December 31, 2017

Tips on Work, Life Hacks, and Life Lessons

The end of the year is often a time of reflection. We ponder on the accomplishments during the past 12 months as well as things we wish we could have done better. The latter may be used as a basis of establishing personal or professional goals we set for the coming year. While I am not one to create New Year's resolutions, I appreciate that a new year is a moment in time to begin anew and focus on items that will help me become a better person.

While perusing the internet, I came across a list of top 100 tips on work, life hacks and life lessons as compiled by Nelson Wang, co-founder of Here are few tips of Mr. Wang's that I found of particular value as I welcome the year of 2018:

Work Tips

7. Celebrate progress. I agree with that "the journey to your goal could be a long one. So make sure you take the time to celebrate your progress along the way." Life is hard and many of us encounter not just one, but multiple challenges on a daily basis. It is too easy to focus on the failures (big and small) or times when we are performing our best. Nevertheless, it is important to celebrate progress. As Mr. Wang correctly asserts, "Because success is worth celebrating."

28. Embrace failure and learn from it. "You are going to fail at some point in life," writes Mr. Wang. "It could be a big event, like getting fired. It could be a small event, like forgetting to do the laundry. It's all relative." Some years will bring more accomplishments than setbacks and other years will see the latter outweighing the former. Embracing failure and assessing the lessons learned will often lead to making better decisions in the future.

Following from #28, Mr. Wang's list includes:

29. Embrace your champions. "Along the way, you will find people that genuinely believe in you and your mission. They will cheer you on. Embrace them. Even if your only champion is your mom." My mom is a GREAT champion on mine!!

30. Embrace your naysayers. "On this same journey, you'll also find people who doubt you every step of the way. Embrace them too. Only this time, use that doubt as your source of motivation."

During the course of my career, many people, some of whom I consider trusted friends and advisors, expressed doubt or serious concerns about a business idea or strategy. While I admit that I initial response was one of defensiveness, I learned to slow down, take a deep breathe (see #51 below), and try to understand the basis of their doubt or concerns. Was I not explaining myself clearly? Was I overlooking an important element?

Sometimes their concerns altered my approach and other times I proceeded as originally planned despite their doubts. Nevertheless, it was important to embrace these doubts and use them as my source of motivation.

Life Hacks

35. Freeze your fruits/vegetables. Many of my friends and colleagues born outside the United States comment about the large volume of food Americans waste. I agree.

Fruits and vegetables are often expensive and I have never understood the rationale for letting them go to waste. Mr. Wang suggests freezing your fruits and vegetables, which may later be used in soups, stews or smoothies. (Perhaps life hack #35A is to invest in a good blender.)

51. Slow down. "We get it. You want to make a dent in the universe. You want to change the world. You want to create something magical. Slow down. Take a deep breathe. You don't have to react instantly all the time. Sometimes, taking a moment to collect yourself and to think about the situation might drive a better outcome for you."

Not reacting instantly is an ongoing challenge for me. However, doing so often means that my work is controlling my life (and schedule). Maintaining effective time management skills and choosing the time when I respond to messages provides me with the opportunity to slow down, take a deep breathe and assert control over my life.

A friend and colleague recently gave me an hourglass to help remind me the virtue of patience, which is not one of my strengths. Slowing down, taking a deep breathe and having patience is an ongoing challenge to I will seek to incorporate in my life in 2018 and beyond.

Life Tips

56. Learn one new thing a day. Being a constant learner is, in my opinion, one of my greatest strengths. As such, it is a value that I appreciate among those closest to me in my personal or professional circle.

Being a constant learner simply begins with learning one new thing a day. Mr. Wang notes, "This could be one word from a new language, a scientific fact, a life hack or anything else that you're interested in. Over time, learning one new thing a day will shape you into awesomeness."

57. Remember people's names. Many of my mentors throughout my professional career demonstrated the importance of building relationships. This often begins with remembering people's names (and, if possible, other personal details such as their hometown, names of their spouse and children, schools attended and degrees earned, hobbies, etc.). "When you say someone's name, it shows that you care," explains Mr. Wang. "It shows that you recognize their presence. It shows that you're a nice person. Try it."

84. Be insanely curious. This connects well with #56 on learning one new thing a day. I agree with Mr. Wang that "being curious will help you keep an open mind" and "by doing so, you'll learn new ideas and help bring passion and excitement in your life." More importantly, "You don't know everything, so learn as much as you can in your life!"

94. Don't compare yourself to others. This tip is easier to follow as I get older. 20 years ago when I was in the early stage of my career, I, like many of my contemporaries, regularly and mistakenly compared myself to others. This is natural when you are in the your 20s feeling insecure and competing for opportunities that you hope will lead to significant returns.

I now see my younger colleagues exhibiting the same behavior. I could not say it better than "just focus on being the best possible version of yourself."

Which of Mr. Wang's tips do you find valuable or relevant?

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. And thank you for being my champion or naysayer (or sometimes both).

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

December 23, 2017

A Tech-Driven Transformation in Africa is Making People Healthier, Wealthier, and Better Educated

Since my first trip to the African continent in the 1990s, I have appreciated the correlation between advances in technology and the rise of socioeconomic development. From obtaining a drove of information from the world wide web through a desktop computer using a dial-up modem to transferring cash through a service optimized for mobile phones, it is amazing to witness such transformations in the lives of those whom live in developing countries. Therefore, I read with great interest a special report entitled "Technology in Africa" in the Nov. 11, 2017 issue of The Economist.

The report's leading article, "The leapfrog model: What technology can do for Africa," notes that across "sub-Saharan Africa, countries are on the cusp of a tech-driven transformation that is already beginning to make people healthier, wealthier and better educated at a pace that only recently seemed unimaginable."

Providing some historical context of technological advances in Africa, the article explains:
The first taste of these new possibilities came when mobile phones swarmed across the continent a decade ago. Within just a few short years hundreds of millions of people were able to phone and text for the first time, bypassing monopolistic state-owned phone companies that kept customers waiting for landlines indefinitely. And leapfrogging over old technologies and business models with mobile phones quickly made other sorts of leaps possible. Thanks to M-Pesa, a service that lets people send money through their phones, everyone with a phone suddenly also had, in effect, a bank account in their pocket. As mobile money has lowered transaction costs, it has brought down barriers to innovation in all sorts of other areas, allowing lenders quickly to assess credit risks, insurers to sell life and medical cover in small chunks and new energy firms to sell electricity by the day or week.
What is more, "Some of these innovations are emerging from the thriving tech hubs that are popping up across Africa, but most of the technology transforming the continent comes from elsewhere. The $50 smartphones on which apps connect motorcycle taxis and customers in Rwanda are Chinese, for instance. However, these technologies are often being combined in new ways to solve uniquely African problems. If you want to book a truck to move your cow, or get an ambulance to go to hospital, you will probably turn to an African startup."

