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The Best CBD Oils for Stressed-Out Entrepreneurs

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I was born in the ’80s and was a teenager in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and it still boggles my mind that weed is legal in most states. Back in the day, I had a pager and was one of those young knuckleheads running around selling it illegally, so I am still in awe that people can go to dispensaries and get weed delivered, seeing as how I had been arrested for doing that in the past.

Speaking of lockup, quarantine has encouraged people to turn to vices like excessive drinking and eating more. We’re at a stage where a lot of that behavior is starting to catch up with us, but whether it’s dieting, replacing drinking with calming tea, or going on a tolerance break, there are plenty of ways to start reckoning with bad habits. One popular trend worth implementing into your routine right now is CBD, which I recently started using off and on at night to help recover from my crazy workouts. In doing so, I did a ton of research to figure out what brands were best, and which products I liked most. My article comes from this research and the dozens I tried. 

Whether you’ve used CBD before or not, this might be the year you start exploring how its potential could benefit you. That’s why I’ve put together this shortlist of top CBD oils to consider, based on quality and taste.

Related: 4 Smart Ways to Choose the Best CBD Product for You

Verma Farms

This past year, Verma Farms crept up into the national limelight for its CBD offerings, winning over noteworthy critics and fans across the board. I actually sat down with the owner on my Entrepreneur podcast recently to discuss the brand (listen to previous episodes here). Verma came recommended by a bunch of my founder and entrepreneur peers, and I’ve seen them around on various media outlets, so it wasn’t a completely new brand to me. Although oil was their first product, the latest iteration they’ve upgraded to is a runaway hit, complete with an array of flavors that any and everyone could get down with. Along with popular choices like Mint, Natural, and Lemon-Lime, they’ve also included Strawberry, Watermelon, Pineapple, Mango and Peach, adding in one of the better fruit varieties we’ve seen on the market. Since most fruit flavors contain an overwhelming amount of sweetness to them, Verma Farms avoids that with a rounder, more robust flavor profile. And considering they’re made with organic, all-natural ingredients, you don’t want to skimp on what’s pure about the oil overall.

Premium Jane

I first heard of Premium Jane from a friend who does CrossFit. The thing I like most about them is how much they offer a premiere experience at honest, entry-level pricing, with their CBD oil only adding to that reputation. With dosages ranging from 300 mg to 1,000 mg, Premium Jane’s flavors include Citrus, Mint, Natural and Mint Chocolate, all of which boast great flavor without going overboard. Sourced from organic Oregon hemp, Premium Jane keeps it simple with their flavoring and ingredients, and you get everything you pay for, hands down.


Spruce is a brand that doesn’t hold back on being catered towards the seasoned CBD user. Coming in with a 750 mg and 2,400 mg bottle, their Full Spectrum oil is a force to be reckoned with, dosing in at around 25 mg and 80 mg per dropper. An incredibly popular brand for how potent their all-natural, organic CBD oil is, this is a family run company that puts a lot of love into their product. If stepping up your experience level with CBD has been on the itinerary, then Spruce might be the perfect solution for brightening things up. 


One of the most popular names in the business, CBDfx definitely has its product lineup for CBD oil on lockdown. Offering a range of naturally-flavored tinctures from 500 to 1,500 mg, they additionally also offer Blueberry Pineapple Lemon, Lychee Lemon Kiwi and Lemon Lime Mint varieties. A favorite choice for an MCT Oil-based Full-Spectrum product, CBDfx is notorious for rapid absorption. Check them out if you’re looking for a brand that’s tried and true, making a pretty straightforward product for the price. 


Another great company if you’re looking for an easy to use, straightforward line of CBD oils, Fab CBD focuses on selection. They offer Natural, Berry, Vanilla, Citrus and Mint flavorings, with all available in 300 mg to 2,400 mg. Sourcing organically from Colorado, this full-spectrum variety comes in at an affordable entry of $39, which is perfect for those who haven’t gotten that deep into CBD. My workout partner actually uses their product every night to help heal ease his muscle soreness. 


One of the more forward brands when it comes to product advancement in products, Medterra is definitely more than meets the eye. While they offer flavoring for their broad-spectrum selection of tincture in either 1,000 mg or 2,000 mg, Medterra also impressively is getting set to launch a CBG + CBD tincture as well. To round out their oil inventory is an isolate that ranges from 500 to 3,000 mg in strength. Not trying to win you over by being excessively flashy, Medterra offers a straight-up great product that speaks for itself. And although their price point is slightly higher than some, it’s competitive for the quality in the end.


Rounding out my list is Rosebud, which offers three strengths from its artisanal line of CBD. All sized out in half or full ounces, it’s clear Rosebud is made by true cannabis fans, which is apparent in their wide range of pricing as well. Definitely a brand designed for the connoisseur, Rosebud doesn’t skimp on getting everyone in on the rotation, providing enough options for everyone to go around. 

Related: What Doulas Can Teach Us in Times of Anxiety and Chaos

Even though I don’t party like I did when I was younger, I’m pretty sure this list would make even Snoop and Tommy Chong happy, and will hopefully help you relax during the high tension of quarantine.

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10 Top Instagram Tools to Stand Out During Quarantine

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are two strategies you can pursue right now: 1. Retreat and play defense with all the uncertainty surrounding the economy and world, or 2. Go on the offense, control your ’s narrative and push more content. Personally, I’m choosing the offense. Increasing my posting and driving my brand forward is in my control, unlike a lot of other variables (like where my next stash of TP is going to come from). 

