Is the Pitato why we can’t have nice things?

Is the Pitato why we can’t have nice things?

via WordPress ift.tt/2HaB5Ej

[Note: I originally wrote the bulk of this article as an unpublished memo about 18 months ago. I have updated it to include new information. The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of my clients.]

The big news this past week was that Coinbase acquired Earn.com (née 21.co, née 21e6 LLC). According to Recode, the offer “was slightly more than $100 million” but also lower than Earn.com’s most recent valuation (in 2015) which was $310 million.

From the current coverage, it is unclear what the revenue for any of the products or services for Earn.com was. Instead most stories have focused on one specific aspect: the current Earn.com CEO, Balaji Srinivasan, will join Coinbase as the CTO.

There have been a lot of questions around why Coinbase would purchase a company that seemed to have poor product-market fit with unknown KPIs. This post will look into several areas for answers.

Taking a step back

Following the official acquisition announcement from Coinbase, Srinivasan published a self-congratulatory Medium post that basically paints him as the savior of 21.co: that it was the previous management that were bad and he came in and turned it all around.1

His revisionism arguably whitewashed what happened, so let’s dive into a little bit of the company’s history.

In May 2013, 21inc (formerly 21e6 LLC) was co-founded by five men including Balaji Srinivasan. According to a story from Nathaniel Popper:

The company was also structured as an limited liability company, rather than the C Corp typical of startups, so that people could invest with their own money.

Why is that important to some investors?

According to Popper:

The 21e6 investment was attractive in part because venture capital firms generally felt that they couldn’t buy Bitcoins directly. 21e6, on the other hand, offered to pay its investors back with Bitcoin dividends, allowing the firm to get Bitcoins without buying them outright.

What does this mean?

Venture funds often have clauses restricting their partners from investing in asset classes that may be seen as a conflict of interest or something that could reduce the firm’s reputation (e.g., cannabis startups). In this case, cryptocurrencies may be seen as a direct speculative bet on a commodity or foreign exchange which could be prohibited by an investment funds by-laws.2

Altogether the 21e6 team, over three separate rounds, raised approximately $116 – 125 million – which at the time was more money than any other cryptocurrency-related company.3 The sum total varied depending on news source but Srinivasan frequently made it a point to casually insert comments such as: we are the “most funded” or “best funded” company in Bitcoin into interviews and talks during 2015-2016.

In the beginning

In its early days 21e6 focused exclusively on designing custom ASIC chips for Bitcoin mining and then integrating and deploying Bitcoin mining hardware for private, non-retail usage. This included installing hundreds of hashing systems in data centers which for several reasons eventually became uncompetitive against those based in China and the Republic of Georgia.45

Based on publicly available information and allegedly leaked slides we know that:6

It closed its Series A for $5 million in May 2013.

Investors included: Peter Thiel, David Sacks, Max Levchin, Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Naval Ravikant, Winklevoss Capital, Mark Pincus

Estimated $3.8 million revenue in 2013

In June 2013, then-CEO Matthew Pauker filed a Form D, Notice of Exempt Offering of Securities, which stated that 55 investors had already invested in its offering.7 While that may sound unusual for an early stage company to have so many investors, recall what Popper pointed out above, that individual investors could invest directly into 21e6 because of its LLC status.

It closed its Series B for approximately $65 million in December 2013.

Andreessen Horowitz (the VC fund) invested $25 million as the lead investor; and $10 million came from existing investors (such as $100,000 from Pantera)

$30 million also came in the form of “venture debt”

Estimated $41 million in revenue in 2014

19 employees in November 2014

The funds from its first two rounds were used in part to design and deploy “Gandalf” (its 2nd generation ASIC chip) and “Yoda” (its 3rd generation ASIC chip) in the aforementioned data centers.

How much capital is required to build a state-of-the-art ASIC chip? Depending on how much is done in-house or out-sourced as well as the fabrication facilities, it can be upwards of $15 – $20 million.8

First major pivot

The company rebranded from 21e6 to 21.co and announced its Series C on March 10, 2015, with $56 million led by RRE Ventures.

That morning, The Wall Street Journal led with the story:

Secretive Bitcoin Startup 21 Reveals Record Funds, Hints at Mass Consumer Play

This marked the beginning of its pivot from purely building mining hardware and instead marketing itself as supposedly moving into the Internet of Things (IoT) and API marketplace. Around this time you frequently saw 21.co and its supporters publicly talk about machine-to-machine (M2M) payments as being a killer app.9 One of the 21.co engineers was even interviewed on a (now deleted) podcast where he spoke about how drone owners would pay tolls denominated in bitcoin to cut across airspace over yards in your neighborhood. You know, the usual word salad and shower thoughts on social media.

When I first drafted this memo 18 months ago, based on LinkedIn profiles, 21.co had about 25 full-time employees; as of now their page says 22 employees but most of them are just people adding 21.co in their profiles without formally being affiliated with it. Most of the current employees unsurprisingly have shifted to Earn.com’s official LinkedIn profile. Its tally is 63 people but again, some of these profiles are from people who are likely unaffiliated with the organization.

Other known investors through 2016:10

Data Collective

Khosla Ventures

Yuan Capital

Drew Houston

Dara Khosrowshahi

Avant Global

Karl Mehta

Capricorn Management / Jeff Skoll Group

Qualcomm Ventures

World Innovation Labs

Other board members/observers:

Alan Chang (Jeff Skoll’s family office via Capricorn Management) in Series B

Richard Tapalaga (Qualcomm Ventures) in Series C

Gen Isayama (World Innovation Labs) in Series C

According to Nathaniel Popper, as of March 2015 when it announced the closing of its Series C round, “the company has paid back all of its investors.” It did so partially via payouts in bitcoin.

In his self-canonization this week, Srinivasan wrote that:

And with this deal, the total value of cash, cryptocurrency, and equity returned to our shareholders is now in excess of the capital invested in the company.

How much of the cryptocurrency above is from the not-yet-released Earnable Token? Get the whitepaper while you still can.

Since March 2015, there has also been noticeable churn at the top:11

Matthew Pauker, co-founder, was replaced as CEO in spring 2015 by Balaji Srinivasan

Albert Esser was the COO from December 2013 through August 2015

Replaced by John Granata from March 2016 to the present

Nigel Drego co-founder, was chief architect from May 2013 through March 2016

Replaced by Jian Li as CTO from March 2016 through 2017

Lily Liu became CFO during summer 2015 to the present

Because of the economic incentives that tilt in favor of mining countries like China, 21.co stopped its operations in the Bitcoin mining sector and those subject-matter experts seem to have left the ranks.

Second major pivot. Or part of the first?

What has it built since the pivot after Series C?

The 21 Bitcoin Computer was their first consumer-facing product that was announced on September 21, 2015 and released with great fanfare as an exclusive to Amazon Launchpad on November 16, 2015 at a price of $400. It also picked up the “toaster” nickname from the Financial Times.12

Several enthusiasts explored the component prices via a piece-by-piece breakdown and found that it likely cost around $247 to build each 21 Computer.13 It was subsequently nicknamed the “Pitato” because the main component at its heart was basically a Raspberry Pi, a popular DIY kit that sells for less than $200.

