Technology for your home is growing to a state where it can care for your home even while you’re away. Led by some of the more name brand products in this industry like Nest, in-home technology is continuing to advance quickly.
Still, some products and apps aren’t so convenient for the homeowner. Others are saviors in the sense that they can make your everyday life much easier. From security to energy saving systems, there are tons of options to control normal housing functions. Here are my favorite apps that can help you build a smarter home.
SmartThings, an iOS app, is on a mission to turn your smartphone into a remote control for your home.
SmartThings connects sensors and devices to create a network right in your hand. The kit simply asks you to connect the sensors to your devices and instantly it’s compatible with any other home automation apps. It could be your refrigerator or even your garage door, all controlled from the SmartThings platform.
The experience is very user friendly. You can add any compatible device to your home’s system and pair it with the any app. Once your system is in place, SmartThings can even help you remotely address issues in the home. If you left your oven open, SmartThings will notify you and do the deed remotely. Most importantly, this app thinks for itself and creates a level of communication between devices. When there’s a door left open, your AC can adjust so pointless dollars aren’t spent. SmartThings thinks about your home when you forget to.
WeMo, a Belkin product, is a smart device that connects to your smartphone. WeMo specifically helps you control your devices when you’re away. You can turn your appliances on or off with the touch of a button or put them on a schedule and they’ll operate on their own. Put your lights or coffee on a schedule and take one more task off your hands.
The biggest luxury with WeMo is that you can automate everything or nothing, it’s up to your discretion. Try your hand at WeMo’s automation. A set including one switch and one motion sensor is on the shelves for only $80.
Nest is a smart thermostat and one of the first devices to help you save time and energy. The company was started by former Apple engineers but soon acquired by Google.
The thermostat sports an easy-to-use interface that control a myriad of features. Simply turn on the heat on your way home so that you’re comfortable when you arrive or setting your AC for a certain time each day is all possible through Nest. If you’re a busy person, home automation can be a burden at first but products like Nest allow you to control your home’s temperature, efficiently, with ease.
Each of these three devices offer a different service to control your home from afar. Which apps help make your life easier and calm your worries while you’re away?
In the current era of startups, the culture of the company can be just as important as the culture the company supports. Within the last 5 years, many tech startups have started to assume a much more active approach when it comes to social responsibility.
Numerous fast growth startups channel their funds towards self-driven missions but there is also a handful that use their growth to impact communities in need, outside of their direct industry. Still, the monetary side isn’t the extent of their giving; services and internal opportunities also have a grave impact on the common good. Here are four tech companies leading the way in dynamic charitable efforts.
The ecommerce powerhouse Amazon operates an in-house program that gives back to charity with quite a convenience for their customers. Amazon Smile allows you to support your favorite charities without even noticing the difference on the website. Simply by shopping at the custom url, smile.amazon.com, Amazon donates a portion of proceeds to charity with ever Amazon Smile purchase.
The percentage of the donation isn’t disclosed by Amazon Smile offers a list of about 1 million different eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations.
Toptal, one of the biggest freelance-software developer networks, is a great example of a smaller group taking on a big charitable mission. Toptal is a company that uses its software development expertise to help the progress of aspiring engineers deriving from low income backgrounds.
In partnership with General Assembly, the Total Global Mentors Program provides the equivalent of $1 million put towards tutoring and mentorship for remote GA students. Toptal even tops themselves with an additional contribution of $100,000 to establish Toptal Fellowships to the GA Opportunity Fund with a similar mission as their mentors program.
SurveyMonkey makes this list because they’ve been able to reward their massive user base for just take a survey and donate to charities at the same time.
SurveyMonkey Contribute sends users surveys based on their personality and interests and in return they can win cool prizes as well as an automatic $0.50 donation to a charity of choice. The program has managed to raise over $5 million in donations for charities like Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross and more.
Microsoft has participated in all kinds of charity but they are most generous with their products. In 2014, Microsoft donated tech equipment to over 86,000 organizations at a globally (more than 125 different countries). They’ve also made charity an initiative that all employees can be a part of individually. They offer a volunteer match program where Microsoft employees can donate $25 of company dollars to charity for every four hours of volunteer work.
As focused as these companies are on innovation and growth, they’re always finding new ways to give back. The duty to be socially responsible is becoming a standard and tech companies have found creative ways to do so through internal programs and other donations. How would you give back to the community if you had the company resources to do so?
Over the past year, the ride-hailing startup industry has grown exponentially, only led by a couple of industry giants.
Lyft, Uber’s top competitor, just recently raised $1 billion in a Series F round of funding. Surprisingly enough, $500 million of the investment came from a household name, General Motors. Lyft is now valued at $5.5 billion just after 3 years of operations. Their previous valuation of $2.5 billion saw a leap in Series F.