With COVID-19 keeping much of the country on lockdown, this is shaping up to be a year of -consumer overload, opening an opportunity for content creators and entrepreneurs to start engaging with their base a little more. I’ve been seeing lots of users hack out , especially on Instagram Live. This experience, while tragic and traumatic in many ways, has also doubled as a litmus test for brands and their social media strategy.

As a chance to start reassessing the Instagram tools you might be using and what can be improved, I’ve decided to pull together a set of 10 — each of which I’m currently using across my various businesses and brands — that can help you start planning and assessing how to grow your followers during this otherwise challenging period.

Related: Quarantined? Boost Your Social Proof With These 5 Strategies


An excellent choice if you want to build your follower base quickly, ViralRace enables you to get your content in front of the people who would enjoy it most. The system allows people to send their profiles out to a wide group of people, and thousands of interested users then follow the account. The app is a custom AI engine that geo targets followers to get quality leads, which is what was compelling to me as a user. I’ll note that since it’s not utilizing a bot or fake followers from a farm, the build is quick, but built with genuine people that will stick with you. When you consider how often Instagram sweeps to get rid of fake followers and bots, a tool like ViralRace is an efficient, affordable way to garner more traction for the long haul, which I highly recommend to get a solid base going.


One of the most intuitive and inventive design tools to come out recently, Figma is giving a run for its money (especially since Figma starts its pricing out as free, versus Adobe, which only offers free trials). Beyond the pricing, Figma is a seamless collaborative-design platform that works in real time with your team on projects. It’s especially helpful if you’re working with a copywriter/graphic designer duo or have multiple hands on your Instagram’s design scheme. It’s not often I come across products that provide effective collaboration, and I always stick with them when I do.  


From the team that brought you LinkInBio (a grid-formatted link for linking out content on Instagram posts), Later is one of my favorite products for planning and scheduling out your content for Instagram. Later has a clean and easy UI and delivers on analytics that are easy to understand. With competitive pricing that starts at free for individuals, Later is something you definitely shouldn’t put a hold on checking out.


Considered by many to be one of the strongest visual communities out there, VSCO is where you need to go for any and all visual inspiration. As VSCO’s primary tool is their photo editor, they’ve had some skin in the game since Instagram’s early days, growing to be one of the biggest treasure troves of different styles and shots from some of the world’s best. Consistently going strong for almost a decade now, VSCO is a classic for any Instagram pro’s social-media arsenal.

Union Metrics

An alternative-analytics platform from Later, Union Metrics has a robust platform for tracking who’s been looking at your Instagram and which of your content they’ve been gravitating toward. Explaining data in a pretty straightforward way, Union Metrics can help you quite a bit in making informed decisions on what type of content you should be posting, as well as what time is the most advantageous. 


For all the talk about influencer-marketing campaigns, the best of them start with BuzzSumo. Giving you a deep dive into what each influencer’s follower count is like, average engagement and ranking for your Instagram, its platform helps quite a bit in getting the best ROI out of your influencer-marketing campaigns. Although a little pricier in that it’s designed for professional teams, it’s still a smart consideration if you’re really looking to ramp up your influencer marketing soon.

Why use TikTok, an Instagram competitor, as a tool for engaging on Instagram? The content format and editing are increasingly becoming the new norm in people’s Instagram Stories. More and more people are turning to TikTok to create short videos with a narrative (similar to a longer Vine), evolving a new medium of content that didn’t exist before. Even if your Instagram still has good engagement on its Stories, learning how to create content “TikTok style” will help you stay ahead of the curve while also enabling you to start building an audience on another platform.

Related: Facebook and Instagram to Limit Coronavirus Misinformation


For a simple, linear tool to help organize, compile and track personal links, Linktree is the best in the business. Starting with unlimited links in its free version, it’s a perfect solution for anyone trying to collect their clickables in one place. Plus, in the advanced version, the tracking is especially helpful in the content you’re trying to A/B test your engagement on. I personally love the data and make changes based on what I see. For example, if one of my articles is getting more clicks, I put it higher on my Linktree feed. 


A new tool introduced by SproutSocial, Landscape helps you resize any and all your photos into a convenient size for Instagram. Although many of us think cropping things down is an easy job, you’d be surprised how much content people prohibit themselves from capturing because they don’t think it’ll fit for Instagram, or they’ve taken a flick and it doesn’t fit. Instead, Landscape fixes that problem, changing behavior in helping more people create content freely. Plus, its quick click-and-drag system is one of the simplest, most convenient ways to get the job done better and faster than going through manually.

AR Filters 

Finally, a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down is AR filters, which enable people to do everything from taking quizzes to wear masks and even play games. The possibilities creators have been exploring with AR filters have been endless, cycling through with new interactive and engaging content almost every week. With the right idea, your AR filter could possibly go viral.

What’s your favorite Instagram tool you’ve been using recently and how has it shaped your process? Hit me on Instagram @andrewmedal, and let’s go on the offense during this crazy season.

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How to Automate Technology to Help Run Your Businesses

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We all could use a little extra help when it comes to running our businesses. Whether you have a , a virtual assistant or simply Assistant (still a contender), it can at times feel like a juggling ploy to keep up with all the moving pieces. Enter additional responsibilities and passion projects (such as speaking gigs, writing opportunities or launching new initiatives), and the pieces move faster and demand more attention, decreasing our productivity and contributing to our overall stress levels. 

What ends up happening is that potential leads and opportunities can slip through the cracks. How many times have you forgotten to respond to a potential client because they messaged you on , where you had 347 other unopened messages? Or, how many hours have you had to log into your weekly calendar to respond to emails?

