Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, can now add kung fu pop star to his list of accomplishments.
In perhaps the most bizarre publicity stunt to emerge from China, the entrepreneur on Friday will release his short film Gongshoudao, loosely translated to "The Art of Attack and Defense," on an official English language website to mark the start of the Chinese New Year. The 20-minute short, which features Ma defeating a series of celebrity martial artists through the power of tai chi, originally launched on the Alibaba affiliate Youku last November, in honor of the international shopping event known as Singles Day.
In addition to high-stakes drama and combat, the movie includes incredible--if laughable-- one-liners from the founder, such as: "One that has a sense of justice fears nothing." Over the course of the film, Ma defeats a sumo wrestler, a weapons expert, and the retired wushu world champion Jet Li. He also takes on Donnie Yen, who you may recognize as playing the blind warrior Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
At the end of the film, video messages appear from celebrities including the boxer Manny Pacquiao challenging Ma to another battle--and opening up the possibility of a sequel.
The film will be available here at 2:00 P.M. (E.T.) on Friday, or you can check out the original version (with English subtitles) on Youku.
Thiel reportedly is planning to move his home and investment firms Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation to Los Angeles, where he will also create a new media outlet focused on conservative topics. A libertarian, he has long been vocal about his distaste for the political climate of the Northern California tech community. During a debate at Stanford University last month, he described Silicon Valley as "a one-party state" and said, "That's when you get in trouble politically in our society, when you're all in one side."
While Thiel plans to keep some of his ventures, including Founders Fund and Mithril Capital, in San Francisco, he's considering leaving the board of Facebook, where he's been a director since 2005, according to the Journal.
Thiel has left the boards of Zenefits and Asana, sold the majority of his stake in Twilio, and parted ways with startup incubator Y Combinator in the past two years.
Red Gerard, a 17-year-old from Colorado made history this past weekend as the youngest person ever to win an Olympic gold medal for snowboarding. By a lot of measures he shouldn't have been. On the day he won his medal, he failed to do just about everything you're supposed to if you want to be successful.
Consider these widely accepted pieces of success advice:
1. Always get a good night's sleep and wake up early.
We all know about the importance of sleep. And that successful all bounce out of bed really, really early. So what did Gerard do? He stayed up late the night before his very first Olympic event binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When his alarm went off at 6 am, he was too sleepy to get up. He lay there for 20 minutes until his roommate finally roused him.
2. Always be well-prepared to face your day, especially an important one.
It's important to think ahead and be organized. But after Gerard finally got out of bed, he discovered his jacket was missing and he didn't know where it had gone. This was no minor matter since it was frigidly cold outside. If Gerard's roommate--the same one who woke him up--hadn't also lent him his ski jacket, someone else might have wound up with the gold.
3. Always keep a professional demeanor.
Gerard's first two runs down the snowboard course were bad enough to leave him in last place. Fortunately, this is a sport where your best of three runs is the only one that counts, and his third run was spectacularly good. When he learned he'd won the gold medal, the very professional 17-year-old shouted "Holy fuck!" for all the world to hear. Literally, because in spite of its delayed broadcast, NBC did not bleep the audio. Gerard also cheerfully told the press that his 18 family members who accompanied him to Pyeongchang had been "shotgunning beer" at 8:30 am on the day he competed and that they'd been "chugging sake" ever since. (Although, really, who can blame them?)
But there's one more rule for success that Gerard followed in a big way, and it turns out to be the only rule that matters:
4. Do what you love.
As you might guess from Gerard's pre-event behavior, he never got all that nervous about the Olympics. He just didn't realize they were that big a deal. And anyway, he's not really in it for the medals, he's in it because he adores snowboarding. One of his many siblings built a snowboarding course in their backyard, and all the kids spent a lot of time having fun out there. Even at the Olympics getting on a board for Gerard is all about fun.
"Everyone's trying to win and do good. But he actually enjoys snowboarding and you can see it," one of the other competitors told Fox News. "He'll snowboard until he can't snowboard."
That's it--that's the secret. Find something you love to do as much as Red Gerard loves snowboarding and you will be happy and successful. Even if you never get rich or famous or land a fancy title or fancy office. Just like Gerard, you'll be having too much fun to really care. Just like him, you won't be in it for the gold.
