Tag Archives: blockchain

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange: Blockchain is Most Innovative Technology For Digital Transactions

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange: Blockchain is Most Innovative Technology For Digital Transactions

   

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADSM),

a stock exchange in Abu Dhabi with a market cap of $135 bln, considers the Blockchain as the most innovative technology in finance and digital transactions. In 2008, the government of UAE released the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, a 22-year-long strategy and roadmap for the country’s economic progress. A major component of the agenda drafted and implemented by the UAE government was the development of a sufficient and resilient infrastructure capable of supporting anticipated economic growth. Rashed Al Baloushi, the CEO of ADSM, stated that the development of Blockchain technology is an important part of the company’s vision derived from the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

Baloushi stated:

“Blockchain is the most innovative technology in digital transactions. It represents the second generation of the internet and has enabled ADX to join the elites of top 10% of institutions globally who have already taken steps in adopting this technology.”

The global banking and finance industries currently lack an efficient and secure infrastructure for digital payments and transactions. The settlement of cross-bank and cross-border transactions is expensive, slow, opaque and insecure.

Latest development

To meet the expectations of the UAE government and to follow the economic roadmap laid out for the private sector, local banks and financial service providers including ADSM have already begun to look into various technologies such as the Blockchain.

Upon the evaluation and analysis of Blockchain technology, researchers at ADSM perceived a great potential for the technology in the finance industry and particularly in the digital transactions market. Since their initial discovery of the Blockchain, ADSM led the development of several Blockchain projects, including a Blockchain platform for e-voting at an annual information technology exhibition held in Dubai. Maintaining its momentum, ADSM plans to demonstrate the applicability of Blockchain technology in the realm of finance and digital payments in their next projects.

Baloushi reaffirmed that the company will collaborate with emerging startups and innovative developers in the Blockchain industry to ensure that ADSM and the rest of the finance industry adopt a revolutionary technology such as the Blockchain to optimize operations and reduce operating costs.

Strategy

“Abu Dhabi Plan is what inspires us to accomplish our strategic goals. ADX is committed to creating a business environment that is both competitive and flexible. Accordingly, adopting Blockchain technology in our projects comes in alignment with the digital transformation of Abu Dhabi’s government services as we constantly strive to introduce new ways that ease the process of doing business in the Emirate,” said Baloushi. Previously, Cointelegraph reported that Dubai aimed to become the first Blockchain-powered city by 2020, with the help of local authorities and startup incubators such as 1776. With Abu Dhabi joining the Blockchain race, UAE seeks to see a rapid development and growth in its local Blockchain industry.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

What is Bitcoin?

What is Bitcoin?

   CryptoCoins

               

Bitcoin is a virtual or digital currency also known as a cryptocurrency

created by the mysterious (and unknown) Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is like other currencies: it can be used to purchase items locally and electronically. However, bitcoin differs from conventional money in that it is decentralized and fully independent. No institution controls the Bitcoin Network and it is not tied to a country like the US Dollar. The entire network is maintained by individuals and organizations referred to as Bitcoin Miners. Bitcoin miners process and verify bitcoin transactions through a mathematical algorithm based on the cryptographic (hence the name cryptocurrency) hash algorithm SHA256.

Bitcoin is Decentralized

No central authority controls Bitcoin or its network of transactions. A community of Bitcoin miners make up the network, processing the transactions. If any changes are made to Bitcoin by a developer or developers using GitHub, a 51% majority of the miners hashing power must agree upon it. This insures that, in theory, no individual can steal your bitcoins or print (create) more.

How Can One Change Bitcoin and Bitcoin’s code?

Everyone can contribute to and edit the Bitcoin source code since the Bitcoin protocol is open source. The Bitcoin protocol is viewable for all making it easier to spot weaknesses and provide suggestions for improvement. However, if a developer edit the Bitcoin code, that edit has to be accepted by more than 51% or more of the Bitcoin miners that runs the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin can be seen as a democratic currency where the majority always decide what will happen next with the Bitcoin source code.

Bitcoin Wallet and Transactions

                                                                Is Bitcoin Anonymous?

Though each Bitcoin transaction is recorded in a public log called the block chain, names of buyers and sellers are never revealed – only their Bitcoin wallet addresses. Each wallet address is unique and can’t be linked to anyone unless the creator of that specific bitcoin address reveals himself.

1Lst6Ro8r5C7QrxAuoZg1LJAuQtP3W9uV2 is an example of a unique bitcoin address used for receiving and sending bitcoins. To send, receive and create Bitcoin addresses you must have a  Bitcoin wallet . A Bitcoin wallet is a software that’s essentially your bank account for bitcoins. Your wallet can hold as many bitcoins and Bitcoin addresses you’d like, and you can own as many wallets you want. While bitcoin can be anonymous, that doesn’t mean it is. If you purchase your bitcoins on a Bitcoin trading platform or exchange that has your information, the bitcoins you buy can be tied back to you.

Bitcoin is Transparent

Every Bitcoin transaction that has ever happened is stored in detail in the public ledger known as the block chain. By using the block chain, anyone can see how many bitcoins are stored on a particular address, and they can see the deposits and withdrawals to that address, but they will be unable to know who owns the address.

Bitcoin Transactions Can not be Reversed

When you send bitcoins to a Bitcoin address, you can not reverse the transaction. Unlike credit cards where transaction can be disputed or reversed, bitcoins are nonrefundable. Bitcoin can not be replaced either. If your wallet is stored on your hard drive and not in a  “cloud”, you could lose your bitcoins if you are hacked, get a virus or if your computer dies. These lost bitcoins can never be retrieved. That’s why it is so important to take regular backups and implement measures for Bitcoin wallet security. Furthermore, merchants cannot initiate charges on you as they can and do with credit cards. Each transaction must be initiated by the wallet holder, further underlining the advantages of the Bitcoin system.

