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Monthly Archives: April 2018

Find Your Dream Business

For when you’re searching for holiday gifts for your clients and co-workers, shopping for the perfect birthday present for your boss, or just looking for business inspiration, here are five companies with unique business models that can help. From mobile gift cards to personalized sweet treats, these businesses put a whole new spin on gift giving.

Now more than ever, the best food often comes from tiny carts, stands and trucks. These 10 food trucks from around the country are serving up so much more than just mobile meals — entrepreneurs can learn a lot from their creativity and innovation, too.

These companies don’t just give children and young adults something fun to do after school or when school’s out for the summer. They also help them learn valuable skills, develop their creativity, improve their health and further their education in other ways — keeping parents everywhere happy, too.

The legal cannabis industry is rapidly growing as more states adopt both medicinal and recreational cannabis laws. An industry research group projects that cannabis will be worth more than $20 billion in less than 5 years, meaning now is the time to get in on the ground floor of this fledgling business.

Back-to-school season isn’t always easy, but there are plenty of businesses out there that can help make starting a new school year a lot less stressful for students, parents and teachers.

From facilitating new ways to display art in your home or office, to giving artists new mediums to showcase and sell their work, these businesses put the “art” in “startup.”

Whether you’re looking for products or want to start a business that brings it back to basics, you need to check out these inspiring all-natural businesses.

Beyond record labels, major streaming services, equipment retailers and concert venues, there are a lot of ways business and music intersect, and these music businesses are really changing the game.

From virtual-reality sports platforms and game-footage analysis to family-friendly youth sports programs, these six businesses put a whole new spin on sports, helping coaches, athletes and families do what they love.

Fortunately for all you vegans out there, more and more stores and brands are dedicated to this animal- and eco-friendly lifestyle, covering everything from food and cosmetics to clothes and accessories.

While many organizations do their part by increasing recycling efforts, sourcing local materials and using energy-efficient equipment, some have taken their eco-friendly efforts to the next level by basing their entire business models on these principles.

Ready to use some of your hard-earned vacation time? Don’t book your flight just yet. Check out these cool travel businesses first to make your next vacation even less stressful — and more memorable!

From afterlife preparations to unique burial methods and memorials, there are more businesses related to death than you might expect, including these seven totally killer businesses that will probably give you the heebie-jeebies.

Successful businesses all have one thing in common: They solve a problem for their customers. But some problems are less pleasant than others, and some are downright disgusting.

From the weird (bacon-flavored envelopes) to the inspiring (a food truck that gives back to the community), here are seven unique food and beverage businesses you probably didn’t know existed.

These breakup-inspired businesses know what it’s like to get dumped and are taking advantage of it. But don’t worry, unlike your ex, they’re not really taking advantage of you.

Whether they’re making use of a critter’s natural behaviors or pampering your pet to the fullest, these 10 companies have your four-legged friends in mind.

While most companies simply run Halloween-themed promotions during October, these eight startups have built their businesses entirely on the season of spirits.

Your wedding day should be flawless, and these services are here to help. To make sure your big day goes off without a hitch, take a look at these businesses that are dedicated to helping couples like you plan the best day ever.

Staying fit and relaxing are rarely the same thing. One invokes images of pumping iron, the other of lying on the couch. But Yoga harnesses the best of fitness and relaxation to bring you a mind, body, and spirit experience that rejuvenates and strengthens. These businesses help support those goals.

What was once seemed like a high-tech, futuristic device is now reality; 3D printers are taking the world by storm and allowing users to create real, physical objects from nothing more than a computer representation. These companies have harnessed the power of the 3D printer to create truly amazing businesses.

Do you love gaming? These startups have their sights aimed at the top of the heap when it comes to video games. See what these six businesses are working on that could change the game, literally.

Tips to Save Your Investment in Endpoint Security

 Keeping users safe

In an ideal world, users would be perfectly security conscious. These mythical users wouldn’t:

  • Click on suspicious links.
  • Open file attachments emailed by criminals pretending to be their friends.
  • Respond to phishing messages that appear to be from a bank.
  • Disable software updates because warnings and reboots are annoying.
  • Disable a security product because it slows down their PC.
  • Install free software from an untrustworthy developer, because their friend liked it on Facebook.

Sadly, our world is less than ideal. Much, much less: A recent report said that 86 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed had lost sensitive data during the previous year.

User awareness training helps, but it isn’t sufficient. That’s why your endpoints need securing. Doing so helps prevent your users from accidentally exposing sensitive business information, such as your  banking credentials, secret-sauce recipes or future product plans.

Save time and money on endpoint security

Your challenge is to protect your users while minimizing costs: How do you save time and money, while keeping your company safe?

Look for a modern endpoint security solution – not one thrown together from an old antivirus program and a fresh coat of paint.

How can you tell?

