Archive for November, 2019

Real leadership goes well beyond skills.

By Heidi ZakCo-founder and co-CEO, ThirdLove
Getty Images

Over the past seven years, I have learned that when it comes to leadership, nothing beats authenticity.

In the early days of building ThirdLove, I was so fixated on trying to be a “great leader” or a “great public speaker” that I realized I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I would correct myself, be overly conscious of how often I moved my hands, or which words I used to describe certain situations, so that I ended up not channeling my most authentic self.  I came to learn that not only is it OK to speak with your hands, or speak more conversationally, but that those things make you more real, more engaging to the audience, and a more genuinely confident leader.

My perspective has changed about what a great leader looks like–and I believe there are five qualities all great leaders have in common:

1. All great leaders are dedicated to being themselves, rather than “fitting the mold” of what they (or others) believe a leader should look like.

There tend to be fewer female CEOs than male CEOs in the business world.

If you think about what used to be the idea of a CEO, the image that comes to mind is probably an older white male. He probably acts a certain way, does certain things, and over time has created the definition of what a “CEO leader” should look like.

But especially in today’s day and age, leadership is less about “fitting the mold” and more about being dynamic, relatable, and someone other people can genuinely connect with. The more you can put that energy out into the world, the more people you can and will attract.

2. All great leaders say what they mean, and mean what they say.

People have to know that what you say holds weight–and that if you make a promise, you will follow through on that promise. People have to know they can rely on you.

This is one of the qualities we value most in our management team at ThirdLove. I have 100 percent trust that when someone tells me they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it (and do it well). And I have to create that same level of trust with them, following through on my promises to them. Trust isn’t built simply because they or I say the words. It’s built through experience after experience of a promise being made, and then that promise being delivered on.

3. All great leaders can consistently make the right decisions in a timely fashion.

You don’t always have the luxury of thinking indefinitely about how to solve a problem. And most of the time we don’t have all the information we’d like to have but still have to move ahead.

Sometimes, decisions have to be made quickly. One of the things that can frustrate teams and other leaders within an organization is when someone is holding things up out of fear of making the wrong decision. It becomes very hard for people to respect a leader who either can’t make a definitive decision or ping-pongs back and forth between conflicting decisions.

4. All great leaders take the lion’s share of the responsibility.

When a decision goes awry, great leaders never throw someone else under the bus.

The worst type of potential leader is someone who blames other people for what is ultimately their responsibility. In our case at ThirdLove, the buck stops with me and my co-CEO. If one of our teammates or managers makes a mistake, that’s not just a reflection of them, but also a reflection of us–and it’s our responsibility to ask ourselves, and other leaders, what else we could have done to prevent the mistake and do better next time.

5. All great leaders inspire and empower the people around them.

Being a leader is not a right. It’s a privilege.

Every single day, your job is to excite your team, have them buy into the collective mission, and really understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish. And the more your organization grows, it’s not just about the founders or executives being able to inspire, but about your managers, your department heads, even your junior employees being able to do the same.

Being able to communicate why you are all going on the journey together is how you build a team. And the more effectively you can communicate your mission, the more effectively you will be able to hire, scale, and all grow as one.

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13 Must-Haves to Help You Pack Like a Boss This Holiday Season

Creating a uniform that fits in a lightweight carry on is essential to surviving the chaos of holiday travel.

By Lauren A. Rothmanstylist and fashion expert
Getty Images

What you pack for a business trip or to visit family at the holidays matters as much as what you wear to travel. Creating a uniform that fits in a lightweight carry on is essential to surviving the chaos of holiday travel. Foolproof ensembles that take you from Thanksgiving dinner to corporate retreat the following week must accommodate layers and accessories as well as shifts in weather and audience.

Packing clients is one of my most requested services. At this time of year, many of my clients in politics are balancing family time with end-of-year campaign stops. What you wear, says a lot about who you are and when you’re traveling you need to effectively project a successful image without your entire closet at your disposal.

I start by shopping a client’s closet for the best pieces that match the dress code of their destination. To be an efficient traveler, you need to be a smart packer. Here are my recommendations on what to pack to stay stylish while traveling.