   Bitcoin is Secure

Proponents of Bitcoin tout its formidable security, and with good reason. In theory, unless 51% of the system is controlled by one party, Bitcoin is virtually unhackable. For instance, in order for someone to change a transaction or double spend a Bitcoin, they would have to obtain majority control of the system and modify every miner in this majority. When there is a disagreement in the block chain, the system overrides the minority with the data agreed upon by the majority.

However, there have been concerns that different mining companies and mining pools should be able to reach 51% of the Bitcoin hashing power and perform a so called 51% attack on the Bitcoin network.

How are Bitcoins Created?

Bitcoins are created through a process known as mining. Mining is the term used by those who contribute to processing transactions. Miners process and secure the network using specialized hardware that “mine” for new bitcoins. As “payment” for their contribution, they are awarded new bitcoins. This is how new bitcoins are generated. New coins are created at a fixed and decreasing rate that is predictable. The number of coins created each year is halved over time until 21 million bitcoins are in circulation. At this point, bitcoin miners will be rewarded by transaction fees.

When a miner has successfully created a new hash, the block is sealed off and added to the block chain. 25 bitcoins are awarded to the miner who discovered the new hash. The number of bitcoins rewarded per block is cut in half every four years. Blocks are solved an approximate rate of 6 per hour.

Why use Bitcoins?

Bitcoins are attractive to a large number of people of an equally large number of reasons. Bitcoins can be anonymous, near instantaneous and offer a level of control over your money like no other traditional currency. There are no banks that can take away your money, and Bitcoins are deflationary in nature, while e.g. USD is inflationary where your money depreciate over time. Bitcoins are also speculative in nature drawing the attention of investors.

Merchants are drawn to Bitcoin because of the low fees. Merchants typically pay 2-3% fees from credit card processors, whereas many types of transactions are free with Bitcoin. Transactions are free if several conditions are met. Any transactions that don’t meet thee requirements are charged 0.1mBTC (0.0001 BTC) per 1,000 bytes. Typical transactions are 500 bytes but do not meet the priority requirement and thus are charged a 0.1mBTC fee regardless how many coins are transferred. You can view the live Bitcoin price here.

How to Obtain Bitcoins

There are several ways to obtain bitcoins. The most common way is to purchase them on a Bitcoin exchange. You can also purchase bitcoins on Ebay locally through e.g. LocalBitcoins.com. Bitcoins can also be obtained by becoming a part of the Bitcoin network and start mining for bitcoins. Before the days of ASIC miners, individuals could set up their computers to mine and earn bitcoins easily. Those days are long gone due to the difficulty to mine Bitcoin, the difficulty level of Bitcoin, has risen enormous making it harder and harder to earn bitcoins with the same equipment. Becoming a miner and seeing positive ROI would mean a substantial investment and is now left to the big companies and wealthy investors. For most individuals, purchasing your Bitcoin through a Bitcoin Exchange is the best option. You can also find ways to earn free bitcoins.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blockchain Secures Your Data Like No Other Technology Ever Did

Blockchain Secures Your Data Like No Other Technology Ever Did

  

Blockchain Secures Your Data Like No Other Technology Ever Did

When it comes to most technologies, we know about the basic function that they perform. But, a sizeable portion of the users never express any interest in understanding the technology in depth. For example, when we talk about sending an email, we all know that the data we send is received by the recipient unless the transfer fails, which leaves us with the obvious option of clicking the “Retry” button. But how many of us know about the various protocols and the technicalities involved?

Similar is the case with Blockchain. We all know that the data is immutable, transparent and the entire system is very tough to hack. But how many of us know the reason why Blockchain is so secure? In today’s world, as the number of cyber attacks is constantly on the rise, security is paramount as most of our data is digitally stored. Now let’s try and understand some of the features that make Blockchain an extremely secure option of storing your data.

A completely trustless system that you can trust

The most noteworthy feature that makes Blockchain secure is that it is based on a completely trustless system. The permissions to read and write the data on the Blockchain are equally distributed among all the users connected to the network. No user is given any special privileges when it comes to making any decision. Before Blockchain, the sharing of information in real-time without the requirement of trust was not possible.

The advent of Blockchain successfully solved the ‘Byzantine General’s problem’, a name given to a problem concerning the major drawbacks of a distributed consensus system. In the Byzantine General’s problem, it is assumed that the General commanding multiple units (five, in our case) is about to launch an attack on a city. If all the General’s units launch an attack at the same time, they will win. If any unit defects or retreats, the attack fails.

The messenger sent by the General needs to deliver the message to the five units under his command. Now a traitorous Commander, third to receive the message, that we’d call ‘X’ might change the command sent by the General without the knowledge of the messenger. The two Commanders receiving the message after ‘X’ believe that the message is in the words of the General. But in fact, it is the edited message sent by ‘X’. This would lead to a failed attack due to poor co-ordination between the various units.

Blockchain successfully solved this problem by introducing a concept called the ‘Proof of Work’, which made it essential for each message sender to attach a history of all previous messages and ‘spend some time’ on the same, which is fixed at 10 minutes. The purpose of ‘spending some time’ is to ensure that the sender has put in some effort in writing the message and to make it easy to identify malicious or incorrect data.

Blockchain makes it easy to identify malicious or incorrect data

A very basic example in the case of the Byzantine General’s problem would be where each Commander is required to write the numbers 1-500 before confirming and sending the message to the next Commander. It would certainly take some time to write the numbers but the verification of the same would be quick and easy.

