Category Archives: Marketing

It’s Over For Tech Start-ups

It’s over for tech start-ups — just look at today’s earnings reports

  • Blue Apron and Snap had disappointing earnings reports on Thursday.
  • Both companies have been targeted by one of the Big Five — Blue Apron by Amazon, Snap by Facebook.
  • Start-ups and investors should look to the margins, or prepare to face the tech giants.

Two newly public tech companies reported earnings on Thursday, and both were ugly for their investors.

Meal-kit preparer Blue Apron missed earnings expectations by a wide margin in its first earnings report since going public in late June. It reported a 47 cent per share loss instead of the expected 30 cent loss, blaming high customer acquisition costs and staffing a new distribution plant in New Jersey.

The stock dropped 17 percent and is now trading at about half its IPO price.

In its second earnings report as a public company, Snap disappointed Wall Street with its user growth numbers for the second consecutive time and fell short on earnings.

The stock dropped about 17 percent after hours. It’s now off about 33 percent from its IPO price.

Blue Apron and Snap have a lot in common. They’re consumer focused. They have devoted followers. They’re losing money hand over fist.

And both were targeted directly and aggressively by two of tech’s biggest companies.

Between the time Blue Apron filed for its intial public offering, on June 1, and when it went public, on June 28, Amazon announced that it was buying Whole Foods. The speculation that Amazon would use the purchase to improve its home delivery service sent demand for Blue Apron’s IPO down, and the company slashed its IPO range from $15-$17 down to $10-$11.

Then, reports emerged that Amazon had already launched a meal kit, which was on sale in Seattle.

In the case of Snap, it was Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and company had been fighting to blunt Snap’s growth ever since its co-founder, Evan Spiegel, rejected his buyout offer in 2013. It began to see progress with the launch of Instagram Stories in August 2016, which duplicated Snapchat’s own Stories feature. Over the next year, it gradually copied nearly every major Snapchat feature in its own products.

Less than a year after launch, Instagram Stories has 250 million daily users and is growing at a rate of around 50 million every three months. Snap has 173 million and grew only 7 million during the quarter.

The experiences of these companies are discouraging for start-up investors and founders who dream of someday creating an Amazon or Facebook of their own.

The five big tech companies — Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft — have attained unprecedented wealth and power, with trillions of dollars in combined market value and tens of billions of dollars in free cash flow.

They also need to satisfy Wall Street’s appetite for growth, which means they have to get new customers or earn more money from existing customers, quarter after quarter, year after year. One way to do that is to expand into new markets.

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They’ll gladly outspend their smaller competitors on product development and hiring while undercutting them on price.

That doesn’t mean curtains for Blue Apron or Snap. Both companies could come up with a leapfrog innovation that catapults them (for a while). Young nimble companies overtake older and slower companies all the time — that’s how the Big Five started. Microsoft disrupted IBM. Google and Apple disrupted Microsoft. And so on.

But companies and tech investors need to be wise about the risks of betting on upstarts that are going up against these giants.

If you hope to make money through online advertising, you’ll be challenging Google and Facebook. If you’re doing anything in e-commerce, logistics or delivery, you’ll run into Amazon. In cloud computing, get ready to see Amazon, Microsoft and Google. If you’re building hardware, Apple likely stands in the way.

It might be better to focus on the niches that the Big Five don’t yet dominate. Their health-care efforts are still in early stages, and none is playing heavily in financial tech, drones or robotics. Microsoft’s power in enterprise software is blunted to some degree by other old giants like IBM, Oracle and SAP, plus newer players like Salesforce.

It’s always been hard to build a successful start-up. With the increasing dominance of the Big Five, it’s harder than ever.

By Matt Rosoff | CNBC

 

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Can Short Term Rental Income Hurt Your Mortgage Refinance Application?

One of the most significant financial trends to sweep the country is more of a hit with homeowners than refinance mortgage lenders.

Logically, it sure seems as though a loan application which shows extra income through short-term room rentals would be a winner, something that would greatly please mortgage lenders.

The catch is that it’s not a sure thing, and in some cases, room rentals could actually be a negative.

New Trend Creates Uncertainty

Across the country, a number of electronic platforms now allow those with extra space to provide short-term housing.

National services such as Airbnb, Flipkey, HomeAway and VRBO are at the heart of this new business, one which takes an idle asset – that unused mother-in-law suite or extra bedroom – and puts it to use.

The result is that many homeowners are now getting cash for their quarters, money that can help with monthly bills and even mortgage payments.

