Posts tagged with "tech"

Herbalife article illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 magazine

The Entrepreneurs Top Tech Tools

Rhonda VetereChief Information Officer, Herbalife Nutrition

When the world shut down due to the pandemic, everything changed, especially for small businesses. Suddenly, the ability to connect to customers became even more critical, and the safe way to do so is through technology. While companies have long relied on email or text messaging to communicate, many entrepreneurs found they needed to expand their technology toolkit, becoming more creative and resourceful with how they conduct business and compete effectively. As a technology expert who advises more than 3.4 million entrepreneurs around the world on technology solutions that can help them serve their customers and manage their business, I recommend the following tech tips to help you power your business. 

Customer service 

We are living during a time of tremendous technology transformation. Gone are the days when people waited for what seemed an eternity to send or receive a message. Time has sped up, and with it is the demand from customers for immediate attention. According to recent research, 82% of consumers expect a quick response from brands. Keeping up or ahead of customers requires staying on top of technology trends and ensuring that you have the tools to compete in the digital age.  

For website support, many entrepreneurs use a live chat tool that can help customers with basic questions. Many of these tools can be used on social media as well. If paid chat options are price prohibitive, there are also useful and free tools, including Zoho Desk.

Communication and collaboration 

Video conferencing and video chat applications grew exponentially during the pandemic. In March, video conferencing apps saw 62 million downloads. Entrepreneurs are using video apps for connecting with customers, partners and vendors. While these tools are excellent for meetings, they are also useful for maintaining connections with industry organizations and networking groups. Many of the tools allow break-out rooms for a small meeting within a session, creating an intimate and collaborative space. 

As you continue to build your reputation as an expert in your industry, video conferencing can also be used to host a webinar for existing and potential customers. Many entrepreneurs are hosting panel discussions, bringing in other partners and collaborators. These sessions can be taped and repurposed as content for your social media channels, website and email marketing. There are many video conferencing options, including, Joinme, which has a free plan that lets you invite up to 10 video participants 

Social media 

Social media is not just for sharing videos and memes – it is a top business tool. Your customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, and Instagram. Once you identify which channels you want to use, you need to post engaging content. These can range from news about products, sales and impactful information. Posting across several channels every week can be daunting. Thankfully, many social media tools help you schedule and publish your content that can be calendared and posted automatically. These tools range from Hootsuite (which has a free option) to Zoho Social to Buffer

Slack  

More and more brands, companies and entrepreneurs use Slack to communicate with their customers. It’s a great place to provide relevant updates, tips and advisement, and new product announcements. It also gives your customers a place away from social media to share stories and entrepreneurs a place to connect with their team more visibly easily. 

Storage  

There is a lot of discussion about the term “the cloud.” Think of the cloud as an off-site storage locker, where all your critical information is safe and secure – and easily sharable. Google DriveDropbox, or Microsoft Sharepoint safeguard your backups and allow users access from any location. Moving your work to the cloud not only benefits you to work from anywhere and any device, but it also makes it easy to share content with your customers.  

Email Marketing 

Your marketing toolkit may contain a variety of options – one of which is email marketing. Sending professionally designed, informative newsletters to your customers is a great way to keep in touch. One of the most popular companies in the business is Mailchimp. Even better, If your company sends fewer than 12,000 email messages per month to fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can take advantage of Mailchimp’s Forever Free plan. 

E-commerce 

The pandemic has changed how we shop. Overnight, people began to purchase everything from groceries to furniture online and in record numbers. Customers now expect to buy their products online. They expect the experience to be easy and fast. There are many great e-commerce platforms out there, such as Shopify, a one-stop-shop for setting up your e-commerce store, to Amazon’s beyond popular platform. Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, and you can use it to chat with customers online, track orders and send invoices.  

One final note. As a technologist, I remind everyone that interaction with your customers is up to you. Nothing supplants human interaction and connection. With limits on our in-person meetings, it is even more essential to find ways to build businesses. Mix up how you connect with others – pick up the phone, or schedule a Zoom, to call a handful of customers every day. Don’t forego a personal email that is not meant to sell a customer or colleague – but to check-in with them and see how they are doing. Technology is a fantastic tool that helps small businesses act big. The challenge is to make the technology connections feel more three-dimensional vs two-dimensional. Technology can help us be more efficient and productive, and while it can enhance our communication, it will never replace the incredible power of the human relationship. That part is up to you.  

Tech illustration by Sara Davidson for 360 Magazine

Tech Industry Billionaires

70% of the Top 10 Billionaires Generated Their Wealth from the Tech Industry.