A start-of-the-art solution does the following:

  • Works intelligently in the background, without bogging down the user’s computer
  • Scans for malware in seconds, not hours
  • Uses a reliable, built-from-the-ground-up cloud security service to identify malware, not a huge signature file that’s quickly out-of-date
  • Works intelligently while offline, reconnecting with the cloud service to check changes made while disconnected
  • Fixes infected PCs, if necessary, by rolling back the computer’s state to a known-good point
  • Automatically monitors untrusted software executions to prevent infection
  • Allows you to enforce certain policy settings, such as use of USB ports, and prevents users from disabling security features
  • Doesn’t fight with competing installed products, to allow you to test it safely

How does it reduce your investment?

A modern solution will reduce costs by being integrable, controllable and reliable. That means your operating costs are lower, and you won’t lose money from malware infections that only waste IT workers’ time and squander end-user productivity.

Purchase cost is, of course, a factor. However, in most analyses of total cost of ownership (TCO), operations and end-user productivity losses dwarf all other costs.

You have to first consider your budget realities, but it’s smart to benchmark yourself against what similar companies spend. There are free security solutions, but they don’t provide the control or sophistication to minimize your TCO.

Don’t Be Fooled

Keeping your company safe requires more than a warmed-over, 10-year-old anti-virus product. You need a state-of-the-art endpoint protection solution to safeguard your organization, in addition to user awareness, enforced policies and proper patch management.

The best solutions allow you to sleep soundly, knowing that you’ve taken the key steps to protect your systems, while keeping costs low.

Great Places to Find a New Business Idea

Your smartphone

In the “there’s an app for that” era, it may seem like every mobile application under the sun has already been thought up and built. But that’s not necessarily the case, as many people discover when they scour their smartphone’s app store searching for something that doesn’t exist. Perhaps an app you recently downloaded doesn’t function the way you’d hoped it would, or doesn’t offer a certain feature you wanted. To find out if there’s interest in the newer, better app you want to create, ask friends, family and others in your network. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you can use aDIY app maker or, if you have very little tech experience, hire freelancers to build it for you.

Search engines

If you’ve ever done an exhaustive Internet search for a specific item that returned no results, you have three options: settle for something close enough, give up entirely or do it yourself. If you’re the kind of person who chooses the DIY method (and can do it well), you have the opportunity to turn a frustration into a lucrative business. Check forums to see if others are searching for the same product(s), and then open up an online shop to sell them. This can also work well for specialized service-based businesses.

Social media

If there’s one thing people like to do on social media, it’s air their grievances about everyday life. Most of the time, these types of updates are mundane (and probably a little annoying), but if you pay close enough attention to those hashtags and status updates, you might start to see some patterns emerging. Look for phrases like, “Why isn’t there a … ” or, “I wish there was a …” — you may be able to offer a solution.

Online reviews

As with social media, people love to talk about the products they’ve purchased and places they’ve visited on sites like Amazon, Google and Yelp. Most consumers will read and use negative reviews to determine if they should avoid the product or establishment, and that company’s loss could be your gain. See what people are complaining about, and try to come up with a business idea that would fix the problem.

Your home

Look around your house or apartment. What are some of the frustrations you encounter there? Dusty air vents? A messy bathroom? Unraked leaves on your lawn? If you’re noticing these things in your own home, there’s a good chance other people are experiencing the same problems. By launching an in-home service business, you can help others take care of these time-consuming household tasks.

Your neighborhood

The people who live near you can be a great inspiration for business ideas. Think about the demographics of your neighborhood or local community. If your town has a lot of working parents, a service that offers to run errands or provides child care might be in high demand. A neighborhood with a lot of senior citizens could use independent home health aides. Are there a lot of dog owners nearby? Try a pet-care business like pet sitting or dog walking.

Your office

If you want to start a part-time business outside your current job, ask your co-workers what kinds of products or services they’re missing in their lives. Maybe someone else with a side business is looking for a bookkeeper or financial adviser. Others might be looking to enroll their children in affordable art or music classes. Small talk in the break room is bound to lead to at least a few viable ideas.

5 Ways to Win Over Startup Investors

Don’t put your idea first — the team is most important.

 Your team is what makes your idea happen. Potential investors are looking at the people behind the idea. Do you have a rock-solid founding team? A common mistake is a team presenting itself to a potential investor with a missing link, such as one that’s still looking for the tech guru. It’s also good to note that a startup doesn’t have to be composed of a bunch of young people in their twenties. In fact, you’ll stand out for the right reasons if the people on your team have experience as well as contacts. A diverse team with complementary strengths is what will turn an idea into reality.

Create a simple tagline that clearly shows the benefit of your product or service.

Very often entrepreneurs who live and breathe details of innovation find it hard to distill a concept into a simple idea that grabs the imagination of investors. You need to condense the vision of the business into a clear benefit that is compelling and dramatic. While similar to the elevator pitch, a tagline is even more succinct. Have this worked out before presenting your vision to others.

