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Stuff Worth Reading – October 2017

Stuff Worth Reading – October 2017

Stuff Worth Reading – October 2017

Welcome to our third post highlighting articles relevant to entrepreneurs in New England and beyond. As you enjoy this gorgeous New England fall, please let us know if you find an article you would like to have us feature by sending it along to Baiyin at Ascent. And join us on Twitter at Baiyin Zhou (@BaiyinVC) and Eric Schultz (@ericebs).

Industry Themes

Between Equifax, Yahoo, and WannaCry, we’ve got cybersecurity on our minds. So should you. A couple of notes:

  • Read this from Anna Slomovic, former Equifax Chief Privacy Officer, for an easy read about Equifax’s business for context about how they were breached and handled the situation.
  • Three quarters of North American utility executives believe there is a moderate chance that the electrical grid in their nation will be attacked in the next five years.
  • Gartner has cited a 1 million talent shortage for security roles. Here’s how Sentara Healthcare is building a pipeline of cybersecurity talent: recruit part-time or intern students from universities and high schools and have them work alongside your internal security team or MSSP. Other ideas: create a rotational program, recruit from your IT team, allow for remote working, and actively promote a diverse workforce.

Airport retail is booming, writes Daniel Gross in “Your Misery at the Airport is Great For Business.” “Selling electronics, books, clothes, food, and services in U.S. airports is a booming business,” he adds, and “globally, airport retail sales rose 4 percent in 2016. . . .”  Speaking of retailing, for those of you fortunate enough to see Promoboxx CEO Ben Carcio’s opening to the company’s Align 2017 conference last month, you’ll know that even outside of the airport, big box may be going e-commerce, but e-commerce is going big box. Just check out Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and investment in new bookstores, and Alibaba’s doubling down on its supermarket strategy. “We believe the future of New Retail will be a harmonious integration of online and offline,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group. Amazon is also at the center of a tussle with luxury brands, reports the Wall Street Journal, because the company’s “online marketplace undermines the strict control” that luxury brands say “is key to maintaining a sense of exclusivity—and keeping prices high.”

McKinsey’s article on China’s Digital Economy: A Leading Global Force” reminds us that China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, has 11 times the mobile payments of the U.S., and had an active venture capital market for leading technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence. And the country’s digital leaders are growing through acquisition, often of Western companies. “Over the past two years,” the article reports, “China’s top 3 Internet companies made 35 overseas deals, compared with 20 by the top three US Internet companies.”

Tom Rikert at TechCrunch believes that AI is coming off a hype curve, and that the next phase will be “all about substance over flash.” In AI Hype Has Peaked So What’s Next,” the author says investors have identified four key attributes, or “moats,” for winning AI businesses: proprietary data, team domain expertise, workflow position, and customer value. Meanwhile, PwC offers a framework for thinking through AI strategy in “Artificial Intelligence is Coming. Is Your Business Ready?,” estimating that AI will drive GDP gains of $15.7 trillion by 2030. And to help things along, just across the Charles, IBM and MIT Announce New AI Lab” to be called the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab which will be funded, according to author Larry Loeb, with a $240 million investment over the next 10 years.


Are you thinking about starting your own company, but all you’re seeing is blog posts about how to calculate LTV/CAC or how to do performance reviews – and instead you’re just wondering “how do I get started?” We just came across the Startup Cheat-Sheet series, the first post being: “How to Incorporate Your Company.” Another good Boston resource for new companies is NextView’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech.

For those of you especially proud of your EQ scores, it may come as a shock that emotional intelligence is overrated. This is according to a study done on hundreds of salespeople comparing the effects of EQ vs. cognitive ability (ability to learn). Cognitive ability is more than five times more powerful emotional intelligence when it comes to job performance, even in emotionally demanding work.

And for some simple but effective management tools to use in the workplace, check out Leah Fessler’s Google Is Sharing Its Management Tools With The World.” Tools include a Career Conversation Worksheet and Manager Feedback Survey.

Stuff We Liked

Would it surprise you to find that employees spend 28% of their time at the office responding to, reading or composing emails? In “Stop Letting Your Email Control Your Work Day,” HBR shows us a time management framework for how to make email for YOU instead of the other way around. Cal Newport, a computer scientist at the University of Georgetown, is spotlighted in one of my favorite podcast episodes of Hidden Brain: Deep Work.” He makes an even stronger case that letting email guide our workday, we are weakening our ability to do the most challenging and valuable work (deep work).

And In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is For Losers,” Dan Lyons challenges the “outgrind, outhustle, outwork” mentality of many start-ups by pointing to research by Stanford economist John Percavel that says “working beyond 56 hours in a week adds little productivity.” (The research is here.) We all agree that hard work and dedication are keys ingredients to success, but not at the cost of family and sanity. Likewise, over at Time, Arianna Huffington offers 10 Ways to Actually, Finally Improve Company Culture.” The list includes “end the burnout delusion,” another plea, like Lyons, for “taking care of human capital.”

Finally, if you’re looking for new reads from local authors, Scott Kirsner reviews two recent books by Boston entrepreneurs in Two Ways You Can Attain Workplace Nirvana. Or Something Like It.” One book, Reimagining Work, is from the founders of Boston start-up Catalant, and the other is by Boston VC Jeffrey Bussgang, called “Entering StartUpLand.”

Upcoming Event

Join us at Ascent Venture Partner’s B2B Forum: Secrets to a Successful Corporate-Startup Relationship. Startups and large corporations are increasingly relying on each other via strategic and technology partnerships in order to effectively innovate or compete in the market. Hear from our esteemed panelists from LogMeIn, PTC, Cisco, Carbonite, and Aqua Security on how to navigate that startup-corporate relationships. It’s on Oct 25 in Boston and it’s free. Register here!

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