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3 Startups That Are Using Technology to Reinvent Entertainment


These companies are using blockchain, augmented reality and 3D in groundbreaking ways.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


For the first time ever, Netflix received more Emmy nominations this year than any other TV network, as reported by BGR. The video streaming company received 112 nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last month, beating out former Emmy dominator HBO, which received three fewer nominations.

The success of Netflix demonstrates the power of technology in the home entertainment industry. When Netflix debuted its streaming service in the early 2000s, it gave users access to thousands of titles with the push of a button. At the time, it was the first service of its kind.

Today, the streaming company has changed the way people enjoy and access entertainment at home and it’s led to an influx of similar companies offering new tech innovations in home entertainment with a variety of viewing options for consumers. In 2017, these video streaming services contributed to a 5 percent increase in home entertainment spending, seeing it rise to $20.5 billion in the United States, as explained by Deadline.

Related: Don’t Understand Blockchain? It Can Work for You Anyway, This Founder Says

Now new tech innovations are being applied to home entertainment, revolutionizing the industry even further.

Blockchain

Those who have heard about blockchain or are familiar with this innovative technology likely associate it only with the cryptocurrency market and most notably, Bitcoin. But blockchain is being utilized by a growing number of markets. The technology can be used to create a highly secure ledger of transactions, and its potential applications are numerous.

Hollywood producer Andrea Iervolino, best known for backing the James Franco film In Dubious Battle, founded a new home entertainment company TaTaTu and is using blockchain to reward customers. TaTaTu pays TTU tokens to consumers for watching movies, playing games and listening to music. And with blockchain,TaTaTu can record each transaction in an open distributed ledger, which ensures users get rewarded. The blockchain also ensures content providers are compensated by using a digital rights management platform to create an accurate record of work for talent, distributors and studios involved in the site. Eventually, tokens will be able to be traded for cash or used in the company’s own ecommerce store.

“Blockchain technology is providing the opportunity that rights holders are looking for. No longer will they have to take someone’s word for it when it comes to distribution across different territories,” Lervolino wrote in the company’s white paper. “Once we bring a system of digital rights management into place, rights holders will be able to see exactly when and how their content has been shown — via the irrefutable ledger that is the blockchain.”

Augmented reality

Futuristic settings in movies often feature some kind of augmented reality (AR). The technology lets users apply digital layers to the real world. In science fiction movies these layers often appear in the form of advertisements. Whether through a pair of high-tech glasses or some kind of cortical implant, characters see billboards and pop-up ads wherever they go. It’s like the notifications you receive on your phone when walking near a business, but instead, the advertisements appear before your very eyes. If you follow my articles, you know that I’m a partner of an augmented reality platform called FluffAR, which rewards users with cryptocurrency for viewing AR experiences.

Related: Upcoming Pokémon Game on Nintendo Switch Hopes to Capture Huge Mobile Fan Base of ‘Pokémon Go’

AR is currently being tested in the world of advertising to bring these ideas from the movies to life, but it’s also being used in innovative ways in the area of home entertainment. Tech startup Eyecandy’s augment.tv project lets users access digital overlays while watching sports, documentaries, kids programming and more. In order to see the digital layers, users point AR-enabled smartphones or tablets on a video screen. The digital layer is then overlaid on the content.

For example, when it comes to sports, users can see an overlay containing a newsfeed of relevant stats and data about the match, teams and players. And augment.tv will even give users the ability to replay content themselves. Other features will include letting users shop for the clothing and accessories seen in the movies or tv shows they’re watching.

3D

While some companies are using technology to enhance a user’s viewing experience. Other companies are using technology to bring content to life.

3D technology has become ubiquitous in the movie industry. With dozens of movies being released in 3D every year, nowadays moviegoers have the option of watching most action blockbusters in 3D. According to recent reports by True Industry News, the global 3D and 4D market are expected to reach $168.6 billion by 2023.

Related: 17 Inspirational Quotes from Oscar-Winning Movies

New startup Urus is using 3D imaging technology to bring the 3D viewing experience home in a new way. The company is working to make movie and other video content scenes appear as if they are playing out in a viewer’s living room. Urus is using 3D technology to modify a user’s home scenery to match the look of the movie they’re watching. Using the technology they already have at their fingertips — their smartphones — users take a panoramic photo of their surroundings using their phone’s camera. This image is used to reconstruct a 3D model that then blends in the action on screen.

Just as Netflix revolutionized the home entertainment industry more than a decade ago, these startups are ushering in a new wave of home entertainment innovation, bringing technology usually reserved for science fiction movies, to life.



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5 Points to Consider When Choosing an Ecommerce System for Your Business


With cryptocurrency gaining prominence, have you considered accepting Bitcoin and its ilk?


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Consumers expect businesses to provide ease of use, efficiency and seamless payment processes. That’s especially pressing considering that globally, around two-thirds of the population of 52 key countries are expected to own a smartphone in 2018, as documented by Zenith Media.

Unfortunately, as NFIB research shows, many smaller companies still forgo adopting digital solutions. One of my main companies helps small and large businesses with software, and we constantly encounter issues of old and unreliable systems and even an absence of the right software, including ecommerce options. Although this may seem like a no-brainer topic, the research proves that there are still slow adopters and laggards to digital solutions. 

While there are a host of variables to consider when putting up an ecommerce channel, among the critical decisions to make is choosing a payment system. As shown in this Baymard article, checkout concerns are among the top reasons why online shoppers abandon their purchases. Customers demand a frictionless experience.

Related: New to Ecommerce? Save Yourself Thousands Yearly With These 5 Frugal Hacks.

It’s high time for small business to ramp up their use of digital solutions. Here are five factors you should consider when choosing how to integrate ecommerce into your business.

1. Customer’s preference

There’s a dizzying array of payment methods and solutions that are currently available. However, supporting every method available can be costly and impractical. A good way to approach this is for you to support the methods most preferred by your key customers.

This can be based on geography. For instance, Americans typically use cards as funding sources even with digital wallets such as PayPal and Apple Pay. Certain regions in Europe such as the Nordics prefer to use bank accounts. The Chinese use mobile payment solutions such as WeChat and Alipay. Other parts of Asia still prefer cash-on-delivery.

Preference can also be based on your particular audience and niche. Working-age customers should have a certain level of financial capacity and would have access to bank accounts and credit cards.

Payment services can help you support virtually all these methods but keep in mind that service tiers that accommodate multiple payment methods come with a cost. If you run a smaller operation, consider prioritizing support for the most preferred method by your market.

