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Dow up 160 points as investors cling to stimulus hopes

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Wall Street’s main stock indexes were all higher on Friday putting the S&P 500 and the Dow on course for their second straight weekly gain as investors clung to hopes that a new round of virus relief aid can be agreed between the White House and Congress.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 162 points, or roughly half a percentage point, at 28,588.47 in early afternoon trading in New York.

The S&P 500 – a gauge for the health of US retirement and college savings reports – was up 0.83 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index gained 1.19 percent.

Stocks got a boost earlier in the session after United States President Donald Trump tweeted: “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

Investor spirits were also lifted after the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the negotiations, reported that the White House is preparing a $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal.

Wall Street has been gripped by volatility in the wake of on-again, off-again talks in Washington on a new round of coronavirus virus relief aid for struggling US businesses and households.

US stocks fell sharply on Tuesday after Trump said he had called off negotiations with Democrats in Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi until after the November 3 elections.

But the stock markets bounced back the following day after Trump urged Congress to immediately pass targeted aid for airlines and small businesses, and a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals.

On Thursday, Pelosi said talks with the White House were progressing but said a targeted aid package for the nation’s hard-hit airlines would only happen if there is agreement on a more comprehensive plan.

Meanwhile, investors are also positioning portfolios for a possible win by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on November 3.

Biden has gained a substantial lead over Trump in recent polls.

A new Reuters news agency/Ipsos poll found Americans are losing confidence in Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

And while investors ponder what a Biden and Democratic win would mean for a big stimulus package, others are wary about a Democrat pledge to hike corporate tax rates.

Data on Thursday showed the US labour market recovery is struggling and losing momentum. The number of jobless claims in the US came in 20,000 higher than economists expected at 840,000, according to the Labor Department.

Concerns are also growing over the return of lockdowns and restrictions. The World Health Organization on Thursday reported a record one-day jump in global COVID-19 cases.

Another round of lockdowns will cause severe if irreversible pain for the US retail market.

“Retail property was in trouble before the virus, with many locations seeing values under pressure well in advance. Lockdowns provided a further severe jolt, with widespread closures and consumers adapting by shifting to online channels,” Andrew Burrell, chief property economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a Friday note.

Among stocks to watch on Friday:

General Electric shares were up 3.75 percent in early afternoon trading after a report said Goldman Sachs reinstated coverage on the US industrial conglomerate with a “buy” rating.

Shares of Gilead Sciences were up 1.18 percent after final data from the drugmaker’s antiviral drug remdesivir showed the treatment cut coronavirus recovery time by five days.

Shares of JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines were all trading higher on hopes of more stimulus for the industry.

Airline CEOs continue to warn that additional layoffs are coming unless the government provides more help immediately.

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Tech

How corporations and SMBs can turn competition into collaboration

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We can finally live out our Jetsons fantasies – almost. Pandemic permitting, in a few years we should be able to hire an aircraft to get from A to B. Volocopter’s drone-like, electric-powered helicopters will be cleared to take off with passengers in two to three years. 

During its first public flight in Europe last year, CEO Florian Reuter stated that backing from Daimler gave his company the credibility and traction that his competitors cannot claim to have. CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars and Chairman of its parent company Daimler, Ola Källenius said that by partnering with Volocopter, Daimler can be part of “the mobility of the future.” Thanks to this collaboration, catching a lift will have a whole new meaning.

So how important are this type of collaboration or partnership to a digital ecosystem? 

What is an ecosystem in the first place? 

A digital ecosystem is always more than the sum of its parts but there are common ingredients among the most successful ones. Founders with problems to solve. Co-founders who believe in their vision. Networking events so they can find each other. Funding from friends and family, angels, VCs, and private equity funds. Support organizations like workplace communities, growth platforms, and networking and membership groups. Venues and co-working spaces. Support programs like accelerators, incubators, and open innovation initiatives.  A qualified talent pool, technical infrastructure like fast broadband, links to education to create a talent pipeline and access to academic research. Backing from local and national governments and big companies that take an active interest in what the smaller ones are doing.

This isn’t an exhaustive list so what do the experts say? Carlos Espinal, Managing Partner at Seedcamp start-up platform, would add tax relief for risky ventures, access to legal counsel, tolerance for failure, and a strong media presence.

Steven Renwick, entrepreneur across London and Berlin and CPO at Regis 24 broke it down to The Next Web in simpler terms. Essentially, in his view, a healthy ecosystem has the presence of both people who are building businesses and of good investors who share ideas and best practices with each other.