The article importantly mentions that "much of the money going into African technology comes not from philanthropists but from hard-nosed investors looking for attractive returns. In 2016 African tech firms raised a record $367m. Although paltry by the standards of Silicon Valley, this is helping to stimulate the setting up of firms such as Flutterwave, a Nigerian payments company, and Zipline, which uses drones to deliver blood to clinics in Rwanda."

Not all of the news, however, is so optimistic:
Technology is advancing far more slowly in Africa than it is in the rich world, so the gap has been widening in recent years. "The poverty gap is a technology gap," says Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Ghana's science and technology minister. It is also a knowledge and education gap. Three-quarters of children in their third year of schooling in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are unable to explain the meaning of the sentence "The name of the dog is Puppy" after reading it aloud. If the education system cannot prepare youngsters for jobs in a tech economy, Africa risks falling even further behind.
The do it yourself method of learning, which I have witnessed all so well during my travels to Africa, continues to thrive. The article explains that "given an opportunity to grasp that technology, many in Africa do so with both hands. In a tech hub in Lagos, Nigeria, enthusiastic youngsters tap away on laptop computers, practicing coding skills that many have picked up through online portals such as Udacity or by watching YouTube videos." Furthermore, "Jean-Claude Bastos, who sponsors an annual innovation prize in Africa as well as a tech hub in the slums of Luanda, Angola, recalls how alarmed he was when he first put a 3D printer into the center, only to find that the youngsters there immediately dismantled it. 'They took it apart, then put it back together, then did it again. Now if anything in it breaks they rebuild it on intuition, like it is a motorbike or car,' he says."

Lastly, the report says,
A cluster of new technologies promise to have a huge impact on Africa, not least because they can help solve some of Africa's biggest and longest-standing problems. These include weak state-run education systems, a high burden of disease, broken infrastructure and low productivity on farms and in factories. What made mobile phones so much more important in Africa than in the rich world was that for hundreds of millions of people they were the first and only form of telecommunication available. Equally, if a vaccine is developed for malaria, it will make little difference in the rich world but could save millions of lives in Africa. 'Investments in health R&D for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases will be a massive boon for poor countries where the disease burden is highest,' says Bill Gates, whose foundation funds some of this research. 'The same is true for innovations like better seeds that enable poor farmers to increase crop yields.'
The Economist's special report is presented through the following articles:

How do you think technology will transform the lives of people living in Africa?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

December 18, 2017

Artificial Intelligence is the Epicenter of Web 3.0

A friend recently noted that the current version of internet, which is often referred as Web 2.0, has matured. Such maturity has led to a stagnation in the production of innovative products and services by startups and large corporations alike. Following his observation, which I happen to agree with, he asked, "What is next for the internet?"

In an article published by the New York Times in 2006, John Markoff wrote, "From the billions of documents that form the World Wide Web and the links that weave them together, computer scientists and a growing collection of start-up companies are finding new ways to mine human intelligence."

The goal of the computer scientists, says Mr. Markoff, "is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide — and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion. That level of artificial intelligence, with machines doing the thinking instead of simply following commands, has eluded researchers for more than half a century."

"Referred to as Web 3.0," notes Mr. Markoff, "the effort is in its infancy, and the very idea has given rise to skeptics who have called it an unobtainable vision. But the underlying technologies are rapidly gaining adherents, at big companies like I.B.M. and Google as well as small ones. Their projects often center on simple, practical uses, from producing vacation recommendations to predicting the next hit song."

11 years later, The Economist published an article about the race to dominate artificial intelligence (AI). "An exponential increase in the availability of digital data, the force of computing power and the brilliance of algorithms has fueled excitement about this formerly obscure corner of computer science," the article explains. "The West's largest tech firms, including Alphabet (Google's parent), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are investing huge sums to develop their AI capabilities, as are their counterparts in China. Although it is difficult to separate tech firms' investments in AI from other kinds, so far in 2017 companies globally have completed around $21.3bn in mergers and acquisitions related to AI, according to PitchBook, a data provider, or around 26 times more than in 2015."

I agree with the assertion that "over the next several years, large tech firms are going to go head-to-head in three ways. They will continue to compete for talent to help train their corporate 'brains'; they will try to apply machine learning to their existing businesses more effectively than rivals; and they will try to create new profit centers with the help of AI."

The Dec. 7, 2017 article continues to explain how AI will be used in machine learning, autonomous driving, augmented reality (AR).

In addition, the article importantly notes:
Artificial intelligence is also being applied in the corporate world. David Kenny, the boss of Watson, IBM’s AI platform, predicts that there will be "two AIs": companies that profit from offering AI-infused services to consumers and others which offer them to businesses. In practice, the two worlds meet because of the tech giants' cloud-computing arms. Providers are competing to use AI as a way to differentiate their offerings and lock in customers. The three largest—Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud—offer application-programming interfaces (APIs) that provide machine-learning capabilities to other companies. Microsoft's cloud offering, Azure, for example, helped Uber build a verification tool that asks drivers to take a selfie to confirm their identities when they work. Google Cloud offers a "jobs API," which helps companies match jobseekers with the best positions.
As for augmented reality, "Mobile apps like Snap, a messaging app, and the game Pokémon Go are early examples of AR. But AR could more radically transform people's relationship with the internet, so that they consume digital information not from a small screen but via an ambient, ever-present experience. AR devices will offer portable AI capabilities, such as simultaneous translation and facial recognition."

We have embarked upon the Web 3.0. What are your predictions for the application of artificial intelligence?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

December 16, 2017

Customer Service is Everything

The following is a guest post by Alexander Brooks

Last week I had a terrible customer experience with one of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle. I've been going to this coffee/cafe shop at least twice a week to grab lunch or dinner for the past year. This place always has a friendly vibe topped with incredible food and service. Today I'm going to discuss some of the ways to build great customer service for your business.

I decided to spend a few hours at my favorite coffee shop to get dinner and work through some programming challenges. After getting carried away problem-solving for about an hour, I was confronted at my table by one of the waitresses with a menu. Keep in mind, this is a place in which you come to the cash register when you're ready to order. The waitress says, let me know when you're ready to order. There's two of us at this table, but I'm the only person that receives a menu. I decided to think of what kind of snack I want for the evening and drifted back to work. I was then confronted by the same waitress again stating I have to order food and can't use the internet unless doing so. The waitress was short with me and walked away right after making her statement.