Thankfully, we have that can help us. I’m in the of investing up front to automate said technology to work for me moving forward, so I don’t have to continue to commit chunks of my weekly schedule to run operations or delegating and then overseeing those delegations. It also helps that automation can eliminate a margin of human error, as reported by Towards Data Science. If you’ve ever been curious about how automated technology can play a role in your productivity, regardless of what type of business you run, here’s how to get started and test it out for yourself.

Related: Automation Is Becoming a Business Imperative

1. Determine what doesn’t require your mind power

The reason to rely on technology is simply that your mind power is precious, and ideally should be reserved for creativity and brain-powered productivity sessions. Even if you prefer to be in control, ask yourself, “What doesn’t need my mind power to operate efficiently?” Do a walk-through of your day, and you’ll likely find a number of tasks that eat up your time and don’t require your effort. And one of the most cited benefits of automation is its ability to save time.

Amiad Soto, co-founder & CEO of Guesty, a short-term property- platform for those with businesses on and other booking channels, mentioned in a virtual conference the other day (yes, that’s a thing now) that when it comes to running your own short-term rental business, “Many don’t realize just how much time the small, repetitive tasks of guest , staff scheduling, maintenance and updating calendars across booking channels can take. For entrepreneurs, this time is better spent elsewhere, such as marketing and growing their businesses. Automation tools in a business such as this — which can mean automated check-in instructions and requests for reviews post-stay, or editing a listing and having it uploaded to all major booking channels instantly — can save property managers/hosts a minimum of 50-plus hours per week. Relying on tech tools that enable you to avoid monotonous tasks also means being able to avoid hiring more staff, and rather rely on smart solutions as an extension of your in-house team sans another salary.”

Think about how much you could drive your business forward if you had technology at the helm of the automated tasks. That’s a lot of extra time for creation, strategy and working on the big projects.

2. Figure out how automated tech can enhance your client experience

Beyond what you can get off your own plane, automated technology can also go above and beyond to enhance your customer’s experience in a way you never thought through before. One example is response time. The Lead Response Management Survey found that “waiting even 30 minutes to reply to a potential customer’s inquiry can decrease your odds of qualifying the lead by 21 times.” Having an automated technology in place to respond within minutes — then to follow up without a response — is extra work that you likely never considered before. 

Automated technology like the chatbot can get a bad reputation, but done with thoughtful, human-centered copy, can actually dramatically increase your conversion rate. The possibilities for automated technology extend far beyond cleaning up your to-do list. And companies of all different sizes, as explained by Business News Daily, and value propositions are using it to add to their features in both simple and revolutionary ways. At the heart of it, automation enables companies to serve customers better than the business could before.

3. Test it out on a small scale first

To get started, it’s best to exercise it on a small scale to make sure you feel in control and that it works for you. Don’t begin by completely overhauling the typical way you do business, as this can lead to a big cleanup down the road. Slowly implement one new technology (or increase the scale of the technology’s tasks slowly) per week to make sure that you know what’s going on and can brief your team members. 

“It all comes down to the research, which requires a period of testing,” Kyn Chaturvedi, Chief Business Development Officer of Tomochain, told me in a recent email conversation. “Leaning on technology is one of the best productivity hacks that entrepreneurs can try, but they have to understand deeply how it will work within their own business and build the right infrastructure for it.” 

Related: 11 Ways to Automate Your Business and Boost Efficiency

Automated technology should by no means be adopted overnight, but it’s the first step in taking the load of the small tasks off our shoulders, so we can reserve our energy and creativity for efforts that really move the needle forward in our business. Businesses of all types and sizes are finding ways to make automated technology work for them, and productivity is increasing as a result. Try it for yourself, and see how it can improve your business’s ability to serve.

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8 Tips to Coronavirus-Proof Your Business ASAP

The pandemic is happening, but if you take the right steps, your company can get ahead of it.

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you buy in to the media frenzy about COVID-19. Why? Because it will still impact your . I don’t have to go into the depth about why that matters. 

So, this article is not going to address the virus at all, other than to say that if you don’t want to get it, your best bet is to wash your hands (a revolutionary idea, I know). But here are some tactics that will help you stay ahead of a down

1. Put an automated lead machine in place

If you don’t have automated lead processes in place, now is the time to get on that. If the economy goes down, you’re going to have to sell twice as much as you were previously and without , you’re running an uphill race. Automation helps clone you and your team. I use LeadBox to put my lead gen on autopilot and receive fresh new leads across all of my companies. All I have to do is close the sale. It’s easily 10x’d my companies.  

Related: What should businesses and employers do during the coronavirus …

2. Implement systems and rely less on people

Never manage people. Always manage systems. This is an foundational principle and can help you manage your business better. And in turbulent times, people become even less reliable. We have dozens of different systems and processes we use across my various companies. One tool I love is Trello. It’s easy to create, has a great mobile UX and is simple to learn for anyone that hasn’t used it previously. 

3. Put customer safeguards in place

If you’re able to put customers on contracts now, that could be beneficial. That’s a tough conversation to have though currently with so much uncertainty. Something I’ve started to implement across my companies is initiating conversations with our clients and customers about the coronavirus. We ask them simply if their budgets and have been affected by the pandemic. Creating an open line of can help you plan in case things do start to change and their budgets go away, which hopefully gives you a good enough lead time to make changes internally if need be. We’re also sending out surveys to our various customers and clients to get a better of how how they’re dealing with the virus. For surveys, I love Survey Monkey. It’s the easiest most effective way to get surveys out quickly. Forms works well too. 

