Guest Authors

The Top 5 Companies That Will Go Public in 2014 And What Sets Them Apart

You probably won’t be shocked when I tell you that the companies to pay attention to next year are all tech businesses that don’t offer tangible products, but rather cutting-edge services or modes of communication.

Basically, your stock-trading grandfather would hardly recognize tomorrow’s stock market newcomers.

These companies have proven success and massive growth potential, so keep your eye on the web and the young entrepreneurs who are changing the face of modern business.

Square

Square has completely transformed the way that small businesses and individuals provide services. Now, anyone with an idea, a smart phone and a bank account can easily start doing business. Given that it was co-founded by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, it’s no surprise that the company is already valued at over 3 billion dollars and has received considerable investments from high-profile investors like Richard Branson and Starbucks.Square Payment

Dorsey recently gave 10% of the company back to Square, in order to increase the number of shares available to employees, which have grown from 400 to 700 in the last year. If their recent, dramatic success and expansion are any indication of where they’re headed, Square will likely go the way of Dorsey’s other brainchild.

Dropbox

As physical documents become more and more obsolete, cloud-based data storage is becoming indispensable. Constant access to personal collections of music, photos and text documents is now a must for individuals and businesses alike, and Dropbox has become the leading provider of this access. This is made clear by the company’s 200 million users, and the fact that the site makes up an impressive 0.29% of internet bandwidth worldwide.

Though the value of the company may or may not actually be the rumored $8 billion, it’s clear that a growing number of individual and corporate paid subscriptions put the company in a good financial place – at least that’s what U2 rock legends Bono and The Edge think. The two musicians, along with several venture capital groups, have invested over $2.5 million in the last couple years. When Dropbox undoubtedly goes public, they may be fighting off investors with a stick.

Spotify

Ever since Napster invaded dorm rooms and gave users unlimited free music, the tech and music industries have been looking for a way to monetize music downloads. It looks like Spotify may have found the right format, and just might be the one that comes out on top in the long term. Though the company uses the popular “freemium” model, they have 4 million paid users. Napster founder Sean Parker has even given it his vote of confidence by sitting on the board and telling a Daily Beast panel that the company’s success is due to the fact that you become addicted to the service, at which point, they have you by the proverbial balls.Spotify

Investors agree, it seems. Last year, an investor group, which includes Goldman Sachs, put $100 million into the company. Since then, they’ve received more hefty investments and are now valued at $4 billion. When both tech and finance big shots are involved, it’s clear that it’s a company worth paying attention to.

Pinterest

Out of all of these picks, Pinterest might be the one that your granddad would understand the least. To the non-tech savvy, a virtual scrapbook may seem like a strange proposition for a money-making venture. The company, however, has taken some major steps towards becoming a highly valuable entity. In October, they launched the Promoted Pins trial, which puts relevant ads in front of users.

This move, along with assuming $338 million in investments earlier this year, make it obvious that Pinterest has realized its earning potential and is making moves to further monetize its free-for-users social network. With 70 million users, the site is a boon for retailers and businesses of all kinds. The company is now valued at $3.8 billion and continues to grow. Considering how much traffic it sends to retail sites, it seems only a matter of time until the company goes public.

Airbnb

Airbnb is one of a number of new companies that are putting valuable services in the hands of individuals. Like Uber and Lyft, which allow anyone to user their car as a taxi, Airbnb lets people rent out rooms or whole homes to travelers looking for a deal or a more unique accommodation.Air BnB

Since its 2008 inception, the site has booked over 10 million nights and has acquired several competitor websites around the world. With 12 locations internationally, Airbnb now offers not just apartments and rooms, but castles, boats, tree houses, igloos and private islands.

The company has already received over $150 million in investments and has taken on Ashton Kutcher as a brand advisor and investor. Now valued at $2.5 billion, Airbnb shows considerable promise as its number of bookings increases every day. When the private company becomes an IPO, those opening up their homes to strangers may not be the only ones who stand to make a buck from the hotel alternative.