Consistency is Key

Creating consistently great service experiences keeps customers coming back. As a business owner, I'm always observing both good and bad customer service experiences. I'm a consistent customer at this cafe who actively brings friends here to try out the food as well. Warren Buffet once said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." Although I still like this place, my excitement and interest have changed due to this experience. By having a system that identifies consistent customers this experience could have been avoided.

Know Your MVP Customers

There's value in knowing who the MVP customers are and how they impact your business. By simply collecting data on purchase activities, you can identify your most consistent customer. Having this information can create opportunities to provide rewards programs that can lead to increase customer engagement. One of the local bakeries in Seattle does a great job of having a rewards program set up for consistent customers. Wild Rye is a local bakery and sandwich shop in the downtown area of Seattle. They provide me with a free sandwich of choice after every eight purchases at their restaurant. Although your business model may not fit this type of rewards program, this is an example of a way to engage with your MVPs.

Customer Service Strategy

With the internet, it takes a few seconds to find dozens of great customer service strategies to employ in your business. If this cafe had a system that notified the staff when a high volume customer makes a purchase, my experience could have been completely different. As your business grows, make sure you're looking for ways to use customer data to add value to their experience.

Alex Brooks is the founder and CEO of AE Brooks, LLC (dba Entreprov), a Seattle-based firm that helps small and medium-sized businesses increase their customer base and extend lifetime value of current customers through machine learning and business strategy. Mr. Brooks may be contacted at

December 10, 2017

Singapore Has Overtaken the US as the Most Attractive Destination for Chinese ODI

According to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU), "The outlook for China's overseas direct investment (ODI) appears to have dimmed. After a bumper year for deal-making in 2016, ODI flows from China slumped by over 40% year on year in the first ten months of 2017." The EIU's China Going Global Investment Index 2017 ranks 60 major economies across 57 indicators, distributed across four sub-indices spread between an "opportunity" pillar and a "risk" pillar. In addition, The EIU developed six separate indices covering six industries: automotive, consumer goods, energy, financial services, healthcare and telecommunications. Their coverage in this update to the index is slightly less than the previous versions in 2015 and 2013, when they included 67 countries. (I wrote about the 2015 version in a post on this blog.)

The report encouragingly suggests that "it is still an exciting time to be watching the international expansion of corporate China, and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) views the recent drop in ODI flows as temporary. Although approval processes may be more complicated, Chinese companies will still feel impelled to venture overseas for similar reasons as they did before—to drive higher revenue by tapping new markets and acquiring better technology." Moreover, "The roll-out of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a government strategy announced in 2013 to boost trade and investment links between China and over 60 (mainly developing) countries, has also given an additional impetus for some firms."

The main takeaways from the 2017 update to the China Going Global Investment Index include:
  • Singapore has overtaken the US as the most attractive destination for Chinese ODI. The city state's superior business environment, access to South-east Asian markets and close links with China are integral to its top ranking, while the fall in the US ranking is partly attributable to higher trade tensions with China. Hong Kong ranks third in the index.
  • Although developed economies still dominate the upper ranks of the index, emerging markets have risen in this update. More stable commodity prices have improved economic prospects for many developing economies since the last update, while the BRI has provided additional incentives for Chinese firms to invest in these regions. Notable climbers include Malaysia (ranked fourth) and Kazakhstan (ranked 13th). Several developed economies have tumbled down the index: the UK slips by the most, by 29 places to 41st, owing to the worsened outlook for economic growth following its decision to leave the EU.
  • Countries that rank consistently highly across the six industry indices include the US, Japan, India and Iran. While the US and Japan owe their positions mainly to the opportunities they offer Chinese firms to obtain technology and brands through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), India and Iran are fast-growing markets in which companies from China are likely to be competitive.
The report begins its conclusion by explaining:
The 2017 slump in Chinese ODI is unlikely to be a reflection of the future trend. China's ODI stock as a share of its GDP was only 10.9% in 2016, a much lower level than in large developed economies such as the US (28.9%), Japan (27.6%) and Germany (57%). This suggests that there is still plenty of room for growth, and the drivers of ODI from China in recent years—a desire to grasp global market share and acquire technology, brands and resources—remain in place. We expect that China's ODI flows (on a balance-of-payments basis) will return to growth in 2018.
The EIU also predicts that "we will probably not see a return to the exuberant deal-making of 2016. The government has heightened supervision over overseas investment and it is likely to remain concerned about risks posed by excessive capital outflows for several years yet." Furthermore, "An expected tightening in domestic credit conditions could also have an impact on ODI by making it more difficult for companies to tap bank lending. This will encourage firms to align their plans with areas where financing is still available, such as under MIC 2025 or the BRI."

Are the report's findings useful to your business?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

December 3, 2017

The Global Healthcare Industry Will Experience Many Changes in 2018

My previous post focused on The Economist Intelligence Unit's (The EIU) report, Industries in 2018, that forecasts how six industry sectors (automotive, consumer goods and retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, and telecoms) will develop globally over the coming year. This post focuses on report's discussion of the healthcare industry, which asserts the continuing policy chaos in the United States, China's health reforms and the preparations for Brexit as the biggest challenges for companies.

"US attempts to overturn Obamacare will still head the agenda in 2018, but other countries may have more success with their reform plans," the report explains. "Efforts to overturn the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly known as Obamacare) have loomed over the US healthcare sector in 2017 and are likely to do so again in 2018. Whereas the Republicans spent much of their first year in office trying to draft and pass reforms to 'repeal and replace' Obamacare at the national level, over 2018 they will focus on dismantling the current system from the inside." The EIU asserts that "as the system crumbles, there will be increased pressure from the public and from industry to come up with viable alternatives. Individual states are already stepping into the breach."

The report notes that "what happens in the US will be vital to the global healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector over the coming year." Furthermore, The EIU "expects US healthcare spending to reach US$3.5trn, which is around 44% of the global total (based on the 60 biggest economies). Pharmaceutical spending will reach around US$444bn, or around 36% of the global total, despite efforts to rein back prices. No other market will come close: health spending in China and Japan, the nearest contenders, is less than one-sixth as high."

With respect to China, the world's most populous country will see important changes in 2018. The Chinese "government will continue with its efforts to broaden and deepen the national healthcare system. This will involve implementing the numerous reforms begun in 2017 or earlier. Two of the three public health insurance schemes, the New Rural Co-operative Medical Scheme and Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance, are gradually being merged. Tax breaks introduced in mid-2017 will encourage more people to take out top-up private insurance."

