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What once housed his summer savings now reminds this CEO to build a strong team and focus on shared goals.

3 min read

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December 2018

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When I was nine years old, I overheard my parents arguing about the rent. They didn’t have the money to pay it. I had a Mickey Mouse piggy bank with $30 saved up, which was a lot of money to me, so I thought I had the solution and offered it to them. “Thank you; that’s sweet, but it won’t cut it,” they said, “and it’s not for you to worry about anyway.” I remember thinking, If that’s not enough, I can get more.

I grew up in Los Angeles’ Brentwood neighborhood in the early ’80s. Friends and I spent summers skateboarding all over. We also had a casual business operation: We’d wash neighborhood cars for $5 each, then immediately spend that money at McDonald’s. When I heard my parents arguing about rent, I set out to grow the operation. 

Related: This 9-Year-Old Boy Became KIND’s CFO for the Day and Learned an Amazing Lesson

I told my friends that if they helped me wash more cars, I’d buy an aboveground pool for the neighborhood. Whatever was left I’d save for rent. We went door to door offering our services, and every night I’d stuff my Mickey Mouse piggy bank with $5 bills. After a while, I had to buy another Mickey Mouse bank to accommodate the cash — and then a third. Before long, I bought a $1,500 pool (which made me a complete rock star) and still had $1,500 left over.

I gave the remaining money to my parents, who thought I stole it. When I told them about my business, they cried — and did ultimately put it toward rent. From that moment on, I never stopped hustling. You can do a lot of good with money. 

When I think back to that piggy bank — or see any image of Mickey Mouse — it reminds me of that hustle, and how important it is to incentivize a team. Our car-washing days were a success because my friends knew they would benefit directly from our work. Even today, that memory impacts how I work at Luxury Brand Partners. We develop and operate beauty brands, and our management team has equity in all our companies. When we recently sold our brand Oribe, that team benefited from the sale. It felt so good — the same as when my friends and I bought that pool.

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Entrepreneurs in the developing world seeking capital and investors looking for opportunity. Blockchain is the solution for them both.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We live in a world that is increasingly borderless, with the unprecedented growth of technology across a number of sectors. However, geographical and economic borders remain firmly entrenched in the global financial landscape, preventing those in emerging markets from accessing the playing field of capital growth.

None of the three countries with the highest GDP growth between 2008 and 2017 — Nauru, Ethiopia and Turkmenistan — have stock exchanges, depriving emerging investors and business owners of much-needed access to global capital. When investors do enter the traditional market, they face extremely high intermediary fees. Despite growth in tech hubs across emerging markets, economic exclusion and inequality remain huge barriers to those looking for a profitable investment opportunity. Blockchain technology, as a borderless force, might hold the very solution to this problem. By reshaping international investing to create a more decentralised, secure and accessible means of doing business, blockchain-based exchanges could help eradicate economic inequality and foster a new era of financial inclusion for developing countries.

Related: Blockchain Geopolitics: Is It East vs. West or Is It Large Countries vs. Small?

Emerging markets have limited access to stock exchanges.

In comparing the South African Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the largest exchange in Africa, with its North American counterpart, the New York Stock Exchange, it becomes evident that economic exclusion is a prevalent issue in emerging markets. The JSE has around 375 listings and a market capitalization of about $988 billion. In comparison, the New York Stock Exchange lists more than 3000 companies worth more than $28 trillion as of June 2018. This means that even those privileged enough to gain access to the South African JSE are still not being exposed to the same level of opportunity as those operating on larger foreign stock markets.

There is also a huge gap in the availability and accessibility of financial institutions. Two billion people are financially excluded from formal institutions such as banks. This means that a huge percentage of our global population is prevented from interacting on international investing platforms, despite a clear demand for capital growth in developing countries such as Nauru, Ethiopia and Turkmenistan.

The demand for investment and business expansion from entrepreneurs in emerging markets is increasing year after year. The 2017 Global Findex reported that 71 percent of adults in high-income economies saved in 2017, while the same was true of only 43 percent of those in developing countries. However, both economies reported the same percentage of people saving to start, operate, or expand a business. In Sub-Saharan African economies, this figure was twice the global average, with one-in-three adults reportedly saving for business expansion. The biggest hindrance to business growth within the region has been a lack of supportive financial services, such as stock exchanges, that encourage investment opportunities.