Data researched by Trading platforms UK indicates that 70% of the top ten richest people amassed their wealth from the technology industry as of March 1, 2021. The top ten wealthiest individuals control a fortune of $1.14 trillion in total, with tech players accounting for $855.9 billion.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person globally with a fortune of $181 billion, followed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk at $174 billion. Microsoft founder Bill Gates ranks third with a fortune of $135 billion.

The report explains some of the underlying factors leading to the tech sector’s dominance of the top ten rich list. According to the research report:

“The dominance of the rich list by the technology industry figures also points to the sector’s resilience in times of crisis. Technology rose to prominence due to its ability to offer solutions to help people cope with the coronavirus crisis. For instance, during the health crisis, most billionaires in the sector like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos amassed more wealth as more people leveraged on e-Commerce platforms amid the lockdown and stay at home measures.”

The U.S. and China together host 49% of the top 500 billionaires globally.

Additionally, the findings reveal that the United States has the highest number of billionaires globally at 156, while China ranks second at 86. The two countries, therefore, account for 49% of the top 500 billionaires globally.

Germany is third with 28 billionaires followed by Russia at 24. Hong Kong and France follow, with each having 17 billionaires. The United Kingdom and India each have 16 billionaires. Canada is ninth with 15 billionaires while Sweden is tenth with 11 billionaires.

The analysis also shows that the tech industry has the highest number of billionaires globally at 84. Industrial ranks second with 56 billionaires followed by diversified at 50 while the consumer has 43 billionaires. Finance has 37 billionaires, while entertainment has the least billionaires at 10.

For further statistics and information, please visit this website.

Fast food article illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 MAGAZINE

KFC DIGITAL SALES INCREASE

KFC Owner Yum Brands Reports Digital Sales of $17 Billion in 2020, Up By 45% YoY

Despite the blow of pandemic restrictions in 2020, Yum Brands’ earnings for the year topped analysts’ estimates.

According to the research data analyzed and published by Stock Apps, the company’s Q4 2020 revenue grew by 3% year-over-year (YoY) to $1.74 billion, higher than the expected $1.72 billion. For the full year, digital sales rose by 45% to $17 billion.

Based on an NPD Group report, restaurant digital orders in the US shot up by 145% YoY in December 2020. By the end of the year, carry-out accounted for 46% of off-premises orders and drive-thrus got 44%.

US Digital Restaurant Market Sales Rose by 124% in 2020 to $45 Billion

Yum Brands launched a series of initiatives to speed up its digitalization process in 2020. For KFC, a new eCommerce ecosystem streamlined off-premises order handling. As a result, transaction times at the window reduced by 16 seconds in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 2019.

The Habit added curbside pickup, which accounted for 10% of all sales and 50% of mobile sales. Through its Go Mobile ecosystem, Taco Bell saw drive-thru transaction times drop below four minutes. Thanks to these investments, Pizza Hut saw an 18% growth in same-store sales from off-premise channels. Taco Bell reported a 12% digital sales mix while The Habit had a 40% sales mix from its digital platform.

McDonalds also benefitted from a shift to digital, generating $10 billion from online sales across its top six markets in 2020. They accounted for20% of the company’s total annual sales. Chipotle also posted a 177.2% YoY increase in digital sales during Q4 2020, reaching $781.4 million.

According to eMarketer, digital restaurant market sales in the US rose by 123.8% in 2020 to $44.94 billion. In 2021, it is projected to increase by 22.3% to $54.97 billion and in 2022, by16.3% to $63.93 billion.

By 2025, digital sales will account for 54% of limited and quick-service restaurant business according to a study by Incisiv.

The full story, statistics and information can be found here: https://stockapps.com/blog/2021/02/25/kfc-owner-yum-brands-reports-digital-sales-of-1-7-billion-in-2020-up-by-45-yoy/

Cityscape by Mina Tocalini for 360 Magazine

U.S. Smart City Initiatives

U.S. Smart City Initiatives Are Falling Short; New Report Calls for More Federal R&D and Coordination to Demonstrate and Deploy Artificial Intelligence Tools.

The next wave of connected and intelligent technologies—sensors, 5G, and artificial intelligence (AI)—promises to improve the energy efficiency of urban systems. AI, in particular, can help cities save money, address infrastructure needs, and reduce emissions. Yet, cities face significant challenges in researching, developing, demonstrating, and deploying AI and other smart technologies. A new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, shows that without greater federal involvement in R&D and better national coordination of demonstration and deployment activities, cities will fail to maximize the benefits AI offers.

“City governments ultimately must take the lead in deploying AI smart city applications, but there is an important role for the federal government in funding R&D and coordinating activities,” says Colin Cunliff, a senior policy analyst at ITIF and co-author of the report. “Some federal programs invest in AI or smart cities, but there are significant funding gaps in demonstration and deployment, and that’s because there is no cross-cutting vision or strategy. Increasing federal R&D funding and providing better coordination can drive adoption of AI technologies on a larger scale than cities can achieve working independently.”

