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9 Tech Companies Likely to Be Acquired Next

8:27 AM 0 Comments

Tech stocks blew expectations out of the water in 2017, outpacing the S&P 500 by 21 percentage points. While 2017 certainly marked an exceptional year for tech stocks, it was also a harbinger of things to come.

The increasing — and, in some cases, renewed — interest in tech companies has revitalized not just industries, but also partnerships. As technology takes on a bigger role in businesses of all types, tech acquisitions become both short- and long-term investments. That means the next year or two will likely bring some blockbuster mergers and acquisitions as companies determine how they can mesh their services and products with others’.

Here are nine to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Netflix

  1. Netflix

Streaming entertainment company Netflix has long been the center of acquisition rumors, most recently in connection with Apple. In light of The Walt Disney Company’s $52.4 billion merger with 21st-Century Fox, many experts feel Netflix will need a stronger distribution and acquisition arm in order to compete. Netflix’s original content has won accolades, but its limited scope of subscribers and debt will hamper the brand’s growth without a big-player acquisition.

Speculation abounds that the tax reform bill’s one-time allowance for businesses to repatriate international cash may spur an Apple deal of mammoth proportions. Apple has a big cash pile — which Netflix could use — and the industry has been nudging Apple to make a media acquisition for years.

Slack

  1. Slack

In summer 2017, talk bubbled over about Slack’s possible acquisition; it was reported in June that Slack was focused on raising half a billion dollars on a $5 billion valuation. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce were all reportedly interested in acquiring the office communication platform. And that makes sense: The appeal of a Slack acquisition lies in its ability to serve as a central location for tech companies, hosting everything from casual conversations to performance alerts.

Most eyes are on Amazon to pull the trigger on acquiring Slack. With a purported $9 billion price tag, Amazon could combine Slack with its cloud-based storage system, Amazon Web Services, to make its subscription offerings more appealing and increase its (already large) user base.

Skybell

  1. SkyBell

The Internet of Things has already seen some notable acquisitions, including SmartThingsNest, and Dropcam. This trend continued with Amazon’s recent decision to buy smart security doorbell business Ring for $1.1 billion. SkyBell, a fellow smart video doorbell, looks like it could be the next startup in this trend, thanks to its patent portfolio and strong B2B business.

With Amazon’s acquisition of Ring, eyes are on the reactions from Google, Walmart, ADT, Alarm.com, Samsung, and others — Amazon could “own” access to the front door while offering an inexpensive smart home security package built around Ring. For that reason, SkyBell and its patents likely make a necessary acquisition target for other large companies relying on the front door or video doorbells for long-term success.  

Coinbase

  1. Coinbase

Coinbase, currently the largest bitcoin exchange in the U.S., sparked M&A discussions when it hired LinkedIn’s former head of mergers and acquisitions earlier this month. Coinbase nearly bought a digital custody company in 2017 and has been filling its executive roster, two signs the company is preparing for acquisition or going public.

But the real buzz has been around Coinbase’s apparent interest in acquiring other companies, which may create a consolidated cryptocurrency exchange. Coinbase’s $1 billion valuation, combined with its large influence on the cryptocurrency community and healthy finances, puts it in a strong position to gobble up competitors.

Shippo

  1. Shippo

Business shipping platform Shippo has experienced 71 percent year-over-year growth per customer and “quietly” raised $20 million. The company is aiming to capitalize on what it predicts will be a $4 trillion e-commerce industry in 2020, and its API and app make it a tech-savvy investment for other e-commerce strongholds.

A large company expecting to see its growth fueled by online purchases would likely snap up Shippo to reduce its costs and open up possibilities of creating competitive lines in other categories. And as competitor Stamps.com continues to make acquisitions, Shippo becomes more appealing.

Valve

  1. Valve

Valve, a gaming and technology firm, has found itself the source of acquisition rumors in connection with Microsoft. Microsoft is reportedly looking to acquire gaming companies Valve and EA to join its stable, which includes Xbox and Minecraft. An acquisition of Valve would give Microsoft virtual control of the PC gaming world, allowing the brand to not only profit from its position, but also gain data from players.

Microsoft has backed itself into a wall with its exclusive game policy on Xbox, so many anticipate the brand will need to quickly acquire a large game publisher in order to right its ship.