Lyft’s recent success comes as no surprise to those who have been keeping an eye on the battle of service between Uber and Lyft.
GM will also become the newest addition to Lyft’s board and together they plan to create an Autonomous On-Demand Network that will allow riders to book a self-driving car. Their vehicle development matched with Lyft’s ride hailing technology can potentially amount to something great for society.
Though Uber’s success has been paramount as well, not to mention the list of viable competitors looking to knock down the door.
Sidecar, the ride-sharing and B2B delivery service, shut down shop last month after 4 years of operation. Used widely across the country, Sidecar was eventually pushed out but their technology was ground breaking according to their founders. Co-founders, Sunil Paul and Jahan Khanna said in a Medium post, that the two take pride in being “the innovation leader” in ridesharing. They attribute their cease of operations to their significant capital disadvantage.
Most would think that without Uber and Lyft’s insurgence, Sidecar wouldn’t have had to shut down but instead they would’ve prospered. Uber’s valuation currently stands at $51 billion, making it one of the few unicorns in startup land. Aside from Uber’s services, their model has created a whole new community of jobs. Uber drivers are offered adequate pay but they also have the luxury of using their own vehicle which makes it that much more enticing. Uber is undoubtedly changing transportation for the drivers and the riders.
If there’s one thing that could define this startup transportation industry, it would be innovation. Still there are other options that haven’t been mentioned, i.e. Zipcar, but as Uber and Lyft lead the pack they’ve changed how people get around, across the world. How much further will these two continue to raise their valuations and societal impact in 2016?
As you look to build your investment portfolio, it’s imperative that you pay attention to the small things at all times because every penny counts. Investing fees should amount to no more than 1% of your overall portfolio value. Nowadays there are so many low cost investing options but the management of money can get lost in these cycles.
Though there are many “chefs in the kitchen” per say in the realm of real estate investing. Everyone wants to get their cut — brokerages, real estate funding businesses, advisors, planners and government regulations. But it’s important that investors have a close eye on the vulnerable areas of their portfolio so that unexpected fees don’t run amuck.
Assess how your investments are contributing to your wealth by paying attention to these three costs.
Workplace Retirement Plan Costs:
Employer-sponsored retirement plans (401(k)s, 403(b)s) have an array of perks, including tax-saving features, investing automation, and other additional amenities. Although, providing ongoing administrative support comes with a fee. And the fund companies within the plan want their cut, too.
On average, 401(k) fees range from 1% to 2% and, in most cases, those costs are passed along to you and other participants in the plan. A subtle 1% doesn’t seem too hefty but when taken off the top of your account, it could impact your finances much more drastically than anticipated.
One of the more surface fees when it comes to your investment portfolio are trading commissions.
I encourage you to check the cost of buying or selling when you invest in individual stocks or buy mutual funds through a brokerage.
Often, brokerages charge a flat fee to place an order to buy a mutual fund. But fees for things like options trading, broker-assisted trades, and other types of investments can be much more taxing. On top of that, there are other costs that will arise — account closing fees, transfer fees, and others.
And don’t forget about other costs you may have to cover — transfer fees, account closing fees, and extra costs if you want to have a human being make your trade.
Investors also pay what’s called a “spread” when they buy or sell stocks or mutual funds and this is a cost that tends to be overlooked. When you research the price of a fund or stock and you see it’s cost per share, that’s the “bid”. But the price you have to pay if you want to buy the share will always be a little higher, that’s the ask. The difference, the bid-ask spread, must be paid by every buyer — including the big mutual funds.
Paying attention to these typical fees as well as others can help you build an investment portfolio that will serve you well for years to come.
5 Marketing and eCommerce Trends To Watch For in 2016.
Whether you’re in the real estate business or an entrepreneur of a different kind chances are you are constantly searching for new ways to market yourself or your business. In real estate a big challenge is attracting new buyers- which I mentioned briefly in my last blog post. It’s not that millennials don’t WANT to buy it’s simply that they’re not sure HOW to buy. Attracting this younger generation can be tricky but definitely not impossible. The trick is to learn their language, understand how marketing has evolved in the digital world we are now living in, and arm yourself with the right tools.
So here are 5 marketing and ecommerce trends to look out for in the coming year and how you can implement them in your own business.
- Snapchat. Snapchat is incredibly underrated as a marketing tool. Sure, the photo or video may only last 16 seconds but that doesn’t make it’s impact any less great. It’s a quick, fun way to get someone’s attention. In real estate it could be a creative way to announce that you’re having an open house or show a sneak peek of a new listing. In retail it could be a cool way to announce that you’ll give 20% off to anyone who mentions the snap. The possibilities are endless and many companies haven’t taken advantage of this marketing opportunity just yet. So get ahead of the curve and be one of the first to leverage this platform!
