JP Morgan Chase for LGBT inclusion

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Bill Kapfer Recognized for Going the Extra Mile

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) presented Bill Kapfer, Global Head of Supplier Diversity with a special recognition—The Champion of Enterprise Award. The organization wanted to recognize Bill for his tireless efforts in fostering success for LGBT business owners and executives.

The Champion of Enterprise is among the highest honors presented by the NGLCC and recognizes an LGBT or allied person that has gone the extra mile to support LGBT equality & business opportunity.

As Bill has stated before, “True inclusion goes beyond being an equal opportunity employer — it requires everyday actions to encourage and foster authenticity, building a culture that includes all people.”

This continues to reign try as JPMorgan Chase Receives the HRC/NGLCC Apex Award

At the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Conference in Philadelphia, JPMorgan Chase was recognized with the 2018 Apex award.

This award recognizes companies that are living the values embodied by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Discover the Career Opportunity of a Lifetime in Insurance

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No matter what you want to accomplish or experience in life, chances are an insurance career offers the ideal path for you to pursue your goals and passions.

The insurance industry employs more than 2.8 million people in various roles, including art historians, data scientists, drone pilots, marketers, M&A specialists, and of course, actuaries—who ranked their jobs in recent polling as “the best job in the world.” No matter your educational background, or your interests—music, cars, advertising or finance—an insurance career is your gateway to a lifelong opportunity to learn and serve.

And now is an ideal time to explore the many career options insurance offers. Insurance is making huge investments in its future as a leading innovator of practical advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, telemetricsm and other emerging technologies. But perhaps our biggest investment is to find the right people. Over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of insurance industry jobs will be available to individuals like you; people who want to embrace and drive discoveries that power insurance’s primary mission: to make communities safer, more resilient, and more productive. And after a loss, to rebuild lives, households and businesses.

There may be thousands of different occupations in insurance, but only one career matters.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

How This Tech Founder Is Giving The Internet A Face Lift By Changing The Way We Shop

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Shirley Chen’s list of experiences is as diverse as it is impressive: she spent her childhood on China’s national gymnastics team, studied biochemical engineering at Columbia University, interned at Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Vogue, and worked as a media and retail consultant at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

Chen never imagined her resume would include founding a company. But when a former Vogue colleague tapped her on the shoulder to run the marketing and business development for luxury goods brand Moda Operandi, a seed was planted. Chen was tasked with driving customer acquisition with a specific focus on digital e-commerce, and that’s where she spotted a gap in the market.

Companies were so focused on the traffic from traditional platforms like Google and Facebook that they were missing a valuable source of customer acquisition—online content. When consumers wanted to find the trendiest swimsuit, most effective blackout curtains, or best-priced coffee maker, they looked for the answer in online magazines and blogs. The problem with that was two-fold. On the one hand, thanks to an aging internet, many older links on publishers’ pages are dead, leading consumers to 404 pages. On the other, many publishers were using hardcoded, static links to Amazon product pages (some 650 million times per month), meaning consumers didn’t have the opportunity to consider purchasing from other retailers, even if Amazon didn’t have the best price. In either case, it was a lose-lose-lose situation for consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike.

Chen devised a solution with Narrativ, a tech company that’s using AI to #EndThe404 and build a better internet for shoppers by making sure that every time they click on a product link on a publisher’s site, it will lead not just to an active page, but to the retailers with the best price.

“We built a SmartLink technology that repaired broken links online, and we democratized that pipeline that was being hard credited to Amazon through content,” Chen explained. “The mission is to improve the consumer shopping experience and build a better research experience as well when it comes to buying products.”

The results so far have been stellar. In the year since their launch out of stealth mode, Narrativ has raised over $3.5 million in venture capital, rewired more than one billion links, and impacted more than 200 million internet users each month. Narrativ, who has also partnered with notable brands like Dermstore, Ulta Beauty, and New York Magazine, is set to deliver more than $600 million in advertiser value in 2018, and has earned a nod from the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer.