Now, since the time each Commander can spend on the message is fixed at ten minutes, ‘X’ would have to change his message and the messages the two Commanders who attested to the message before him because the ‘Proof of Work’ concept requires a history of all previous messages to be uploaded too. Now, to successfully change the message, ‘X’ would have to do twenty minutes of work plus his own ten minutes, amounting to a total of thirty minutes’ worth of work in the ten minutes allotted to him. This way, altering the attested data is practically impossible as even if ‘X’ does upload an incorrect message, the rest of the Commanders can ignore the incorrect message and follow the one attested by most Commanders.

The benefits of decentralization

The decentralized structure of Blockchain also adds to the security it offers. No single user or organization is given supreme control of the database. Having a decentralized design, it does not have a single point of failure. Even the loss of power or the total failure of a few devices connected to the Blockchain network won’t have any effect on the data stored in the entire Blockchain database or some parts of it are stored across all the devices connected to the Blockchain network.

Since Blockchain is decentralized, it cannot be controlled by the government. Government intervention usually results in some domains and websites being shut down as the government believes such websites are not working in accordance with the established rules and regulations. The most famous example in recent times being the search engine Torrentz.eu. At present, torrent sites are the closest thing to a decentralized system on this scale.

Ensuring privacy through Blockchain

Also, the data stored on the Blockchain is cryptographically secure and the public-private key cryptography used ensures that the data is received only by those it is intended for. The cryptographic techniques also help the users maintain privacy by allowing them to remain pseudo-anonymous while sending and receiving data across the network. Due to its decentralized architecture and the cryptographic coding used in its design, the Blockchain network is mathematically very tough to hack into as the cost of hacking such a system skyrockets where the data stored on each node is properly synchronized with the entire database.

Permanent data storage on a Blockchain

All the above features make Blockchain a practical option for a user who wishes to store his data digitally without the risk of losing it. The data stored on a Blockchain will always be there and it cannot be edited or tampered with in any manner. New or updated data can only be appended onto the Blockchain later. Realizing the plethora of advanced features of security offered by Blockchain, many companies have started investing heavily in the research and development of Blockchain-based applications. Blockchain is slowly being integrated into our daily lives as companies are exploring both fintech and non-fintech applications of this wonderful technology which might completely change the way we look at digital data storage.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Telecom Breakthrough: Blockchain to Stop Big Brother From Watching You

Telecom Breakthrough:
Blockchain to Stop Big Brother
From Watching You

  

Telecom Breakthrough: Blockchain to Stop Big Brother From Watching You

Ensuring privacy and security is perhaps one of the key issues in the era of the Internet. Advancements in technologies allowed us to access information faster, communicate easier and at the lower cost. However, the same technologies allowed third parties to collect our personal data. “The Internet is the most liberating tool for humanity ever invented and also the best for surveillance,” said John Perry Barlow, the cyber rights activist, “It is not one or the other. It is both.” Cointelegraph spoke with Roman Nekrasov, CEO and Co-Founder of Encrypto Telecom, an intriguing project in the Blockchain and cryptocurrency space setting out to transform telecommunication industry.

There is a lot to be changed in telecom industry

Roman came to Blockchain industry with Bitcoin mining. In late 2012, following his friend’s advice he set up a Bitcoin farm using four Radeon 7970 video cards. As the Bitcoin price was rising, he got more and more interested in the technology behind Bitcoin, how cryptocurrencies work and what are the reasons of such an obsession about cryptocurrencies nowadays beside mining. In 2014, working in the local telecom company, Roman encountered a bunch of issues ranging from absolute lack of interest in customers’ needs, inconvenient user interface of personal accounts, topped with vulnerability of customers’ personal data.

He says:

“It was the time I came up with the idea to start a project which could solve some of these problems through integration of Blockchain technology. This is how we created Encrypto Telecom. My partners supported the idea, and agreed that we had everything we needed to create a service we imagined – convenient, secure, protected and at an adequate price.”

So insecure, so vulnerable!

It is a scary thought, but our personal data is being monitored constantly. It is collected by a range of organizations or individuals, ranging from state agencies, harvesting data for the purposes of ensuring national security, to business corporations, wishing to learn more about customer’s habits. The safety of collected data can never be fully guaranteed – high-profile hacks and leaks of millions of users’ accounts details, passwords, credit cards information, home addresses take place with frightening frequency. Besides, hackers and malicious organizations can purchase this data to defraud its owners.

There is now a whole bunch of applications for communication through instant messaging, voice and video calls. Some of them are placing privacy and security at the core, however, there are applications still relatively insecure. Thus, even if the content of the call is not intercepted, it is still possible to collect metadata and other details posing a risk to the security and privacy of those making a call.

Ensuring privacy of communications

EncryptoTel has developed a platform that enables users to communicate securely through existing applications such as Zoiper, X-Lite, etc, ensuring full encryption of voice and video calls and financial privacy through integration of cryptocurrency payments tools. EncryptoTel’s suggests integration of a virtual private branch exchange (PBX), which can be rolled out for businesses easily and quite fast. It will enable businesses to deploy a secure Internet-based telephone network, which could be connected to the external phone system. Many offices are already using PBXs or IP-PBXs, EncryptoTel aims to develop this model further significantly improving privacy and making it more cost-effective.

Nekrasov told Cointelegraph:

“EncryptoTel is more than just another PBX system. Besides offering a range of services for businesses, we are also aiming to extend these services to individual customers, who wish to communicate not caring too much about the privacy of their personal data.”

Currently, there are no competing companies in the space offering similar model. “Well, there are giants like Twillio and DIDWW, but we don’t consider them as our competitors, as our approaches differ a lot,” Nekrasov explains. “We are aiming to take the maximum benefit from integration of Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Moreover, we are planning to collaborate with these companies to expand our services and numbering capacity.”

