Pushing Away Paper is the Latest Mobile Move, Vodafone Proves

MMW can now confirm that Vodafone Group, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, has selected Haystack for the deployment of digital business cards across Vodafone’s global workforce.

The effort, we’re told, effectively reduces the company’s reliance on paper cards.

Following an extensive internal assessment and selection process, including two pilots and dozens of Vodafone employees across several geographies, Vodafone had selected Australian startup Haystack as its exclusive digital business card provider for the global rollout.

“After trialing a number of alternatives, Haystack was found to be a solution which struck a balance between embracing the new capabilities of smart devices, while staying true to the classic ‘paper card exchange’ experience” says Virginie Vast, Head of the Cognitive Procurement and Digital Sourcing team at Vodafone.

“90% of all traditional business cards end up being thrown away immediately by the recipient”, said Ran Heimann, Founder & CEO of Haystack. “In contrast, Haystack Cards are seeing an engagement level that is more than 10 times greater, which means recipients prefer the digital cards too.”

After considering other alternatives like plastic QR codes and digital card providers, the group ran a test pilot which saw Haystack chosen as the leading provider both in terms of functionality and ease of use.

According to a provided press release, Vodafone Group is expected to complete the rollout of digital business cards by September 2017.

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Former IBM exec opens biological testing franchise in Austin; sets ambitious sales growth goal

After a career in technology, Paul Casterlin and his wife Lori decided to tap into their retirement savings to open a biological testing clinic that can help companies screen potential hires.

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Look inside gleaming new downtown Austin skyscraper that Google will soon call home

Another latest and greatest skyline moment is upon downtown Austin.
The 29-story office tower that will house Google Inc.’s regional offices and several other noteworthy firms is now open for business.
Located at 500 W. Second St. and formally called “500 West 2nd,” the glass and steel structure was developed by Trammell Crow Co. in partnership with Principal Real Estate Investors.
A grand opening celebration — mostly involving the real estate community — is set for Aug. 17, but Austin…

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Journal Profile: Meet Tanya Hall, former TV producer who leads Austin publishing group

Tanya Hall started her career in celebrity news working for the likes of E! and Extra in Los Angeles. Now she’s guiding a publishing business adapting to disruptive times. The CEO of Austin’s Greenleaf Book Group shares her advice for writers, her favorite reads and why she’s optimistic about the publishing industry.

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10 things nonprofits can learn from open source

Photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes on Unsplash

If you understand software, you would recognize that open source software is continually pushing our limits for innovation. Bitcoin, Chromium, Git, just to name a few. We wouldn’t be where we are today without open source.

Some open source software are run by nonprofit entities (such as Mozilla Foundation running Firefox) while most open source are just publicly hosted online. Although nonprofits and open source come from very different sectors, they actually share a lot of commonalities.

Nonprofits and open source fundamentally rely on altruism to further their cause.

Open source requires contributors. Nonprofits requires volunteers.

Both require good and frequent feedback loops in order to cultivate positive reinforcement to grow their user base.

Both thrive the most when they have a large user base.

Since open source tends to thrive more than nonprofits and considering the similarities, there is a lot we can learn about how to improve nonprofits by learning about the successful traits and strategies executed by open source communities.

I recently submitted this talk proposal to the SXSW 2018 and would love it if you would vote for it as a talk you’d like to see. I have a unique background of living in Austin, Texas (most nonprofits per capita than any other metro area in Texas and the Southwest US[1]), working at an open core startup called GitLab, previous experience launching a nonprofit fundraising startup and extensive experience working with a variety of nonprofits (faith based, sex trafficking ..etc).

There are a lot nonprofits that can benefit from this talk, even if they don’t understand software. These open source traits could empower nonprofits to become more effective in accelerating their impact and influence.

Vote here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/69960

[1] https://missioncapital.org/download/does-central-texas-have-too-many-nonprofits-2013-update/

10 things nonprofits can learn from open source was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Michael Dell defends spot on Trump council; Goal is to ‘share perspective on policy issues,’ company says

At least seven CEOs have resigned from the same council so far in the wake of Trump’s remarks equating white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups with those counter-protestors.

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Trump again attacks Amazon, saying company does ‘great damage’ to retailers

Amazon and Jeff Bezos have been frequent targets of Trump on Twitter. The latest attack comes at a time when Trump faces broad criticism for his response to white supremacists and violence in Virginia.

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Far-right provocateur postpones Google protests, blaming ‘terrorist threats’

Far right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec has postponed this weekend’s planned protests at nine Google campuses across the country, including in Austin, saying organizers were threatened with violence by “alt left terrorists.”
“In one instance, an Alt Left threat was made to use an automobile to drive into our peaceful march,” the organizers wrote online.
President Donald Trump began using the phrase "alt left" at a press conference Tuesday where he said counterprotesters in Charlottesville,…

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Ask the Users

TL;DR: Blogs, social media, and public endorsements are all noisy, and often false, signals about a person’s real reputation in the market. The only way to get the truth is to “ask the users,” and in a way that allows them to speak the truth without negative repercussions.

I’m going to keep this post as simple as possible, because the message, though extremely important and often lost on people, is quite simple.

Should you join a particular accelerator?