Chen stands at the helm of it all, CEO of a game-changing tech company she was once almost too afraid to build. She recalls the nervousness she felt when the idea first came to her. She approached two former employers to build it, but both declined. That’s when Chen’s mentor, head of McKinsey’s North America Media spoke the words that fired her up: “Why don’t you build this thing on your own? I think you’re being a real coward.” She knew that he spoke not to discourage her, but to push her to make a move.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

SHWAXX: Atlanta Barber Experiment Produces Cutting Edge All-Natural Product That Manages Various Types Of Hair

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Schwaxx Inventor

Two years and 40 attempts later, Kevin Rodgers’s hair care product had to pass a final test: His wife’s.

Following another late-night session where he mixed a special blend of natural oils in the kitchen of his Atlanta home, the 49-year-old Rodgers waited expectantly as his wife Lorraine rubbed the creamy pomade into her palms and then her hair.

“I needed her approval,” Rodgers said. “After all that work, it wasn’t done until she said it was.”

She looked him in the eye, smiled and gave her husband the thumbs up.

SHWAXX Hydrate and Style was officially born. The all-natural product Rodgers intended to manage beards was a multipurpose reality. Through his experimentations, Rodgers created a water-soluble pomade that softens, hydrates and conditions all textures of beards and hair, especially coarse, thick hair consistent with many African Americans.

His product features Shea butter, jojoba wax, and other organic ingredients that Rodgers toyed with for years before coming up with the right formula.

“Some would say it was a struggle, but I would say it was a journey,” Rodgers said. “An exhilarating journey.” But Rodgers also knew that developing a great product was only the first step in realizing his dream. His next challenge was to transform himself from a creative inventor to a savvy entrepreneur.

Rodgers enrolled in the StartMe Small Business Accelerator program held at and sponsored by the Emory University Goizueta School of Business and nonprofit organizations that empower small businesses.

The 14-week program connects a select group of entrepreneurs to the knowledge, networks and SCHWAXX Cancapital needed to build and develop sustainable businesses. While helping Rodgers sharpen his business skills, the program also affirmed that his wife wasn’t the only person who thought the product he crafted was special: he became one of just 24 peer selected ventures to receive startup capital through the program.  When he and SHWAXX were among the recipients of a Growth Seed Investment Grant—over competition he deemed formidable—his emotions ranged from surprised to gratified.

“Validation comes from within,” he said. “Affirmation, however, came through the steps and procedures that my mentors (in the program) tested me on each session. Halfway through the program. . . I stopped looking to win the seed grant, and focused heavily on my business plan, income statement and balance sheet.

“StartMe gave us knowledge, network, and access to capital. We learned that knowledge must be converted into wisdom, network must become relationships and access to capital begins with a solid business plan and income projections. More specifically, I learned that accounting is the language of business.”

He said he plans to use the $4,000 award to help produce larger quantities of SHWAXX and to expand his marketing platform.

Rodgers attacks his new/old venture with the same passion and work ethic he has applied to other creative works. Those include a short film, “Every Idle Word,” about business, family, loyalty and the struggles within a barbershop which was released to critical acclaim in 2013. It was the visual version of a novel he had written nine years earlier, “The Barber Game.”

He also taught himself guitar and performed under the stage name “Kevo Desh.”

SCHWAXX Display“My wife teases me because I love to create,” Rodgers said. “I create through the arts, whether literary, music, or visual arts. I love to express how I feel, or where I would like to be creatively. So, to me, it is just one thing. There are different disciplines, but it is all expression through the arts.”

Rodgers earns his living as a barber at his own boutique Atlanta shop, The Tilted Crown, replete with two chairs. In developing SHWAXX , Rodgers would end his workday as a barber and begin his evenings in the kitchen of his Atlanta home filing pots with various oils, mixing them to create about 40 pleasant-smelling incarnations over two years, he said. He test-marketed eight of those versions on clients before settling on the blend that earned his wife’s approval.