The report details many potential applications of AI for smart cities in transportation, the electrical grid, buildings, and city operations that can ultimately make cities more efficient and help them reduce their environmental footprint. To overcome the obstacles of adopting AI, the report shows how United States can draw lessons from how other countries have tackled these challenges. For instance, Singapore has developed a “digital twin” of the island that the government, businesses, and researchers can use as a test bed to run simulations.

While the federal government has undertaken an array of activities to support the development of smart cities, the report notes that these efforts have mostly been uncoordinated, and the government has had no strategic vision for AI R&D, demonstration, and deployment of smart city technologies. Some federal government programs are investing in AI or smart cities, but significant funding gaps remain. There are also no cross-cutting AI and smart city initiatives.

“Smart city investment has been compromised during the COVID-19 pandemic because of revenue shortfalls. Even the most capable cities are struggling to overcome some of the obstacles they face in smart city development,” says Ashley Johnson, a policy analyst at ITIF and co-author of the report. “Increasing federal investment and coordination to jumpstart smart cities would address several challenges at once. Smart cities offer an important opportunity to address infrastructure needs, reduce emissions, and save money to ease strained state and local budgets.”

To view more of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation’s findings, read their report.

About ITIF

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. Recognized by its peers in the think tank community as the global center of excellence for science and technology policy, ITIF’s mission is to formulate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress. Learn more on their website.

Copyright article illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

The Basics to Avoiding Copyright Strikes On Your Social Media Accounts

Creating content that fuel your social media needs has never been easier and the production of any output can be completed with a minimum of fuss. So whenever you are putting together a great video post or sending out a new podcast, you may not take adequate notice of what perils may lay in store.

Given that we are pretty much glued to our devices 24/7, we can sometimes get caught up in the moment. You may be looking to become a key influencer and feel that you need to jazz up your content with a great musical soundtrack or you may just post something with extreme haste because you want to be ahead of the curve, but beware.

Posting content that includes copyright protected material, be that music of video, could well lead to a great deal of pain and suffering. The financial penalties for doing so are pretty huge and in some cases you could be risking imprisonment. 

However there is the additional, more likely, scenario which would involve you receiving a copyright strike on your account.

What is a Copyright Strike?

A copyright strike is one that is issued by an organization, in this case a social media channel such as YouTube, Facebook or TikTok, and you’ll receive this if they either believe you have committed a copyright offence or they’ve been informed that you have done so.

A strike in this instance is most likely to come in the form of a DMCA notice, the DMCA in this instance stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When receiving this strike you will be asked to prove you have the license needed to use the copyright protected media, such as music or video you may have used in your social media post.

On receiving these strikes, and some networks allow more than one before they act, you will be given a warning. However it’s likely that repeated violations will lead to your account being suspended and then deleted.

You Will Not Get Away With It

You may think that you can go ‘under the radar’ with your illegal use of copyright material but technology used by the likes of Facebook can single out these uses within a matter of seconds and the violations are dealt with on the spot.

Even if you feel you have been unfairly treated, perhaps believing that the music you are using was clear for use, the chances of you entering into a dialogue with any social media company are slim.

Most social networks make the prospect of reversing such copyright strikes next to impossible, they do so for two reasons. Firstly they know that entering into a conversation about potential violations would be hugely resource heavy for their site and secondly they don’t benefit from the resolution either way.

In other words the social media networks are more keen on avoiding any repercussions from mainstream music publishers of film production companies than assisting you in a case that is likely to fail.

How to Avoid a Copyright Strike?

The most common reason a social media user will use copyright protected music is that they feel that the use of a strong piece of music, or a sound effect, will increase the chance of their product being spread and virality achieved. 

However there are many great royalty-free music options where you can secure great songs and effects for a fraction of the cost of securing a license from recognized artists. 

Another additional benefit of subscribing to such a service is the vast libraries of great musical content that you have available, all to suit whatever need you wish to serve.

Royalty-free music providers essentially give you access, for a very small fee, to content that is free to be used as you wish and without any fear of a penalty or removal from the sites you use them on.

A big key to avoiding a copyright strike on the whole is the use of caution. Always be aware that whatever you post on your social media channels will be monitored and therefore behave with as much care as you possibly can.

A copyright strike isn’t something you can ignore and it’s something you should do your utmost to avoid. If you receive a strike it’s almost certainly justified and with any luck you may be fortunate to get away with a stern warning but more and more often this will result in a ban and possible additional censure and punishment.

