Another crowdfunded start-up fails, leaving thousands of orders unfilled

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Crowdfunding – the practice of raising small amounts of money from a large number of relative strangers in order to finance a project – is a great way for start-ups to get seed capital. But it can also be a very risky business.  Just ask the investors of Ouya, an Android-based gaming device. Or the “iBackback,” the “Skarp Laser Razor” or thousands of other great (and not so great) ideas that ultimately met their premature demise.

Now, another start-up has dashed the hopes of their investors.  The company is called Ossic and, according to its campaign on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, its product – the OSSIC X – was to be the world’s first headphone that “instantly calibrates to your anatomy for the most accurate and immersive 3D audio.” The idea was to match 3D sound – particularly for gaming and music –  with virtual reality headsets to “acoustically recreate” the way we heard the world every day. Read More…

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Drugs in the workplace are at their highest levels in a decade

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

new study by research and diagnostic testing firm Quest Diagnostics has revealed a disturbing trend: More employees are testing positive for drugs in their system.

But first, the good news: The rate in 2017 of drug positivity results — where Quest looked at more than ten million lab tests — was mostly the same as a similar study the company conducted in 2016.  Also, prescription opiate positivity rates declined “dramatically” on a national basis.

Unfortunately, the good news stops there. That’s because the study showed a dramatic increase of other drugs found in the blood and urine of subjects and this led to an overall positivity rate of 4.2 percent of employees, which is the highest since the 3.6 percent rate recorded in 2008.  The top rate ever recorded was 13.6 percent in 1988, the first year of the study. The lowest rate ever recorded by the study was 3.5 percent in 2012. Read More…

Starbucks Is Now Open for Loitering and It’s a Terrible Business Decision

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(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)

Starbucks, in an effort to walk back from the recent bad press it received, has just made a terrible business decision. Did you catch it?

According to USA Today and other reports, the company, in a letter to its employees this past weekend, said that “any person who enters our spaces, including patios, cafes and restrooms, regardless of whether they make a purchase, is considered a customer.” Starbucks employees were told to follow company procedures for people that are acting in a “disruptive manner,” particularly when there’s a potential safety concern.

The company is also asking its customers to “behave in a manner that maintains a warm and welcoming environment by using spaces as intended, being considerate of others and communicating with respect.” That’s fine for “customers.” But if a guy’s not buying any coffee how can you call him a customer? Read More…

A huge European security regulation that affects many U.S. companies takes effect this week

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, goes into effect on May 25. Is your company ready?

The objective of the regulation, which passed in 2016, is to simplify and consolidate rules that companies need to follow to protect their data and to return control to E.U. citizens and residents over their personal information. Read More…

Microsoft Plans A Low-Cost Tablet To Rival The iPad…And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — Microsoft plans low-cost tablet line to rival iPad.

Microsoft will release a line of lower-cost Surface tablets by the second half of this year, seeking to compete in a market for cheaper devices that Apple dominates with the iPad. The new tablets will feature 10-inch screens—about the same size as a standard iPad but smaller than the 12-inch screens used on the Surface Pro laptop line. They’ll sell for around $400.  (My company, The Marks Group PC, is a Microsoft partner) (Source: Bloomberg)

Why this is important for your business: Read More…

The SBA restores its website content aimed at LGBT business owners

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Back in the first days after President Trump’s inauguration, the Small Business Administration took down resources targeted at LGBT business owners from its website, stating that those pages – along with many others – were “under review.”

The move understandably upset the LGBT community and as recently as last week no action had been taken to restore the information – so much so that a few members of Congress raised the issue.

“This is deeply troubling and renews our concern that this page’s removal may have been politically or ideologically motivated, rather than simply administrative,” Reps. Nydia M. Velazquez and Yvette D. Clarke, both New York Democrats, wrote in a letter to the SBA’s administrator Linda McMahon. The authors, according to this report on NBC News pointed out the value of the “nearly $2 trillion in economic contributions” made by the 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses across the nation. Read More…

Some small businesses in the U.K. (and the U.S.) are having a very royal time

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are getting married this weekend, and it’s obviously a very happy time for the royal couple and their families. It’s also a very profitable time for many small businesses in the United Kingdom.

Some agencies are estimating that the event could contribute as much as $108 million to the U.K. economy.

“There could be a modest boost to GDP growth in the second quarter from the royal wedding and the football World Cup starting in mid-June,” Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to economic forecasting group the EY Item Club, told the Guardian. “There may well be a temporary boost to retail sales from people buying souvenirs and also to tourism.” Read More…