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How Did This Phoenix Tech Company Achieve a Staggering 36,000 Percent Growth? A Mistake Had a Lot to Do With It

The story of the fastest-growing private company in America, a profitable technology startup called Freestar whose revenue growth since 2015 has been a staggering 36,680 percent, starts with a calendar.

Not a buzzy new calendar app. Not a life-altering meeting request. A printed wall calendar. One of those relics with pictures of animals or landscapes that we all used to tack up in the kitchen.

This particular calendar–Tempe12–had, well, swimsuit models. Arizona State University co-eds in bikinis, to be exact. “All the girls had to have a minimum 3.0 GPA, so they had beauty and brains,” explains Freestar co-founder David Freedman, without a trace of sheepishness. Freedman, who launched the calendar when he was a 22-year-old fifth-year senior at ASU back in 2004, has come a long way since then. But he draws a straight line from that fairly crude start to his current success.

Freestar, you see, sells solutions and services that help publishers make more money online by optimizing their advertising operations. When Tempe12 was just getting started, Freedman sold all its ad space to local businesses. The calendar took off, expanded to 21 other colleges by its third year, and drew attention from Playboy and Howard Stern. Tempe12 had a website with photo archives and decent traffic–but no efficient way to make money.

In 2008, Freestar’s other co-founder, Chris Stark, joined Freedman, taught himself to code, and started scaling Tempe12’s online ad business. Other publishers noticed and asked for help, so Freedman and Stark launched a consultancy–DigitalMGMT.

“Smaller publishers would get requests from an advertiser to spend money on their website, and they didn’t even know how to sell it or how to serve it,” Freedman remembers. He and Stark could help. They had no secret formula, no proprietary technology, but they were crafty and entrepreneurial and understood an industry that was evolving every month.

“The biggest problem we had at that point was that we’d take a client from making five grand a month to 50 grand, and some other company would come in and buy them,” says Stark. “Our success meant having to always find new clients.”

In 2014, Freedman and Stark set out to raise around a million dollars and then spent most of it purchasing nine small publishers–webdesignledger.com, webresourcesdepot.com, a stock photography site called lostandtaken.com–thinking that they’d “juice the revenue and sell them off,” Freedman recalls. It was the birth of Freestar–and it was a big mistake.

Almost immediately, Freedman and Stark realized that publishing a swimsuit calendar didn’t give them any real editorial expertise. They also realized that focusing on scaling their own websites put them in competition with the sites for which they consulted.

But around the same time, Stark began experimenting with a new technology that was revolutionizing online advertising: header bidding. Until then, many Web ads had been bought in a split-second auction process that went like this: A publisher sent out a request to advertisers to bid on an ad space, and the software would automatically accept the first qualifying offer.

Ads could be sold in real time–but publishers couldn’t weigh offers against one another, potentially missing the best ones. Publishers also had little sense of who was buying ads, which left their sites vulnerable to shady operators. “It was as if you were selling your car at an auction, and they let only one person into the room at a time,” Stark explains. “That person could offer whatever they wanted–and you had to either accept or reject their offer.”

With header bidding, a snippet of code sent a request to all potential advertisers simultaneously–and then selected the best offer. Suddenly, publishers earned more from each ad, and they had more control over which ads ran on their sites. A decade after Freedman started dabbling in ad sales, Freestar took off like a rocket.

“The beautiful thing is, when you start making people more money and helping them run their businesses better, they typically have pretty big mouths,” says Freedman. “Word travels quickly.” Today, Freestar works with more than 300 publishers, including Barstool Sports, Snopes, and Fortune.

Coindesk, which covers all things cryptocurrency, saw ad revenue increase 300 percent in the first month it worked with Freestar, says Jacob Donnelly, the publisher’s managing director of digital operations. Freestar, he says, has made it unnec­essary for Coindesk to hire anyone to handle advertising operations. “That lets me think more strategically about revenue generation,” he says, “which is huge.”