The importance of idea validation

 Having all the ingredients present is one thing but sharing ideas and best practices is an action that shouldn’t be reserved for the good investors. Collaboration, especially between smaller businesses and their larger counterparts, is the catalyst that precipitates innovation. That innovation then ripples out, positively affecting other parts of the cluster. 

There are several direct benefits to the small business. These include investment, project funding, access to corporate information and data.

For Renwick, just as important are the intangible benefits: expertise, guidance, idea validation, connections, and forming strong relationships with existing and potential customers. 

He said: “Small companies need to speak to big companies to find out if their problems are relevant or not. And there’s no accounting for serendipity. You never know who is going to introduce you to an investor or an employee.”

Finding product-market fit

Speaking to the benefits of idea validation is Sebastian Weyer, Co-Founder of Statice, a privacy and compliance start-up. He took part in Data Pitch, an EU-funded innovation program in which corporates share their data with start-ups. By working with the data of a digital health company Weyer was able to confirm Statice’s utility. 

He told The Next Web: “The collaboration went very smoothly as we laid out the project to apply our technology to their data. The final result was to show that the company was able to protect its user data with our software while still enabling them to use the data in a meaningful way.”

Gaining a deeper understanding of a sector is necessary for founders with experience in a different industry as Karl Lorey, a Stuttgart-based Technologist and Investor explained to The Next Web. He said: “Many start-ups are founded by people not from a specific industry so they need to understand how things work there in order to find product-market fit. The way to do it is to talk directly to your customer and understand their needs to build products that corporates want, thus generating sustainable revenue early.” 

Speaking of revenue, Weyer also attested to the fact that collaborations can assist with sales and customer acquisition. He said: “Usually, collaborations are part of our sales process. Quite often these include setting up a proof of concept project with corporates to test our product together. This is usually handled by our salespeople.”

Mutually beneficial partnerships

Christian Deilmann, Co-Founder and MD of smart heating company tado, recognizes first-hand the benefits to the SMB of collaborating but he also understands the pros to the other party. His smart heating and wireless thermostat company has collaborated with energy suppliers including Essen, Germany-based E.ON while participating in Data Pitch. 

He told The Next Web: “Start-ups are very fast in developing and creating new innovations and being very close to the consumers and seeing what their specific needs are. And the large corporations, their products are ready for new innovations. If you put the two together, the corporation has customer reach and innovations.”

Lorey said that from his perspective, collaboration often leads to an acquisition which is a way to bring the agility and innovation of a start-up into the larger company. This form of partnership, buy-outs, and corporate venture capital is long term and not for the commitment-shy. 

The importance of community

Other locations where collaboration can take place are accelerators, co-working spaces, events, and competitions. Other forms of collaboration include procurement, co-development, and free tools. Even investors can play their part as Lorey has been asked to make introductions between fund investors from medium-sized companies and start-ups in order to initiate a project.

The events hosted by or at start-up communities like Google for Startups, Silicon Allee, and Digital Hub Initiative can be fruitful for finding a collaborative partner.

Karolin Hewelt, Head of Hub Agency underlines Digital Hub Initiative’s role as points of interaction between start-ups and corporates in Germany. She says: “Established companies in many industries seldom had access to the great start-up hotspots like Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, although there were sometimes great teams and talents and also start-ups at the excellent universities in their vicinity. But they hardly ever learned about each other.” 

Making connections is a key part of the Digital Hub Initiative mission and the 12 Hubs that form part of its network specialize in various technology areas so organizations that share a sector interest can connect more easily. The Digital Logistics Hub is in Dortmund, Smart Infrastructure Hub in Leipzig, and Media Tech Hub in Potsdam. A young company that is part of the InsurTech Hub in Munich is Smartlane Transport Intelligence. The start-up uses cloud-based software and artificial intelligence to help fleet operators plan and optimize their vehicles’ journeys more efficiently and now counts Deutsche Bahn as one of its customers.

With so much action and interaction in a digital ecosystem, the positive effects of collaboration are felt not just by those who are directly participating. 

According to Deilmann, collaborations are beneficial in general because they highlight opportunities for improvement plus they eliminate inefficiencies in uncertain value chains. From his perspective, there is a multiplier effect when corporations see their competitors working with start-ups on innovation projects and bringing them to market quickly. By observing what others are achieving and seeing customers react well to those innovations, they are stimulated to also seek out partnerships with start-ups and innovate. 

German industries would be left behind in an analog past without collaborations, said Ueberheide, as he believes they would not be able to successfully digitize themselves without those partnerships.

