The ABCs of Alphabet, Google’s new parent company

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In what could be one of the biggest business moves in recent history, Google announced on August 10 that it is rebranding itself as Alphabet. If some industry observers deemed the creation of the new holding company a radical move by the technology giant, others believed this innovation is exactly what Google is known for. As Google co-founder Larry Page stressed in the blog post “G is for Google”, the company has “always strived to do more, and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have.” Something he and Sergey Brin made clear early on in their founders letter 11 years ago, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

The restructuring puts Alphabet as a holding company whose largest asset is the search firm Google. Serving as Alphabet’s CEO is Page, with Brin as president. Completing the ruling triumvirate is Eric Schmidt, who assumes the executive chairmanship post.

Google meanwhile will be headed by Sundar Pichai, who has been running most of the company’s major businesses since October of last year. Pichai, who has been with Google since 2004 and has been credited for pitching the idea of the company creating its own browser, will now be overseeing search, advertising, maps, the video service YouTube, and the mobile operating system Android. As Page wrote in the blog post, he is confident that “Sundar will always be focused on innovation — continuing to stretch boundaries.”

Other companies under Alphabet’s portfolio include:

• Calico, an anti-aging biotech company
• Sidewalk, a company focused on smart cities
• Nest, a developer of Internet-connected devices for the home
• Fiber, high-speed Internet service provider
• Investment arms Google Ventures (focus on venture capital) and Google Capital (zeroes in on private equity deals)
• Incubator projects such as Google X, which is working on self-driving cars and delivery drones

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The restructuring comes at a time of immense pressure on companies, even high-flying ones like Google, to continue innovating while delivering short-term results. And Google responded in a way that may seem “crazy”, but is really an accurate demonstration of the company’s culture. “We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time,” wrote Page. “Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy, but we are super excited about.” Only revolutionary ideas from a certified trailblazer.


Behold, Financial Times’ Newest Owner

The Financial Times, one of the most recognized international dailies, has a new owner.

Pearson PLC has agreed to sell the FT Group, which includes the widely recognized pink newspaper, luxury lifestyle magazine How to Spend It, and a collection of specialist titles including The Banker, to Japan-based Nikkei Inc., the largest business media group in Asia for 844 million pounds (about $1.3 billion). The deal marks the end of an almost 60-year ownership for the London-based organization. With Nikkei taking over FT, Pearson will be concentrating on its core business – it educational textbook and publishing unit.

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The sale did not come as a surprise to industry observers. There were rumors that Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and Germany’s Axel Springer were showing interest in the acquisition. Although Pearson’s former chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino insisted that FT will never be sold, her successor, John Fallon, never made any declaration when he took over in 2013.

The current media landscape, which highlights the importance of a digital strategy, was the primary consideration for the FT sale. “In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company,” said Fallon in a statement. For his part, Nikkei’s chairman and CEO Tsuneo Kita said that he is extremely proud to team with FT, and Nikkei’s “motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality” is similar to that of FT’s.

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FT was first published as a four-page newspaper in 1888 and was acquired by Pearson in 1957. FT’s circulation currently stands at 737,000, 70 percent of which is composed of digital subscribers. It has recorded an increase in digital subscription for the past years. Print circulation, however, has been slipping.

The deal does not include Pearson’s 50 percent stake in The Economist, the business and current affairs weekly, as well as FT’s headquarters in central London. The sale, which is payable in cash, will still be subject to regulatory approval. Pearson expected the deal to be finalized by the fourth quarter of 2015.

See a Need, Fill a Need: New Horizons for Business Growth

In spite of the economic climate (which in itself is showing signs of recovery), there remain ample opportunities for the enterprising individual. As a need becomes apparent, or a want becomes prominent, entrepreneurs come into their own, offering new products and services to fill what had been an economic vacuum.

Old needs, new markets

Cab services like Uber and Lyft have filled a niche generated by a perennial problem. Commuters loathe every moment stuck in traffic, especially with the rigors of driving and mass transportation being an everyday struggle. These startups are fast becoming the commuting solution of the future by adopting the old carpooling model.

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Although still technically taxi services, Uber and Lyft are progressively becoming true ridesharing services by offering discount options for passengers who share rides with strangers traveling the same route. This provides travelers with a budget-friendly alternative to travel along with others while contributing to the decongestion of roads.

Situational opportunities

Although seen as a typical dish for those too lazy to cook, in Kenya, the word “pizza” connotes a certain air of class that is not usually available to the person on the streets. Even the very flavor of pizza has been a mystery to the average Kenyan. In response to this mystique and the subtle air of demand, franchises such as Naked Pizza have begun filling the largely empty niche.

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Naked Pizza has slowly been growing by leaps and bounds in the East African nation, bringing what had been the coveted luxury dish within occasional access to working class Kenyans. It stands out of the competition by offering healthier options and distributing through both branch stores and food trucks.

Our business is funding your business

There are even opportunities available in helping other businesses to their feet. Funding small businesses and startups through loans and credit had been open territory since banks became wary of lending to smaller enterprises since the recession. Online credit provider Kabbage is just one of many alternative creditors catering to businesses that have stepped in to fill the now-lucrative new gap and continues to flourish today.

As the needs of people and businesses grow, so would the niches for new businesses and industries to fill. For the consummate businessperson, adversity is just opportunity in disguise, and several new startups across the world have embraced this paradigm to fill a market niche that few others knew even existed.