The report importantly says,
In the meantime, China's family-doctor system will expand, and hospitals will start to adopt new management procedures. These will include new payment schemes and a double-invoice system intended to reduce hospitals' reliance on mark-ups from selling pharmaceuticals. Pressure on pharmaceutical prices will increase still further. However, other measures will be aimed at improving drug quality and speeding up the approval of innovative medicines. This follows a ruling in October 2017 allowing companies to use foreign trial data to support their applications.
It is a packed agenda, and not all of it will work. As is usual in China, many of the reforms will be done on a pilot basis in particular regions and cities, and even when the policies are supposed to be national, implementation will vary across the country. Pharmaceutical companies will have to adapt quickly to cope with the changes and to benefit from market growth, which we expect to be around 8% in local-currency terms but just 3% in US dollar terms.
Emerging markets will also experience far-reaching changes in their respective healthcare sector:
India will be starting to implement the National Health Policy it unveiled in March 2017, which aims to provide free drugs, diagnostics and emergency services to all Indians through public hospitals. Indonesia will be scurrying to meet its goal of universal coverage by 2019, while the Philippines has a similar goal for 2022. Pakistan will continue to pilot the prime minister's National Health Insurance Programme for low-income households.
Many countries in Latin America and the Middle East, as well as Russia, will be reassessing funding for healthcare as their economies recover from the effects of low global commodity prices. In Mexico, for example, the government has promised to unify public healthcare services into a universal social service, while Brazil's government is considering introducing a compulsory health insurance system. South Africa is due to release its long-awaited plans for health insurance in late 2017, although they may be delayed again.
Lastly, listed below, in its entirety, are items to watch for in 2018:
  • EU regulations: Data protection rules will come into effect in May 2018, followed by rules on e-procurement in October 2018. However, the implementation of new clinical trials regulations, initially scheduled for 2018, has been delayed until 2019. The EU will also be working towards the full implementation of its 2017 Medical Devices Directive by 2020, and for in vitro diagnostics medical devices in 2022.
  • Patent expiry: Generic competition looms in the US for two erectile dysfunction drugs: Pfizer’s Viagra (sildenafil) has protection until 2020 but will face competition from Teva’s copy from the end of 2017, while Eli Lilly’s Cialis (tadalafil) will lose patent protection in September 2018.
  • Polio eradication: The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is likely to narrowly miss its 2018 deadline for wiping out the disease worldwide. At the end of October 2017 the only countries where the disease is still endemic—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria—reported a combined total of 12 wild polio cases this year, along with 61 vaccine-derived cases.
What changes do you predict to occur in the healthcare industry in 2018?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

December 2, 2017

Political Risk Will Hang Heavily Over Corporate Investment Decisions in 2018

Each year The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) issues a report forecasting how six industry sectors (automotive, consumer goods and retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, and telecoms) will develop globally over the coming year. Industries in 2018 highlights how traditional business models are likely to come under strain amid sweeping changes, many driven by technology. It also highlights how, despite continued global economic growth, companies will need to remain flexible and be wary of political risks, particularly in the European Union (EU).

The EIU report begins by asserting: "Traditional business models will come under strain amid sweeping changes, many driven by technology. Despite the decent economic conditions, political risk will hang heavily over investment decisions."

Furthermore, "This year's report, which gives our forecasts for 2018, highlights how old ways of making money are fast going out of fashion. Perhaps the starkest example of this is in retailing, where online selling is dramatically disrupting the traditional shopping culture. That industry is not alone. Telecoms companies are facing new challenges from technology players, heightening already fierce competition, while established players in carmaking and energy are struggling to adapt to the rise of clean technologies. Pharmaceutical companies face pricing and patenting dilemmas, while regulators are redoubling pressure on financial services companies."

From a business strategist perspective, I support the report's assertion that "companies will need to shake up their business models in 2018 to respond to these pressures. However, planning is easier than execution. New regulations, new competitors and new consumer demands will emerge during the year ahead in many markets, while the business environment will develop in ways that may be hard to predict."

What is more, according to The EIU, "High levels of political risk will also complicate matters in each of our six industries: automotive; consumer goods and retail; energy; financial services; healthcare; and telecoms. At least global economic conditions will not be bad—although not quite as good as in 2017."

Lastly, the report importantly notes:
Although White House policies continue to concern many companies in our six industries, the threat of a damaging trade war has receded since our 2017 report as geopolitical and business realities win out. Even so, global trade growth will decline from 4.6% in 2017 to 3.5% in 2018, mainly owing to a slowdown in China's economy. Political risks will remain strong, particularly in the EU: as Brexit edges nearer, the risk that the negotiations will break down remains high. In 2018 companies will need to remain flexible enough to deal with such risks, while also seizing the opportunities presented by continued global growth.
Do you agree that political risk will hang heavily over corporate investment decisions in 2018?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 29, 2017

ROI3 and Entreprov to Join ITU's Focus Group on Machine Learning for Future Networks Including 5G

In a post on this blog dated Feb. 27, 2016, I write how 5G is a new wave of mobile technology that will bring drastic change. The flow of high volume of data with low latency will bring changes industrialized and developing countries alike will see in various sectors including connected devices (IoT), autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning. While the business model for some of these emerging technologies are still being crafted and tested, the research and development is happening now and I am regularly exploring opportunities to learn more about these technologies. Therefore, I am proud to announce that ROI3 has joined the International Telecommunication Union's Focus Group on Machine Learning for Future Networks including 5G.

In a press release, the Geneva, Switzerland-based ITU says the purpose of the focus group, which goes by FG-ML5G, is to "establish a basis for ITU standardization to assist machine learning in bringing more automation and intelligence to ICT network design and management." FG-ML5G "will lead an intensive one-year investigation into where technical standardization could support emerging applications of machine learning in fields such as big data analytics, network management and orchestration, and security and data protection."

In addition, FG-ML5G will draft technical reports and specifications for machine learning for future networks, including interfaces, network architectures, protocols, algorithms and data formats. The ITU's announcement further says,
The Focus Group will consider machine-learning methods' compatibility with a wide variety of fixed and mobile communication stacks, encouraging the development of methods attuned to the operational requirements of the networking industry.

Interoperability is high on the agenda. The Focus Group will propose means to train, adapt, compress and exchange machine-learning algorithms. This work will promote the emergence of an ecosystem able to support the interaction of multiple machine-learning algorithms.