It is an unfortunate truth that current financial models are favorable and exclusive to high-income economies. Those in emerging markets have no choice but to invest in non-formal ways, such as through a savings club or in the form of livestock, jewelry or real estate. This excludes communities from global markets and, therefore, wider pools of investment opportunities. Equal access to global networks could turn these informal savings into real capital growth. Empowering emerging markets, and particularly small and medium enterprises in developing nations, should be at the core of all financial initiatives.

Related: Breaking Into a Volatile (But Rewarding) Emerging Market

Expensive intermediaries are barriers to growth.

Expensive intermediaries in stock exchanges area a major deterrent to business owners operating in developing countries. Currently, no stock exchange in the world allows customers to invest directly on their platform. Prospective investors are forced to place trades through intermediaries, such as banks or brokers, which is both an expensive and exhaustive process.

A report entitled ‘Blockchain in Capital Markets’, estimates that IT and operations expenditure are close to $100-150 billion per year among banks, with post-trade and securities servicing fees estimated at $100 billion. The high costs for both traders and banks, intermediary services are a major barrier to growth for early-stage businesses. For emerging markets, this makes trading across borders an improbable and often impossible option, having neither the money nor the time to invest in intermediary networks. Thus, the current stock exchange market is a double whammy of inaccessibility to foreign and smaller players.

Related: Entrepreneurship and Millennials Are Thriving in Emerging Markets

Borderless blockchain can solve economic exclusion.

Change is needed to combat issues of financial exclusion and these barriers to growth. A decentralized blockchain-based exchange offers a possible solution to this very issue. A borderless exchange removes the middleman. By ruling out traditional bank and broker monopoly, borderless exchanges enable previously excluded companies to connect with global investor networks, while simultaneously raising capital. This immediacy — when contrasted with the costly and exhaustive process of intermediary involvement — empowers business owners in unprecedented ways to expand their business, which in turn will promote growth in  their local communities and economies.

Although there are an estimated two billion unbanked adults, almost two thirds of that population have access to a mobile phone. Blockchain technology, through initiatives such as app-based exchanges, could harness this easily accessible method of communication to overcome the barriers of high costs and inaccessible institutions. The borderless nature of digital technologies is an incentive for foreign investors to engage with emerging markets, redistributing wealth and investment into economies where growth is most needed.

Related: How Alternate Lending Players are Banking the Unbanked

Perhaps the most exciting element of blockchain technology is its potential to disrupt and decentralise the traditional financial market, especially in regards to redefining the stock exchange market. Decentralized exchanges can harness the core values of borderless, decentralised, accessible platforms to offer developing countries unprecedented power to acquire wealth.

Technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives and job functions. Blockchain has the capacity to promote change and capital growth in emerging markets and beyond.

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If we’re not failing, we are staying too safe. And you won’t grow unless you are constantly making yourself uncomfortable.

2 min read

Brought to you by Lewis Howes

So often we are afraid to go all in. Whether it’s in a relationship, in business or in an investment, the fear of failure keeps us from fully committing. What a mistake.

I’ve had to learn to love failure. I have to consciously tell my brain, “You’re going to fail. And it’s going to be OK.”

Take the leap. Make the commitment. Dare to take a stand.

If we’re not failing, we are staying too safe. And you won’t grow unless you are constantly making yourself uncomfortable.

On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I dive deep into the idea of going all in when the time is right with one of the most successful investors in the world: Matt Higgins.

Higgins is a proven operator, investor and business builder with a knack for helping founders at pivotal growth moments achieve breakout success. He serves as CEO of RSE Ventures, a private firm that incubates and invests in companies across sports and entertainment, food and lifestyle, media and marketing, and technology.

Higgins co-founded RSE with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, the most prominent private developer in the U.S. and a serial entrepreneur. Together Higgins and Ross have helped build enterprises from scratch, including the largest privately owned soccer tournament in the world (International Champions Cup) and leading brand strategy and communications agency Derris.

Higgins didn’t graduate from high school. He came from a humble beginning but never let that hold him back from getting where he is today.

He says that when you do things your own way and you start with a blank page, it’s going to be a lonely journey. You have to trust yourself and be careful about the advice that you take.

So, get ready to learn what makes Higgins a great investor and why certain businesses are winners on Episode 727.

Subscribe on iTunesStitcher RadioGoogle Play or TuneIn.

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Think that Google Play and the App Store are your only options? Think again.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Chances are, when you think of app marketplaces, Google Play and Apple’s App Store are the first that come to mind. And well they should.

