Will.i.am’s start-up has raised $117 million as it pivots from hardware to customer support chatbot
LinkedIn

I.am+, the tech startup founded by pop star and entrepreneur will.i.am, has raised $117 million in venture funding, the company told Reuters on Monday as it announced its entry into the corporate computing market with a voice assistant for customer service.

The company, founded in 2012, initially focused on consumer electronics devices such as headphones. The new artificial intelligence product, similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, marks a sharp departure for the firm, which now employs about 300 people.

Its most recent funding round, an $89 million investment by a group including Salesforce Ventures, closed in March but had not been previously announced.

Will.i.am, who rose to prominence as a member of The Black Eyed Peas, said the corporate market offered the company an opportunity to quickly deploy and develop its assistant, called Omega.

“I wanted to create something that allows us to do many things,” said will.i.am, founder and chief executive of the company, in a telephone interview with Reuters. “There’s so much you can do with a voice platform.”

Though many celebrities and athletes including Jessica Alba, Ashton Kutcher and Joe Montana have made their way into the tech sector through investments and their own startups, most have tended to focus on consumer technology.

The first enterprise customer for I.am+ is Deutsche Telekom AG , the German telecommunications giant and parent company of T-Mobile. Since July, the company has been using Omega to power an AI customer support chatbot and it plans to add a voice phone system soon, i.am+ said.

Continue onto CNBC News to read the complete article.

 

Create a Live Video Community (and Why You Would Want to)
LinkedIn
young black woman filming a video while playing guitar

There is a good chance that most people reading this have tuned into at least one live video over the last week. It’s something that is becoming increasingly popular, and is expected to continue to increase in popularity going forward. There are many good reasons why more influencers and businesses alike are turning to creating a live video community, and harnessing the power that it can offer. Now is the time to learn how to create a live video community and why it’s so important to do so.

“People are showing that they love live video and interacting with it in a big way,” explains Alexander Riesenkampff, the chief executive officer of GetVokl, a livestreaming platform. “We have helped many people build and grow their live video community, and know that as this field continues to grow, we will be helping many more.”

People tend to feel more urgency to watch a live video. Seeing that it’s live gets them interested. The area of live video offers a lot of potential for those who are brand influencers, businesses, or those who want to make a strong connection with their followers. Not only is viewing live video on the rise, but research shows that it tends to outperform recorded video.

Those interested in creating a live video community should spend a little time exploring how others have done it. GetVokl, for example, has many live communities that can be accessed, providing a good place to do a little homework and learn the ins and outs. Once you are ready to get started, GetVokl can help you create a larger community. They also make it easy to directly monetize the audience. The app allows each live video to be shown across multiple platforms at one time. This ensures that your video is live across all platforms, rather than being live on one and then having to post a recorded video to the others.

Here are 5 reasons why it’s a good idea to create a live video community:

  • Live video gives you the ability to increase engagement and interaction with your audience. It allows for immediate feedback and discussion. This helps to build authority, make a connection, and increase loyalty.
  • An effective marketing tool, creating a live video community can lead to an increase in sales and revenue. It gives all types of companies and influencers a way to increase their earnings.
  • Live video communities feel real and authentic. This is one of the reasons why people prefer it to recorded videos. Most recorded videos are heavily edited, yet people prefer the authenticity that comes with it being live.
  • There is a greater ability to make an impact when you engage in live video with your target audience. They can ask questions, provide immediate feedback, and get to know your personality more.
  • Audiences tend to watch for a longer period of time when the information is coming to them live, as opposed to in a recorded video. Keeping your target market watching longer makes for a more effective marketing experience.

“Creating a livestream community is something anyone can do,” added Riesenkampff. “Once you do it, you will see there are benefits. It’s like getting the chance to be with your people in the same room, even if they are thousands of miles away. Whether you hold Q&A sessions, offer how-to talks, host interviews, provide advice, or just offer fun looks into what you are doing, it leaves a powerful mark.”

GetVokl is an app that allows people to livestream across multiple platforms at one time. It’s free to use and ideal for podcasters, coaches, teachers, bloggers, reporters, or others who want their livestream to reach people on multiple platforms. It’s quick to set up and easy to use, requiring only minimal technical knowledge. GetVokl also features VCoin, which helps podcasters earn more money by letting people give tips or donations as the livestreaming takes place. To learn more about GetVokl or to download the app, visit the site: https://getvokl.com/.

 To learn more about how VCoin works, watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qroHqQY0IjY&feature=youtu.be.