Ask the users — the companies that have already gone through it.

Should you accept money from a particular fund or investor?

Ask the users — the portfolio companies that have already taken money from them and gone through ups and downs.

Should you work with a particular mentor / advisor?

Ask the users — the companies they’ve already advised.

Should you use a particular law firm, accountant, or other service provider?

Ask the users — their existing clients, particularly the ones who’ve gone through a major transaction.

One of the most dramatic, impactful things that the internet (and services like LinkedIn, AngelList, FB, Twitter) has done is made it 10x easier to connect with other people to get direct, unfiltered, off the record feedback on their experiences in working with others. It has made BS a whole lot harder, and ultimately improved behavior across the board. But that brings up some important points worth keeping in mind as you “ask the users”:

A. As much as the web has made finding direct feedback easier, it’s also magnified the opportunities for untruthful marketing.

Blogging and social media are great ways to get a feel for a person’s persona — or at a minimum the persona they want to display publicly, which itself is a valuable, albeit noisy, signal. However, never underestimate the capacity for sophisticated players to whitewash their online reputations. What you see on a blog, on Medium, or on Twitter is marketing, and it’s only with due diligence that you verify it’s accuracy.

And yes, that speaks for this blog and my own social media presence as well.

B. Do not assume that a public-facing endorsement is reflective of that person’s true opinion.

Reality check: people use public endorsements as currency. A VC will make their investment, or assistance on some project, contingent on the expectation that founders say a few glowing things about them on Twitter. A lawyer will agree to discount a fee if they can get a great LinkedIn recommendation. An accelerator will make an intro if the founders will write a great Medium post.

Public endorsements, though valuable as a signal, are fraught with ulterior motives. In short, they can be, and often are, bought. I know plenty of people who, for some quid-pro-quo arrangement, have given public endorsements for market players whom they would NEVER recommend privately. Do not take a favorable public comment as reason to avoid doing private, off the record diligence.

C. Ignore the opinions of sycophants.

Every ecosystem is full of people who will sing the praises of anyone influential simply because that influential person could get them business. It may be too far to call some of them spineless, but ultimately they lack the personal brand independence to speak accurately about other peoples’ behavior. No one is perfect, and if someone’s review of a particular player feels totally over-polished, it’s probably because they’re not telling you the truth.

You want feedback from serious, honest people who are willing to speak their mind (but see below). Not a bunch of random cheerleaders.

D. Talk privately, and don’t reveal whom you’ve spoken to.

No one who has an active, ongoing relationship with someone wants to damage that relationship, even if they’re not entirely happy with it. Doing so is irrational. If I’m in an accelerator, I still depend on that accelerator’s support, so don’t expect me to go on the record for badmouthing them. The same goes if I’m in a particular VC’s portfolio, or working with a particular law or accounting firm.

This is why it’s extremely important to do “blind” diligence; meaning if you are diligencing X by asking Y, you absolutely do not want X knowing that you asked Y. If a VC tells you to ask a specific company about their experience in working with them, then they know exactly whom to punish if you end up walking. If you go through their portfolio and personally decide whom to ask, you remove that ability, and therefore dramatically increase the likelihood that you’ll get honest answers.

And it should go without saying: phone calls or in-person meetings. Don’t expect honesty in a forward-able e-mail.

E. Focus on patterns, not a single review.

Even the best restaurants have the occasional negative review because they either were having a bad day, they simply weren’t a good fit for the particular patron, or — and let’s be honest here — sometimes the user is a pain in the ass. The customer is always right? Nope, sometimes the customer is a moron.

Don’t assume that you’ve got the full picture from simply asking one person. Ask a few, and the line drawn from the dots will matter much more than the individual data points.

F. If you can’t diligence, you need a right of exit.

The stakes are highest for relationships that you really can’t extricate yourself from. A serious investor is the clearest example. Never take money from a VC without performing diligence.

However, for other service providers — take an advisor/mentor for example — there are other mechanisms to de-risk things. If they’re getting equity (which they often are), a “cliff” on their vesting schedule is the best one; typically 3 or 6 months. That should be enough time to understand the reality of working with them, and make corrections if it’s a terrible experience. Solid contracts help here, with clear, painless rights of termination.

However, a word of caution — all the contracts and lawyers in the world will not protect you from the enormous cost and time suck of working with sociopaths. Even if you don’t have the time or ability to diligence their “users,” you should at a bare minimum vet them personally with interviews, questions, and other ways to get a general feel for their personality and values. If you have good instincts for judging people — and if you’re a CEO I hope you do — you will be able to filter out most assholes.

Originally published at Silicon Hills Lawyer.

Ask the Users was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Restaurateur selling slice of Tuscan luxury with $12M Hill Country villa

A little piece of Italy is now on the market just a short drive outside Austin: Villa Antichita, an estate designed with Tuscany in mind.
About 25 minutes southwest of Austin, the 323-acre Villa Antichita in Driftwood is listed at $12 million and owned by restaurateur Damian Mandola, the co-founder of the Carrabba’s Italian Grill chain plus owner of Mandola’s Italian Market. Click through the slideshow attached to this article for a virtual tour of Villa Antichita.
The property includes an 8,821-square-foot…

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