4. Focus on perfecting copywriting

A lot more people are going to be online over the next few weeks, constantly checking updates about the virus and economy, but also because most companies are going to implement temporary work from home policies. Because of that, the copy on your website, marketing materials, ads, etc, is going to be an especially competitive advantage right now. With the world fighting for engagement, strong copywriting will be a competitive advantage to attract the audiences you want. Udemy has some really great copywriting courses to improve your skills, or you can outsource through sites like Toptal or Upwork to find freelancers. 

Related: 3 Ways to Safeguard Your Business as Coronavirus Spreads

6. Double down on markets that have served you well

I don’t think testing new markets in the current uncertain economic landscape is an effective use of your time and resources. Contrarily, we’ll be doubling down and going deeper into the markets that have been effective for us. If you don’t know the ‘who, what and why’ of your company and its products or services, I recommend you read a book called Sell More Faster, which helps you get really clear on your customer segments. One of my mentors and advisors, Max Borges, preaches this philosophy. His company Max Borges Agency, for the past 10 years, has consistently generated $30m+ with a very healthy margin and contributes it simply that they got crystal clear on who their customer was, drilled down that very specific niche and created a product that his customers love. 

7. Focus on offerings that make your customers money or save them money (bottom-line products)

In these uncertain times, companies are less focused on products they don’t need. But, if your product or service either makes your customer money or saves them money, you become much less indisposable. Two example products that I will not stop using no matter what happens with the economy (because they make me money or save me money) are Adroll for retargeting (makes me money) and Charge Point reduced merchant services (saves me money). 

8. Productize service-based businesses

Here’s why products matter. You only have so many hours in a day to sell and execute on services (even if you have a team, you’re limited to their hours and so on). Products will help you make money while you sleep. Plain and simple. In order to scale and grow, you need products. If you’re a service, figure out how to productize some of those services. To keep things simple, just start with one. Products come in all shapes and sizes, from digital SaaS products to courses, to e-books, to anything that can be purchased and paid for online. You want products. 

But mostly, you want to wash your damn hands! 

Related: Coronavirus and a Looming Recession: How to Raise Capital in …


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3 Tested Ways to Achieve High Work Performance and Deep Thinking

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My wife and I just had our firstborn child, so figuring out how to maintain high performance while on limited  makes a ton of sense for me right now (there isn’t enough coffee in Starbucks to keep me caffeinated). And while we all want to walk around like in Limitless, operating at stunningly efficient levels in a state of total human optimization, the reality is, well, we’re human. 

Everybody knows that great habits lead to better results if you’re looking to change your habits. That means getting a good night’s rest, eating healthy and having a positive attitude. Habits are important, given that 69 percent of American adults say that is a significant source of stress, according to a November 2019 survey by the American Psychological Association. Moreover, 56 percent reporting being stressed over the nation’s political climate. Americans also don’t get enough sleep. A 2018 survey by National Sleep Foundation found that only 10 percent of U.S. adults prioritize sleep over other daily activities. For people who have excellent sleep health, 90 percent said they are very effective each day.

A nutritious diet, ample rest and a positive outlook are what remind us that we can determine our quality of life more than external stimuli or events beyond our influence. Here are ways to boost your performance at work and life in general.

Related: How to Reach Your Full Potential

1. Be open to “smart drugs”

Speaking of Limitless, increasing numbers of people are taking supplements to ensure their mind and body can accomplish more. “Smart drugs,” or nootropics, are particularly popular among individuals who seek an edge in daily performance. The global dietary supplements market will grow 7.8 percent annually to $195 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research, and North America leads the way as the largest market for these products. “The market is driven by the hectic work schedules among working individuals coupled with fluctuations in diet intervals,” according to the firm’s May 2019 report.

As we all know, a full day requires concentration, dedication and nutrition. As Mau Pan, co-founder of Nuoptimal, explains, “Nootropics can be the catalyst to achieving greater productivity and happiness in your daily life. When taking the right combination of ingredients, they can boost work output and even promote long-term brain health.” I agree. 

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique or other time-management tricks   

Planning how you spend time leads to better results. More importantly, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed by a chorus of tasks. Peak performance isn’t possible when you’re interrupted by emails, texts and social-media notifications. I like the Pomodoro Technique for staying on track. It’s a time-management strategy created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks of five-to-10 minutes. My preferred cycle is 40 minutes of work followed by 10 minutes of rest. 

Everyone has 24 hours a day, but planning actually increases your productive time. By focusing on important tasks, you’re able to reject less impactful and less meaningful activities. Think of it this way: You’re constantly saying “no” to alternative actions. If you choose unproductive activities, then you’re saying “no” to working, to parenting, to running errands. 

A January 2018 study by the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (UMM) found that workers lose efficiency when they constantly switch from one task to another. Planning your day helps you to focus on the key task at hand until it’s finished. “Our brains process tasks better one at a time,” says the study’s co-author, Sophie Leroy, a former faculty member at UMM. “Our brain truly tries to keep the interrupted work on our mind so that we don’t forget about it.” 

Related: 7 Steps to Peak Performance in Business and Life

3. Stay off the smartphone 

Interruptions lead to a downward spiral of frustrations, stress and ineffectiveness. Multitasking is destroying your ability for long, deep, cognitive thinking. Most of your distractions probably come from your phone and , which steal an enormous amount of time, attention and productivity. I’ve definitely felt, at times, an addictive tendency towards my phone, and I’m not alone. The average U.S. adult now spends three hours on their mobile devive each day. This study from Behavioral Health compares smartphone distractions to cocaine, suggesting startlingly similar side effects. Let that sink in.

This sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but I do enjoy a handful of mobile apps that help me focus and stay productive. Brain.FM is a cool one that gives you music that helps you focus, stay productive or sleep. Freedom is another one I like that lets you block any app or site that is a distraction. 

The more time you spend on distractions, the less time you’re spending on constructive acts. Don’t let your smartphone make you dumb. Remove unnecessary apps so you can declutter your day and streamline your life, and delete all notifications. And when working, set your phone to airplane mode. 

I’d love to hear your tips. Give me a shout on Twitter @andrewmedal

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How to Become a Successful Gaming Entrepreneur

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Tech is obscuring the lines between the dream world and real world. As Morpheus explains to Neo in the 1999 film The Matrix, what’s real is “simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” Gamers play an average of seven hours each week, according to a 2019 report by Limelight Networks, and they spend even more time on Twitch and YouTube watching their peers. Games versus schoolwork? No contest. are far more thrilling than algebra. 

Players increasingly move forth in their real-world lives viewing adversity as mere gamified challenges to be overcome (and score points from). So long as developers have the budget to code a fictitious activity into a game, a universe of fancy avatars makes anything possible. And in turn, the doors are opening for entrepreneurs to monetize people’s enthusiasm for video games and virtual-reality experiences. Here are some examples of how you can ahead of the curve.

Related: 5 Exciting Innovations in Gaming

Business Opportunities for Gaming Entrepreneurs

The market for renting office space and large properties to esports events is growing 14 percent annually, while companies like Tesla are taking advantage of integration and making games available on their vehicles’s large touch screens.

Innovators can also build more robust hardware, such as headsets, consoles and gamepads. Consider that Facebook bought Oculus VR years ago, which showed how Big Tech was serious about improving the user experience in digital environments. That sale created a surge of momentum in AI/AR, which hasn’t let up since.  

Entrepreneurs can also introduce advances in mobile gaming, including , AI-powered coaching and in-game advertisements. With gamers rapt in their world of fantasy, attention spans are extremely monetizable. The future can indeed be a digital one (a la Ready Player One) in which coupons for Coca-Cola or McDonald’s can suddenly appear next to Super Mario on your front porch. 

But entrepreneurs should keep an extremely . Those who build better mousetraps have potential markets beyond video games. These same contraptions and software can have applications in fields as diverse as training, education, healthcare and the military.

With profits expected to billion to reach $300 billion by 2025, there are two particuarly promising areas within the gaming industry. One is virtual reality (VR), which allows players to experience gaming action from a first-person perspective. Entrepreneurs can create a more immersive journey by innovating better headsets, hand controllers, sensor-equipped gloves and other equipment.

And a second area is augmented reality (AR), which blends visuals and audio into the user’s surrounding environment. It’s AR that literally blurs the line between digital fiction and the real world. Captive is one company seizing the moment by creating an augmented world that allows you to earn real prizes. There’s a scavenger hunt AR game paired with and real gift rewards (like a signed LeBron James shoe). The application helps drive real business traffic to brick and mortar shops via the scavenger hunt, while providing a unique experiential component that helps create brand loyalty. 

According to Hardik Shah, a writer for gaming site Gamasutra.com, “The business potential along with the exciting new will gain the focus of game developers towards experimenting with VR game development. Mobile game development especially will be majorly impacted by AR.”

Related: How Online Gaming Can Improve Your Entrepreneurial Skills

Cross-Platform and Open-Source Development

The complexity and high cost of game development have led to a key trend: cross-platform access and a collaborative approach. Developers are gradually moving away from silos, or making a game available on a single platform. That can limit monetization, whereas multiple platforms create access for a wider audience. Secondly, open-source projects allow ventures to leverage the talent pool of a larger global community.

Gamers play on a diversity of devices: consoles, PCs, tablets, smartphones, etc. And they’re also beginning to play on blockchain-powered platforms. In the case of BetProtocol, developers and entrepreneurs can launch their own gaming platform in minutes, as well as integrate cryptocurrency capabilities. This type of innovation lowers barriers to entry. Moreover, tokenization introduces financial incentives that didn’t exist a generation ago.

Finally, there’s 5G gaming. The ultra-wideband network makes the internet extremely fast, and that will significantly improve the user experience when it comes to aspects such as quality graphics for mobile gamers who play on the cloud.

At this year’s Super Bowl, Verizon brought an immersive 5G experience to football fans all over the city, not just Hard Rock Stadium. As Audrey Conklin of FoxBusiness writes, 5G brings “faster internet service, better video quality and more advanced app capabilities. Tech experts expect 5G to play a large role in AI such as self-driving cars that can’t operate on 4G networks.”

In short, gaming entrepreneurs can achieve their American Dream by making fantasy worlds as realistic as the physical environment. To re-invoke The Matrix, Agent Smith would have been … proud? 

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Branding Lessons From Businesses That Use Buzz to Drive Growth.

Banksy and others demonstrate how to take advantage of this strategic tactic.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every brand hopes to build major buzz. Gaining marketing momentum can position companies and ideas to take off and succeed in big ways, but how do they best grab this kind of attention? Before I showcase some other brands, I want to share one key lesson I’ve learned while building my own resume as a tech entrepreneur, author, angel investor and radio/podcast host. That is, I rarely talk about my success, instead focusing on my biggest failure as a way to differentiate my brand. Namely, my time in prison. I turned my hardest setback into a successful branding tactic, proving that creativity and resilience can transform even the bleakest situation into a massive opportunity. So don’t be afraid to make noise and go against the grain. Some people won’t like you, but you don’t want to do business with them anyway.

