Monthly Archives: October 2016

Writing Feature Films

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Bryan Elliott sits down with comedy duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, best known for their YouTube channel Smosh, which currently boasts over 22 million subscribers. In December 2016, the pair also released a feature film called Ghostmates, available on YouTube Red — not bad for a group that started out by filming their own skits.

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on Amazon FireRoku, Apple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and coming soon to Android devices. 

When trust enters the scene, you automatically begin to get leads from the people who read your business blog. Without mincing words, Hubspot gets almost all their major leads from their business blog, and they have been able to grow their email list to a gigantic 300,000 vibrant marketers. Now, that’s a lot of potential clients right there.

All this happened as a result of providing a solution — which the Hubspot blog was readily doing. When your business starts a blog and focuses on answering every issue a potential visitor will have, you’ve instantly won a customer.

Americans knowledge of online safety

How much do you know about keeping your data and information safe?

A new study from Pew Research Center finds that even amid high profile hacks on businesses and institutions that affect millions, many Americans don’t have a comprehensive understanding about what precautions need to be taken to prevent cybersecurity breaches. And perhaps it is unsurprising, but Pew says that “those with higher levels of education and younger internet users are more likely to answer cybersecurity questions correctly.”

Of the 1,055 people polled in an online survey in June 2016, 75 percent of adults were able to select the strongest password — no words from the dictionary and is a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols — from a list of four options. And 73 percent know that even if a public Wi-Fi network is password protected, you still should probably wait to pay off your credit card at home instead of in line for a coffee.

Related: The Worst Hacks of 2017 — So Far

Meanwhile, 54 percent of internet users could ID an example of a phishing attack, and 52 percent were correct in saying that that if you turn off your phone’s GPS function, the device can still be tracked.

When it came to questions around encryption, the number of those who got the answers right decreased again. Forty-six percent accurately answered that email is not encrypted by default and that Wi-Fi traffic isn’t encrypted by default on every wireless router.

Related: 4 Easy Ways to Protect Your Company From a Cyber Attack

Additionally, 39 percent knew that internet service providers have access to their customers  search history even if they are in private browsing mode. And while two-factor authentication is often a first step in preventing breaches, only 10 percent of adults were able to choose the one example of a multi-factor authentication process.

For the full survey results, you can head over to the Pew site and test your own knowledge with an interactive quiz that the center has made to accompany the results of the study.

Technology more accessible to women

Does the thought of using tech for your business want to make you swipe left? Jessica Naziri, the CEO and founder of TechSesh wants to change that. When the former Los Angeles Times technology reporter started covering tech for her job, she discovered most of the people reviewing gadgets designed for women were men. Named as one of the most influential women in technology, the former journalist turned entrepreneur is empowering women in technical fields. Her reviews give women a voice in an industry that needs to know “pink is not a strategy.” Naziri sat down with Jessica Abo to share advice for other women who are thinking about starting their own business, and looking to navigate today’s technology with a distinctly feminine eye.

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical and provides partners with distribution on Entrepreneur.com as well as our apps on Amazon FireRoku and Apple TV.

Speaking of smartphones, the future of banking is here. You can now use your mobile device to do just about all your banking on the go — from opening an account to tracking your spending to freezing and unfreezing your credit cards, and more. You can even have your own automated financial adviser provide advice on where and how to invest your savings smartly, at a fraction of the cost charged by traditional banks.

New Investors to Real Estate

Real estate has been a volatile market over the last decade, leaving many people wary of investing in residential and commercial properties. As a result, would-be investors are looking at the market differently and using new strategies to achieve success.

Technology has been a major factor in that shift, empowering investors to research their options remotely, compare and contrast different investment strategies through online tools and ultimately make transactions with limited professional help. Here are three trends that are helping to bring new investors to the space.

1. Data-driven investing.

As big data becomes more useful for the public, the real estate industry has been looking for ways to gather and present information that will help drive purchasing behavior. Bill Lyons is the founder and CEO of Revestor, a real estate search engine that provides data to help evaluate investment properties. “In the past, real estate investors needed access to the MLS, rental income data, expenses like HOA fees, occupancy rate, insurance, taxes, mortgage calculators and the sale price of homes sold nearby,” Lyons explains. “Then they would have needed to input all of those numbers into a spreadsheet to analyze the potential value of a property. Now you can do all of that with a few simple steps online.”

While data has been a hot consumer trend in other industries, real estate has been slow to catch on. In most industries, big data adds immense value, increases revenue and pushes the industry forward. In the case of real estate, however, professionals have less motivation to make big data available to the public because it infringes on their expert knowledge and value to the consumer.