How the platform works

EncryptoTel uses the most innovative digital technology solutions, including encryption through open, trusted algorithms, and Blockchain technology. The company has developed services for a basic user, businesses and marketing agencies. EncryptoTel’s PBX allows transferring incoming calls to any number, including mobile and stationary phones. It is possible to carry a fully automated distribution of calls with the help of specially created schemes and scenarios. Once the complex setting up of the call queue and incoming calls transfer schedule is completed, it becomes easy to distribute calls among let’s say company’s employees, therefore significantly simplifying tasks of a secretary.

Platform also offers a number identification feature along with hiding/substitution of the number. The most reliable traffic encryption protocols are used to ensure privacy of all conversations. All data is effectively protected inside the network and only the user can have access to it through a personal account. Roman says that the interest in EncryptoTel is already huge, however, there is a number of challenges the team had to encounter. Thus, there is no clear understanding among users what is the PBX and how it functions, not even mentioning the understanding of Blockchain technology, but EncryptoTel team members are always ready to address all the questions and requests from customers.

Roman says:

“We would like to expand our services, attracting more and more customers but the project is currently financed through our personal savings, as well as with the support of friends and community.”

On April 24, EncryptoTel launches an ICO, which is going to last for 37 days. The team is expecting to raise at least $100,000, which would allow building a stable and fully-functional PBX. In case the ICO attracts more than $250,000, company will embark on development of a native traffic encryption protocol based on Blockchain technology. If investments exceed one mln. EncryptoTel will start a huge campaign aimed at international expansion in B2B, B2C, B2G sectors. The EncryptoTel team has successfully completed development of the majority of platform’s features of a working BETA version of the platform.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Tips to Creating a Successful Content-Marketing Campaign

Tips to Creating a Successful Content-Marketing Campaign

The phrase “content marketing” is all over the web these days.

Content has become a conglomeration of many things: webinars, blog posts, videos, social network shares and more. It sounds like a great idea. If done right, a well-executed digital campaign will yield considerable benefits for both established businesses and entrepreneurs. Such a strategy has the power to position a business as a topical authority and establish the owners and executives as experts.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. Implementing such a campaign isn’t as easy as it seems and takes a bit more effort than pressing a button. Depending on your business goals, time needs to be spent aligning your company's brand’s online persona with your customers’ needs. Once posted, content that’s shared requires interaction on your part. Interact directly with your community by saying something meaningful to stimulate continued conversation. Content marketing can be a boon for your brand. Be sure to follow these tested truths when planning your campaign:

Know your audience and keep the content relevant. 

Each social network has a unique identity and audience, so take some time to research the demographics of the social marketing platforms you use to share. All sites are not the same. Some skew highly to men (Google+) and others are more popular with women (Pinterest). Check the current information on the sites to determine where to share your content to the to best effect.

Whether you market to businesses or consumers, you no doubt have a grasp of their interests. Blogs are still a great way to build an engaged community around your brand and interests. An example of a blog that successfully uses content marketing is SavvySeller.co. This is a community site offering helpful advice for online sellers while displaying ads for its parent company, World Lister. Check what your customers are sharing on social media. By making your blog posts relevant to readers, they may pass along your content as well and become your advocate, awarding you with free, yet most valuable, marketing.

Beware of constant self-reference. 

Repetitive self-reference will not stimulate engagement. The days of broadcast advertising are long past, and without giving your message a twist, broadcasting will do nothing but discourage readers. Rather, use stories to illustrate the benefits your business has to offer. Direct your message to the reader and be sure to personalize it by using the word “you.” In this way, your posts directly address (and pique the interest) of your community. Keep the promotional content to no more than a 1-to-7 ratio. As social scientist Dan Zarrella says, “Stop talking about yourself." Instead, "start talking as yourself.”

Share what works

When creating content for your business, consider your own time schedule and talents. Sitting down to write a white paper may be painful for many people, and small businesses may not have the time or resources to produce one. If you are more comfortable communicating your messages in another format, for example, why not try sharing the following:

Short-form articles (like this one)

Infographics or small sharable graphics are easily produced on a platform such as Canva

Photographs of products in action that you can share on Instagram 

Short product demonstrations or instructional videos (try to keep them under two minutes)

Other related business content

Also, consider sharing content about things you are passionate about. By posting ideas and subjects that are personally relevant to you (the business owner), you project your humanity to your online influence. 

Consider curating.

 A growing trend is content aggregation which is deriving content directly from others’ RSS feeds and automatically turning them into shares. Aggregating is not curating. In contrast, curating content requires a human being to find, read and qualify digital content that is relevant to your audience. Curating may sound like a lot of work, but it may take as little as 30 minutes a day. If you (or another member of your staff) regularly read digital content that relates to your business, finding articles to share is a simple proposition. 

Even the owners of niche businesses can find articles that might resonate with their audience. If you curate and share content from others, your audience will look to you as a reliable source for information on a specific topic. A secondary benefit of sharing third-party content is that you build relationships by broadening the conversation with others within your industry.

Measure once and then again.