Machine-learning algorithms are helping operators to make smarter use of network-generated data. These algorithms enable ICT networks and their components to adapt their behavior autonomously in the interests of efficiency, security and optimal user experience.
My colleagues and I at ROI3 will collaborate with Alex Brooks of AE Brooks, LLC (d/b/a Entreprov) in our participation of FG-ML5G. Entreprov is a Seattle, Wash.-based company that helps small and medium-sized businesses increase their customer base and extend lifetime value of current customers through machine learning and business strategy. In his blog post about joining FG-ML5G, Mr. Brooks said, with Entreprov and ROI3 joining forces we have the opportunity to provide a unique perspective on how Machine Learning can impact 5G technology.

ROI3 previously participated on ITU's focus group to identify the network standardization requirements for the 5G development of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) for 2020 and beyond. The Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 was established in May 2015 to analyze how emerging 5G technologies will interact in future networks as a preliminary study into the networking innovations required to support the development of 5G systems. The group took an ecosystem view of 5G research of development and published the analysis in a report to its parent group, ITU-T Study Group 13, in December 2016.

I am excited to have the opportunity to learn more about machine learning. In collaborating with Mr. Brooks on FG-ML5G, it is my hope to better understand the role of machine learning in fields such as big data analytics, network management and orchestration, and security and data protection on global scale.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 20, 2017

Report on How Blockchain Will Reshape the Financial Services Industry

"Blockchain is a young technology, first conceptualized in 2008," says a report written by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) for the UK Department of International Trade. "The financial industry has been among the first industries to seize upon the efficiency savings that its distributed ledger technology could deliver, and for good reason: Using distributed-ledger technology could help financial services providers lower the worldwide cost of cross-border payments, securities trading and compliance by $15-20 billion per year by 2022, according to Spanish banking giant Santander." The EIU's report, From concept to reality: How blockchains will reshape the financial services industry, "assesses blockchain's impact on processes and functions in the global financial services industry, as well as on the industry's structure. It also details some of the key changes to products and services that retail and business clients can expect in the years ahead."

Before I discuss some of the report's highlights and conclusions, it is important to provide a brief explanation of the bitcoin and blockchain. The report succinctly says,
Bitcoin is a digital cryptocurrency (a currency in which encryption regulates the generation and transfer of funds) that can be exchanged for goods and services via peer-topeer networks. A significant feature of bitcoins is that they are not issued by central banks, nor backed by them. The technology that supports bitcoin is blockchain. Also known as distributed ledger technology, a blockchain records the generation of bitcoins through a process of electronic ‘mining’, and stores the data on transactions in sequence, on a network of linked computers simultaneously. The blockchain data structure provides a verifiable history that only can be added to, not deleted or amended.
While I am certainly not an expert in blockchain, I am familiar enough with the technology to agree with the report that its real-life use still limited. "Its current use is mostly to be seen in the bitcoins— virtual currency created with blockchain technology—that cross borders with negligible regulation"

Moreover, "Incumbent banks, asset managers, insurers and technology firms are keen to experiment with the new technology. Their initial trials focus on niche areas of trade finance, payment settlements and reconciliation. While interest in applying the technology is growing, widespread implementation may take years. An all-encompassing financial blockchain is unlikely to emerge from current projects."

The report, however, notes that "the financial industry already has a consistent view of what needs to be done to put private specialist blockchains to good use." Some of the likely main features of the future use of blockchain in the global financial services industry include:

  • Closed systems: Collaborative blockchain networks will be closed to outsiders, to ensure that information does not land in the wrong hands and to prevent hackers from disrupting financial stability.
  • Back office first: The first objective for introducing blockchain technology will be to save costs. Blockchain will cut the cost of the daily checking and rechecking of ownership and transactions.
  • Regulatory overhaul: Financial industry rules may need a worldwide update, along with reforms to broader data protection regulation. Regulators want to encourage innovation but without upsetting stability.
  • Emergency markets: The first widespread changes to retail financial services involving blockchain may take place in emerging markets, where banking, investment and insurance penetration rates are low.
  • Less reliance on cash: Widespread use of blockchain technology, together with updates to compliance regulations, will enable central banks to substitute their own regulated, blockchain-based digital currencies for notes and coins. Some central banks, such as the Bank of England and the central bank of Norway, are already discussing discontinuing use of notes and coins entirely.
  • Smarter financies: Within 10 to 20 years, embedded smart contracts could transform how bank accounts work and how insurance pays out.
  • SME boost: Blockchain could help open up cheaper, non-bank financing to small and midsized firms, which provide two thirds of all jobs in Europe.
I also agree that "there will be no 'big bang' heralding the arrival of blockchain technology in the financial services industry. However, the revolution has already started." The report further asserts, "The first live implementations of financial applications of the technology are expected within two years. Mainstream adoption will take a decade or two."

The report provides the following conclusion:
Mainstream deployment of the technology in the composition of retail financial products will take longer. Even if parts of the financial system adopt blockchain technology relatively early, other changes—such as merging e-currencies into blockchain networks, and integrating the growing number of internet-connected devices—will take decades.
For widespread adoption of blockchain technology in financial services to take place, two things need to happen. Financial institutions need to change how they interact. Today's centralized system encourages each player to assume others could be at fault. Blockchain will only work if companies learn to share and cooperate, and see themselves as part of a blockchain network rather than solo actors.
More importantly, the consensus approach will require a reworking of current financial regulation. If blockchain is to truly deliver on its promise, then revision of rules that now require the use of various counterparties and clearinghouses will be needed. This reform process is a sensitive task: Regulators are keen to encourage innovation—but not at the cost of promoting instability in the financial system.
Do you agree with report's findings? What is your prediction on how blockchain will be used in the global financial services industry?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 19, 2017

GSMA Report Examines the Transformative Opportunities Presented by Mobile-Enabled Digital Services in Ghana

A report produced by the GSMA in partnership with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) correctly notes, "Ghana has played a proactive role in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity." Furthermore, "Mobile – as a technology and as an industry – is uniquely placed to support the SDGs and development outcomes through the multiplier effect that comes from providing connectivity. In the 25 years since mobile was established in Ghana, the industry has connected 67% of the population, which amounts to 19 million individuals. To date, it has connected nearly half the population to the internet through their mobile phone." The report examines the transformative opportunities presented by mobile-enabled digital services in Ghana.