But that is likely more perception than reality. Data-driven investing shouldn’t replace real estate professionals — it should help them become more specialized. “It allows investors to quickly analyze investments from a buy-and-hold perspective, utilizing a long-term rental or short-term rental strategy, or from a fix-and-flip perspective,” Lyons says. “Realtors can then market these investments to their existing databases and new prospective clients.”

Realtors empowered by a more comprehensive set of data can spend less time researching and more time selling.

2. Short-term rentals bringing new investors to the table.

As apps such as Airbnb and VRBO continue to grow in popularity, more and more people are looking to invest in short-term rental properties. Some experts are critical of short-term rental properties as investments because they operate differently than traditional holdings. Akira Mori, a Tokyo-based real estate expert, offers a different point of view. “In my experience, in the real estate business, past success stories are generally not applicable to new situations,” Mori says. “We must continually reinvent ourselves, responding to changing times with innovative new business models.”

Millennials are a group of potential investors that have begun to reinvent the real estate market. They are hesitant to purchase real estate because of the market fluctuations they lived through while they were young. But millennials are avid users of services such as Airbnb and consequently are drawn to investing in the same way. Since they are the generation that has driven the growth of the short-term rental market online, they have experiential knowledge of the industry.

A study from NAH revealed that 48 percent of millennials want to buy a home in the near future, but 53 percent of them would struggle with financing due to student debt. If provided with the data on potential returns, millennials may be willing to invest in a short-term rental property more than a traditional home.

 

3. Untapped potential.

The success of residential-driven applications demonstrates how much the industry can grow if it leverages technology to open up the market to new consumers. A report from the Federal Reserve shows that real estate is by far the largest asset for the United States, coming in at $40 trillion. There is enormous potential for entrepreneurs to create financial freedom by tapping into that market.

Know the great app for your new project

With total app revenues projected to grow from $45.37 billion in 2015 to $76.52 billion in 2017, almost anybody would be interested in becoming a developer and tapping into that kind of growth.

While we all use software and apps, though, most of us only use the ones that are quite popular. Given that there are more apps today than any of us can count, it’s only rational to stick with the ones we know are successful.

For a developer looking to break into an industry where novelty has waned and innovation is the new cool, understanding the secrets of successful developers is vital for success. Let’s explore five things that successful app developers consider before creating a new app.

 

1. The end-user

It’s quite weird that consumers want to think less as technology advances, but the most successful tech companies understand this and have designed their apps and services to make even a toddler feel smart. Look at Google: It’s so simple, you’d wonder how it became such a giant company.

But don’t be fooled. Developers put relentless amount of hard work into creating that extremely simple app on your smartphone.

To build a very successful app that your users will fall in love with and remain addicted to, you have to think for them. This means making everything readily available at the swipe of the screen without making your creation lose its appeal.

 

2. Elements of surprise

Surprise is one of the reasons successful games sit well with users. Game developers tend to use this better.

In Heartstone Heroes of Warcraft, for example, players have to unlock five different game modes — a technique that keeps the curiosity of the players on high.

Another example is Pokémon Go, where players keep discovering new things to stay engaged.

 

3. Audience before app

A lot of newbie developers just create their apps and expect the audience to come.

Those who intend to build a real business around their product go after the audience first. Again, Pokémon Go already had an audience base to target. The franchise has been around for roughly two decades and has fans across several age borders.

Without an existing audience, even a brilliant app needs a lot of marketing to go viral.

It’s easier to use a variety of the following strategies to build up an audience that would eventually help spread the word about your app before it’s ready to launch to the market:

  • Teasing. Give your audience a sneak peek, but make sure all patents and copyright licenses are taken care of beforehand so no one can run away with your idea.
  • Piggyback on successful apps. Focus on key areas that developers have gotten wrong and win their audience to your side.
  • Build an Email List. This is perhaps the most powerful way to build an audience. By growing an active subscriber base and using a tested email marketing service, releasing your app to your subscribers will give you instant success.

 

4. Emotional connection

The user must feel a connection with the app. We find it hard to resist checking Facebook every five minutes because we want to connect with our loved ones.

The power of emotional connection — whether that be the connection to family and friends that Facebook employs or the nostalgia you feel when playing Pokémon Go — is important in creating a successful app.

Mobile Friendly Lead Generation Forms

Customer onboarding is by far the most important goal of online presence. The problem is that when dealing with mobile traffic, you are limited to small screens and mobile device functionality. Creativity becomes necessary to get around the issue. You only have one chance to make a good impression, yet you have to get your message across.

 

Why care?

Mobile traffic is rapidly on the rise. A1QA claims that in 2014 the number of mobile-connected devices exceeded the world’s overall population and estimates there will be 11.5 billion mobile devices by 2019. Marketing Land reports that mobile now represents 65 percent of all digital media time. Furthermore, by 2019, mobile advertising is estimated to represent 72 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending.

