ABL-Tech Member News & Industry Trendletter * December 8, 2020
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GUEST BLOG: Dave Berkus's
"3-step dance method"


With over 200 early-stage investments under his belt, Tech Coast Angels' Chairman Emeritus, and the chair of ABL's Technology Board of Advisors, Dave Berkus knows a thing or three about what it takes to develop a successful new product. And, hint: it's not done in a vacuum. So Dave has developed "the thee-step dance," in order to help form a repeatable method of how to create a great company from an early idea:

The first step: Involve potential customers early.

Even if you know it all - wouldn't it be an excellent plan to try your idea out on enough actual or potential customers to measure reasonable feedback?

You can use or discard the information you receive. We now know that Steve Jobs created several of his products in relative secrecy that became massive industry drivers of change. The iPad probably would have failed before production, had he used feedback and research from past failures of tablets in any previous form as a guide. On the other hand, most products or services are created in response to a real or perceived need. And most of us are not Steve Jobs.

The second step: Take feedback seriously.

Making the effort to gather metrics from the field in any form and then ignoring it, takes guts and determination - and in most cases a measure of stupidity. As I analyze business plans, I usually ask the entrepreneur early in the process whether s/he has tried this idea or prototype or mockup out on potential users. And if so, what was the response? And from how many people? In what related universe?

I want to know that potential paying customers have been queried using enough information or a good enough model to get a real response worth taking seriously. Without this, any information received is suspect. And failure to make use of the information is a red flag for investors.

The third step: Reiterate and return to customers for comments.

Seeking, then analyzing responses allows you to make changes to the plan and product in response. But what if the changes create other problems for the customer, or miss the mark, or don't drive these same customers to more positive responses?

The best possible second-round feedback should come from the very same people who took the time to review the offering the first time. They have context and should see effort and progress. Their comments should therefore be more valued than those from first-time respondents.

So, why not design your product using your real and potential customers as consultants?


AfterNow Unveils Beta 2 of Prez Remote

AfterNow has recently released AfterNow Prez Remote Beta 2, its biggest update yet, with numerous new features and improvements. Click here to enroll in AfterNow's private beta program. (Philippe Lewicki, WLA)

Cornerstone Innovation Lab Aims to Advance Ethical AI in the Workplace

Cornerstone OnDemand has formed the Cornerstone Innovation Lab for AI, a new center of excellence within the company composed of data scientists and machine learning experts who specialize in innovating practical and ethical ways to apply AI technology to the workplace. Expertise from the Lab has already helped design and build the Cornerstone Skills Graph, which enables practical uses of AI across an organization's business, such as uncovering their people's existing skills, identifying skills needed for job roles and pivoting their people faster. (Adam Miller, WLA)

Electrosonic is Building Facility in Dubai & Winning Awards

Electrosonic has completed stage 1 construction of its new Dubai facility, announcing that it recently shipped its first build and that Stage 2 has now kicked off to develop a design studio. Meanwhile, Electrosonic was involved in three projects that received "Outstanding Achievement Awards" at this year's Themed Entertainment Association's Thea Awards: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, at Disneyland; Snorri Touren, at Europa Park; and Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall, at National Geographic Museum. (Bryan Hinckley, SGV)

GF Piping Systems Named One of "America's Safest Companies 2020"

EHS Today, the Magazine for Environment, Health and Safety Leaders, has declared GF Piping Systems in the Americas as one of "America's Safest Companies 2020," an award that recognizes GF's pro-active COVID-19 plan, implementation of Safety at Work Standards, lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, and its 2015 corporate-wide Zero Risk Campaign that by the end of 2019 contributed to a 30% reduction in accidents since its 2013-2015 baseline. Also, GF Piping has partnered with Land Life Company to offset its U.S. carbon footprint by planting 14,000 trees in California, Texas, and Oregon. (Mike Smith, SGV)

Intellect Makes "Innovate 2020" Conference Available On-Demand

Intellect recently held its virtual Intellect Innovate 2020 conference, and is now making the event available to watch on-demand. The conference was comprised of 14 concise and informative education sessions, presented by company executives, Intellect customers and partners, and independent quality management experts. Themes centered around configurability, mobility, and connectivity. Also, read Intellect's blog post, Evaluating Total Cost of Ownership for Quality Management System Software. (Romeo Elias, WLA)