Freestar generates its own revenue by taking a small percentage of the ad dollars that flow through its technology. The company hauled in $37 million last year and expects to cross the $100 million mark soon. It now employs 40–including a new face up top. Freedman and Stark aren’t big on job titles, and neither was ever formally CEO or president.

About a year into the company’s breakout growth, the founders tried to hire Kurt Donnell, a well-regarded media executive in their hometown of Phoenix, but failed to bring him on.

Two years later, they tried again, and Donnell joined as president this past January. What changed Donnell’s mind? “They had executed on everything they said they were going to do two years prior,” he says. And, he adds, “the growth was just astonishing.”

By: Tom Foster

 

 

Source: How Did This Phoenix Tech Company Achieve a Staggering 36,000 Percent Growth? A Mistake Had a Lot to Do With It

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KeyCorp Shares Slide After Revealing Fraudulent Q3 Activity

KeyCorp (KEYGet Report)  shares traded lower Tuesday after the lender uncovered fraudulent activity associated within one of its business customers in its current quarter.

KeyCorp revealed that it is investigating the activity, which it believes was associated with one particular business customer of KeyBank National Association.

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The bank holding company has launched an internal investigation into the matter to determine its exposure, which it currently estimates at $90 million. The Cleveland, Ohio-based bank said there could be an additional impact on its third-quarter earnings. Executives are working with law enforcement to determine additional details.

Shares of KeyCorp were down 1.14% at $17.38 in early trading Tuesday. The shares are down approximately 17% year-to-date.

U.S. banks began rolling out their quarterly earnings numbers this week, starting with Citigroup (CGet Report) , which Monday said that second-quarter profit rose 6.6% to $4.8 billion. JPMorgan (JPMGet Report) and Goldman Sachs (GSGet Report) both posted better-than-expected results on Tuesday before the market open.

Wall Street analysts have warned that U.S. banks could face a squeeze on their lending profits as the Federal Reserve moves toward a likely interest-rate cut later in July.

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are holdings in Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells the stocks? Learn more now.

JPM, WFC, GS Earnings: The Economy Is Strong, But There’s a Caveat

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Source: KeyCorp Shares Slide After Revealing Fraudulent Q3 Activity – TheStreet

Wells Fargo Settlement of $575 Million Highlights Massive Failures of Centralized Financial Institutions

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3 Things To Watch Following McDonald’s Q3 Earnings – Alicia Kelso

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With global comp sales up 4.2% and U.S. comp sales up 2.4%, McDonald’s turned in a strong third quarter, and investors are happy for now. But we all know that running a restaurant chain is about more than just making investors happy, right? Beyond the financials, a number of narratives emerged during the company’s earnings call Tuesday morning that could qualify as storylines to watch through Q4. For starters, the company continues to endure its largest construction project ever with its Experience of the Future initiative…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/aliciakelso/2018/10/24/three-storylines-to-watch-following-mcdonalds-q3-earnings-report/#3f804e0d26d5

 

 

 

 

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How To Encourage Honest Business Relationships In The Post-Truth World – Chris Myers

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I’ve written extensively about the challenges of running a business in a world where, as Rudy Giuliani once remarked, “Truth isn’t truth.” What I haven’t covered up to this point, however, is a practical guide to managing relationships in this post-truth landscape. When it comes to the topic of truth as it pertains to business relationships, we tend to focus on the art of detecting lies. An entire industry has sprung up around reading body language and spotting the “tells” that indicate someone is lying……

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrismyers/2018/09/11/how-to-encourage-honest-business-relationships-in-the-post-truth-world/#14975a267ca1

 

 

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America’s Real Economy: It Isn’t Booming – Peter Georgescu

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Ostensibly, for the past ten years, US economy has been recovering from the 2008 collapse. During the past few years, our comeback seems to have gained momentum. All the official indicators say we’re back in boom times, with a bull market, low unemployment and steady job growth. But there is an alternative set of data that depicts a different America, where the overlooked majority struggles from month to month.

