweak it's algorithm to de-prioritize publishers, which hit many in the media industry hard, Heckman sensed an opportunity. He quickly threw together a $350,000 conference in about 90 days — including a mysterious invitation that teased, "You've earned your key."

A key to what?

maveninviteGuests were transported on fancy shuttles from the Vancouver airport and given rooms at the Whistler Fairmont and Four Seasons hotels.

Besides multiple panel sessions focused on the media industry, Thursday's itinerary included a 25-minute gondola ride to the top of the mountain, showcasing remnants of the 2010 Olympics. Guests nibbled on boxed lunches of turkey wraps and quinoa salads while they soaked in the views.

Thursday night, attendees gathered for intimate dinners, including one at Heckman's chalet, followed by a late night after party that promised a dance floor and the chance to act like a Whistler local.

On Friday, after the official conference wrapped, guests had the choice to ski, snowboard, enjoy a snowmobile ride, spa day or ziplining — all on Maven's dime.

You've been screwed by Facebook. Come join the coalition

Many of the attendees Business Insider spoke with, who ranged from so-called mommy bloggers to right or left wing activists to marijuana enthusiasts, came to the Maven event with little clue of what the weekend would entail, or even what Heckman's company is.

"I really have no idea," one person said. "But I've never been to Whistler."

Another joked, "I think they might be selling us a timeshare." Others wondered if it was a cult gathering.

But on Wednesday night, during a cocktail hour in the Fairmont's ballroom, the Maven message finally started to take shape.  

"A lot of people are confused about the vision," Heckman told the group. "Somebody came up to me and said, 'What's a Maven?' A lot of people are asking me that." 

Heckman flattered the audience and told them his team had been scouting them each for years, noticing their journalistic talents and fan followings.

"One thing we are never going to do is build a Silicon Valley open platform," he said. "That's such a dangerous, corruptible..."

Before he could finish, he was interrupted by cheers.

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When he continued, he pitched Maven as a cause as well as a business. With his wife and two sons by his side, he spoke about the wreckage Facebook and Google had brought upon independent publishing, destroying the purity of journalism.

Heckman likened the launch of Maven to the launch of Hulu — a project he had personally been involved in — a decade ago by TV companies to counter YouTube. 

His speech targeted independent publisher feelings of betrayal over Facebook and "the crushing blow that social media has done to you" as well as "crazy consolidation" in the digital ad industry.

The key, Heckman told his audience, was to work together. He insisted independent publishers could not survive on their own and even paraphrased Sun Tzu's "The Art of War." 

"To win means we have to share," Heckman declared. "Use our collective genius to survive ... gather all the villagers together and gain strength as one community."

When he was done, some attendees were puzzled. Others were energized.

"I liked a lot of stuff he was saying there," said one publishing executive.

"I swooned at one point," said another.

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The Facebook aggrieved

For many attendees, the Maven conference served as a self-help group for those who had been spurned by Facebook. They found comfort in sharing their algorithm frustrations.

Take, for example, Holly Homer.

Homer, who joined Maven in October, is the founder of Kids Activities Blog. She told Business Insider that her six-person business has pulled in $1 million a year for several years.

The site has been so successful that her husband quit his job to help.

But Homer said a recent Facebook change, which limited publishers from posting content with paid product placements, were a big blow.

"That one policy cut my income by 60%," Homer said. "I'm still trying not to cry about it."

Maven, she said, has helped a lot. Kids Activities Blog now outsources its web operations along with its server capacity needs. When the site briefly went down, for example, the Maven team fixed it immediately. 

"They are as invested in it as I am," Homer said.

'They pulled a bait and switch'

BlueLivesMatter was started on Facebook exclusively. Today, it's a full-on publication.

Chris Berg, a former police officer founded the page a few years ago. He said that the promise of the Maven's tech expertise would save him $50,000 in server costs. "I was dealing with site issues all the time," he said.

More importantly, he's hoping that the collection of Maven partners will eventually start feeding each other new audiences. Since Facebook's recent algorithm change, he's felt a 35% hit in revenue and traffic. "I'm hoping for increased distribution."

Robbie Lockie, who runs Plant Based News, told a similar story about losing nearly 40% of his traffic from Facebook with "no warnings." He flew in from London to see if Maven made sense for his business. "I just spoke to James. he gave me the elevator pitch," he said.

Rachael Herrscher, the founder of Today's Mama, said that Facebook has been gradually pulling back support for publishers for years, even after encouraging them to build up fan bases. "They pulled a bait and switch," she said. "We were reaching 32 million people a week at one point. Now a post will reach 1 to 2 million people. 