While attention-grabbing brands may vary in their marketing approaches, each knows how to tap into its respective market and earn the acclaim and loyalty of its followers. These three brands exemplify how to build major brand buzz and generate growth.

Related: 10 Tips for Creating the Perfect Social Media Content for Your Brand

1. Supreme

Few brands have created the level of obsession that streetwear manufacturer Supreme has. Every time they release a new item from their collection, followers line up to spend up to $1,000 or more. While major celebrities such as Kanye West and Victoria Beckham regularly sport Supreme, celebrity influence isn’t the only reason behind its success.

James Jebbia opened the first Supreme skatewear shop in downtown Manhattan in the early 1990s. This is an important part of the brand’s claim on authenticity. Very few periods and places were more famous for urban skate culture than New York during this time. Wearing Supreme offers consumers a claim over this cultural moment, demonstrating a certain awareness of what’s cool and why.

The brand’s exclusivity also plays a major role in its appeal. Because the amount of items Supreme produces is so low, it’s easy to encourage demand. If every piece is unique, it logically follows that the wearer is unique, too. Essentially, Supreme has built its brand recognition based on authenticity and exclusivity. And exclusivity creates the perception of limited supply, which in turn enhances the allure of high demand, which then makes a product or brand more popular. This is how Supreme  established its enduring coolness factor.

2. Banksy

The anti-establishment artist has somehow earned a reputation for building a brand so valuable that a single piece of his art sells for seven figures (including the piece with a built-in, self-destructing shredder that went for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction). His success has helped elevated a once formally unacknowledged artform — street art — into work with the potential for serious profit. Part of his appeal is his distinctive and immediately recognizable style, but much of his brand’s buzz comes from the mystique behind each piece. Graffiti, in general, is still considered an illicit art, and the artist never shows his face in public. Mystery leads to desire. Banksy knows this and deploys it, creating an almost folkloric appeal. Plus, he is unwavering in his core values, which only further adds to his essential appeal.

Related: 5 Steps to Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

3. SpaceX

From its logo to its attention-grabbing endeavors, Elon Musk‘s aerospace-manufacturing brand is set up in every way to generate major buzz. Really, everything Musk does is designed to get attention, and his forays into space exploration take this trait to another level, a la when he launched his Tesla Roadster into space via the Falcon Heavy Rocket.

While his plans to send recreational travelers into space haven’t yet materialized, and his goal of colonizing Mars may seem distant, there’s no doubt that Musk’s brand is built on showmanship and he knows how to excite an audience.

Musk is emblematic of the fact that entrepreneurs who build buzz around their brands know how to strike a widespread cultural chord. While some of the brands listed above used big budgets to gain their audience’s attention, others relied on minimal resources. But what the most successful ones ultimately share is having inspired a following and movement rooted in relentless loyalty. That loyalty is the ultimate buzz builder.

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Can You Build a Million-Dollar Business Starting With Just $100 on Fiverr? Here’s a Plan to Do Just That.

Andrew Medal reveals a Fiverr plan that he says can get your business up and running efficiently — and cheaply.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’re building or starting a business, then Fiverr is an excellent resource to get some of the time-consuming work done. For those unfamiliar with the website, it is a marketplace where people can buy and sell services. What makes it different from its competitors is that gigs can start as low as $5. From there, price points go up based on experience, value and any additional extras the seller may offer. 

I’m a big fan of Fiverr, so much so that we’ve partnered with them on my Entrepreneur-hosted podcast that can be found here. And, as partners, they’re providing all of my readers and listeners 10% off with our promo code AA.

Related: 5 Ways Fiverr Jump-Started My Life as an Entrepreneur

Fiverr’s platform revolves primarily around “gigs,” meaning that the services sold are typically a one-time job; however, the website also offers the opportunity to create “milestone” deliveries, meaning that you could retain a Fiverr seller for multiple projects or steps of a larger project. 

I’m in the process of documenting how I’ve been building six and seven-figure businesses with Fiverr and am going to release a book by end of the year with all of the data, cheat codes and tricks. (Signup to be notified here.) In the meantime, here is a breakdown of some of the important things I’ve learned.

The most valuable gigs to build a business with Fiverr

The most useful gigs on Fiverr offer a wide range of sellers who can provide you with the price point and experience level that you’re looking for. The following services are some of the best to buy if you’re looking to build your business:

1. Market research

If you’re making your way into a new market, it’s smart to know what that market holds, including competitor research, trends and customer segmentation. 

2. Business plans

While you may not be able to buy a comprehensive business plan for $5, you can still get an affordable one written for you by an experienced seller. Be sure to look at reviews, because a lot rests on your business plan and how it’s presented to investors. You want to choose a seller offering a plan that includes: 

  • A market analysis summary 

  • A comprehensive executive summary 

  • What makes you competitive

3. Logo design

You can get a logo designed specifically for your business for a very low cost. 

4. Business cards

Business cards are all about making a good first impression. You can get high-quality, customized cards built for your business. 

5. Web content and design

A website is necessary for the success of every business. You can find content creators who can describe your business and services well and with a word-count or page-based cost that won’t break the bank. You can also find someone who does affordable web design if you don’t want to rely on ready-made templates. 

6. Virtual assistants 

If you have an entire range of tasks that need to be done, you can go ahead and hire your online assistant through Fiverr. You can find an hourly or task-based rate that will cover those tedious tasks you don’t want to do, or can’t do, yourself. 