While today’s hot IPOs-to-be might bring to mind the myriad dot coms that went belly-up when the last tech bubble burst, these new companies set themselves apart by providing services that a huge number of people now rely on in their daily lives. Unless unseen competitors rise up to eclipse these successful, young businesses, the future looks bright for them and for potential investors.

Guest Author Bio: Andrew May, owner and president of May Law, PC, is a Chicago

FINRA attorney specializing in financial services, commodities, futures, foreign

exchange, options and securities law. With over 18 years of experience, Andrew

has represented clients ranging from individuals and small business to Fortune

500 firms. For more information, visit May Law, PC or find him on Google+.

NYC and 5 Other Cities That Are Great to Start Your Green Business

If you’re the owner of a small business that sells eco-friendly products or services, chances are that living green is always on your mind. The U.S. Small Business Administration states that the most successful green businesses not only sell the green lifestyle they also live it. It’s easier to achieve this if you surround yourself with like-minded people in a city that places importance on being environmentally friendly.

The Big Apple offers you plenty of opportunities if you want to set up shop in a city that matches your small business’ eco-friendly mission. NYC’s five boroughs house a population that is environmentally aware and consciously seeks out green products. However, before you decide on a new home for your small business consider the benefits of other green cities in the U.S.

Berkeley, California

According to Green California, Berkeley is striving to reduce its environmental footprint by building energy efficient buildings and encouraging green purchasing practices. Consider moving your business here if you’d like to live in a city that is considered one of the greenest and most sustainable cities in the United States, according to the City of Berkeley website. If your small business specializes in the renewable energy industry, you’ll be more thrilled to know that Berkeley has also been recognized as being the leader of clean technology for wind power, solar power, biofuels and hydropower.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

If you prefer walking to your destination rather than driving, then Cambridge is the perfect place for you. Prevention Magazine named this city the best walking city in 2008. Fortunately, green transportation doesn’t stop there. For those that do prefer four wheels instead of their two feet, a public transportation initiative has ensured that city vehicles be fueled with B20 biodiesel or electricity, according to Mother Nature Network.

If your small business specializes in property ownership, you’ll also be pleased to know that Cambridge’s high student population makes owning apartment properties a lucrative business, as they’ll be many college kids looking to rent. The American Apartment Owners Association offers a comprehensive list of apartment services, including contracting and maintenance for all your landlord needs.

Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, known as the Emerald City, is a nature lover’s dream. Clean rivers, green mountains, and beautiful oceans will all be a part of your daily life in this city. If your small business is a natural food store or a resale and recycling business, youll fit right in. If you’re interested in getting your green business certified, Eugene also offers the Re:think Business program that awards businesses that make a positive impact on the environment and community. You’ll be ranked based on five categories: waste management, energy efficiency, water conversation, water quality, and purchasing.

Seattle, Washington

The coffee capital of the U.S. is also considered the greenest city, according to a survey conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Its innovative green stormwater infrastructure sets it apart from other green cities. This practice involves stormwater cisterns and vegetated roofs, according to Seattle.gov. If your business is centered around selling produce or other vegetation, Seattle is your go-to green city. You’ll not only be living an eco-friendly life, but using green methods to grow your business product as well.

Austin, Texas

If you strive to have a strong identity as a green business, Austin is well known for its active green business community. Austin Green Business Leaders offers resources for small green businesses and helps them expand their network. This might just be the move you need to make to skyrocket your business and gain countrywide recognition.

Guest Post: Alyssa Drake
Student, writer, tree hugger

The Realities of Raising the Minimum Wage

Earlier in 2013, questions about raising the minimum wage began to sweep across the nation as fast food workers in New York were pushing for $15 per hour. Although New York is an expensive city to live in, it causes a ripple effect throughout the nation about raising the wage across the board.

While everyone would like more money, is it sustainable in today’s economy to¬†boost the minimum that employers have to give to staff?