Both platforms have been highly lucrative for entrepreneurs and developers alike, after all. Revenue paid to app business owners from the App Store totaled $26.5 billion in 2017, according to Apple. Gross revenue from Google Play apps came to $20.1 billion over the same period, per SensorTower.

Related: Getting Started With Small Business App Development

Approximately $14 billion of that went to app business owners, based on the 70/30 revenue split that both Google Play and the App Store offer on paid apps and in-app purchases. Total revenue for both app stores topped $58 billion — a year-over-year increase of 35 percent over 2016. For 2020, Statista has predicted that mobile app revenue will jump to $188.9 billion.

Fierce competition in the app space

Alongside these staggering revenue projections comes fierce competition in the mobile app space. As of Q3 2018, there were over 4 million apps available in Google Play and the App Store combined, per Statista. Why so many? The relatively low barrier to entry to mobile app development — and the potential rewards if an app meets with success — are at least partly responsible for the glut.

All this presents a challenge for you if you’re developing an app of your own. Even if — through marketing and positive reviews — you’re able to distinguish your app from the millions of others, and convince a consumer to download it, Statista shows that the struggle to gain traction with users is far from easy. Close to 25 percent of apps downloaded in 2017 were used just once in the first six months after they were downloaded.

Given that a large proportion of mobile apps rely on freemium pricing or in-app purchases for revenue, persuading a customer to download a particular mobile app is often only the first step on the road to meaningful revenue.

Still, while the potential rewards of developing a successful iOS or Android app are enormous, the Play and App Stores are far from the only options for entrepreneurs looking to build, monetize and sell an app.

Here, then, is a look at three lesser-known marketplaces for entrepreneurs seeking to build an app business.

Shopify App Store

Since launching in 2004, Shopify, the Canadian ecommerce software giant, which was initially founded to hawk snowboards, now commands almost 10 percent of global ecommerce market share, according to Statista.

Related: 6 Big Challenges Faced By Startups When Developing Mobile Apps

Shopify is actually the most popular stand-alone ecommerce platform. WooCommerce, which powers a staggering 28 percent of ecommerce sites worldwide, is a plug-in that adds ecommerce functionality to sites running on WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system.

Shopify’s App Store is home to almost  1,200 paid apps that extend the functionality of the platform. Many Shopify app purveyors, such as ShopStorm, offer a suite of products, each aimed at solving a different problem for merchants.

If you happen to be a Shopify merchant, and you’ve come across an issue that an existing app doesn’t address, consider doing some research in the heavily trafficked Shopify merchant forums. If other users are experiencing the same issue, an app that solves the problem might just have a significant audience. If you’re brainstorming app ideas, the forums are an ideal place to start.

Shopify offers developers a variety of monetization options for apps, including one-off and recurring payments, and usage-metered charges. Shopify app developer ASoft offers an amazingly insightful resource featuring a plethora of Shopify App Store metrics that is updated daily.

It’s a must-read for any entrepreneur considering developing a Shopify app, as is this blog post. Shopify charges a 20 percent commission on app sales billed through the Shopify App Store, whether the commission is a one-time payment or recurring subscription revenue.

Salesforce AppExchange

Salesforce was one of the world’s first pure software as a service (SaaS) companies, and it remains one of the most valuable, with a market cap that exceeded $100 billion in November 2018. Salesforce is the market leader in customer relationship management  and it’s widely employed by small business and the world’s largest companies alike.

As with Shopify, a diverse ecosystem of apps has emerged to extend the functionality of Salesforce’s core offering. Launched in 2005, the Salesforce App Store predates the Apple App Store’s launch by three years, making it a true pioneer in the app marketplace vertical.

Related: Top Principles to Follow For Sustainable App Development

With an estimated subscriber base of 3.75 million, according to SalesInside, there’s a good chance that a substantial number of these people are seeking solutions to issues not addressed by Salesforce out of the box.

The platform is also remarkably developer-friendly: It provides an extensive learning resource for developers called Trailhead. Salesforce also offers the Lightning app builder, which allows users to build their own simple apps without any coding required. Lightning is aimed at making it easier for Salesforce users to develop in-house solutions. Building apps for the Salesforce App Store will likely require proficiency in one of the following: Node, Ruby, Java, PHP, Python, Go, Scala or Clojure, as well as use of the Heroku development environment.