About GetVokl:
GetVokl is a free livestreaming community platform built for podcasters, livestreamers, and hosts to unleash the potential of their audiences through interactive live shows that inspire and create vibrant communities. GetVokl allows a livestream to be broadcast over multiple social media platforms at one time. Join or create your live video community. To learn more about GetVokl, please visit https://about.getvokl.com.

Your Guide to Economically Surviving COVID-19
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Fingertip calculator calculator Calculation concept

By Kathryn Porritt

The financial impacts of COVID-19 are yet to be fully seen, but small business owners and entrepreneurs across the world are already seeing major impacts to their businesses. Many are scared, wondering what options they have to economically survive this time.

There are ways for businesses to survive – a business can even thrive during an economic downturn. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small business with less than five employees or a large corporation with 50,000 employees. Economic thriving is possible, even amid COVID-19.

Here’s how owners can create economic thriving:

Lead with Authority

Now is the time for owners to lead with authority. This time of transition and transformation can be a positive, powerful one if leaders show up for themselves and their businesses. Both their employees and their audience will feed off of the energy they show up with and produce. So, owners need to be the powerful leader and spokesperson who shows up for their team.

Brainstorm Ideas

It’s a key time for business owners to brainstorm ideas, both with their niche audience and with other business owners. The creative ideas that this process produces will allow an owner to figure out how to creatively pivot and shift their offerings to meet the needs of their audience. These ideas will help them navigate the rough waters with more ease and come up with their most creative offerings.

Think Big

Unfortunately, when times of chaos and crisis hit, many business owners start to fall into the trap of a scarcity mindset. This is the exact opposite of what needs to happen. Instead, this is a prime time to really think big, and outside of the box. Owners need to take the time to get crystal clear on their business goals and re-outline the steps needed to achieve them.

Know the Message

A businesses’ message and attitude need to remain positive. The message of a business can cause a ripple effect, from top down, so it’s paramount that owners find gratitude in their business, its offerings, and for their audience market. What is the key message that the business wants to promote? And how is that creating a positive impact in the market the business serves?

Own the Position of Authority

Now is a business owners’ time to shine by owning their authority in the marketplace they serve. Don’t be shy! This is the time for them to show their audience and the public why they deserve to be a market leader.

Stay Connected

More than ever, it’s times like these that connection is paramount. Business owners need to be connected to their market, their audience, and also their friends and loved ones – so that they can rest and recharge. Technology makes it possible to connect in a variety of ways, so take advantage of it!

Business owners can now take up their position of authority, own their expertise and lead powerfully. The world is craving positive, insightful and creative leaders with engaging solutions. Business owners need to take a slight pause, step back, and realize the opportunities before them. Instead of caving to fear and market unrest, they need to be pushing forward toward their goals. Just because the way to reach a goal may have changed for the owner, doesn’t mean the goal itself has changed. And, above all else, owners need to remember to rest and take care of themselves, so that they can continue to lead from the front.

Moving the Needle on DEI Hiring
LinkedIn
Three girls working on an engineering project in a science lab

The demand for workers in areas like healthcare, supply chain and others has never been more critical than it is today. Two businesses are now joining forces to offer solutions to help organizations find top candidates while ensuring their talent pool is diverse.

Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE), founded by Erika Jefferson to support underrepresented women in STEM through networking, mentorship, and career development, is partnering with Cambio, a multi-faceted recruiting and diversity platform founded by Neil Patwardhan and Bob Richards. Both organizations are focused on truly moving the needle on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) hiring in meaningful way.

BWISE, with its professional job board and network of over 15,000 scientists, engineers and technologists, can focus on guidance to employers and diverse job seekers with a focus on black women in STEM. And Cambio, through its Diversity Engine and analytics, can spotlight diverse candidates and ensure biases are surfaced and focus on delivering top candidates.

BWISE is focused on bridging the leadership gap for Black women in STEM. It was founded with the purpose of supporting underrepresented women through networking, mentorship and career development. The group primarily consists of black women from middle management through senior leadership with degrees in the sciences, math and engineering (even if they no longer work in that field) who would like to connect with others.

Cambio’s mission is to create a more human experience in the world of recruiting and job searching with video, and make the process more transparent and fun by embracing the swipe culture of viral mobile applications. The company aims to speed up the hiring process and lead the way in diversity hiring by helping companies meet their workforce goals for 2020 and beyond.

For additional information on BWISE, click here.

For additional information on Cambio, click here.