2. Emerging tech

Consider emerging niches as well. There’s a growing demographic of the crypto-wealthy who made their money investing in Bitcoin and Ether. Because of the lack of means to exchange cryptocurrencies to local currencies, these people try to spend them instead. This creates an opportunity for you to tap into this market. Services such as Paybear can help you support payments in Bitcoin and other altcoins.

However, supporting cryptocurrency payments does have its challenges, after all, cryptocurrency values can fluctuate wildly. For example, Bitcoin can take double-digit swings within a single trading day. 

Projects like T.OS are developing blockchain-based emoney that can even be pegged to local currencies. Such “stablecoins” hold their value even if the rest of the crypto market fluctuates, making them suitable for use in commerce. Such options could allow you to work with crypto payments while minimizing the risk of volatility.

Developments in logistics and payments have allowed cross-border commerce to grow. So, if you’re looking to expand your market across borders or overseas, accommodate the preferred methods in those places.

3. Security of transactions 

Security is always a concern for anything that involves money and customer data. Payment services providers should be the ones who work towards compliance with security standards. Check if the provider you’re partnering with follows industry standards such as the PCI Standards if you’re accepting card-funded payments.

Related: 5 Hot Trends That Will Continue to Change Your Ecommerce Horizons in 2018

Fraud and chargebacks are also concerns. Criminals often use stolen credit cards for online purchases. If you happen to process orders from such fraudsters, you may be left shouldering the cost of goods and even shipping since card companies typically rule in favor of the cardholders in cases of disputes.

Fraud prevention and chargeback protection may be available with your payments provider but they often charge extra for these services. One of the advantages of accepting crypto payments is that transactions can be irreversible and final, which eliminates exposure to chargeback fraud.

4. Ease of use

Due to the advances in user experience design, customers now demand speedy and convenient interfaces to use. It would do you well to check if your targeted payments solution will enhance your checkout experience. The fewest clicks or page loads customers have to make, the better.

Take note of the ease of use at your end as well. See if the experience will be idiot-proof for your or your staff to handle. Go through the checkout process yourself to confirm. Ask questions about reporting, such as will you gain functionalities such as dashboards and reporting, inventory management, invoicing and bookkeeping integration? Does the new software have plug-ins and integrations for your shopping cart platform (e.g. Magento or Shopify)?

You don’t want your payment solution to introduce unwanted complications to the way you do business.

5. Fees and costs

Among the reasons many small businesses want to stick to cash are the costs associated with supporting other payment methods. Card companies can charge somewhere between 1 to 3 percent for every transaction. Digital payments services that support card payments often pad these rates even more.

Crypto payments can charge lower rates. Since they use blockchain, they don’t have to route payments through intermediaries such as banks and clearing houses. However, it’s a different story if you have to convert crypto coins to traditional currencies. Crypto exchanges charge additional fees and commissions for such transactions.

Related: $0 to $1,000 in a Day: How to Create a Community That Keeps Buying and Buying From You

Most payment services offer tiered charging depending on the volume of transactions you make. Shop around so that you can find the best option depending on your locality. Crunch the numbers to see which one will give you the best value.

As a business owner, you are in the best position to know your business, industry and customers. The success of your ecommerce efforts depends on various factors, but your choice of payments system will play a major part. So evaluate your situation, check out possible providers and do the math to see how these would affect your bottom line. 



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One of the Biggest Issues Facing Blockchain Is Its Lack of Ability to Scale


Here’s what you need to know about the problems facing the technology backing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In order for the world economy to continue to grow, we need to develop digital infrastructure to sustain the speed and volume in which we share information. Data infrastructure needs to be scalable and deployable as the needs of our digital era continue to evolve.

Even though blockchain is somewhat the “new kid on the block,” it has excited the world of business. According to a survey carried out by Gartner, 66 percent of the respondents said they believed that blockchain is a business disruption and 5 percent were willing to spend over $10 million on the technology.

Blockchain has many uses and implications; however, the first mainstream application we’ve seen is through cryptocurrency. But the initial design of cryptocurrencies was not built for widespread use and adoption.

Related: 15 Crazy and Surprising Ways People Are Using Blockchain

For Bitcoin and Ethereum to compete with mainstream systems such as Visa and PayPal, they need to step up their game with their transaction times. As explained by crypto trading company Coindesk, “While PayPal manages 193 transactions per second and Visa manages 1,667 transactions per second, Ethereum does only 20 transactions per second while Bitcoin manages a whopping seven transactions per second. The only way that these numbers can be improved is if they work on their scalability.”

Scalability obstacles created by mining 

When dealing with Bitcoin and Ethereum, a transaction is granted only when a miner (the person whose computer processed the code behind the currency) puts the transaction data in the blocks they’ve mined.

Let’s say Stephen wants to send Andrew 10 BTC (bitcoin). He will send the transaction data to the miners, the miner will then put it in their block and then the transaction will be completed.

However, as Bitcoin rises in popularity, this process becomes more time-consuming. Plus, there is the issue of transactions fees. When miners mine a block, they become gatekeepers of that block. In order for transactions to go through, users will have to pay a toll to that gatekeeper. This “toll” is referred to as a transaction fee. This fee creates issues when scaling because it creates an additional barrier. 

What about Ethereum? In theory, Ethereum is supposed to process 1,000 transactions per second. However, in practice, Ethereum is limited by a cap of 6.7 million gas — the amount of computational effort required on the receiver’s side of the transaction — on each block.

Here’s how to understand what “gas” means. Stephen has issued a smart contract for Andrew. Andrew sees that the elements in the contract will cost X amount of gas. Accordingly, he will charge Stephen for the amount of gas that’s used up. It’s like letting your friend borrow your car and making them pay back the amount of gas that was used when they drove.

Related: 3 Industries Blockchain Entrepreneurs Will Change for the Better

These issues haven’t surfaced much yet, because there hasn’t been widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies until recently. Ethereum exploded in popularity around December 2017 through a game called CryptoKitties (where users buy digital cats and raise them). The popularity of the game brought to fore the issue of scalability, as documented in this Mashable article.

Here are some terms you should know regarding the scaling of blockchain.

Sharding

Sharding is the splitting of the block verification process and running of parallel subcommittees to collate the completed data. Zilliqa is a platform that utilizes sharding. It has been proven to handle 2,400 transactions per second with a goal to match Visa’s average of 8,000 transactions per second, according to The-Blockchain

Perhaps most importantly, Zilliqa reacts efficiently to scaling needs as its throughput increases with its network size, as opposed to Bitcoin becoming clogged with transactions. With a node size equivalent to Ethereum, Zilliqa predicts it could handle twice the transactions of Visa per second.

