August 06-12, 2021
Extractive summaries curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed decision making
The promise of open-source intelligence
The Economist | August 07, 2021
New sensors, from humdrum dashboard cameras to satellites that can see across the electromagnetic spectrum, are examining the planet and its people as never before. The information they collect is becoming cheaper. And online communities and collaborative tools, like Slack, enable hobbyists and experts to use this cornucopia of information to solve riddles and unearth misdeeds with astonishing speed. Open-source intelligence (osint) thus bolsters civil society, strengthens law enforcement and makes markets more efficient. It can also humble some of the world’s most powerful countries. For instance, in the face of vehement denials from the Kremlin, Bellingcat, an investigative group, meticulously demonstrated Russia’s role in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight mh17 over Ukraine in 2014, using little more than a handful of photographs, satellite images and elementary geometry.
Such an emancipation of information promises to have profound effects. The decentralised and egalitarian nature of osint erodes the power of traditional arbiters of truth and falsehood, in particular governments and their spies and soldiers. People who believe that secrecy can too easily be abused by people in power, osint is welcome.
The likelihood that the truth will be uncovered raises the cost of wrongdoing for governments. Liberal democracies will also be kept more honest. Citizens will no longer have to take their governments on trust. News outlets will have new ways of holding them to account. Nevertheless, OSINT has its own limitations including the spread of misinformation, wrong conclusions drawn by OSNIT etc. However, every source of information is fallible and the scrutiny of imagery and data is more empirical than most of them. Hence, when OSNIT is mistaken or malign, competing osint is often the best way to put the record straight. The greatest worry is that the explosion of data behind open-source investigations also threatens individual privacy.
2 key takeaways from the article
- A world where many American, European, Chinese, and Russian satellite companies vie to sell images is one of mutually assured surveillance. This is a future that open societies would be wise to embrace.
- Tools and communities that can unearth missile silos and unveil spies will make the world less mysterious and a little less dangerous. Information wants to be free—and open-source intelligence is on a mission to liberate it.
Topics: Internet, Open Society, Technology
Plant-Based Fish Is Rattling the Multibillion-Dollar Seafood Industry
By Irina Anghel | Bloomberg Businessweek | August 06, 2021
When a tuna marketing executive took a bite of the dehydrated tomato seasoned with olive oil, algae extract, spices, and soy sauce early last year, he was shook. “This is going to be a problem for us,” he said. At least that’s how Ida Speyer, co-founder, and chief executive officer of Mimic Seafood, recalls it, designating it the highest praise she could’ve imagined for the delicate slice of tuna that—despite what the marketing executive’s taste buds indicated—contained no tuna at all.
The Madrid-based startup’s Tunato product, fabricated from a specialty tomato variety grown in southern Spain that resembles sliced sushi-grade tuna in shape and size, is part of a growing class of food innovations fighting for the last empty shelf in the booming plant-based protein market: seafood.
Faux fish, which Speyer concedes “maybe 5 or 10 years ago would have seemed too far out, too different, or only something for vegans,” is just a tiny fraction of the alternative protein market, dwarfed by the more mature faux meat and alt-dairy sectors. U.S. sales of plant-based seafood grew 23%, to $12 million, in 2020, compared with a traditional seafood market worth tens of billions of dollars. But the sector is evolving quickly. Investment in U.S. plant-based seafood hit $70 million in the first half of 2021, as much as in the past two years combined.
It’s still a minnow compared with the country’s plant-based meat market, which has ballooned to about $1.4 billion in 2020 sales. Concerns about red-meat consumption, antibiotics in livestock, and climate change have enticed more global shoppers to go meatless, at least once a week, but fish, with its heart-healthy reputation, doesn’t have the bad rap. Still, fears of overfishing, heavy-metal consumption, and microplastics, fueled by documentaries such as Netflix’s controversial Seaspiracy, are priming the switch. The potential market could be huge: Beyond vegans and flexitarians, faux fish might also be a welcome addition to, say, a pregnant woman avoiding high-mercury swordfish or a consumer with a shellfish allergy. And big corporations have taken notice.
2 key takeaways from the article
- A growing class of food innovations fighting for the last empty shelf in the booming plant-based protein market: seafood.
- The plant-based fish market is a drop in the bucket compared with that of faux meat, but it’s growing fast as consumers try to minimize their impact on the oceans.