A Passion for Equity in Education
LinkedIn
Karl Reid smiling for the camera

By Eric Addison

He didn’t fully realize it at the time, but as a high school student, Karl Reid had a few advantages that helped him achieve success against a backdrop of challenges. His work today, as a leading advocate for increasing college access, opportunity and success, seeks to spread those types of advantages more equitably across the educational landscape for students of all races, ethnicities, genders and economic circumstances.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Roosevelt, a predominantly African-American, working-class community on Long Island, Reid had parents who placed a high value on education and applied high standards to their children’s academic work. When he was admitted to a well-resourced, magnet high school near Roosevelt, a school with a majority white student body, it put him on a track to follow his older brother to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, he fully expected to continue being an outstanding student, so his first-semester struggles came as a shock.

“Suddenly, I was a college student who barely understood what was going on in lecture. I hadn’t learned yet to read ahead of class,” Reid says. “I could barely keep up with new information being presented to me, never mind ask a question. My score of 38 on my first physical chemistry exam was the final wake-up call.”

Reid came through the crisis by finding his internal drive (his “grit”), by applying it to a demanding regimen of independent study and by building beneficial relationships on campus. In his freshman year, he joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a college-student-led organization with a mission to, “increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” Reid credits NSBE with building his leadership skills during his tenure as vice president of MIT’s NSBE chapter in his junior year, and subsequently as the Society’s national chair. He left MIT in 1985 as a Tau Beta Pi scholar with two academic degrees: A Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in materials science and engineering.

Later, in 1991, years into a successful career in the burgeoning computer industry, Reid had a crucial experience that clarified his purpose and changed his life’s work. Reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, a seminal volume about educational disparities in the United States, he saw how his own experience as a K–12 student fit into a broad pattern of discrimination. He finished the book determined to do something about the problem.

Reid left the computer field to return to MIT, where he worked in positions of progressive responsibility to increase diversity at his alma mater—eventually becoming associate dean of undergraduate education and director of the Office of Minority Education—and took the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Education at Harvard University. His next employer was the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), where he oversaw new program development, research and capacity building for the organization’s 37 historically black colleges and universities and held the title of senior vice president for research, innovation and member college engagement.

In June 2014, Dr. Reid made another auspicious return, this time to NSBE as executive director. Based at the Society’s World Headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia, he supports NSBE’s National Executive Board, and NSBE’s 25,000 in reaching the main goal of the Society’s 10-year strategic plan: To partner with educational institutions to end the underrepresentation of blacks in engineering in the U.S. by producing 10,000 black engineers annually in the country, by 2025. He has also helped nurture NSBE’s impressive growth abroad: A large percentage of the Society’s members now reside in Africa.

Dr. Reid’s diversity and inclusion work outside of NSBE—most notably his foundational and leadership role with the 50K Coalition and his membership on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech—also supports the Society’s mission. And he has authored a book, Working Smarter, Not Just Harder: Three Sensible Strategies for Succeeding in College…and Life, which was published in 2017.

Dr. Reid admits the societal problems he has chosen to solve are large and intractable, but after 22 years of rising daily to the challenge, he believes the statistics are moving in the right direction.

“Seeing young people grow in intellect and character and go on to achievements in STEM that benefit their families, their communities, their nation and themselves is a priceless experience,” Dr. Reid says. “Our work is difficult, but the rewards are great.”

Band-Aid Announces it Will Finally Make Bandages For Darker Skin Tones
LinkedIn
band-aid

In response to recent worldwide support for Black Lives Matters protests, Band-Aid announced last week that it will be expanding its product line to include bandages with a range of skin tones.

“We hear you. We see you. We’re listening to you,” the company wrote on Instagram. “We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, collaborators and community in the fight against racism, violence and injustice. We are committed to taking actions to create tangible change for the Black community.⁣”

The bandages will come in light, olive, and darker shades of brown and black tones, to reflect the diversity of consumers who need bandages.

Other companies had already stepped in to fill the void, including Tru-Colour, a company started by a white man.

Toby Meisenheimer had adopted a black son and wanted to “affirm and celebrate his son’s identity” for who he was. Started in 2014, Tru-Colour provides skin-tone shade bandages and kinesiology tape for people of every skin color—and their products were picked up by Target stores nationwide in 2018.

In addition to the change, Band-Aid says they will be making a donation to Black Lives Matter.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Pokémon GO Fest 2020: What to Know About This Virtual Event
LinkedIn
Pokemon Go virtual event poster

Families who play Pokémon GO and have dreamed of taking their kids to the game’s annual live event, Pokémon GO Fest, may have an easier time doing it this year.

The augmented reality game played via mobile app encourages participants to get out and explore their real-world surroundings by connecting the Pokémon universe to actual local businesses and landmarks

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the game’s creators are taking the need to travel out of the equation, allowing families to participate in Pokémon GO Fest 2020 right in their own backyards.