Hard fork

When a platform drastically branches away from its initial platform direction, it is referred to as a “hard fork.” Preceding the hacking of the decentralized autonomous organization on the Ethereum network (where $53 million of crowdfunded cryptocurrency was “stolen,” as reported by Bitcoin.com). Ethereum took a hard fork in order to reclaim the money and continued as Ethereum Classic, while the existing course maintained the original blockchain as Ethereum. 

Bitcoin recently adopted a hard fork in its capped block size, which means that old and new software are incompatible with each other and renders the old outputs invalid. Bitcoin has already forked previously, such as with Bitcoin Cash, and there are more planned for this year.

Related: Blockchain Is How We Can Protect Our Privacy in a World of Ubiquitous Surveillance

Segregated witness

The proposed Bitcoin hard forks will all incorporate SegWit (the Segregated Witness soft fork), which is software designed to solve transaction malleability but also improve the capped block size issue. Each block has a capped size that creates a finite amount of transactions to occur on each block. 

SegWit increases the block size limit to 4MB, meaning a single block can hold the records of more than 8,000 transactions. However, although the block increase provides short-term respite in scalability issues, it will still eventually present the same restrictions once transactions have exceeded the limit.



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3 Mental Shifts You Need to Make to Build a Stable Financial Future in the Gig Economy


Draw up plans on your future finances, with the goal of becoming independent, freeing yourself from debt and putting away savings for your future.


7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The gig economy has become a massive industry. Uber, the oft-cited mover and shaker of the gig economy, is now valued at $62 billion, TechCrunch reported. It’s even rumored to being going public next year.

Related: Don’t Sell Yourself Short in the Gig Economy

No doubt the company has to be grateful to the millions of drivers who choose to participate in the platform. In the United States alone, there are 1.5 million drivers sharing their rides.

And it isn’t just Uber that’s driving the gig economy. A host of other services are tapping into the freelance workforce, as well. A study by Upwork revealed that 57.3 million people worked freelance in 2017, contributing $1.4 trillion to the economy. The workforce is also shifting, because more workers are starting to prefer freelancing to traditional employment arrangements.

Freelancing has become a huge draw, especially for younger workers, with perks like flexibility and uncapped earning potential. Workers can definitely make a nice sum of cash maximizing the opportunities these platforms provide, especially if those workers possess in-demand skills and show that they can work hard.

There are, however, certain trade-offs. To start, there’s the issue of job security. Even if gigs seem plentiful, there still are chances of lean periods for certain types of work. The tech game is also quite fickle. You don’t know how long these platforms will remain sustainable or when they may pivot from their current ways of doing things.

Uber’s sudden exit  from Southeast Asia, Bloomberg reported, affected not only the regional ride-sharing market but the lives of its drivers as well.

In addition, regulations are still quite muddy about how freelancers are classified. Some geographic areas have already ruled that gig economy workers should be considered employees, but many countries still consider them self-employed. As such, typical employer-provided benefits, like pensions, insurance, days off and healthcare need to be shouldered by freelancers on their own. These perks are important because they are worth tens of thousands of dollars in the course of someone’s employment.

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

That’s why, if you’re part of the gig economy, you must be mindful about long-term financial stability. Even with traditional employment, it isn’t easy to save for the future these days. Freelancers face an even more uphill battle — a challenge but not an impossible one, given the tech-driven tools available to help people invest and save. Here are three ways to build up your finances as a member of the gig economy workforce.

Plan for retirement.

Payouts from gigs may be good enough to earn you a decent living today, but you need to put away part of it for your future. Life expectancy is increasing (as documented by the World Health Organization). So if you want to retire in your 60s, you should save enough to sustain you for about two more decades of living, especially if you are in a country with excellent healthcare.

Pensions have typically been the way to go about retirement planning: You contribute a portion of your income while working and you’re set to receive monthly payouts when you retire. But even if you have access to these plans, they seem to have fallen out of favor these days; and most freelancers and contractors lack easy access to them.

Fortunately, the blockchain-based pensions platform Akropolis aims to make sustainable and secure pensions available to freelancers and gig economy workers. Through pension platforms like this one, you can shop around for a product that fits your financial goals. You can also track the progress of your contributions, thanks to the transparent record-keeping blockchain provides.

The platform further engages vetted funds and fund managers, which ensures that entities vetting your money are legitimate.

Nor are pensions the only way to save for the long haul. You can also shore up your assets and diversify your portfolio by putting money into mutual funds, stocks, insurance and even cryptocurrencies. If you have little to no idea how to start investing, you can try out robo-advisor apps like Wealthfront and Betterment, which will help you find easy ways to start investing.

Manage debt wisely. 

Financial stability can be hard to achieve if you’re in the red. If you’re like the typical young gig economy worker, you’re likely dealing with a sizable student debt. In 2016, the average student loan debt amounted to over $37,000, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Conventional financial wisdom has it that clearing your debts is often the first step toward financial wellness. However, for most, this becomes a question of priorities. If you’ve had a good month from your gigs, don’t rush to reward yourself with some pointless or fleeting expense. Instead, use an app like Mint to keep track of your cash flow. Mint can help you track your income and set budgets for your usual expenses, like bills and groceries. Consider whittling away your remaining loan balances with the extra money that you earn.  

If pressed to choose between putting in money for your retirement or paying extra to service your debt, it’s advisable to prioritize your retirement fund (as Time magazine has written). The reason is that contributions carry tax incentives. Funds could also have gains that are higher than your student loan interest, which would make you better off in the long run.

Just make sure you make your monthly payments to your student loan. Keeping your debt manageable will at least stop you from hemorrhaging money from unnecessary interest.

Be your own boss.

Stop thinking of the gig economy as something to tide you over, as your “side hustle” or as a chill way to earn a living. Maximize every opportunity to earn through these platforms, but also think of the long term. While some may argue that working in the gig economy is like entrepreneurship, participating in centralized platforms means you’re still working for large corporations.

So, work on transitioning to real business ownership versus gig employment. You’re more than halfway there anyway. Specifically, you’re already the one in charge of your operating expenses and your equipment. And by participating in platforms, you may have gained access to ready customers and the automated tools you’ll need to manage things like invoicing and collections.

Business processes can easily be dealt with, using technology. Services like QuickBooks and Xero can help you manage your books and numbers. Why not work on making the platform you choose relevant for your own context? Take advantage of the opportunity to network with your customers. Get to know them. Building relationships will make it easy for you to take them with you when you eventually leave to run your own outfit. 

See gig work as a means to an end.