Sounds Good, for a Single Employee

What would the impact be if minimum wage was to be bumped up by 10-percent for a single employee? This means that anyone getting such a low pay would receive $7.98 per hour instead of $7.25. If this employee is paid bi-weekly, he or she would get an extra $58.40 on the gross income.

After taxes and other government fees, this amount could be around $45.00. Over the course of a month, the employee would make around $90 extra to be put towards various bills.

Compensation of Wages Through Income

In order to pay that employee the extra $116.80 per month, that money has to come from somewhere. Although larger corporations are able to compensate given the sheer income versus employees that are actually getting minimum wage, smaller businesses may have a harder time.

If a small business has three full-time employees at minimum wage, that is an extra $350.40 that¬†needs to be budgeted. The daily income would have to increase by $17.52. That may not sound¬†like much to some organizations, but it could be quite monumental for small businesses that are¬†scraping by as it is. This isn’t putting into account the $9 per hour wage that is being currently¬†suggested.

Could Micro-businesses Fail?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics‚Äô Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers, an¬†increase of 2.6-percent to the average employee would only cost an average of 0.03% to be¬†covered by average income of businesses. The keyword in this last sentence is “average.” What¬†about those businesses that fall below the average?

Between recent insurance adjustments and a proposed wage increase, some of the smaller operations may have a much harder time to recuperate from such expenses. Is this conducive to perpetuating the economy, or will these smaller businesses be provided with tax breaks in order to sustain themselves?

How Much is Too Much?

The proposed increase earlier in 2013 was a hike of more than 100-percent. Although this is not¬†feasible for much of the country, supporters in New York were pushing as hard as they could for¬†the $15 per hour amount. If the movement had been successful, small businesses that paid¬†minimum wage would not be able to sustain such an increase. The labor force that was pushing¬†for this hike in the wage obviously didn’t see the ramifications it would have to a vast collection¬†of services, educational facilities and the millions of other jobs that couldn’t afford to pay¬†experienced personnel $15 per hour.

Although most small business could sustain an increase such as $17 per day, it still puts¬†additional strain on a company that is also faced with insurance adjustments and a poor¬†economy. The proposal of “trickle-down economics” in the past did not work as evident in our¬†current situation. Greater effort is needed towards creating a sustainable future before there is no¬†future to sustain.

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

Houston’s Economic Development Plan: Build a Strong Infrastructure

The Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), a group of more than 2,000 local and regional business leaders in the ten country area surrounding Houston, proclaims the city has everything that businesses need to thrive in the global market place. These needs include a skilled, available work force, superior location, expansive and sophisticated resources, and the infrastructure and transportation channels to support growth and prosperity across virtually all industries.

Texas flag close up

Basic Benefits for Business

Among the myriad of advantages the city offers, GHP lists five primary geographical benefits for new businesses considering Houston as the place to be:

  • Central time zone accommodates communication during traditional business hours from New York to Los Angeles
  • Four seaports available for transport and delivery
  • Two major airports service the region with domestic and international freight and passenger service
  • Mild climate year round
  • Positioned mid-way between east coast and west coast

Attracting and Retaining Major Businesses

While building new partnerships is an important focus for GHP, maintaining strong alliances with current businesses contributes to the city’s strong economic outlook. Part of the expansive breadth of resources for economic development includes state initiatives designed to cement long-term projects.

Shaina Zucker of the Houston Business Journal, reported that Chevron USA, which employs thousands of Houston area residents, plans to build a new tower in Houston to create more space for their growing business. The company plans to hire almost 1800 new employees as part of the expansion.

Funds from a $12 million dollar Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) award will most likely cover project costs for the new tower, and could be used to defray the cost of recruiting new talent, as the TEF report from Office of the Governor Rick Perry’s site highlights. Funding covers recruitment expenses such as temporary housing, transportation, and relocation compensation packages.

Housing and Employee Benefits

While Texas, and Houston in particular offer a low tax base, economic incentives and a culturally diverse employee pool, there are some that think the city could do more to improve the economic outlook for citizens living in blighted neighborhoods.