LookinLA CEO Spotlighted on Podcast About Creating a Successful Service Biz

Ali Payani of LookinLA was interviewed recently on Bitbean's podcast series about the "5 Things You Need to Know to Create a Successful Service Business." Ali shares his backstory; his a "number one principle" that guides him through the ups and downs of running a business; and the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service-based business. Also, read LookinLA's recent blog post: Five Things to Consider Starting an Online Business in 2021. (Ali Payani, SGV)

Nortridge CEO Discusses "The Tech Option Holy Wars" on Podcast

Greg Hindson of Nortridge is spotlighted in a recent episode of ConsumerFi podcast, on "The Tech Option Holy Wars," in which Greg talks about why Nortridge chose to use C++ as its base coding language. (Greg Hindson, OC)

Parasoft's Upcoming Webinars to Address Test Automation

On December 9, Parasoft will present a virtual workshop, Evolve from Manual Testing to Functional Test Automation: Web UI & API Test Automation, at 11 a.m. Pacific.
And, on Dec. 16, Parasoft will host a webinar, Leverage Test Automation to Deliver Business and Quality Goals, at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, Parasoft has made its Automated Software Testing and Quality Summit - How Industry Leaders are Solving Real Software Quality Problems available to watch on-demand. (Elizabeth Kolawa, Ph.D., SGV)

PeopleG2 to Present "A 2020 Postmortem" Webinar - What We've Learned & Should Keep

On December 16, PeopleG2 will present a webinar - A 2020 Postmortem: The best things we learned and should keep, as we say goodbye to a dumpster fire of a year - at 11 a.m. Pacific, where Chris Dyer will share his best lessons, tools, stories, and takeaways from this year. Meanwhile, PeopleG2 is making its recent webinar, Leading a Hybrid Team: Mixing Remote and the Office, available on-demand. (Chris Dyer, SGV)

ProProfs Chat Named Best Live Chat Software for 2020

ProProfs Chat, from ProProfs, was recently rated as the Best Live Chat Software of 2020 by Digital.com, an online review platform, which researched 90+ live chat software companies across the web. Digital.com evaluated the solutions on what businesses look for when choosing a live chat solution, including customer support, sales conversion, reporting capabilities, and ability to send customizable auto-message triggers. Meanwhile, ProProfs has added a new feature to its ProProfs Project online project management application - custom fields. (Sameer Bhatia, WLA)

Dave Berkus on: Innovating & Executing

In Are you innovating because of need or inspiration?, Dave Berkus says that if you're trying to think of what you want to produce, start with finding the pain in the marketplace, and set out to remove it. For instance, he suggests picking a growing industry, and then finding a short list of users, customers, and consultants in that industry who are known to be advanced in their thinking as demonstrated by their prior work. Next, visit a CEO in that industry and ask, "What is it that bothers you most about your operation? What is you biggest problem, other than working capital? Where's your bottleneck in production or sales or development? If you could invent a solution, what would it be?" Meanwhile, read recent blogs from Dave here, which include: "Is it your brilliant plan or your execution?" and "Have you heard? Eyeballs aren't everything." (Dave Berkus, SGV & WLA)

GetVisible on: Digital Marketing, Powerpoint Presentations & SEO

Jason Ciment of GetVisible provides a condensed set of slides from a digital marketing presentation he gave recently, remarking that "if your website is a source of online leads or website sales, then you will enjoy this brief slide deck." And, Jason also shares "3 ways to make Powerpoint presentations sparkle." Meanwhile, GetVisible explains how to start an SEO campaign in this post. (Jason Ciment, WLA)

Xsolla on: Successfully Pitching a Game to Investors & Publishers

VentureBeat recently published a two-part article from Xsolla: What it takes to pitch a game and Pitching your game: The essentials you need to know. The articles provide an in-depth look at the pitch process with practical and applicable insights into the mind of an investor/publisher. (Shurick Agapitov, WLA)

AiCare Reports Encouraging Clinical Trial Results

AiCare recently shared on LinkedIn that the "result from our discharged patient clinical trial is very encouraging with a specificity of 82%+ in predicting a patient's deteriorating condition after the discharge. With further fine-tuning to our AI/ML engine and algorithm, we're targeting to improve the accuracy of our early prediction warning with the next set of patients." AiCare provides intelligent home care to monitor the physical activities of the patients who are discharged from hospitals, suffer from chronic disease, or those who need special care. (Sean Tan, ABL-Health SV)

Alvaka Networks' Recent Marketing Event & Cybersecurity Podcast Available On-Demand

