Feb 17

The Decline Of Twitter: Why 2016 Is A Must-Win Year for Twitter

Five years ago Biz Stone and Evan Williams were media darlings and Twitter was still a rising social network whose prominence was equal to Facebook’s and whose future domination seemed certain. Fast forward five years and now we see Twitter fighting for its market share and for its future spot among the competitive social landscape. The exact things that made twitter so special and such a unique platform are in danger at present. While Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others have grown market share and relevancy, Twitter has stagnated.

 

Trolls & Goblins As Opposed to Real Human Interactions

While nearly all social networks moved to much more stringent measures to reduce spam accounts, Twitter has yet to do so. This leaves the social network vulnerable to spam attacks on hashtags and anonymous trolling. This may not seem like a big deal but it junks up peoples feeds and can unjustly discredit, bully, marginalize and demeans people and companies. Many people and companies have stopped engaging on Twitter and even deactivated their accounts for this reason.

 

Behind The Curve on Engineering & Ads

While Facebook has moved light years ahead with their mobile ad and psychographic targeting allowing advertisers to pinpoint their ad messaging Twitters platform remains limited. Talking to industry experts, one is left with the impression that Twitter’s engineering team doesn’t have the manpower or experience to properly upgrade and enhance the platform. New updates and features are added but they never gain true user adoption because of their limited build and capability.

 

Losing Focus of What Made Them Great

The remarkable thing about Twitter is how people are using it as a micro blogging and news-breaking platform. Its 140 character limit forced people to be concise and impactful. This year Twitter announced that it would allow more than 140 character posts for the first time. This goes against its core differentiating value and what appealed to users in the first place. Twitter, after all, is where the hashtag was born from the arcane pound sign.

 

Why There is Still Hope For Twitter

Despite its mis-directions and lack of true innovation, Twitter still remains one of the top 10 most visited websites of the Internet. While the New Yorker, the Atlantic and others have signaled its decline and decay, it has yet to become irrelevant and it still holds true value for many users globally. If the executive team can restrict the trolling and spam users, improve the engineering team, and get back to the core ethos of what made it special, the bright blue Twitter bird may soar again!

Feb 02

Data Driven Versus Data Informed Marketing: Top 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Get Rid of Thinking Human

With a propensity of personal data gathered across a variety of social and ad networks there is a deep belief among many that algorithms can accurately profile and target user preferences. Global companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have been customizing feeds and selling targeted ad solutions, but is there a limit to ad technology and efficiency?

While ad algorithms may have moved a good deal towards predicting prospects behavior there are still gaps in any automated ad or predictive analytics system. Below are the top 3 most common mistakes we see with current predictive analytics.

 

Reason 1: Assuming that Humans are Logical and Habit Based Creatures

The Google and Facebook ad networks along with a slew of other ad networks rely on grouping data based on people’s online behaviors and the people they most interact with. Based on their actions and public data that can be traced to an individual they then fit a pre-selected persona-based profile-type.

At first glance this seems like a marketer’s dream the ability to pin point prospects based on their past behaviors or current interests. In many cases this targeting works wonderfully, however this is not always the case. The assumption is that humans are logical and habit based, but unfortunately living in the real world we know this is not accurate.

 

Reason 2: Not Factoring in Local, Seasonal and Micro Trends

 

Historic data and user analysis can’t always factor in what is happening within a target market. Many times personas and targets are created based on data sets and algorithms, but a model can’t always factor in occurrences such as a snowstorm, a beautiful beach day, or a holiday. Companies using this data to target could be stymied by a campaign’s inefficiency because of externalities not initially foreseen.

 

Reason 3: People Build Immunity to Invasive Targeting

When Facebook or AdWords launch a new feature it can take the industry by storm whether its email list targeting, mobile optimized ads, or in the past remarketing. These new tactics have an instant surge in use and efficacy as prospects are not actively aware of the new innovative targeting methods. Eventually however prospects realize the ad new techniques and methods and their invasiveness and grow more immune to these tactics.

 

The Best Solution: Use Data to Inform, Not Drive Decisions

There is no doubt that the proliferation of data has made marketers more knowledgeable on how to target and measure their audiences. The key however is to take the data and inform your decision-making thinking human. Companies like Google and Facebook now realize this as well and are engaging test studies with human feedback across markets to better customize their products.