“Barbering is art and science,” Rodgers said. “I study and practice the science of natural hair, the ingredients that can alter that hair and the results of these experiments. I chose to handcraft new products as an extension of my service as a barber.”

Wife of 24-years, Lorraine, and daughters, Jaiah, a 2018 Magna Cum Laude graduate of Savannah State University, and Peyton, an incoming freshman at Howard University, served as his aides, stirring the oils, jarring them and applying labels to the finished product—or just supporting his vision.

The goal, said Rodgers, who attended Norfolk State University with his wife after they met in high school, is for SHWAXX to evolve into a family business with his three women playing various significant roles in the management, production, marketing and selling of the product. “A local business and brand with global reach. Ultimately the SHWAXX brand will be a go-to product for natural hair consumers worldwide,” he said.

Rodgers’s journey is far from reaching that goal. But he continues to receive affirmation every step of the way. As part of his marketing effort, he showcased SHWAXX at the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show in Atlanta last February – one of the nation’s most prestigious showcases for African-American hairstylists, barbers and makeup artists.

One attendee, Cedric Frazier, owner of Anointed Cuts barbershop in San Antonio, was impressed. “There are all kinds of products being sold and I usually don’t buy any at that event,” Frazier said. “But Kevin said, ‘Just try it.’ I did—and I hit the jackpot.

“It’s all natural and it’s multi-purpose,” Frazier added. “When my clients use it and come to me, I can cut their hair. But if they use traditional hair grease, it’s going to be a long day. I have to shampoo their hair and get that stuff out of it. And with SHWAXX, you can use it on waves, dreadlocks, twists, beards. It hydrates the hair and you can style it at the same time.”

SHWAXX received an even bigger boost through the hit television show, “Atlanta,” which stars Donald Glover. It was placed in a scene in the first episode of the recently completed Season 2 of the Emmy Award-winning FX series.

“Over one million viewers have seen our SHWAXX logo (through the show),” Rodgers said. “Now we’ve got to help them understand what they saw. . . That’s the exciting part.”

Author
Curtis Bunn
Urban News Service

Stacy Brown-Philpot of TaskRabbit on Being a Black Woman in Silicon Valley

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The Detroit native studied at Penn and Stanford, worked for Goldman and Google, and now runs the gig economy pioneer that Ikea acquired in 2017.

Stacy Brown-Philpot didn’t grow up aspiring to be the chief executive of a technology company. Instead, she wanted to be an accountant.

While interning at an accounting firm in the 1990s, Ms. Brown-Philpot — who was raised by her mother in Detroit — worked for a partner who happened to be African-American. “I was like, ‘OK, there’s a black person who is a partner at this firm. This is something that I can accomplish.’”

But as Ms. Brown-Philpot acquired more experience and education, her ambitions grew, too. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1997, did a stint as an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, then became an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in 1999.

She went back to college to get her graduate degree from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, then in 2003 joined Google, where Sheryl Sandberg became a mentor. At Google, Ms. Brown-Philpot assumed a series of leadership roles and founded the Black Googlers Network, an employee resource group.

After nine years at Google, she joined TaskRabbit — which lets people hire freelancers for odd jobs — as chief operating officer. She became chief executive in 2016, and last year, she sold the company to Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant.

This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted at TaskRabbit headquarters in San Francisco.

Tell me about your upbringing.

I grew up on the West Side of Detroit. My mom raised my brother and me by herself. We didn’t have a lot. My mother worked a job that didn’t pay a whole lot of money, so she had to make a lot of sacrifices. But she prioritized education. She would fall asleep helping us with our homework at night. She always taught us that no one can take your learning away from you. And with that, you can go anywhere and do anything.

So I focused on getting good grades. I wasn’t always a popular kid. I didn’t have the best clothes. But I was a smart kid. It’s cool to be smart in Silicon Valley. It’s not cool to be smart on the West Side of Detroit.

What was your first job?

I had a paper route with my brother. I would help him collect the money. I was like the C.F.O. of that operation, making sure we got paid.