Ben Hall, who ran an unsuccessful bid against Houston’s incumbent Mayor Annise Parker, says more could be done to revitalize housing and bring greater employment opportunities to veterans. One of his major campaign talking points was to highlight the need to replace the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) policies with new programs to benefit areas that are often labeled as “unsustainable”, according to BenHallforMayor.com. Mr. Hall expressed interest in building new units and repairing existing structures to provide more apartments for rent in Houston. More units would serve current and future residents as new businesses move into the region.

Home values continue to rise, and there are some indications that the number of apartment homes is already growing in bedroom communities. Both positive economic indicators. The 2012 ACCRA cost of living report shows that Houston’s after-tax cost of living in 2009 was lower (roughly 11 percent below the national average) than many metropolitan areas, beating out cities like New York, Dallas and Chicago.

Projections for the Future

If history is any indication, the city will continue to enjoy robust economic growth in the future. With Chevron’s commitment to inject half a million dollars into Opportunity Houston 2.0 to spark innovative business solutions and support economic development, Houston seems to have found a sophisticated approach to sustainable business growth. It’s about mutual fulfillment. When the community supports business growth, growing businesses support the community.

Guest Post: Trevor Wilkins
Trevor is a cultural sponge who writes about his worldly travels.

Job Creation vs. Obamacare: Will It Help, or Hurt?

At the center of every American economic debate at the moment is the PPACA, or Obamacare, the law whose purpose is to “increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care.” Over ten years, the law will make it impossible for insurance companies to refuse to serve anyone, those with pre-existing conditions won’t have to pay extra for insurance, and there will be a limit on how much insurance companies will be able to profit.

But how does that affect American jobs? Will the new healthcare reform plan increase job creation or hurt it? With new requirements for employers, how will that affect the cash flow for hiring employees or give current employees raises? Is the fear that America will become a country of part-time workers valid?

By looking at the employer-specific details of Obamacare, how it is currently affecting jobs in the country, and its long-term effects, hopefully an answer about its relationship to job creation can become clearer.

Obvious Impacts to US Employers?

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

According to the legislation, there will be a number of obvious impacts for employers in the United States.

Employers with 50 or more employees: all employees need to be covered under a plan sponsored by the employer. Those that do not meet that requirement will be fined $2000 per employee. This plan will be implemented in January 2015, originally January 2014.
Employers that offer deluxe/”Cadillac” health plans will face a 40% excise tax as of January 2018.
Up until their 26th birthday, dependents are allowed to stay covered under their parents’ employer plan. This provision of Obamacare is already in place.
Employees will also be required to have some form of insurance or face a penalty up to $695 annually. This is also scheduled to be implemented in early 2015, originally January 2014.

Critics of Obamacare point that employers may stop providing coverage altogether or that changes will be made to force those with pre-existing conditions into new health insurance exchanges. Another argument is that if the employer must pay the penalty fee and assist employees for their own individual mandate, employers wouldn’t actually be more financially ahead than if they continued to offer the insurance themselves.

Will Obamacare have an Actual Effect on Jobs?

Yes and no.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

The talking point that Obamacare will force Americans into solely part-time labor is false. There is no clear proof that Obamacare has affected work hours. If it has it is only 1 out of every 1,500 Americans as Business Insider reports in their article Here’s the Conversation We Should Really Be Having About Obamacare and Part-Time Work.

The possibility that the health care plan will affect hiring new employees has not been determined. The White House has declared that it might boost employment: since insurance will be cheaper, firms will have more funds to raise wages and hire workers. But employers may cut jobs and hours to avoid being penalized by the “employer mandate,” especially if the employer views that extra money spent on insurance should come out of employee wages.

Jobs in sectors such as retail and hospitality, the job markets affected most by Obamacare, have risen, while as the Economist writes the hours have reduced.

The effect on the job market at the moment is unsure, since the mandate has been pushed back a year. At the moment, hiring and raises have not been affected but some employers are fearful of having full-time employers. It’s more a matter of what the situation will be in the future that is a concern.

