Wednesday, January 15, 2020

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s now January — that time of year when many people are fully committed to their New Year’s resolutions of eating healthy, working out and saving more. But New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be limited to our personal lives. Right now — the beginning of a new year and decade — is a great time to create meaningful New Year’s resolutions for your business as well.

This Forbes article gives some great examples of New Year’s resolutions that will set your business up for success. To summarize:

  1. Get more balance in your life. Your health — physical and mental — is important to the success of your business. Make an effort to invest in your health by delegating more and spreading the workload. 
  2. Revisit your business plan. Every business should have a business plan. If you don’t, or yours is out of date, spend some time putting one together. Consider your short-term, medium-term and long-term goals and be specific about the necessary steps to get there.
  3.  Protect yourself against cyber attackers. Cyber attacks can happen to all businesses, no matter what size. Review your current cyber security and establish safeguards to protect your business. 
  4. Find out how to make your customers even happier. Invest in your existing customers. Research shows that it is 25 times more expensive to win a new customer than it is to obtain new business from existing customers. 
  5. Prioritize productivity. How can you improve your business’s productivity? Consider updating out-of-date processes or investing in new technology.
  6. Give your business a financial health check. Take a hard look at your financials. How can your business improve? Make an effort to identify and resolve potential issues. As an example, find ways to collect on your accounts receivable faster.
  7. Be prepared to invest for the future. Make an effort to invest in your business. Failure to do so could limit future opportunities for growth. 

The start of 2020 is a great time to set New Year’s resolutions for your personal life and your business. And whatever specific resolutions you choose to set, make sure they are specific, measurable and achievable. This will help ensure you don’t give up on these resolutions in February. You want these resolutions to set you and your business up for prosperity in 2020!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Will 2020 See a Comprehensive Federal Privacy Law?

I just finished presenting my second webinar on the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which becomes effective January 1, 2020.  Not a lot of time left to get ready.

Businesses are frantically performing data mapping to find out what personal information they collect on California residents and for what purposes, revising their website privacy policies, implementing data security safeguards, reviewing vendor agreements, creating new procedures to respond to consumer requests for access to or deletion of data, purchasing cybersecurity insurance, and other activities necessary to comply with the CCPA.

Many are fearful of the lawsuits likely to follow as a result of the CCPA’s private right of action and provision for statutory damages of up to $750 per incident in the event of a data breach. If records of 50,000 California residents are involved in a data breach, and the business failed to have reasonable data security in place to protect against the breach, a potential claim under the CCPA could exceed $37.5 million. What’s more, under the CCPA, a plaintiff’s lawyer does not need to show any actual harm to an individual caused by such a data breach.  

This private right of action — and potential class action lawsuits enabled by this right — are scary.  

Similar to the CCPA, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) — that regulates the collection, capture, and storage of biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and retina/iris scans — also provides for a private right of action. Under the BIPA, a person can recover liquidated damages of up to $5,000 or actual damages, whichever amount is greater, for an intentional or reckless violation of the BIPA. In 2019 alone, there have already been over 160 class actions filed asserting BIPA violations. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is another privacy related law with a private right of action that has led to an explosion of private lawsuits and multi-million dollar settlements. 

With statutory damages, private rights of action, and no need to allege or prove any actual injury or harm, BIPA, TCPA, and now the CCPA are open invitations to plaintiffs’ lawyers looking for potentially lucrative class actions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Steven Hyden, Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock (Dey Street Books, 2018)

Occasionally we have moments of clarity, times when something in our environment reaches out and whacks us in the head and we wonder why we didn’t notice it before because it was so obvious.

I had one such moment of clarity some time ago as I went about running errands on a typical Saturday morning. A stop at Walgreen’s to pick up a prescription: I briefly tune into the background music — hey, that’s Queen — and for a moment I’m transported back to 1976. Off to the grocery store, where Styx greets me. A quick stop into a fast food restaurant. You guessed it: my dining experience is accompanied by tunes from the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s been this way for a long time. It’s like I’m moving through life in a bubble in which music that was popular during my young adulthood is continually cycling. This didn’t happen with my parents’ music, as good as some of it is in retrospect. No, this must have something to do with demographics, the economic power of my bulging boomer generation. Play our music, and we’ll more readily open our wallets. For younger folks, it’s enough to fuel an “OK Boomer” response. But, if you’re an entrepreneur with potential customers in the Boomer generation, you may want to think about incorporating some classic 70’s rock into your marketing (just don’t do it without consulting a knowledgeable IP lawyer before you do). 

Let’s face it: without the memories, some of this stuff just isn’t that great, as Steven Hyden observes in his Twilight of the Gods. In a nutshell, Wikipedia informs us, this new elevator music comprises “commercially successful songs by white male acts from the Anglosphere, expressing values of Romanticism, self-aggrandizement, and politically undemanding ideologies.” Yup, that’s pretty much it. And I suspect it will be with us until my generation’s buying power dwindles away.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Congratulations to the Participants in the Minnesota Cup!

