05.29.20

Brainline & Fast Company SA virtual event: Online learning is the way of the future

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

At Fast Company (SA) we are deeply concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on education. In view of this, in our first Fast Company Talks virtual event, held on the 22nd May 2020,  we focused on how technology can enable access to education as well as the challenges experienced when it comes to online education in South Africa.

During this discussion we were joined by an academics Prof Mmaki Jantjies from the University of Western Cape, teacher Mr Mike Mavovana from Hector Petersen Secondary School as well as our education content partner, Brainline.

Next week  via our newsletter (Fast Company Brief) we will be sharing more content about our first virtual event which focused on the viability of e-learning in enabling access to education.

You can subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Fast Company Brief, here.

Here’s a special message from Brainline:

Celebrating 30 years in the industry in 2020, we continue to do what we love; enabling more and more learners to achieve their National Senior Certificate through innovative distance education solutions. 

As per the Basic Education Minister’s announcement, Gr7 and Gr12’s will return to school on 1 June 2020. While uncertainty persists about when other grades will go back to school, many parents are reluctant to return their children to school at all – especially those with underlying conditions like diabetes or asthma – for fear of contracting Covid-19. There are also concerns that children may contract the virus at school and infect family members, as well as the elderly and the most vulnerable in communities.

A large group of parents are now turning to home schooling or online schooling options. At Brainline, our passion is to provide quality education to our Gr R–12 students, as we believe learners have the right to uninterrupted academic time. We make use of the latest technologies to ensure an innovative online option.

As Brainline we were excited to be part of the webinar hosted by Fast Company, which hones in on the importance of technology and e-learning in the current educational climate.The importance of webinars such as these and the weekly sessions hosted by Brainline itself, cannot be underestimated as it helps parents find their way through the maze of information and assists them in making the correct decision for their child’s academic future.

 

Jeff Cao leads innovative mobile smartphone brand vivo into South Africa

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Launched just six short months ago in December 2019, innovative mobile technology brand vivo entered the South African market with two economical, high tech phones – the Y11 and Y91C. 

As the world’s fourth largest mobile cellphone brand, with more than 300 million users globally, the decision to tap into the local South African market  – where an estimated half the population use smartphones –  was an easy one. 

“vivo plans to provide South African consumers with a user experience beyond expectations through technology and innovative, trendsetting products,” says Jeff Cao, vivo SA CEO. “Within three years,  the company plans to sit in the top tier segment of cell phone brands in SA.”

Now at the helm of the ship, Cao joined vivo as an intern when it launched in 2011. He has since established himself as a dynamic businessman and is deeply invested in the brand. ““My career started with vivo,” he says. “I witnessed the changes in the industry and the growth of vivo as a brand.”

But with the new opportunity of being in South Africa, comes a whole new set of challenges that Cao is ready and willing to tackle. ” “The biggest challenge for me is to learn the culture and the consumer demand of the South African market from scratch. I believe that as long as we adhere to the concept of ‘More Local and More Global’,  overcoming challenges is only a matter of time.”

In his time at vivo, Cao managed the Thailand launch and ran that office for more than five years, giving him the innate knowledge and experience he needs to ensure the vivo brand becomes more localised and in line with the preferences of the South African consumer – while still maintaining the core values of technology and innovation.

One way in which vivo plans to do this is by immersing themselves into South African communities through their #VIVOCARES corporate social responsibility initiative. 

At a time when there is an insatiable demand for 5G around the globe, including in South Africa, vivo is one of the few companies with a mid-range 5G smartphone on offer. This product is set to launch in South Africa in the second half of 2020. “We envisage that by 2023 when young people in South Africa think of mobile phones they think of vivo,” says Cao.


Article published in partnership with vivo.

Boeing to lay off more than 6000 employees

BY Fast Company 1 MINUTE READ

Caught between two fatal plane crashes involving its marquee passenger jet and a coronavirus pandemic that has brought the global travel industry to its knees, embattled aerospace manufacturer Boeing announced a substantial round of layoffs yesterday.

In a memo to employees, CEO Dave Calhoun said the company has completed its “voluntary” staff cuts and would now begin laying people off involuntarily. Some 6,770 affected workers in the United States will be notified this week, Calhoun says, in what is expected to be the first of multiple rounds of staff reductions.