  1. Mini steamer. Don’t get caught without the ability to quickly release a wrinkle from your ensemble. Small in size and big on efficiency, I never leave home without one.
  2. Packing cubes. Compartmentalize your suitcase with packing cubes to stay easily organized. Separate pajamas from toiletries or business clothes from lounge wear to pack an enviable suitcase.
  3. Travel size beauty and grooming products. Even if you’re checking luggage, buy or create your own mini sized samples of your favorite products that will make your skin glow and hair shine while out of town. If you have hard to manage hair, invest in mini hair tools such as a travel sized curling or flat iron and if you require extra light for applying makeup, pack a rechargeable, portable lit mirror.
  4. Travel-friendly shoes. Lean into the athleisure trend and invest in a dressy sneaker that can be worn day to night. Expect to include one more pair of shoes in your suitcase to transform ensembles for family dinner or work meeting.
  5. Clothes you can wear in layers. Carry a scarf, shawl or pashmina on board in case you are cold or need to rest your head. Pair with your coat when landing in cooler weather.
  6. A third statement piece. This is your blazer or power jacket that will transform any outfit with color, styling, or fit while anchoring your daily ensembles. Men should consider a deconstructed blazer while a ‘jardigan’ works wonders for women (comfort of a cardigan and the look of a blazer). Depending on the duration of your travel, weather and capsule wardrobe, you may need to pack more than one.
  7. A column of color. Choose a base color you can wear head to toe and add your third piece to exude a stylish presence. For maximum crossover, pack hybrid pieces that can easily work day to night. Expect everything to be worn more than once and mix and match with shoes and accessories.
  8. A backup outfit. If you lose your checked luggage packed with your travel steamer and work capsule, don’t despair. Be sure to roll, rather than fold, your clothing to avoid wrinkles or add a versatile, wrinkle resistant ensemble from a travel friendly brand like Argent or Ministry of Supply to your carry on.
  9. Accessories. Add a splash of color in your tie choice, belt a dress or change your jewelry to transform a look. Make a statement and include accessories in your carry-on in case you need to make today’s outfit work tomorrow.
  10. A bag you can pack within a bag. You never know when an unexpected casual opportunity will present itself. Store tech accessories or makeup in a wristlet or cross body style small bag that can double as a casual on-the-go handbag if needed.
  11. An all in one charger. Be a tech minimalist and keep your devices organized and charged with this savvy tool while you’re on the go.
  12. Scented dryer sheets. Pack a couple of dryer sheets to keep everything smelling fresh.
  13. A luggage scale. Unless you’re flying private, avoid baggage fees by weighing your bag in advance.

Win best-dressed this holiday season. If you’re worried you will forget exactly how versatile your capsule wardrobe is, be your own stylist and take pictures to forever record the memory.

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We talked to 4 VC investors about the hottest trends in payments and the biggest innovations to keep an eye on

investor payment tech trends 2x1
Payments infrastructure and software is one subset of fintech that’s attracting VC cash.
Citi Ventures; Insight Partners; Bain Capital Ventures; Andreessen Horowitz; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
  • We spoke to investors at Andreessen Horowitz, Bain Capital Ventures, Citi Ventures, and Insight Partners to learn where they see the next innovations and opportunities in payments tech.
  • Mostly, they’re looking out for ways that payments companies can do more than just process transactions. That may be through add-on services, or even machine-initiated payments.
  • Payments is interwoven into nearly every segment of the fintech landscape, from credit-card processing to online sales, to analytics around consumer behavior.
  • Some unicorns making waves in payments include AvidXchange, Brex, Plaid, Stripe, and TransferWise.
  • Click here for BI Prime stories.

The fintech world is big, and funding is flooding into startups like robo-advisors, neobanks, and alternative lenders.

In the third quarter this year, total fintech funding topped $8.9 billion, a record when adjusted for Alibaba’s fintech Ant Financial’s $14 billion last year, according to CB Insights. Globally, there are now 58 fintech unicorns (startups valued at more than $1 billion).

Payments is interwoven into nearly every segment of the fintech landscape, from credit card processing to online sales to analytics around consumer behavior. Some unicorns that have made big waves in payments include AvidXchange, Brex, Plaid, Stripe, and TransferWise.