And then you went to Penn.

I had no idea what an Ivy League school was. I was a fish out of water. My high school was 98 percent black. Penn was 6 percent black. So I had to find community. I had to figure out how was I going to succeed in this environment where most people don’t look like me, and don’t come from where I came from.

So where’d you find community?

There was a black college house. I didn’t live there. I would just go over there and spend time just sitting around with people that, you know, ate collard greens and fried chicken, just like I did growing up. It just made it safer for me and more confident for me to walk into a classroom and know I knew the answers and speak up.

Continue onto the New York Times to read the complete article.

A Scientist-Turned-Investor Is Helping Female Entrepreneurs Build And Scale Their Businesses

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Dr. Silvia Mah, investor and founding partner at Ad Astra Ventures, and her team are equipping female entrepreneurs to build, run and scale investable businesses. With her primary focus on empowering, nurturing and launching women-owned businesses, Mah is investing in new ventures that allow women to break through barriers in order to excel.

In addition, Mah serves as the Executive Director of Hera Labs, a business accelerator for women-owned small businesses. She also is the founding member of Hera Angels, an early stage female angel group.

Initially, Mah earned her doctorate (Ph.D.) in Molecular Marine Biology preparing to work as a researcher in a lab. Her pivot to investing began the day she was offered a position to lead a program focused on service learning projects for multidisciplinary undergraduate engineering students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Working with the students ignited her entrepreneurial spirit. She knew she wanted her next step to be in business, wanting to work with scientific companies. “I really wanted to be in this arena of commercialization and service learning,” she stated. “I began asking myself ‘how do I teach these students to be entrepreneurial as engineers?’” In order to prepare for her next pivot, she went back to school and earned a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Rady School of Business at UCSD.

“During that time,” Mah details, “my father passed away. He was an entrepreneur in Venezuela. I received an inheritance. Instantly, I became an investor. I didn’t want to buy a new house, I wanted to purposefully ‘give it away’. I thought this was pretty cool because as an entrepreneurial advocate, and a startup advocate, I knew access to capital is the number one thing that is so challenging for entrepreneurs. I also saw women are not getting enough funding, but I could actually make a big impact with the inheritance I received. So I became an investor in only female and minority-led startups. Fast forward, I have 21 companies in my portfolio.”

Working as a scientist enabled her to develop a strong foundation, which ultimately made it easier for her to transition to the investment world. “There are two things going on here,” Mah recollects. “One is a practical thing, and the other one’s more strategic. The practical aspect is that a lot of investors, or what I come up against, is that the science part of it, or the engineering part of it is a little bit daunting. Most investors have had great businesses and they understand the business side of it [investing], and then they come to the science part. They’re like, ‘oh, my gosh, I don’t understand it.’ For me, I understand the science part because I’ve been in the field.”

“The strategic part of it,” she continues, “is more that the scientific method is similar to the business development method.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

These 50 founders and VCs suggest 2018 may be a tipping point for women: Part 1

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For the last several years, we’ve compiled profiles of women founders and investors at the end of each year because they’ve either raised substantial amounts of money or otherwise achieved notable milestones.

This year, we don’t want to wait until December. We’re too excited about the progress we’re witnessing, with women-led startups getting seed, Series A or later-stage funding each week — all while top venture firms grow more serious about pulling women into their most senior ranks, female VCs band together to fund female founders and other women go about launching their own funds.

Some of you will note that this list is far from comprehensive, and we’ll readily agree with you. But we think it’s better to celebrate the accomplishments of some of the women who deserve attention than try to capture every last person we’d include if only there were more hours in the day.

Herewith, a list of 25 founders and investors who’ve had a pretty good 2018 so far, with a second list of women in the industry coming shortly, so stay tuned.