Significant cuts were widely expected after the company reported a quarterly net loss of US$641 million in April, even worse than some analysts had anticipated.

“The Covid-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the airline industry means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices,” Calhoun wrote. “We have done our very best to project the needs of our commercial airline customers over the next several years as they begin their path to recovery.”

“I wish there were some other way,” he added.

Even before the pandemic, Boeing had been coming off one of its worst years in recent history, with its 737 Max planes grounded around the world after more than 300 people were killed in two separate crashes, both involving faulty software.

Calhoun replaced outgoing CEO Dennis Muilenburg at the beginning of this year, just weeks before the ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated air-travel restrictions began to impact nearly every aspect of the industry.

You can read Calhoun’s full memo here.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.

05.28.20

How to ensure your immune system is ready to fight Covid-19

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

Covid-19 has taken the world by surprise. There is no vaccine or defence, other than the one offered by nature – our immune systems. At a time when when our health is more critical than ever, knowing how your immune system works at a genetic level may give you some of the answers you need to improve your odds of recovering from or even avoiding being infected with a virus like Covid-19. 

According to Dr Yael Joffe, Chief Science Officer at 3X4 Genetics: “Covid-19 can be damaging and may be fatal. The virus triggers the host’s immune system and causes the body to react. The problem is that this immune response, in certain cases, can overreact. In order to kill the virus, the immune system floods the body with its in-built cellular defence system, but when left unchecked the response may cause damage to your own cells, and with Covid-19, particularly the cells in your respiratory system. This being said, these responses differ widely amongst individuals, partly because of how their genes respond.”

HOW KNOWING ABOUT YOUR GENES CAN HELP
It’s imperative to know how prepared your immune system is to defend your body against the virus. Fortunately, we are all gifted with a complex immune system, or cellular defence mechanisms, which spring into action when a toxin or pathogen (viruses and bacteria) overwhelms the body. But the way these mechanisms act can differ from person-to-person because of our unique set of genes. Taking a genetic test can tell us how ready our immune system is, and whether your cellular defence processes are working optimally.

“Genes are switches. When a protein or enzyme is needed by the body, the gene is switched on to make that protein, and this is true for how the cellular defence system responds,” says Dr Joffe. “A number of genes switch on when the virus is detected to mobilise against it and switch off when the virus is killed off and flushed out. The problem with Covid-19 is that the response is so powerful, cellular defence mechanisms like inflammation and oxidative stress are turned up so high that the body can be flooded and overwhelmed by the defence mechanisms themselves, causing damage to the cells. How efficiently these ‘on’ and ‘off’ processes work differs between individuals and is partly due to their own genetic makeup. Once you know how optimally your cellular defence processes are working, you can get a sense of how resilient your immune system is and the steps you can take to address shortfalls.”

NUTRITION IS THE NEXT STEP
Arming  yourself with more information about your genes can help your healthcare practitioner make positive changes through nutrition to improve and optimise these metabolic processes.  While many will be reaching for megadoses of supplements, its important to remember that your system is unique, nuanced, and very complex.  “A single nutrient like Vitamin C, by itself, is nothing compared to the many small, calculated tweaks required at a molecular level to have your immune system work at its prime,” says Dr Christine Houghton, Founder and Chief Science Officer at Cell-Logic. “Understanding what molecular adjustments are required through diet and lifestyle is called Nutrigenomics. Specific food molecules have the power to switch on and switch off your genes.”

“As your body’s core cellular defence processes such as inflammation, oxidative stress, detoxification, and methylation  are required to fight off Covid-19 and are activated and switched off via genes, their reaction time and how efficiently they respond can be adjusted using a personalised wholesome and healthy diet, together with targeted nutrigenomic supplements,” adds Dr Joffe.      

THE GENE MASTER SWITCH
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a master switch that is responsible for switching on (and off) hundreds of genes involved in cellular defence. It responds to the presence of any pro-oxidant molecule in the body, that then activates many of the genes involved in the cellular defence processes. So, if it switches on quickly you can flush the coronavirus out better, although there are Ts and Cs to this process, and complications can occur with underlying chronic health conditions.  “One way in which we can optimise the function of Nrf2s is by the ingestion of a nutrigenomically active molecule called Sulforaphane. The precursor to Sulforaphane is found abundantly in raw, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. Unfortunately, it is destroyed during cooking, and a quality broccoli sprout supplement may be required,” shares Dr Houghton.

