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October 18, 2020 2 min read
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The world economy is in a challenging place right now, but the real estate market remains quite strong. While real estate isn’t exactly the easiest investing opportunity for everyone given its high prices for entry, it can be an extremely lucrative pursuit. Whether you’re thinking about buying your first investment property or are just interested in the business of it, The Fundamentals of Real Estate Investment Bundle is worth checking out.
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Global Stocks Fall as Virus Cases Surge: Live Updates
For 15 years, Apple and Google — Silicon Valley’s two most valuable companies — have been partners in one of the most lucrative business deals in history: an agreement to feature Google’s search engine as the preselected choice on Apple devices, including the iPhone.
The deal, updated over the years, has been worth billions of dollars to both companies, but it is now in jeopardy after the Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit last week that accused Google of using illegal tactics — like the rarely discussed pact with Apple — to protect its monopoly and choke off competition in web search.
Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, compete on plenty of fronts, like smartphones, digital maps and laptops. But the rivalry has been put aside when it suits their financial interests.
Nearly half of Google’s search traffic comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube.
In exchange, Apple receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments.
After a meeting in 2018 between the companies’ two chief executives, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, a senior Apple employee wrote to a Google counterpart that “our vision is that we work as if we are one company,” according to the Justice Department’s complaint.
The Justice Department argues that the arrangement has unfairly helped make Google, which handles 92 percent of the world’s internet searches, the center of consumers’ online lives.
Long before the coronavirus swept across Europe this spring, many cities were complaining that a proliferation of short-term apartment rentals aimed at tourists through platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing costs for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.
Now that the pandemic has all but cut off the steady flow of visitors, many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.
In Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, the city government is becoming a landlord itself by renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing department is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the same.
Other city governments are enacting or planning new laws to curb the explosive growth of rentals aimed largely at tourists. Amsterdam has banned vacation rentals in the heart of the old city, and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.
When tourists are plentiful, renting a property on a short-term basis can be more lucrative for owners than a long-term tenant, something that city governments say has distorted housing markets in cities where supply is already tight.
“We entered the pandemic with a huge pressure on our housing market, and we cannot afford to exit the pandemic with the same set of problems,” said Lisbon’s mayor, Fernando Medina.
The city has started signing five-year leases for empty short-term rental apartments. These properties are then sublet at lower prices to people eligible for subsidized housing. The city government has set aside 4 million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the first year of subsidies.
The program is aiming to attract 1,000 apartment owners this year, and has drawn 200 so far. Mr. Medina said he was confident that the plan would meet its goal, since a quick rebound in tourism seems increasingly unlikely as the pandemic drags on.
5 Strategies from Ancient Chinese Warfare to Help Us Thrive in Changing Times
October 26, 2020 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Although there have been record-highs in the “frothy” stock market, entrepreneurs and small businesses around the country are seriously struggling. In the United States, as of September 13, 2020, total small business revenue decreased by 20.6 percent compared to January 2020.
In addition, the number of small businesses still open decreased by 23.6 percent compared to January 2020, and restaurant diners are down 40 percent from last year. It appears that those stimulus checks went into Tesla stock on your Robinhood account and not your favorite sushi restaurant or local retailer.
Regardless, these percentage drops have made it abundantly clear that now is the time for everyone to take a step back and re-evaluate their business strategies. Because I’ve been in the innovation space for more than 10 years, this seemed like the right time to pull out one of my favorite tools from the business model innovation toolbox — the 36 stratagems.
Kaihan Krippendorf, a New York Times best-selling author in the strategy and innovation space, put together a framework for coming up with new business models and strategies using tricks from ancient Chinese warfare.
As I revisited them, I realized they couldn’t be more relevant today, so I picked five that are particularly applicable to business in the current era. Hopefully they’ll spark some innovation or help you reinvent your business — perhaps in a way you hadn’t considered before.
1. Relax while the enemy exhausts himself (以逸待劳)
Reduce your overhead or move to a variable cost model to wait out the storm. Shut the doors for a while, take a vacation, rest up, conserve cash and plan your new strategy upon return. Reinventing your cost structures in your business could allow you to hang on to your cash reserves, help you refresh your mindset and plan while your competitors are burning cash by the day.
Here’s a good practical example of this stratagem:
A restaurant closes down for three months and uses the time to complete renovations, redo the menu and prepare for an optimized takeout experience. All the while its biggest competitor across the street remains open and drains its cash reserves running business as usual.