It is clear that many see innovative collaborations as the way for old-school industries and corporations to understand and make use of the technological advances of the future. 

Lorey said: “Start-ups and big corporates have different areas of expertise and can greatly benefit from each other. Especially in Germany, there are many corporates that have understood that they need to innovate in order to survive and many innovative startups with exciting technologies and services. I think corporates need meaningful connections to startups to leverage this potential and to bridge the gap.”

Weyer added that collaborations support sales, product development, and research, and that pooling resources facilitates many technological advances. These aspects of business impact many other areas of the ecosystem. 

So it seems collaborations are necessary for the innovation required for company survival, and with those corporations serving as one of the pillars of a digital ecosystem, the importance of partnering cannot be understated.

This article is brought to you by the Digital Hub Initiative.

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What it’s like to travel from the US to Hong Kong right now

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Hong Kong (CNN) — A few months ago, I boarded a plane from New York City (where I was visiting my partner and siblings) to Hong Kong (where I’m from).

The last time I was in the United States was in January; the first known local case of Covid-19 had just been detected in Seattle and the virus was beginning to spread across the West Coast. The World Health Organization hadn’t yet declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

By October 2020, the States passed a bleak milestone of recording more than 210,000 coronavirus-related deaths — the most in any country in the world.

Hong Kong is one of many places that have barred Americans from entering. But, as a Hong Kong resident, I was allowed to go home, under the condition that I would undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel. I had to choose a place from a list of 17 hotels pre-selected by the Hong Kong government — and pay out of pocket.
Hong Kong’s Department of Health has designated the US and other countries including Pakistan, India, South Africa, the UK and Russia “high risk.” Travelers coming in from these countries have to present a set of documents at arrival. These include a hotel booking, a nucleic acid test report showing that the passenger has tested negative for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before departure, a signed document issued by the laboratory administering the test, and a certificate from the clinic or laboratory proving that its respective government recognizes it.

Unlike in Hong Kong, where almost any health care provider can test and return results to patients in a few hours, finding a hospital or clinic with a similarly speedy turnaround in New York — let alone in the US as a whole — was trickier. Public hospitals in Hong Kong can test patients for $22.50; testing in private hospitals is more expensive ($300 but include detailed lab reports). Without health insurance, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the “gold standard of Covid-19 testing” and most popular among travelers — could cost up to $300 in the States.

After days of research — digging around on Google, calling clinics and relying on friends and family for information, I found a hospital that was familiar with the Hong Kong government’s requirements. I scheduled a virtual consultation with a doctor who gave me the green light to book a PCR test. This doctor would, later on, sign and stamp the documents for my flight home.

Karina Tsui, mask on, prepares to fly from the United States to Hong Kong.

Karina Tsui, mask on, prepares to fly from the United States to Hong Kong.

Karina Tsui

72 hours before flying

When I arrived for my test appointment at a Manhattan hospital, I was told to follow signs leading to a makeshift “testing center”. A nurse was there, anticipating my arrival, and explained how the procedure would pan out. She reassured me that I would get my results in 24 to 48 hours. Then, without much warning, she stuck a long cotton swab up my right nostril, wriggled it around for seven seconds and stored the sample in a plastic container.

I was in and out of the hospital in less than five minutes. Because I bought travel insurance from Atlas America ahead of time, I didn’t need to pay a cent. Twelve hours later, I received a report indicating that I had tested negative for SARS-COV-2.

Day of the flight

Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy Airport was always a buzzing transit hub where business people, students and tourists congregated in preparation for long-haul journeys across the world. On the day of my flight home on August 31, the terminal was deserted.

At Cathay Pacific‘s check-in counter, there were more people behind the desks than in front. All Cathay staff members wore surgical masks; some had protective goggles on as well. A staff member greeted me before I could make my way to the counter to check my documents. I felt my chest tighten as I worried that I might’ve missed something and wouldn’t be allowed on the flight.

The Covid testing area at Hong Kong International Airport.

The Covid testing area at Hong Kong International Airport.

Karina Tsui

Since the pandemic started, Cathay Pacific has significantly reduced their flight count from the US to Hong Kong. I was scheduled to fly on the only direct flight to Hong Kong that day. Unlike most people I knew, who flew into Hong Kong and were transferred to the city’s Asia World-Expo Center for mandatory testing, passengers on my flight would make our way to Hong Kong International Airport’s Terminal 2 — a terminal that, before the pandemic, exclusively operated Asia-bound flights.