The only other notable piece of tech was a custom built ASIC chip that could be used for mining. However, ever before it had shipped, the mining chip was already uncompetitive and obsolete. Even if you had free electricity you likely would not generate enough bitcoin in order to recoup the full cost of buying the 21 Computer, especially since the few satoshi you generated would be stuck as dust.14

What were the maths behind this?

In September 2015, after it was announced, Vitalik Buterin crunched the numbers and worked out that:

So you’re paying $399 upfront and getting $0.105 per day or $38.3 per year, and this is before taking into account network difficulty increases, the upcoming block halving (yay, your profit goes down to $0.03 per day!) and, of course, the near-100% likelihood that you won’t be able to keep that device on absolutely all of the time. I seriously hope they have multiple mining chips inside of their device and forgot to mention it; otherwise you can outcompete this offering pretty easily by just preloading a raspberry pi with $200 of your favorite cryptotokens.

Why the relatively large markup for a device? Part of it is that Amazon Launchpad gets a 25% cut.

But like just about all things Bitcoin, sales numbers were so bad that they were never disclosed and it was eventually discontinued. Prior to its discontinuation, 21.co representatives approached multiple well-known Bitcoin developers to help resell the devices. In short, these developers were offered to buy 21.co devices at wholesale prices and expected to resell them at the retail price. It is unclear how many (if any) developers did so.

For real, the second major pivot

On April 1, 2016, 21.co launched an app “marketplace” and initially seeded it with 50 apps that were built in-house. At the time, the only way to externally measure usage or traction is to manually observe the amount of ratings (stars) an app had each day. Interestingly, in early July 2016 the amount of apps stood at 95 whereas six weeks later it fell to 76 and basically fluctuated for the remainder of the year.

In May 2016, Srinivasan took the stage at Consensus and announced his vision of a “machine payable web” and introduced several ideas but notably did not mention the Bitsplit which was rumored to have been in the works for over a year.15

Throughout the remainder of the year, 21.co sponsored and hosted meetups and had an active Slack room, and most of the ideas that were used or borrowed as API and app ideas, languished due to… a lack of users. If you are new to my site, one reoccurring observation is that in general: cryptocurrency owners typically are not actual users, but that’s a whole different discussion.

The 21.co Marketplace now redirects to the Earn.com homepage.

Pivot three

On October 27, 2017, 21.co emailed its users that it was ending server-side support for three things: the Bitcoin Computer, 21 command line interface (CLI), and marketplace. 16

Three days later, 21.co announced that it was rebranding as Earn.com and pivoting away from its second vision as a VC-backed quasi protocryptojacking play towards taking on Amazon Mechanical Turk, but with Bitcoin. It also announced a non-ICO ICO called Earnable Token, which as you can tell from its name: was earnable from doing the same kind of tasks as you could before like: filling out surveys or answering bots who email you.

Earn.com also migrated the unique profile pages it first introduced with 21.co, which is basically a static page that users can claim and use a bit like LinkedIn, but with more Bitcoin-related spam.17

Source: Twitter

Unregistered securities?

This last part is of particular interest in today’s regulatory climate because Earn.com, which hosts these user-controlled accounts, has accidentally assisted and enabled the promotion of alleged unregistered securities (ICOs) as a business line. Recall that Google, Facebook, Snap, Twitter, Mailchimp, and other tech companies have reduced or removed the ability for ICOs and cryptocurrency promoters to solicit retail investors, Earn.com has done the opposite and been a refuge. At what point is this an unsuitable risk profile for a “bank” like Coinbase?18

What does that mean?

In its January 2018 update, Earn.com announced that:

This week we were thrilled to announced the launch of Earn.com Airdrops — a new way for blockchain entrepreneurs to give 100,000+ Earn.com users a free trial of any new coin or token. Airdrops allows token projects to instantly bootstrap your new blockchain project with 100,000+ cryptocurrency early adopters.

We announced our first Airdrop partner, CanYa — a decentralized marketplace for services — as well as the next three upcoming Airdrops: Bloom, Bee Token, and Vezt. Sign up for an account on Earn.com, verify your account, and download the Earn.com mobile apps on iOS or Android apps to become eligible.

I am not a lawyer but in the past – like the dotcom era – companies (including startups) have attempted to give away equity in some very creative ways… and depending on the circumstances, it can be a no-no.19 That’s not to say that the tokens above are securities or that any airdrop is a violation of securities laws. But highlighting this type of feature has inadvertently led to Earn.com becoming a magnet for ICO issuance and promotion.

Where’s the beef?

What was the long term deliverable for roughly $125 million in nearly 5 years?

Throughout 2016 – including at Consensus in NYC – Srinivasan explained that they will announce a “surprise” in the coming months, maybe all of the aforementioned products and chips were the alpha phase of a much larger operation? Maybe they were, but we probably won’t find out.

Either way, it is worth keeping in mind that between 2013-2016, cryptocurrency-specific startups collectively received a little more than $1 billion in external funding, with nearly 15% of that funneled into just one startup. One who has had to pivot multiple times to find the right product-market fit and tech-market fit. Keep in mind too that other companies such as Bitfury and Bitmain were able to make superior chips and do so initially without major venture backing.20

If the most funded, best connected startup continually struggled to see consumer traction, what are the prospects for less funded and less connected cryptocurrency startups? This is worth revisiting in another long-read, especially in seeing what the $125 million was actually spent on (salaries? chips? toasters?).

How involved was he?

Source: Twitter

One of the investors in 21.co responded to Nathaniel Popper above claiming that Srinivasan wasn’t actively involved in the first two years.

Does it matter? Sure, when you are claiming successes and denying failures that should or shouldn’t be attributed to you.

Below is a quick series of interrelated anecdotes.

In December 2014, Srinivasan and I both attended and presented at what would become the second of three round table events organized by R3 (a family office then called R3 CEV). This was prior to the formal creation of the DLG consortium.21 Unfortunately I do not have his presentation, but the layout and design were nearly identical to the leaked slides that have circulated for years — just with different content. For instance, the design of his slides at a public talk in the spring of 2015 is pretty close to the other two decks.

In January 2015, I was unexpectedly shown a long set of slides for a company called 21e6, most of which look similar to what has been leaked in the past and linked to above.22

Later that same month – due to a variety of circumstances – I met up with Srinivasan in Palo Alto and he quickly paged through the leaked presentation and stated it was an older deck from October / November 2014.

While there is a little more to our subsequent interactions, I think the key part here and the only reason I brought up this personal anecdote is the fact that Srinivasan was able to dismiss the deck of having any relevance on the current fundraising 21e6 was doing (remember, this was less than two months before the round was publicly announced).23

So while he may not have been “day to day” as he disclaims in his post, he clearly was involved in the fundraising process if not more (deck creation?). He said as much in a post published in March 2015.

So what to make of all of this news?

An exit is an exit, right?