Brynn Putnam, founder and CEO of Mirror

Harvard grad Brynn Putnam was once a professional ballet dancer, but she may eventually find more fame as a serial founder. Two years after her last performance in 2008 with a ballet company in Montreal, Putnam started a New York-boutique fitness studio, Refine Method, around a high-intensity, interval workout. It would later sprout into three studios in New York and attract the likes of Kelly Ripa and Ivana Trump.

Now, Putnam is using its founding principal — that gym users can wring more from their workout hours — to build yet another business called Mirror. Centered around an at-home device, it looks like a mirror but enables users to see an instructor and classmates for fitness routines like Pilates, all while tracking their performance on screen. Mirror isn’t available to buy yet, but investors are already sold, providing the company with $13 million in funding earlier this year so it can bring its product to fitness buffs everywhere.

Ritu Narayan, co-founder and CEO of Zūm

Ritu Narayan led product management at stalwart tech companies, including Yahoo and eBay, but her biggest challenge eventually became how to ensure that her kids got to where they needed to go during her working hours. She knew she wasn’t alone; there are roughly 73 million children under age 18 in the U.S., many of whom are driven around by frenzied parents who are trying to make it through each day.

Enter Zūm, a now 3.5-year-old company that promises reliable transportation and care for children ages five and older. Zūm isn’t the first kind of Uber for kids. In fact, another competitor, Shuddle, shuttered in 2016 after burning through more than $12 million in funding. But Narayan’s company appears to be doing something right. Earlier this year, Zūm raised $19 million in Series B funding, including from earlier backer Sequoia Capital, which is famously metric driven.

The company has now raised $26.8 million altogether.

Daniela Perdomo, co-founder and CEO, goTenna

When Hurricane Sandy cut off power in and around New York City in the fall of 2012, Daniela Perdomo  and her brother, Jorge, were struck by the need for a network that would enable people to call or text even when there’s no Wi-Fi or cell signal. Today, that company, goTenna, is taking off, powered by an early device it created that pairs with a cell phone via Bluetooth to transmit messages using radio frequencies, along with a newer version of the device that allows them to create a kind of mesh network.

To date, the company has sold more than 100,000 units of its devices. It has raised roughly $17 million from VCs. In May, the company also partnered with an outfit called Samourai Wallet to launch an Android app that, beginning this summer, will enable users to send bitcoin payments without an internet connection. The move could prove crucial for some of its customers, particularly in disaster areas.

Chloe Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Medinas Health

Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of surplus medical supplies are discarded every year, according to Chloe Alpert, the founder of Medinas Health, a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup that uses inventory data and matching software to help big hospitals sell excess equipment to small clinics and nursing homes.

Alpert thinks Medinas can create cost savings for both sides by creating something that’s fast and trustworthy and working with third parties who can disassemble, ship and re-assemble medical equipment.

Investors believe her surplus marketplace has a shot. Her 10-month-old company raised $1 million in funding earlier this year, including from Sound Ventures, Rough Draft Ventures, Precursor Ventures and Trammell Ventures.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, co-founder of Promise

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins was raised by a single mom who occasionally fed her two daughters with food stamps before a union job enabled the three to escape welfare. But that formative experience made a lasting impact. In fact, after graduating from college, Ellis-Lamkins worked for a union that helped organize low-wage home care. By the time she was 26, she was head of the San Jose-based South Bay Labor Council.

Ellis-Lamkins is far from done in her work to ensure that the disadvantaged can prosper. Her newest project: working in partnership with governments that release people from jail on condition that they work with her company, Promise. The big idea: Promise provides support to people caught in the criminal justice system to ensure they can return to their jobs and families until their case in resolved, rather than remain incarcerated because they can’t afford bail. The latter scenario happens all too often, agree VCs. Toward that end, earlier this year a handful of investors — including First Round Capital, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, 8VC and Kapor Capital — provided Promise with $3 million to help put an end to it.

Continue onto Tech Crunch to read the complete article.