The Nation recently published a stunning overview of the working poor and underpaid. One of the most powerful data points in the piece described how empty the decline in unemployment actually is: having a job doesn’t exempt anyone from poverty anymore. About 12% of Americans (43 million) are considered poor, and yet they are employed. They earn an individual income below $12,140 per year, and slightly more than that for a family of two. If you include housing and medical expenses in the calculation, it raises the percentage of Americans living in poverty to 14%. That’s 45 million people.

At that level of income, there’s almost no way to pay for food and shelter in any sizeable American city. That means people now can both be employed and homeless. Rajon Menon writes, for The Nation:

In America’s big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families.

Fewer and fewer people have savings to weather time between jobs or an emergency expense. A third of the U.S. population has no savings and another third has saved less than $1,000. Two-thirds of American households, by this measure, are desperately scrambling to make ends meet from check to check. Nearly half the American population earns too little to live on comfortably:

One-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42% earn less than $15. That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

Even in households that combine income from two wage-earners, it’s rarely enough to live on without anxieties about money. It takes an average of a little more than $100,000 per year now for a household to be able to live without anxieties about money.

Slow and steady inflation has eroded buying power over the past decade. According to The Nation, the minimum wage rose to $7.25 by 2009, but since then inflation has eroded 10% of its buying power. So this year, someone will have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

  • Healthcare costs are projected to go up 20% in the coming year.
  • Credit card debt has crested at a trillion dollars and is projected to increase at 4.7% by 2020.
  • Wages have been increasing by only 2.9% per year.
  • For the young, education debt has reached a record $1.52 trillion.

How long is this sustainable?

What’s genuinely astonishing to me is that the private sector doesn’t see the immense danger in all this—not simply the prospect of a collapse from enormous household debt loads, but the prospect of civil unrest after another huge correction like the one in 2008. Our current course is unsustainable. And for all the proposals for changes in public policy to ameliorate income inequality, only the private sector can get the nation on a better track by raising wages, increasing benefits and investing in new ventures and expanded markets.

There are numerous ways in which our wealthiest companies could help change the course of our economy. Here are some suggestions from Larry Thompson, former executive VP for PepsiCo, and his coauthors writing for Fortune magazine:

  • Get involved in early education for children of employees. Programs that start at birth can lift their earnings by up to 26%. At PNC Financial Services Group, their Grow Up Great program has served over 2 million children throughout the U.S., through grants to organizations that support early learning in math, science, and the arts.
  • Fund higher education for existing employees. In collaboration with Southern New Hampshire University, Anthem Insurance (ANTM, -0.06%) recently began making associate’s or bachelor’s degrees available at no cost for 50,000 eligible workers. Another company, FedEx, partners with nearly 20 higher education institutions including Western Governors University.
  • Businesses also should look to re-employ the long-term unemployed, Frontier Communications has hired more than 250 of the long-term unemployed in 2014 alone by eliminating most qualifications and simply observing how well applicants communicated.

These initiatives only scratch the surface, but they are exactly what all companies need to be thinking of doing. If every employer in America came up with even just one modest step—higher wages, regular profit sharing, tuition reimbursement—to help workers spend and save more, the nation would begin to right itself economically. It needs to happen now. We’re running out of time.

 

 

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Setting Your Staff Up for Success – Dr. Bruce Ellis

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While we all want our staff to succeed, we need to admit that there is a major role that we play in making that possible. By doing (or not doing) specific things as leaders, we can inadvertently hinder their ability to succeed. And, when you think about setting them up to succeed, many of the same strategies that we use for students will also work with our staff. Daniel H. Pink summarized it best when he identified the three things that motivate creative folks: “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” Let’s take a look at how these might play out on your campus or team as you set them up for success.