By combining data with industry experience on your target audience and by factoring externalities marketers will be able to truly measure and gauge their targeting efficacy and ROI.

Dec 28

Business & Leadership Lessons Learned from Nelson Mandela

The world lost one of its most noble and illustrious men when Nelson Mandela  passed away recently. Mr. Mandela’s life was full of travails and hardships that would make most men crumble, through it all he was able to impart some valuable life and business lessons to us all.

Lesson 1: Build and Stick to a Well Built Strategic Game Plan

Albert Sisulu and Nelson Mandela sought out a goal of united equal rights for a peaceful multi-national South Africa nearly 70 years ago. Their goal seemed incredibly outlandish and inconceivable at the time. Nonetheless they persevered through a dogmatic and disciplined approach to their ideals and vision. This is a lesson that is often forgotten in businesses what may seem impossible or impractical can often be done with strategic tact and persistence.

Lesson 2: Personalize & Relate Your Goals to Your Target Audience

One of the keys to the success of Nelson Mandela and his compatriots was the ability to market and outline their causes to their target audience. The marketing and publicity effort created by their platforms and ideals was able to inspire the whole world to spur into action. If they hadn’t successfully related their issues to the outside world media South Africa may still be under apartheid today. The same principle holds true for any business you may have the best product in the world but without the proper marketing and reach you will never reach your potential.

Lesson 3: Learn from the Past but Don’t Let it Consume You

As soon as Nelson Mandela was released the whole world sat and waited to see what would happen in South Africa. The fear of longstanding instability and retribution killings was widely anticipated as the country moved towards democracy. The greatest gift Nelson Mandela had was his ability to take valuable lessons from the past but not let it taint or tarnish his perspective of what the future should hold. He forgave his captors granted amnesty to many in the apartheid regime and sought for a united progressive future for his country.  Often companies are left as paralyzed bystanders to their past. They fixate on what worked or didn’t work in the past and out of fear or limited vision are unable to seize market opportunities.

The Mandela in All Of us

Businesses and individuals alike can learn a tremendous amount from maintaining a steadfast, ethical and honorable belief in their values and vision. These lessons above are but a few of the key valuable life and business lessons Nelson Mandela has imparted on the world.

 

Sep 24

Search Engine Optimization Yourself: The Unconscious SEO Of Our Lives

 

With the political and social landscape of the world changing at a frightening pace it can be tough to find the perfect way to represent yourself and what you stand for. The same can be said of many brands and their websites. Companies spend millions of dollars on their search engine optimization efforts ensuring that every on-page and off-page factor is a perfect representation of their brand. While we may not think of it, individuals like you and me are always search engine optimizing our daily lives. Below are three factors that show the parallels between SEO and our daily search engine optimization.

On Page Factors: The H1, Meta-Descriptions, & Title Tags of Life

We spend thousands of dollars on what we eat, look like and drive. At first glance this can be attributed to our consumerism and the dominant factors associated to it. In reality what we are trying to do is portray who we are to our target audience just like on-page search engine optimization. Our H1 tags can be described by our clothes and appearance, this is the header or first thought that pops into someone’s mind when they see us.  Our meta description is our first conversation with that person, generally a short hopefully impactful statement that tells that person what we are about. The title tag in America at least is our job title and our standing in society. While these may all seem like superficial factors, they are generally how people judge individuals when they first meet them, similar to how a search engine’s algorithm judges the credibility and value of a page.

Off-Page Factors: Local Citations, Directories, Social Media

In SEO you want to make sure your brand is known in all the local directories (Yelp, Google Local, etc) and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) For a company, this is your opportunity to humanize yourself and make a strong connection with your followers. As individuals we are faced with the same challenges, our local citation is our network of people and how they represent us. We make connections through our network, use our network to portray who we are and what we are about. This is then augmented through our social network push which generally shows our best side and why our life is so incredible. The reality of our lives may be a lot less alluring and thrilling, but just like companies, we are always pushing the content and connections which put us in the best light.

Global vs Local Search Engine Optimization

Companies have picked up on the need to optimize their efforts on the local markets they are in. They spend millions of dollars focusing their SEO efforts and keywords on their target geographies. Similarly, many individuals spend most of their efforts to boost their standing in their local community. While we may not write thousands of blog posts about our local city and services, we spend a significant effort in our local community at town halls, bars, and social gatherings trying to convey who we are and what we represent.