CSRA

  1. CSRA

Government IT service CSRA was said to be in the process of being acquired by General Dynamics for $6.8 billion — but not before CACI International jumped in with a competing offer of $7.2 billion. The 8 percent higher bid sparked a bidding war in Washington, D.C.

Federal IT services are experiencing a resurgence as the government looks to modernize its systems and increase its defense spending; with a market capitalization of $6.7 billion, CSRA is in a strong position to make a deal.

GoPro

  1. GoPro

Tech company GoPro, specializing in cameras, camcorders, and drones, allegedly asked JP Morgan to help the brand find a buyer. With up-and-down sales and declining stock prices, many believe GoPro is looking to be acquired by a tech brand that can combine GoPro’s technology with another platform, such as Facebook or Snapchat.

With GoPro’s price tag of nearly $900 million, Apple has long been at the center of GoPro acquisition rumors. With the repatriated cash option, many believe it will have the financial resources to do so; with the release of an Apple Watch that renders a phone unnecessary, GoPro’s technology may be appealing to Apple.

  1. Instacart

Instacart has been making lots of moves lately that have drawn experts’ attention — its delivery partnership with Albertsons and acquisition of coupon shopping platform Unata signal the brand is looking to gain market share. And Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods has propelled Instacart even further; competing grocers reached out to Instacart to gain a delivery outlet.

Target acquired Instacart competitor Shipt for $550 million at the close of 2017. That means those in head-to-head competition with Target will look to Instacart and others to upgrade their logistics and delivery platforms and remain competitive.

While 2017 was undoubtedly an exciting year for tech, 2018 is shaping up to deliver some equally interesting tech acquisitions. As companies find their offerings in need of tech, they’ll be motivated to buy existing technology so they can supercharge their growth without slowing down.

What is the TPP and can the US get back in?

7:22 AM 0 Comments

President Donald Trump recently said he was open to returning to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but only if he could get a “substantially better” deal than his predecessor.

This apparent change of heart, announced via Twitter, caught most observers off guard. The TPP was on track to become the world’s largest free trade zone by joining Pacific Rim countries that collectively produce about 40 percent of global economic output. But Trump railed against the accord on the campaign trail, making it the ultimate bugbear for his brand of economic nationalism. In a widely anticipated move, he withdrew the U.S. from the TPP as one of his first presidential acts.

If Trump ever officially changed his tune and tried to rejoin this trade pact, could he?

Like many observers, I believe it would be tough to pull off. The other 11 countries would clearly prefer to have the U.S. in rather than out, but they are understandably reluctant to throw open, for a third time, negotiations that took years to conclude.

Backstory

In 2008, most of the major Pacific Rim economies – with the notable exception of China – began to consider a massive free trade agreement for the region.

Formal TPP talks finally began two years later, when representatives of the U.S. and several other Pacific nations, such as Australia, Chile and Vietnam, started to hammer out the pact’s contentious details.

The deal, which took another six years to complete, later expanded to include more countries – including Japan, Canada and Mexico.

The aim of the TPP was to deepen economic ties between the dozen countries, slash tariffs on a broad range of goods and services, and better synchronize their policies and regulations. The substance of the agreement was complex, and different countries negotiated different grace periods for its implementation.

TPP proponents like me based our support on well-established economic theories, which point to the benefits of barrier-free trade for all participating countries. These theories do not deny, of course, that some industries and workers can suffer significantly from open exchange. But they emphasize the overall advantages of freer trade in generating new jobs, cheaper products and more innovation.

Another argument in favor of the accord was more geopolitical, considering the TPP as a bulwark against China – which was never slated to join.

Despite its potential benefits, however, the emerging partnership soon became a lightning rod for U.S. opponents of open markets.

Objections

The critics lodged three distinct complaints. They expressed skepticism for the benefits of free trade itself, arguing that imports can destroy industries, uproot communities and threaten national security. They also argued that international agreements undermine democracy and objected to the secrecy of the negotiations themselves.

Finally, opponents homed in on the pact’s specific details, especially those that were leaked or released early on. The most controversial issues proved to be indirectly related to trade policy.

TPP foes, for example, lambasted provisions regarding intellectual property, labor and the environment. Some critics argued that these rules went too far, while others complained that they didn’t go far enough.

Many of them also vehemently opposed its investor-state dispute settlement provisions, which would have let foreign businesses sue member governments for any violations that they claimed were hurting their interests.