Related: How This Copywriter Made Money Fast Online With Fiverr

If you’re unsure of what gigs you want to buy to optimize your business, consider outsourcing tasks that are both time-consuming and low-value to you, meaning work that keeps you busy but that you aren’t able to prioritize yourself. 

How to make your first purchase on Fiverr a successful one 

1. Communicate well with the seller.

While some buyers place an order without first discussing the gig with the seller, it’s better to message the provider first. This is particularly true if your order is unique. 

2. Answer all questions in the order requirements.

Even if you’ve already talked with the seller, placing the information within the order requirements makes it easier for the seller to reference your needs while working on the order. 

3. Provide resources, websites or examples of what you want your project to look like.

You can provide links to competitors or samples of successful projects that you or someone else completed in the past. 

4. Allow the seller to ask questions.

Sellers only have the information that you provided. While to you it may seem like enough, it might not be for them. Make sure they’re comfortable clarifying any necessary information.

5. Be safe. 

If you need to give sellers any confidential or sensitive information, be sure that you have a safety plan in place. You can use an app like LastPass to manage access to your information and remove them as needed. 

Use this 5-step formula to find the best talent 

  1. Search for your gig. 
  2. Sort by the bestselling service providers for that gig. 
  3. Find the top 5 service providers that have the most ratings. 
  4. Sort by the providers that are online. 
  5. Reach out. 

Related: How Fiverr’s Culture Created a Company of CEOs

For entrepreneurs, time is your most valuable resource. I believe this makes Fiverr an invaluable tool for new and emerging entrepreneurs. Again, get an additional 10% off using my podcast promo code AA. Get you some! 

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5 Hot IoT Trends to Keep Your Eye On

You will soon be completely connected to all of your devices.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Internet of Things (IoT), or the ability to connect everyday objects to the internet, has increased in popularity and widespread use over the last several years. According to IoT analytics, the global IoT market will grow to $1,567B by 2025. Various industries have already implemented the technology, which offers benefits for individuals and organizations alike. Its uses are diverse, with the potential to impact verticals ranging from retail to architecture to the ways we interact with our own homes. 

While IoT has been trending for some time, it is going to take on a more significant role in the next year, impacting our lives on a previously unprecedented scale. Here are the five hottest IoT trends to keep your eye on right now.

1. IoT devices will be more secure.

Security is one of the primary concerns that comes with IoT use. Because the market is still relatively unregulated, device hacking and data theft have been issues that the industry is actively trying to solve. The stakes are high when it comes to IoT devices (take self-driving cars and home security, for example), and security solutions are of primary importance. 

One of the most promising solutions for IoT security is blockchain technology. Because of its strong protections against data tampering and its ability to rapidly shut down or lock tampered devices, it may prove promising for the IoT market. The Hyundai Digital Asset Currency (HDAC), for example, aims to protect user privacy and remove hacking threats by connecting all IoT devices within their trust-based and secure blockchain token system.

In addition to blockchain, mobile-device management solutions and two-factor authorization could provide additional safety measures. 

Related: IoT Disruption Has Begun. And Retail Is Just the Start.

2. More data will be sold.

“Infonomics,” or the practice of selling data, is continuously growing more immense. The potential value of data collected by IoT devices is huge, with companies gaining the opportunity to interact with information that was previously unavailable. 

The “data-as-a-service” (DaaS) offers channels through which companies buy and sell data, and this market alone is growing; however, this isn’t an ideal way to sell IoT-based data. As a result, innovators are creating marketplaces explicitly designed with IoT devices in mind. 

3. Our cities will get smarter.

Forward-thinking cities are adopting IoT technologies to make their communities more accessible, efficient and safe. People are migrating to cities for better employment prospects and more diverse lifestyles, and IoT technologies will better allow cities to adapt to this growth. IoT devices use city-wide sensors and meters to collect data and use the acquired information to build better infrastructure and offer necessary public services. 

The European Union has largely been leading the way for the implementation of smart cities, with an allocation of 365 million Euros specifically for this purpose. Copenhagen, for example, uses sensors to monitor bike traffic and gather data for improved routes to better serve its heavily bike-dependent city. U.S. cities fall behind those in Europe when it comes to the implementation of smart technology; however, cities across the country will likely use more IoT-based practices over the next few years. 

4. It will play a more prominent role within our homes.

Just as IoT is leading to the creation of “smart cities,” IoT devices are also creating “smart homes.” It’s now easy to set-up most appliances and control them remotely through the internet. Google Nest, for example, automatically controls heat and hot water, and the company has even produced smart smoke detectors and security cameras. 

Big brands are also making investments in new IoT companies as they continue to innovate in their respective industries. AI-based smart kitchen assistant Chefling recently raised $2.5 M in series funding, and Bosch subsidiary BSH Hausgeräte GmbH brought one-third of the shares of the company. As a result, Chefling will be integrated into the Home Connect system and help consumers to automate cooking and receive access to personalized recipes based on what’s available in the kitchen at the time, dietary restrictions and other preferences.

Related: 25 Innovative IoT Companies and Products

5. Retail will further adopt IoT to  improve customer experience.

Retail-based businesses across the country are going to use IoT, both for online purchases and with brick-and-mortar shopping. IoT devices will allow retailers to determine how long consumers spend interacting with products and can collect data about in-store foot traffic. All of this information lets businesses decide which products are best suited for their customers and create experiences suited specifically for their audience. 

Speaking of connected devices, my comedy book about prison hits the shelves next month. Do yourself a favor and go sign up to get notified when it’s available. Sign up here!

