Archives for the month of: January, 2012

An indie film, the new album by one of your favorite artists, technology, and a delicious foodstuff. What do they all have in common? That their funding came through the website Kickstarter. Founded in 2008, Kickstarter is one of the leading platforms for crowdfunding, which is funding provided by a group of people who pool their money rather than funding provided by a single entity. Since its inception, Kickstarter has helped to crowdfund more than 15,000 successful projects with $125 million pledged.

Unlike some crowdfunding models, Kickstarter institutes a threshold amount that must be met or surpassed in a set amount of time or else the project will not receive any money. This threshold amount is set by the project leaders, who often offer other incentives to entice donors to pledge. Kickstarter itself receives five percent of the total funds raised, and its payment collection partner, Amazon Payments, receives another three to five percent.

Whther or not Kickstarter is truly the future of small-scale project funding, remains to be seen. But for the project leaders who have used it successfully, it is an indispensable tool to help make their dreams a reality.

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If you are involved with business, especially if you work for a global, multinational company, chances are good you are already familiar with the social networking site LinkedIn. With 100 million members and growing, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. And unlike a social network like Facebook or Myspace, LinkedIn’s usefulness extends beyond finding that kid you knew in high school (although you can do that too). It focuses on professional relationships and connections, making it nearly indispensable for jobseekers or employers or just someone looking for advice.

LinkedIn helps you to sort contacts into a number of different groups, with the ability to message all or some members of a specific group at once; so that not only can you stay in contact with former and present colleges, you can see the patterns that connect them. And, for companies looking to hire, its usefulness extends beyond message board-type capabilities.

Say you’re a recruiter working at a large company. Your last hire was a huge success, and, wanting to replicate that success, you take a glance at the hire’s LinkedIn profile for other contacts with job histories and experience that match the new opening. Already the company has saved time by finding people who are truly qualified for the position rather than wading through a sea of non- or under-qualified applicants. There is the added bonus that employee referrals have a higher success rate than cold hires.

LinkedIn, which went public in May of 2011, has been as much of a success for its investors as it is for the companies who use its service. After initial estimates predicted a loss in its first quarter of trading, the company posted a surprise profit. LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, plans to build on that forward momentum and further invest in the business — a similar strategy to the one that gave the company its profits — and continue to encourage growth in LinkedIn through programs liked LinkedIn Today, which shares information through “Share on LinkedIn” buttons.

As LinkedIn becomes a more throughly integrated part of professional life, it will likely grow from being simply a helpful tool to an essential component of the workplace.

When Groupon was founded in 2008 by Andrew Mason, it was unique, and put a tech-savvy spin on the traditional coupon. Groupon allowed merchants to offer coupons through its website; customers would then purchase and use the coupon in the merchant’s physical store. It quickly became one of the internet’s fastest-growing companies, and in 2011 was valued at about $10.5 billion.

But as Groupon enters 2012, the marketplace has changed. Where once Groupon stood alone, it now must compete with a flood of competitors; along with the waning novelty of daily deals and purchased coupons, a declining customer base, and restless merchants complaining of profit-loss from the coupons, the company is on shaky ground.

However, Andrew Mason is confident that if Groupon maintains its focus on its customers, it will be able not only to differentiate itself from its competitors, but to affirm that its meteoric rise will not end in a flameout.

You may not know the company Alstom by name, but chances are good you at least know of its technology. One in four light bulbs in the world are powered by technology derived from Alstom, whose focus is innovative power generation, rail transportation, and power grid management. Founded in 1928, the French company first became involved in transportation in 1932, when it acquired a electric locomotive and electric and hydraulic company. Today, Alstom has provided major equipment for a quarter of the world’s power plants.

Alstom’s transportation focus is in the field of high-speed rail and very high speed rail, where it is ranked number one worldwide. Recently, it delivered new high-speed trains to Virgin Train’s United Kingdom line and a very high-speed train to Italian rail operator Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori. In January 2012, Alstom was granted a €50 million contract to increase commuter train capacity and efficiency in the UK.

As rail lines require a great deal of power, Alstom’s endeavors in the global energy field are only natural. But Alstom is not all coal-based power plants — though they manufacture a fair number of those — it has options ranging from gas and coal to solar and wind energy. Alstom’s biggest power project is the largest commercial-scale geothermal plant in the world, which is located in New Zealand and has been under continuous use for over fifty years.

Of course, all of those power-producing projects would mean little without the means to deliver their product. For that reason, Alstom’s third focus is the power grids themselves. From pioneering double motion circuit breaker technology to providing some of the most stable power grids in the world, Alstom’s 125 years of experience is extremely valuable. Now on the cusp of smart grid technology, changing the staid power grids of the past to intelligent, adjustable infrastructures, the company is poised to keep building on its expertise long into the future.

As it always has, Alstom looks to the future in its three focus areas. By constantly developing new and better technology, the company continues to innovate, a quality which ensures it will remain one of the world’s top-ranked companies well into the twenty-first century.