Topics: Innovation, Plant-based meat, Food
Sporting goods 2021: The next normal for an industry in flux
By Becker et al., | McKinsey & Company | January 25, 2021
In 2020, the sporting goods industry contracted for the first time since the financial crisis of 2007–08. Most brands, retailers, and manufacturers finished the year significantly in the red, despite a bounce back in activity after the first and before the second wave of COVID-19-related lockdowns. The exception was the Chinese market, which continued its role as the industry’s growth engine after expanding at an average of 16.5 percent a year (CAGR) from 2015 to 2019.1 Sporting goods companies saw their market valuations fall in the early months of the pandemic. However, they tended to outperform the wider marker as the year progressed, with sports equipment makers (particularly bicycle and digitally-enabled fitness equipment) doing especially well. Sportswear companies were also more resilient than the rest of the apparel industry.
Eight key themes set to shape the sporting goods industry in 2021 and beyond. Most were already emerging ahead of COVID-19, but the dramatic events of the past year have accelerated their introduction and heightened their impact. The trends can be broadly described under three banners: consumer shifts, digital leap, and industry disruption. Eight trends are:
- Rising acceptance of comfortable wear in previously more formal contexts
- Widening the physical-activity gap between less-affluent and the affluent households
- Sustainability has become an increasingly urgent consumer priority
- Digital-enabled fitness and exercise communities take center stage
- an accelerating business-model shift to direct to consumer
- Marketing shift from assets to influencers
- Retail under increased pressure
- Supply chains—the flexibility imperative and a raised bar on agility
3 key takeaways from the article
- The impact of the pandemic goes beyond temporary performance—it has also accelerated changes that will have long-lasting impacts on companies throughout the sporting goods value chain.
- COVID-19 has ushered in the next normal for the industry, defined by factors including digital commerce, rising demand for sustainable products, and increasing participation in individual forms of sports and exercise.
- To win in the new environment, the industry needs to adapt both its customer proposition and its operational capabilities.
Topics: Sports Industry, Technology, Business Model
What Zomato’s $12 Billion IPO Says About Tech Companies Today
By Vijay Govindarajan and Anup Srivastava | Harvard Business Review | August 06, 2021
In mid-July, Zomato, a food delivery company, listed its shares in Indian stock markets. Its initial public offering (IPO) was oversubscribed 35 times, giving it a valuation of $12 billion. Why does a loss-making company — with no real properties or assets — command such high valuation and attract global celebrity investors? Based on lessons learned from Zomato, according to the authors, a successful modern tech company typically has most, if not all, of the following six features:
- Rapid industry transformation. Companies such as Uber and Airbnb transform the industries by e.g., virtual shared ownership which creates value for people by improving asset utilization and lowering the risks that come with asset ownership.
- Low capital costs yet extremely valuable local assets. Tech companies can expand their revenues and income statements with little addition to their balance sheets. Zomato, a multibillion-dollar company, doesn’t even own an office.
- Customer intimacy. Modern tech companies collect, store, organize, and analyze years of user data. This data is virtual gold, as it enables companies to run targeted ads and personalize the customer experience.
- Network effects. For most modern tech companies, the bigger the network, the more valuable the company. There are three types of network effects: direct network effects, indirect network effects, and data network effects.
- Ecosystems that boost expansion with minimal costs. A modern tech company can leverage its relationships with customers to deliver new lines of products and services. Companies that rely on ecosystem partners’ assets can achieve this at little additional cost.
- Variable costs and margins. Google Search, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook can scale up their revenues with minimal variable costs. Improvements in scale, knowledge about suppliers, and increases in bargaining power can cut variable costs.
3 key takeaways from the article
- In mid-July, Zomato, a food delivery company, listed its shares in Indian stock markets. Its initial public offering (IPO) was oversubscribed 35 times, giving it a valuation of $12 billion.
- Why does a loss-making company — with no real properties or assets — command such high valuation and attract global celebrity investors?
- A true tech company typically has most, if not all, of the following six features: rapid industry transformation, low capital costs yet extremely valuable local assets, customer intimacy, network effects, ecosystems that boost expansion with minimal costs and variable costs and margins.