As there are many variables, it is important to consult a specialist who can help you prepare your immune system to be strong and resilient. This is especially true in times when there is an unchecked virus on the loose.

CAN I PREPARE MY IMMUNE SYSTEM NOW?
The short answer is – yes. You can start to optimise your immune system response for Covid-19-like threats through a tailored nutrigenomic dietary plan. Make an appointment with an accredited nutrigenomic health practitioner and get a nutrigenetic test done to learn about the variability of your genes and your response to diet and lifestyle choices. This will inform them what cellular processes require the most attention. They will then recommend a nutrigenomic plan, and let you know what foods to eat to bolster your immune system to fight off a virus. This might also require some nutrigenomic supplements which mimic and optimise natural processes in your body. Nutrigenetic tests can be conducted by specialised health companies like 3×4 Genetics. 

Finding it hard to breathe in an N95 mask? This may be the solution

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

It certainly doesn’t look elegant: an N95 mask, with two tubes sticking out, one of which snakes its way down to a bolted hunk of metal that resembles an industrial Discman. But looks can be deceiving. This new device, being developed at Stanford University, is probably the most comfortable N95 a nurse or doctor could ever wear.

How the heck is that possible?

“It’s basically an air conditioner for an N95 mask,” says John Xu, the research scientist leading the project.

N95 masks are the gold standard for medical workers treating COVID-19. When worn correctly, they can filter 95% of airborne particles, unlike surgical masks, which are not designed to filter pathogens. But N95 masks are hot and humid on the face. Worse still, early research has found that when you wear an N95, you actually breathe in 5% to 20% less oxygen than normal unfiltered air, and higher proportions of the CO2 you exhale. One study found that healthy people can adapt to this difference, and over an hour of wear, their blood oxygen and CO2 levels were no different than they would be normally—perhaps because they simply take longer, deeper breaths.

Even if oxygen levels aren’t a pressing physiological problem, they still pose a human factors issue that makes N95 masks less protective than they should be. Xu suggests the lack of oxygen and surplus of CO2 is uncomfortable by nature, which might lead you to adjust your mask often, touching your face more than you should. Or you might even unconsciously break the mask’s own air-tight seal to your face to feel relief.

Xu’s device is built to make the sensation of wearing an N95 for an extended period of time less stuffy—important for nurses and doctors wearing them for hours on end in the field. His solution has been knocking around in the back of his mind for the past three years, ever since he saw California ravaged by wildfires. What if he could create a device that actually created oxygen, and that oxygen could be pumped into a mask to make it more comfortable?

Xu’s primary research is in developing hydrogen fuel cells, like those proposed for clean-running cars, which leak water vapor from their tail pipes and nothing else. “We normally create fuel cells by combining hydrogen and oxygen, to [output] water,” Xu says. But as COVID-19 began spreading across the globe, he started thinking about his own idea of fixing the N95 mask again. The reverse process used by a fuel cell is electrolysis. That would allow him to start with water, add a bit of electricity, and create perfectly clean oxygen (and if you’re counting molecules, the excess hydrogen is actually recaptured to create more electricity).

What he has developed at Stanford is a working prototype that does just that. It’s a waist-mounted machine that plugs into any stock N95 mask to upgrade it. The machine is filled with water. Requiring only about four times the electricity of your average smartphone, the battery can be charged to turn water into pure oxygen that can flow right into an N95 mask. Meanwhile, that second tube in the mask sucks away CO2. So in theory, someone wearing Xu’s invention breathes in a mix of gases that more closely resembles good old normal air. The only reason a mask would feel uncomfortable is the physical sensation of having it tight against one’s skin.

Hasn’t this idea been done before? PAPR is an N95 alternative that places a big helmet on someone’s head, then pumps in air for them to breathe. Xu agrees that PAPR is a similar idea, but he points out that PAPR uses a fan to suck in air from around the wearer. This fan creates distracting noise. And while its air is filtered with a HEPA filter, that’s still not a foolproof filter. His device creates pure oxygen from water itself. There’s no possible contaminant in this feed. And using a stock N95 instead of specialized headgear should be more comfortable, and more accessible to most healthcare specialists. Finally, he imagines this base unit could be sold for $300 versus the ~$1,000 price of a PAPR system.