During my trips to Africa, I witness the development of innovative products and localized services as a result of an expanding mobile infrastructure. Therefore, I read with great interest that "beyond core connectivity to a network, mobile operators in Ghana have also created the means for citizens to access other core services, including the following:
  • "Providing financial services via a mobile platform, particularly mobile money, which is relevant to 11 of the SDGs. Mobile money is one of the most dynamic innovations in the industry and has provided significant social and economic benefits for users. At the end of 2016, there were more than 8 million active mobile money accounts in Ghana.
  • Facilitating the provision of digital forms of identity. The ability to prove identity is critical to accessing a wide range of services such as healthcare, education, employment, financial services and voting. In Ghana, birth registration is approaching 70%, having risen somewhat since the introduction of Tigo’s mBirth program in May 2016.
  • Improving productivity for farmers. Mobile platforms provide farmers and agricultural firms with up-to-date information on market prices, production techniques and weather forecasts through services such as the Vodafone Farmers' Club.
  • Expanding healthcare access. Programs such as the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) have helped demonstrate the potential of mobile to increase demand for and access to health information and services among rural communities, while also providing data on health service delivery and outcomes to the Ghana Health Service.
  • Increasing water and energy efficiency through the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions. M2M and IoT solutions have the potential to impact many of the SDGs: for example, by monitoring air quality, climate change and water & energy efficiency; by improving the productivity of manufacturing and industrial processes; and by monitoring marine, coastal and forest ecosystems."
Despite the progress made," however, "significant challenges remain to realizing the potential of mobile to support socio-economic development. Many of these require collaboration between the public and private sectors." The report highlights several areas (i.e., closing infrastructure gaps, increasing financial inclusion, and closing the mobile gender gap) that would benefit from such interaction between mobile operators and government departments.

On the topic of supporting start-ups and entrepreneurship, I support the assertion that "for a healthy start-up ecosystem to develop in the digital era, it is crucial that start-ups can incorporate mobile services such as SMS or mobile money into their products. Without access to mobile solutions such as inclusive payment mechanisms, start-ups serving the masses struggle to scale." The report lists the following key action areas for mobile operators to consider:

OPEN UP Depending on their in-house capabilities and market coverage, operators have three main options for their API go-to-market and sales approach:
  1. In-house API program
  2. Partnerships with a third-party API management software provider such as Apigee or WSO2
  3. Wholesale models with an API aggregator (local/regional, such as Africa's Talking, or global such as Twilio). This last option is probably more relevant for operators with smaller market shares and limited in-house resources to drive an API program.
HARMONIZE The heterogeneity of APIs remains a key pain-point for start-ups and developers. Mobile operators can harmonize at a group or industry level by adopting a common platform or standards for specific APIs (e.g. mobile money).

COLLABORATE APIs should not be seen as end products but as enablers of innovation. The competitive differentiation between mobile operators should not be the APIs themselves, but rather their efforts to engage with start-ups and support them.

OUTREACH TO DEVELOPERS This is crucial to a successful API program: developers will only use APIs if they know they are there and they are willing and able to use them.

Lastly, regarding the acceleration of digital identity, the report says,
Mobile is a powerful tool in enhancing people's lives by enabling them to access personalized, value-added services. As the Ghanaian government expands its National Identity rollout program, an increasing number of people will be able to register their mobile SIM cards in their own names. This will also enable mobile operators to offer robust, digital identities that unlock several life-enhancing services while at the same complying with mandatory SIM registration requirements. Tigo's mBirth program in Ghana is an example of a mobile-enabled digital identity service that highlights the potential benefits of the mobile industry and government collaborating to address the challenge of unlocking access to basic services for a significant number of Ghanaians. 
This blog contains a number of posts about Ghana, which the West African nation has demonstrated democratic rule and peaceful transition of power. I remain optimistic that mobile operators and government departments will provide the support necessary for Ghanaian entrepreneurs to develop mobile products and localized services, which will impact many of the SDGs.

Do you agree with the findings of the report?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 16, 2017

How Is Technology Changing Our Life and Work?

"Better life breakthroughs" is a content series produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) and sponsored by Standard Chartered Private Bank that aims to "analyse innovations that have the capacity to extend and enrich life, create new experiences and improve society in general." The EIU explains that "the first report in the series examined technology advances that are creating new investment opportunities for high net worth investors. The second report explores how the work environment may change under the combined impact of technology advances, shifts in workforce demographics and attitudes, and new thinking on workplace organisation and design." This post focuses on the second report, Labour pains: coming shifts in the world of work, which is available in both English and 简体中文.

Drawing on desk research and in-depth interviews with individuals whose job it is to think deeply about modes and places of work; namely, futurists, architects, technologists, entrepreneurs and corporate executives, The EIU report explores how the work environment may change under the combined impact of technology advances, shifts in workforce demographics and attitudes, and new thinking on workplace organisation and design.

The report's conclusions are listed below in its entirety:
  • Managing tomorrow's workforce will be a balancing act. Employers will go out of their way to accommodate the skilled talent – including on-demand workers – they need, for example by seeking to make the workplace a more pleasurable environment, as well as providing green spaces and other elements that contribute to employee health and well-being, all in the expectation of greater innovation and productivity. These may not result, however, if employers fail to address other challenges that are certain to arise, including that of strains developing between permanent and on-demand staff.
  • New tensions will need to be smoothed. To try and ensure that corporate culture doesn't suffer from the presence of a less-tethered category of talent, employers will look to equalize the treatment of both categories of worker to the greatest extent possible. Full-time employees, however, will worry about their longevity, particularly if their contract colleagues possess more advanced technology skills. The former are also likely to resent some of the flexibility enjoyed by on-demand workers, for example when it comes to remote working opportunities.
  • The work-leisure balance is likely to shift back again. Some experts also worry that too pleasurable a work environment will become detrimental to productivity, if protective bubbles form that lead to insularity from their customers. There will be a backlash against leisure and fun amongst some employers if productivity and innovation gains fail to materialize.
  • Some new technologies will be transformative, and also painful. Artificial intelligence (AI)-based automation, intelligent sensors and augmented reality, among other technologies, will give both employers and employees capabilities to operate in new ways. Productivity, creativity and safety should all benefit, but deft change management will be required, and employee worries about displacement by technology will be an ever-present source of workplace tension. New roles will open up for employees, some of which will emphasize their unique human abilities in communication, interaction and creative thinking.
  • Privacy will become a relic of the past. The future ubiquity of networked sensors and other emergent technologies means that privacy will be severely diminished in tomorrow's workplace. Sensors, for example, will enable much closer monitoring of employee performance. Even skilled, in-demand workers will recognize diminished privacy in the workplace as a necessary trade-off. Separately, tougher legal requirements for protecting individuals data will force companies to modernize the data practices used by all employees.
  • Work innovation will not be confined to technology companies. The technology sector is today the focus of most experimentation with new modes of working and workspace design. However, other sectors – notably financial services, healthcare, retail and logistics – are experimenting no less actively with technologies likely to shape work in the future, including artificial intelligence, networked sensors, augmented reality (AR) and others. As the boundaries between the technology and other sectors fade, the sources of work innovation in the future are likely to be more varied.
Asked to name the technologies that will do most to change work in the next decade, the experts interviewed all point to AI, networked sensors and augmented reality above others.