 Track the comments and responses to your pieces. When you share links on social media platforms, use the many free metrics tools to decipher which of your posts were on track. By on track, I mean were they read? Shared? Acted upon? If a platform or content type isn’t working for you, be sure to put effort into the ones that are. Know that your content marketing will build with time and continuity, and social content may not translate into sales immediately. Set up a plan in advance and have reasonable expectations. You are brand building for the long haul.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Tips on Developing a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

Tips on Developing a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

  

As a small-business owner, you wear a lot of hats:

customer support, HR, media relations, bookkeeper, and the list goes on. With so many responsibilities, having marketing strategies doesn't always make the top of the list.  But it should, as it is important for maintaining the pipeline to ensure you stay busy. One way to help generate new business (without having to be out in the field every day) is inbound marketing, a technique that brings customers closer to the brand through blogs, videos, email newsletters and social media marketing, to name a few. These strategies bring customers in, instead of having to try and gain customers through activities like buying ads, cold calling and buying ads, a practice called outbound marketing. By following these easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to building a customer pipeline and able to stay focused on the work you’re passionate about.

Leverage online profiles.

Many people make the mistake of assuming their website is a one-stop marketing shop. But your presence on the web should go beyond your company’s website. Leveraging your personal social accounts to link back to your business site is a simple first step to begin marketing yourself in a less conventional way. It helps drive traffic from a wider variety of touch points and increases the potential audience you can reach.

Ensure the “About” sections of sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn have a short elevator pitch about who you are, what you do and why someone should use your company. And if it suits your business, don’t be afraid to inject some personality into it.

Build a blog.

This can take a lot of time, but there is serious value in good content. Not only does it help establish you as an expert in your field, it also helps to increase your website’s rank for main keyword phrases. When deciding what kind of posts to write for your blog, consider what your potential clients will be searching when looking to hire someone like you. Producing content that answers questions clients have will mean they’re more likely to land on your site and in turn will be able to read how much you know about your area of expertise.

Be sure to reference back to your site or consider integrating your blog with your website for a one-stop shop for value-added content and the services you provide. It’s a great one-two punch to show potential clients that you know your stuff and your business can solve their problems.

Contribute content to relevant websites.

Much like writing blog content, this involves some writing on your part, but it is well worth the investment. There are a number of websites that accept guest posts written by people who are experts in their field. Find blogs whose audiences are made up of your ideal audience, and contribute the occasional article to establish yourself as a thought leader and help generate business leads. It’s great when you can leverage trending topics into a relevant article to pitch. Sites always prefer content that is timely and dialed into the hot topics of the moment. This is a “quality over quantity” situation where you don’t need to be writing articles for different sites every week.

Tell people about your successes.

Don’t worry about coming across as bragging, it’s important to make it known when work is yours. People looking to hire or explore new companies are always searching for insight into who’s doing good work and what they are saying about the industry. Publishing a running record of your work is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value you deliver.

Keep an updated portfolio on your website, share content you’ve written via Twitter, Facebook, and your blog, and include your bio at the end of freelance content you’ve written. If you’re a photographer, include a watermark when your photos are shared online. There are lots of ways to share and take credit for your work, and it’s valuable to do so.

Publish reviews from past and present clients.

The best way to build confidence in your work is through testimonials from people who have worked with you in the past or had experience with your company. These can be done in a number of ways thanks to all of the social platforms available. Have someone write you a recommendation on LinkedIn or for use on your website. You can also amplify the good will of your clients by retweeting a particularly flattering tweet and integrating your social media into your blog or website. And lastly, remember to post any positive media coverage on your site. There’s nothing like giving your potential clients the confidence that they’re working with someone who’s the best and who has delivered great experiences to other people.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The Fundamentals for a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

The Fundamentals for a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

An entrepreneur’s responsibilities reach far and wide. 

You wear a number of hats on a day-to-day basis, none more important than marketing. To succeed, you must learn the strategies and practices that work best in 2014. A deep understanding of inbound marketing best practices is vital to the growth and success of your business. No matter how busy you are, you simply can't ignore the importance of marketing your brand effectively. Take a look at the eight most important things every entrepreneur needs to know about inbound marketing.

The traditional marketing playbook is broken. 

Almost everyone – 91 percent, to be precise – has unsubscribed from email lists. Two-out-of-three people (68 percent) who record TV content do so to skip advertisements (Motorola, December 2012) and, according to DoubleClick, the average click-through rate on display ads is only 0.2 percent. According to Brian Halligan, the CEO of Hubspot and author of the book Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online, the way modern consumers shop and make purchases has changed dramatically, and as such, businesses must adapt in order to survive.

In an interview, Halligan said, “The Internet has fundamentally changed how we live our lives, and as consumers, we now have more options than ever to tune out marketing that is annoying. Most entrepreneurs I know understand that based on their own experience, but when it comes to marketing their business, they default to the traditional marketing playbook because it's easy or because it's what everyone has always done for years. That's a huge mistake."

According to Halligan, you can no longer rent your way to consumer attention, you need to earn it. Instead of dreaming up new ways to interrupt your way into your prospects’ lives, invest in ways to engage them meaningfully with an inbound experience. “Dharmesh (Shah) and I wrote the inbound marketing book to give entrepreneurs actionable advice to attract, engage and delight their prospects, customers, and leads,” Halligan explained. "Inbound marketing focuses on the width of your brain, not the width of your wallet, and entrepreneurs have more remarkable ideas than anyone I know."

Your content must be remarkable enough to break through the clutter. 

Think about how many channels you have on your television, and how many websites and social media channels compete for your attention each day. The same is true for your customers. It’s not enough to just produce content. Your content must educate, inspire or entertain your audience. Don’t talk about your brand non-stop or try to sell people too early or often in your content. Instead, try to spark interesting dialogue and discussion with your content. Doing so will pay off with attention and engagement.

Think of your website as a hub, not a megaphone. 

Far too many businesses think about their websites as broadcast channels for addressing a large group of people. Your website functions best when its content and design are built with a human touch. Instead of writing copy to impress your competitors, create copy and experiences an individual customer will love. Don’t scream through a megaphone at your customers. Design the entire end-to-end experience with individual humans in mind. Conversation trumps a broadcast message every time. Design your web experience accordingly.