Financial stability requires serious planning on your part. Start by overcoming the mentality that gigs and freelance work are a more relaxed way to earn money.

Related: The Gig Economy Is Reinventing the Enterprise — Don’t Get Left Behind

Alternately, take advantage of the flexibility that gig work brings, to develop yourself and build toward something greater. Always keep in mind that rainy days will come, and that you’re aging. That’s why being wise with money should start sooner rather than later. Draw up plans on how you’ll manage your finances, with the goal of becoming independent, freeing yourself from the clutches of debt and putting away savings for your future.





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5 Exciting Innovations in Gaming That Entrepreneurs Absolutely Should Know About


If you’re in the gaming world, school yourself in AR, VR, AI, cloud-based gaming and blockchain. Everyone else is.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The gaming industry has come a long way since its inception in the 1940s, and it’s important that entrepreneurs and developers in that field make themselves aware of how quickly the industry has evolved over 70 years.

Related: 3 Things Video Games Can Teach You About Being a Better Business Leader

In fact, every innovation has represented a leap beyond the previous one, and (by extension) has formulated a gaming culture of early adopters who are enthusiastic about tech.

With that in mind, today’s gaming entrepreneurs should school themselves in the latest gaming innovations as they work on further gaming developments — as part of their effort to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are five of the top trends that are rising in popularity within the gaming community.

Augmented reality

Smartphone designers are in an ongoing race to pack in as much processing power as possible, using the sharpest camera possible in a small form factor.

The recent availability of this equipment in portable devices has spurred an increase in augmented reality games and utilities. These applications make use of specialized software that superimposes interactive content onto the “real world.” Now, users’ devices will allow them to see the world differently using this dynamic lens.  

Then there are games like Niantic’s Pokemon GO, which Polygon reports has attracted over 650 million users. This level of popularity has developers clamoring to create games offering a lively gaming experience that bridges the gap between real life and virtual reality. Apple has even made it a point to express the capabilities of augmented reality on its website when that technology is used alongside Applie’s iOS.

Virtual reality

Large companies are striving to find ways to put consumers “inside” their — the companies’ — simulations, through means of a VR headset; the companies are also finding intuitive ways for users to interact with these simulations.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Breaking Into the Video Game Industry

Oculus got its start raising nearly $2.5 million through Kickstarter, and built its empire large enough to the point of being bought out by Facebook for $3 billion as Business Insider reported.

Since then, we have seen many efforts from titans like Sony and HTC to create more premium virtual reality experiences that are accessible to the consumer. A barrier to entry when it comes to these forms of virtual reality, however, is the need for users to have the proper gaming rig necessary, either in terms of a high-end gaming PC or a console.

Samsung, with its Gear VR, and Google, with Cardboard, have come up with ways to make VR accessible to the masses at a far lower price point. Anyone with a smart device compatible with these headsets is able to experience the thrill of jumping inside a program without breaking the bank.

Cloud-based gaming

Experiencing the highest frame-rate possible is the ideal experience for a hardcore gamer; this requires a monitor with the largest resolution, and high refresh rates. However, given the increasing costs of GPUs due to the sharp increase of cryptocurrency and blockchain mining, this goal is not easy to achieve, especially with next-generation games becoming more hardware-intensive.

A solution to this dilemma? Cloud gaming.

Cloud gaming is a form of online gaming that enables a user to either stream games, or stream files to a given device, allowing for the playing of these games on these devices. Nvidia offers a service called GeForce NOW, which lets subscribers play demanding video games on enabled tablets; it even allows for cross-platform gaming, giving Mac users access to games they wouldn’t otherwise be able to play on their machines due to software incompatibility.

Artificial intelligence in gaming

Every industry is seeking to dip its toes into artificial intelligence. One would be hard pressed to find a modern product that doesn’t boast an AI feature. From ride-sharing applications to email categorization, many consumers are benefitting from AI without knowing it.

It was only going to be a matter of time before game developers found ways to reap the benefits of artificial intelligence. The most established form of AI in a video game entails having a computer opponent, whether that means an opposing player in a game of Checkers or an “armed” assailant in a stealth-based video game.

Programmers have actively sought out ways to have these “enemies” self-learn, in order to create a variable gaming experience that not only increases in difficulty but keeps the players’ experience fresh. And, here, advancements in AI have enabled developers to answer the call as they design new games.

Today, these developers are able to attain stunning visuals by creating algorithms that scan footage, and according to an interview with Tim Sweeney on TechRadar, create results beyond what someone could achieve using motion-capture technology.

Blockchain in gaming

The advent of Blockchain has led to many shifts in the digital market, mainly in the form of cryptocurrency but also in the rise of other innovative areas like cybersecurity and increased government efficiency (for more, see this Entrepreneur article). There are also indications that game developers and users will be getting on board with blockchain, as seen in Gods Unchained, the world’s first blockchain-based eSport created by Fuel Games.

The prevalence and popularity posed by the union of blockchain and gaming have previously been seen with other games, such as CryptoKitties. But, in addition, members of the gaming community can benefit from blockchain by having true ownership of the items they purchase or earn from the games, adding real economic value to their digital assets.

Why is knowledge of these innovations crucial? Because, before they make even their first, initial mark on their drawing boards, gaming entrepreneurs must have a starting point to discuss potential ways to stay two steps ahead of what their users are accustomed to.

Related: Developing an App or a Game? Take a (Retro) Lesson From ‘PAC-MAN.’

Gaming after all moves fast. And, the early adoption of technological innovations is embedded in the DNA of the modern gamer.



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These Tech Companies are Scoring Big at the World Cup


Are you following the matches in Russia? Sports are ripe for disruption, but you’ve gotta have the right tech.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The 2014 FIFA World Cup was viewed by 3 billion sports fans globally, CNN reported, and probably just as many are tuned in to the 2018 football (soccer) series, crowning this tournament as the most watched sporting event in our time.

Related: 5 World Cup Strategies You Can Steal to Make Consumers Passionate Fans of Your Brand

This year, the finals are in Russia, and if you’re tuning in, you may find yourself enthralled by the theatrics of overtly excited players, and the thrilling matches to which they devote their undeniable talent.

However, there is one other MVP that shouldn’t be overlooked this year; and, no, we’re not talking about Portugul’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Argentina’s Javier Mascherano. We’re talking about emerging technology.

What we’re seeing is technology pushing its way into sports. Innovative technology may have successfully disrupted several industries dating back to the 2014 World Cup, but it has also successfully infiltrated the 2018 series by way of the following innovative companies and the new opportunities they’re creating for the market ahead.