Guest Post: Dave Landry Jr. is a financial expert and economist who frequently contributes BBB-accredited National, a service dedicated to bringing relief to people in poor financial shape. Dave hopes you find his article on job creation and Obamacare interesting and will inspire you to continually research the very important topic.

Economy on the Rebound: How Economic Development Helps Us All

Media outlets and politicians talk about economic growth as if it’s the Holy Grail, but most of us are left wondering how macroeconomic factors influence our daily lives. The short answer is that personal economic successes (jobs, savings, good credit) are usually the result of some greater economic development. A small business owner wouldn’t survive without the housing development down the street. A student from a low-income family couldn’t go to college without money from the successful nonprofit. Major economic development trickles down to affect almost every dollar we spend.

When you hear about economic development initiatives in your community, take heart. The positive impact has a snowball effect.

More Jobs

Perhaps the most important consequence of economic development is a boost to employment. When new businesses open in your area, so do new job opportunities. Small businesses are particularly effective engines for this growth. Sba.gov reports that small businesses are responsible for two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. More employment means more money flowing into the the community. Economic growth builds on itself.

CNN reported on one of many studies that found that unemployment correlates with depression. The more hope people have as they apply for jobs online and in person, the better of community morale will be.

Fewer Taxes

Economic growth also means fewer burdens on taxpayers to keep things in order. As unemployment falls, fewer depend on welfare to make ends meet. If no one was unemployed, we could get rid of temporary welfare benefits altogether and reduce the tax rate. Low taxes mean more money to buy products, start business ventures and invest. When more people have more money, things get better economically.

More Progress

Tech start-up Melon wanted to bring its EEG headband to the masses, but didn’t have the funds to do so. Enter Kickstarter.com, a crowdfunding platform that helped Melon raise more than $200,000. Melon expects to release its focus-boosting accessory later this year. It’s a prime example of one of the greatest benefits of economic development: progress. As fresh businesses sprout, they build on what’s been done and create the world of tomorrow. It’s not just in the technology industry either. New businesses are coming up with creative ways to produce food, build roads, teach kids and save lives.

More Hope

If we’ve learned anything from the recent recession, it’s that economic vitality is one of the biggest contributors to our morale. Economic development, whether it’s new businesses or decreased unemployment, offers a communal hope that things are getting better. It’s the reason we celebrate when we see even the smallest positive financial news. Most of us have struggled at one point in our lives, so we can relate to the stress of financial struggles. Economic development is a sign that better days are on the way.

No Time To Whine for Wineries in Economic Downturn

It is common knowledge that in an economic downturn, alcohol and cigarettes are perceived to be virtually recession proof. And as wine making in America has significantly increased from 440 local wineries and vineyards in 1970 to a current 7,000 across the nation, one would expect that the business of wine making and selling is indeed resistant to the outcomes of a recession or drop in the United States economy. However, while the business of a vineyard may seem impervious and ever-growing, let’s take a hard look at what a recession would mean for the American wine industry.

Positive Facts

The American wine industry is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world and 34% of US citizen alcohol expenditures are defined as wine sales. Every state in the nation has at least one winery producing quality American wines but the Southern California Wine Country with regions of Napa and Temecula share over 90% of the U.S wine producing markets. With California’s widely known financial situation, housing over 90% of the vineyard market would imply that local wineries are indeed recession proof, but while these positive facts may be inspiring for local winery owners but they do not mean that the industry as a whole is unfazed by America’s most recent economic struggles.

A Change in Purchasing Habits

When we have economic struggles, we often see a change in purchasing habits. Retail stores see fewer customers during conventionally busy seasons and American residents cut back on the items they feel they don’t need to survive.
California resident and wine expert, Dr. James Lapsley of the University of California said it best in an interview where he discussed the changes in purchasing habits of wine drinkers, “What happened during 2008 to 2011 was that people who were fairly rich and who had seen their portfolios decline suddenly tightened their belts and said, ‘I’m no longer buying $60 Cabernets, I’m buying $30 Cabernets.’ And people who were buying $15 wines said, ‘I’m now buying $7 wines.  If you were a winery producing inexpensive wine – which meant you were a very large winery because this is where you really need to have economies of scale both in production and distribution – you did really well.”