At first, short-term home rentals seem like a win-win business proposition: the homeowner earns income while the traveler gets space for a few days, space that might be a lot cheaper than standard-issue hotel rooms.

The catch is that although the cash earned from short-term rentals is real, it may not automatically count on a mortgage application.

Home Rentals And Your Refinance Mortgage

For a very long time, there has been a business which offers short-term rentals — the hotel industry. Like most industries, it has not been shy about seeking legal protections for its products and services.

Check the local rules for virtually all jurisdictions, and you will find laws on the books which prohibit unlicensed short-term rentals or leases of fewer than 30 days.

These laws are largely unenforced, but that is changing. According to the New York Post, on October 21, 2016, New York Governor Cuomo signed a bill that would impose fines of up to $7,500 against hosts who posted short-term rentals. A California couple who had already paid $2,081 for their room found themselves with nowhere to stay when another resident reported their host to the authorities.

Rental Income: Is It Reported?

For lenders, the new surge in short-term rentals raises a number of issues. The money is nice, and congratulations on that, but whether such funds can be counted in a refinance home loan application is uncertain. Here’s why:

First, the lender will want to see that the rental income has been reported on tax returns. If income is not reported, it doesn’t usually count.

Note that if you report short-term rental income, it may not be taxable, depending on how many nights the property was rented. See a tax professional for details.

Is It Legal?

Second, if the income is reported, was it legally obtained? Here we get back to those sticky local rules that ban short-term rentals.

Lenders like to see income that’s ongoing, because mortgages tend to be lengthy obligations lasting 15 or 30 years.

If cash is coming from unlicensed room rentals, there is the possibility that the money might be cut off at any moment by an irate neighbor who reports the matter to local authorities.

Is It Your Primary Residence?

Third, is the property a residence? Mortgage lenders generally are in the business of financing homes with one-to-four units, and the best refinance rates go to those being used as primary residences.

New York state found that six percent of the units it studied captured almost 40 percent of the private short-term rental income.

In other words, some properties did a lot of short term rentals, a volume which will make lenders wonder whether the property is a comfy residence or an unlicensed hotel.

It’s not just lenders who will have such questions. The property will have to be appraised and that’s where problems are likely to arise.

Home, Sweet Boarding House?

Francois (Frank) K. Gregoire, an appraiser based in St. Petersburg and a nationally-recognized valuation authority, notes that “a room rental situation, depending on the number of rooms, may shift the use of the property from single or multifamily to a business use, such as a hotel or rooming house.

“If there are more than four units, the property is outside the one to four units certified residential appraisers are permitted to appraise, and outside the one to four unit limitation for loan purchase by Fannie and Freddie.”

The Future Of Short-Term Rentals

While the current situation is muddled and puzzled, there’s a very great likelihood that short-term home rentals will be increasingly legitimatized.

In the same way that Uber has disrupted the traditional cab industry, the odds are that the same thing will happen with short-term rentals. The reason is that the private rental rules now on the books were passed when no one cared and are largely unenforced.

Now, the landscape has changed. A very large number of homeowners want to be in the short-term rental business, or are at least disinclined to report their neighbors.

The police surely don’t want to break into homes in search of paying guests, and state and local lawmakers really want homeowner votes.

Be Careful Out There

For the moment, homeowners with an interest in earning a few extra dollars from short-term home rentals should get advice and counsel from a local real estate attorney before signing up guests.

In addition, speak with your insurance broker to assure that you have adequate coverage. Some policies allow short-term rentals, some do not, and there are differing definitions regarding what is or is not an allowable short-term rental.

By Peter Miller | The Mortgage Reports

USA Today Reports Existing Home Sales Hit 9-Year High In June

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Bolstered by first-time home buyers, existing-home sales rose for the fourth straight month in June, reaching a nine-year high.

Sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops increased 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million, up from May’s downwardly revised 5.51 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. The June pace was the strongest since 2007.

First-time buyers made up 33% of those transactions, the biggest share in four years. That eased concerns that a shortage of affordable houses has been pushing entry-level buyers out of the market.

The median existing-home price also reached a new high as it surged 4.8% to $247,700 from a year ago, above the former peak of $238,900 in May.

June’s sales exceeded the highest forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg, 5.56 million.

Healthy job gains, record-high stock prices and near-record low mortgage rates stoked June’s positive showings, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

“The modest bump in June sales to first-time buyers can be attributed to mortgage rates near all-time lows and perhaps a hopeful indication that more affordable, lower-priced homes are beginning to make their way onto the market,” he said. “The odds of closing on a home are definitely higher right now for first-time buyers living in metro areas with tamer price growth and greater entry-level supply — particularly areas in the Midwest and parts of the South.”