What ultimately appears to have happened is that Andreessen Horowitz took one of its floundering portfolio companies and merged it with another portfolio company… and declared it a great success.2425

Source: Twitter

There also appear to be a few parallels with Juicero.26 For those unfamiliar, Juicero is a now-defunct Silicon Valley-based startup that built and sold a custom $400 machine that would squeeze juice packets. It raised $120 million and unceremoniously shut down last year after reporters showed that the hands from mere humans were capable of squeezing the same juice packets.

In much the same way, during the second pivot of 21.co, no one really bothered to buy the “Pitato” because users could easily do the math: that it was far more effective to either buy bitcoins outright or buy and use more capable mining hardware.

Why hasn’t anyone written about this before?

Most of the knowledge above is public, or at least, pretty well known if you have spent much time in Bitcoinland. Other reasons involve some tinfoil hat theories around retaliation.27

Funnily enough, back in March 2015 I had a long email exchange with Michael Casey and Paul Vigna over at The Wall Street Journal regarding 21.co and other several other topics.

This culminated in the quote:

Tim Swanson, a consistently skeptical digital-currency consultant who makes a habit of challenging bitcoiners’ unbridled optimism, is unequivocal. 21′s plan is “a dumb idea,” he says, adding that “the investors deserve to get what’s coming to them.”

And while a few of those investors probably did, it is Coinbase share holders that likely got it on the chin this week.28 If you’re looking for more memorable gems, be sure to read this older WSJ article. It is chocked-full of hubris, kind of like Juicero.29

In closing, raise your hand if you’d like to get paid every time you respond to an email and moreso to a cold email? I know I would.

So maybe with all of the kinks, toasters, pivot denialism, and chest thumping there is still a future for a pay-to-respond model to thrive. Maybe Coinbase can turn the ICO sanctuary of Earn.com into a legitimate mainstream product that is integrated with various webmail providers and social media platforms. Or maybe this ends up like ChangeTip, whose platform was basically used to spam coin dust on Twitter… to ultimately shutting down after an acquihire from Airbnb.

Either way, there was a bit more to this story than what was let on in Srinivasan’s original Medium post on Monday.

Endnotes

Would that be a Bitcoin-powered bus that the management team was thrown under?

Over the past several years, multiple venture funds have had their by-laws amended or re-written to allow them to purchase cryptocurrencies and directly invest into ICOs.

In March 2015, 21inc announced that it had raised a total of $116 million, however according to Nathaniel Popper’s account of their history, they had raised about $125 million. For one reason or another, historically many cryptocurrency companies do not typically reveal their active user numbers or revenue figures. Instead they prefer talking about how much outside funding they have raised. And 21.co was not an exception to this.

There are several reasons why this was the case. With the right guanxi: a combination of electricity, land, and taxes could be cheaper in certain parts of China versus the US. In addition, 21e6 and other US-firms were consistently unable to manufacture mining machines and operate farms at a similar scale as their peers. Part of this was logistics as well: large portions of the supply chain were based overseas (primarily in Guangdong and Taiwan). I have written about this in multiple different posts over the past several years, such as this piece.

One of the interesting things that Srinivasan’s article confirms was a rumor I first heard two years ago from one of their mining competitors: that 21e6 had signed leases with data centers whose energy rates were so abysmal that you might as well just bought coins instead as it would basically be impossible to recoup those costs. Another unconfirmed rumor was around immersion cooling: that between 2014-2015 21e6 had experimented and burnt through a large quantity of chip inventory in a radical attempt to reduce the cooling needs and costs of mining chips.

Some of this information comes from: reddit, CoinDesk, Financial Times, and Jorge Stolfi. Googling around too.

Form D – note that the domains 21e6.com and .net and .org all registered around March/April 2013.

Why Are Computer Chips So Expensive? from Forbes. In addition to non-recoverable engineering, there are also component costs and testing thereof: PCB, SMT, power supply, fans, integration. Testing and trouble-shooting cannot be ignored. For instance, Hashfast was an example of a company who built a relatively fast chip but had problems with managing the power source and consequently went bankrupt.

Srinivasan did talk about micropayments as early as March 2014.

Sources: CrunchBase / AngelList

In May 2015 it was reported that Cisco may invest or may have invested in 21inc. Padma Warrior, former Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at Cisco, was rumored to be a key individual involved in that deal. Note: as of August 2016, a site redesign on 21.co removed investors and corporate information from the homepage.

This is mainly because an earlier 21e6 pitch stated that the company would integrate mining chips in always-on consumer electronics and appliances.

Breakdown of Hardware Costs for New 21 Inc Bitcoin Computer by Sam Patterson

One reviewer commented: “I’d say one more thing worth adding is that it’s worth critiquing not just the feasibility of the Pitato but also the ethics. Because Pitatoes are inherently less efficient than regular mining farms due to economies of scale, the only way that they could be competitive relative to just buying bitcoin is if they were using free electricity; that is, basically all profitable usage of Pitatoes would be people using other people’s electricity in workplaces, universities, Starbucks, hotels, homes if the landlord pays for it, etc. I predict that if it actually became popular, then we’d see all the places that provide free electricity today become much more cautious about it, which could greatly reduce convenience for everyone but bitcoin miners.”

In one of its incarnations, Bitsplit was basically a euphemism for socializing CPU labor and privatizing some of the gains… now commonly called cryptojacking.

Note: in between the second and third pivot, during January 2017, Srinivasan deleted his tweets and interviewed for the top job at the FDA in Washington DC.

One reviewer commented that: “My personal view is that the current Earn.com concept is fundamentally legitimate and probably will see some usage (I can totally imagine consultants charging $50 for replying to emails, as that’s a very low-transaction-cost way to get one-time advice from people), but it deserves to exist as one of the 173 configurable settings in an email provider or social media service, not an independent multi-hundred-million dollar company. Perhaps the Coinbase acquisition actually will be utility-improving, in that gives the Earn.com team an ability to try to be useful by making gadgets for an existing company that has a userbase and services, rather than trying to build their own ecosystem which never made any sense (though it’s still a pretty disappointing end relative to Balaji’s original hype and aspirations).”

Is Coinbase a bank? From the outside they seem to be a bit like a non-licensed deposit taking institution.

The line of reasoning is as follows: some startups attempted to randomly give away shares to strangers via various gimmicks but ultimately had to either take it back and/or were sued. If certain ICOs are deemed securities, you might not be able to just give them away to anonymous people. Reminder: I am not a lawyer, talk to a securities lawyer.

One competitor noted that: “21e6’s decision to go the Intel fabrication route was a non-starter.

Someone should remind me to talk about the dinner conversation that evening as well.

Coincidentally a few days prior to receiving those slides, I spoke with a NYC-based investor who was asking about the pros and cons of embedded ASICs for mining cryptocurrencies. Specifically: should the fund invest in a startup designing embedded ASICs for bitcoin mining. I provided my view point (the answer was no, still is a no). During this same time frame there was a big meme being pushed by many Bitcoin boosters: that mining would somehow become re-decentralized via some unknown magic bullet. Some of these promoters believed that 21.co would be the one to do it, without much evidence that the company could (or that anyone could). Note: there have been multiple other attempts at building and shipping embedded ASIC mining chips including from Midea and Bitfury. None have been successful by any measure.