Members of Hong Kong’s Department of Health guided us through various stations where we would fill out forms, receive a wristband with a tracking device in it and conduct a self-test.

Since our flight arrived in the afternoon, we could wait for our test results in a government-subsidized hotel. Those arriving in the morning would have to wait for results at the airport — sometimes taking up to eight hours.

Boarding and flight experience

There were eight airport staff standing by the security checkpoint — although there were only two travelers passing through. Before Covid-19 caused disruption to travel, security screenings at JFK would typically take 20 to 30 minutes — this time, the whole process lasted less than three.

An eerie silence filled the halls leading to the boarding gates. I passed by duty-free shops clad with shutters. Only one or two coffee shops and bookstores were open. The sound of my footsteps echoed against the steel walls.

A member of the crew took our temperatures as we boarded the aircraft. I counted 13 passengers total, meaning that the Airbus 350-1000 was just at 3% capacity. With so few people on board, those of us in Economy class each had a row to ourselves. Just before takeoff, the captain announced that everyone would have to fill out a digital health declaration form.

On board, all flight attendants wore masks and protective glasses and kept a safe distance from passengers. Bathrooms were cleaned every hour, and bottles of water distributed just as frequently. All passengers were given the same two hot meals, plus there were the usual snacks — including my favorite, Cup Noodles — upon request.

Tsui sported a face shield for extra protection.

Tsui sported a face shield for extra protection.

Karina Tsui

Landing in Hong Kong

When we touched down in Hong Kong, I felt the same sense of relief and excitement as I always do when I come home, despite knowing that the next 14 days would bring about so much uncertainty.

At the airport, signs guided travelers from high-risk countries to a testing site at Terminal 2. Along the way, airport security staff checked health declaration forms, ensuring that all details like local ID card numbers, phone numbers and hotel quarantine addresses were properly filled out. Each passenger was given a personalized QR code to pass through each station efficiently.

A member of the Department of Health called my phone number to check if it was working — she told me it was so authorities could contact me during quarantine. Another staff member tagged me with a secure wristband with a tracker, the tracker would then connect to an app called “Stay At Home,” which I was asked to download on my phone.

Each person on my flight was given a self-test kit and instructed to go to a private booth to spit into a plastic container. We were given leaflets outlining step-by-step directions, from how to properly extract “deep throat saliva” (by making a “kuuragh” sound) to how to thoroughly sanitize and secure sample containers. After all passengers completed their tests, we picked up our checked luggage and were taken to a government-subsidized hotel for one night.

The hotel was clean, and we were given both dinner and breakfast for free. At 10 a.m. the next morning, I received a call from the Department of Health saying that I had tested negative for coronavirus and could make my own way to the hotel I booked for the remaining time of quarantine.

To my surprise, there were taxis lined up outside the quarantine hotel. Drivers didn’t seem to mind that we could potentially carry the virus. I took a taxi across the harbor to my hotel in Causeway Bay. Rolling down the car windows, I savored the final few moments “outside” — feeling the Hong Kong humidity and sunshine on my skin.

The view from Tsui's hotel room in Hong Kong.

The view from Tsui’s hotel room in Hong Kong.

Karina Tsui

At the hotel

My room at the Park Lane Hotel was 340 square feet and included all the usual amenities of a room at a four-star hotel — a flat-screen TV, a large desk, reading chair, a mini fridge (which was empty), water bottles, a bath and shower.

There was just enough space on either side of my bed to stretch out and exercise. I had a view of Victoria Park, the green lungs of the busy commercial district below me. Like many of the high-rise buildings around Hong Kong, my windows were locked for safety reasons.

Certain rules were nonnegotiable. For the duration of my quarantine, no one was allowed in or out of my room. Family and friends could drop off items, but they would have to leave them at reception for hotel staff to bring up. Everything from food and water to fresh sheets and towels were left outside my door — I was not allowed to have any interaction with anyone.

As part of the hotel package, I was sent breakfast and coffee every morning but otherwise, my meals were ordered via Deliveroo or dropped off at reception by family and friends.

For the first few days, as I was adjusting to jet lag, I spent early mornings watching the sunrise and seeing people slowly trickle into the park. There was a dance troupe rehearsing the same routine every morning, a group of older men practicing tai chi at the rear end of the park. Most schools were still closed, so children spent hours playing on the lawn in the afternoons.

This testing kit was sent to Tsui's room.

This testing kit was sent to Tsui’s room.