Watch an on-demand replay of Alvaka Networks' recent virtual event - Effective Marketing & Selling in a Remote World - which features professionals discussing their experiences in the transition to remote working, and what tools and strategies they have found to be successful and unsuccessful. And, Alvaka participated in a recent podcast - Steps to Minimize Ransomware Risk. (Oli Thordarson, ABL-Health OC)

Bayer Deepens Commitments to Self-Care & Digital Health

Bayer has completed its investment in Care/of, giving it a majority ownership in the privately owned, personalized direct-to-consumer nutrition company, bolstering Bayer's digital capabilities in the key market of personalized supplements. And, Bayer recently launched its first Global Creative Council, bringing together senior leaders from a variety of companies, collaborating on Bayer's goal of making self-care available and accessible to billions of people globally. Meanwhile, Bayer announced it will support five new startup companies as part of its G4A Digital Health Partnerships Program, focused on integrated healthcare solutions in the fields of cardiometabolic and renal diseases, oncology, and women's health. (Rama Penta, ABL-Health SV)

Biospectal's Breakthrough Blood Pressure Reader Featured in Forbes

The recent Forbes article - This Startup Wants You to Change How You Measure Blood Pressure - spotlights Biospectal's introduction of its non-invasive cuffless blood pressure solution, Biospectal OptiBP. CEO Eliott Jones says their optical software utilizes the smartphone camera to "see" through the fingertip placed on the lens by optically recording the blood flowing through vessels beneath the skin. Biospectal uses rapid image sequences captured by the camera on the smartphone with their algorithm that generates the patient's "pulse wave" and analyzes this wave's shape to generate systolic and diastolic blood pressure values. (Eliott Jones, ABL-Health SV)

ChromoLogic & Covisus Earn Industry Honors

ChromoLogic recently got its groundbreaking research in rapid malaria screening, which is funded by the NIH, accepted as a late-breaking poster at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual conference. And, Covisus has been named a Finalist in the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences 2020 Maintenance Innovation Challenge, for its vTag - Tagless Item Level Traceability. A winner will be chosen on December 7. (Naresh Menon, ABL-Health LA)

Elemeno Health Partners with Alameda County Care Connect to Help Homeless

Elemeno Health has partnered with Alameda County Care Connect's Whole Person Care program to help community health workers assess the health and housing needs of their homeless clients and help connect those clients with area organizations that provide help. With Elemeno's cloud-based platform (available via mobile and desktop), community workers can instantly deliver information about housing, social, behavioral, and substance abuse services. Information is updated regularly and is accessible to all frontline team members. (Arup Roy-Burman, MD, ABL-Health OAK)

Kaiser Permanente Develops Tools to Successfully Identify At-Risk Patients

A sophisticated system that analyzes electronic data about hospital patients, identifies those at risk of deteriorating, and issues an alert to a centralized team of specially trained nurses, resulted in a lower mortality rate, Kaiser Permanente (KP) researchers found. The evaluation of the Advance Alert Monitor, used in 21 KP Northern California hospitals, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. And, another assessment tool developed by KP helps ensure COVID-19 patients get the right care, when they need it, by accurately predicting the probability that these patients will experience severe disease or even death, according to a study published in the November American Journal of Emergency Medicine. The tool, called the COVAS score because it looks at comorbidities, obesity, vital signs, age, and sex, has already been incorporated into the EHR system throughout KP in Southern California. (Marcos Vasconcelos, ABL-Health OAK)

VivaLNK Launches Turnkey Service to Capture Ambulatory Continuous Vital Signs for RPM

VivaLNK has unveiled the newest addition to its medical wearable platform, the Vitals Data Service, designed for clinical trials and healthcare applications in remote or clinical settings. It includes VivaLNK's line of FDA-cleared ambulatory medical wearable sensors, a customizable remote patient monitoring app, and cloud and data concierge services for consolidated data access in customizable data formats. It's designed for continuous data capture in remote locations even in the event of intermittent network disconnections common in ambulatory situations. And, VivaLNK has extended its Ambulatory Medical Wearable Data Platform to include an ambulatory SpO2 oxygen saturation sensor, able to perform continuous data capture even during sleep. Meanwhile, VivaLNK and AMPs, a leader in the production of software tools for electrocardiogram, have partnered to advance remote patient monitoring for clinical trials. They most recently partnered for a 10-year, 3,000-subject UCSF clinical trial aiming to detect biomarkers of early atrial transformation on atrial fibrillation. (Jiang Li, Ph.D., ABL-Health SV)