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3 Areas Where Enterprise-Focused Startups Are Poised to Make an Economic Impact

How do you improve efficiency by reducing costs and overhead without sacrificing performance?

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The ongoing enterprise/business/startup saga is: how to improve efficiency by reducing costs and overhead without sacrificing performance? I deal with this on a daily basis. Trade-offs are inherent in any business decision-making process, and it is often through new developments (i.e., technology) that the optimal solution arises. I’m an early adopter for these exact reasons. So much new tech is constantly being built to create efficiencies and support business processes.

For enterprises in industries ranging from digital identity verification to supply chain tracking, that answer has frequently resulted in a specific iteration of blockchains: enterprise blockchains.

They are more attuned to conventional business models and are subject to many of the same liabilities as business-operated software systems, such as a cloud-based database network. For example, a consortium of banks leveraging a blockchain as a settlement layer. See: the IBM-powered CLS that was launched last year.

Facebook’s recently launched Libra network is another example of a consortium-based network, with the underlying blockchain serving as the thread that connects the firms participating. 

Enterprise-oriented startups have made significant headway in recent months, so what exactly are the areas where they can make an economic impact? 

Digital identity verification and security

Look no further than recent Facebook scandals or what seems like an endless barrage of data impropriety among major tech firms to understand the significance of mitigating their control over user data. But how do you reconcile user data sovereignty with identity systems?

Several firms believe that enterprise blockchains can provide the solution.

For example, MaxonRow is an identity dependent mainchain that allows token issuance, and an identity chain which confers control of user data directly to the user. Users can selectively reveal their data to third-parties and use of the system can be governed using whitelisting and hash-based identifiers. This allows identity built into the blockchain, without worrying about third-parties gaining access to personal information. 

Importantly, MaxonRow ensures the ecosystem will be able to comply with government KYC/AML requirements. Their identity verification system enables governments or regulators to act as the ultimate arbiter of identity validity and allows enforcement and audit when necessary. 

Blockchain-based identity solutions have garnered significant attention for several years, in large part a consequence of their congruency with cryptography and new technologies like IPFS that leverage hash-based identifiers. However, identity solutions based on permissionless networks such as Ethereum are sure to rub governments the wrong way, as they could be wielded to conceal information on illegal actors.

Some digital identity services, such as Civic, are built on Ethereum, but their traction has faltered so far, and enterprise-based systems seem poised to grab more regulatory support.

Digital banking and open finance 

Despite the rising narrative of decentralized finance (DeFi) in the broader cryptocurrency space, DeFi presents some problems and faces some critical hurdles to its widespread adoption. 

For example, the popular over-collateralized lending services, MakerDAO, saw its stability fee rate near 20 percent following the inability of its stablecoin, Dai, to maintain its 1:1 peg with the USD. A product of its inability to scale, MakerDAO highlighted how with only a subset of users within an esoteric field, DeFi products struggle to remain operational in times of high user numbers. 

This is aptly demonstrated by services such as BlockFi, which is a hybrid of conventional credit systems and DeFi, that has emerged as popular alternatives to MakerDAO and is not subject to scaling woes. 

Similarly, Mt Pelerin, a Swiss-based digital banking startup, is bridging DeFi with the conventional banking system. The goal is to bring an entire bank’s balance sheet on-chain, creating a blockchain-based banking ecosystem, but under the umbrella of meeting government regulatory requirements.

Though built on a permissionless network like Ethereum, Mt Pelerin is an authorized financial intermediary in Switzerland and can help expedite the operational process of issuing tokenized assets to the public for small and medium enterprises and other firms wishing to raise funds. 

Other initiatives, such as Ripple’s RippleNet product for global payments and liquidity, are more attuned to the needs of conventional banking requirements, based on the XRP token. It is uncertain at this point which path (i.e., permissioned versus permissionless) will come to dominate the transition towards more open financial products, but it seems that solutions bridging the old with the new are positioned the best. 

Supply chain tracking

Logistical networks are massive, convoluted endeavors that span global consortiums of businesses and require minute details on the timing and conditions of product shipping. As a result, blockchains have emerged as an ideal solution for increasing efficiency and transparency in the industry.

From Accenture reports on the effectiveness of blockchain-based supply chain tracking in the food sector to the rise of enterprise networks like VeChain, the compatible fit of blockchains and logistics is manifest. In particular, enterprise blockchains have gained an advantage over permissionless solutions so far. 

For example, VeChain’s hierarchical governance system is representative of a conventional business, and its blockchain acts as the shared ledger for validating and tracking products (i.e., luxury fashion) across the globe. Numerous entities can join and participate, but they undergo a verification process, and specific sets of data are made accessible to select portions of the network. 

Tracking food, retail products or medical supplies via a consortium (i.e., enterprise) blockchain empowers businesses to reduce transaction overhead. They can even monitor the real-time metrics and environmental conditions of products using technologies such as NFC and RFID tags that upload hash-identified data directly to the blockchain.

Anonymity technologies and better scalability solutions may make permissionless networks a viable medium for tracking high-value assets in the logistical field one day, but for now, enterprise blockchains seem to have the advantage.

Enterprise and public blockchains come with different value propositions. In terms of pure cryptocurrencies, public blockchains are the undisputed leader, primarily deriving from their ability to mediate trust across an open network of participants.

Conversely, enterprise networks are more of a compromise between the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies, blockchain and the standard regulatory and business requirements of contemporary times. Camps supporting both sides have compelling arguments, and we will likely see an ecosystem where both types of networks can flourish side by side.

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