Longstanding SEO Versus Longstanding Reputation Management              

There are many parallels between the fundamentals of SEO and self optimization. You need to have a core message, a strong strategy and optimize your execution (the factors you can control.)  At the end of the day however, other people are not search engines with limited algorithm sets.  Just like with good longstanding SEO you can’t build a strong foundation on tricks and maneuvers. The best websites like the best people, are authentic and have a real message and personality behind their personal brand.

 

Feb 05

ScholarLocker: The Inside Look of How One Student Project is Redefining the Student Experience

In a local pub in Coolidge Corner this past week, I had the pleasure to sit down with Kiran Agarwal-Harding. A fourth year medical student, Kiran is one of the founders of ScholarLocker, an educational resource that has transformed the way many medical students interact and utilize information.

The Big Idea: The Aha Moment that Set Things in Motion

Upon arriving to Harvard Medical School, Kiran formed a medical design group, as a forum to discuss ideas for how to better the medical field and their overall student experience. This group served as a catalyst in identifying unmet needs in medicine, and brainstorming potential solutions. After several meetings, Kiran and two other members of the group, Jay Reidler and David Mou, decided to build a product to address one of the main student needs they identified. As first year medical students, they noticed a distinct disconnect among the classes at the med school. What resulted was students of every intake were not communicating their past experiences and cross generational knowledge was being lost and re-replicated. As a result, each individual was suffering through similar issues that each medical student had to individually solve. Hurdles like finding and creating useful education resources, sharing lecture notes, and effectively supplementing their learning of many new and complicated topics from class. Kiran and the team sought to remove these stressful, time-consuming tasks by uniting the student body to share their experiences and support one and other.

ScholarLocker Takes a Giant Leap

As first year medical students, the founding team had a keen understanding of the lifecycle and hurdles ahead and thus in October 2010 built a free website, private to Harvard Medical students, to address these issues. In the site, students could share their resources, evaluate, and comment. Posts with the best and most relevant content would subsequently rise to the top. As it was a closed portal all the posts were relevant to the students needs and particular classes and experiences. Within two months of its launch, 90% of first and second year medical students had signed up and started using the product.

The advice forums were a huge pull to start, especially advice on the medical boards. With Harvard students typically scoring 20 points over the national average, the pressure to learn and succeed was always present. Soon, Amazon links for resources were added to the site. Then the site started to attract professors, faculty, and other medical school administrators. It quickly transformed to cover a wide range of topics that included global health and platforms to discuss potential medical innovations.

What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: User Adoption Outside of Harvard

Quickly, the founding team was bombarded with requests from other medical schools to access ScholarLocker. The service that ScholarLocker was delivering was a universal need to all medical schools. Many other schools had tried to create their own internal system, but were unable to properly address all the student issues. Soon, med students from around the country were using ScholarLocker.

Similar to Quora, ScholarLocker established a burgeoning base of experts: seasoned doctors and faculty members who responded to student queries. The user base grew to 5,000 users and international schools also got involved. In total, 65 schools across the world are now using the product. The entire pre-med student lifecycle is being addressed and students from Boston to Singapore are able to collaborate, get the relevant answers to their questions, and access the needed discussions for their interests. This way a knowledge bank has been created enabling students and medical scholars to bridge geographical boundaries, learn and share. The service has empowered many to find better solutions, and improve their academic experience.

What the Future Holds: The Next Steps of Development

In a world full of forums and services, ScholarLocker strives to maintain its mission. Editors are working around the clock to ensure the integrity of the information posted on the website. In addition, the founders want to keep the site open source and a free resource for students. In the coming months the site will turn from private to public to enable doctors and doctors-in-training from around the world to share their needs and co-create innovative solutions that will change the world.

The need for a service like ScholarLocker transcends medical students and applies to many non-related disciplines and fields. If ScholarLocker is able to pinpoint the needs and lifecycles of other fields, the expansion and use of the service could be truly boundless.

Jan 27

Developing Markets: The Fortune to Be Found in Africa

 

Analyzing the African Landscape

Last week, Morgan Stanley’s New York Environment and Social Forum hosted an event focused on analyzing the investment opportunities found in Africa. The open panel discussion was led by two prominent figures in this field: Margot Brandenburg of the Rockefeller foundation and Jeffrey Leonard of the Global Environment Fund. Their discussion covered a wide range of topics the highlights of which are summarized below.