U.S. VC Fundraising Hits Record $69 Billion in 2020

U.S. venture capital funds have raised a combined $69.1 billion in 2020, edging past a 2018 record and defying the odds amid a pandemic-rattled economy. The high-water mark was set after Andreessen Horowitz recently announced a pair of mega-funds with $4.5 billion in commitments. The news reinforces the dominant theme of fundraising in 2020: Big investors have gotten bigger while smaller firms have struggled. The 2020 year-to-date fundraising total was set by just 287 funds, compared with 589 funds in 2018. Mega-funds of $1 billion or more represented a record 15% of the total number of US VC funds raised as of Sept. 30, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. (https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/us-vc-fundraising-hits-record-69b-in-2020-after-a16z-closes-two-mega-funds)

Entrepreneurs Thrive in 10 U.S. Metros

New data from LinkedIn's Economic Graph team shows entrepreneurial spirit running strong in cities across the U.S. In summary, here are the Top 10 Metro Areas, followed by % of Total U.S. Entrepreneurs: San Francisco 15%; New York City 15%; Los Angeles 9%; Boston 5%; Seattle 2%; Miami/Ft. Lauderdale 2%; Denver 2%; Austin 2%; San Diego 2%; Salt Lake City 2%.
Here are the U.S. industries with the most entrepreneurs, followed by % of Total U.S. Entrepreneurs: software & tech 28%; media & communications 10%; healthcare 8%; finance 8%; consumer goods 7%; corporate services 7%; manufacturing 4%; wellness & fitness 4%; entertainment 4%; education 4%. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/entrepreneurs-thrive-10-us-metros-9-arent-silicon-valley-anders/)

Los Angeles Sets Up Transportation Technology Innovation Zone

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced that the City of Los Angeles is launching a new Transportation Technology Innovation Zone, which will allow innovators to test their transportation tech solutions. The new zone-, located in the San Fernando Valley, around Warner Center, will initially launch with a project to test a zero-emissions, last-mile delivery service that connects individuals homebound by the pandemic to food from local businesses. The Mayor's office also said a second project will launch in the spring, focused on mini-mobility hubs throughout the Warner Center campus. (https://www.socaltech.com/fullstory/0080620.html)

Wireless Charging for All Electric Vehicles on the Horizon

Automakers and suppliers from around the world have agreed to a system that makes it possible to charge electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids without ever actually plugging them into a wall outlet. Luxury vehicles like the $57,900 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid and $2 million McLaren Speedtail are ready for the system now, but expect more attainable EVs to offer it soon. The SAE International engineers association got an "astoundingly large" group of automakers and suppliers to cooperate to develop the universal charging system, the first step in making it affordable and easy for drivers to use. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2020/11/30/electric-cars-wireless-charging-pads/6461863002/)

What the $27.7B Salesforce, Slack Deal Will Mean for the Enterprise

CRM titan Salesforce announced it will acquire collaboration platform Slack in a stock and cash deal valued at $27.7 billion. The acquisition is set to bring about wide-ranging implications for enterprise software. Aligning Slack, a collaboration brand with a passionate user base, alongside Salesforce's digital toolkit for business, ties together two disparate parts of the business and gives Salesforce cross-enterprise exposure in the process. The deal signals a closer tie between collaboration and CRM functions, which is in tune with the trends that shape the future of work, according to Kate Leggett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. (https://www.ciodive.com/news/slack-salesforce-acquisition-deal-saas-collaboration/589928/)

Apple's New Program Reduces App Store Commission to 15% for Small Biz

Apple recently announced it would be launching an "App Store Small Business Program" that would reduce its fees from 30% to 15% for developers earning less than $1 million per year from the App Store. Apple says that if you enroll by December 18, reduced fees should be active by January 1 of 2021. Existing developers can still enroll after that cutoff, but things get a bit more complicated, with reduced fees generally kicking in midway through the next fiscal calendar month. (https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/03/developers-can-now-enroll-in-apples-small-business-program-for-reduced-app-store-fees/)

How to Fix Zoom's Most Common Problems

In a recent article, Digital Trends has "collected the most common Zoom problems users face and provide step-by-step instructions on how to resolve them." In summary, they address: Webcam or audio not working; Echoes during a call; Zoom lags or freezes during meetings; Can't share a screen; No remote control while screen sharing; No email messages from Zoom; and Getting Zoom-bombed. (https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/common-problems-with-zoom-and-how-to-fix-them/)