Status

When we sports fans were kids, athletic trading cards were all the rage. Now that we’re grown up, we require an updated version of these cards fitting enough for the digital age. Status has acquired a platform called CryptoStrikers, where fans can buy and trade cryptocards of their favorite soccer players.

Related: 5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the World Cup

Status and CryptoStrikers brought these “crypto collectibles” to the World Cup by launching a fresh updated set of soccer star collectibles to purchase with tokens. That’s not all, though; the companies chose to celebrate the start of the series by giving away 250 premium packs on a first-come, first-serve basis to its users.

The soccer-crypto combination is gaining traction fast. Essentially, it’s a new means to practicing a hobby that maintains its monetary value.

Viber

Viber set out on a mission to honor diehard soccer fans around the world. This messaging platform, which happens to be more secure than Telegram, started by launching an in-chat leaderboard feature that lets users track their match predictions.

Users have the option to create a custom leaderboard for a private group or to connect to a community of World Cup fans through a global leaderboard. Those who participate in the global leaderboard are entered into a contest, where they have the chance to win sticker packs, Viber Out credit or other select prizes by making accurate match predictions and collecting points.

As a fun extra, Viber will release an exclusive free soccer sticker pack in 16 languages, including English, French, Arabic, Russian and German to give soccer fans more self-expression on the platform. Viber is all about the World Cup and wants to celebrate with the platform’s users this year. 

Waves

Waves launched an air-drop of 150,000 soccer tokens this year. Yes, you read that right: 150,000 tokens were distributed to fans’ wallets free of charge! Each fan received one token that he or she could use to invest in a favorite team;  another option was to trade the token based on who the fan predicted would win each game.

What’s the catch? The most successful team’s token would have the most value. Following the championship, Waves said it would buy back the air-dropped tokens in accordance with the betting odds defined before the launch.

Sponsors felt that a great way to increase fan involvement this year would be adding value to a team via a new token. That move seemed much safer and financially reliable, too.

Betheruem

Meet Bethereum, the platform where all bets are placed between peers, as opposed to a bookie, and are carried out with smart contracts and the Ethereum token. In preparation for the World Cup, Betheruem prepared to publicly launch a web-based betting game to allow anyone to bet on World Cup results and compete for a winning pot.

We’re talking millions of tokens, here! Betheruem wants to be part of the advancing digital age, changing how betting is done. The key is transparency, and allowing blockchain to provide that decentralized, secure and trusted social interaction online.

Perhaps even ticket prices and authentication are occurring via the blockchain, along with personalized feeds of matches available via new blockchain-based video players. Maybe, new services will appear that that map plays automatically to make it impossible for referees to make the wrong call. The sky’s the limit for tech and sports. 

Increasing the amount of fan participation in the World Cup is just one opportunity tech companies can take advantage of. By 2022, the FIFA tournment will see new technological advances, with live streams being processed via AR, tickets sales transacted using national cryptocurrencies, statistics and data stored on the blockchain and decentralized prediction markets that can determine the World Cup champion before the series has closed (as mentioned by the Gulf Times).

Related: 5 Things the World Cup Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship

The growth of platforms, applications and AR products built on these technologies is undeniable, as well. The digitization of sports is finally upon us, and the FIFA World Cup is just the start of its journey.



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3 Must-Do’s You Should Complete Beyond the Interview to Vet That Potential New Hire


Background checks, online searches and tests for candidates can be key practices when you’re hiring.


7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Earlier this year, retail giant Target settled a $3.7 million discrimination lawsuit, as reported by USA Today. The suit alleged that Target’s criminal background-check process was biased against minority candidates. The litigation, spearheaded by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, has since led Target to set up a process for the plaintiffs to either obtain jobs or receive a cash award.

Related: 4 Ways to Test ‘Cultural Fit’ During the Hiring Process

The class action lawsuit centered around the experiences of two prospective Target employees. Both candidates were given conditional employment offers after their interviews, but following criminal background checks, the offers were revoked. According to reports, the background checks revealed misdemeanor convictions from more than 20 years before, on one candidate’s record, and a ten-year-old felony drug conviction, on the other’s.

The two main plaintiffs’ lawyers said those revocations violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars practices that have an unjustified and disproportionate impact on people because of their race or national origin.

Target’s reaction was that the events described in the case had taken place a decade before and that it has since improved its hiring practices. But the lawsuit still cost the retailer, in both financial and reputational terms.

The case illustrates why it’s vitally important for entrepreneurs and their hiring managers to reexamine their own hiring practices. Finding the right candidate for your open position is certainly important, but entrepreneurs hiring new employees must utilize tools beyond the typical criminal background check and interview.

Related: 25 Wacky Interview Questions That Work

A complete candidate-vetting process should include examining prospective employees from every angle. Here are a few things to keep in mind during the hiring process, including tips and resources to ensure your next hire is a perfect fit.

Background checks are still vital.

Despite the issues the Target case illustrates, background checks are still an integral part of the vetting process. But there are a few perils to the process entrepreneurs should know about, as outlined on the Lemberg Law website.

Before conducting a check, for example, hiring managers and entrepreneurs must explain, in writing, that they plan to use a candidate’s consumer report in their decision-making process. Hiring managers must also receive written authorization in order to obtain that report.

Then, once a hiring manager decides whether or not to hire the candidate, he or she must provide the candidate with a copy.If these procedures are not followed, the result can be costly penalties and potential lawsuits. 

Goodhire touts itself as a trustworthy background-check service that entrepreneurs and business owners can use to vet future employees. And, there are hundreds of other services that provide value for entrepreneurs looking to conduct background checks for future employees, including these nine services provided by Fundera.

Search the candidate’s online footprint. 

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be ruthless places. Stories of people being fired after their employers have discovered those individuals’ past offensive or nefarious posts are commonplace. As a result, many employees are being more vigilant than ever about what they post online — and they should. 

But social media accounts remain a useful resource for hiring managers vetting candidates, and are still an underutilized tool. 

While everyone’s profile won’t include glaring red flags like racist language or other offensive material, many profiles do include subtle clues about a person’s attitude and work ethic. For example, someone who frequently posts pictures of himself or herself partying might not be a good fit for a straight-laced work environment.

Conversely, a person with an active social life might be a perfect fit for a job involving entertaining clients on a regular basis.

Similarly, a simple Google search of the person’s name can also prove valuable, providing information about a person’s previous employer, news articles and even old personal websites the person never took down. Context is important: An online search conducted prior to an in-person interview will help the interviewer ask the right questions.