 

Banana, Wood and Other Staple Agricultural Goods

 

While many focus on Africa’s large mineral supplies, both Margot and Jeffrey centered the discussion on the role of agricultural investments in bringing change and achieving long-term profits. Margo referenced a series of banana farms that the Rockefeller foundation has helped finance and bring to the market in East Africa. Initially banks were weary in making loans to these farmers. With no collateral the farmers were unable to initially attain money to make the needed investments in their own farms. The Foundation saw the opportunity and chance to make a difference in the lives of these farmers and personally backed the loans. The result years later is a burgeoning industry, as these farms have created wealth and a stable livelihood for the farmers in the region.

 

Jeffrey told an interesting tale of a woodcutting and packing plant in South Africa that he had invested in as part of his fund. The plant had excellent wood supplies and cultivation methods, but its operation processes and market focus were lacking. This was the result of monopolization and lack of education and management skills in the area. When Jeffrey and his team came in, they realized that to bring about needed changes to this plant more than just operations management optimization was required. It required an investment in the village and surroundings. Jeffrey’s firm put in new teachers at local schools, educated the local population on AID’s prevention and STD’s, employed senior managers from North America, and also provided classes on how employees could manage their money. Despite cutting the work force by a significant percentage and retraining the workforce to optimize their production and distribution methods, the village and its residents still experienced a positive and lasting change. In addition, upon exiting the venture, the Global Environment Fund had made a significant profit.

 

In both these examples the vision, faith, and execution in these ventures proved to be the impetus needed to bring about positive change and highly profitable conditions to these African markets. Without these investments both the outside investors and the local people in the villages would not have experienced the same magnitude of prosperity and wealth.

 

Not All Horses Are Thoroughbred’s: Growing Pains and Lessons Learned

 

If all investments in Africa were as profitable and had the same execution and results as the stories categorized below, Africa would already be seen by investors in a different light. The reality of the situation is one can make many mistakes with investments. Both Margot and Jeff discussed this aspect as well. Jeff talked about an investment with a large multinational for a production plant that encountered unforeseeable difficulties and financial woes. What seemed like a safe slam-dunk investment suddenly turned into a nightmare. Margot referenced several programs that had been started to spur industry but had turned into large inefficient subsidy programs.

 

The key to both Margot and Jeff’s overall long-term success in Africa has been learning from their mistakes. In some cases, this has meant exiting investments that will never bring about sustained change. In others, it is funding investments that may not have immediate profit but will provide the needed cocoon environment to spur future innovation and investment. As Margo clearly stated: “There is a fine balance between being patient with investments and throwing good money after bad.” In all cases, the investment and development process has been a dynamic and consistent learning experience.

 

The New Colonials: China’s Role in Africa

 

The largest investor and country currently involved in Africa is China. With billions of dollars invested across Africa, China holds many deeds and rights to lands and natural resources across Africa. While, the presence of Chinese investment has spurred the construction of needed infrastructure in Africa, it has come at a great cost.  These investors have been viewed by many as rapacious in their actions employing only Chinese workers, extracting, and reaping the maximum profit possible while ignoring country laws and international restrictions. Neither Margot nor Jeff has collaborated with Chinese investors, but both are anxious to see how the role of China will dictate future international investments in Africa.

 

What the Future Holds

 

Margot and Jeffrey were both quite optimistic on the future of Africa. Investments in downstream agriculture and food processing will continue to be a growing market in Africa. Apart from those Margot and Jeff noted other industries such as mobile technologies. The continued development of mobile has opened all sorts of doors for innovation that many thought were not even possible. The mobile sector will continue to be a key part of the investment and enablement mix for the future.

 

With a very young population, the primary driver to long termed sustained success in Africa will be dependent on developing and training the right workforce. Right now there is a dearth of management talent in the region which makes all investors both local and foreign to have to invest a significant amount of time and patience in training and development.  This is an issue that many local governments and world organizations are still trying to solve. The hope being that in the not-so-far future Africa’s workforce will be empowered with the needed skills to build and grow their industries. If this happens the African future can be as bright as the African sun.