Rahmaan Mwongozi teaches how to apply systems analysis to problems that arise in life as well as in business

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Rahmaan Mwongozi "Roc"

Rahmaan Mwongozi “Roc” is a motivational speaker and podcast host, as well as the author of Inner Demons. He guides individuals not only on how to ask smart questions and follow the trail to solutions, but also on how to embody a “no excuses” attitude that manifests in excellence.

His innovative approach to problem-solving, however, began as a young boy in East Oakland, where he was surrounded by poverty, gangs, violence, and drugs. Determined not to fall into the trappings of his environment, Roc followed the trail of possibility and opportunity, playing the long game and working hard. Now living the dream, Roc openly shares his story, as well as his thinking and strategy, with those who want something more from life.

Today an independent business analyst on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Roc cut his teeth on Fortune 500 corporations including Pfizer, Enron, and AT&T – where as an entry level employee in his early 20s, he solved systemic problems that had eluded management for years.

At 40, he took pause and reflected on his life to date. A systems analyst by trade, as well as by nature, Roc was eager not only to analyze his life internally but also to offer his journey as a case study in the human experience –leading him to write his debut book, Inner Demons, with a raw and gritty transparency. While the particulars of our lives may vary according to circumstance, Roc knew, we all face universal challenges, as part of the human quest to cultivate a successful, meaningful, and authentic life.

Through Inner Demons, Roc shares his transformational journey, Inner Demonsinspiring readers to rethink life in terms of possibility, creativity, and strategy, instead of obstacles, compliance, and defeat. Not just a good read but also a work of art, the book is illustrated by tattoo artist Eva of Bang Bang NYC, whose A-list clients include Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber.

At the heart of systems analysis is the awareness of relationship, where one recognizes not only all the moving parts and the big picture, but also their position in relation to each other and to oneself. So it’s no surprise that Roc’s book reads like a love story and is, at the core, about relationship – to and between self, family, friends, lovers, work, community, and society. Offering Roc’s own relationship web, and thread of choices within that web, as a model of how to honestly face a problem, ask smart questions about it, and follow the trail of answers to the optimal solution,

Inner Demons storytelling weaves together a blueprint for self-analysis and problem solving, applicable to diverse situations in life and business. In his own case, Roc’s problem-solving and “no excuses” mindset enabled him to avoid the trappings of his East Oakland neighborhood, where poverty, gangs, violence, and drugs took many down the rabbit hole of despair. Keeping his distance and planning his escape, Roc paid attention to where the power and resources lay, then went after them with gusto –leading him to an MBA degree, work with Fortune 500 corporations, and ultimately, the good life in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Roc now leverages his power, influence, and platform to foster a community of cutting-edge artists and thinkers, who are not afraid to grab life by the lapel and “go there.”

Find out more about Roc and Inner Demons at RocsWorld.com.

The iGen iEverything Train is Coming, but Are You Ready?

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iGen

Technology is being consumed at an ever increasing rate causing executives, managers, and process improvement experts on the factory floor to re-define the methods of training and dissemination that have become obsolete.

Critical skills and tribal knowledge are being lost as boomers retire and training plans for new employees fall short of preparing workers for the sophistication of the new manufacturing environment.

Move over millennials, here comes the IGen! Born between 1995 and 2005 this group of tech savvy natives is the next cohort and are just now entering the workforce. IGen, or Gen Z as they are often referred, have grown up in a world of social media where Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter reign supreme. These kids are a force to be reckoned with and require access to information in ways that are familiar, immediate, and actionable. Our success depends on them because as the IGen goes, so goes the manufacturing industry, the nation, and the world.

Alliance Resource Group, in partnership with Sify Technologies has pulled together experts from manufacturing, academia and automated methodologies to develop a solution that addresses the manufacturing challenge of this next generation and identifies the key components of a successful framework including content management, dissemination methodology, scalability, and integration with current learning management systems. These components constitute a micro-learning strategy that facilitates current and future state requirements.

Alliance Resource Group (ARG), is a service disabled veteran owned business located in Newport Beach California. With a foundation in resource management, recruiting, and consulting, ARG provides services to small and medium size companies throughout the United States.