"We're kind of done caring about Facebook," she said.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, who founded Black Business School has 45 Facebook pages. One was abruptly shut down by Facebook, and He says Facebook hasn't gotten back to him as to why, but he estimates the decision cost him between $2 and $3 million.

"We were naive [about Facebook] until 2014," he said. "Then they started doing things that were just unethical. That's when the idealism went out the window.

Watkins, a former professor at Syracuse University, actually joined Maven a few months , but had to back out after his audience rebelled, worried that he was selling out.

He's hoping to return at some point. 

"The idea is beautiful," he said. "Will it work? I believe it in because I like James Heckman. Will they be a replacement for Facebook. I haven't seen that yet."

'The idea is, take the internet back'

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Leah Segedie, the founder of the clean living and eating publication Mamavation has been publishing on the web for over a decade. She's being courted by Maven, and one of her good friends is on the startup's board.

"She said, 'you gotta check these guys out," Segedie told Business Insider. "This is kind of competing with Google and Facebook. The idea is, take the internet back.' And I said, 'I'd like to hear about that. And they're gonna send me out to Whistler, and I'm like "I've never been. Let's do it!"

Segedie said she hadn't gotten alot of specifics yet on how Maven will work. She's got questions about how her existing ad sales will be impacted, and how her website's look may have to change. 

"I really like the idea of an organization that is about getting content out there," she said.

Isn't this just an ad network?

It's worth noting that companies have been aggregating and selling ads on long lists of websites for decades. There have been more than a few so-called premium ad networks making similar promises.

Several conference attendees asked why Maven isn't just another ad network.

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Bill Sornsin, Maven's COO, said that the idea of having a coalition using the same publishing and advertising technology shouldn't be overlooked. For example, instead of working with one ad tech company, another video player company, and another developer, the Maven promise a single seamless platform.

"The integration is the magic," he said. "Having that smooth integration where everything just works. We are thinking of us almost like Intel Inside."

What will advertisers think, especially digital brands accustomed to buying ads all over the web via programmatic software. There's been lots of industry talk of late about big marketers actually looking to pare down the number of sites they work with – moving away from the so-called 'long tail' reported AdExcanger.

Sean Muzzy, Chief Product & Platform Officer at the ad agency Neo World Wide, wasn't at the Maven show. But he said he was intrigued by the concept, as it might fit the needs of the current ad market - where brands are suddenly wary of having their ads end up next to objectionable content on the web following a string of embarrassing incidents.

"It's definitely a big ambition," he said. "As a media buyer we want good quality content that attracts and maintains audience. We want those things. If you think about the past couple of years, there's been so much shadiness in the inventory. There's always trying to over come some game that’s happening in the system."

"The question is, is my audience there?"

A group of publishers who the Maven is recruiting had the same question. Even if the Maven's tech and advertising clout works, can anybody replace the audience Facebook once delivered?

"That's the kicker for me," said one publisher as he rode down the mountain on a gondola. "They haven't answered my traffic question."

The Maven is promising lots more answers. The question is, can they deliver? It's a big mountain to climb.

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After making a fortune in bitcoin, this 28-year-old realtor became a rapper known as CoinDaddy

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 07:00 AM PDT

CoinDaddy

  • CoinDaddy is the most famous "bitcoin rapper" in San Francisco.
  • The 28-year-old behind CoinDaddy, Arya Bahmanyar, left a lucrative career in commercial real estate after he said he made a fortune in bitcoin.
  • Bahmanyar now makes rap music inspired by bitcoin, and the community of power brokers and devotees who evangelize the digital currency.

 

Arya Bahmanyar, 28, makes rap music about driving Lamborghinis, "slinging coin," and indulging an urge to check the price of bitcoin on his phone while he's having sex.

His style of hip-hop is an acquired taste. But the biggest bitcoin devotees in the world are here for it.

After he said he made a million dollars in bitcoin, Bahmanyar left a lucrative career in commercial real estate and became the "bitcoin rapper" known as CoinDaddy. He writes and performs songs for YouTube, and lives off his earnings from investing early in bitcoin.

The self-described cryptocurrency millionaire hopes to turn his hobby into an entertainment brand, leveraging the character CoinDaddy to bring crypto culture to the mainstream.

CoinDaddy is the 'Weird Al' Yankovic of bitcoin rap

The first CoinDaddy track was inspired by a bad cryptocurrency trade that resulted in a big loss. Bahmanyar channeled his negative energy into creating a parody meditation tape that told listeners to breathe "bit" in and exhale "coin" out.