Topic: Digital Economy, Business Model, Entrepreneurship
Great Strategy Considers More Than Customers and Investors
B. Tom Hunsaker et al., | MIT Sloan Management Review | August 05, 2021
Traditionally, strategy has been approached as an exercise in where to play (identifying industries with favorable economic structures) and how to win (identifying how to capture value by focusing on product leadership, operational excellence, or customer intimacy). The only stakeholders that have mattered are shareholding investors, as the providers of scarce financial capital, and customers, as the source of revenue. But over the past 20 years, three developments have challenged the validity of this traditional approach to strategy:
- Technology has blurred the boundaries between industries, eroding the stable economic structure on which a “five forces” analysis is based.
- Financial capital is no longer the scarcest asset. Increasingly, companies compete and succeed on the basis of customer attention, employee talent, and intellectual property.
- The primacy of shareholders (predicated on the importance of financial capital) has been challenged. Multiple stakeholders are now recognized as meaningful contributors to a company’s value creation activities.
The initial response to these changes was to rediscover the importance of customers. Restricting the focus of strategy to the needs of customers is like trying to complete a puzzle that’s missing some of its pieces. The puzzle of sustainable business success cannot be solved as long as we regard companies simply as legal entities for generating an excess return on capital. Solving the puzzle requires viewing companies as social entities that exist in a multifaceted economic environment and are engaged in value exchange with multiple categories of stakeholder.
Seen this way, the debate over shareholder versus stakeholder capitalism is about replacing a linear, mechanical metaphor for business with a dynamic, biological one. Employees, partners, and communities are not commodity inputs to a financial model but essential participants in an adaptive economic ecosystem. In biology, the food chain is based on the transfer of energy; in commerce, the transfer of value between different stakeholder groups creates a vibrant and sustainable business ecosystem. By expanding the number of constituencies with whom exchanges of value can be undertaken, this biological mindset increases the variety of strategies available to companies.
3 key takeaways from the article
- Replacing a mechanical metaphor for business with a biological one encourages business leaders to think of their companies as social entities participating in a complex and dynamic ecosystem of value exchange with multiple constituencies.
- By following this orientation companies have uncovered new sources of value by understanding and meeting the needs of stakeholders beyond their investors and customers.
- By finding ways to increase the value delivered to these constituencies — employees, business partners, and local communities — companies have created new markets, developed new relationships, and enhanced their standing with customers — improving their fit to purpose — while refining their distinctiveness, pricing power, and cost position, which boosts their relative advantage.
Topics: Strategy, Stakeholders, Competitive Advantage
New MIT Study: CIOs Are Planning to Spend the Most Time and Money in These Areas
By Anna Meyer | Inc | August 05, 2021
If you’re curious where the biggest future opportunities lie, look to the tech companies that have deeper pockets for research and development. According to a new report from MIT and New York City-based consultancy Genpact, more than 500 chief information officers and technology leaders in a variety of industries, including health care and insurance, they are focused on the following three areas to help drive new ideas and products.
- They’re focused on artificial intelligence. In the survey, leaders were asked which technologies they will prioritize to achieve their company’s goals over the next two years. Focal areas include analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation technologies, followed by migrating data centers to the cloud and robotic process automation. For instance, startups that provide information to patients via mobile applications are at the forefront of the long-term shift in health care.
- They’re data-driven. Almost all respondents of the MIT study (98 percent) agree that their companies make data-driven decisions to grow value. As for tools to help build a data-driven culture, A.I. and machine learning are priorities for investment. According to the research, companies are looking to this technology to generate predictive insights for more informed decision-making.
- They’re scrambling to fix hiring challenges. Talent-related issues appear in the top three of both external and internal challenges reported–and nearly half (49 percent) said they don’t have enough talent at their company. The skills these leaders are hoping to develop include practicing agile development and delivery (that is, breaking large projects into bite-size, manageable tasks), managing external partnerships, and blending internal and external data to come up with solutions for the company.
2 key takeaways from the article
- If you’re curious where the biggest future opportunities lie, look to the tech companies that have deeper pockets for research and development.
- According to a new report from MIT and New York City-based consultancy Genpact, more than 500 chief information officers and technology leaders in a variety of industries, including health care and insurance, are focused on the following three key areas to help drive new ideas and products: they’re focused on artificial intelligence, they’re data-driven, and they’re scrambling to fix hiring challenges.
Topics: Technology, Business Model, Artificial Intelligence, Data
Small Business Lessons From The Tokyo Olympics
By Rohit Arora | Forbes | July 30, 2021
The performances of Olympic athletes in Tokyo can seem superhuman to the rest of us. There are many parallels that can be drawn between world-class athletes and successful entrepreneurs. Six of these are:
- Perseverance. Olympic athletes—whether they make the podium or not—typically have the opportunity to try again four years later. Covid’s disruption changed all of that. For veteran athletes, their bodies aged another year, while the up-and-coming competitors had an extra year to mature. Mentally, they all had to prepare for a fifth year of training to return to the Olympic stage. But most of these did. Business owners persevered through unprecedented times in 2020 also survived.