View the ARG White Paper here! Better be prepared for total process transformation if you want to remain competitive.

Female CEO Takes on Tech Industry with Edge Music Network

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Elizabeth Vargas

Diversity in STEAM Magazine (DISM) recently had the pleasure to speak with Elizabeth Vargas, founder and CEO of Edge Music Network.

DISM: Let’s start with the obvious question first: What’s your take on the lack of female leaders in the tech space?

EV: I could give a dozen reasons and even more excuses for our gender’s absence in the C-suite—not only in tech but in nearly every industry—but I won’t. The truth is that no one cares about why you haven’t succeeded; they’re only interested in how you’ve succeeded. That’s where I want to go. I want to focus on the future, and prove that with vision, hustle and commitment that you can break through and achieve your dreams. That’s how I think I can help young and mature female entrepreneurs achieve their goals and dreams.

DISM: Okay. Let’s go there… tell us your story.

EV: As a child, I always loved music and theory but wasn’t allowed to watch TV until I was 13. My dad was a preacher and I think he thought that delaying my exposure would protect me from the outside world. So, it’s kind of funny that, of all programs, I got hooked on MTV. I remember thinking I would own it one day! That was my big dream– which eventually evolved into what is now Edge Music Network.

DISM: A lot must have happened between “one day” and now…

EV: In between, I gravitated to all things music, first studying jazz vocals at the Cornish College of the Arts and then creating the Vargas Girls Jazz Cabaret in Seattle–where we played in nightclubs. My experience in the music industry paved the way for Edge Music Network to acquire the content libraries of some of the largest music publishers in the world.

DISM: Has there been anyone who has helped you along the way to achieve your big dream?

EV: I get asked that question often. People assume since I’m a successful female CEO and entrepreneur, I have a powerful man or group backing me. It was the exact opposite. I had everyone around me including those closest to me telling me to quit while I was ahead and it couldn’t be done and to give up on a regular basis. But I can tell you, everything I’ve achieved has been of my own sheer will, passion and desire to work hard– beginning with the Vargas Girls. I had a day job testing software, which came naturally to me. Being tech-savvy helped me launch our first website and later, my own digital channels like YouTube live video, where I live-streamed and interviewed bands and rock legends—all while keeping focus on becoming the next MTV. The only thing that changed for me was the platform. Television wasn’t the only game in town.

DISM: Speaking of the only game in town, explain Edge Music Network and how it diverges from other music video platforms like Spotify and Vevo.

EV: Edge Music Network (EMN) globally streams premium music video content from top-tier distribution partners and independent artists. But it’s more than a free platform for fans to watch their favorite music videos and entertainment programming. EMN offers fans access—from phones, tablets, computers and TVs—to the music and artists they love while providing artists and record labels with the royalties they deserve. We’ve completely flipped the compensation structure of platforms like Spotify and Vevo that give artists 10 percent or less of the profit share. We ensure a 90/10 split in the artists’ favor. On top of that, because EMN believes in the transformative power of music, we dedicate 10 percent of ad revenue to charitable causes such as those that feed the hungry, house the homeless and help victims of natural disasters.

DISM: Sounds like you found a straight path to your dream. Was it really so simple?

EV: It has been anything but simple. I spent years learning how to navigate application development, digital rights agreements, content licensing and distribution and how to acquire the content libraries of some of the largest music publishers in the world to bring EMN to life. But it’s the decades of relationship-building with my partners, advisors, record labels and artists that serve as the foundation of EMN.

DISM: What’s your advice for women today who want to pursue a career or start-up in tech?

EV: Today, every business is tied to technology, whether you work behind a desk, with your hands, your voice or your heart. So, to say there are few women in tech will eventually become a thing of the past. What may remain unchanged is the lack of female LEADERS in tech and that’s a personal choice. It’s up to each one of us to find our passion, find a mentor, find a way to achieve our goals, whatever the odds or the required education. Learn it. Do it. Fail. Get back up and do it again. And again. And that’s never easy. But it’s certainly fulfilling.