Niantic formerly held Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago, Illinois, and in cities in Germany and Japan, where hundreds of thousands of fans traveled to designated outdoor parks to meet up in person and participate in special in-game challenges. But the spread of COVID-19 left the game creators needing a more socially distant way to connect fans.

“While we can’t bring hundreds of thousands of people together in a local park, we can certainly recreate the spirit of what Pokémon GO Fest represents,” Niantic said in a blog post. “We’ve designed this year’s event so trainers around the world can go outside to play and celebrate the summer, and do so, of course, while practicing social distancing and being safe.”

Tickets for the 2020 event, which will be held over the weekend of July 25-26, are on sale now.   A GO Fest ticket, which covers both days of play, will cost each participant (each mobile device running the event and playing along) $14.99. Participants will enjoy a brand new adventure within the app on those days, and will have special projects and assignments to complete, all exclusive to the ticketed event.

During past in-person Pokémon GO events, the parks where the events were held were split into various “habitats,” where players could complete tasks and catch different Pokémon. For the virtual event, there will be rotating habitats within the app which will change every hour, regardless of the player’s geographic location.

Niantic plans to donate all proceeds from Pokémon GO Fest ticket sales to supporting the Black community amid the continuing protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd other victims of police brutality. The proceeds will fund new projects from Black gaming and augmented reality creators as well as donating to U.S. non-profit organizations who are helping communities rebuild.

This story first appeared on TODAY.com.

With Comic-Con canceled, Warner Bros to hold virtual event ‘DC FanDome’ on Aug. 22
LinkedIn
Fandome promo poster

Comic-Con may be canceled this year, but Warner Bros.’ FanDome will convene a 24-hour virtual gathering of the biggest names in the DC Comics universe.

The studio announced Tuesday that DC FanDome will be held on August 22 starting at 10 a.m. PDT. The event will feature talent announcements and reveal new content from WB games, comics, film and television.

The announcement comes a couple months after Comic-Con, which attracts tens of thousands of comics fans to San Diego, was canceled due to the coronavirus-related restrictions around large gatherings.

Virtual panels will feature cast and creators from DC films including “The Batman,” “Black Adam” and “Wonder Woman 1984.” The panels will also highlight casts from television shows such as “The Flash,” “Stargirl” and “Black Lightning.”

“Wonder Woman 1984” was expected to be one of the summer’s biggest releases, but its arrival in theaters has been delayed until October.

FanDome will be spread out across six different areas on the event’s website: Hall of Heroes, DC WatchVerse, DC YouVerse, DC KidsVerse, DC InsiderVerse and DC FunVerse.

Continue on to KTLA News to read the complete article.

Meet the Woman Behind Space X, President and Engineer Gwynne Shotwell
LinkedIn
Gwynne Shotwell smiling for the camera

This past weekend, the United States made history when Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the Dragon Crew capsule into space, the first U.S. mission from U.S. soil since 2011. SpaceX is primarily associated with Musk, as he was the founder of the company, but many people don’t know about the company’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell.

Now responsible for SpaceX’s operations and growth, Shotwell has been working with SpaceX since the company was founded in 2002 and was immediately put on the board of directors. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University and previously worked with The Aerospace Corporation and Microcosm Inc. in El Segundo, California. Wanting to apply her skills in engineering in a hands-on environment, Shotwell worked with The Aerospace Corporation in military space research, technical work, spacecraft design and thermal analysis. She spent much of her time specifically studying small spacecraft design and how to navigate such a spacecraft in and out of the cosmos. She later went on to work Microcosm Inc, a rocket building company, where she oversaw business development.

Having both the skills and knowing the ins and outs of spacecraft and business, Shotwell’s expertise at SpaceX still stands. Under her supervision, SpaceX has launched five billion dollars’ worth of crafts with the Falcon vehicle family and has now become the first privately owned business to send astronauts into space. Additionally, Shotwell recently became a member on the board of directors for Polaris, an automotive vehicle manufacturing company, and serves in many STEM-related programs. Her work in these areas have earned her several awards, including a spot in the 2012 Women in Technology Hall of Fame and as one of Forbes’ Magazine’s Top 50 Women in Tech.

Through all of her successes, it seems as if Shotwell has more large-scale accomplishments to come. As part of a multi-billion dollar deal with NASA, SpaceX will continue to work on a transportation system to take the first humans to Mars.