 

Dec 30

What Defines A Good Entrepreneur: How the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab is Revolutionizing Global Entrepreneurship

Last month I was speaking with an old friend, Esther, about global entrepreneurship in developing countries. Having worked previously in microfinance, I thought I knew a great deal about how entrepreneurship was being fostered by banks abroad.  It was at this point in the conversation that she asked me if I was familiar with the work done by the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab in developing countries. I admitted I had never heard of them but was curious to learn more about how this company was working with global banks to cultivate and grow new businesses.  As a result I reached out to EFL marketing manager Penelope Silva to learn more about their model and their story. Below are some highlights from our discussion.

 

A Need, a Thought and a Potential Solution

 

Entrepreneurial Finance Lab was born on the banks of the Charles River at the Harvard Kennedy School, by Professor Asim Khwaja, and then student Bailey Klinger. What they saw was a need in developing countries for determining how to lend medium-sized loans to entrepreneurs. Unlike microfinance loans that share the risk in self-help groups, the issue addressed personal loans that one single individual is responsible for repaying. In Western society all loans are backed by personal collateral, and determined by credit scores that the entrepreneur has developed over the duration of his life. In emerging countries, this is not a feasible or realistic way to determine loans.  As a result, personal business loans are relatively few in number and high in risk.

 

The question that Asim and Bailey had was whether or not it would be possible to determine an accurate system for the banks to lend to these developing market entrepreneurs.  They then developed a credit-scoring technology using psychometric principles and other non-traditional methods. The technology includes a 45 minute application administered by the bank to the entrepreneurs to determine their credit scoring and their loan requirements. Asim and Bailey felt that their technology would be able to accurately predict the likelihood of the success and loan payback potential of an entrepreneur or small or medium-sized enterprise.   In 2008 they won a Google.org grant for their pilot project. The pilot project showed promising results. By 2010 EFL had spun out as a separate entity from the Harvard Kennedy Initiative and became its own private entity.  In that same year it partnered with Standard Bank and began working in various countries. The application methodology was taught to the banks and administered by them to the prospective entrepreneurs. The accompanying data was collected in a centralized database and measured by EFL.

 

Accuracy, Assumptions, and Application

 

The initial work with Standard Bank in Africa proved fruitful for both the bank and EFL. EFL has dedicated data and account managers working with the banks throughout the world both on the ground and remotely. EFL has been proven to lower a banks default rate by 40% and increase their loan portfolios by over 100%. It is now operating in 15 countries and is partnered with many of the top tier banks across the world from Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Through its technology, over 46,000 credit applications have been given out, accounting for over $150 million dollars for entrepreneurial ventures in these developing markets.  Over $1.7 million per week is lent out using EFL’s methodology.

 

The methodology is universal across the globe, but the scoring range for lending differs per country according to the culture, region and bank. As the EFL team compiles more data from the banks and the local entrepreneurs, they are fine-tuning and gaining further accuracy and insight to make their technology more refined. As Penelope says, “the model is never static and the technology is constantly evolving.”  With the data set growing, and the advent of the big data revolution, the expectation within EFL is that its system will be even more powerful and predictive in the years to come.

 

The Present and the Future

 

In a world with a proliferation of new ideas and technologies fighting for the limelight, EFL is just starting to establish market trust and recognition. Over the next five years, the loan-market in the developing and emerging countries is valued at 2 trillion dollars.  A pioneer in psychometric and non-traditional lending evaluation, EFL is on the forefront to help define this market.  The success and well-being of these developing global markets and the entrepreneurs within it, in many ways relies on the continued and future successful application of the innovative EFL technology.

 

 

 

 

Nov 30

The Case for Keeping Social Media Human: Rethinking Sentiment Algorithms and Automation

This week I had the pleasure of attending a talk led by Ariel Dos Santos, MIT Sloan alum and current social marketing manager at Microsoft. When one thinks of Microsoft, the last thing that comes to mind is innovation in social media marketing.  However, Ariel shed a light on just how Microsoft is changing its culture and redefining social media. By recounting his experiences and beliefs in how social media should work, Ariel is redefining what social media should mean to Microsoft and other companies.