Karina Tsui

No place like home

Hong Kong was beginning to bounce back after the government imposed strict lockdown measures in response to a third wave of infections. Being confined and seeing the city from one perspective allowed me to take in moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. I felt lucky to be in the position I was in.

Throughout the two weeks, I made a conscious effort to stick to a routine — to move my body, stimulate my mind and stay in touch with the outside world through conversations with friends and family. I was sent coloring books and puzzles to keep me occupied during my down time. I listened to podcasts and slowly made my way through a few books.

But to say that the entire quarantine experience was as romantic as the quiet moments would minimize just how much the pandemic is a mental fight as it is physical. There were times when I felt like I lost control — not being able to prepare a meal for myself, for instance, or manage the portions of my food without being wasteful.

As per strict government regulations, all my food was sent to me in single-use plastic and as the days went by, I felt increasingly paranoid about how much waste I was producing. Every afternoon, I would receive a “wellness call” from the hotel manager, and while the check-in was much appreciated, even he couldn’t help me with my concerns for the environment.

Journaling was a cathartic and mindful way to blow off steam, as was talking to friends for hours and keeping up with writing and other creative projects. Two days before my release, I was sent another self-test kit and tested negative. I received a text from the Department of Health on my last day and, at 11:59 p.m., I was allowed out of my room. I saw a familiar face at the check-out counter — a woman who had been on my flight from New York what seemed like centuries ago.

I am the first of my friends in Hong Kong to go through the process of hotel quarantine, but as we approach the holiday season, I have no doubt that I won’t be the last. While it was difficult at times, I was lucky to be in a comfortable space and thanks to technology, I never felt like I was alone.

Despite the whirlwind process, I’m grateful that the Hong Kong government is taking extra precautions to keep residents safe. Even as we edge towards the precipice of a potential “fourth wave” of infections in Hong Kong, I feel that I’m in one of the safest places in the world.

Karina Tsui is an independent journalist covering politics and arts in Hong Kong. She was previously a reporter at Monocle.

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What CNN’s latest polls show about Pennsylvania and Florida

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Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a lead in Pennsylvania and neither he nor President Trump leads in the critical state of Florida, according to new CNN polls conducted by SSRS.

The polls, which completed fielding two weeks before Election Day, find sizable minorities of voters saying they have already voted, with those voters breaking heavily for Biden in both states. Those who have yet to cast their ballots, though, break in Trump’s favor, but not by as large a margin as Biden holds among those who have voted now.

In Florida, which has 29 electoral votes and is a critical battleground in the presidential race, 50% of likely voters say they back Biden, 46% Trump. The difference between the two is right at the poll’s margin of sampling error, meaning there is no clear leader in the survey.

The Pennsylvania results show Biden well ahead in the state, which holds 20 electoral votes, with 53% of likely voters behind him and 43% backing Trump.

Across both surveys, Biden holds a double-digit advantage over Trump as more trusted to handle the coronavirus outbreak (54% Biden to 42% Trump in Pennsylvania and 53% Biden to 43% Trump in Florida), and the same is true for handling racial inequality in the US (58% Biden to 39% Trump in Pennsylvania and 54% Biden to 42% Trump in Florida).

In both states, he also has a small edge over Trump on handling nominations to the Supreme Court (51% to 45% in Pennsylvania, 50% to 46% in Florida). Biden is more often seen as the candidate who would unite the country rather than divide it (56% Biden to 39% Trump in Florida and 58% Biden to 35% Trump in Pennsylvania), and as caring more about people like you (55% Biden to 42% Trump in Pennsylvania and 52% Biden to 43% Trump in Florida).

In Pennsylvania, Biden’s advantage also includes an edge on having a clear plan for solving the country’s problems (50% Biden to 42% Trump) and keeping Americans safe from harm (51% Biden to 46% Trump).

In Florida, the margin on those two metrics is far tighter, with 49% saying Biden has a clear plan to solve the country’s problems vs. 45% who say Trump does, and 49% that Biden will keep Americans safe from harm vs. 47% saying Trump will.

Trump holds a lead over Biden as more trusted on the economy in Florida, 51% say they prefer Trump vs. 46% Biden. In Pennsylvania, though, the two are near even on this question, 50% say they trust Trump more, 48% Biden.

The new polls are consistent with other high-quality polling in the two states in recent days. In Florida, a CNN Poll of Polls average shows Biden at 49% support in the state and Trump at 44%. The current average of high-quality polls in Pennsylvania also shows a Biden lead, with 52% on average behind the former Vice President and 43% backing the current president.

Read more about the polling here.

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