If you are an individual who is seeking to become an influencer, or have a large audience who already follows your output, you simply can’t afford to be taken off the channels that you operate on, it’s simply not worth the risk or hassle.

Also, if you simply use social media for personal use, you still will greatly miss these channels if you are banned from using them. Always err on the side of vigilance when using any accompanying material for your posts, otherwise you may get a nasty surprise the next time you try to sign in to your accounts…

7 Noteworthy Figures in North American Horse Racing

Horse racing dates back to the year 1665, with the first racing event in North America being supervised by New York’s colonial governor, Richard Nicolls. The subsequent years saw many rising in the game, including jockeys, horse breeders, and ranchers. 

Businessmen like Eugene Melnyk came into the horse racing industry as a breeder and raised reputable horses. His prowess and progress in the field are only well explained on his website. North American horse racing jockeys were the most noteworthy figures.

Over the years, the jockeys rose and shone in the game that brought both the affluent and impoverished together. So, who are these noteworthy figures in the North American horse racing industry? Let’s find out below.

The Remarkable Figures of the North American Horse Racing Industry

Many notable persons behind the scenes made sure the North American horse racing industry ran smoothly. However, the most visible figures are the horse racing jockeys. Let’s have a look at some of them below.

  1. Angel Cordero Jr. 

With an 18% winning percentage and over $167,570,000 total earnings, Angel Cordero Jr. became the most famous jockey originating to originate from Puerto Rico. He was the only person from Puerto Rico to win each of the Triple Crown.

He won the Kentucky derby thrice. This earned him a space in history books as one of the eight jockeys who have ever won the Race of the Roses three or more times. 

Cordero had an accident that saw him retire in 1992 but still pulled together in 1995 when he held his farewell race. He earned an induction into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in 1988.

  1. Laffit A. Pincay Jr. 

Laffit Pincay Jr. was one jockey to watch, and his fellow competitors knew it. His resume was impressive, with 9,350 first-place finishes, a 20% winning percentage, and over $237,120,000 total earnings. 

He began his professional racing career in North America in 1966 after successful immigration from his native country, Panama. He has had a remarkable winning record in his racing career, which saw him gather the following winnings:

  • The Kentucky Derby in 1984
  • The Belmont Stakes in 1982, ’83, and ’84
  • The Santa Anita Derby seven times

Later on, he got inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1975 after he had retired.

  1. Russell A. Baze

Russell prides himself in a vibrant horse racing resume having finished first-place 12,842 times with a 24% winning percentage and bagging more than $199,334,000. He began his racing career back in 1974 and only recently hung his saddle in 2016.

When finishing his career, he decided to do it in a winning style. He made the most winnings there ever have been in the North American Thoroughbred Horse Racing history. He achieved these historical wins in December 2006. 

While making the historic wins in 2006, he was already on an impressive winning mission where he led all North American jockeys with 13 wins from 1992 to 2014. The Vancouver native was officially honored by an induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1999.

  1. Chris J. McCarron 

Chris J. McCarron is remembered for his stellar performance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. As many jockeys struggle to win one Breeders’ Cup Classic, the case was different for McCarron. He did win the race a quintet of times between 1988 and 2001. 

With 7,141 first-place finishes, 21% winning probabilities, and a total earning of $263,986,000, Chris became a household name in the North American horse racing duel. Some wonder why he has one of the highest total purses amounts the horse race has ever seen, but not until they see more of his achievements which include: 

  • Two victories at the Kentucky Derby
  • Two victories at the Belmont Stakes
  • Two victories at the Preakness Stakes

Chris McCarron was later, in 1989, inducted into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame. 

  1. Pat Day

Triple Crown Races were some of the coveted prizes in the North American horse racing championships. However, not all jockeys could pride themselves in winning as much as Day won in the Triple Crown. Day won nine Triple Crown races in his entire career, putting him in the spotlight as one of the most successful racers.

His 8,803 first-place finishes, 22% winning percentage, and a lump sum of more than $297,914,800 as total earnings bring him to the coveted list of successful jockeys. He also found great success at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, winning four times over 15 years. 

Pat Day had his induction into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in 1991.

  1. Bill Shoemaker 

Bill Shoemaker, popularly known as ‘The Shoe,’ started his riding career while a teenager back in 1949. Shoemaker is famously remembered for his 11 Triple Crown overall race wins and four Kentucky Derby wins. 

He achieved his Triple Crown race wins with the help of ten different horses. Damascus was the most successful one of the ten horses, helping him win two top 11 Triple Crown races. The two races he won while riding Damascus were the Belmonte Stakes and the Preakness Stakes in 1967. 