So what’s next for Xu’s project? He points to two milestones that his lab needs to prove out before moving forward. First, they need to figure out the right oxygen ratio to pump into the N95, and prove that this really does increase wearer comfort. Secondly, they need to finalize form factor of the gadget—particularly, exactly how much battery power it will need to run for a six-hour shift.

And then? Xu speaks elusively about the next phase that will come once these two milestones are met. He won’t commit to production plans of a commercial device during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he also doesn’t shoot down the possibility either.

“It’s not that we don’t want to comment, but things are moving pretty slow in our country. Even if we work very hard, some of the suppliers and parts need to be shipped from other parts of the world where there have been delays,” Xu says. “We really hope some of the research inside the university can have a positive impact.”


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

05.27.20

A 2-metre social distance may not be enough to avoid Covid-19

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

As the world opens back up, even with Covid-19 in an unrelenting swing, one guideline is repeated again and again: Keep s two metres of social distance. And this number makes us feel safe because it comes from the authorities. But this number is, according to a new study, inaccurate and flawed.

The World Health Organization recommends a three-foot distance to avoid the potential spread of Covid-19 through droplets in the air, be it from coughing, sneezing, or even speaking. But where does that recommendation come from? According to Quartz, one study that’s nearly 100 years old. In 1934, the Harvard School of Public Health built an apparatus to capture droplets flying from your mouth through the air. The results of that test stand as the status quo today, though the CDC doubles the spans, to recommend six feet of social distance between people.

But a new study published in Physics of Fluids, which used a sophisticated simulation to model the aerosol spray from a cough, is here to challenge both WHO and the CDC’s conventional wisdom. “What we show is we have a significant amount of droplets that can travel beyond [two metres] in a short period of time,” says Dimitris Drikakis, professor at University of Nicosia, Cyprus. “This is something we need to take into account.”

The simulation that Drikakis and his colleague built is technically advanced and accounts for all sorts of variables across physics and fluid dynamics. It includes several mathematical models to simulate air turbulence, humidity, and evaporation. The scientists even filmed a mouth coughing with a high speed camera, so that they could accurately duplicate its shape inside the simulation.

“We chose a cough instead of a sneeze because a sneeze is more violent but less frequent,” says Drikakis. “So we chose a cough because it’s more common, and we chose a mild cough because a more mild cough is more common as well.”

What the study found was that, with no wind, droplets from a light cough will fall to the ground within two metres. These results fall within WHO and CDC best practices for social distancing, and those old Harvard lab results.

However, with a windspeed of just over one kilometre per hour, everything changes. Under these conditions, droplets can reach two metres within two seconds, then keep going. And with a windspeed of 16 kilometres per hour, they reach approximately 6 meters in a mere 1.6 seconds. 

“This does not imply because there’s a [16 k/ph wind] that the [nearby] person will be infected,” says Drikakis. “One of the biggest uncertainties is what is the dosage and exposure time for a person to be infected. However, the fact that [2 meters] is recommended as the distance we need to stay apart from each other is something we need to consider in an open space.”

Indeed, scientists and doctors generally concur that COVID-19 can be transmitted through these droplets, but as Drikakis says, there’s no firm science about the amount of the virus and the length of exposure that it takes to actually acquire the illness. Still, you can clearly see from the above charts that the density of the droplet cloud does decrease over distance—especially in higher winds—which implies that adding extra social distancing could help ensure public safety.

In the long-term, Drikakis imagines we’ll need to rethink our public spaces during pandemics, knowing that these droplets can spread farther than previously thought. But most of us are wondering what we can do now, knowing that aerosols spray farther than previously considered—just as summer is around the corner and much of America is opening back up?

“I don’t think we have to panic and stay [20, 30, or 300 meters] away. We don’t know exactly what is the amount of droplets and the amount of virus that will infect you,” says Drikakis. “The thing I’d recommend as a common person is, if you’re in a place, and there’s a light breeze or strong wind, and you’re going to sit close to someone . . . take this into account.”