Ariel Martinez gets paid to watch people have sex.
As assistant curator with Make Love Not Porn, a New York social network that publishes racy videos online, Martinez analyzes hundreds of couplings and decides whether they meet the company's rigorous standards of "real world sex." If they do, she'll upload the clips onto the site, which the company sells as one-off rentals for $5 apiece, sharing a portion of revenue with the creators. The aim: To build a community organized around consent and sensuality--not the theatrics typically associated with traditional pornography.
A sex industry veteran, Martinez previously spent three years overseeing the development of adult toys with the boutique Babeland, and these experiences have led her to insist that now is a unique time for the not-so-small business sector.
"Over the past few years, I've seen a lot of inventions in the sex toy industry. There's been a boom in this technology," she tells Inc. "Unfortunately, a lot of businesses haven't taken women consumers very seriously, but that's all starting to change."
The shift is indeed reflected in companies' bottom lines. The global sex toy market eclipsed $20 billion in revenues in 2015, and it's projected to grow by nearly 8 percent annually through 2020, according to recent data from the research firm Technavio. Lovehoney, a U.K.-based retailer of sex paraphernalia, pulled in more than £76 million ($105 million USD) in revenues last year alone--a more than 30 percent increase from 2016. "We have a lot of [manufacturers] knocking at our doors," says Neal Slateford, co-founder of the firm, in a phone call with Inc. "That's an indication of how much more mainstream the industry is becoming."
50 Shades of Business
CREDIT: Courtesy Lovehoney
There are a number of factors that entrepreneurs attribute to the recent sales boost, not least of which is more positive cues from pop culture. Items such as vibrators and butt plugs make appearances in award-winning television series, including Broad City, Girls--and Grace and Frankie, in which, in one especially memorable scene, Lily Tomlin reminds Jane Fondathat she ought to be speaking about her "Clitoris, Clitoris, Clitoris." And just last weekend, the final installment of the sex-soaked 50 Shades of Grey franchise pulled in nearly $39 million in box office sales, coming in at No. 1 in North American theaters. (Followed closely, if awkwardly, by Peter Rabbit.)
"There is much more awareness of sex toys, in television and in general," says Hallie Lieberman, an instructor at Georgia Tech and the author of Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy. She suggests that this awareness stems in part from the sale of toys and more adventurous accessories at prosaic locations, like Wal-Mart and CVS. While some drugstores have been selling "sex aids" for two decades or more, it's only recently that they've included things like flavored lubricant on their shelves.
All of this has led to a really important development, she says:More women are designing products for women. Indeed, a growing number of entrepreneurs are recognizing an underserved market--that half of the population which struggles to achieve orgasms, and will therefore pay to get them.
Dame Eva II (left) and original Eva.
CREDIT: Courtesy Dame
Alex Fine, the co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based retailer Dame Products, is one entrepreneur seizing on the discrepancy. Her 14-person startup makes a $135 clitoral vibrator called Eva. Dame generated more than $3 million in revenue last year, primarily through sales of Eva, as well as a finger vibrator called Fin. "I felt like I understood sex toys, and there was a need to shift the dialogue we were having," says Fine, who, along with her co-founder Janet Lieberman--a former engineer with MakerBot--successfully launched the toys on crowdfunding platforms. (Lieberman brings her aptitude to Dame, where toys are builton 3D printers before going into production.) Fine notes that her customers are primarily heterosexual couples, and that there's a certain extent to which the design, although ostensibly for her pleasure, also helps the male partner: "Because it's hands free, it's easy on the male ego," she says. After all, "If we are going to acknowledge that women are sexual, then we need to also acknowledge that men are emotional."
Smart Sex Toys
At the same time, the rapid growth of Internet of Things has spilled over into sex,allowing technologists to improve upon the quality of more traditional items. Take WeVibe, an Ottawa, Canada based manufacturer that develops internet-connected sex toys. Since launching in 2014, the startup's signature "We-Connect" app--which lets users to control the movement of a vibrator remotely--has been used by more than 2 million people, according to the firm. Similar to the Eva, the flagship We-Vibe Sync is designed to be worn during sex, with one end inserted into the vagina and the other resting against the clitoris. "The app offers refined and custom control of the toy, and allows for partners to share and control over the internet--that was the 'aha' moment," explains Frank Ferrari, the President of WeVibe's parent company, Standard Innovation, in an email interview with Inc.