Shoemaker held the title of top winner in North American horse racing for 29 years in his entire career. He managed 8,833 first-place finishes, a total of $123,375,524 earnings, and maintained a 22% win rate. 

Before retiring as a jockey in 1990, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in 1958.

  1. Russell Baze 

While he may not be as high-profile as the other jockeys on the list, he boasts of the most winnings in the North American horse races. He managed about 13,000 first-place finishes in his career, at a 25% winning rate and more than $199,334,200.

He holds the record of most winners in a season and is a ten-time American champion jockey. He mastered the art of winning so much so that he could partner to victory, one of every four racehorses he rode on in his career. 

He might not have had a success story in the Triple Crown or Breeders’ Cup races, but he is worth the honors he received. However, he did participate in the Kentucky Derby and other Grade 1 races. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in 1999. 

Final Words

Current Jockeys, investors, and horse breeders have much work to do to match the quality of work those who went ahead of them did. Investor and horse breeder, Eugene Melnyk, has done great already in his quest to see the North American horse racing sports continue. Upcoming jockeys are also doing a commendable job to make the sport exciting and competitive.

Rita Azar illustration for entrepreneur article for 360 MAGAZINE

Art and design incubator at FIU develops entrepreneurial leaders in the creative sector

Quincy Chery is an artist, professional barber and a self-proclaimed “jack of all trades.” Growing up, he had a knack for creating one-of-a-kind products you could not find anywhere else. He has mass-produced a myriad of things ranging from phone cases and basketballs to his own original clothing line. 

While earning his undergraduate degree in art, Chery found a place that allowed him to not only structure and lay out his designs more clearly, but also to develop his own brick-and-mortar-store where he could sell his work. That place was the Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator (RA+DI) at Florida International University

FIU’s Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator is an innovative arts entrepreneurship space for teaching art and design students how to turn their ideas into profitable businesses.

Chery is now the proud owner of the Cutting Gallery, a barbershop and art gallery storefront in Miramar, Florida, where he cuts hair professionally, and sells his original creations and the work of other local artists around South Florida.

“Being involved in the incubator allowed me to meet and connect with some truly talented artists,” Quincy says. “And now with my store, I get to showcase and expose their work to the community. As an artist, one of the things that hinder us the most is, you can be talented, but no one sees your work. I have been able to take what I learned in school, and the connections I made, and combine them to benefit the art community.”

And he is just one of many success stories to come out of the incubator. 

The Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator launched in 2017, in collaboration with FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts and The Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation, with an initial cohort of eight fellows. 

Each year, the incubator selects a new cohort of fellows for a one or two-year residency to work with two faculty designers who operate their own on-site studios while also overseeing the fellows’ development of startup businesses or patents. Each fellow also receives a full scholarship during their residency.

The incubator is now on its fourth cohort.

Bridging the gap between talent and entrepreneurship:

The incubator’s focus on art and design sets it apart from other incubators. Fellows learn about the business side of an artistic operation, including marketing, running a company, seeking venture capital, scaling and packaging. They come to understand how their practice as designers and artists translates directly to business as they design, demonstrate, pitch and sell their products, combining experiential learning, fieldwork and professional networking.

“Entrepreneurship education within academic art and design departments has been introduced into our university curricula to prepare graduates to actively participate in the process of building creative economies in our distinct communities,” said Jacek Kolasiński, director of the RA+DI. “These initiatives have focused on a search for new strategies and prospects to empower young artists and designers to create more sustainable economic futures for themselves and foster their creative energies to re-envision our future and prepare them to solve society’s most pressing challenges.”

RA+DI trains students to become employers who will create jobs instead of having to seek employment. Additionally, there is a focus on developing entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds who design products for underrepresented communities.

Fellow Latricia Russell joined the incubator in 2018 and launched LR Beauty Co., her namesake beauty brand that offers professional makeup, skin therapy and hair braiding. She discovered the RA+DI while on her way to class one day and asked Kolasiński about renting out space for a beauty event she was hosting. Kolansińki ended up explaining how the fellowship program could actually grow her business and encouraged her to apply.

“I’m a thinker. I like to plan everything before taking action but participating in RA+DI has helped me to not just plan, but also how to act on my plans,” Russell said. “I feel more confident about testing my ideas and now affectionately refer to the incubator as ‘a space for doers.’”

After completing her fellowship and graduating from FIU, Russell had the skills she needed to convert her business from a travel studio experience, where she drove to and serviced clients on-location exclusively, to opening her own beauty studio. 

Art, design and technology all come together:

The Ratcliffe Incubator also uses its platform to help others understand how art, design and technology shape our world. And it is bringing these conversations right to people’s homes with its new podcast series titled “Ratcliffe Technology Conversations.” 