Number of US unemployment aid applications reaches 15-year low

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid has reached a 15-year low, according to official statements. The Labor Department reported that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 34,000 – the lowest level since April 2000. The four-week average showed a similar dip, with 1,250 less applications. The number of people receiving aid also declined, with only 2.25 million people being compensated. This is the fewest since December 2000.

Unemployment aid applications have been shown by several studies to be related to layoffs. When companies recycle their employees – usually a sign of economic turmoil (either on a global or local scale) – the number of locals seeking aid increases. The sharp decline in applications has given many financial experts renewed optimism for the local economy. Many employers are holding on to their workers, despite a currently struggling job market.

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National reports revealed that the economy rose by a mere 0.2 percent during the first quarter, down from 3.6 percent during the second half of last year. However, if employers estimated a longer-lasting slump, they would have begun downsizing. The trend, then, of retaining employees suggests that the weak rise during the first part of the year may have just been a bump on the road.

Economists attribute the less-than-spectacular growth to temporary factors such as the West Coast port strike and harsh winter weather. These factors forced consumers to cut back on their spending and businesses to reduce their investments on new oil and gas drilling for cheaper oil sources. The dollar was also dependent on exports, which widened the trade gap. Hiring was also weak during the first part of the year, with only 126,000 new jobs during March, the fewest in 15 months. This occurred despite the unemployment rate remaining at 5.5 percent.

Analysts estimate that growth will rebound during the second quarter to about 2.5 percent.

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Foreign entrepreneurs spur local economic growth

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A recent BBC article discussed the global trend in attracting and supporting foreign entrepreneurship. Many economies are now designing platforms and programs that invite foreign business people to develop their enterprises within their locales. This is the offshoot of an increasingly competitive global environment where each country is determined to host the latest and most innovative businesses with the goal of spurring the local economy.

By inviting foreign business people to invest in a local economy, more jobs are created, and taxes and revenues increase the cash flow of the state. This type of “focused immigration” not only affects the financial industry but the political arena as well. With the rise of technological advances, geographical boundaries are no longer a factor in determining a nation’s wealth or global competitiveness. Financial experts agree that competitiveness and growth are no longer dependent on who creates the trend, but what is effective.

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There are, of course, detractors to this school of thought. Anti arguments worry that foreign businesses will undermine local businesses. National talent might be overshadowed, which can lead to a significant loss of good entrepreneurs in a country. Moreover, local workers could migrate to higher-paying foreign outfits. Analysts reveal that workers in developing countries are more inclined to share their skill sets in jobs with higher pay. And in this latter regard, foreign businesses have the competitive edge.

Financial experts generally have a positive outlook on this global trend and bewail the “myopic” nature of the “nay” arguments. The emphasis on a more economically integrated world involves surpassing geographical or cultural limitations. According to predictions, the next few years will see expatriate businesses on the rise in most competitive local economies.

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Rethinking American working habits

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These days, on average, Americans work about 9.2 hours a day, and many go on for that long without taking a break. Many workers don’t even bother taking their lunch break, and only one in three people report doing so. Meanwhile, most workers either eat at their desk or completely go without that mid-day meal and rest period.

The dream of the past was that modern technology would usher in an era where people would do less work. The reality that exists today, however, is that while technology has indeed made it possible for people to have an easier time doing certain tasks, many workers and offices are still seeking to get more things done.

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The drive to get more things done in the short amount of time available has convinced some people that multitasking is the key. Yet, according to studies, people weren’t meant to be multitasking for a worker’s productivity drops significantly if he or she chooses to engage in a multitude of tasks all at once instead of focusing on just one.

In addition, the focus on high productivity is not without consequences. Due to the long hours workers put in and their sedentary lifestyle, many are at higher risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease. It has gotten to the point that many articles have been published on how taking breaks and taking vacations are great ideas. As many of those articles highlight, the benefit of taking a timely break from work rewards a person with greater job satisfaction and higher productivity.

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Measuring work value in hours spent and the number of menial tasks accomplished is counterproductive, some experts argue. Overworked and underpaid employees don’t do their best at work and aren’t always engaged in their job. Despite the long hours put in by many workers, they don’t necessarily spend their time efficiently and creatively.

Evidently, there is a need for a change in work attitudes and policies. American work culture needs to move away from encouraging overworking and instead, should encourage creativity and innovation, as this will undoubtedly result in a more productive economy and a better life for all employees.

State vs. federal: Prosecuting a criminal case

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Motor vehicle thefts, fraud, and drug trafficking are some of the most common crimes committed daily in the country. And in each criminal case, prosecutors decide whether the defendant will be prosecuted in state or federal court.

Under the U.S. Constitution, both the federal government and the state courts have authority to prosecute crimes. The difference between these two, however, is defined mainly by jurisdiction, which refers to the types of cases a court is authorized to handle.

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Majority of criminal prosecutions take place in state courts. Most of these trials are those in connection to the laws governed by the state. Hence, cases involving citizens of the state, such robberies, traffic violations, and family disputes, are most likely tried in state courts. Given their large judiciary scope, states prosecute a far greater number of crimes than the federal government.

Federal courts, meanwhile, handle criminal cases in which there is a federal interest. These include drug trafficking offenses, organized crime, copyright and patent infringement, financial crimes, and large-scale frauds. In addition, any crime that involves or takes place in a federal property, such as national parks and departments, authorizes the federal government to deal with the suspect.

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When determining whether a case should be tried in a state or federal court, the main consideration is the jurisdiction of the court. Also, the decision is based on the extent of the matter and the scope and limitation of each state.

This <Jonathan Bunge blog features posts on law and criminal cases.