Artificial Intelligence 
  • AI capabilities will take machine translation to new levels, having conquered shortcomings in recognizing context and nuance in language. The advantages of multi-lingualism will not disappear but may recede in some support roles, such as customer service.
  • AI virtual agents will manage the IT service desk and will eventually become the principal interface between IT and technology end-users, using machine-learning capabilities to resolve issues on the spot. AI bots will also perform many more admin functions in HR, accounting and elsewhere in the back-office.
Networked sensors
  • Energy companies will monitor the health indicators of engineers working on hazardous sites with the help of sensors embedded in clothing, wireless devices, work tools and installed assets. Fleet managers will do the same for drivers via sensors embedded in these as well as vehicle seats and other components.
Augmented reality
  • Marketers and advertisers wearing AR-capable eyeglasses will be a common sight in offices as they visualize creative ads and other content they are designing for clients.
  • Mobile IT engineers will roam the floors wearing headsets enabling the visualization of networks schematics as they install new hardware or configure new systems.
  • Shop floor workers will follow instructions appearing in their eyewear about how to assemble or repair machinery, and the specific types and sizes of tools and parts to use.
Tactile internet
  • Surgeons will be able to perform surgery on patients, technicians to repair appliances for customers, and designers to manipulate models for clients, from distant locations thanks to advances in haptics, which create the sense of touch. The tactile internet will also leverage advances in AR and IoT sensors, as well as the advent of 5G mobile technology, which will enable the instantaneous response of remote machines to human movements.
In its conclusion, the reports says,
It is not difficult to envision scenarios in which companies in traditional industries become leaders in introducing new ways of working. After all, the tech industry may be the source of ground-breaking new technologies such as networked sensors and AI, but it is "old-world" industries that are taking the lead in deploying them. With the possible exception of driverless cars, the earliest pilots of AI have been taking place in the financial sector, especially investment management, and in healthcare. AI already has a home in the medical sector, where machine-learning software powers advanced diagnostics tools used by doctors, and self-learning robots are being piloted in supporting roles in the operating theater. Energy companies, consumer goods manufacturers, logistics firms and engineering firms are making widescale use of networked sensors today, some of them in combination with AI and AR.
Moreover, "Given the growing influence of smaller fintech, health-tech and energy-tech start-ups on their respective industries, we should expect to see experiments in workplace innovation expand well beyond the technology sector in the not-distant future."

Lastly, The EIU produced a video where Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace and Ray Yuen, principal and Asia workplace design leader of Woods Bagot, respond to an important question: how will the workforce and workplace change in the coming years?

How is technology changing your life and work?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 14, 2017

Rising 4G and Smartphone Adoption Growing Latin America's Mobile Economy

Being familiar with the Latin American and Caribbean region, I see opportunities to support the development of products and localized services in cloud computing, financial technology (fintech), connected devices, artificial intelligence, medical technology (medtech) and mobile applications (particularly in health and education). Therefore, I read with great anticipation a report by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm for London, England-based GSMA, which says, "Across Latin America and the Caribbean, smartphone adoption has accelerated to reach 59% of total connections by the first half of 2017." The report adds that "in the largest markets, adoption has grown particularly quickly: since the beginning of 2016, almost 85 million new smartphones are in use in the region, with Brazil adding more than 20 million and Mexico 18 million."

The Mobile Economy Latin America and the Caribbean 2017 claims, "By 2020 the region will have an adoption rate of 71%, ahead of the global average of 66%. This translates into an additional 171 million new smartphone users across the region by the end of the decade."

With respect to 5th generation mobile networks (5G), the report explains that "although the focus for both operators and consumers is currently 4G, 5G coverage will begin to expand rapidly by the middle of the next decade to reach just under 50% by 2025. Total 5G connections will exceed 50 million by 2025, nearly 5% of the global total. Adoption will expand once coverage reaches critical mass in key markets, led by Argentina and Mexico."

The report encouragingly says the mobile ecosystem is a major contributor to the regional economy. "In 2016, mobile technologies and services generated 5% of GDP in Latin America, a contribution that amounted to $260 billion of economic value added. In the period to 2020, this will increase to $320 billion (5.6% of GDP), as the region experiences strong growth in productivity brought about by continued adoption of mobile internet."

Furthermore, "The mobile ecosystem supported 1.7 million jobs in 2016. This includes workers directly employed by mobile operators and the ecosystem, and jobs that are indirectly supported in the rest of the economy by the activity generated by the sector. The sector also makes an important contribution to the funding of the public sector, with almost $35 billion raised in 2016 – mainly in the form of general taxation, including VAT, corporate taxes and employment taxes."

Based on my experiences of working in the region, the report correctly notes, "Latin America boasts some of the most advanced mobile internet users globally. ... Combined with Latin America's rising smartphone adoption and 4G usage, the mobile ecosystem provides a large, scalable platform for entrepreneurs and innovators." What is more, "With nearly 350 million mobile internet subscribers currently, and 420 million by 2020, the Latin American market is larger than the US and in 2020 will rival the EU in size."

Chapter 2.7 addresses the fact that the local startup environment is flourishing. "Venture capital and private equity funding has been especially strong in 2017, with more transactions (453) in the first half of 2017 than in all of 2016, which itself was a record year. Moreover, the number of deals has been rising strongly each year since 2014." The report, however, adds that "most deals are for small dollar amounts – and the amounts are often not disclosed – the number of deals is a better indicator of the health and momentum of the startup environment."

With respect to mobile's role in addressing social challenges, the report disappointingly explains,
Despite progress made to date, still too many people across Latin America and the Caribbean are digitally excluded. By 2020, nearly 250 million will remain excluded; these are predominantly in rural areas, in lower income classes and more likely to be women. The mobile ecosystem must address challenges and perceptions around safety and security if it is to connect these people, as well as tackle a lack of digital skills and affordability challenges.
On the topic of regulatory reform, the report accurately says, "The converging digital ecosystem is highly dynamic, fast-paced and modular. Rising consumer demand for data requires new technologies and significant investment. At the same time, the industry is moving forward to connect the unconnected and serve the nascent Internet of Things (IoT) sector. This all poses regulatory and policy challenges for both the current and future digital ecosystem. With that in mind, policymakers must seek to support and enable the digital ecosystem."