The Midwest has the lowest median existing-home price among all regions, $199,900, followed by the South, at $217,400. The median price in the West climbed 7.2% from a year ago to $350,800.

Total available existing homes for sale dipped 0.9% to 2.12 million, now 5.8% below a year ago.

“Seasonally adjusted, the month’s supply of homes in June 2016 was the lowest since June 2005, indicating that inventory problems still plague home buyers,” said Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist.

by Athena Cao | USA Today

Housing Outlook Stays Bright as Economic Forecast Darkens

https://s15-us2.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftse2.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOIP.Mf342a65e68fd4985cfa3eea28c893ef5o2%26pid%3D15.1%26f%3D1&sp=7609356586dc7c65d508e60aab322f03While the outlook for overall economic growth is darkening, the housing market is expected to keep up its momentum in 2016, according to Freddie Mac’s April 2016 Economic Outlook released on Friday.

Freddie Mac revised downward its forecast for Q1 GDP growth from 1.8 percent down to 1.1 percent. The “advance” estimate for GDP growth in the first quarter will be released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on Thursday, April 28. The GDP grew at an annual rate of just 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2015 but then shot up to 3.9 percent for Q2; for the third and fourth quarter, the real GDP grew at rates of 2.0 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

The first quarter for the last few years has been punctuated by slow economic growth. While some of this can be attributed to seasonality, Ten-X (then Auction.com) Chief Economist Peter Muoio said that last year’s dismal GDP showing in the first quarter could be attributed to the brutal winter which slowed economic activity, labor disagreements at a bunch of the West Coast ports that really slowed the flow of cargo in Q1, and low oil prices (though this was partially offset by lower gas prices which put more money in consumers’ pockets).

“We’ve revised down our forecast for economic growth to reflect the recent data for the first quarter, but our outlook for the balance of the year remains modestly optimistic for the economy,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti said. “However, we maintain our positive view on housing. In fact, the declines in long-term interest rates that accompanied much of the recent news should increase mortgage market activity, particularly refinance.”

On the positive side, Freddie Mac expects the unemployment rate will fall back below 5 percent for 2016 and 2017 (last month it ticked back up to 5.0 percent after hovering at 4.9 percent for a couple of months). Reduced slack in the labor market will push wage gains above inflation, although the gains are expected to be only modest, according to Freddie Mac.

While the economic forecast for Q1 has grown darker, the forecast looks bright for housing in 2016, however.

“We expect housing to be an engine of growth,” Freddie Mac stated in the report. “Construction activity will pick up as we enter the spring and summer months, and rising home values will bolster consumers and help support renewed confidence in the remaining months of this year.”

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Low mortgage rates have boosted refinance activity in the housing market during Q1. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.7 percent for the first quarter, which drove an increase for the 1-4 single-family originations estimate for 2016 up by $50 billion up to $1.7 billion. Rates are expected to bump up, however, and average 4 percent over the full year of 2016, according to Freddie Mac. House prices are expected to appreciate by 4.8 percent over 2016 and 3.5 percent for 2017; homeowner equity is expected to rise as a result of the home price appreciation, which could mean more refinance opportunities.

The low mortgage rates combined with solid job growth are expected to make 2016 the strongest year for home sales since the pre-crisis year of 2006 despite the persistently tight inventory of for-sale homes, according to Freddie Mac.

“Sales were slow in the first quarter, but trends in mortgage purchase applications remain robust and we expect home sales to accelerate throughout the second quarter of 2016 as we approach peak home buying season,” Freddie Mac said.

Click here to view the entire Freddie Mac Economic Outlook for April 2016.

by Brian Honea | DS News

Leadership Lessons From One Dancing Guy

If you’ve learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons:

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in.

It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

The second follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers – not the leader.

Now here come two more, then three more. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!

As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

And ladies and gentlemen that is how a movement is made! Let’s recap what we learned:

If you are a version of the shirtless dancing guy, all alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you.

Be public. Be easy to follow!

But the biggest lesson here – did you catch it?

Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:

It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.

There is no movement without the first follower.

We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

by Derek Sivers

‘Most Expensive’ Mansion Listing In U.S., Palazzo di Amore Cut Price By $46 Million

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Despite the $46-million price cut, the 53,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home is still asking a top-of-the-charts $149 million. (Marc Angeles | Inset: Tribune Publishing)

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