Remind me to mention the coincidence at Chipotle.

One reviewer asked: “Is this self-dealing?”

Another reviewer said: “This is acquisition theater, everyone is just trying to save face because this wasn’t a great idea, had wasteful execution, and the hype and hoopla reflects poorly on all involved. The players fundamentally misunderstood the tech, the economics and use cases. I get that a VCs job is to make unsubstantiated bets on tech entrepreneurs they like. But here, an outright $116m investment in Bitcoin would have yielded X billions. And the “we returned all capital” probably because of BTC dividends and its price hike than cash returns.”

See Section 4 of a popular post last year.

What are the repercussions for publicly asking critical questions regarding bold claims such as those from a fireside chat with both Srinivasan and Andreessen? Being blocked on ol’ Twitter.

Since we are going into the anecdote highway: in March 2015, at the Stanford Blockchain Workshop event, I approached Adam Ludwin after his panel discussion. On the panel he had mentioned that there could be a “redecentralization” of mining through an upcoming “Silicon Valley moment.” I assume he was talking about 21e6’s plan for mining chips being integrated into always-on devices because he was affiliated with one of its investors. When I told him I had seen a 21e6 deck and that it was making some very wild, likely incorrect assumptions, he basically said: we will see about that. Well, we have seen that once again: the difficulty rating rises with prices thereby diluting existing hash generating devices making them obsolete.

Some of the comments from the 21.co spokesperson are enjoyable. These hashing devices still wouldn’t be profitable at the current prices today because the difficulty rating has increased in proportion to the price yet all of the hashing units inside phone chargers and toasters had a fixed unit of labor. It’s a no-win situation for device owners as they would still have to pay for both the depreciating capital good (the device) as well as the electricity.

Send to Kindle

Is the Pitato why we can’t have nice things? syndicated from smartoptionio.wordpress.com/

Posted by ShawnOrcutt on 2018-04-18 20:00:52

Tagged: , Uncategorized

Where I Work: Kate Banazi

Where I Work: Kate Banazi

via WordPress connorrenwickblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/where-i-work-k…

London-born, Sydney-based artist Kate Banazi is definitely one to watch if you don’t already have her in your sights. Her Instagram account is like a heaven where color and geometry meet in perfect harmony and you might remember this cool collaboration she worked on with another designer she met through that very same social media app. Focusing on silk screen printing, her playful work explores layers of graphic components, gridded structures, and bold color palettes that keep your mind intrigued just as much as your eyes. We decided to explore her process further by virtually heading to Sydney, Australia, to check out her art studio and to see a little bit of how she does it, in this month’s Where I Work.

What is your typical work style?

My work style is haphazard, depending on how late I worked the night before and work I have going on. I like to work on Saturdays and take my weekends as a Sunday and Monday, although the nature of what I do means I’m always drawing or working some idea through. I move between silkscreen printing at my studio to working on the computer or sketchbooks at home. Inevitability both places end up filthy.

What’s your studio/work environment like?

I think I’ll admit to messy although my studio mate, Daniel Gray, will probably say it’s much messier than messy – borderline feral.

How is your office organized/arranged?

I work from a factory unit in Sydney. I’m on a mezzanine level which has the kitchen and bathroom attached, so our door is always open and my other studio mates come through often. My space is organized into desk spaces and printmaking space – dry/wet space. I share my space with the illustrator Dan Gray Barnett and the whole unit is shared with a glass artist, a creative and media company and a photographer.

Photo by Jacqui Turk

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

I’ve been here three years now and before that I was in a beautiful space in Koskela, sharing with Joanna Fowles the textile designer. Before that, I was in my neighbours spare room and on a tiny plastic wrapped balcony at home. I’ve been so lucky with the support and friends I’ve made since I arrived in Sydney who have made space for me or pointed me in the right direction..

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

The only thing would be to be able control the heat, the space is too cavernous to have air conditioning so there’s a couple of months of the year which are really bad for printmaking, so it’s always working a way around that as soon as the summer starts to hit.

Is there an office pet?

Stanley my dog comes in with me sometimes, he loves spending time with the other studios – probably because he gets spoilt and they’ve got sofas.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

I love having the company of music or a podcast, we’ve got eclectic tastes so we keep it democratic with the weekly discover playlist on Spotify and now I’m hooked on the new gems I’m being sent every week. I’ve also been listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast ‘Revisionist History’ which has been really interesting.

How do you record ideas?

Sketchbooks, backs of hands, envelopes, text messages and poorly in my brain.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

I don’t as everything keeps falling off the walls! I keep everything in sketchbooks, scraps of paper, and folders stacked high.

Photo by Jacqui Turk

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

It tends to differ with each project but always starts with a sketchbook and pencil, it’s my go-to beginning, a therapeutic start and is the easiest process for me to start ideas flowing.

What kind of design objects might you have scattered about the space?

We don’t tend to keep design objects in here as I’m so messy, it’s more of an industrial space. But I’ve got gifts from friends and families, a much loved Joe Colombo Boby trolley which holds all my pencils, a nodding dog from my mum, drawings from my son.

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

I’ve got a great selection of power tools plus the usual printmaking tools and machinery, an exposure unit, washbay, vacuum table. Most used tool must be the hairdryer and a scalpel.

What tool do you most enjoy using in the design process?

INK! Does that count as a tool? Pencils, all my equipment… I’m a lover of all my tools.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

A computer, a Wacom tablet, a scanner, camera and that’s about it.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

Photoshop and Illustrator are my tools for creating and producing the filmwork which I send off to be made up.

Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?

So many that I feel lucky to have worked on with great people or collaborators, a recent one was with my friend Diego Berjon who lives in Spain, which became an across continent collaboration for WeWork in Sydney. We created a big body of work for their new building in Sydney. And the most recent would be the collaboration with Berlei for their centenary – seeing Serena Williams in a bra with my art on it made me cry a little!

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

I’ve never thought about that because I’m always trying to learn new things by working with people in different disciplines.
I feel successful in that I’m able to work on things I really enjoy or challenge me, within a creative industry that’s constantly changing. Working with great people like LocalDesign gives me a ‘shelter’ to develop ideas and a support system to try new things which I’m never going to take for granted, I’ve worked enough jobs that gave me little joy to know how lucky I am right now and that I’m always learning.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

I’m working on a huge collaborative project with some and getting some new work together for the Stockholm Affordable Art Fair in September, as well as planning a new show in London for next year.

What’s on your desk right now?

I’ve had to clean it, I’m not showing you pictures of half eaten plates of food and moldy coffee cups. This is not a true representation, it is super tidy for me… and I found a load of things that I’d forgotten about!

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

Some clothes, some artwork and lots of not quite rejected objects that I consider are works in progress that sit around gathering dust until someone else quietly disposes of them and I don’t notice.

via design-milk.com/

Posted by Connor Renwick on 2017-10-17 13:15:48

Tagged: , Uncategorized

£800 Build: Balanced Gaming

£800 Build: Balanced Gaming

via WordPress ift.tt/2j9EfgV

Build Summary

Country: UKBudget: ~£800, more if necessaryPurpose: gamingRequirements: high performance in current and upcoming games.