RA+DI director, Kolansińki, leads the series where he, along with guests, fellows, other artists and designers explore how technology merges in our world, our communities and all around us with topics ranging from NASA design and technology, to mangroves and the future of art and design during these unprecedented times.

“’RA+DI Technology Conversations’ is a program for everyone interested in technology and new tools to transform creative practices, business endeavors and personal lives,” Kolansińki says.

Its first episode “Mission to Mars” featured NASA project manager Andrew Johnson, who worked on Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN enables the Perseverance rover, which is set to land on Mars on February 18, 2021, to send back vital information of life on the planet. 

“Ratcliffe Technology Conversations” can be streamed on Spotify

 Philanthropic ties:

The late Philip and Carole Ratcliffe created the Ratcliffe Foundation in 2003 with a vision to provide access to education and training for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their ventures, create jobs and expand economic opportunities in local communities.

Based in Annapolis, Maryland, the Ratcliffe Foundation provides funds to institutions to encourage entrepreneurship in non-traditional business fields such as skilled trades, arts & design and aquaculture & environmental sciences. It strives to integrate its programs with local communities through mentorships and business involvement. 

“The FIU Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator aligns closely with our foundation’s vision and we are deeply pleased to support its mission to provide students in creative fields with the tools necessary to succeed as entrepreneurs,” said Carlene Cassidy, chief executive officer of the Philip E. & Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation.

The Ratcliffe Foundation donated an initial gift of $831,000 in 2017 to open the incubator at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami, followed by a secondary gift of $631,000. The gifts provided funding for the incubator for a three-year period, $450,000 in scholarships, monthly lecture series, state-of-the-art technology, office space, a small business library, market research assistance, legal and accounting support, seed capital programs and training.

Last November, the Ratcliffe Foundation awarded the incubator another $2.5 million gift to aid in the incubator’s mission of developing diverse, entrepreneurial leaders in the creative sector and boost South Florida’s economy. 

The gift also supports micro-credentialing, co-curricular and experiential programming, and competition and entrepreneurship showcases, among other initiatives.

“This new four-year commitment from the Ratcliffe Foundation is a testament to the success of the early stages of this program and to its bright future. We are deeply grateful to the Foundation for its partnership as we continue to elevate and expand the Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator,” said Oliver Ionita, CARTA’s senior director of development.

Helping in a time of need:

Early last year, the foundation also provided an additional emergency grant of $10,000 for the purchase of five 3-D printers that allowed the incubator to print more than 1,000 face shields for local healthcare workers in conjunction with FIU’s Miami Beach Urban Studios and College of Engineering & Computing

It gave the RA+DI fellows a unique opportunity to learn how to produce essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and serve the community.

Some RA+DI fellows also used the opportunity to expand their own fellowship business projects to help the community during the height of the pandemic.

Arina Polyanskaya took her business project, Re-dress — which focuses on repurposing second-hand clothing into custom fabric squares for furniture designs, pet beds and more — and created face masks for the community. With the help and support from the Ratcliffe Incubator, Polyanskaya created more than 50 masks in just four weeks. 

“A family member of mine works in a local hospital and, since the beginning of quarantine, she’s been really concerned with the amount of protective wear available for health care workers, as well as for the general public,” Polyanskaya adds. “Making fabric squares felt inappropriate with this pandemic going on, so I thought there must be a way to utilize my skills and materials in assisting with controlling the spread of the virus. And I found it through sewing face masks.”

Other fellows provided the community with a much-needed escape amidst the pandemic through their art.

Denis Rovinsky opened his own art studio and shared virtual exhibitions for the public to enjoy. His work focuses on kinetic installations that use sound and light as a means of expression. Growing up in Russia, Rovinsky didn’t think a career as an artist was in his future, but he says the incubator helped him learn to think like an entrepreneur and “show him the path to becoming an artist without starving to do it.”

Whether it is current or former fellows, this one-of-a-kind incubator based in South Florida, is giving artists and designers a look into the business world and a space to turn their ideas into reality while creating their own employment opportunities.  

remote learning illustration by Kaelen Felix

What social media tools can do for your business?

Are you sick of being stuck with no growth on social media? Are you new to social media and looking to grow your business using it? 

Traditional marketing is long dead and far gone–TV advertising, newspaper ads, and road-side billboards are all outdated. Social media has now replaced all of that by making online marketing the norm when it comes to brand promotion. Currently, there are three different platforms that are dominating the social media space–Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok–and they all have their own unique qualities to offer each individual or business. 

If you are thinking about using social media to get your business up off the ground, here are a few tools that you might need to become even more successful.

Why should you use social media? 