Despite this opposition in the U.S and elsewhere, the 12 nations ultimately signed the TPP in February 2016 and began the process of domestic ratification. But Trump was elected later that year, and he backed out of the deal as soon as he entered the White House.

Most observers expected America’s exit to doom the agreement. Instead, the 11 remaining signatories forged a smaller pact among themselves, renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and signed in March 2018. Lawmakers in the countries taking part are now considering ratification.

Another flip-flop

Besides, this bout of Trump’s apparent openness to join the TPP seemed to be short-lived. It may have ended as it started, on Twitter. The pact would have “too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work,” Trump said in a tweet that mischaracterized South Korea as a member. (It isn’t.)

Perhaps Trump realized that the U.S. would probably have to accept terms that are no better – and possibly worse – than those President Barack Obama agreed upon in 2016 when the TPP talks ended.

Weibo Reverses Gay ‘Clean-Up’ Ban After Online Public Backlash

6:27 AM 0 Comments

Popular Chinese social media platform had targeted content that it deemed ‘illegal’ including ‘videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality’.

Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media sites, stated that the new guidelines were solely put in place to “create a bright and harmonious community environment”.

However within hours of the announcement last week, Weibo, found itself climbing down from its new ‘clean’ stance after an online public backlash gathered unprecedented online support. Weibo has a reported 400 million active monthly users.

Weibo Reverses Gay ‘Clean-Up’ Ban After Online Public Backlash

Within hours, the announcement had been read by millions and shared more than 100,000 times. 

Shared more than 100,000 times

Within hours, the announcement had been read millions of times and shared more than 100,000 times. Users then began protesting the censorship of material depicting homosexuality, inundating the site with posts containing the equivalent of Twitter’s hashtags “#IamGay” and “#IamGayNotaPervert.”

But before being forced to reverse its decision, Weibo administrators appeared to begin removing the hashtags, deleting many of the 150,000-plus comments related to them, and trying to ban users.

Rare victory

The decision by Weibo has been seen a rare win for China’s Gay and trans-gender community. China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, and withdrew it from its list of mental illnesses in 2001. Same-sex marriage however remains illegal. A court in Hunan refused to grant two men the right to marry in 2016. It was the first case of its kind in the Communist country. That same year China’s government censors banned gay characters on television, with guidelines decreeing: “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on”.

In an update on Sunday, Weibo said the “clean-up” would “no longer target gay content”, but that Weibo censors would continue to focus “pornographic and violent material”.

How to Feel Secure With Your Data in 2018

3:12 AM 0 Comments

Implementing multiple layers of security is the common thread for today’s data security strategies. The layered approach has worked in some cases. However, other companies have still become vulnerable to hackers. In fact, numerous large global enterprises with significant technology budgets have fallen victim to hackers. It may make you wonder just how realistic it is to feel secure that your data is truly protected.

The good news is that technology continues to progress. Some of today’s best and brightest minds are working diligently on new approaches to data security. Here are some of the latest approaches to feel secure with your company’s data in 2018:

1. Strategic IT Consulting

IT consulting companies have been a valuable ally for updating your business processes and undertaking important strategies such as digital transformation. Bringing in an outside expert like a strategic IT consulting firm can help you uncover vulnerabilities that might have been right in front of you all along. These experts can point out what you couldn’t see or didn’t realize was a pathway to data vulnerability.

For example, iCorps Technologies works with companies to leverage technology to make them more efficient, mobile, productive, and agile. According to Jeffery Lauria, vice president of technology at iCorps, “The threat landscape is far beyond what anyone can really imagine. Gone are the days of sitting your staff in front of their computer for a cybersecurity education session and expecting to be protected. Today’s data privacy and data security regulations demand that businesses have a provider that is providing them defense-in-depth solutions and implementing technology safeguards, such as Advanced Threat Protection, managed firewalls, and more. These will keep them protected at all levels. Also, ensure there is a data backup and disaster recovery plan to recover if a breach or attack does happen.”

As part of working with a strategic IT consulting firm on data security, the first step is a security assessment. Then, a customized security strategy will tackle specific issues and suggest security technology implementation. IT consulting firms can also help with security vulnerabilities related to mobile, compliance, and remote access.