Friends shared the video: The song really spoke to down-on-their-luck traders. Its swift virality sparked an idea.

"I'm going to make songs that aren't that good," Bahmanyar said he thought to himself.

Though his music is inspired by prolific rappers Eminem and Sean "Diddy" Combs, it more closely resembles the stylings of "Weird Al" Yankovic, with a more specific appeal. The concepts string together bizarre crypto slang, like "HODL" and "mooning," and iconic crypto figures.

In "Holding the Bag," he name-drops several cryptocurrencies and boasts of buying the dips — the term for purchasing coin when the price is down, with an eye towards collecting big gains later. The second verse starts:

"Apartment's looking like the Palace of Versailles/Long position riding on an all time high/If you want the ride, and you want the riches/Then buy more coin and get the b-----s"

Here's the song:

The idea was to create music that holds a mirror to the crypto community. It aims to comfort investors in times of volatility, and self-congratulate when the price of bitcoin soars.

One of his most popular videos, called "The Siphoning," tells the tale of two tokens: bitcoin and bitcoin cash. Bitcoin split in two last August when the popular cryptocurrency forked, creating bitcoin cash. The event divided bitcoin's power brokers and caused the coin's price to take a hit.

In the song, CoinDaddy assures his audience, "Bitcoin gonna live, bitcoin's gonna live."

How Bahmanyar made a fortune in bitcoin

Created in 2008, bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that allows people to buy things and send money without attaching their names to transactions. The core technology doesn't rely banks or middlemen to function, and there are no obstructions to sending bitcoin across international borders. 

bitcoin rapper coindaddy arya bahmanyarIt was the decentralized nature of bitcoin that first excited Bahmanyar, he said.

In 2013, Bahmanyar was a recent graduate of George Washington University looking for work and sharing an apartment with four other people in New York City. After a fateful encounter with a group of bitcoin boosters in a bar, he found himself at the apartment of one of the most vocal evangelists for what turned out to be an educational session on cryptocurrency. His new friend told him to dump all his savings into bitcoin, which he did.

Years passed, and he checked the price of bitcoin almost daily.

His parents begged him to undo his investment, calling bitcoin a scam, referring to it as "magic internet money." But the price mostly trickled up.

"I just held," Bahmanyar said.

He worked a series of unrelated jobs in entertainment, business development, pharmaceuticals, and commercial real estate before quitting his last job and taking off for a backpacking trip across Europe in 2017. He stopped checking the price of bitcoin.

It was during a visit to see extended family in Oslo, Norway, in October that a relative asked Bahmanyar what he knew about this crazy thing called bitcoin, according to Bahmanyar.

He pulled out his phone to show them an exchange app and saw that the price of bitcoin had more than doubled to nearly $6,000 per coin within the four months since he stopped checking. He packed his bags for home, abruptly ending his visit. 

"I was like, 'What? I love you but not that much," he remembered saying.

Bahmanyar returned to the place where he grew up — the San Francisco Bay Area — to be part of the action. He would not disclose his initial investment in bitcoin or his current net worth.

His advice: 'HODL'

Last year at a holiday party for the San Francisco Bitcoin Meetup group, Bahmanyar stepped out for the first time in his new look.

He wore a long white fake-mink coat over a leopard print shirt and a matching porkpie hat. A photographer with the New York Times snapped his photo at the party, giving CoinDaddy his first brush with mainstream fame. He has the article framed in his apartment across the bay from San Francisco, near Oakland.

Bahmanyar said more people today know him as CoinDaddy than as Arya, his real name.

He spends most of his time traveling for speaking engagements and conferences. Bahmanyar said he drives the same car that he owned before making a fortune in bitcoin, but he eats out more often. He spends frugally, knowing that the price of bitcoin remains extremely volatile.

Bahmanyar plans to ramp up production of new videos in 2018 and create songs that educate people who are new to cryptocurrency investing — like a "Bill Nye the crypto guy," he said.

When asked what advice he has for other bitcoin investors, he said, "Just hold."

"I've done pretty well so far," he added.

Disclosure: The author owns small amounts of bitcoin and ether.

SEE ALSO: This 24-year-old said he quit his job after making a fortune in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — here's how he did it

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The US government logged 308,984 potential space-junk collisions in 2017 — and the problem could get much worse

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 06:51 AM PDT

space junk debris earth orbit satellite collisions crashes nasa gsfc jsc

  • China's Tiangong-1 space station recently crashed to Earth as a giant chunk of space junk.
  • But there are millions of small, hard-to-track bits of orbital debris that can collide with satellites.
  • In 2017, the US government logged 308,984 close calls with space junk and issued 655 "emergency-reportable" alerts to satellite operators.
  • Alert systems help avoid a runaway space-junk disaster, a phenomenon called the Kessler syndrome that could dramatically reduce human access to space.