- Commitment. Michael Phelps famously trained up to 7 hours per day, seven days a week, for decades. American athletes e.g., leave their homes and their families to train full-time at the U.S. Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs, CO. Every aspect of their lives is dedicated to the pursuit of their Olympic aspirations, and they sacrifice family time and their social loves because of their commitment to their sports. Similarly, entrepreneurs invest countless hours of their own time and often much of their own money to grow their businesses.
- Investment. Competitors in sports such as fencing or discus throwing have minimal sponsorships and their careers in the business world on hold as they pursue their Olympic dreams. Small business owners put their own money into their firms, frequently pay themselves very little, and typically reinvest whatever money they make back into the company.
- Speed and Flexibility – Just watching Olympic gymnasts, divers and hurdlers makes you realize how much they rely on speed and flexibility. During Covid, business owners that pivoted quickly found ways to thrive.
- Leadership. Great teams have great leaders. Numerous gold medalists have taken time to thank their coaches and mentors who have helped them along the way. Successful companies are often led by executives who set examples and inspire their employees to perform (and reward them for performance).
- Optimism. Without the belief that they can win, athletes don’t succeed. Similarly, entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic. If they weren’t, they would not start their companies. No one goes into a business thinking they will fail—even when the odds against them are great.
2 key takeaways from the article
- The performances of Olympic athletes in Tokyo can seem superhuman to the rest of us.
- There are many parallels that can be drawn between world-class athletes and successful entrepreneurs. Six of these are: perseverance, commitment, investment, speed & flexibility, leadership, and optimism.
Topics: Entrepreneurship, Startups
5 Tools to Help Your Remote-Work Business Click
By Katherine Fan | Entrepreneur | August 10, 2021
Pre-pandemic, working from home was often considered a perk rather than a requirement. But once COVID-19 struck, many companies shifted to a remote-first work environment — a change that’s now permanent in some cases. Whether your company is remote by choice or by circumstance, consider apps and digital tools in these five areas to optimize your telework setup.
- Instant messaging. Instant messaging software has grown increasingly popular in the workplace. A good system allows you to send individual messages as well as group chats — the virtual equivalent of walking over to your coworker’s desk for a quick discussion. Slack and Microsoft Teams are two of the best-known brands for instant messaging on desktop and mobile.
- Videoconferencing. While messaging tools are perfect for quick updates and easy questions, video conferencing software allows you to host team discussions and deliver company-wide announcements face to face. In addition to Zoom which has become a household name overnight, other well-known brands include GoToMeeting, Google Meet and Join.me.
- Scheduling. Flexibility across schedules and time zones can be one of the biggest assets for a fully remote business. However, quickly tracking everyone’s availability can present a challenge, especially when factoring in time zones and holidays. You may already be familiar with Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, which sync calendars for everyone throughout your organization. Consider Doodle or Calendly, if you intend to bring individuals outside of your organization for such meetings.
- Project management. Project management systems help leaders and employees collaborate on company objectives by breaking down big goals into smaller tasks and actions. Popular names in this space include Trello, Asana, Basecamp and Monday.com.
- Data storage. Cloud storage saves your digital files online through a provider that takes on the responsibility of hosting and maintaining the servers that house your data. Well-known cloud storage providers include Google, Dropbox and Box.
Too many tools? If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your team connected and organized, Google and Microsoft both offer comprehensive workplace management packages that combine most of these solutions.
2 key takeaways from the article
- Pre-pandemic, working from home was often considered a perk rather than a requirement. But once COVID-19 struck, many companies shifted to a remote-first work environment — a change that’s now permanent in some cases.
- Whether your company is remote by choice or by circumstance, consider apps and digital tools in these five areas to optimize your telework setup. For instant messaging consider Slack and Microsoft Teams; for Video conferencing Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet and Join.me could be options; for Scheduling Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Doodle or Calendly are here; for Project management Trello, Asana, Basecamp and Monday.com are good ones; and for Data storage Google, Dropbox and Box are at your disposal.
Topics: Entrepreneurship, Tools, Technology, Business Performance, COVID-19