Part

Name

Cost

CPU

Intel Core i3-8350K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor

£132.20

CPU Cooler

ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 (MX2 Thermopaste)

£17.99

Motherboard

MSI Z370 SLI PLUS ATX

£119.48

Memory

Patriot Viper Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-3000

£93.46

SSD

Samsung – 850 EVO 250GB M.2-2280

£88.10

HDD

Toshiba 1TB 3.5

£39.99

Video Card

MSI GeForce GTX 1060 3GB GT OC

£209.99

Case

BitFenix Nova ATX Mid Tower

£31.15

Power Supply

Corsair Builder 430W 80+ Bronze

£39.96

Base Total: £772.32
Shipping: £21.96Total: £794.28

Note: all prices are current as of November 2017.

Recently I was contacted by a UK resident, asking for some help building a gaming PC. They did not set a specific budget, but instead provided me with a sample build and asked for my input. That build had good intentions, but lacked any direction, to put it mildly.

So instead I suggested a build with a similar price, but with more focus on gaming performance and overclocking. Meet the Balanced Gaming Build.

CPU: Core i3-8350K

This is a recently released mid-tier Intel CPU. Intel CPUs are known for their excellent per-core performance, and this CPU can be overclocked.

Overclocking makes the CPU work at a higher frequency (making it more powerful), at the cost of drawing more power and producing more heat. Maintaining a stable and effective overclock requires that other components, such as Motherboard, Cooling and RAM, be of higher quality as well. So pretty much the whole build is centered around overclocking.

When pushed far enough, overclocking will also reduce CPU’s lifespan, but PC components usually go morally obsolete long before reaching the end of their lifespan.

This i3 is the cheapest “decent” CPU you can get. It is still fairly expensive, but it offers excellent performance / cost ratio, and overall makes for an economical choice right now.

For example, a 6-core i5 8600k costs £90 more, but with equal clock frequency it has only slightly better performance in games.

Another example: 6-core i5 8400. It has maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.0 GHz, same as stock 8350k. They also cost about the same, with i5 8400 being marginally more expensive.

However, i5 8400 cannot be overclocked, and in most games will lose to overclocked 8350k.

Six cores might be more relevant in the future, where we could potentially see more multi-threaded games, but it doesn’t make sense to pay extra now just so you could maybe have better performance in a few years. At that point, it would be It would be better just to upgrade to another CPU.

Currently, all motherboards that can work with Coffee Lake CPUs have Z370 chipsets. They allow to overclock “k” CPUs by multiplier. Motherboards with cheaper B- and H-series chipsets are not available yet.

When they do become available, i5 8400 might become a more competitive choice, because going for a non-overclocking build would significantly reduce overall cost.

But right now, you’re paying a premium for a motherboard that can overclock regardless of whether you actually intend to overclock or not. In these circumstances, it doesn’t make sense to go for i5 8400.

CPU Cooler: ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2

This inexpensive cooler is powerful enough to easily handle overclocked i3 8350k. It comes with a high quality MX2 thermal compound, and the fan uses a Fluid Dynamic bearing, which makes it very durable. Comes with 6 year warranty.

Motherboard: MSI Z370 SLI PLUS ATX

This motherboard is a bit unorthodox choice for this build, because clearly we’re not going for SLI. Moreover, SLI is not something I’d recommend to anyone outside of some very specific circumstances.

However, even if we are overpaying for unnecessary SLI capability, this motherboard still makes a great pick. It is fairly inexpensive, and its 10 phase power delivery system will ensure stable and powerful CPU overclock. Heatsinks on the VRM system further improve overclock quality and system longevity.

MSI motherboards come with loads of useful performance-enhancing features, and they can automatically overclock the CPU in one click, so it will be super easy even for those who’ve never overclocked before.

Memory: Patriot Viper Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-3000

This is a high quality, high speed memory that will ensure the 4-core CPU will not become (as much) of a bottleneck in highly-threaded applications.

8 GB might not be as comfortable as 16 GB would, but it should be enough for the next few years. We are more or less trying to stay in a budget, after all.

SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB M.2-2280

This is the cheapest decent SSD available at the time and place, costing as much as MyDigitalSSD BPX 128 GB.

850 EVO’s 250 GB is enough to house operating system and other programs, and a couple of games, but the rest of the storage will have to be handled by a hard drive.

Storing the Operating System and programs on an SSD significantly improves performance and load times, that’s why having at least some form of SSD is highly recommended.

However, if you don’t care about load times at all, you can in fact save a lot of money by not getting any SSD at all, though this approach becomes less and less popular.

HDD: Toshiba 1TB 3.5″

Toshiba makes the most reliable HDDs at the moment, with excellent quality to cost ratio. A perfect choice for any mainstream build.

Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1060 3GB GT OC

AMD and nVidia often bump heads at this price point, depending on GPU performance and the amount of available VRAM.

VRAM is a weird beast. You either have enough or you don’t. If you have enough, adding more RAM won’t do anything for you. If you don’t have enough, gaming performance will plummet.

However, it is always possible to reduce certain settings to reduce VRAM consumption. Resolution, anti-aliasing and texture quality are the biggest VRAM eaters.

First up is GTX 1060 3GB variants. The GTX 1060 itself offers excellent performance, and 3 GB of VRAM is enough to play vast majority of current titles at good settings at 1080p resolution.

Right around the same price point, there is RX 570 4 GB. It performs slightly worse than GTX 1060, but some extra VRAM may come in handy later down the road.

Then there is RX 580 4 GB. It is as powerful as GTX 1060, but ~10% more expensive than GTX 1060 3 GB.

Finally, there is ~28% more expensive GTX 1060 6 GB version, which also has about 5% better performance than a slightly cut down chip of the GTX 1060 3 GB.

If you don’t plan on using resolution higher than 1920 x 1080, and you’re fine with occasionally turning down a few specific settings, GTX 1060 3 GB makes for a really economical choice.

It’s not as future proof as it could be, but even if you are faced with VRAM issues in a few years, it would make more sense to sell your GTX 1060 3 GB then, and get another Graphics Card, which should both offer better performance and come with more VRAM.

Otherwise, RX 570 and RX 580 seem like good “in between” solutions. GTX 1060 6 GB seems hard to justify.

MSI GTX 1060 3GB GT OC in particular offers good clocks and cooling for its price, though I wish it had a dedicated heatsink for the VRM system.

Case: BitFenix Nova ATX Mid Tower

This a really cheap case. There is nothing particularly wrong with it; it does what a case is supposed to do, but it’s not necessarily the most convenient in terms of assembling and maintenance.

If you don’t mind spending some extra time fiddling with cables and crawling around with a screwdriver, then this case is perfectly fine. Otherwise, I suggest something more expensive, like Zalman Z3.

In addition to more convenient assembly and cable management, more expensive cases are more likely to have higher quality ports on the front panel, and they often come with nice extras, such as fans, dust filters and removable carriages for HDDs and SSDs.

Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W

Corsair makes excellent, reliable and durable power supplies, though this is one of their cheapest products.

430 Watt may seem unusually small, but GTX 1060 is not particularly power-hungry, so it should be more than enough to power overclocked CPU and GPU, and have plenty of juice left for other components.

Comments and Considerations

This is definitely a fine gaming build, but I am not as happy with it as I was with the previous $2200 “Make your dreams come true” build.

Things that I would consider changing:

Getting a better case or at least an extra case fan. The BitFenix Nova comes with only one case fan at rear exhaust. I would like to add one intake fan to the front panel to supply some fresh air to the Graphics Card.

Getting an extra cooler for Motherboard’s VRM system to ensure stability and longevity of the overclock. It is highly likely an unnecessary overkill, as 10 phases and heatsinks should already provide more than enough durability, but better safe than sorry. What’s a $10 fan and a couple of paper clips compared to peace of mind?

Normally I would just pick a CPU Cooler that directs some airflow towards the Motherboard, as I did with the previous $2200 Build, but in this time and place there were no coolers available that would be able to handle an overclocked 95 Watt TDP CPU and still fetch a modest price.

Getting a higher grade Power Supply. While there is no reason to doubt Corsair in this regard, I would feel a bit more comfortable with a 500 or even 550 Watt PSU. It would also somewhat “future proof” the Power Supply itself, making it more relevant in future builds, which could be potentially more power-hungry.

Getting a GPU with more VRAM. Enough said about it in the GPU section.

This build is not as efficient as it could be. While overclocked i3 8350k offers excellent performance, it has no Turbo Boost, so it runs at higher frequency ALL the time, drawing more power and deteriorating faster than it should.

Power Supplies are also usually more efficient at load that is significantly below maximum.

This build is not as “future proof” as it could be either. Bare minimum of RAM and VRAM, 4-thread CPU, bare minimum power supply, no VRM heatsinks on the GPU. There’s no airflow through Motherboard’s VRM either, though it’s the smallest problem, and even then it could be easily corrected.

However, not every build has to be “future proof”. In fact, “future proof” builds are hard to justify economically. Overclocked i3 8350k is enough to tear through vast majority of current and upcoming titles. So is GTX 1060 3GB – with a few concessions.

It will be ultimately cheaper and better to upgrade specific components when it becomes necessary, swapping them out with the next generation of mainstream components with good value.

This closes this build. If you’d like for me to make a PC Build for you, check out my PC Building Services.

£800 Build: Balanced Gaming syndicated from ift.tt/2zXu06U

Posted by GameDust on 2017-11-20 07:20:08

Tagged: , Uncategorized

$2200 PC Build: Make your dreams come true

$2200 PC Build: Make your dreams come true

via WordPress ift.tt/2jFegSc

Build Summary

Country: USABudget: ~$2250, including a monitorPurpose: gaming and light workRequirements: easy dusting, capability to last a long time without upgrades. Ideally, a decade. Storage: ~256 GB SSD, 1 TB HDD.

Part

Name

Cost

CPU

Intel Core i7-8700K 3.7GHz 6-Core Processor

$414.89

CPU Cooler

be quiet! DARK ROCK TF

$74.89

Thermal Compound

ARCTIC – MX4 4g

$7.99

Motherboard

MSI Z370 TOMAHAWK ATX

$149.99

Memory

Patriot Viper 4 (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3400

$209.99

SSD

MyDigitalSSD BPX 256GB M.2-2280

$114.99

HDD

Western Digital Gold 1TB 3.5″

$82.40

Video Card

Aorus GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition 11G

$799.99

Case

Phanteks ECLIPSE P400 Mid Tower

$59.99

Power Supply

Corsair RMx 650W 80+ Gold

$99.99

Case Fan

2x ARCTIC F14 PWM PST CO 140mm

2x $11.79

Monitor

AOC G2460PQU 24.0″ 1920×1080 144Hz

$199.99

Base Total: $2239.68
Promo Discounts: -$10.00
Mail-in Rebates: -$30.00
Shipping: $0.99Total: $2199.67

Note: all prices are current as of November 2017.

One of my recent customers from United States asked for my help with creating a PC Build. They wanted to get the best PC within ~$2250, including a gaming monitor. The case should provide easy access for dusting, and the PC itself should be able to last a long while without any upgrades. Their previous PC lasted a decade, and they wanted the same from their new PC.

You can see the build I suggested in the spoiler above, it was accepted and the happy customer donated $25 as a token of their gratitude for my services. With their permission, I am publishing the build, along with my reasoning why for each specific part was selected.

CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K

This beast of a CPU does not need an extensive introduction. At the moment, this is the best gaming CPU money can buy. Excellent per-core performance will carry the CPU in the present, and 6 cores with Hyper Threading ensure the CPU stays relevant in the future, where hopefully multi-threading becomes more commonplace.

It overclocks well, and we’ll definitely be counting on overclocking to future proof the build.

CPU Cooler: be quiet! DARK ROCK TF

Here I was looking for three things:

1. Airflow directed towards CPU and motherboard. This lets some of the airflow to reach VRM heatsinks on the motherboard, greatly reducing chances of power system failure, and generally increasing system’s lifespan and overclock quality. Relevant article.

2. Hydro / Fluid Bearing of the cooler fans. This type of bearing offers by far the best longevity.

3. Cooling powerful enough to handle 95 Watt TDP of the 8700k + some headroom for overclocking

At first I considered cheaper and less powerful Slimhero, but since budget could handle it, I decided to go with be quiet! DARK ROCK TF, which is a good deal more powerful, and unlike the Slimhero doesn’t block any RAM slots.

Instead, DARK ROCK overlooks the RAM slots, giving them a good portion of the airflow. I made sure there is enough room under the DARK ROCK to fit the suggested RAM modules.

DARK ROCK comes with an unspecified thermal compound, so I decided to also get ARCTIC MX4, which offers both excellent heat conductivity and longevity, with the manufacturer claiming it to be able to last up to 8 years. I still recommended to reapply it after 5 years, though.

Motherboard: MSI Z370 TOMAHAWK ATX

MSI are a great brand overall, they offer many useful features that make overclocking better and easier. OC Genie will automatically overclock the CPU for you, and all MSI Z370 motherboards come with Load Line Calibration (LLC). In short, LLC reduces negative effects of overclocking on system stability and longevity.

The Tomahawk comes with a 10-phase VRM with heatsinks, which also increase system longevity and overclock quality.

This is pretty much the ideal motherboard for this build. The only thing we’re overpaying here for is ATX form factor, which is not really necessary for this build, but there aren’t many good mATX Z370 motherboards to choose from at the moment.

Memory: Patriot Viper 4 (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3400

This is a high quality RAM set with good reviews and excellent performance. 16 GB should be enough to last a long while, but I warned the customer that in 5-7 years an upgrade may be necessary.

SSD: MyDigitalSSD BPX 256GB

SSDs use several types of Flash memory: SLC, MLC and TLC (single-, multi- and triple- level cells respectively).