About Elizabeth Vargas:
Elizabeth Vargas is the founder and CEO of Edge Music Network, a music video streaming service providing live and on-demand content through a video syndication platform. After studying jazz vocal and music theory at Cornish College of the Arts and attending Bellevue University to study international business and media technology, Vargas combined her passions and pursued a career in the music industry. Over several years, Vargas was able to learn the ins and outs of application development, which allowed her to effectively lead the development and engineering of EMN’s platform. She has decades of experience architecting and brokering digital rights agreements between content creators and publishers to ensure equitable revenue share and royalty distribution and has worked with industry leaders to fight for fair compensation structures to keep the music alive—all of which paved the way for Edge Music Network. With deep working knowledge in content licensing and distribution, application development, as well as strong industry partnerships, Vargas acquired the content libraries of some of the largest music publishers in the world to bring to life the Edge Music Network app that gives artists the royalties and respect they deserve while giving fans access to the music they love—anytime, anywhere, from any device.

With philanthropy at the core of Edge Music Network, Vargas has built one of the most technologically advanced platforms to bring people together with the power of music while providing support to charitable organizations that feed the hungry, aid victims of natural disasters and support homeless veterans. For more information, visit edgemusic.com. Download the app at Apple ITunes Store and Google Play.

Richer Than Oprah: How The Nation’s Wealthiest African-American Conquered Tech And Wall Street

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robert f smith

It’s a Saturday afternoon, at the height of vacation season, in one of South Beach’s hottest hotels, and Robert Smith, the founder of Vista Equity Partners, is dressed like exactly no one within a 100-mile radius of Miami: in a three-piece suit.His signature outfit–today, it’s gray plaid, accented by an indigo tie and a pink paisley pocket square–apparently doesn’t take a day off, and Smith isn’t taking one now either. He’s gathered dozens of CEOs from his portfolio companies, software firms all, for a semiannual weekend off-site to drill them in the ways he expects his companies to operate.

It’s not just the suit that’s unusual. Private equity firms almost never treat their portfolio companies, transactional chits by design, like an organic cohort. And until recently, PE, a field built on borrowing against cash-generating assets, wouldn’t touch software firms, which offer little that’s tangible to collateralize. Yet Smith has invested only in software over Vista’s 18-year history, as evidenced by the CEOs, like Andre Durand of the security-software maker Ping Identity and Hardeep Gulati of the education-management software company PowerSchool, who have been summoned to Miami Beach, waiting to swap insights about artificial intelligence and other pressing topics. And Smith deploys more than 100 full-time consultants to improve his companies.

“Nobody ever taught these guys the blocking and tackling of running a software company,” says Smith, an engineer by training, as he takes a lunch break at South Beach’s 1 Hotel to nibble on a plant-based burger. “And we do it better than any other institution on the planet.”

Smith includes the likes of Oracle and Microsoft in that boast, and his numbers back up the braggadocio. Since the Austin-based firm’s inception in 2000, Vista’s private equity funds have returned 22% net of fees annually to limited partners, according to PitchBook data. Smith’s annual realized returns, which reflect exits, stand at a staggering 31% net. His funds have already made distributions of $14 billion, including $4 billion in the last year alone.

Not surprisingly given those numbers, Vista has become America’s fastest-growing private equity firm, managing $31 billion across a range of buyout, credit and hedge funds. Smith is putting all that money to work at a breakneck pace, with 204 software acquisitions since 2010, more than any tech company or financial firm in the world. After finishing an $11 billion fundraising for its latest flagship buyout fund last year, Smith has already deployed more than half of it, focusing as usual on business-to-business software. “They recognize it’s a kind of central nervous system,” says Michael Milken, whose bond-market innovations basically birthed the modern private equity industry and who has been a co-investor in two Vista deals. Taken together, Vista’s portfolio, with 55,000 employees and more than $15 billion in revenue, ranks as the fourth-largest enterprise software company in the world.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.