There are also up-front costs associated with listing an app in the SalesForce app store, as well as a 15 percent commission. These costs may be higher than on some other app marketplaces, but the rewards just might outweigh the additional outlay. Steve Cummins, founder of AppSelekt, has estimated that the average AppExchange paid app generated revenue of well over $900,000 per annum in 2015.

Alexa Skills

Amazon’s virtual assistant has become so ubiquitous that one friend, a partner at a large law firm, recently recounted that the first word her infant daughter spoke was “Alexa.” Since launching four short years ago, Amazon’s Alexa-powered “smart speakers,” like the Echo Plus, have almost a 65 percent market share in the United States, according to data from Voicebot. Considering that Voicebot found in a separate study that 57.8 million adults, or 23 percent of the U.S. population, own at least one smart speaker, there is already an enormous market for Alexa apps.

Amazon has dubbed these Alexa apps “Skills,” and created a dedicated Skills marketplace.

Although it’s early days for the Amazon Skills marketplace, Voicebot, the oracle of all things Alexa, recently revealed that Alexa has 50,000 Skills and works with 20,000 different devices, with 3,500 brands using it,

Amazon rivals Salesforce in the depth of learning resources it offers to developers, but there’s a catch. While Skill developer success stories abound, Amazon is currently being opaque about how it incentivizes developers, according to CNET. Watch for the terms to become more transparent in the near future.

Final thoughts

The three app marketplaces explored in this post should be carefully considered by entrepreneurs hoping to launch an app business. Other app marketplaces to check out include WordPress Plugins, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft AppSource.

Clearly, there’s a world of opportunities beyond the AppStore and Google Play for app creators and entrepreneurs. Keep them in mind for your own project.

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When starting up as a new entrepreneur, the first thing to do is avoid making constant business blunders, no matter how insignificant they seem.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most new entrepreneurs make terrible, dumb mistakes that crash their businesses before they can even get started.

They make these grave mistakes not because they are unintelligent, have low IQs or possess little experience. New entrepreneurs allow these blunders because they don’t see them as issues. Thus, they fail to invest their resources into fixing the problems until the problems bulldoze their companies.

Related: 10 Ways Leaders Fix Mistakes Without Making It Worse

Here are the top three dumb mistakes new entrepreneurs make, and a lasting solution to each oversight.

1. Superficiality

We live in a world of superficiality — shallowness, no attention to detail, not focusing on satisfying our customers.

In a world of 140 characters, many of us build products fast and hope for quick cash. The focus is more on “build and sell fast” than on quality and originality. Many entrepreneurs, especially the newbies, fall into this superficiality trap.

These would-be entrepreneurs refuse to sharpen their skills, ship broken products and provide terrible customer experience. That’s why many startups don’t see the light of day. What’s the solution?

Customer obsession. Your startup exists to serve your customers. Be obsessed with always pleasing them with your product.

Obsessive attention to detail. Before you build or ship any product, check every tiny detail with care. Don’t settle. Don’t let your team rest until you have completed the project to above-standard quality.

Constant learning. Knowledge is the antidote of superficiality. Keep learning, so you can satisfy your customers with unstoppable value and become the go-to person in your industry.

In the end, dumping the superficiality habit requires a change in mindset. You can get rid of it with constant practice and obsession with quality. That means focusing on getting good at one thing, before moving on to something else.

Let’s talk about that next.

Related: 3 Marketing Mistakes That Kill Tech Startups

2. Chasing two rabbits at a time

Amateur founders are quick to craft multiple ideas, bloating their online stores with a vast array of products and constantly rewriting their missions to accommodate their offerings. But, is that the brilliant idea they think it is? No, it’s not.

A friend of mine who is a freelance web designer recently told me that he had added copywriting on top of his web design services. “I want to increase my income, you know,” he excitedly told me.

I told him not to do that. I told him to focus instead on his design services so that he would become known as an expert in that category. But, he didn’t take my advice. The last time I checked, he had quit his freelancing career altogether.

Obviously, he was frustrated because he was chasing more than one rabbit at a time. As Confucius beautifully said, “Man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” Don’t offer two services or products at a time.

What you need as a new entrepreneur is credibility, not money. And the only way to establish yourself as credible is to focus on refining and improving your skill set, your product, and your offering. Only then can your customers regard you as the best provider of a particular product or service.