Additionally, this hiring manager shouldn’t stop with first page Google results, but search on, through pages 2 to 5 to look for pertinent buried information. Negative content cannot be removed completely but can be buried on later pages, so it’s useful to keep digging when you’re trying to find information on a new hire.

Conversely, looking at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn isn’t enough to glean information from a potential hire. It’s important to also search Instagram, AngelList and other social sites. AngelList shows a user’s work history and is a great indicator of how often a potential hire has changed jobs.

Quora is a tool that can show how a new recruit’s mind works. On Quora, a user answers various questions, and you can review all of the information and answers that person has posted. 

Test the candidate. 

Background checks, online searches and interviews can get hiring managers only so far. There are thousands of human resources horror stories of companies hiring employees who turned out not to be as advertised. Hiring may hinge to a large extent on a candidate’s level of honesty; and digging into a person’s past can reveal glaring issues. But other negative attributes such as personality flaws can be harder to suss out.

According to a 2014 report from the research and advisory consultant Gartner, 62 percent of human resource departments polled said they use personality tests to vet prospective employees. These kinds of tests give employers a deeper look at candidates; but of course, as anyone who’s ever taken a magazine quiz knows,you can easily figure out the answers that will impress an employer.

That’s a big reason why hiring managers are turning to integrity or honesty tests. These tests determine different things about an employee’s behavior, ranging, on the most serious end, from whether they may prove counterproductive or commit acts of “time theft” (taking long breaks) to whether they may commit actual theft (stealing company funds).

Finding an effective integrity tests involves some research; not all of them work as advertised. But, by utilizing this tool, hiring managers can gain valuable insight about prospective employees. Here’s a list of 14 personality tests, from The Muse, that can provide useful information.  

Additionally, for positions that require hard skills, there are tools that any employer can utilize. For instance, to hire a developer, the recruit can be given an assessment test that tests his or her skills (like these coding tests offered by Mettl). This type of tests can prove invaluable and save an entrepreneur time, money and energy knowing what a recruit is capable of before hiring. 

By using these tips and resources, entrepreneurs can ensure they are hiring employees who are a good fit for the company’s culture. The mantra that has never failed me is to fire fast and hire slow.

Related: How to Use Social Media to Ethically ‘Stalk’ Competitors and Job Candidates

After all, an entrepreneur is only as strong as his or her team,and hiring the right candidate is the key to continued success.                                                                    



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3 Lessons the Big Brands Hopping on to the Blockchain Can Teach Entrepreneurs


By mirroring strategies undertaken by big brands, startups can find ways to offer unique services taking advantage of the blockchain’s beneficial attributes.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


With the blockchain bandwagon gaining momentum, it’s easy to argue that the increasing number of large companies testing the waters is simply a money grab rather than a decision to dabble in innovation.

Related: 7 Myths That Fuel Blockchain Hysteria

For these brands, blockchain technology, which has commonly been linked to the startup ecosystem, may seem like a somewhat unnecessary add-on that is largely unrelated to core business processes and practices.

Moreover, some of the high-profile public blockchain initiatives, like those by Kodak and Long Island Iced Tea (since renamed Long Blockchain Corp.), have flopped hard enough to make observers doubt the applicability of the technology to large companies (as  this Fortune article documented).

Even so, behind the more visible stories of failure are multiple cases of companies deploying blockchain systems successfully.

The common thread connecting those successful implementations is a careful consideration of needs and a targeted approach to integration. While the major corporations jumping in can count on bigger financial and human capital, blockchain technology is fortunately low enough in cost (see this Ruby Garage tutorial) that entrepreneurs can absorb the necessary information and try their own hand at deploying it.

In fact, those entrepreneurs can look to the big brands starting to employ the blockchain and three key lessons those bigger players can offer startups seeking a competitive edge within their industries.

1. Blockchain opens new avenues for businesses to add valuable services.

The surging popularity of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underlies them has meant more and more people wanting to be part of the action. However, despite the praise for blockchain as a magic bullet to solve various technological issues, this technology is neither useful nor even applicable for all business models.  

Related: 15 Crazy and Surprising Ways People Are Using Blockchain

Simply adding blockchain to an existing platform, in fact, is likely to result in a scrapped project and an income-statement loss.

Instead, to ensure successful implementation, companies must find a practical use for the technology which adds value. Such is the case with ASKfm, which is expanding its already popular service by launcing its blockchain-based ASK 2.0 initiative.

The company, already one of the world’s largest Q&A social platforms, is set to add an educational component and improve the quality of its answers by using tokens to incentivize professionals to respond to queries. Eventually, ASKfm hopes to create a massive open online course (MOOC) platform delivering tutoring, private lessons and more.

Takeaway: Entrepreneurs often feel the need to jump on new trends to “stay with the market.” However, understanding why blockchain can be a valuable integration is the first step toward a company opening up this avenue to improve or transform its services. 

2. Blockchain improves accountability and tracking.

For enterprise-level companies in retail or logistics, expansive and complex supply chains are commonplace and difficult to efficiently manage. One of the blockchain’s biggest advantages over existing architectures is its distributed ledger, which creates an immutable record of all transactions closed across the blockchain.

For companies that operate enormous supply chains, this incorruptible distributed ledger is a vital addition, because it reduces the likelihood of missed inputs or faulty information. For companies in the food services sector, for instance, the blockchain can also improve their ability to track products and avoid foodborne disease outbreaks due to faulty goods.

Walmart, for example, as CoinTelegraph  reported, has already taken the step of creating a blockchain platform to track food products that travel from source to shelf. The retail behemoth is working in collaboration with IBM to create a system that was originally designed to track food deliveries to its stores.

By utilizing blockchain, other companies can similarly track their products more accurately, allowing every block on the chain to have the same up-to-date, incontrovertible data. In Walmart’s case, this means reducing the likelihood of outbreaks and expired goods. 

Takeaway: For entrepreneurs, the creation of strong supply chains and exerting better control of their products from the factory door to their stores and stakeholders is key. As Entrepreneur explained, the blockchain even empowers small startups to increase transparency, accountability and security throughout their supply chains.

3. Blockchain delivers more avenues for incentivizing consumers.

Another highly touted benefit of blockchain is its tokenization ability, which can be used to purchase services in-app or provide rewards and incentives to convince users to participate.

This allows companies to create value-added ecosystems that reward users for contributing and reinvesting their tokens back into the company. Tokenization is already being deployed by several large brands and is quickly being adopted as a marketing strategy.