Large vs Small Wineries

The wineries in Temecula, CA are considered larger wineries not unlike those mentioned by Lapsley in his interview. However, the recession and a possible downturn today would not bode well for small wineries who may have been counting on selling their bottles at $60 to stay in business. This can mean distressed sales in locally produced wine but with a simple adjustment to pricing, our small local vineyards can last through a downturn to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the economy begins to move back into the black.

Affect on Local Wineries

While the business of a vineyard may seem impervious and ever-growing, it is obvious that just like millions of other small businesses across the nation; small local vineyards may have difficulty remaining in business. However with an adjustment to pricing and production, we can expect to see the business of a local winery make it though a down economy or recession.

Guest Author Bio

Stacey Waldron is the Internet Marketing Director for Bel Vino Winery located in Temecula California. She enjoys gardening and playing with her two dogs, Banjo and Karly on hot summer days and always makes time for a good bottle of red wine shared amongst friends.

Will the Startup Act 3.0 Lead to Greater Job Creation in America?

The current economy in the United States resides in a struggle beyond the words full comprehension. With each passing year come families in struggle, looking for a way to skate by, for some form of economic growth. A recent discussion amongst Senators on Capitol Hill has led to an idea that offers a resolution with the potential to directly resolve this problem. This was the beginning of an idea being put into motion called the Startup Act 3.0.

Startup 3.0 is a bill that will grant “Alien” entrepreneurs a working visa to work within the United States, as long as they meet certain criteria. They must employ 2 non-family members full-time and invest/raise capital of at least $100,000 in the time-span of one year. This is an agreement that solves the immigration problem that the United States finds itself in constant quarrel about, and also gives a promising future to their current economic status.

In a country that has had a loss of businesses worldwide, it is a chance for entrepreneurs everywhere to step up and make a name for themselves. The bill would offer 75,000 work visas and have no country cap, allowing the recruiting of top-standard qualified individuals without any “red tape”, so to speak.

With this bill being put into heavy consideration, the United States labels the job growth potential over the next 10 years to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1.6 million jobs. It is labeled to have a 1.6 percent effect on GDP which in American dollars comes out to be $224 billion dollars in economic activity. In a world that claims to live and work off openness to diversity, the amount of good that can be offered from the passing of a bill couldn’t be much higher than this one.

Currently the United States continues to sink into a vast depression of unemployment rates that don’t seem entirely accurate, and a strong recognition of struggle as opposed to getting by. Entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates led a revolution in the very making of the American economy, so knowing the impact one strong company can make, why not take it a step further and allow it to truly flourish by allowing what is currently holding it back. With global recruitment it leads to alternatives that we may not even fully be aware of, and sometimes a surprise is good enough to completely rewrite a bad chapter in history. This could be that time again.

With this Act put into place it would open an endless amount of possibilities. It would bring in additional options to current businesses, as well as create a sprouting growth to new ideas, new efficient processes of manufacturing and distribution. The list of possible gains could go on and on. Startup companies as of right now open up 3 million jobs a year, and when you take this option and put it into a global revelation, the outcome proceeding would leak of optimism and positive growth.

Back on point, will the Startup Act 3.0 lead to a greater job growth in America? Absolutely. It isn’t a matter of whether it should be passed, it is a matter that it needs to be passed. With an economy struggling and an idea that several countries already actively participate in, it‚Äôs a matter of pure observation. Taking in the fact that other countries have done it and it is leading to successful businesses and job growth, it‚Äôs time for the United States to step up and fix what everyone is pleading for them to resolve. This Act could be the answer to a decade-long struggle.

Richard McMunn is a writer for How2become; a leading career and recruitment specialist for public sector careers. For the last 8 years How2become has helped numerous people prepare for and pass tough recruitment processes and assessment centres in order to secure their dream job. You can also connect with How2become on Google Plus

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