Hacker Selling Access to Email Accounts of Hundreds of C-level Execs

A threat actor is currently selling passwords for the email accounts of hundreds of C-level executives at companies across the world. The data is being sold on a closed-access underground forum for Russian-speaking hackers named Exploit.in, ZDNet reported. The threat actor is selling email and password combinations for Office 365 and Microsoft accounts, which he claims are owned by high-level executives. Access to any of these accounts is sold for prices ranging from $100 to $1,500, depending on the company size and user's role. The easiest way of preventing hackers from monetizing any type of stolen credentials is to use a two-step verification (2SV) or two-factor authentication (2FA) solution for your online accounts. Even if hackers manage to steal login details, they will be useless without the proper 2SV/2FA additional verifier. (https://www.zdnet.com/article/a-hacker-is-selling-access-to-the-email-accounts-of-hundreds-of-c-level-executives/)

Amazon Urges Shoppers to Opt for Package Pickup

As online sales this holiday season are expected to spike 33% year over year to a record $189 billion, according to Adobe Analytics, Amazon is pushing holiday shoppers to retrieve their own packages from brick-and-mortar retail locations and neighborhood "hubs." The company recently announced that shoppers nationwide can now get their gifts delivered to one of its physical bookstores, called Amazon Books, or an Amazon 4-star location. It also highlighted its network of contactless pickup points, called Amazon Hub, as an alternative delivery location for orders - self-service kiosks and manned pickup counters, located inside local shops and in residential apartment buildings.

Amazon also pointed shoppers to its "Amazon Day" delivery option, which allows them to pick a day of the week to receive all of their orders, cutting down on the number of boxes and deliveries. It reduces the number of trips Amazon has to make to a single address. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/amazon-pushes-holiday-shoppers-to-pick-up-packages-at-stores.html)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Will Step Down on January 20

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he will step down from his post on Jan. 20, the day President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. Pai's term was slated to expire in June 2021, though Biden will be able to choose a Democrat to chair the commission once in office. Commissioners must be confirmed by the Senate. Pai's decision to step down could have significant implications on net neutrality, an issue that helped define his term as chairman. In 2017, Pai voted with his fellow Republican commissioners to remove rules that prohibited internet providers from blocking or slowing traffic to particular sites and offering higher speed "lanes" at higher prices. Many major internet providers have not yet taken advantage of that rule change, however. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/30/fcc-chairman-ajit-pai-will-step-down-on-january-20.html)

Federal Judge Halts Trump's H-1B Visa Rules

A federal judge recently struck down two Trump administration rules issued in October meant to restrict H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. In a 23-page order, US District Judge Jeffrey White said the administration failed to show "good cause" for issuing the rules on an emergency basis, bypassing a customary comment period. The technology industry relies heavily on H-1B visas. About three-quarters of 85,000 allotted H-1B visas each year go to people who work in tech. The Trump administration had argued that the rules, which fall under the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security, needed to be issued quickly because of unemployment spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department rule, which went into effect in October, raised the minimum salaries employers were required to pay H-1B workers. While the Homeland Security rule, which was set to take effect this month, would've required foreign workers to have a degree in the "specialty occupation" they apply for - as opposed to any college degree. (https://www.cnet.com/news/federal-judge-halts-trumps-h-1b-visa-rules/)

Justice Dept. Suit Says Facebook Discriminates Against U.S. Workers

The Justice Department sued Facebook last week, accusing it of being un-American by favoring foreign workers with visas over those from the U.S., in a new push against tech companies in the waning days of the Trump administration. In the complaint, the department's civil rights division said Facebook "refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers" for more than 2,600 positions, with an average salary of $156,000. Those jobs instead went to immigrant visa holders, according to the complaint. The action followed a two-year investigation into whether Facebook intentionally favored so-called H1-B visa and other temporary immigrant workers over U.S. workers, the Justice Department said. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/03/technology/facebook-hiring-discrimination-suit.html)

Facebook, Google to Face New Antitrust Suits in U.S.

Authorities are readying as many as four more lawsuits targeting Google or Facebook by the end of January, people familiar with the matter said, following the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Google in October. Federal and state officials are probing whether the tech giants abused their power in the internet economy - Google to dominate search and advertising, and Facebook to dominate social media. Google and Facebook have denied doing so, saying they operate in highly competitive markets and that their services, which are mostly free, benefit consumers. In addition, the FTC has been investigating whether Amazon unfairly uses its size and platform against competitors and other sellers on its site, while the Justice Department has been examining Apple's use of its App Store for possible anticompetitive practices. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-google-to-face-new-antitrust-suits-in-u-s-11606742163)

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