Inbound includes content and code. 

Many entrepreneurs mistake massive volumes of content for an inbound strategy, forgetting that shipping code is indispensable as well. Specifically, free tools are powerful in converting web traffic into highly engaged leads. For example, InsightSquared created Sales Funnel, a free tool that allows Salesforce users to quickly and efficiently diagnose their sales funnel. Leads that try Sales Funnel convert at a rate almost twenty times higher than leads that don’t. Free tools can transform your entire customer experience. Invest developer resources into your marketing efforts for the biggest impact possible.

Master the call to action.  

Think about how hard you work to get traffic to your site. Now think of what happens if a visitor comes to your site and doesn’t know where to go or what to do next once they visit. You’ve just wasted all of your hard efforts! Your call to action is a sign post showing your visitors where they should go next. If someone came to your blog first, you want to make it easy and seamless for them to subscribe to read similar articles. If a visitor comes from a co-marketing initiative with a partner, ensure the copy on the site is built specifically to appeal to someone who knows both your brands. Tailor the next step accordingly. It’s not enough to optimize your site for search. You have to optimize your site for action.

Get visual. 

The average attention span is just eight seconds, so even if you want to write a 10,000-word essay on your new product launch, chances are slim that your audience will get through it. Creating remarkable visual content is a great way to cut through content clutter and stand out from the pack. If you don’t have an army of designers at your disposal, use Canva or Visage to create simple and beautiful visuals, hire a young freelancer to pitch in or just put your iPhone to good use taking pictures of your space, your customers, your team and your product. When it comes to content, a photo (or video) really is worth 1,000 words.

Inbound delivers higher ROI for your business. 

In a 2013 survey, American inbound marketers spending more than $25,000 per year saved an average of 13 percent in overall cost per lead ($36 versus $41 with outbound). It’s far more expensive to continue pouring money into paid channels that don’t deliver returns than it is to invest in blogging and social media. Inbound marketing is good for your bottom line and your brand.

Hire wisely. 

If you’re hiring an in-house marketer or an agency to help with your marketing efforts, you need a skill set that matches your strategy. Invest in people who are digitally savvy, highly analytical, have significant reach on the web and have experience creating remarkable content.

Today’s marketing world requires companies to continually optimize. The team behind you must be well equipped, comfortable with the technology and have the tenacity to update your strategy and approach on a daily basis to meet your growth goals. Successful inbound marketing is a science that requires a specific expertise and plenty of experience. Even if marketing isn’t your cup of tea, it’s important that you know and understand the basics. If you keep these tips in mind, you can rest assured that your business is practicing the latest and greatest inbound marketing techniques, and maximizing its growth potential.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Ways to make your inbound marketing stand out

Ways to make your inbound marketing stand out

Experts in content creation and digital strategy discuss the best methods and channels to attract new customers.

  

Marketing IT Bullseye

Converting leads and contacts into customers continues to be the top marketing priority for many companies, according to HubSpot research,. And organizations that focus on inbound – e.g. using content marketing, social media and SEO to attract customers — (vs. outbound) marketing are more likely to be effective. Here are a few things your business can do to make your inbound marketing efforts more effective – and convert more prospects into customers.

Know who your target audience is – and where they get their information

“You must define your audience before you even get started, creating the fundamental inbound marketing ‘buyer persona,’” says Ryan Malone, founder & CEO, SmartBug Media. Personas should factor in demographics – gender, age, education, location – and include things like the customer’s likes and dislikes, where they shop, where they work and who they buy for (family, friends, coworkers).

Once you’ve identified and defined your ideal customer, use that buyer persona to guide your strategy, “from the keywords [you] choose, to the website experience, the blogs you write to the social media sites you use for promotion,” he says. “Many organizations mistakenly try to be everything to everyone; however, to truly see inbound success, you must focus on attracting the right audience first and foremost."

Plan ahead

“SMBs need to look at the big picture and strategically plan content long term,” says Jamie Domenici, vice president of SMB marketing, Salesforce. “This allows your business to capitalize on… seasons, holidays or events [that are relevant to your business and target audience].” For example, Valentine’s Day is a holiday no florist, chocolatier or jeweler would want to miss. And “having an editorial calendar ensures the business can prepare interesting and insightful content well in advance.”

Develop an SEO strategy

“Search optimized blogging is one of the best ways for small and medium sized businesses to improve inbound marketing,” says Lauren Fairbanks, CEO, S/G Content Marketing. Just “make sure you focus on the right keywords that match your customer's pain points and work on creating content around those.”

“The best (and free) place to start with this is AdWords Keyword [Planner],” says Amy Nedoss, marketing strategy director at SocialRaise. “Find low-competition and high-volume search terms. Then align your content with [them]. That way the content is highly targeted and has a better chance of being found [by your target audience].”Fight enemies smarter and faster with an open, unified ecosystem for a resilient defense.

“Another trick to improve SEO is to revive your old content,” says Tim Jernigan, marketing analyst, Badger Maps. “If your existing posts don’t receive traffic anymore, you can revamp them with infographics [or] images. You can even combine a few blogs to make a PDF guide [or white paper] and post [with a new title].”

Create a company blog and fill it with useful content

“The secret to a successful inbound marketing strategy is to consistently provide quality content that is interesting and helpful to current and prospective customers. At the heart of this strategy is the humble blog,” says Domenici.

“Company blogs drive inbound traffic to your website, and can also give your business credibility within your industry,” she says. “Customers favor companies that offer valuable knowledge rather than ones that are too self-promotional, so be sure to identify common customer pain points and provide easy-to-follow solutions. Extend the reach of your blog by sharing posts across your social networks to engage with customers where they are.”