They go SLC > eMLC (enterprise MLC) > MLC > TLC in terms of price, speed and durability.

For an average consumer, TLC is usually good enough, but we are building a really durable machine that can last a decade. This is why I recommended against Samsung 960 EVO, which uses mostly TLC memory.

MyDigitalSSD BPX 256 GB uses MLC memory, and offers minblowlingly amazing value for its price. It is by far the most durable and performing consumer-grade SSD on the market, and comes with a 5 year limited warranty – “limited” implies you do not exceed a certain amount of written data.

Ideally, I would really like to go for eMLC or even SLC memory for this build, but SSDs like that are intended for enterprise customers and professional grade server equipment, and their cost is disproportionally higher.

As long as you don’t make a habit of moving large volumes of data in and out of the SSD daily, you are very unlikely to exhaust its resource. If it comes to worst, it can always be replaced with another ~$100 SSD later down the line. It simply doesn’t make economical sense to go for a vastly more expensive SSD just to avoid that one occasion.

HDD: Western Digital Gold 1TB 3.5″

Conventional hard drives have moving parts, so they are more prone to failure than SSDs, and we should pay a premium to ensure durability. We’re looking for something like an entry-level server-grade or data-center HDD.

There were two good choices here, Toshiba MG03ACA and Western Digital Gold WD1005FBYZ. They both have 7200 RPM speed and 1 TB size, and both should have excellent longevity, though WD Gold is more marketed. In the end, I went with WD Gold because of its larger buffer size (128 MB vs 64MB).

Video Card: Aorus GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition 11G

Similarly to 8700k, the GTX 1080 Ti is the best gaming Graphics Card you can buy right now.

I went with the Aorus’ variant over the competition because it has a dedicated heatsink for VRM system, which ensures durability and overclock quality. Heavy heatsink with triple fans ensures it stays quiet under heavy load.

It also has a theoretical power maximum of 375 Watt, so there is a lot of headroom for overclocking.

Case: Phanteks ECLIPSE P400 ATX Mid Tower

This case offers easy cleaning and good cable management for a modest price. The front panel is easily removed, and so are several dust filters.

I also suggested getting a few aftermarket dust filters to cover the front panel, though they are not included in this build.

There’s definitely a lot of decent cases out there, but most of them are a good deal more expensive than what I’d consider justified.

Power Supply: Corsair RMx 650W

Corsair builds their PSUs to last, which is exactly what we need. The RMx series are built from even higher premium components than usual CX series, and come with a high-end bearing fan, ensuring it will stay quiet and efficient for years.

This particular PSU has a 10-year warranty, and it is also energy efficient. Fully modular cable system means unused cables won’t be left dangling inside the case.

How I arrived at the 650W number:

The 8700k draws up to 180 Watt when overclocked and under load.

Aorus’ GTX 1080 Ti draws up to 375 Watt – that’s the maximum physical limitation of 2x 8 pin power connections + 75 Watt from PCI-Express slot.

180 + 375 = 555 Watt

So we need a Power Supply that can output that many Watts, plus about 50 Watt for other devices, such as SSD, HDD and Motherboard itself.

Might also want to add an extra 50 Watt just to be safe.

This all comes down to 650 Watt.

Case Fan: 2x ARCTIC F14 PWM PST CO

Phanteks Eclipse P400 does come with two 120mm fans included. I wasn’t able to find what kind of fans they are. They are unlikely to use a high-end bearing, and will probably wear out with time and get noisy. Until that moment, however, there is no reason not to use them.

So we will be needing just a couple of extra fans.

The Arctic F14 offers a perfect combination of price, airflow and low noise. I use them myself, actually.

The MSI Tomahawk uses 4-pin PWM connectors for all of its case fans, which means it can be programmed to regulate the speed of case fans, making sure they work at maximum RPM (and maximum noise) only when it’s necessary.

We will engineer the following airflow in the case:

The lower front panel fan will capture the cold air outside the case and direct it towards the Graphics Card. Its triple fans will capture it, push through the heat sink, and disperse hot air all around the graphics card, heating other motherboard components.

The CPU cooler’s double fans will capture air in the case, and also push it towards the motherboard, pumping air through motherboard VRM and RAM heatsinks.

In this case, both Graphics Card and the CPU Cooler do not direct heated air in any particular direction. So instead of focusing on pumping cold air into the case, we’ll focus on directing hot air out of the case.

So our pair of Arctic F14 fans will be installed at the top side of the case, helping hot air escape the case.

Monitor: AOC G2460PQU 24.0″ 1920×1080 144Hz

This is a highly praised and well-reviewed monitor, and it’s more or less a steal for that price. It lacks G-Sync or FreeSync, but high refresh rate should compensate for it. Screen tearing is barely an issue at high framerates, and you will want to have a high framerate in competitive online games anyway. And for a more demanding and cinematic single player games, you can just use V-Sync, since you won’t care about input lag as much. Then again, the PC we’re building is likely to easily handle even heaviest titles at an excellent framerate anyway. In this context, it doesn’t really make sense to pay nearly double for a G-Sync monitor.

The only gripe with this monitor is that it has to be calibrated to properly display all the colors. It’s easy to do using a windows’ built-in calibration tool, but it may get tedious, as this has to be done after every windows reinstall.

Important to note that this monitor still uses 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is slowly but steadily going out of style. However, slightly larger 2560 x 1440, 27-inch monitors are at least twice as expensive and it’s hard to justify a huge display for gaming anyway.

Consider this article a preview of my PC Building Services.

$2200 PC Build: Make your dreams come true syndicated from ift.tt/2zXu06U

Posted by GameDust on 2017-11-19 20:40:17

Tagged: , Uncategorized

7 B2B Brands Using Instagram the Way You’re Supposed To

7 B2B Brands Using Instagram the Way You’re Supposed To

via WordPress ift.tt/2yb8RYl

Instagram is a fantastic platform for B2B marketers. It provides a space for making new connections in almost any industry, at almost any stage in their development. With more than 600 million users, it’s a gold mine for connecting with your current and potential customers.

Over half of millennials are active users on Instagram. You might be thinking, “Why do I want to target millennials?” Well, what if I told you that 40 percent of the workforce in most average companies is made up of millennials? In fact, it’s estimated that in 10 years, more than 70 percent of the workforce will be millennials. You need to be marketing to this demographic, which means you need to consider marketing on Instagram as a great opportunity to build your brand and generate leads.

It’s time for marketers to walk away from the stereotypes about millennials and acknowledge they’ve innovated across multiple industries and now play a major part in the economy. And Instagram is one of the best ways to reach this group of business executives and entrepreneurs.

In this guide, we’ve rounded up several examples of B2B brands leveraging Instagram to get closer to customers and drive real results. You’ll notice that none of these brands use shady, behind-the-scenes tactics like buying and selling followers. We’re talking about real brands reaching real people with unique and interesting content. Here are seven examples of B2B brands doing Instagram marketing the right way.