China's Tiangong-1 space station fell to Earth on April 2, raining debris over a patch of Pacific Ocean some 2,500 miles south of Hawaii.

But Tiangong-1 is just the tip of the space-junk iceberg.

There are about 23,000 satellites, rocket bodies, and other human-made objects larger than a softball in orbit. There may also be some 650,000 softball-to-fingernail-size objects and 170 million bits of debris smaller than the tip of a pen — stuff like flecks of paint and fragments of explosive bolts.

There's a real risk that something may smash into something else up there, and it often does. Each piece of junk is screaming around our planet at roughly 17,500 mph, or 10 times faster than a bullet. Jack Bacon, a senior scientist at NASA in 2010, told Wired that a hit by a 10-centimeter sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms of TNT.

Avoiding such catastrophic collisions is vital to ensuring humans can still access space without have their hardware or spaceships whacked by debris.

With space exploration and commerce about to boom, it's more important than ever to keep track of all the junk.

Thankfully, the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) does just that.

Why space junk poses such a major threat

space shuttle endeavour wing debris junk hit hole damage nasa

Led by the US military, the SSN uses an global network of partners to identify, track, and share information about objects in space — especially any potential close calls.

"In 2017, we provided data for 308,984 events," Diana McKissock, a flight lead with the US Air Force's 18th Space Control Squadron, which helps track space debris for the SSN, previously told Business Insider.

The reason the SSN pays such close attention is that just one major collision can have huge ramifications. A crash would create even more debris, meaning there'd be a much greater chance of more collisions in the future.

There's even a hypothetical, scientifically plausible, spiraling-out-of-control scenario with space junk called the Kessler syndrome.

In a Kessler syndrome event, one collision begets other collisions, and quickly spreads debris in a catastrophic chain-reaction.

A Kessler syndrome event could create an Asteroid Belt-like field of debris in large regions of space around Earth. Those zones could wind up being too risky to fly new satellites or spaceships into for hundreds of years, which would severely limit human access to the final frontier.

A vivid example of the Kessler syndrome is in the movie "Gravity," in which an accidental space collision endangers a crew aboard a large space station.

How dangerous space junk is found and tracked

haystack radar observatory nasa

Most space junk is found in two regions above the surface of our planet: in low-Earth orbit (about 250 miles up) and geostationary orbit (about 22,300 miles up).

The SSN enlists the help of commercial companies and friendly governments around the world to keep tabs on it all. It uses about 30 different systems, and they come in four main flavors: satellites, optical telescopes, radar systems, and supercomputers.

The radar observatories can see things in space even when it's daylight, which is crucial for frequent, almost real-time tracking. In fact, just before Tiangong-1 fell to Earth, a radar observatory managed to image the plunging spacecraft in impressive detail.

Tiangong-1 Chinese space station crash South Pacific

Optical telescopes on the ground also keep an eye out, though they aren't always run by the government.

"The commercial sector is actually putting up lots and lots of telescopes," Jesse Gossner, an orbital-mechanics engineer who teaches at the US Air Force's Advanced Space Operations School, previously told Business Insider. The government then pays for their debris-tracking services.

Gossner said one major debris-tracking company is called Exoanalytic. It uses about 150 small telescopes set up around the globe to detect, follow, and report space debris to the SSN.

Then there are the satellites in space that track debris. Presumably these are optical telescopes, though less is known about them because they typically have top-secret military hardware.

space junk debris satellites numbers by country active march 2018 bi graphics

Observation data from these systems is fed to supercomputers, which help calculate an orbit and check against a catalog of known space debris and orbits. If there's no match, the object is flagged and added to a list.

Crucially, the SSN supercomputers constantly check the orbits of all satellites and known bits of space junk to see if there's any risk of future collision days in advance.

When the SSN warns the world about possible collisions

china fengyun fy 1c satellite killer space debris celestrak

McKissock said the surveillance network issues two kinds of warnings to NASA, satellite companies, and other groups: basic and advanced.

The SSN issues a basic emergency report to the public three days ahead of a 1-in-10,000 chance of a collision. It then provides multiple updates per day until the risk of a collision passes.