Social media, while having been around for a long time in its various different forms, has become the most popular it has even been in the past 10 years or so. This is due the fact that so many more people now have access to mobile devices and Wi-Fi connection. This means that by marketing your brand on social media, your business has the potential to reach millions upon millions of people, if marketed in a desirable manner. Not only will you be able to reach a larger audience, but this audience can be international as well. 

Traditional marketing can tend to be quite pricy. However, social media marketing–unless you’re putting in a bit of extra cash to help you–can literally be completely free. Most social media sites require no sign-up or membership fee, and are completely free platforms. 

On social media it is easy to create brand awareness by following trends and seeing what other people are looking for, which will eventually contribute to the organic growth of your accounts and brand. One of the best benefits of social media marketing is that it can increase traffic to your website, which will ultimately put more money in your pocket. 

Which one is right for you?

There is a relatively large variety of social media platforms, although it is recommended to stick to the most popular ones. Having so many options doesn’t need to overwhelm you though, it’s all about knowing your target demographic and style. All social media platforms are unique and can have different, individual focuses dependent on your particular brand.

This mean that between platforms, the target demographic and and style of communication are completely different. For instance, Instagram is a place where the millennials hang out. Everyone has their own aesthetically pleasing feed to look at and every post is designed down to the very last detail, whereas TikTok is far more laid back and dominated by Gen Z kids. These short form videos can literally be anything you think of. Most of TikTok is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as Instagram, but it is more authentic and fun. 

All the different platforms require different kinds of interaction from both the brand owner and the followers, from commenting and liking, to following, and even direct messaging. With Instagram having over 900 million users, Twitter, with an average of 152 million, and TikTok reaching an insane number of just over 1 billion users, these platforms are the best social media option for business and brands to promote themselves as they are all relevant and very popular. 

Twesocial 

One of the most important things when it comes to twitter marketing, is expanding the amount of people your marketing reaches. This can be difficult because the number of brands making use of Twitter tools to promote their businesses is rising dramatically, and those who began earlier probably have an advantage. Twesocial is an organic Twitter marketing service that was launched in 2016 to help users grow their account with real Twitter followers, without too much effort and time wasted. 

Twesocial will manage practically every aspect of your account from posting and posting times, hashtags, user interaction, and growing your follower base. Using a service like Twesocial can be very helpful when it comes to trying to get your brand account off the ground because initially it can be hard to be noticed in a sea of other content creators. Twesocial takes away all the hard work, only leaving you with the task of creating your own content. 

Task Ant

Instagram hashtags are such a prominent tool that should be used when social media marketing however, most people don’t really know how to use them correctly or which ones to use. Task Ant, launched in 2019, is a hashtag app that allows you to find the best hashtag for your content, as well as provide solutions to previous hashtag mistakes. 

Making use of an app like this can enable growth for your business by increasing your content’s engagement and reach. There are two different price options: the solo package for those looking to get started, and the growth package to maximize hashtag use. There is something for everybody.  

TokUpgrade

TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms around, which also means that it might be a bit more difficult to get your content noticed. Much like Twesocial, TokUpgrade, launched in 2020, claims to increase profile views and visits through organic engagement. They can increase your engagement and target your audience to get real TikTok followers through a series of specific questions, as well as engage with your followers to keep them interested. 

Tok upgrade also comes with two different packages, the regular and the pro, which can either be paid weekly or monthly. It is important to note that this service is a little more costly than the others, but is definitely worth it in the long run as the potential for your brand’s growth is endless.

Gaming illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

Counter-Strike: The Shooting Game Taking The World By Storm

Counter-Strike began life as a fan-made modification for Valve Corporation’s much-acclaimed title Half-Life 2. Created by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe, Counter-Strike was acquired by Valve in 1999 and saw its first retail release later on that year. Whilst it has never been the commercial behemoth that a series such as Call of Duty has become over the years, Counter-Strike has managed to establish itself as one of the most recognisable faces in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre of gaming, with three major sequels and various spin offs titles, the latest of which, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, was released back in 2012. 

Valve have established themselves as one of the best in the business for continuing to support their games with constant tweaks and updates to keep things feeling fresh and optimised, and this has proven to be the cornerstone for Counter-Strike’s enduring popularity within the video gaming community. 

It has also been one of the biggest driving forces for the Counter-Strike franchise being able to flex itself as the most successful FPS title in the world of competitive gaming, and a huge driving force behind its growth as a multi-billion dollar industry over the past twenty years. With the series continuing its soar in popularity ahead of 2021, here’s everything you need to know about Counter-Strike: the shooting game taking the world by storm. 

Gameplay 

The Counter-Strike series has built a legacy for emphasising team play, communication, planning and short sharp bursts of action, rather than the all-out action approach of competitor titles such as Call of Duty. Whichever game in the series you play, simply running around and trying to kill opponents is not an option at a reasonable skill level. 