2. Email Errors

The average corporate email user clicks “Send” over 100 times a day. Yet data that comes from emails may not get the attention it deserves and thus can become an easy target. There are so many common email mistakes that create vulnerabilities. For example, a Goldman Sachs contractor inadvertently sent a message to a gmail.com email address rather than the corresponding gs.com email address. Within the email, there was a confidential document full of proprietary and sensitive data. Goldman Sachs went to court to get Google to prevent the gmail.com recipient from opening it. The company even asked whether Google would help it prevent a data breach.

In its annual Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon cited these types of miscellaneous errors as partly to blame for data breaches. Incorrect recipients have received sensitive information due to user mistakes, while other email errors include publishing of nonpublic data to public web servers and insecure personal and medical data disposal.

The solution for these miscellaneous errors is to incorporate some automated programs. These include identity management software, password management tools, and network access rules. Furthermore, training is key for your team members so that they understand how to use a prevention strategy so these email errors don’t happen. Such a strategy should include checklists, procedures and process flows, and disciplinary measures when mistakes occur.

3. Email Encryption Solutions

Email encryption is a security measure that prevents the theft of confidential data within an email system. That’s because the encryption makes it too difficult to decipher the data and not worth the criminal’s time. The longer it takes to break the encryption, the less likely a criminal will stick around to figure it out.

By encrypting email, you increase data security, but the security tools must be easy to use and manage. Zix is one company that provides a comprehensive email encryption solution for greater data security that your entire team can learn and implement quickly.

David Wagner, CEO of Zix, explains, “Security tools that create obstacles, slow down workflows, and frustrate end users are bound to foster workarounds that can compromise data, resulting in hefty fees, long-term penalties, and public scorn for a company. Thus, organizations, especially in highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance, need to figure out how far users are prepared to go — realistically and in their daily efforts — to support a cybersecurity strategy. They can then implement solutions that foreground ease of use inasmuch as they do protection, because the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive objectives.”

4. Confidence in the Cloud

Privacy issues and hacking are the largest barriers to cloud adoption, according to Forrester. However, with more hacking into on-site data storage systems, organizations need to consider the increased security that the cloud offers, making it more worthwhile to store information off-site.

In addition, emerging regulatory frameworks mean that companies do not have to manage security on their own. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for example, is a set of strict requirements that direct how businesses and organizations should handle their customers’ data. Implementation of these safeguards will enable organizations to feel more comfortable about data security.

Final Thoughts

Finally, being secure with your data means leveraging a proactive approach rather than reactively addressing any data breaches. You can be proactive through continual education, testing and analysis, and adoption of the latest technologies. It also helps to arm yourself with technology consultants who come with their own skill sets and provide a formidable line of defense to keep data safe.

The US is stingier with child care and maternity leave than the rest of the world

2:32 AM 0 Comments

In most American families led by couples, both parents are in the workforce. At the same time, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. children are being raised by single moms.

Yet child care is generally unaffordable and paid leave is not available to most U.S. parents.

Around the world, however, most employed women automatically get paid maternity leave. And in most wealthy countries, they also have access to affordable child care.

These holes in the national safety net are a problem for many reasons, including one I’ve been researching with my colleagues for years: Paid parental leave and child care help women stay in the workforce and earn higher wages over time. This lack of parental leave and child care may explain why the U.S. is no longer a leader in women’s workforce participation.

Maternity leave

The U.S. is one of a handful of countries worldwide that does not mandate paid maternity leave. The other four are the low-income nations of Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.

Paid leave, which typically lasts at least 14 weeks, needs to be designed thoughtfully. When women can and do take two or even three years off after having a baby, as they may in Hungary, long leaves can limit mothers’ work experience and lead to discrimination.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act did mandate 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for some American workers. Yet most families can’t forgo the income that moms bring home.

Denmark offers what I think is a strong example. There, moms get almost 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and dads get two weeks of paid paternity leave. On top of that, couples get up to a total 32 weeks of parental leave, which parents can split. This policy grants parents both the time and resources necessary to care for children, without “mommy tracking” mothers.

Child care

In many wealthy countries, child care and preschool are considered a mainstay of the educational system. But in the U.S., only about half of all children between the ages of 3 and 6 are getting publicly supported child care of any kind, including kindergarten, versus 99 percent of kids that age in France.

Interestingly, high-quality early childhood education programs are associated with many excellent outcomes for children from lower-income families: higher graduation rates, along with lower rates of teen pregnancy and juvenile crime.

In other words, when governments invest in child care and maternity leave, it fosters a more productive, healthy and creative workforce.