 

The Marketing Metrics For Social Media

 

In a powerful corporation like Microsoft the focus is always on improving the bottom line and measuring your results.  The challenge found in social media is that it is hard to measure and quantify it exactly with a dollar figure. Gabriel explained how he has sought to create a different line of thinking within Microsoft. He has defined his teams social value by creating a social media  quadrant that includes social’s effect on business, relationship, community and content metrics. When he presents his finding to the executive team, he is able to pull from these more tangible key performance indicators to show the progress and effect of the team. Gabriel may not always be able to display a hard bottom line figure but the effect is nevertheless measurable and significant. Over a short period of time, Gabriel’s group has made a powerful positive impact through their social media strategy and new culture.

 

As a result, he has quickly gotten the needed buy in from management to grow the team and show their various successes along the way. Now Microsoft is present and proactive in responding to users needs on Facebook and Twitter. Authentic interactions are being held in these social channels between Microsoft users and staff that are redefining how people see Microsoft. Instead of just a distant cold corporation, what now is being demonstrated is the human side of Microsoft. Social media has helped the giant return to its roots and address the greater needs of the computing world.

 

The Beauty and Curse of Social Media

 

At business school one is taught to build a business through prototyping and then mastering a successful framework that is repeatable and scalable in order to reap large profits. This line of thinking has led to many of our greatest manufacturing feats and companies over the years. Many companies within the social media sphere have applied this same line of scale thinking. By creating complex algorithms, companies respond to an individual’s comments through auto created responses. These responses tend to be a poor barometer and response mechanism. It shows that the company is not involved and does not sincerely care about the consumers’ needs and wants.

 

As Gabriel succinctly stated, “what makes social media great is the human interaction involved.” There is no sentiment algorithm or scalable substitute.  In order to run a successful and responsive social marketing strategy for a company, you need interactive human support. Human interaction is what defines social media. In order to have a successful and sustainable social media strategy, you have to strengthen, maintain, and expand this bond with your consumer base.

Nov 17

The Middle East Minute: The Forces At Work Behind the Turmoil

 

The past month in the Middle East has seen a flurry of conflicts that is unprecedented even for that region. In Syria, dozens of civilians are being extinguished daily by a tyrannical regime. Israel has re-engaged its tactical killing of Palestinians and thus another Gaza conflict seems under way. In Egypt, the Musri administration is getting ready to confront a slew of issues that will be critical for the development of the country. In order to understand these issues, one needs a deeper knowledge of the root causes and influences that have created the current situation.

 

Syria: Breaking Through the Last Shackles of Colonialism

 

Taking a look at Syrian history, one can’t help but see the boundless parallels between the current situation in Syria now and Syria under French occupation. In both cases, the regimes in power did not represent the greater will of the people, they killed indiscriminately, and they destroyed large swaths of ruins, and Syrian heritage, and neighborhoods.  The primary difference between the French occupation and the current Syrian regime is that the latter are born in Syria.

 

This current regime represents a minority of the population and was shielded, and brought into power with the assistance of Western superpowers like France, Britain and Russia.  To ensure their place in power and their continued wealth, the ruling Alawites raped, pillaged and drained the country of its assets and any hope of progress.  The tactics and ethos of this regime are straight from the French playbook. While it is ironic that France is the first Western power to back the Syrian opposition, the last of the colonial enslavement shackles it instituted is still being removed one hundred years later.

 

Israel: Where the Moderates are the Minority

 

Politics in Israel is a contentious topic for all involved parties. For years, the political moderates have been ignored in favor of hard-lining radicals. The current situation is no different. Mr. Netanyahu, a hawk and leading voice of Zionist expansion, needs to re-affirm his position. What better way to do so before an election than to bomb Gaza and threaten Iran. This agrees with his tough-man image and gives him more credence. This calculated war will no doubt propel him to another election victory. The problem with this thinking is needless killing of both Palestinians and Israelis. This political divide has created is a deeper divide among the people in the region as well as more pent-up hatred and violence for future generations.

 

Egypt: Where the Pharaohs Still Lie

 

Egypt has been the gold standard in terms of successfully and peacefully overthrowing a tyrannical regime. The problem is after this overthrow, it has been very hard to change the internal structures left in the aftermath.  The army and the Muslim Brotherhood have dominated the new landscape. Enforcing and creating the legislation to ensure their continued power and success.

The dramatic change needed and wanted by the people seems to be largely ignored. For years, the Egyptian economy has operated around the necessity for international subsidies and tourism. This current regime has yet to think out of the box on creating new jobs and new sectors in the economy. What has resulted, is an overarching need for change with no tangible way to address it in the current government.