In the meantime, historian Lieberman says that smart sex toys are soon to come from this niche sector, otherwise referred to as 'teledildonics.' "There will be so much more innovation in the years to come," she says. "The technology is finally there."
CREDIT: Courtesy WeVibe
As with any connected product, however, app-enabled vibrators and their ilk are subject to security flaws.Last year, WeVibe agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle a class-action lawsuit, alleging that the company violated customers' privacy. (The suit was filed after two hackers demonstrated during a conference that it was possible to access the vibrator and take control of it remotely, opening up the possibility for data theft, as well as the more alarming prospect of remote sexual assault.) "Since then, we have enhanced our privacy notice, increased app security and provided customers more choice in the data they share," WeVibe's Ferrari tells me. Indeed, cybersecurity concerns across the sector led to the advent of the consumer watchdog "Internet of Dongs," which analyzes the security and privacy of connected sex toys and reports on data breaches.
'A More Complicated Investment'
Despite the progress that men and women in the sex tech industry have made, a stigma remains. Cindy Gallop, the founder of the social sex network Make Love Not Porn, was only recently able to raise $2 million in venture capital earlier this year after unsuccessfully lobbying venture capitalists for the better part of two. Dame's Fine, meanwhile, suggests that when it comes to sex, investors and analysts are more comfortable talking than they are walking. "In the 21st century, I didn't think it would be a big deal to make sex toys. It turns out I was wrong," she says. "I'm a more complicated investment." She points out that Dame is unable to advertise on common platforms, including Facebook, or use Google's re-targeting feature, which tends to make investors cautious. The Eva vibrator was the first sex toy ever crowdfunded on Kickstarter--and, Fine says, even though she knew the founders of the company, "it still took some convincing."
Still, industry stalwarts say it's possible to turn that stigma into something positive. The way Lieberman sees it, the momentum behind the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, whereby women are actively speaking out about sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, is also impacting the business of sex. "The same things that are driving the #MeToo movement are also driving the sex toy industry," she says. "With third-wave feminism, women understand that they have a right to sexual pleasure."
Or, to put it in more personal terms: "I deserve an orgasm as much as a man."
Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter this morning and it contains a huge slam at Trump and his policies. Here are some excerpts, followed by my comments:
"For decades the United States has been a leader in the fight against disease and poverty abroad. These efforts save lives. They also create U.S. jobs. And they make Americans more secure by making poor countries more stable and stopping disease outbreaks before they become pandemics. The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry [but] President Trump proposed severe cuts to foreign aid."
"The America First worldview concerns me. It's not that the United States shouldn't look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does. Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment."
"The duties of the president of the United States is to role model American values in the world. I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets. Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country's spirit. The president has a responsibility to set a good example and empower all Americans through his statements and his policies."
I've interviewed Gates (once) and Trump (twice) and have followed both of their careers quite closely. Since Gates tends to be soft-spoken and avuncular, it's quite clear to me that the criticisms he's levied above, despite their measured language, are full-on broadsides to the Trump agenda.
Beyond that Gates and Trump form an interesting contrast. Both are billionaires, both are baby boomers, and both have founded charitable organizations, but there the similarity ends.
Gates is a self-made billionaire with a distinctively upper middle class background; he became rich through innovation. Trump, by contrast, inherited millions and became rich by carrying on his father's business.
The Gates Foundation spends approximately $4.5 billion a year and by all accounts has had a huge positive impact on the world. By contrast, the Trump Foundation is in the process of shutting itself down after having been fined for making campaign contributions and admitting to self-dealing practices that benefit the Trump family and its businesses.
Gates has shown a particular interest and sympathy for Africa, where the Gates Foundation has literally saved millions of lives, mostly of children who otherwise would have died of preventable diseases. Trump, by contrast, recently characterized African countries as "sh*tholes" and is actively promoting policies specifically designed to keep black immigrants from legally entering the countries.
Finally, Gates is an avid reader and his hobby is collecting rare books, most notably the Codex Leicester, a manuscript penned by Leonardo da Vinci. According to numerous sources, doesn't read books, much less collect them.
Considering the above, it's amazing that Gates has been so muted in his criticism of Trump and Trumpism. Until now, that is.