While some say incumbents should fear competition from fintechs, many existing companies are partnering with startups. Marqeta, which provides card issuing, and Plaid, which helps startups link into consumers’ bank accounts, have inked partnerships with legacy players like Visa and Wells Fargo.

Incumbents themselves have made bold moves to stay current, like Mastercard’s blockchain for shrimp tracking, or American Express’ startup-focused corporate card launch. They’re also making investments through their venture arms. Amex Ventures has backed Plaid and Stripe; Visa has invested in Marqeta and Finix.

And payments companies are also snapping up ways to expand their services. Earlier this week, payments giant PayPal said it plans to buy Honey, a startup that makes browser shopping add-ons for its customers, for $4 billion, which would be PayPal’s biggest buy ever.

We spoke to four investors at leading VC firms about where they see the next opportunities when it comes to payments.

Anish Acharya, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Anish Acharya headshot
Anish Acharya, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz
Andreessen Horowitz

Anish Acharya, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, sees innovations coming not just from payments companies, but from unexpected players into the fintech space.

The Silicon Valley venture-capital firm is known for its early investments in companies like Facebook and Lyft. In the payments space, it has backed startups including Dwolla, payments giant Stripe, and fast-growing cross-border player TransferWise.

READ THE FULL STORY: Uber and Apple are just the start, and eventually every company will want to be a fintech. An Andreessen Horowitz general partner explains why.

Matt Harris, partner at Bain Capital Ventures

Matt Harris Bain Capital
Matt Harris, partner at Bain Capital Ventures
Bain Capital Ventures

Matt Harris is a partner at Bain Capital Ventures, and has helped lead investments in fintechs like micro-investing startup Acorns; AvidXchange, which helps companies pay bills electronically; and payments platform Flywire.

He thinks payments companies need to do more to keep market share, and but that it’s still hard to imagine a world where payments come free.

READ THE FULL STORY: A partner at Bain Capital Ventures explains why payments companies need to do more than just move money to survive

Ramneek Gupta, managing director & co-head of venture investing at Citi Ventures

Ramneek Gupta Citi Ventures
Ramneek Gupta, managing director & co-head of venture investing at Citi Ventures
Citi Ventures

Ramneek Gupta is the co-head of venture investing at Citi Ventures, the VC arm of Citibank. He joined Citi in 2011, and has led investments in companies like payments processor Square, electronic-signature startup DocuSign, and ride-hailing company Grab.

Gupta has his eye on machine-initiated payments, and thinks companies will have to find creative ways to use payments data to make money amid pressures on revenues of simply processing transactions.

READ THE FULL STORY: Citi Ventures is betting on cars that pay their own bills, and its co-head of investing envisions a future where your devices make payments without you

Byron Lichtenstein, principal at Insight Partners

Byron Lichenstein Insight Partners
Byron Lichtenstein, principal at Insight Partners
Insight Partners

Byron Lichtenstein, a principal at Insight Partners, says opportunities are not just about moving money from point A to point B, but also in the using the data found in and around payments.

Insight Partners focuses mainly on growth-stage software companies across verticals from education to social media to fintech, and it has invested in German neobank N26, business expense management startup Divvy, and payment fraud monitoring startup Sift.

READ THE FULL STORY: An Insight Partners principal says the era of ‘dumb payments’ is over, and sees opportunities in using machine-learning to combat fraud



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Where Did The Country Go Wrong
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.
And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.
He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?
Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
If you are proud of our Vets,
then pass
this on!


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Why It Is So Hard to Figure Out What to Eat

Most diet trials in the best journals fail even the most basic of quality control measures.

By David S. Ludwig and

Drs. Ludwig and Heymsfield are physicians and health scholars.

Credit…Benoit Tardif

Most diet trials in the best journals fail even the most basic of quality control measures. That’s the finding of a study by us published today on JAMA Network Open.

Investigators receiving funding for any clinical trial from the National Institutes of Health must register in advance what they plan to test, among other design features, to ensure that the data are fairly analyzed. Comparing the original registries with the final published studies, we found that diet trials in the past decade were about four times as likely as drug trials to have a discrepancy in the main outcome or measurement — raising concern for bias.

This quality-control problem of diet trials in comparison to ones on pharmaceuticals leads to a bigger issue: underinvestment in nutrition research and in how we tackle the mysteries of a healthy diet.

