How our home delivery habit reshaped the world – The Guardian

How the pressures of home delivery reorder the world can be understood best through the “last mile” – which is not strictly a mile but the final leg that a parcel travels from, say, Magna Park 3 to a bedsit in Birmingham. The last mile obsesses the delivery industry. No one in the day-to-day hustle of e-commerce talks very seriously about the kind of trial-balloon gimmicks that claim to revolutionise the last mile: deliveries by drones and parachutes and autonomous vehicles, zeppelin warehouses, robots on sidewalks. Instead, the most pressing last-mile problems feel basic, low-concept, old-school. How best to pack a box. How to beat traffic. What to do when a delivery driver rings the doorbell and no one is home. What to do with the forests of used cardboard. In home delivery, the last mile has become the most expensive and difficult mile of all.

Interesting article about online shopping and delivery. There are a lot of issues, notably those that affect the environment. And these issues vary according to where people live.

For me, living about three miles from a town of about 30,000 people, which is very poorly served by roads in and out of the town, it would be a drive of at least thirty minutes – fifteen minutes each way – to buy anything. Even going to the supermarket is about ten minutes each way; we are fortunate to have a supermarket on the edge of the town, on the side where we live. (And we shop there several times a week, and almost never order groceries online. Though we do buy cat food from Amazon, because we can get it in bulk, much cheaper than from the supermarket.)

So if I needed some small item – such as something I bought recently to hang some pictures in my office – that’s a minimum of thirty minutes drive time, plus the time it would take to find the item. So let’s say one hour to buy anything.

On the flip side, there is the packaging that comes from Amazon or other merchants. It all goes into the recycling bin, and I assume that the local authorities do recycle it rather than burn it or dump it in landfills.

So it’s hard to say that getting deliveries is worse for the environment in my context than going to local stores. In addition, we don’t have that many local stores. For example, we only have one book store, with limited choice, and for the small computer hardware I regularly need for my work, there’s just one consumer-oriented store that doesn’t have many of the things I need (and when they do, they are substantially more expensive than from online dealers).

To sum up, there is certainly a lot to say about our new commercial infrastructure. In some cases it’s not good for the environment, and in others it actually is better than individual shopping trips.

Source: How our home delivery habit reshaped the world | Technology | The Guardian

When Corporate Innovation Goes Bad — The 155 Biggest Product Failures Of All Time

From the DeLorean and New Coke to the Newton and Google Glass, here’s a list of the biggest product flops from corporate giants.

Product innovation is one way that large corporations stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace, but it doesn’t always work out when big brands attempt innovation.

Below are what we consider to be 155 of the biggest product flops of all time. We combed through thousands of media articles to select these product flops across major industries including tech software and hardware, consumer packaged goods, fast food, and electronics.

Not all of these are flops – well, the Evian Water Bra certainly is – but some of them are products that had a fairly long life but just lost out against the competition. Things like Betamax (which was better, but lost to VHS), and the LaserDisc, could have done much better, but got supplanted by other technologies. (Technically, even VHS is a failure.) And some other items were ahead of their time (the Newton), or transitional (DATs). But it’s an interesting graveyard of dead products, many of which have been truly forgotten.

It’s worth thinking about some of these products with a couple of Amazon’s new product announcements, such as Alexa glasses and an Alexa ring.

Source: When Corporate Innovation Goes Bad — The 155 Biggest Product Failures Of All Time

Book Review — Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business

Many high-concept business books present amorphous ideas about how to succeed in business, but Growth IQ by bestselling author, Tiffani Bova, is extremely concrete. This is not a book about turning your company upside down or inside out using trendy new concepts from a TED talk, but rather a book that looks at the way businesses really work and how to achieve growth.

The ten growth paths, a list “built on the back of long-standing management thinking and frameworks…” are all practical and applicable to all sorts of businesses. However, this is no quick-fix book: the ideas here call for a long-term approach.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

The Art of Storytelling in Business and Creating Brand Awareness

Humans love stories. They’re how we make sense of the world. Stories present events and actions in a timeline, allowing us to follow cause and effect, and helping us see how different events relate to each other. And as stories progress, we want to know more, we want to know what happens. Who hasn’t stayed up well past their usual bedtime reading a page-turner or watching just one more episode of a TV series on Netflix?