To qualify for such reporting, a rogue object must come within a certain distance of another object. In low-Earth orbit, that distance must be less than 1 kilometer (0.62 mile); farther out in deep space, where the precision of orbits is less reliable, the distance is less than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

Advanced emergency reports are more conservative, with wider safety margins, to help satellite providers see possible collisions much more than three days ahead. Those are the roughly 300,000 events noted by McKissock.

Of these, "only 655 were emergency-reportable," she told Business Insider in an email.

And of those 655 reportable emergencies, some 579 close calls were in low-Earth orbit, an area that's relatively crowded with high-value satellites.

What satellite operators do if they get a collision alert

satellite damaged by space debris junk collision shutterstock_348838928

When a space company receives a SSN alert, they typically move their satellite into a different orbit — and out of harm's way — by burning a little propellant.

The biggest priority is avoiding damage to multi-million- or multi-billion-dollar satellites and keeping astronauts safe.

"It's just a matter of watching and, with our active satellites that we do control, avoiding collisions," Gossner said. "It becomes a very important problem not just for that satellite, but then for the debris that it would create."

Fortunately, McKissock added, "our everyday concern isn't something as catastrophic as the Kessler syndrome."

space junk debris trash orbiting earth kessler syndrome effect event shutterstock_233084350In Gossner's eyes, the best way to manage space junk isn't with high-tech space nets and other debris-catching technologies.

Instead, he says it's most effective to find debris, track it, alert parties about possible collisions, and make sure companies and governments can eventually de-orbit any new things they launch in a controlled way. (That way, they won't further contribute to the problem.)

For now, current tracking and warning efforts have led Gossner to believe we're not at risk of a Kessler event.

"I'm not saying we couldn't get there, and I'm not saying we don't need to be smart and manage the problem," he said. "But I don't see it ever becoming, anytime soon, an unmanageable problem."

SEE ALSO: Elon Musk's plan to blanket Earth in high-speed internet may face a big threat: China

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We compared H&R Block and TurboTax for filing your taxes this year — here's the verdict

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 06:50 AM PDT

budget taxes couple family finances computer laptop woman man

• This year, Americans need to file their taxes by April 17, 2018.

• Both H&R Block and TurboTax provide free tax preparation services.

• Business Insider compared the two services to find out which one was easier to use.



Filing taxes isn't exactly my idea of a good time.

But tax season is here, which means I, along with the rest of America, now have until April 17 to file.

The good news is that some of us have the option of using free online tax services to file our 2017 taxes. If your income was less than $66,000 in 2017, many online tax services offer the option to file for your federal taxes — and sometimes state taxes — for free. You can check your options using the IRS Free File Lookup tool.

I took the liberty of testing out the free tax services of both H&R Block and TurboTax — two of the most well-known online destinations for filing taxes. H&R Block primarily deals in tax preparation, but also offers consulting services. TurboTax is an offshoot of tech company Intuit.

 

Keep in mind, I went through all the steps of filing my taxes with both services, but I didn't actually submit my tax return for this experiment. When our Insider Picks team tried out both services last year to see which one came up with better tax refunds, TurboTax ended up the victor in most cases.

While clicking through both interfaces, I took note of which one felt more user-friendly to me.

With that in mind, I'd declare H&R Block the winner.

For me, the competition was a toss-up in many ways. Both services offered a free file option, which is great. Both offered intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces. As you click through both TurboTax and H&R Block, the software actually takes the time to answer a lot of your questions and keep things moving. That's especially helpful if you're like me, and essentially have no idea what you're doing.

The services also had a similar affect, too. Both sort of lulled me into feeling pretty calm and good about the filing process.

So what set H&R Block apart?

It simply felt a bit more intuitive and seamless. H&R Block also spent less time trying to push me to upgrade. I mean, I get it, but TurboTax always felt a bit insistent in that respect.

But this all comes with one major caveat, because I'm probably not going to use H&R Block to file my taxes this year.

Last year, I used TurboTax to file my taxes. But first, I tried using H&R Block — and ended up quitting it in a rage. For whatever reason, I found it made it extremely difficult for me to file both my Business Insider income and income from my random side hustle. Meanwhile, TurboTax handled the extra income source with ease.

This year, I don't have to worry about my side hustle. But, even though I'll agree that H&R Block has the better service for me this year, I'll probably continue to use TurboTax because it already has all my information and I've already established an account.

All that being said, you probably won't go wrong with either free service.

SEE ALSO: How to use H&R Block to file your taxes for free in 2018

DON'T MISS: How to use TurboTax to file your taxes for free in 2018

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