Although the problems with observational studies have received much attention (“Association doesn’t prove causation,” as scientists say), clinical trials can suffer from equally important limitations. In a clinical trial, investigators assign volunteers to receive different treatments — such as a low-carbohydrate versus low-fat diet — ideally in random order. Beyond registry issues, trials may provide misleading results for many reasons, including small size, short duration and weak interventions (they lack power to actually make the intended change in behavior).

These failures are disturbing because epidemics of diet-related disease will shorten life expectancy and impose huge economic costs on the United States in coming years. We continue to lack effective dietary prevention, in part because clinical trials have been too poorly designed and conducted to reach definitive conclusions. We’re still debating questions that have raged for decades: Should we focus on reducing carbs or fat? Is red meat harmful? Is sugar toxic? What about artificially sweetened beverages or moderate amounts of alcohol?

High-quality trials are hard to do because diets, and the behavior of humans who consume them, are so complicated. A single meal might have dozens of nutrients and hundreds of other bioactive substances that interact in unknown ways. Furthermore, if the diet being studied increases intake from one food category, people may eat less from other food categories, making it difficult to attribute results to any specific dietary component.

Diet trials also require subjects to change their eating habits, a far greater challenge than taking a pill.

Consider a trial for a promising cancer treatment in which participants assigned to receive the drug didn’t take it as intended. If the drug group showed no benefit over the placebo group, we wouldn’t automatically assume the drug lacked promise. We would conclude that the study failed and that stronger methods (medication organizer trays and daily text message reminders, say) are needed to make sure the drug is properly used so that we can see if it works. Yet the illogical assumption that a diet didn’t work is commonly made when volunteers in weak trials do not follow the assigned diets.

Short diet trials, the great majority of those done, raise special concerns. Many people can lose weight by restricting calories at first, but few can maintain substantial weight loss that way. After a few days or weeks, the body begins to resist calorie deprivation, with rising hunger and slowing metabolism. Making matters more complicated, it takes several weeks to adapt to major changes in nutrients. For these reasons, short-term trials may have little relevance to understanding how diet affects health over the long term.

It would be like studying an intensive exercise program — including long runs, calisthenics and strenuous sports — among sedentary volunteers for just six days. The investigators might find that the program made the volunteers sore, tired and weak. However, a six-month trial, allowing adequate time to adapt to the new regimen, would reach the opposite conclusion, revealing the real benefits of physical activity.

Despite their greater difficulties, diet trials receive far less funding than drug trials, especially considering that poor diet is the leading risk factor for premature death. Few big companies stand to profit directly from dietary treatments for chronic diseases. Consequently, typical diet trials must get by on shoestring budgets, rarely exceeding a few hundred thousand dollars, compared with drug trials that may cost several hundred million dollars. Without adequate support, quality inevitably suffers. Diet trials of adequate size, duration and intervention strength rarely get done.

This problem has special relevance now, as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reviews the science in preparation for new Department of Agriculture recommendations to the public in 2020. Among thousands of scientific articles initially screened, only a small proportion so far have passed strict quality criteria for inclusion in committee deliberations. And ultimately, recommendations to the public can be no stronger than the science on which they rely.

Which doesn’t mean that all nutrition research is unreliable. High-quality observational studies and clinical trials provide strong evidence for the benefits of whole carbohydrates (nonstarchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, minimally processed intact grains) over highly processed, fast-digesting carbohydrates (refined grains, potato products and added sugar). We also know that nuts, olive oil and avocado protect against chronic disease, contrary to dietary recommendations during the low-fat diet era, as embodied by the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid.

We need a sort of Manhattan Project to find definitive answers to the epidemics of diet-related disease. Nutrition research to prevent disease must have the same quality and rigor as pharmaceutical research to treat disease. Building the necessary scientific infrastructure will require sustained investment by government and philanthropic organizations, but the amounts involved would total a fraction of a cent for every dollar spent treating diet-related conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Study authors and the media can help by avoiding the tendency to overstate the results of weak research, contributing to public confusion. And the public has a critical role to play, not only demanding government action but also volunteering for diet studies.

No other factor approaches the importance of diet for public health. To reduce the human toll of chronic disease, we must upgrade the quality of nutrition research. The financial investment required will yield huge returns in medical cost savings.

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