1. MailChimp Finds Opportunities for Inspired, Whimsical Design

Whimsical content shows the playful side of your business and represents a laid-back yet intelligent corporate culture. Content that embraces good design and takes a different angle with a popular trend will captivate your audience. A fun, whimsical graphic might be the thing that pushes a new follower to learn more about your business.

This post from MailChimp’s Instagram account leverages a timely hashtag (#NationalHotdogDay) and brand name to show MailChimp’s quirky side:

At the end of the day, people turn to Instagram to be visually surprised and inspired, often scrolling through their feed mindlessly until something catches their eye. Artistic content is appreciated and gives value to your customers without hiding the fact that the content is marketing-focused.

2. Hubspot Provides Value through Rich Content

HubSpot consistently provides value to its followers on Instagram by posting informational content. This video from July 2017 gives an overview of five different ways a company can promote great work-life balance:

This post functions essentially as a mini blog post, giving five key points about a central idea in a way that’s easily digested. The suggestions include remote work options, generous parental leave, and paid time off. Noticeably absent: Blatant marketing for HubSpot!

HubSpot doesn’t try to use this as an opportunity to plug their own product. It’s all about adding value! The post communicates company values and establishes trust between HubSpot and their customers by offering information without asking for anything in return.

3. Hootsuite Shows Off the Folks Making the Sale

Instagram provides a great opportunity to show off your company’s corporate culture and give your audience a chance to connect with your people. At the end of the day, B2B is really just people selling to people on behalf of organizations and brands. In many industries, B2B sales stills happen on a one-to-one basis, and it’s a brand’s sales rep or account manager who actually closes a deal.

Hootsuite often posts images of its employees having fun together at the office, playing ping-pong, volunteering, or bonding over a meal. Just as a hiring manager is likely to check out a potential employee’s social media presence, potential customers are likely to browse the brand’s social media to see what its employees are all about as well. First impressions mean a lot, and an Instagram post that showcases your people and culture could make the difference between a warm first interaction or a call that is as cold as ice.

4. IBM Stays Relevant with Reactive Storytelling

Reactive storytelling means combining a top-of-mind story or idea with a compelling marketing message that your audience finds interesting.

IBM uses reactive storytelling during popular events to share how these events are leveraging the company’s technology. Did you know that the US Open Tennis Championships collects data using IBM technology? Neither did I—until I saw this post a few days ago on IBM’s account.

This picture is effective because it uses an interesting perspective—a spectator in the stands viewing live data on their phone—and because the US Open was top-of-mind for so many at the time. People who were following the #USOpen hashtag were likely to come across this post and form an association between the event and the IBM brand.

5. General Electric Keeps Its Brand Interesting to a Wide Audience

There are no boring industries—just boring marketers who are not passionate about their company or engaged with their customers.

A great example of a brand that embraces their history—sexy or otherwise—is General Electric. GE is over a century old and has a history of involvement in some of the most important developments in defense, aviation, and technology, to name a few.

Many people don’t know exactly what GE does, even though they recognize the name, and that is where storytelling becomes important. People respond to nostalgia. Dr. Seuss is a classic figure from many people’s childhoods, and it is interesting and surprising that he made advertisements for GE before writing children’s stories.

As I wrote in the article “How to Create Great Content For A Boring Industry,” your product doesn’t have to be cool, but your story does. If your product is highly technical or you operate in a niche industry, it might be tempting to solely focus on features, but don’t let that discourage you from identifying and amplifying things that make your brand’s story unique.

There are no boring industries—just boring marketers.Click To Tweet

6. IBM Takes Advantage of Its Company History

IBM and General Electric have a long, storied history in the technology industry. Instagram provides a golden opportunity to share some of this history with potential customers who might not have known about your company’s rich history. In B2B sales, there’s credibility at play when it comes to organizations and companies that have stood the test of time.

There’s a common saying in boardrooms: “No one has ever gotten fired for buying IBM.” That saying holds weight across many different industries if you’re a brand that has history. People want to work with companies that have years of experience delivering solutions. People want to work with solutions that have helped organizations like theirs. People want to ensure that when they sign a contract with you, they’re not going to lose their job.

Take this photo from IBM as an example of IBM flexing its history muscle:

This humblebrag throwback highlights a major achievement while building credibility. The fact that IBM is able to highlight its role in establishing the entire PC industry, which changed how people interact with technology forever and made computers accessible to the general public, is huge. Instagram is the perfect platform for sharing these kinds of stories if you’ve got some old photos in the archives or vintage ads. If you have any old content in your archives, dust it off and use it to show your audience how rich your history is.

7. Shopify Keeps Its Content Design Consistent

B2B brands should monitor the consistency of their posts, including how each post looks alongside others to users who visit branded social profiles.

A great example of content consistency comes from Shopify, which recently posted a series of videos from its #buildabiz campaign, showcasing the stories of some of the company’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Shopify’s Build a Business campaign is now in its seventh session and has become the world’s largest competition for entrepreneurs. Every video from the campaign starts with text overlaid on a black-and-white still photo of one or more people. This design consistency makes for a striking and cohesive story when users visit Shopify’s profile.

Instagram content with faces receives 38 percent more likes. Using faces is an easy strategy that any business can adopt because even if the product you are selling is software, there are people using your product to do great things in their own business. Shopify’s design strategy unifies these stories in a way that makes good design and business sense.

Putting It All Together

The most successful B2B brands on Instagram recognize that the channels being ignored are the channels where opportunities lie. Instagram, while growing quickly, is often still a channel that B2B brands are overlooking as an opportunity to drive results.

Take some of these insights and use them for inspiration to try Instagram for your brand, or maybe try something entirely different. The key here is to recognize that the most innovative brands aren’t those that go with the flow—they’re the ones that take a shovel and create their own stream.

What have you found to be a successful way of finding success on Instagram? Share your thoughts in the comments and help the entire community better understand the value of this channel.

The post 7 B2B Brands Using Instagram the Way You’re Supposed To appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

7 B2B Brands Using Instagram the Way You’re Supposed To syndicated from ift.tt/2vSp9l9

Posted by Digitalxo on 2017-10-09 16:54:49

Tagged: , Uncategorized

BlackBerry’s next phone appears to counter trends with enormous bezel

BlackBerry’s next phone appears to counter trends with enormous bezel

via WordPress ift.tt/2y0wVv8

BlackBerry is preparing to launch a new mid-range phone, and now, thanks to Evan Blass — a man who often accurately posts information about phones before said information is official — we probably know what it looks like.

It’s called the BlackBerry Motion, and boy, is that lower bezel huge.

SEE ALSO: BlackBerry to work with Delphi to protect self-driving cars from cyber threats

The phone (originally codenamed Krypton) is rumored to be a mid-ranger, with a Snapdragon 625 or 626 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a full HD display, IP67 water- and dust-resistance, a fingerprint sensor built into the home button, and a generous 4,000mAh battery. Read more…

More about Smartphone, Blackberry, Blackberry Motion, Bezels, and TechBlackBerry’s next phone appears to counter trends with enormous bezel syndicated from ift.tt/2wBRU5Z

Posted by TechScopic on 2017-10-06 12:43:41

Tagged: , Uncategorized