According to Email Monday, mobile email opens have grown by 180 percent in the last three years. That being said, it’s no longer a case of asking whether mobile optimization is important. It’s clear that it is. The question is how to optimize for mobile devices to convert your mobile site visitors into buyers or subscribers.

 

KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The first bit of advice is the most basic, and something that we should keep in mind in all steps of the mobile-friendly design process — keep things simple. Lead generation forms are already running the risk of being crowded and over stimulating. They can take focus from the general UI of the website or act against the intuitive nature of gesture movements and brand choices.

When you have your first version, take some time to go through your lead generation form properly. Try and keep a fresh perspective, as though you were a user who had never seen it before. Do you find the form cumbersome? Does it look good and clean? Is the information well organized and easy to understand? Is there a step you wouldn’t have needed explained, or that was redundant?

Simplify the forms based on these questions, until you have stripped it down to the minimum.

 

Avoid being aggressive.

Having too many sales prompts can really work against you. No one wants to be aggressively sold to. If you put in too many overlay purchase reminders, you are not likely to get those sales. The user will probably just leave and find an alternative that doesn’t invade their headspace.

Keep in mind that pop-up calls-to-action may affect your mobile rankings too. Since January of this year, Google has been penalizing sites that use intrusive popup forms for mobile users.

Opt-in forms that cover the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results or while they are looking through the page, have been defined as intrusive. Google doesn’t want to send mobile users to pages that provide a poor user experience.

Having a negative impact on businesses

It’s easy to say that enterprise software has made great strides. After all, it’s hard not to marvel at the progress that’s been made over the last several decades, as businesses have transitioned from using paper and pencil to programs in the cloud in order to manage their operations.

But if we take a closer look at more recent technological progress, we realize that the movement from on-premise to off-premise was the last major transition in enterprise software. No true transformation has occurred since then. And new data suggests that the current lapse in further innovation in the enterprise software space has resulted in significant consequences for today’s businesses.

Related: 17 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2017

In fact, while the migration to the “cloud” in the form of subscription-based software (SaaS) made big software more affordable and accessible by overcoming distribution and financial hurdles, it did very little to address the fundamental end-user challenges.

It’s not just a matter of waiting for the next wave of innovation to make life a little easier for businesses. According to a recent survey of over 500 business and IT executives by my company, TrackVia, the absence of progress with current enterprise software is having a negative impact on businesses. Worse, it’s cited as preventing company growth.

The survey revealed that traditional enterprise software — whether installed on local servers or delivered via the internet — lacks the capabilities they say they need most, and illustrates the four ways that today’s enterprise software is failing businesses.

 

1. Few options for customization and scalability

Inflexibility and an overall lack of adaptability was one of the top software challenges cited by executives. Current enterprise software solutions offer few options to customize or tailor applications to the unique needs of different businesses. Businesses need the ability to easily and quickly change, modify and scale software as they grow and their operations evolve. The inability to do this was also cited as a major frustration.

 

These rigid limitations are having a negative impact on how businesses operate. In fact, more than four out of five (82 percent) executives claim they’ve had to change the way their business operates to match their enterprise software.

This lack of customization is forcing organizations to rip out and replace legacy systems, as they struggle to find a solution that is more capable of meeting their needs. Seventy-six percent say they’ve switched software programs because they needed updates or customizations made that their vendor could not execute or the software itself could not accommodate. Unsurprisingly, the time, money and resources wasted as a result of this reality only continues to fuel the growing discontent among company leaders.

 

2. A lack of mobile functionality

The promise of off-premise software was accessibility. Businesses without the resources of behemoth enterprises could gain access to the applications that could power their business and allow it to run more efficiently.

But the rise of mobile means the world has changed dramatically since off-premise software first arrived. Business doesn’t just take place in an office, at a desk or even from 9 to 5 each weekday. With a growing mobile workforce, companies simply need a way to enable productive work, regardless of where employees are physically located.

Related: 4 Easy Ways to Protect Your Company from a Cyber Attack

That means there’s a new expectation for accessibility, and it’s not just having access to software — it’s the ability to access it anywhere, anytime, with or without an internet connection. Furthermore, native mobile features that elevate remote work, such as offline mode, signature capture, geo-location tags, barcode scanning, picture taking and the like, are becoming the new standard for enterprise mobile apps.

We found that 65 percent of executives said a lack of mobile functionality made it difficult for them to use their software programs. In today’s digital age, the demand for software that provides sophisticated mobile capabilities does not seem to be going away anytime soon.

 

3. Limited integration and compatibility

The ubiquity and accessibility of cloud and SaaS solutions is becoming a double-edged sword for some businesses. On the upside, there are more software solutions than ever before to power businesses. But the downside is that executives say disparate and disconnected solutions are creating their own challenges.