Before you go to investors, have a plan for distribution.

Having a great idea isn’t worth anything if you can’t get it into the marketplace. When you’re standing in front of investors, you will sound immeasurably more exciting and attractive if you have already taken the steps needed to have a concrete trial market. I often suggest starting with a retail channel niche and then building the product backward. In other words — where do you want to sell your product? Answer that question and then build you product specifically for that market.

Ask for only what you need.

The vast majority of startups will come in with requests at set levels — and they’re looking for a significant chunk of change. I push startups to ask for less money, however, and change their pitch to focus on a very specific goal, such as getting past proof of concept. Later on, they can do a second round of fundraising. This helps protect their stake in the business. The smaller the amount they ask for, the smaller they give up on equity. When it comes time for a second round of fundraising, the company will be further along in the development stage and therefore worth more. That means it will cost you less in terms of business equity. Demonstrating that you understand this makes you more credible to investors.

Avoid the mistake of giving up too much equity too fast.

This is a common mistake. An entrepreneur and any initial investors are hoping that the business will grow into something big, but as they go through multiple rounds of funding, their share of the company will really be diluted. By the time you’ve grown, we see founders left with only 5 or 10 percent of their company. In the end, the CEO doesn’t even have sufficient skin in the game to promote a brand’s success. The people driving the business forward should always maintain at least a 50 percent stake in the business. If you don’t maintain a large stake in the company, your “voice” will be diluted and other shareholders could outvote you.

How to Secure Mobile Workforce Devices

 Keep your people safe against Bluetooth hackers

Bluetooth is best known as the wireless technology that powers hands-free earpieces. Depending on your point of view, people who wear them either:

a) Look ridiculous (especially if shining a bright blue LED from their ear);
b) Appear mad (when apparently talking to themselves); or
c) Are sensible, law-abiding, safety-conscious drivers.

 

Here are a few examples of the mobile security threats in which Bluetooth makes us vulnerable, along with tips to secure your mobile workforce devices.

General software vulnerabilities

Software in Bluetooth devices – especially those using the newer Bluetooth 4.0 specification – will not be perfect. It’s unheard of to find software that has zero security vulnerabilities.

As Finnish security researchers Tommi Mäkilä, Jukka Taimisto and Miia Vuontisjärvi demonstrated in 2011, it’s easy for attackers to discover new, previously unknown vulnerabilities in Bluetooth devices. Potential impacts could include charges for expensive premium-rate or international calls, theft of sensitive data or drive-by malware downloads.

To combat this threat: Switch off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it.

Eavesdropping

Bluetooth – named after the Viking king, Harald Bluetooth Gormsson, thanks to his abilities to make 10th-century European factions communicate – is all about wireless communication. Just like with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth encryption is supposed to stop criminals listening in to your data or phone calls.

In other words, eavesdropping shouldn’t be a problem. However, older Bluetooth devices use versions of the Bluetooth protocol that have more security holes than a tasty slice of Swiss. Even the latest specification (4.0) has a similar problem with its low-energy (LE) variant.

To combat this threat: Ban devices that use Bluetooth 1.x, 2.0 or 4.0-LE.

Denial of service

Malicious attackers can crash your devices, block them from receiving phone calls and drain your battery.

To combat this threat: Again, switch off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it.

Bluetooth range is greater than you think

Bluetooth is designed to be a “personal area network.” That is to say, devices that are more than a few feet away should not be accessible via Bluetooth.

However, you’re not safe if you simply ensure there’s distance between you and a potential attacker; hackers have been known to use directional, high-gain antennae to successfully communicate over much greater distances. For example, security researcher Joshua Wright demonstrated the use of such an antenna to hack a Bluetooth device in a Starbucks from across the street.

To combat this threat: Once again, switch off your Bluetooth!

Bluetooth headsets

Wright has also demonstrated serious flaws in many popular Bluetooth headsets. By exploiting these vulnerabilities, attackers can eavesdrop on your conversations with the people around you, not just your phone calls. Built-in hands-free car kits can also be vulnerable.

The device becomes, in effect, a mobile bugging device, transmitting everything it hears to an attacker.

To combat this threat: Make sure you change the default PIN code to something hard to guess. And yup… switch off the headset.

See the Bigger Picture

It’s vital to develop and communicate company policies for mobile device security – including Bluetooth – so that your business’s data aren’t compromised and your users can work safely when mobile. While all mobile devices present risks that need to be addressed, Bluetooth security is one often-overlooked piece of the mobile securitypuzzle.

Whichever letter you pick, insidious security issues remain around Bluetooth attacks and mobile devices. While most of the problems identified five to 10 years ago have been straightened out by now, some still remain. And there’s also good reason to be cautious about new, undiscovered problems.