 

Egypt, can not be an effective power in the Middle East and a model for other countries to follow, under present conditions. It needs to have real meaningful political and social change in order to be a leading power again.

 

What This All Means For The Future

 

Unfortunately there are no easy solutions present in the Middle East.  The wars in Syria and Israel will leave the Levant in a terrible state of recovery.  Egypt has a long way ahead before its true future will unfold. Fundamental change can only occur if these Arabic countries are treated with a different lens. Instead of ensuring what is best for foreign policy in the West, the policy should be built around the wellbeing of the region and its people.

 

The same energy, passion and enthusiasm that have swept over the region can and should sustain it in these tough times. The Arabic people of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine will endure these tough times with a resiliency that has been bred over the past thousand years.  Strong and powerful nations are not built overnight and growing pains and struggle are to be expected.

 

While real Middle Eastern social progressive change may seem hard to measure and marginal at present, the future is still bright. The key for the rest of the world is to believe that message and allow democracy and social progress to occur, so that a truly free peaceful Middle East can become a reality.

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The 2400 Square Foot Dilemma: Why Most Companies Miss the Global Bull’s-Eye

 

Last night at MIT I had the pleasure of attending the lecture of Vijay Mahajan, an accomplished marketing professor at the University of Texas Austin and the former dean of the Indian School of Business. Mr Mahajan has spent much of the last decade researching Africa and the Middle East. The result of his research provides a fascinating window into the current reality of global business and commerce.

 

How Many “Developed” Countries Exist? The GDP Per Capita Dilemma

 

Mr. Mahajan has stated that a common definition used for developed countries is a minimum GDP per capita of $10,000 dollars. This list includes the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and other global economic giants.  The more surprising element lies in the vast majority of countries that fail to qualify under this definition. Mr. Mahajan states that 86% of the world’s countries have a GDP per capita of under $10,000 dollars.  The list that includes the 86% of overall countries is actually projected to grow over the upcoming years.

 

The 14% Marketing To The World of the 86%

 

What has happened in the world of Global commerce is a stark inability of many mega corporations to successfully integrate and enter emerging and developed markets. Companies are unable to understand what and how to market their products abroad. Many look at Africa, India and the Middle East as potentially lucrative markets but with no standard formula of success.

 

Professor Mahajan’s argument is that this stems from the inability of developed nations like the US to look past their 2,400 square foot syndrome.  The 2,400 square foot syndrome refers to the size of the average house in America. What the professor is referring to is the American mentality to perceive market issues and problems from a global perspective. Products marketed and sold abroad are not addressing the general needs and wants of the greater local populations. Many Indians and Africans live in tight quarters and cannot afford the space, let alone the price of many foreign products.

 

Another problem compounding the issue of global business is the inability of companies to distribute and sell their products across a foreign country. Unlike the US that has 82% of their residents found in urban centers, India has 70% of their population located in rural areas.  No product can reach the masses in Africa and India simply by entering the main city.

 

The Argument For Inclusive Growth

 

According to his studies, Professor Mahajan feels that there are two primary indicators that lead to investing in a country: the informal economy (what percentage of the economy operates in a shadow economy), and what percentage of the economy consumer spending controls. In the US, consumer spending accounts for seventy percent of the total economy. Highly chronicled BRIC countries like India are closer to fifty percent, with China at thirty seven percent. What we do not anticipate is the large percentage of consumer spending dictating the economics in Africa. If we were to aggregate the economies of all the African nations we would find that African consumer spending accounts for over fifty percent of the total economy. With a middle class of nearly sixty million there is a real opportunity to market and create inclusive growth economies in Africa.  If investors understood and entrepreneurs focused on this, the world as a whole would profit.

 

These companies that target the middle class in Africa and the Middle East with relevant need- based products can create opportunities for many. These companies can help elevate the communities and overall economies of these nations. This is a great formula for both individual and overall economic and entrepreneurship success.

 

What It Takes To Succeed Abroad

 

According to Professor Mahajan, requirements for success include  “a deeper focus on taking the market to the people and a real understanding of what lies beneath the economic numbers.”  We must rid ourselves of our standard learned business preconceptions. A wealth of opportunities exists, but in order to capture these opportunities our global mindset must change to create relevant, meaningful and value adding products to the greater world.

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