Give Your Staff Members Choice

Just as with students, allowing our staff some choice in various decisions or activities can help build buy-in to the activity. Granted there are some things that may have to be assigned. But if the end goal can be accomplished by a variety of folks, why not let them choose who will take responsibility?

Differentiate Your Communication

Sometimes we get frustrated with our staff because they don’t fully understand the vision, goal, or reason why we are doing something. When I find myself in this situation and take a step back, it is usually because I have failed to communicate clearly and adequately with my staff. Unfortunately, I’ve never had any mind readers on my staff! If you  have a similar situation, then you might take a look at how you are communicating. To break it down further, think about differentiating how you communicate by considering the medium that you use. Some folks respond better if they have information in an email while others may not check their email regularly because they find texting their go-to method of communication. Still others may prefer the face-to-face communication that couples body language and tonal inflection for them to catch the “aha!” that you want them to grasp.

Provide Strategic Scaffolding

Whether you have new staff, staff that lack specific skills, or you are the new one to them, it might benefit them (and you) to think through how you can scaffold expectations for them. Those that need the additional support can take advantage of it while others that do not need those supports can bypass them, only taking advantage of fewer resources or procedures to meet your expectation.

Detail Your Criteria

Though you probably won’t have a rubric for folks to use that may be working on specific projects, it couldn’t hurt to write out your expectations in such as way that they understand what the minimum expectation is and what needs to happen to hit it out of the ballpark. With these, though, as with students, you need to review the indicators so that everyone understands what the various levels of quality mean. If not, you may find that everyone may share the same vocabulary, but have very different understandings of the definitions of that vocabulary.

Play to Their Strengths

You might consider doing some type of inventory with your staff to help them (and you) identify their strengths, preferences, and natural inclinations. There are a variety of personality tests on the Internet that are free. If using these, it is best to set the context of why you are providing the test and that there are not any right or wrong answers. Consider providing these at the beginning of the year as an ice-breaker or getting-to-know-you activity. You may find that putting these online in a Google Form can help everyone look at their (and others’) information. The better we know each other, the better we can support each other and move forward. Playing to each individual’s strengths can also increase the quality of their success and possibly connect with more intrinsic rewards.

Start Small and Build

Granted that you may have had a lot of expectations dumped on you that you are now expected to pass on. That doesn’t mean that dumping them all at once on your staff is the best way to go. While you may be able to handle it, you may have staff that find themselves overwhelmed and become shut down or distracted from the end goal, therefore unable to perform up to expectations. Consider how you can start small and add expectations as you go along. It’s like when you see a skilled juggler that is able to juggle seven sharp knives successfully; it’s good to remember that that’s not how he started. He most likely started by juggling silk scarves or just two small balls and then worked his way up.

So, whether you are an educator at heart or have a heart for your staff being incredibly successful, consider implementing these strategies. You might be surprised at the outcome! There are many other strategies that could be listed when brainstorming what you can do in setting up your staff for success. Jump in the comments below and add to our list. We’d love to continue the conversation.

 

 

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Pepsico Betting $3.2 Billion That The Future Of Soda Is Sparkling Water Made At Home With SodaStream – Maggie McGrath

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Pepsi is betting that the future of soda is at home and more in the realm of sparkling water than in aluminum cans laden with 41 grams of sugar: The beverage giant announced Monday morning that it is spending $3.2 billion, or $144 per share, to acquire at-home seltzer maker SodaStream.

The deal, which Pepsi plans to fund with its cash on hand, values SodaStream at a 32% premium to its 30-day volume-weighted average price and a 10% premium to its closing price on Friday.

“PepsiCo and SodaStream are an inspired match,” outgoing Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi said in a statement Monday morning. “Daniel and his leadership team have built an extraordinary company that is offering consumers the ability to make great-tasting beverages while reducing the amount of waste generated.”

Added Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream’s CEO: “I am excited our team will have access to PepsiCo’s vast capabilities and resources to take us to the next level. This is great news for our consumers, employees and retail partners worldwide.”