As Bloomberg reported, Italian coffee maker Latesso, for instance, is including token addresses on its products where users can redeem online rewards and even perform exchanges for fiat currency. Similarly, communications brand Rakuten is creating its own tokens for its Viber app. As TechCrunch explained, the token will allow users to monetize messaging groups and communication streams, enabling businesses to easily integrate with the ecosystem.

These companies are simply adding blockchain utilities into their services, doing so in a way that generates incentives to persuade people to use their products.

Takeaway: Entrepreneurs can build more devoted followings and incentivize involvement even without an established brand name. By constructing ecosystems that reward participation and encourage reinvestment, startups can build loyal communities without having to resort to expensive and sometimes inefficient marketing strategies.

Related: 6 Ways Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Are Changing Entrepreneurship

Overall, the blockchain is catalyzing a transformation in the entire tech world, and entrepreneurs are well positioned to be at the vanguard of the revolution. By paying close attention to major trends and mirroring strategies undertaken by big brands, startups can find ways to offer unique services that take full advantage of the blockchain’s beneficial attributes.



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How to Overcome the 5 Top Challenges of Remote Freelance Work


A freelancer’s need for self-promotion. The battle against loneliness. Chasing clients for pay: Here’s what to do.


8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


To an outsider looking in, the notion of liberating yourself from a corporate environment and controlling your own success as a freelancer probably seems like nothing less than a dream. So much so that (as a slideshare study presented by Upwork shows) 57.3 million Americans were freelancing as of 2017. (Freelancing In America 2017 used the figure of 36 percent of the U.S. workforce).

Related: The Surprising Reality Is Freelancers Are Happy and Prospering

Theirs is a world I’ve shared: Before I became a business owner with employees, partners and 1099 contractors, I too was a freelancer and so came to understand the unique challenges freelancers face. I know from experience that pursuing an entrepreneurial venture alone can give you the freedom to decide “how, when and where”; but working as a remote freelancer often presents a host of other challenges.

Working remotely, for instance, can feel isolated and lonely. You are no longer operating in your area of expertise and are constantly challenged by the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management, travel between clients, invoicing and chasing after payments, to name just a few.

Here are some solutions to five of the top challenges I myself have faced:

The burden of self-promotion

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to many freelancers, yet a business cannot continue to grow without it. This means that a freelance cake decorator, dog groomer and technical writer all need to worry about ways to advertise their services.

The solution if this applies to you? Start creating content, whether it be video, audio (podcast) or written. Content is the key to showcasing your expertise. Content will allow people to discover you, and content will help solidify your expertise.

Contributors like me are always looking for valuable experts, and for tips on hot trends, news or perspectives. If you’ve already started creating content, it will allow you to prove your expertise.

Follow contributors who write about topics you’re looking to provide your expertise on, and reach out on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram (Instagram DM still being the absolute best way to reach someone you’re hoping to connect with).

Related: Why Freelancing Is Perfect for Introverts

My advice with this approach is to focus on the relationship. Everyone in media is constantly pitched new stories, but not all those stories are worth covering. However, if you focus on building the relationship and have a unique perspective, a journalist or contributor will be more inclined to speak with you versus constantly reading one cold pitch after another from you. Buzzstream is a good tool to use to help you find different people from the press.

Working in a lonely solo void

While the freedom in remote freelance work may appeal to many, working in solitude may not, as FastCompany documented in a recent article. Human nature requires support and interaction, and constant isolation can wear you down. Our bodies only work at an optimal level for approximately 90 minutes at a time, so take your laptop and head to the nearest cafe for some company.

Co-working spaces are also all the rage these days, Harvard Business Review reported, as freelancers and small business owners are often looking to become part of a community. A well-designed work environment combined with a well-curated work experience enables coworkers to thrive in a way that office-based employees cannot.

What’s more, regular in-person huddles with stakeholders can enhance your productivity, through brainstorming and synergy. Be sure to incorporate meetings throughout your work week to break the silence and keep your motivation levels up.

Another tip: Set up your own branded corporate conference room on a virtual meeting platform to coordinate with clients, and put in some face time when proximity is an issue. I love platforms such as ClickMeeting, which offers features like screen sharing and white boards — features which enable collaboration and immediate feedback virtually.

These types of advanced tools also create the illusion that you’re not working by yourself in an office all day and gives you some refreshing face time with clients, contractors and anyone else involved in the business.

Struggling with your calendar

As a solopreneur, you are forced to wear many hats, and you need to manage your time carefully. And given that some tasks will be outside your comfort zone, you may be prone to pushing them off once in a while — or doing this as a chronic habit. But be careful here: Battle your procrastination by adhering to a rigid schedule, to ensure that the job gets done and your limited time is utilized well. Tools like Toggle can help you with time management and ensure you’re staying on top of your to-do lists.

I like to follow the Pomodoro rule for completing tasks. This technique can help you power through distractions, keep you hyper-focused and help you get things done in short bursts while taking frequent breaks to clean your brain and refocus. It’s sort of like short high-intensity weight training, versus long, slow cardio. The Pomodoro Technique consists of short bursts of work followed by a short rest break. You:

  1. Create your list of tasks.
  2. Prioritize the list.
  3. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro in this context being a timer).
  4. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.
  5. Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended, but play around with what’s best for you).
  6. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break (like 20 to 30 minutes).

The goal is to accomplish your tasks in short bursts. Ideally, each task can be done in one to two Pomodoros. The goal is to hold a limit to how many Pomodoros you do per day. Then, repeat the cycle the next day. I’ve found that my productivity shoots up under this technique. Here’s a great web app to track your progress called the Pomodoro Tracker.

Scope creep

What is scope creep? Scope creep describes those extra little client requests here and there. The need that that website you just created suddenly has for extra pages at the time of delivery. That graphic-design gig you took on that keeps accruing more and more changes …

Sometimes the creep is subtle, and sometimes it’s massive. But, if you let the scope creep once, it will never stop creeping.

The best, most obvious way to deal with scope creep is a thorough contract which clearly states that any additional work will be billed accordingly. I love BidSketch for quick, effective, template-rich contracts. If you create a contract once, you can save it and reuse it.

BidSketch also has contract templates for specific industries. You can send the contract and have your client sign it electronically with the click of a couple of buttons, which helps you keep a record of the signed document to reference should any of the obstacles described below come up:

Chasing clients for payment

You produced. You invoiced. You waited. But still … crickets.

Payments are undoubtedly the most aggravating and awkward part of freelance work. So, protect yourself: Ensure a contract is in place for every job, and stipulate that you charge interest for late payments. Set up automated email reminders upon invoicing.