When you launch a business, it’s important to have a compelling story to tell. This wasn’t always the case. Go back a few decades, and all that mattered was having a product or service that was different, but now, the landscape is so saturated that having a good story to tell about your business can help you get noticed, attract investors to take a chance with you, and help build your brand.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Why You Should Outline Before Writing Important Business Documents

While it may not seem like the key to your business, much of what you do revolves around written documents. From your business plan to your website, from press releases to company memos or emails, you write documents to share information and to convince people to buy your products or invest in your company.

Writing these documents is important, and there’s a skill that is essential to crafting efficient documents: outlining. Instead of just starting with a blank page — or window — and writing, it’s extremely useful to take the time to create an outline for your important documents.

Here’s why you should outline before writing business documents.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Why Your Business Should Go Paperless

Businesses are built on documents, and even before you start up your business, you discover how many documents you need to function. From business plans to bank statements, from employment contracts to NDAs, your business is awash in documents. As these documents pile up, they take up space, and you spend a lot of time looking for the right one when you need to check some terms or conditions.

We recently explained why you should use SaaS accounting software for your startup, and another way to make your business more efficient is to go paperless. As much as possible, store digital versions of documents and shred the paper.

Here’s why your business should go paperless.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Cloud Storage Comparison: 5 Best Options for Business

Your business has lots of files to store, and to share with your team, your investors, and your customers. The most practical way to store and share files is to use a cloud storage provider. You can store files, sync them to multiple devices, share them with others, and provide download links when you need to send a potential investor your business plan or share a press release with a journalist.

Not all cloud storage services are equal, and depending on which computing platforms your business uses, some may be more compatible than others. In this article, we’ll compare the 5 most popular cloud storage providers and explain how to choose the best option for your business.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

10 Ways to Create a Human-Friendly Office

Some startups may get off the ground in a basement or garage, but once your business is big enough to have an office, it’s important to not just toss together a bunch of desks, chairs, and computers. Your office is where your company makes its money, and the office should be a comfortable, welcoming environment.

Want to make your office a happier place for your employees? Whether you have cubicles or an open-plan office space — both of which have their drawbacks — or private offices for each employee, there are ways you can make your office more comfortable. After all, happier employees are more productive, take less sick leave, and are more committed to their jobs.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Book Review — When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink

We are all familiar with the expression “timing is everything.” From ice hockey to investing, success often depends on doing things at the right time. But how do we know when it is the right time? Sometimes we can play where the puck is going, or figure out the right moment to act by a careful read of the market, but in other cases the right time depends on us; it depends on us knowing when to do things.

Daniel Pink’s new book, When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, looks at when we should do things to be the most efficient, the most productive, and the most inspired. The “when” he discusses is the time of day, the time of the year, or even the point in a project where we should or shouldn’t do certain things.

He poses a certain number of questions early in the book:

Why do beginnings–whether we get off to a fast start or a false start–matter so much? And how can we make a fresh start if we stumble out of the starting blocks? Why does reaching the midpoint–of a project, a game, even a life–sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Why do endings energize us to kick harder to reach the finish line yet also inspire us to slow down and seek meaning?

We’ve all experienced flagging interest in projects, or difficulty trying to make it through the day, the week, or the month, but we generally don’t think that we might have started — or continued our projects — at the wrong time.

Read the rest of the review on The Startup Finance Blog.

Why You Need SaaS Accounting Software for Your Startup

When you start making your first purchases for your startup, it’s easy to record them in an Excel or a Google Docs spreadsheet. You may be a spreadsheet whiz, or you you may have downloaded some free accounting templates on a website that helps people launch businesses.

Excel spreadsheets may pass muster for the first weeks, or even months, as you’re getting your business off the ground, but continuing to manage your books that way — and not using real SaaS accounting software for your startup — is simply the wrong thing to do. This is true especially when you seek investments or venture capital to grow your business; when you show potential backers your financials in a handful of spreadsheets, chances of errors are higher and it looks unprofessional.

There are certainly people who could maintain their financials for their SaaS startup in this manner. In these cases, they’d have to create very detailed spreadsheets with all the accounts and reporting elements of standard accounting. Spreadsheets like this would look a lot like accounting software, and the amount of time they’d take to set up — and verify — would be better spent on growing their business.

The disadvantages of using Excel for accounting for your SaaS startup is about a lot more than just the way figures look in a spreadsheet. There is so much that can be wrong in a spreadsheet that investors can’t take that sort of financial data seriously.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.