The marriage with Pepsi is a poetic turn for the at-home sparkling water maker; in 2012, Birnbaum told Forbes that the soft-drink and bottled-water industry was “flawed,” “broken,” “wrong,” “stupid” and “evil.” And though Birnbaum took an almost “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach in late 2014 when he struck a deal with Pepsi to test at-home versions of Pepsi and Sierra Mist

(A move that followed months of rumors that SodaStream was selling itself to the beverage giant), the company has in recent years been more focused on positioning itself as a “wellness solution” and a “leading manufacturer of sparkling water makers.” Instead of soda, it’s been marketing at-home seltzer—and the pivot has paid off in dividends.

SodaStream’s stock price, which was suffering at a mere $13 a share in early 2016, has gained more than 84% in value in 2018 alone. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, SodaStream reported quarterly profit that was double that of the Wall Street estimate; the company also tripled its earnings forecast for the year.

The focus on sparkling water is also a key reason Pepsi is so willing to bet billions on the company. As consumer tastes have shifted away from soda, Pepsi has been trying to establish itself in the seltzer arena with its line of Bubly sparkling waters (it launched the brand this February, one year after launching premium bottled water LIFEWTR). The SodaStream acquisition will increase its foothold in this part of the market.

“SodaStream is highly complementary and incremental to our business, adding to our growing water portfolio, while catalyzing our ability to offer personalized in-home beverage solutions around the world,” Ramon Laguarta, Pepsi’s incoming CEO, said in a statement Monday.

The transaction, which CNBC reported came together in a matter of weeks, is expected to close by January 2019.

Wall Street, meanwhile, is happy with what it sees, sending SodaStream shares for a 10% gain in Monday’s pre-market trading session. Pepsi, meanwhile, is up just half a percent in pre-market trading.

 

 

 

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Want To Climb Up The Corporate Ladder? Start Here – Shelcy V. Joseph

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Leveling up in your career is a long-term game. No one gets promoted overnight. Climbing up the corporate (or entrepreneurial) ladder takes real commitment, hard work combined with strategy and most importantly, patience.

Kaethe Schuster, Sales & Marketing National Account Executive at The Dow Chemical Company, can certainly speak to this. Kaethe has been with the company for 19 years, 17 of those in the construction industry. Prior to being promoted to strategic account marketing and management, she has held the roles of Market Manager, Product and Asset Manager, Customer Service Team Leader and worked in acquisition on-boarding in customer service and operations.

Kaethe is a huge advocate for women shattering glass ceilings, taking the plunge and asking for what they deserve. Her career trajectory is a testament to the power of showing up, going above and beyond, being patient and building great relationships.

She shares her tips on how to become irreplaceable at work and positioning yourself for upward mobility:

“In my tenure in the construction industry, I have learned that being fully and consistently engaged is the first step to becoming accepted and actively included. It is also imperative in overcoming any potential bias, whether it be gender, age or even industry experience.

Whether you are in a board room or on a job site, you should make yourself stand out and be heard by proactively creating connections with your colleagues. Never be a bystander, think ahead and always bring something original to the table. Providing industry insights, contacts, ideas and other relevant solutions will make you valuable.

If it makes you more comfortable, form alliances with colleagues you already have, and work together to support each other to ensure you are being heard within larger group settings.

Being consistently engaged may also involve participating in activities that you typically may not venture to do. Conferences, events and meetings in industries that are traditionally more male, often incorporate activities such as fishing trips, skeet shooting, golf tournaments, and so on.

These activities are often where rapport, trust and lasting bonds are developed. Don’t risk missing out because you lack some basic experience in the activity at hand. There’s absolutely no reason why everyone shouldn’t join in on these events, and by showing others that you’re game to learn a new skill or improve upon your skills, speaks volumes about your work ethic and desire to be part of the team.

And it will likely take some time, but the real key is to: Show up. Be sincere. Become a trusted advisor.

 

 

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