I was at the Minnesota Cup Final awards ceremony Monday evening. Having been at this event for just about all of its 15-year existence (we’ve been a sponsor of the Cup almost since inception), it’s always great to see all the energy and enthusiasm generated around all of the finalists.

In case you weren’t paying attention, or have been too busy with all the other Twin Cities Startup Week activities in the last week, the overall winner was Abilitech Medical, a company developing wearable devices to assist people dealing with neuromuscular conditions that restrict upper limbs. Abilitech had a super successful night, not only winning the $50,000 grand prize (in addition to the $30,000 it had won as winner of the LifeScience/Health IT division), but another $25,000 from the Carlson Family Foundation as the top woman-led team in the competition this year!

Resonant Cavity, makers of the Voloco app that lets you do voice processing to add automatic tuning, harmony, vocoding, and other tricks to your track, won second place and added $25,000 to its winnings as High Tech division winner. For the record, my younger daughter thought the Voloco app was pretty cool when she downloaded it after I had mentioned to her that I met one of the founders at a Minnesota Cup semi-finalist event we hosted.

Monday, October 14, 2019

You are not alone

This week (October 9-16) is startup week here in the Twin Cities. It is a time when you can find entrepreneurs, from all walks of life throughout various corners of the metro area, coming together to learn from and celebrate each other. There is something on the agenda for almost everybody.

Meanwhile, startup weeks have happened, are happening, or are otherwise scheduled to happen all over the country (see some links below). It’s a powerful reminder to all entrepreneurs that you are not alone in your journey. To be a successful founder, you need to have a network of mentors, so find ways to reach out to and embrace your local founder community, whether it be at a startup week gathering or otherwise.

One awesome example of this in action is Josh Fedie at SalesReach, a Minneapolis-based startup that has developed a system to help sales teams deliver marketing-approved content to sales prospects at the right time (what he calls “Smarketing”). In addition to putting in hours to run his business, Josh has committed significant hours building a strong following for his podcast, The Founders Mentality, which consists of casual, conversational interviews with a plethora of successful founders. He has become one of my favorite LinkedIn profiles to follow because, as a startup attorney who works with founders nearly every day, I find that the interviews offer invaluable insight into all sorts of hot topics for founders and help me better understand the founder “mentality” so that I can better serve my clients.

Friday, October 4, 2019

From Linebacker to Food Entrepreneur: Blake’s Seed Based

Regular readers of entreVIEW may be familiar with my enthusiasm for Wisconsin sports. As an alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it is particularly exciting to see other alumni experiencing professional success — especially when it links sports, entrepreneurship, and my (required) dietary restrictions.

I, along with an estimated 3 million other U.S. adults, am allergic to tree nuts. This can make for awkward social situations (eating alone at weddings because it takes so long to get a nut-free meal) and challenging grocery store selections (if it says it was “processed at a facility that also processes tree nuts,” it’s probably fine, but on the off-chance it’s not, I’m stuck with an entire box of granola bars). So, when I heard the story of a former Wisconsin Badgers football player who had developed a line of allergy-free seed based snack and protein bars, I was intrigued.

Blake Sorensen, a Minnesota native and budding food entrepreneur, was recently featured in a forbes.com article. Between 2007 and 2010, Sorensen was a linebacker for the Wisconsin Badgers. Like me, he has a tree nut allergy. While getting his MBA at Indiana University, Sorensen took a social entrepreneurship class from which a business idea was born: Blake’s Seed Based, a line of snack bars featuring a combination of seeds and fruit free from the major allergens of nuts, dairy, and gluten.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Deepfakes, Privacy, and Deception

by Amanda McAllister and Navin Ramalingam

A “deepfake” is an ultrarealistic fake video made with artificial intelligence software. The term is a portmanteau of the concept of machine “deep learning” and the word “fake.” Essentially, it is the end-product of a computer program “learning” the map of the target subject’s face, finding common ground between two faces, and stitching one face over the other in a video editing process. 

Manipulating video is not necessarily a recent invention. Hollywood has been doing it many years, such as when film effects were used to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like a young Bruce Willis in the film Looper, or the digital recreation of a young Carrie Fisher on actress Ingvild Deila for the Princess Leia cameo in Rogue One. Face-morphing features are also an essential part of multimedia messaging applications like Snapchat.

While the technology may not be inherently illegal or unethical, some manifestations of deepfakes do have the potential to be illegal, to create liability, to spread misinformation, or to violate the privacy of subjects of deepfakes.

For instance, people have been using facial recognition apps and deepfake technology to superimpose faces of well-known celebrities and ordinary people over that of actors in pornographic films or over nude photos to create nonconsensual pornography. The past year has seen several deepfake consumer apps being released permitting its users to create their own deepfakes, including one disturbing app that provided its users the opportunity to create nonconsensual pornography by “undress[ing] photos of women” and making them look “realistically nude.” Fortunately, this app has since been taken down.