This strategy does have risks and implications, as you may have to lay off or furlough employees in the meantime, which is difficult but might help sustain your business in the long run. Further, you have to make sure that the hibernation time is used effectively. If the boards are on the windows but nothing is happening inside, you’re just wasting time with no end benefit.
2. Sacrifice the plum tree to gain the peach tree (李代桃僵)
This is what we call a “loss-leader strategy.” Typically, this involves a company selling a product or service for a reduced price knowing that it will bring greater dividends in the future.
A recent example is Headspace, a mindfulness app, has been offering free subscriptions for a year to people who are currently unemployed (no verification required, just honor system rules). The idea here is that this will lead to many more subscribers for Headspace afterward, and it also does good for those who are struggling — it’s an investment worth making on multiple levels.
3. Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat (顺手牵羊)
Use this as an opportunity to take a pole-position. There is a small window where you can reinvent your business to solve a problem created by a crisis before your competitors see it coming. Being a small business, you are more nimble and quick than the big guys. Spot an opportunity to solve a problem with your assets and unfair advantages.
There have been many instances of this stratagem being utilized (whether the business owners are aware of its origin or not) due to the pandemic. For example, a distillery and grill in Portland turned producer of hand sanitizer when restaurants began to close their doors, and an engineering and design company based in London pivoted to create modular outdoor spaces for socially distant seating and dining areas to help restaurants reopen.
Both companies saw a hole in the market that they could fill and readjusted their business model to fill it.
4. Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul (借尸还魂)
Take a concept from the past that is newly relevant again. My favorite example of this is the full-service gas station. People don’t want to touch gas pumps or leave their cars, so there is new value placed on amenities that were once viewed as outdated.
And on a similar note, there’s already been a resurrection of drive-in movies and other live events like concerts and stand up comedy shows. Audience members can view their chosen entertainment from the comfort of their own vehicles just like the good old days of drive-ins. Instead of applause, audiences are flashing their lights and honking their horns.
People are adapting to the moment we are in rather than fighting against the chaos. Think retro rather than archaic.
5. Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief (擒贼擒王)
As of July 2020, there were around 30 million unemployed persons in the U.S., and that number was on the rise. The first wave of layoffs was localized to the travel, service and retail, entertainment, and hospitality industries (among some others), but it is projected that six million more layoffs might be coming — and this time it will affect white-collar employees and potentially those in upper management positions.
This gives you an opportunity to snag the talent and leadership departing from companies at a colossal rate. It’s an opportunity we haven’t seen in over a decade of tight labor markets, and these leaders are looking for a place to land. Fresh faces in leadership bring about fresh ideas, and some other company’s loss could be your gain.
Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you — move forward
Despite the hit to the broader SMB landscape, as you’ve read there are some great stories of strategy shifts that have helped some creative entrepreneurs not only survive, but thrive.
On top of that, there are those riding the waves of unexpected changes, such as the influx of Zoom and other virtual meeting options, with humor and enthusiasm — including one company that is offering virtual tours of its farm and guest appearances by goats and other livestock during conference calls and online learning sessions (for a small fee of course). It might not be pilfering a goat per se, but it definitely embodies the concept of getting creative.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or lemon hand sanitizer if the situation calls for it. Volatility and change drive innovation; it’s been this way as long as great minds have been at work in the name of progress and technology. In fact, Isaac Newton formulated his theory of gravity when he was working from home due to the plague, which means the rest of us have no excuse.
Japan’s New Leader Sets Ambitious Goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2050
TOKYO — Japan will be carbon neutral by 2050, its prime minister said on Monday, making an ambitious pledge to sharply accelerate the country’s global warming targets, even as it plans to build more than a dozen new coal-burning power plants in the coming years.
The prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, laid out the goal during his first major policy speech since taking office in September, when Japan’s longest-serving leader, Shinzo Abe, abruptly resigned. The announcement came just weeks after China, Japan’s regional rival, said it would reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2060.
Addressing Japan’s Parliament, Mr. Suga called for the country to “be carbon neutral in 2050,” a declaration that drew loud applause from lawmakers. Achieving that goal will be good not only for the world, he said, but also for Japan’s economy and global standing.
“Taking an aggressive approach to global warming will bring about a transformation in our industrial structure and economic system that will lead to big growth” in the economy, he said, answering critics who have warned of the economic consequences.
Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It had previously said it would go carbon neutral “at the earliest possible date,” vowing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Japan now joins China, the largest polluter, and the European Union in promising to bring their net carbon emissions down to zero. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, made his country’s pledge last month during the United Nations General Assembly.
The two announcements from Asia’s largest economies reinforced just how much of an outlier the United States, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, has become after President Trump moved in 2017 to pull the country out of the Paris agreement. Joseph R. Biden Jr., his challenger in the presidential election, has vowed to restore the United States’ participation in the accord.
Japan’s decision was most likely driven by a combination of domestic and external political pressures, said Takeshi Kuramochi, a climate policy researcher at the NewClimate Institute in Germany.
While environmental groups have long argued that the country needed to speed up its progress on reducing emissions, momentum toward the move has been building in recent years, “especially in business and finance sectors,” Mr. Kuramochi said.
Mr. Suga probably also felt it was important not to cede leadership on the issue to China, he added. As a developed nation, Mr. Kuramochi said, it would be “somewhat embarrassing for Japan to have a net zero emissions timeline later than China.”
It is not clear whether Mr. Suga’s commitment is feasible, and he offered few specifics about how Japan would reach its goal, saying only that he would harness the power of “innovation” and “regulatory reform” to transform the country’s energy production and usage.
Achieving the new timeline will require a major overhaul of Japan’s infrastructure, which is highly dependent on carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels. The country has made steady progress in reducing its emissions, but still generated 1.06 billion tons of the gas in the one-year period that ended in March 2019, placing it among the top 10 per capita emitters.
“When you look at Japan as an economy, there’s a lot of considerations that have to go into formulating this ambitious goal,” said Jane Nakano, a senior fellow in the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It would require a much deeper look into the resources that Japan has, perhaps the way that different sectors have been operating,” she said, adding that “not just the government, but many business entities and industrial stakeholders” would also need to commit to achieving net zero by 2050.
By the early 2000s, Japan had made substantial progress in curbing carbon dioxide emissions through the use of nuclear power. But the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 led to a widespread shutdown of the country’s energy-producing reactors, which had generated roughly a third of Japan’s total power supply. Only a handful of the plants have since restarted.
Short on energy sources, Japan decided to reinvest in coal. It has planned or is in the process of building 17 new coal-burning power plants, even as other major economies are moving away from the power source.
Japan currently plans to reduce — but not eliminate — its dependence on coal, decreasing its contribution to the country’s electricity production from 32 percent in 2018 to 26 percent by 2030, partly by shutting down inefficient plants.
The country has also vowed to end contentious government subsidies for the export of coal-fired power technology to developing nations, where the use of coal for electricity continues to rise. Japan is currently supporting three such projects and says it will consider financing more only in “exceptional” cases.
Further efforts to decrease Japan’s domestic commitment to coal will likely meet powerful resistance from Japanese industry, which is still heavily dependent on the fuel. Still, Mr. Suga’s announcement may cause the country to rethink its commitment to coal in favor of cleaner, more diverse energy sources.
Japan is already considering a substantial increase in its supply of wind and solar power, and it is also looking at newer, less-established technologies, such as plants that burn ammonia or hydrogen.
Restarting nuclear power plants may also be on the table, despite widespread public resistance to the idea. In his speech on Monday, Mr. Suga said that Japan would continue to develop nuclear power with “maximum priority on safety,” a remark that drew a round of boos and hisses from members of Parliament.
Some parts of the country will have a head start on Mr. Suga’s overall climate pledge. Movement toward the new goal had already started on the local level, where 150 municipal governments have pledged to be carbon neutral by midcentury.
Major corporations such as Toyota and Sony have committed to similar timelines for zeroing out their emissions.
But even if Japan achieves its goal, it will not by itself be enough to halt or even slow the current trend of global warming, a goal that requires a global effort.
Japan is already feeling the consequences of climate change. Rising temperatures across the country have contributed to deadly heat waves. And scientists say that global warming also contributed to the size and intensity of the devastating typhoons that struck the country last year.
Preventing a climate catastrophe will require “a transformation of the energy system that has underwritten modern society,” said Kentaro Tamura, director of Climate and Energy Area at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Kanagawa, Japan.
“There’s no question that having to make such a drastic change in the extremely short period of just 30 years is very difficult,” he said.
But, he added, “I’m optimistic.”
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