As for Drikakis himself, seeing the data he compiled firsthand, he says he would not sit down six feet away from a stranger in a breeze. “But it’s a very personal thing,” he says. “It’s difficult to give recommendations on how to live your life.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

6 steps to get re-employed if you’ve unexpectedly lost your job

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

There’s no way around it: The job market is undeniably bleak right now. So if you’re reeling from a recent layoff, remember first and foremost that you are not alone. From the retail industry to the aerospace sphere, tens of millions of people’s lives have been disrupted by COVID-19 all across the globe.

Despite the grim circumstances, many of the tried-and-true job search methods are still useful. Check out these unemployment resources and support networks, and begin the process of finding a new job with these six tips:

1. CONSIDER HOW YOU’LL FRAME THINGS
When you are finally in front of a recruiter or speaking with your network, chances are they will understand your predicament. But you should still think strategically about how you will gracefully address the layoff, piecing together a thoughtful response that will emphasise your strengths.

For this type of job dismissal, it’s okay to go with the straightforward facts. In most circumstances, layoffs are outside of the employee’s control—especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

As Stacy Pollack from Glassdoor explains, keep it simple, with a statement that relays what happened factually, such as “There was a restructuring within the organisation, and unfortunately my role was impacted.”

2. SHARE THE NEWS
It’s important to let people in your network know you’re on the prowl for a new position. But rather than just sharing the news indiscriminately, share this information in a targeted way.

Make sure to think about what kind of support your contact may be able to offer. Though you may be aiming to broaden your search, approach individuals from your network with a tailored elevator pitch and refresh your memory about what their background is first. Here are some helpful templates from Jaclyn Westlake of The Muse that you can use to tailor your message to everyone from a casual LinkedIn connection to your college mentor with whom you’ve fallen out of touch.

Tone is especially important in these messages, says Fast Company contributor Joseph Liu. “Do this delicately to avoid seeming self-centered amidst a global pandemic.”

3. TRY DIGITAL NETWORKING
Considering the pandemic’s “Zoom boom,” you can more easily transition your networking efforts to a virtual medium. Use email to reach out to prospective contacts and then schedule meetings with videoconference tools to remotely conduct informational interviews.

As Liu points out, many contacts who were difficult to get in touch with for face-to-face interactions may be more receptive to forming a connection during this unusual time.

Like many of us, leaders are isolated in their home offices conducting business. They’re not immune to bouts of loneliness either. In fact, some are ramping up their schedules to include a more pronounced effort to connect with others.

4. REFINE YOUR RÉSUMÉ
Now is the time to take a fresh look at your résumé. Seriously. As always, consider the role you are seeking and do your best to highlight your most relevant experience.

Peter Yang, chief executive of résumé-writing service ResumeGo, says a double-page résumé is no longer an application faux pas. So when refreshing your experience, take this additional page to explain the reasoning behind your professional pause. Yang mentions this period during the coronavirus outbreak is tenuous, and if you’re able to eloquently explain how you took time off to care for a sick family member or to protect vulnerable individuals, a person who is hiring will likely not use it against you.

5. ASSESS YOUR CURRENT SKILL SET
It’s an appropriate time to think about where you want to land after the crisis passes, including if you will have job security in your current industry.

CareerOneStop.org, a website created by the Department of Labor, offers skill assessment tools to get laid-off workers back on their feet.

Looking to upskill or reskill? Artificial intelligence and data analytics are two practical capabilities that consistently appear in demand, according to Wesley Connor, the “chief reskilling officer” at talent acquisition company Randstad Sourcelight.

6. DON’T FORGET YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Lastly, try to find methods to keep yourself positive and invigorated to start the job search. It’s completely expected for you to feel shocked and temporarily distraught after a layoff.

Locate an activity that fuels you, like listening to your favorite podcast or exercising, says Liu. Find that means of inspiration, energy, or mental serenity to rid yourself of stress and anxiety.

Grinding yourself down with self-doubt and worry will only hinder your eventual professional progress. This is a unique time period, and it will take hard work to get back to a semblance of normal. Nevertheless, many folks are in the same boat with you.

As Renee Schneider, a psychologist and clinical research expert, writes for Fast Company, “Taking care of ourselves and each other—including our families, friends, and coworkers—should be the first order of business right now.”


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

05.26.20

This copper jacket is designed to kill viruses and bacteria

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Vollebak, the clothing company that made a jacket out of graphene and a T-shirt out of carbon fiber normally used in jet engines and sports cars, has come out with its most ambitious garment yet: A coat made of microbe-destroying copper.