Send fewer emails but with better content

“A big theme we’re seeing this year is sending less email better, which is something we’re really leaning into at HubSpot,” says Jon Dick, vice president of marketing, HubSpot. “As people’s inboxes become more and more crowded, many marketers have resorted to increasing their email volume to get the same number of opens. But this approach is backwards.”Sending fewer but more relevant emails “will actually get you more opens and better engagement in today’s environment,” he says. The key is to “focus on adding… value and investing in good content that shows, not tells, your message.” If you do this, “the few emails you do send will get good engagement.”

Include graphics and/or photos in messaging

“Humans are more receptive to visual content,” points out Domenici. So “incorporating visual elements [in your messaging] is a sure-fire way for your small business to increase the draw of your inbound marketing strategy. Readers will often become disengaged with ‘how-to’ blog posts that are text heavy, but adding graphics can help illustrate step-by-step instructions in a clearer way. Video tutorials are also a great way to easily provide a solution to a common problem and can easily be shared through different channels.”

Interact with consumers through podcasts and videos

“Nothing showcases the personality of a brand better than utilizing the latest digital media channels,” says Mark Nardone, executive vice president, PAN Communications. “Brainstorm podcast topics that will open up discussions around industry trends and best practices. This will garner interest from consumers and influencers and position your brand as a thought leader and resource for your target audience.” And don’t leave out video.

“With a 5x higher recall than the written word, video is the most engaging media format and most effective in assisting conversions,” says Kent Lewis, founder & president, Anvil Media. “Video production costs have decreased dramatically. And live streaming (on platforms like Facebook), 360-degree video, augmented and virtual reality… and drones [have] all make video capture and viewing more dramatic and immersive. If your brand isn't doubling down on video as a key element for inbound marketing, you will miss the bus.” 

Tap social media influencers

“It’s imperative that brands use social media to develop an influencer repertoire to share news… and establish a brand image,” says Nardone. Social media “influencers play a crucial part in inbound marketing practices by acting as brand So after you have created your buyer personas, find out which social media platforms they are using and who are the influencers in your category or industry. Follow and interact with them to establish a connection. Then reach out to them about promoting your brand.

Try Facebook Lead Ads

“If you aren't using Facebook Lead Ads, you're missing out in a big way,” says Michael Mignogna, CEO, Minyona. “Prior to Facebook Lead Ads, when advertising on Facebook, you had to create an ad that pointed to a landing page on a website outside of Facebook and then hope the user felt like taking the desired action.

“With Lead Ads, an advertiser can offer a free download of an ebook, for example, and because it all happens inside of Facebook, the information the advertiser wants to capture is auto populated so the user can simply click ‘download,’” he explains. “We use this for several clients, and… we are able to bring them dozens of new inbound leads per week that automatically get opted into an email nurturing campaign.”

Share content on LinkedIn Pulse

Post blogs and articles you’ve written on LinkedIn Pulse. “It won't hurt SEO in terms of duplicate content, and it will help you reach many more people with minimal additional effort,” says Maddy Osman, founder & SEO content strategist, The Blogsmith. “LinkedIn has some of the best reach on any social platform, and as more people engage with your LinkedIn Pulse post, it will reach their networks as well. It's a great way to use your existing network to reach more people and funnel them to your website.”

Don’t offer up all your content for free

“The majority of your content should be freely available on your company blog, but some of it should be only available for download if people enter their contact details into a lead generation form,” says Brett Langlois, SEO & content team lead, Pure SEO. “This will allow you to capture their details and enter them into your sales funnel.”

Invest in marketing automation

“The most successful inbound marketers have the right tools to amplify their efforts,” says Tommy Burns, marketing specialist, Matrix Marketing Group. “There's only so much you can do alone, and marketing automation can free up valuable time to be directed where it's needed most. Increased inbound results offset any cost.”

Be patient and persistent

“Inbound marketing is a long game,” says Julie Graff, social content liaison, Pole Position Marketing. “While you can get some quick wins (particularly with pay-per-click advertising and some SEO tactics), it's going to take some time to see real growth. Don't pull the plug because you don't see results right away. Your goal should be long-term, sustainable growth. This takes patience, time and an ongoing strategy. When you do see results, you're not done. You need to keep going. Digital growth results stop when you stop investing time in them.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How to Assemble a Board of Directors for a Startup

How to Assemble a Board of Directors for a Startup

                           

…assembling a board of directors presents startups with significant opportunities to reinforce and expand on the business’s strengths while also addressing its weaknesses.

This post provides an overview of several of the legal and practical considerations startups should be aware of as they constitute their board of directors.

As mentioned on Bradley’s Family Business Advocates blog, a board of directors is the governing body of the corporation elected by its stockholders. The board will guide the overall direction and strategy of the corporation; it will hire, fire, and supervise the corporation’s officers; and it will ultimately decide all major corporate decisions, such as whether or not to sell the business. Good directors are valuable resources who may provide startups with credibility, technical expertise, industry experience, and access to new business opportunities. Accordingly, assembling a board of directors presents startups with significant opportunities to reinforce and expand on the business’s strengths while also addressing its weaknesses.

The initial directors of a corporation are appointed by an incorporator simultaneously with, or shortly after, the organization of the corporation. An incorporator is a person who creates the corporation by executing and filing the certificate of incorporation, and they will often be a shareholder, director or officer of the corporation or one of its representatives. If the incorporator chooses not to appoint directors in the corporation’s certificate of incorporation, then an organizational action is required by the incorporator to transfer governing authority over to the initial board of directors. Until this transfer of authority occurs, the corporation is governed by the incorporator, whose powers are limited by statute. 