- Get on board with the “buy” button. Sites like pinterest and facebook have recently implemented call to action buttons such as “buy” or “book appointment”, etc. This allows consumers to purchase items that they see on social media without having to do any research on where to find it or book an appointment with a real estate agent or doctor without ever having to pick up a phone. Not utilizing these tools would be a mistake in my opinion.
- Venmo. While this doesn’t really apply to the real estate world I figured I’d throw this in here for other industries and startups. Venmo is an app that allows users to quickly and easily share money. It would be great for street vendors such as food trucks, retail stores, even restaurants. The younger generation loves it for reasons such as not having to split tabs or Ubers- one person can pay for it and then everyone can Venmo that person their share of the bill without having to make an extra stop at an ATM or ever carry cash. It is the new, more effective PayPal.
- High Quality Content. The need for content is not slowing down, in fact people expect higher quality content these days. In real estate this means having high quality photos on your website, instagram, pinterest, etc, having 3D virtual tours that are clear or creative YouTube videos that showcase the homes you are trying to sell. Photo content is increasingly important in just about any industry as is video and written content.
- Targeted Gifting/Sponsored Posts. Influencer marketing has become a HUGE marketing tool. Brands who understand it and utilize it properly can become global phenomenons within a couple of months. Some examples are BirchBox and Triangl Swimwear. BirchBox partnered with multiple influential beauty bloggers and within a year they became the biggest subscription box company on the market. Triangl Swimwear sent just about every fashion and travel blogger a complimentary swimsuit and became one of the top swimwear lines almost overnight. By giving someone with 50k + followers (or even paying someone to promote your product) a complimentary product or meal you are reaching thousands, sometimes even millions of people that hadn’t heard of you before, and if you reach out to a couple influencers in the same area at the same time it is likely that everyone in town will now know your company’s name. The industries that benefit most from this would likely be fashion, beauty, hotels and restaurants.
The digital age is so exciting and it’s interesting to see how marketing has evolved within the last 5 years! For more advice on implementing marketing tools follow me on twitter @Richard_Maize
Once considered a secondary option, food trucks often filled the void when stationary stores were closed. The food truck industry has since evolved into stable businesses traveling on four wheels. Although to create an organic following in this field, you have to deliver with quality and that’s exactly how Richeeze has made city goers smile day in and day out.
Richeeze has managed to redefine a common household meal with their grilled cheese and it’s garnered large crowds here in the Santa Monica community.
The initial idea came about when founder Richard Maize noticed that the ultimate comfort food didn’t really have any variations and Maize wanted to bring this commodity to the forefront. But Richeeze does more than just offer options to the famous grilled cheese sandwich we all loved as kids; Richeeze centers their business around quality in every aspect. From their service to the food itself, they give customers what’s best.
The core of Richeeze is their customizable menu packed with 9 different All-American Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich options and sides that touch base on all the delicious variations Richeeze specializes in. With some of the top chefs in LA, Richeeze wanted to redesign the traditional grilled cheese. They took combinations of breads and cheeses we all know and love to create gourmet melts for all pallets. From the Richeeze award winning Bacon Mac to the flavor-filled Ally’s Special, they cover a wide variety of meat and vegetarian options. We recommend that you try one of their signature melts and you too will smile and say…RICHEEZE!
Richeeze brings an array of original options to the grilled cheese sandwich that can’t be found elsewhere. Their quality is unmatched as everything is baked from scratch including the bread that’s picked up daily from a local bakery.
But the quality of the food isn’t the only thing exceeding expectations. The environment Richeeze offers in addition to their menu has everyone in the southern California area repeating the slogan, “Smile and Say Richeeze.”
In route to revolutionizing the food truck industry, Richeeze provides music and touch screen menus accompanied by a fun, interactive staff that help you order your food without having to repeatedly yell through the truck window. Wait, but don’t forget the outdoor seating as well!
The goal was to bring the restaurant with them and that’s just what they’ve done. Not only have consumers taken notice to the new food trucks taking the industry by storm, but so have the experts. In 2014 Richeeze won the award for the best food at the weekend Bacon Festival. But they’ve been receiving requests left and right to attend national food festivals.
Richeeze has done a spectacular job in establishing themselves in the Santa Monica culture and their demand is so high that three more trucks are expected to be in route in the near future. Maize plans for the trucks to become more commonly known soon as they plan to provide to more and more larger universities around the country.