A software like Invoicely can help you with invoicing, with reminders to make sure you are on top of your finances. Invoicely works well because it allows you to set up late fees for invoices that are paid late or not at all. This is another tactic to help make sure clients pay on time.

The best tip I have learned is that you should always wait to deliver the final project until you have the final invoice paid. That way you retain ownership of the work before a client can run off without paying.

Unfortunately, this is an obstacle that you will face. If you embrace this fact and plan for it, you won’t be shocked when it does happen. There is no shame in picking up the phone and speaking directly to your client. If you speak on the phone, make sure to follow up via email, to have a paper trail.

You are entitled to payment for your services. Take legal action as needed. I like RocketLawyer for free contracts for entrepreneurs and freelancers, if the situation dictates.

Related: Here Are the Benefits of Working as a Freelancer

Remote freelancing presents as many challenges as it does benefits, despite the allure of flexibility. But, if being a freelancer brings you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams, then don’t allow any obstacles to deter you. If you’re the type of person who dreams of working for yourself, you will have what it takes to make it. Stay focused, stay inspired and stay hungry — to learn and grow.



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Ex-Convicts Make the Best Entrepreneurs. Here Are 3 Reasons Why.


Think about it: They’re expert bootstrappers, comfortable with unknown situations and likely to have a healthy disregard for ‘the rules.’


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


According to a recently published U.S. Bureau of Justice study, 76.6 percent of the prison inmates released in 2005 were rearrested within five years. That means that for every 100 inmates of the 404,638 prisoners in 30 states researchers studied, more than three-quarters were locked up again.

Related: How This Ex-Con Started From Nothing to Build a 7-Figure Business

That’s a staggering statistic about recidivsm given that the United States makes up 5 percent of the world’s population overall, and accounts for 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population (as shown on the website of The Last Mile, an organization I’m involved with, which goes into prisons to teach inmates skills).

This and related statistics have garnered national attention. So much so that a new prison reform bill passed the House 360 to 59, this month, in a rare show of bipartisan agreement, the National Review reported.

That bill will probably die in the Senate, the article noted. And, despite the fact that President Trump and Kim Kardashian West recently staged a selfies photo op at the White House to push prison reform (and Trump this week commuted the life sentence of an inmate Kardashian championed), these events offer little value for the vast majority of ex-convicts leaving prison.

Before I myself was locked up, I co-founded and built a megamillion-dollar business. But when I was released, I couldn’t even get a Starbucks job because of my record and was forced to reembark on entrepreneurship without a backup plan (the reason I created a Facebook group for other ex-convicts needing mentorship when starting off). 

Luckily, prison prepared me for entrepreneurship even more than I could have prepared earning an MBA. And that’s a fact which has cemented my belief that ex-convicts make amazing entrepreneurs because of three qualities prison has instilled in them:

Experts in bootstrapping 

As if prison riots, crappy living conditions and the absence of the internet weren’t punishment enough, the average prisoner gets a rationed state diet of fewer than 1,300 calories per day (a Sprinkle’s cupcake has more calories).

In fact, every prison inmate gets the absolute bare minimum issue of required items: typically a 2-inch golf pencil, a 2-inch toothbrush, state-issued toothpaste, a roll of toilet paper, a pair of pants, a pair of boxers, two pairs of socks, an undershirt, an over-shirt and a small towel. And, that’s it.

This minimum outlay will leave you cold, starving and struggling. You can buy commissary items, but they’re expensive, and if you don’t have any outside support, you’re out of luck. 

Related: 3 Reasons Former Inmates Make Great Entrepreneurs

Subsequently, each inmate becomes his or her own upstart, an entrepreneur by circumstance rather than choice. The goal is to figure out a hustle that will generate more resources. Inmates have to be relentlessly innovative and are forced to bootstrap their limited assets to maximize their resources. “Hustle,” therefore, can mean anything from running a sports book, offering tattoos and carving sculptures from soap to stenciling portraits onto bandanas and selling pics of their exes (actually a very popular hustle).

The point is that an inmate is forced to operate at his or her most optimal efficiency, leveraging those already-scarce resources. How does this apply to entrepreneurship? Bootstrapping is a vital skill for any newly formed startup. 

Comfortable with the unknown

The prison journey is not a linear trip, but rather a dynamic combination of unknown stops and experiences. An inmate is constantly moved around the system, from unit to unit, sometimes prison to prison and presented with new people and scenarios throughout his or her prison stay.

The only certainty is uncertainty. For me, figuring out how to adapt to the changing environment and changing scenarios, empowered me to get comfortable with the unknown. 

Startups operate in the same way. Every day presents a new challenge, a new obstacle, which has to be figured out and overcome. There’s no road map for doing prison time, and certainly no road map for building a startup. 

Living with uncertainty allows inmates to be fluid with expectations and helps them them roll with the startup punches. Plus, the experiences prison presents inmates with are much more severe than anything they’ll face as entrepreneurs.

For instance, being in prison sometimes means actual threats to inmates’ lives versus the startup world — where the biggest issue is the risk that (oh no!), they’ll fail.

The mentality inmates develop inside prison can effortlessly propel their startup careers once they’re out. 

Likely to have a healthy disregard for rules

Dissecting the entrepreneur versus the ex-con, I’ve found more similarities than differences. The most notable trait I’ve found? Their mutual, and healthy, disregard for rules. 

For the typical entrepreneur, a healthy disregard of rules has been the defining moment in his career, where he pushed the envelope of what society dictated and built a business where one did not previously exist. 

For the ex-con, who took that rule-breaking thing too far, a disregard for the rules has created an everlasting mark on her record and created obstacles that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life.

For the enlightened inmate who can harness his or her ambition and direct it toward a positive goal, disregard can be the ultimate power. A healthy disregard for rules can translate into a powerful motivating force. When harnessed and properly used, it can lead to unparalleled success in the system once the inmate is freed.

But this disregard needs to be harnessed and used for good; otherwise, it will become the reason for that high rate of recidivism previously described. A disregard for the rules can be the defining quality behind a statistic that can fall on either side of the bell curve. 

In sum, there’s no debate that prison reform needs to happen. Prisons do not rehabilitate; they create scenarios that set up those returning citizens for failure. Simply put, ex-convicts can’t get jobs because of their records. And, bereft of a steady income, most of them lack the resources or support to live a normal life. So, what are their options? A return to crime is one. Entrepreneurship is another. 

Related: Meet the Company Creating Jobs for Former Gang Members

That’s why we entrepreneurs need to be teaching more ex-convicts how to build businesses and become positive influences in their communities. That kind of activism could be an actual and realistic solution for achieving true prison reform. 





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