The Full Metal Jacket, which retails at a whopping $1,095, is designed to take advantage of copper’s antimicrobial properties. Copper has been shown to kill bacteria and viruses; a recent study found that it inactivated the novel coronavirus within four hours. The company sees the Full Metal Jacket as the first step toward creating disease-resistant clothing. 

Photo: Sun Lee/courtesy Vollebak
Photo: Sun Lee/courtesy Vollebak

Though it came out at an opportune time, with many people purchasing copper face masks in an effort to protect themselves from COVID-19, the Full Metal Jacket was actually under development for three years.

Vollebak co-founder Steve Tidball says he was originally inspired to create clothing out of copper after watching a TED Talk by Bill Gates about pandemics. He had also been talking to friends who work in the aerospace industry and mentioned that astronauts’ immune systems are compromised in space, in addition to explorers and adventurers who “wear our clothing and told us that oftentimes when they’re in these very remote places, they are worried about getting sick,” he says. “We started to think about making clothes that could resist viruses or bacteria.”

Their research eventually led them to copper. Copper contains positively charged ions that trap viruses, which are negatively charged. The copper ions penetrate viruses, preventing them from replicating. Historically, copper was used in hospitals (like on doorknobs) to prevent the spread of diseases. In 2015, researchers found that using copper alloys in a hospital setting reduced infection rates by 58%.

More recently, copper has been incorporated into fabric to create bedsheets, pillowcases, and masks for the healthcare industry. Vollebak is building on that legacy. Each Full Metal Jacket is made of 65% copper, and the company used approximately seven miles of the metal in every coat. At first, Steve Tidball and his co-founder and twin brother, Nick Vollebak, were just trying to prove that a jacket could be made out of the material: “There is no real supply chain for copper that can be made into clothes, so it was a very expensive process,” Steve Tidball says. Now that they have proved it is possible, they hope to see what the material is capable of. “Making the jacket was phase 1,” he says. “Now we have put it out in the world for testing purposes.” Which is to say: Don’t bank on this jacket just yet to protect you from the coronavirus (or any other contagion). It’s a new, untested design.

$1,095 may seem like an outrageous price tag. But copper is expensive, and Vollebak hopes to lower the price as more get produced. In the future, he envisions an even bigger stage for copper clothing. “If you start to think about materials [to make an] operating system, copper can transmit power and transmit heat,” he says. “The antimicrobial properties are great, but we’re also looking at materials we could layer intelligence on top of. Ultimately, we are trying to make intelligent clothing for the next century.”


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.

There’s more to Facebook’s work-from-home policy than meets the eye

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

I’ve been to Facebook’s Menlo Park campus a number of times, and it’s easy to understand why employees don’t often leave. Inside the massive complex, you get the same feeling as when you’re inside some huge Las Vegas casinos—that there’s just no reason to go outside.

All the basics are covered. Facebook provides big cafeterias with gourmet food, as well as freestanding food joints and coffee shops. The company does employees’ laundry, offers massages, provides sleep pods and nap rooms, and takes care of as much as it can to keep its people thinking about work and not about the minutiae of daily living off-campus. And if you need some “outside” time, you just walk up to the massive green space on the roof.

That’s why it’s hard for me to take seriously Mark Zuckerberg’s statement this week that half of the company’s workforce could be working at home in the next 5 to 10 years. It flies in the face of the open and transparent but present work culture the company’s been honing for years. There’s an ideal at Facebook embodied in the image of a group of young “hackers” gathered around a whiteboard inside a glass-walled conference room late in the evening, hammering out some new feature. How do you do that on Zoom—or in Facebook’s case, Bluejeans?

However, Zuck’s statement has a nice sound to it, and based on my experience with Facebook’s media-, public-, and government-relations game over the years, that may be the main point. Facebook has a knack for making the public statements it knows people want to hear.

Amid widespread criticism for allowing false political ads on the platform, Zuckerberg made a speech at Georgetown University in the United States in which he cast his company as a champion of the First Amendment. In the wake of the firestorm over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and the Russian hijacking of Facebook to influence the 2016 election, Zuckerberg stated that most socialising on his network would move to private, encrypted spaces. But if you look back at Facebook’s past statements and predictions, you’ll find that while not many of them were flatly wrong, most were far from right.