Facebook is losing market share at an even faster than expected rate--and it's probably making Mark Zuckerberg really nervous.
Last year alone, the social network lost more than 1.4 million users in the 12 to 17-year old demographic, according to new report from research firm eMarketer. That represents a decline of nearly 10 percent, or roughly three times what analysts had predicted. Notably, 2017 was the first time that analysts expected the company to see a drop in usage for any age group. Overall, Facebook lost 2.8 million U.S. users under the age of 25, the data found.
The decline isn't terribly surprising, of course. Facebook's "cool" factor has long been eroding, as competitors offer users new, more ephemeral ways to document their day-to-day lives online. EMarketer suggests that teens, in particular, are less interested in maintaining a long-term record of their digital lives, and are increasingly looking to the disappearing messages service Snap, as well as Instagram and its Stories feature, as alternatives.
Unfortunately for Zuck, 2018 isn't shaping up to look any better. EMarketer predicts another 5.6 percent decline in users between 12 and 17 years old, and a 5.8 percent decline for those between 18 and 24. That likely has executives worried about the long-term dominance of the social media platform.
Imagine that you've made it to the Olympics for the very first time, representing one of the world's best skiing teams. You start out on your very first event. But a the beginning of the race, with all the skiers crowded together, someone steps on your skis, or vice versa, and you do a face plant in the snow. Then two other tripped-up skiers land on top of you.
There's one guy who doesn't have to imagine how this feels because it happened to him--24-year-old Norwegian cross-country skier Simen Hegstad Krueger. "I thought it was going to be the worst day of my life with the start I had, when I was lying on the ground with a broken pole and a ski through my bib number," he told a Norwegian publication. By the time he was back on his feet and had received a new ski pole from one of his coaches, Krueger had lost nearly 40 seconds of race time and he was far behind the other skiers in the event. All 67 of them.
Impressively, he did not do two things a lot of people would have done at that point. First, he didn't give up. A skiathlon is an intensely grueling, 18-mile-plus event that takes more than an hour, and you're skiing uphill for a lot of that time. Having lost all that time and forward momentum, it might have seemed sensible to quietly quit the race, but he chose not to. Second, he didn't focus on the big picture, and the impossibility of performing well in a race where he started out so far behind.
"I had to switch focus."
Instead, he said this: "I was completely last in the group so I had to start the race again and switch focus to catch up with the guys." That's the key to Krueger's success. Instead of fretting over his lost position in the race or the daunting task ahead, he switched focus. All he had to do, at that moment, was find it in himself to catch up to the rest of the pack.
That would have been a perfectly wonderful result. The fall cost him nearly 40 seconds in an event that is typically won by just a few seconds or less. So if he'd come in in the middle of the group, that would have been a good indicator that next time around he'd be in a good position to do very well.
But then Krueger did catch up to the rest of the pack. Once he was back in contention, he said to himself "OK, take one lap, two laps, three laps, and just get into it again." He worked at staying calm. In a crowded field and a lengthy race, when to pull ahead of the other racers is a key strategic question. Do it too early, and you may tire and be overtaken. Wait too long, and you might never get ahead at all.
With about three miles left in the race, Krueger made his move and pulled out ahead of the other racers. And there he stayed, with a bigger and bigger lead, until the TV cameras could barely get Krueger and the skiers chasing him into the same shot. And there he stayed. He won the race in just over one hour and 16 minutes, after glancing over his shoulder in disbelief at the empty space behind him. His fellow Norwegians Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund came in 8 and 10 seconds behind him for the silver and bronze medals.
Sundby and Holund contributed to Krueger's win. Although the skiathlon is an individual event, the Norwegians' attitude is that a medal for Norway is a win for all. So the two other skiers did what they were trained to do. When Krueger pulled ahead, instead of racing to catch him, they hung back a bit, making things awkward for any other skier who might have tried to overtake him.
Krueger had three things going for him that anyone can learn from. First, when things went horribly wrong, he didn't panic and he didn't give up in frustration. But he also didn't stick stubbornly to his original goal. He switched his focus to something manageable that was a step along the way to success. He thought hard about how to make his move at the right time. And he got help and support from the rest of his team.
Do all that, and you can get over nearly any obstacle. Even if you literally fall flat on your face.