Get to Know Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA)
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Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) logo

By Aidan Currie

Hello and Happy Pride 2020! This will certainly be one of the most unusual Pride months on the books, and it’s important that we continue to find the silver linings in life and work during these tumultuous times.

I have the great pleasure of being the Executive Director at Reaching Out MBA, a nonprofit that for more than twenty years has worked to increase the influence of the LGBT+ community in business by educating, inspiring and connecting MBA students and alumni. We run programming throughout the year – including a Fellowship program that provides a minimum of $20,000 to students selected by their schools – to ensure LGBT+ MBAs connect and learn from others in business, have access to recruitment opportunities, and spaces for our community to gather and inspire each other.

Like everyone, the MBA community has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, in the short term with altered or rescinded summer internships –  and in the longer term with uncertainty in the jobs market that students will encounter upon graduation.

But here’s the good news. In these difficult times, many of our organization partners have shown outstanding leadership by quickly re-configuring what a summer internship can look like in the MBA community. This means providing interns with an opportunity to re-imagine their traditional internships and take the summer to give back by supporting a nonprofit of their choice as we manage through these difficult times.

For example, Corey Fowler, a Reaching Out Fellow completing his first year of Tepper School of Business (Carnegie Mellon University), has been able to pivot from his planned internship at Boston Consulting Group in Pittsburgh. BCG has offered Corey the opportunity to join the Reaching Out MBA team as we work to develop engaging virtual events that continue to serve the needs of our students and alumni in the wake of COVID-19.

I spoke to Corey recently about how this program came about. “Given this global crisis, BCG developed a Social Impact Ambassadorship that enables incoming summer consultants to spend their summer working with a nonprofit of their choosing instead of the traditional client experience. This allows interns to give back to organizations they care about, either through front-line service in their community or skill-based volunteerism.”

When asked why he chose Reaching Out MBA, Fowler says: “As a ROMBA Fellow, I’ve been involved with the organization since the early days of my MBA experience and have seen first-hand the impact that Reaching Out has on the LGBT+ community.  I thought long and hard about where I would have the most impact. In the end, working with Reaching Out was the best way for me to leverage my skills and personal experience to support the LGBT+ community.”

How do you hope you can make a difference in the fight against COVID 19 this summer? Says Fowler, “organizations all over the world are having to significantly rethink their operations in light of COVID-19.  I’d like to look back on this summer experience and feel proud that I used my education and skills to help an organization that has done so much for the historically marginalized LGBT+ community.  From a professional growth perspective, I am hoping to sharpen my contingency and crisis planning skills that I think will benefit me throughout my consulting career.”

We thank all of our partners who have decided to continue their support of Reaching Out MBA in these difficult times, in part by donating their human capital to help raise up nonprofits and other community organizations as we continue to serve our constituents.

Merck Virtual Engagement and Educational Experience and Virtual Business Opportunity Fair
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Merck business fair

Merck’s Virtual Engagement Center will offer two tracks for Diverse Suppliers:

The Merck Global Economic Inclusion & Supplier Diversity Educational Experience (kick-off May 21, 2020) is a webinar series geared toward the developing the knowledge of diverse suppliers in the marketplace.

These monthly sessions will give diverse suppliers a leg-up and get them ready to pitch their capabilities and services, while learning how to set themselves apart and ultimately win the business.

Register Here

The Virtual Business Opportunity Fair, June 17, 2020, one of two LIVE events in 2020, that will provide the opportunity for diverse suppliers to engage with Merck’s supply chain professionals, Prime Suppliers and Advocacy Organizations during a virtual tradeshow.
Register Here

Supplier development and diversity are critical to our mission of Inventing for Life. We are excited to deploy these two exciting programs as part of the Virtual Engagement Center and hope you will join us.

DISM BLM

 
*Please be sure to check event websites for latest updates on postponements or cancellations due to COVID-19 precautions.

Upcoming Events

  1. AEC Next /SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    July 27, 2020 - July 29, 2020
  2. AEC Next /SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    July 27, 2020 - July 29, 2020
  3. Women in Federal Law Enforcement Leadership Training
    August 3, 2020 - August 6, 2020
  4. National Society of Black Engineers 46th Annual Convention
    August 19, 2020 - August 23, 2020
  5. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020

Upcoming Events

  1. AEC Next /SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    July 27, 2020 - July 29, 2020
  2. AEC Next /SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    July 27, 2020 - July 29, 2020
  3. Women in Federal Law Enforcement Leadership Training
    August 3, 2020 - August 6, 2020
  4. National Society of Black Engineers 46th Annual Convention
    August 19, 2020 - August 23, 2020
  5. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020