Related: This Is the Biggest Mistake Entrepreneurs Make in Their Finances

3. Ignoring “minor issues”

For new entrepreneurs, a comma splice in their home page copy is not something to worry about. “It’s just a minor issue,” they say. A broken link in their Facebook page is no big deal. “It’s just a minor thing,” they say. One negative customer review? Well, that’s just a “hot-tempered customer,” they say. “It’s just a minor thing.”

But is it? The reality is, these are not minor issues. These are big issues. Remember, all problems start small before they gradually metamorphose into big, uncontrollable setbacks.

That little comma splice on your homepage can lead to a tsunami of credibility issues. An error in spelling will then portray your brand as another fake company in the marketplace. Protect your brand. Don’t leave any tiny issue unresolved. Fix it — fast.

When starting up as a new entrepreneur, the first thing to do is avoid making constant business blunders, no matter how insignificant they seem.

Don’t be superficial in responding to your customers’ inquiries. Take your time to provide them with in-depth answers to their questions. Don’t chase too many opportunities, lest you fall into bloat and overload. Instead, focus on providing one product, and ensure that it stands out from the crowd.

Don’t ignore the small issues. They’ll grow into bigger problems. Nip them in the bud before they destroy your company. Everyone makes mistakes, even veteran entrepreneurs, but learning how to fix these three big blunders will save your little startup from crashing early.

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Online platforms for freelance worker provide an unparalleled opportunity to work with millions of people who aren’t necessarily like you.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s easy to be swept up in the negative rhetoric around the gig economy. Too often “on demand” workers are framed by the media purely as a cost-cutting tactic for businesses. Somehow the professional experience and expertise of the humans behind the screen get left out of the conversation.

Related: How to Fight the Gender Pay Gap as a Self-Employed Woman — and Maximize Your Income

Think of it this way: Online platforms are a unique space where the world’s best talent can connect both with each other to exchange ideas and share feedback, and with people and organizations actively seeking their specific skills. They create a truly level playing field irrespective of location, gender, age or background.

When you remove the barriers of geography and social background — which is what Silicon Valley’s call for “democratization” ultimately is — the creative possibilities are endless.

Our industry talks tirelessly about improving diversity. We need to celebrate the evolution of platform work as a step in a fairer direction, and see it for what it is: an unparalleled opportunity to work with millions of people who aren’t necessarily like you.

Diversity in ideas adds value.

Not looking more deeply into the benefits of our emerging global workforce does a disservice to the people around the world using online platforms to build their careers. Truly flexible work has never been this accessible, and is a valuable pipeline for people like stay-at-home parents, retirees or creatives who find they do their best work on the road. Valuing flexibility over more traditional benefits shouldn’t be dismissed as a somehow less valid choice; as a society we should encourage people to work in a way that works for them.

Related: 7 Reasons Why the Gig Economy is a Net Positive

In addition, there’s plenty of evidence that a globally distributed talent network can radically improve a company’s output and available skill set. Research from McKinsey shows that ethnically diverse businesses are 35 percent more productive and 9 percent more profitable. However, as any business owner knows, achieving diversity isn’t always as easy as we’d like. The platform economy offers a solution in a ready-made global network of skills and international perspectives.

Access the best people and projects.

Freelancers have been the lifeblood of the creative industries almost since their inception, so the concept of tapping into on-demand talent is nothing new in fields like design, music, film or writing. What online platforms have succeeded in doing is opening up this model to the rest of the world, making it easier for freelancers to find interesting work, and making talented creatives more accessible to clients.

While the platform economy has created a new global wave of creative diversity, there’s still some way to go in getting more people comfortable with the idea that the best person for the job isn’t necessarily in the same time zone or country as them.

The key point that’s missing from so much of the narrative around the gig economy is that companies put significant effort into attracting, nurturing and retaining skilled people. After all, the best talent will always have options — and working within the platform economy is just one of them.

Related: How ‘Unconventional’ Workers Can Be the Answer to Your Company Culture Woes

Ignore international talent at your own risk.

Creative talent is a commodity in demand, and that talent truly is everywhere. No skilled worker should be disadvantaged because of where they were born or where they live. Platforms have broken down borders in the creative industries, and ultimately made them a much fairer place to work.

As a global society, we should celebrate this: Businesses have never had access to such depth and reach of creative talent before. To miss out on the benefits of this diversity simply because we are stuck in well-worn narratives and assumptions is such a waste of potential for a society in desperate need of creative diversification.

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