The game pits two teams of five players against each other on a map in a best of thirty match. Rounds last 1:55 and teams are split into either the T (Terrorist) or CT (Counter-Terrorist) side. Terrorists can win rounds by either killing the entire enemy team or successfully planting and defending a bomb until it detonates after a forty second countdown. There are two bombsites on every defusal map, and Counter-Terrorists can win rounds by either killing the enemy team before a bomb is planted, waiting out the round timer without the bomb being planted, or defusing the bomb once it has been placed. 

Teams are given an economy for each round that they have to manage, meaning that planning ahead, saving weapons, choosing between armour, utility and weaponry each round can be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of games even before a bullet is fired. 

All these factors have helped Counter-Strike develop one of the highest skill ceilings found anywhere in the gaming world, and subsequently developed an hyper-competitive professional scene.

Counter-Strike In Esports

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest game in the series and, despite being over eight years old now, has actually seen its numbers soar over the past year or so. Not only is it one of the most watched games on online streaming platforms such as Twitch.tv with hundreds of thousands of hours digested by viewers, but 2020 saw it peak past the one million concurrent player mark several times for the first time in its history. As of February 2021, the game averages roughly 24 million users a month, over double the amount recorded in 2016. 

For the first time in the franchise’s history, Global Offensive was moved to a free to play model by Valve in 2018 and can still be picked up and played for absolutely nothing via Steam even today. 

Naturally, with so many players and so much interest, the competitive scene for the game is one of the most heavily invested in and fleshed out in the entire Esports industry. CS:GO betting has become increasingly popular for events and tournaments right across the world and, thanks to the influx of investment from the likes of Intel, Monster, Alienware and even the United States Air Force, the standard for competition hosting has risen substantially over the past couple of years. 

The very first Counter-Strike tournament was hosted in 2001 for the original game in the series at the Cyberathlete Professional League, and the likes of the World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World Cup hosted Counter-Strike tournaments in the early to mid 2000s as the Esports industry grew. It wasn’t until the release of Global Offensive in 2012 however that the industry really began to ramp up, coinciding with the boom in popularity of games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends. 

Valve began hosting the very first Major Championship for the game in 2013 at DreamHack Winter, and have gone on to host two annual tournaments ever since. These tournaments tend to carry with them a prize pool of $1 million dollars and are still regarded as the most prestigious events in the game to this day. 

Computer illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Echo Dominates Voice Assistant Market

20% of US Adults Own an Amazon Echo

The smart home technology industry has grown incredibly in the last decade with homes becoming more and more interconnected than ever before. The most popular smart home device by far is the smart speaker, with Amazon’s Echo dominating its competitors. According to data presented by Trading Platforms, 20% of Americans surveyed indicated owning Amazon’s Echo with Google Nest as its closest competitor at only 8%.

Smart Speakers with Voice Assistant Systems – Most Popular Smart Home Device

The smart home trend has been on the rise in recent years as more and more household gadgets become interconnected. The industry’s strength is reflected by revenue projections for 2021, with the smart home market projected to record just under $1 billion in revenue for the coming year. Smart speakers, specifically those with voice-integrated assistants like Amazon’s Echo, are the most popular form of smart home devices. It is estimated that in 2020 there were 128 million voice assistant users in the US with that number projected to grow to close to 136 million by 2022.

Of those who said they owned a smart home device in the US 28% indicated that they owned a smart speaker – the biggest share among the different types of smart home devices. This popularity is not limited to the US, similarly, in the UK 29% of smart home device owners owned a form of a voice-assistant smart speaker.

Amazon Echo Dominates Smart Speaker Market Competitors Google and Apple

Amazon’s Echo was first released in 2014 and quickly became the standard-bearer for the smart speaker market. The Echo makes use of Amazon’s voice assistant system, Alexa. In January 2019 the company announced that it had sold over 100 million Echo smart speakers, passing an important milestone. In a survey from Q3 of 2020, over 20% of 4000+ respondents in the US indicated that they owned Amazon’s Echo.

This number is even made more impressive by comparing it to its two main competitors, Google’s Nest (formerly Google Home) which uses the Google Assistant system and Apple’s HomePod which uses its Siri voice assistant system. In the same survey, only 8.1% indicated owning Google’s Nest while only 2% owned Apple’s HomePod. Amazon’s dominance over its two main competitors is even more apparent with a further breakdown of the smart speaker market share. 74% of 1000+ smart speaker owners in the US, owned the Amazon Echo, while in the UK a similar 77% of 600+ smart speaker owners indicated that they owned the Echo.

You can read more about the story with more statistics and information here