Although most states do not mandate when the transfer must occur, some states, such as New York, have held that an incorporator may not operate a corporation indefinitely because the board of directors must manage the corporation.  While the NYBCL does not address when the organizational action must be taken, it has been held that an incorporator cannot operate a corporation indefinitely because the board should manage the corporation. The incorporator's powers are generally limited under Delaware law to organizing the corporation, adopting the bylaws, electing directors, and transacting other limited business as is authorized by state law.

Generally, state law provides startups with significant flexibility in structuring their boards. A board of directors must have at least one director, and all directors must be natural persons (as opposed to business entities or trusts). Otherwise few limitations apply as to who may serve on a startup’s board. The corporation’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws may fix the number of directors and their requisite qualifications. Corporations often provide a range, rather than specifying the number of directors, which allows for greater flexibility as new directors are added and existing directors are removed or resign. Usually, the board will consist of a mix of the corporation’s key management (i.e., inside directors) and other individuals not employed by the corporation (i.e., outside directors). 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to assembling an initial board of directors…

The legal flexibility that startups have in structuring their boards is constrained by practical and strategic considerations. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to assembling an initial board of directors, rather each corporation must balance competing interests and tailor its board to its current needs. When determining the size of a board, although there is no maximum legal limit for the number of directors permitted to serve, a bloated board will often become ineffective and unmanageable. A board of directors will typically have an odd number of directors to prevent a voting deadlock.

A startup’s shareholder base will greatly affect the composition of its board. Outside investors routinely condition their investment on receiving a board presence that roughly reflects their ownership stake in the corporation. For example, a venture-backed startup may find that an outside investor holding 20 percent of the corporation’s stock would like to appoint one-fifth of the corporation’s directors. Further, depending on the rights granted in the corporation’s organizational documents, such an investor may be entitled to make this election without the input of the other shareholders. Even without command of a majority of a corporation’s board seats, outside investors often feel that representation on the board helps them maintain communication with management and visibility into their investment.

Although directors can often be a significant asset to a startup, it is important to take some time to appropriately vet and recruitable candidates for directorships. Initially, many startups may wish to proceed with forming a corporation to secure the benefits of the corporate form without appointing multiple directors to their board. In the interim, it is not uncommon for startups to organize an advisory board to realize some of the benefits of a board of directors without handing over actual authority to make business decisions or manage company affairs. Ultimately, a successful startup will likely see the structure and composition of its board of directors change significantly over time. It is important that entrepreneurs and investors seek corporate counsel throughout this evolution. 

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrencies Shaping Future Economy, Capitalism Morphing

Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrencies Shaping Future Economy, Capitalism Morphing

  

Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrencies Shaping Future Economy, Capitalism Morphing

Money has shaped our modern economy. We have gone from using grain and cattle and even salt as currency to using metal tokens (coins) and paper. However, paper has the habit of sticking and it has been around ever since the Chinese introduced it during the Tang dynasty. We have grown comfortable using paper currency and no one can deny that it has had its usefulness. Now we are approaching another era in which bits are playing the same role that paper did. Digital currencies are no longer something that will happen way into the future, they are here. How will the advent of digital currencies like Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum and etc affect the future shape of the economy?

Is it the end of Capitalism?

Ed Finn wrote an article in the Guardian asking, “Do digital currencies spell the end of Capitalism?” Finn’s article covered the DAO issue and how Ethereum community dealt with the hack. He examines the very nature of digital currency and ponders the questions surrounding ‘programmable money.’

In the end, he succinctly concludes:

“If what counts, and how we count, is measured in processor cycles instead of human exchange, it will change the rules of the economy as surely as driverless vehicles will change transportation. What we value is fundamentally a question of belief, and it’s increasingly unclear what we believe in more: billfolds or bits?”

So what will change if we move to digital currencies, surely these currencies change the nature of money as they are not issued by a central monetary authority or backed by the promise of the sovereigns.

These currencies are an organism of their own kind. They open the doors to people issuing their own tokens and creating their own monetary policies. This could radically change the financial system as individuals could potentially fund their own enterprises with their own currencies. They also remove the vagaries of the interest rate cycles associated with government issued money and break the nexus between big businesses and the government.

The era of financial empowerment

Digital currencies have opened doors which were firmly shut. These currencies hold the promise of distribution of wealth like never before. Not only have they brought in the technology to transfer money in a blink of an eye at minimal costs around the world, they have also brought access to ‘money’ for people who never had it before.

As Dominik Zynis of the WINGS Foundation says:

“Digital currencies will allow anyone, be it person or community, to be included in the economy by self regulated credit expansion enabling trade people who previously lacked access to requisite mediums of exchange.”

Creating trust among people

At the moment people have no choice but to trust the sovereign's money. It is after all, a promissory note. Digital currencies put the trust fact squarely among the public. People who choose to use a particular digital currency, do so because they recognize it as money. Not because they were told to use it as money. The use of digital money or programmable money opens the doors for applications like smart contracts. Smart contracts within digital money can revolutionize the way ‘deals’ are done. Escrow can be inbuilt so that a transaction is only completed when certain parameters are met. This removes the need for having intermediaries in financial transactions, property transactions etc.

Capitalism is about to morph

The present economic system that we live in has reached its peak potential. We need a new era of economics if we are to develop further. In an era where the planetary resources are increasingly dwindling, we need a system that places less emphasis on profit and more on developing human resources. Virtual currencies or digital currencies can usher in an era of entrepreneurship and development. They can also transform how we do business today and remove regulatory bottlenecks out of the system. While capitalism might not come to an end immediately due to ‘programmable money’, it is certainly about to evolve into something different. No one can deny though that we are at the crossroads.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member