A lack of integration and compatibility with other software and applications is one of the top challenges of enterprise software. Siloed information and disjointed processes are quickly becoming a thorn in the side of enterprises of all sizes.

Department as a Cost Center

In modern business, departments not directly related to operations have had to fight to demonstrate their value. Marketing departments have been the go-to scapegoat, but information technology (IT) departments haven’t been far behind. In a recent survey conducted by CIO magazine, half of IT leaders surveyed said their departments were seen primarily as “cost centers” — meaning they do not add to profits.

 

But a reality check is needed here because a company’s IT department should be one of its major profit drivers. A 2016 Deloitte Growth Enterprise Services poll of 500 mid-market executives found that IT department leaders were responsible for 49 percent of technology adoption, compared to 36 percent a year earlier. In fact, IT departments are becoming more and more strategic, and technology is becoming a more reliable investment.

Clearly, then, there’s a disconnect there: IT teams are playing a key role in moving businesses forward, but their department heads still claim they’re seen as a sieve in the budget.

Yet, CIOs and IT departments play a much bigger role in business than they’re often given credit for, and that needs to change.

 

More about that IT reality check

If an attitude shift is in order, it’s executives and entrepreneurs who are in the most ideal position to bridge that gap and shift their (and their companies’) perspective, from viewing the IT function as a necessary evil to viewing these departments as innovation hubs.

The purpose for doing that isn’t to give them a warm fuzzy feeling, because there’s actually a lot more at stake. In a world reliant on and connected by technology, IT is vital to operations. Lacking IT resources is the same as lacking the machinery or manpower necessary to produce a product or service. A company simply can’t function without it.

And the “tech nerds in front of their computers all day” stereotype is exhausted and clichéd.

CIOs and IT departments are really agents for change and innovation. They create new, more efficient processes and provide solutions to stagnant operations. Hiring or partnering with an IT team means you have people whose primary focus is on innovation — and that’s essential in the hyper-competitive market accompanying today’s influx of entrepreneurs.

 

Removing cost from the thought process

Rethinking your IT department gives these professionals room to demonstrate the kind of innovation they’re really capable of. Here’s how to start:

1. Try to learn the basics of IT. Nothing will generate appreciation of your IT department faster than learning firsthand about these people’s jobs and the (seemingly endless) complexities they deal with daily. They may be more experienced and are being paid to be the experts, but even a rudimentary understanding of what IT encompasses will lead to a greater appreciation for the department.

Fifth Third Bank CEO and President Greg Carmichael began his journey as the bank’s CIO, and he credits his time in that role for teaching him crucial problem-solving and multitasking abilities. “CEOs today have to solve multiple problems at once,” he says, “and they need to understand disruptive technologies and how they apply to their current businesses. I am a stronger CEO as a result of my time as a CIO.”

If you’re looking to dip your toes into the tech world, Lynda.com is a great resource for learning about IT. Many universities also offer relatively cheap courses on IT-related subjects, but another option is to simply ask your IT department questions about what they do and how they think they can improve things.

They’re often eager to talk about their work and will appreciate the interest.

2. Integrate IT into your company — not only strategically, but physically. Too often, the IT department is relegated to some back room, hidden out of sight. Physically integrating it with the rest of the company by moving IT’s offices and workspaces to a more central location will allow you and your other employees to see IT’s contributions to your operations up close.

Walmart is making just such a change to its technology division, merging corporate IT with its technology groups responsible for ecommerce development. Part of the motivation stems from an initiative to quickly identify ways of combining physical and online shopping, to put IT in a position to contribute more directly to business growth.

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is incredibly pertinent in this instance. The people whom employees interact with daily are those whose contributions they recognize in the company, largely because they see the actual product of the hours those people put in. When your IT department is in some dimly lit back room, it’s likely that the only interaction you have is when something is going wrong or you’re signing paychecks.

 

3. Challenge your IT department with the strategies and objectives of the company. Most importantly, instead of tasking IT staffers only with menial assignments (such as setting up email accounts), challenge them to align your overall strategy with your business objectives.

One such example of a successfully aligned IT department is at Southern Company, where CEO Tom Fanning — former CIO — transitioned the company’s IT practice from a cost center to a positive financial differentiator. Similarly, IT Labs, NASA’s Technology and Innovation Division, has created a process for integrating new information technologies that has made the division the incubator for several effective innovations that have required minimal investment.

If you start seeing your IT staff as your “innovation team,” you’ll empower them to transform your company for the better. Proper utilization of your IT team will allow them to locate and eliminate internal inefficiencies, identify opportunities through the analysis of data, determine technology threats and opportunities in the industry and better manage your customers through CRM tools.