Monday, November 5, 2018

An American Buyer in Italy

This past week I had the extreme privilege of attending the 120th annual Fieracavalli (translation: Horse Fair) show in Verona, Italy. This is a massive exposition comprised of over 12 buildings, eight arenas, and seemingly endless outdoor exhibitor areas. There are a multitude of events going on simultaneously, from B2B vendor booths to public shopping to educational shows for school children to world class jumping competitions. It’s completely fantastic and overwhelming!

I was graciously invited to attend Fieracavalli by the Italian Trade Agency. With their country in the middle of a recession, they made the decision to fly in a small group of “influential” American equestrian industry buyers in the hopes of building business relationships and increasing the Italian brand presence in our U.S. market. They took wonderful care of us, from the comfortable Lufthansa flights to the beautiful Hotel Giberti accommodations. They even surprised us with tickets to the historic 120th anniversary dinner, set in a courtyard and building where Mozart himself used to play music in his youth, and they gave us VIP accommodations to the spectacular “Gala D’Oro,” or Golden Gala, with performances from some of the best equine acts in their country. As one of the few delegates treated to this magnificent display of hospitality, I feel compelled to share my amazing experience.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why Buy When You Can Share?

My husband and I recently honeymooned in Italy and Croatia. As we made our way through both countries, we stayed almost exclusively in homes we rented from Airbnb, we took several Uber rides, and we were wined and dined at the home of a Tuscan winemaker, an unforgettable experience we booked through Airbnb. In short, we took part in what is known as the “sharing economy.”

The sharing economy goes by many different names and is difficult to define. The Oxford Dictionary took a stab at it in 2015 when it defined the sharing economy as “an economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either free or for a fee, typically by means of the internet.” Basically, the sharing economy is a system in which individuals and businesses can share their cars, homes, clothing, and other assets, thereby making money on otherwise underused assets. On the other side, individuals and companies can pay to use these assets at a fraction of the cost of buying them. Win-win. Examples of well-known companies operating in the sharing economy include:

  • Airbnb, an online marketplace used to arrange lodging and tourism experiences.
  • Uber, a peer-to-peer ridesharing and food delivery company.
  • Lyft, an on-demand transportation company.
  • Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing company.
  • Rent the Runway, a clothing rental service.
  • Le Tote, a clothing rental subscription service.

The concept of sharing resources has historical roots. However, the old concept was made new in the 21st century thanks to new technologies such as the internet and mobile phones. The concept has since seen extraordinary growth worldwide.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” - George Santayana

I’m going to depart from discussing my usual intellectual property and technology subjects and step on my colleague Dave Morehouse’s toes with discussion of a book. Actually three books—Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy.  

The first book, “Fall of Giants,” follows five interrelated families from Wales, England, Russia, Germany, and the U.S. as they experience social and political issues at the time of the First World War. The second book, “Winter of the World,” continues with these five groups through the rise of the Third Reich, World War II, and the beginning of the Cold War. The third and final book, “Edge of Eternity,” continues the families’ stories in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

I first read these books as they were published between 2011 and 2014. While I don’t often reread books, particularly when they are this voluminous, I was recently drawn to them for a second look. If you have read Follett, you are familiar with his creative and interesting use of fictional characters and occurrences to illustrate and explain actual historical events. But unlike dry historical narratives, he gives you a sense of the human side of why things happened. In my initial read, I found the human stories to be most compelling, but viewed them largely in their historical context—things that happened 100, 80, and 50 years ago. In my second reading, I am drawn to the broader backdrop and some striking relevance to current social and political behavior.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

JUSTICE NEVER RESTS

I usually write about legal issues relating to privacy and data security. The long anticipated new European privacy law known as the GDPR took effect this past May. It was quickly followed by the California Consumer Rights Act, which takes effect in 2020. Earlier this year I wrote about these new protective laws and what they mean for businesses.

For this post, however, I am going to share a personal story that in some ways demonstrates the huge difference between European and American privacy laws and regulations.

On November 21, 1944, my mother, Judy Meisel, was in line with her mother, Mina Beker, as they approached the gas chamber at Stutthof concentration camp in Poland. A Nazi guard pulled my mother from the line just before her mother was ushered into the small and dank brick structure where she was poisoned with Zyklon B gas. We know the exact date Mina was murdered as the Germans kept a detailed record book. You can find the page and see where, on row 4, they recorded my grandmother’s birthdate and hometown. The last column displays the date they ended her life.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Gudrun Sjödén—A Colourful Universe

I recently visited the American Swedish Institute and discovered the colorful world of Gudrun Sjödén, an artist known as “the watercolor-painting entrepreneur.” On view from July 27 through October 28, 2018, this bold exhibition, Gudrun Sjödén—A Colourful Universe, celebrates Gudrun Sjödén’s illustrious career as a Swedish textile designer and a global entrepreneur.  

Gudrun’s whimsical, feminine aesthetic is inspired by Swedish folk art, nature, and global motifs. Her designs are characterized by bold colors and big patterns: florals, zigzags, stripes, and polka dots. She founded her company over 40 years ago in Stockholm and the Gudrun Sjödén brand now has a presence around the world with 22 international stores. “Our colorful customers can be found all over the world. They are strong, self-actualized women who express their personalities. We aim to inspire women to make a statement and be seen.”  
  
Although she is very connected to the art of her brand, she also understands business and still leads the company as the CEO. Her motto: “Mastering the numbers is fundamental for creative freedom.” In January 2018, Sjödén received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for “best international growth.” Her artistic passion fuels her entrepreneurial spirit. Gudrun Sjödén is a living brand.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (Bloomsbury Press, 2012)

An interesting story popped up in my Facebook feed a couple of days ago. (Yes, my children have made me aware that Facebook is now so last decade.) The item called attention to the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the former high-flying investment banking house whose bankruptcy presaged the coming of the Great Recession.

That got me thinking about how—or even whether—things have changed over the ensuing decade. This further led me to think about 23 Things, which, written by a Korean economist at Cambridge University, argues that “none of the causes of the crisis—toxic assets crippling balance sheets, collapse in housing markets, excessive personal and corporate debts—have been resolved.” Though perhaps a bit dated now, many of Chang’s specific points still hold up.

Let’s get one potential canard out of the way: Chang is no wild-eyed radical; from the outset, he makes clear his belief that, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others.” That said, he offers a number of focused criticisms of dogmatic neoliberal beliefs about capitalism, each treated as one of the “23 Things” mentioned in the title. All of these “Things” expose fallacies in the belief that there is such a thing as a “free-market economy.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Future of Passwords

Passwords are the most common form of authentication on the Internet. Today, the average user has 90 different accounts that require usernames and passwords, making it improbable that the average consumer will effectively remember all of their passwords for each of their accounts. All too often we choose predictable passwords and pins and reuse the same password for multiple accounts. Cyber criminals and thieves will often engage in credential stuffing to use compromised username and password combinations to breach other accounts associated with their victims.

While there has been a trend towards businesses offering two-factor SMS-based authentication, this process is also not not entirely secure. It is becoming increasingly common for cyber criminals to hijack a victim’s mobile phone number and intercept the password reset link.

The proliferation of knowledge-based authentication requiring users to answer questions to verify their identity is also compromised by the plethora of publicly available personal information posted on social media or in public records. While we can change our passwords, we cannot change other details of our lives in the event of a security breach, such as our mothers’ maiden names or the city where we were born.