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence
What opportunities do you see for developing products and localized services for the Latin American and Caribbean market?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 13, 2017

Reflecting on Yeeko's First Year of Operations

While most Americans (and perhaps people worldwide) pondered on the first year of Donald Trump's presidency on Nov. 7, 2017, I took the day to reflect on the first year of Yeeko, Inc.'s business operations. Incorporated on Nov. 7, 2016 in the State of Washington, Yeeko is the publisher of Yeeko Magazine, a periodical that produces content on culture and literature for Chinese readers worldwide.

From Idea to Product to Revenue

"I do not have any experience in the media sector" is a reply I give when asked about my past work with media companies. My interest in co-founding Yeeko began when my colleagues from ROI3, Jingyan Zhang and Lei "Niki" Tao approached me in Oct. 2016 about their desire to launch a business focused on publishing a periodical. Jingyan, Niki, and a group of their friends from China attending the University of Washington in Seattle knew that a formal business had to be formed, but did not posses the experience of doing so. Committing myself as a co-founder of Yeeko simply resided in supporting a group of young, ambitious young adults with a clearly-defined vision.

After identifying the co-founders, a company needs to determine the number of members who will serve on the company's board of directors. The seven founding shareholders of Yeeko appointed five individuals to serve on the initial board of directors including me serving as its chairman and treasurer. While each corporation may prescribe a set of specific responsibilities for its chairman, my view is the chairman's primary role is to serve as the corporation's principal advisor. More succinctly, as chairman, I counsel Yeeko's executive management on establishing the company's strategic direction and achieving its long-term goals.

Once the governance structure was put in place, managers needed to be identified for the purpose of building the operational team. Jingyan took on the position of Yeeko's president and publisher of the magazine. Boya "Shirley" Ouyang, a co-founder and director, served as the magazine's editor-in-chief. Niki took on the role as the company's initial director of human resources and Jiang "Carl" Wu, a co-founder and director, provided input on the company's sales and marketing strategy.

Cover of Issue #1 of
Yeeko Magazine
As chairman, I have to strike a balance of letting my colleagues make small mistakes with the intent they will learn from those mistakes versus intervening in the company's operations to prevent large mistakes from occurring. Observing how other Chinese students attending American colleges form their respective student clubs or for-profit businesses over the past several years, I witnessed a common mistake where those leaders create a team unnecessarily large for the entity's initial operations. Yeeko was no different as the initial operational team consisted of approximately 13 individuals and subsequently grew to over 20 within just a few months.

Cover of issue #2 of
Yeeko Magazine
Irrespective of my concern for the team's size, Jingyan and her colleagues were able to produce the first issue of Yeeko Magazine within two month of the business' incorporation. Funded entirely by its co-founders, 1,000 copies were published through a company in Beijing with 100 copies to remain in China and 900 shipped to Seattle for distribution to restaurants, retailers and other distribution points throughout the state of Washington. With a plan to publish on a quarterly basis, the magazine's business model is to offer it for no cost to the our readers with revenue deriving from advertisements.

The second issue of Yeeko Magazine was distributed in March 2017, which is the first issue to contain paid advertisements. The third and most recent issue to date contains enough advertising revenue that covered the printing and shipping costs, which represents the dedicated work by Yeeko's sales team. Reflecting on the three issues of Yeeko Magazine, I am impressed with the high-quality work produced by Shirley and her talented editorial team.

Plan for the Long-Term, but Prepare to Pivot on a Moment's Notice

Cover of issue #3 of
Yeeko Magazine
As a result of my penchant for corporate structure, I lead each meeting of the board of directors with a formal agenda and adhere to the parliamentary procedure set forth in Robert's Rules of Order. At a minimum, I call for a meeting of the board of directors on a quarterly basis to review the material activities that occurred during the preceding quarter, a presentation of the company's financial report (profit & loss statement and balance sheet), and provide the company's president an opportunity to present a guidance of what to expect in the next 6-12 months of the company's operations. Governing in this manner provides transparency and accountability necessary for a company to succeed. In other words, it is best to avoid any hidden surprises that may distract a company from its core mission.

Yeeko held its first annual meeting of shareholders on May 20, 2017 at the corporation's headquarters in Seattle, Wash. The purpose of this meeting was to elect individuals to serve on the board of directors until the next annual meeting of shareholders and for Jingyan, as the company's president, to present her vision for the coming year. While the attendance of shareholder meetings are generally limited to current shareholders of record, I felt individuals of the Yeeko team, whether or not they own shares of the company, should be invited to attend the portion of the shareholders meeting when Jingyan presented her report. A few individuals attended and had the opportunity to question Jingyan's vision.

To my surprise, however, I learned a few days after the first meeting of shareholders that a small group of Yeeko's team members wanted to make a strategic change to Yeeko's corporate structure. This small group proposed that Yeeko Inc. be dissolved and reformed as a student organization. While I disagreed with the proposal, I felt that it should be given its fair consideration out of respect for the proposal's supporters. Therefore, I called an emergency meeting of the board of directors and shareholders to entertain a motion to dissolve the corporation pursuant to Title 23B of the Revised Code of Washington (also known as the Washington Business Corporation Act). The shareholders voted against the motion to dissolve the corporation, which, in effect, allowed for the continuation of supporting Jingyan's vision.

Lessons Learned and Moving Forward

Those who supported to dissolve Yeeko Inc. decided to leave the company altogether. This, unfortunately, caused a halt in the production of our magazine. It does, however, present us with an opportunity to pivot our corporate strategy to focus on the creation of a digital platform via WeChat, a Chinese social media mobile application software developed by Tencent.

Mistakes were made during our first year of operations. This is normal for any company, but particularly so for a company like Yeeko where its operational team is comprised by a group of people in early 20s with very little business or management experience. I am confident lessons were learned that will lead to an improved management style as well as an effective execution of the business' operational strategy.

It was an exciting first year for Yeeko and I am optimistic about what our company will achieve in 2018 and beyond. For those of you who use WeChat, I invite you to follow Yeeko through our WeChat page by scanning the QR code below.

Lastly, I want to express my appreciation to my fellow members of the board of directors, Jingyan, Shirley, Carl, and Niki, for their time and commitment. I also appreciate all those who are or were part of the Yeeko team during our first year for producing an outstanding product of the highest quality. And to our readers and advertisers, a special "thank you" for your support.

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.