Getting out in front on this work-from-home revolution might just be the message for today, when many of us have come to believe that COVID-19 will change work forever and radically de-emphasize the importance of brick-and-mortar offices. (Though not everybody buys it.) It’s a feel-good message that comes just after Facebook picked off Giphy in the midst of a pandemic and during the height of anti-trust angst. Earlier this month, The Washington Post revealed that Facebook is behind the launch of a new lobbying group called American Edge, which will try to calm anti-tech and anti-trust fever in the capital.

If Zuckerberg follows through on his comments, there are some positives here. Zuckerberg stated that Facebook will immediately start focusing on hiring people who live away from the crowded and overpriced housing markets of the coasts. If Facebook did transition to 50% remote work, it could expand the tech talent pool geographically and make it easier for tech companies small and large to find good people. “It doesn’t seem that good to constrain hiring to people who live around offices,” Zuckerberg eloquently said. It might also extend the economic spillover zones that benefit indirectly from tech industry money to new places farther from the coasts.

Even here, there’s a dark side. Facebook says it will adjust salaries to fit the location of the employee, so an engineer working in Silicon Valley will make more money than an engineer doing the same work in another city. But, to be fair, such an adjustment might be appropriate so long as the quality of life the two salaries can buy in different markets is equal.

Zuckerberg’s comments today came during an employee town hall, an event that’s usually not open to the public. In the Facebook announcement, Zuckerberg wrote: “I wanted to share it externally in case our research or approach is helpful to other organizations thinking about what the future of work looks like.”

Facebook, like many other companies, will very likely make a bigger place for remote work within its culture. But forgive my skepticism that Facebook will figure out the smartest and fastest way of doing this, then bestow that profound knowledge on the rest of the business world.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

05.25.20

Live Music is on Life Support, Streaming may be the Industry Life Saver

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

The music world is hitting a sour note right now, but new research finds streaming is key to keeping the industry alive.

Goldman Sachs’s new “Music in the Air” report forecasts that, in 2020, the music sector will see a 25% drop in global revenue and a 75% plunge in live music revenue.

The latter is due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, which have silenced singers and music artists who make a good chunk of their income from stage performances. (Goldman Sachs cites 2016 data showing that 52% of consumers’ spending on music is for live events.) The restriction is even more amplified in summer, the season known for both concerts and music festivals.

But Goldman Sachs sees a bit of vivacissimo news in all this: Streaming revenue is predicted to rise 18%.

The firm anticipates 1.2 billion streaming subscribers in 2030 versus the 341 million last year. Plus, streaming is especially popular among 16- to 24-year-olds, a vital demographic; 80% of that cohort listen to audio streaming versus 65% of the general population.

“What streaming does well is the ability to both let us pick the music we want and to introduce us to new songs, artists, and even styles of music. There is a low entry fee for putting on a playlist or selecting a new station that is recommended for us,” Matthew Zawadzki, an assistant professor of psychology at University of California-Merced, said. “Although some of us are happy to keep the same album on for weeks at a time, others go to streaming for the variety. And variety is often really important to us.”

And when the bans on public gatherings are lifted, the music industry will start to recover. For example, 79% of fans said they expect to return to live events within four months of those restrictions ending, but they won’t fully leave streaming behind, the report finds. Seventy-four percent said they’d still watch live-streaming events post-coronavirus.

ACCELERATING A SHIFT

According to researchers, the pandemic will “accelerate the shift” from offline to online music, prompt more “reliance on social media and streaming for music discovery and promotion,” and up direct-to-consumer efforts in merchandising and live-streaming.

“While user time spent may shift away from music streaming to other forms of entertainment in the short term, overall we believe the industry’s long-term growth outlook is intact, driven by the secular growth of paid streaming, growing demand for music content and live events, new licensing opportunities (e.g. TikTok), and positive regulatory developments,” the report finds.

The forecast is for the industry to hit $142 billion in revenue by 2030, up 84% from $77 billion in 2019.

Until then, though, the music world has to contend with decreased physical sales due to stores temporarily closing, delayed new releases, and a “significant decline” in royalties from public use, such as at bars and gyms. Royalties from streaming, in contrast, are expected to rise.

Article originally published on fastcompany.com