This Survey of 1,300 Harvard Business School Alumni Reveals the 5 Skills You Need to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

Do you admire leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who have turned their ideas into world-leading public companies? I certainly do. But it is one thing to admire such leaders and another thing to have the skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur.

Which raises an important question: What skills do successful founders have that other business leaders lack? Thanks to a survey of 1,300 Harvard Business School alumni, here are the five key skills — out of 11 examined by the researchers — at which entrepreneurial leaders distinguish themselves compared to non-founders.

1. Identification of Opportunities

Founders excel in skills and behaviors associated with the ability to identify and seek out high-potential business opportunities, according to the research. This should come as no surprise. But what makes for a great business opportunity? 

My interviews with hundreds of entrepreneurs reveal four tests:

  • Does the product relieve deeply-felt customer pain that other companies are ignoring?
  • Does the founder have a passion for doing a market-beating job of solving that problem?
  • Does the startup’s founding team have the critical skills to build that solution?
  • Is the market opportunity large enough — e.g., at least $1 billion? 

2. Vision and Influence

Founders have strong abilities to influence all internal and external stakeholders that must work together to turn a strategy into action and results.

Harvard researchers found that entrepreneurial leaders have more confidence of their abilities to provide vision and influence than the average leader — and that leaders working within established firms actually rated themselves much lower.

As I wrote in my 2012 book, Hungry Start-up Strategy, a successful entrepreneur is able to attract and motivate talent by creating what I called emotional currency — rather than paying people more money than Google does, they offer a powerful mission which gives work at the startup much more meaning.

3. Comfort with Uncertainty

Entrepreneurial leaders are better able to “move a business agenda forward in the face of uncertain and ambiguous circumstances,” according to the researchers.

You’ll know whether you share this skill if you are willing to start a company even though you have no money, no product, and no customers — but you do have a clear idea of what problem you are trying to solve and what your solution will look like.

Starting there, successful entrepreneurs are far more comfortable living with the uncertainty needed to go from there to building a large company. 

4. Building Networks

One reason for founders’ comfort with uncertainty is that they are good at assembling the resources the startup needs because they can create professional and business networks that will help them realize their vision.

Indeed, many of the CEOs I’ve interviewed have told me that they often find themselves not knowing how to solve problems — but they are able to get advice from CEOs who have been there before.

5. Finance and Financial Management

Being able to raise capital and control cash flow are essential to a successful startup. The founders HBS surveyed were “much more confident in their skills at managing cash flow, raising capital, and board governance — than were non-founder alumni.”

My interviews this year with CEOs for my forthcoming book on scaling startups highlights that successful entrepreneurs are great at persuading investors to write them checks.

The most successful sales pitches for money emphasize the size of the market the company is targeting, the value that the company’s product provides for customers, and the rapid rate at which the company is winning new customers and retaining old ones who spend more on the company’s products.

Not surprisingly, there is one area where founders are not as good as non-founders — preference for established structure.

Entrepreneurial leaders have a lower preference for operating in more established and structured business environments and would rather “adapt to an uncertain and rapidly changing business context and strategy,” according to the HBS researchers.

If you are great in these five skill areas, you may just have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

7 Strategies to Maximize Your Productivity While Traveling

Whether you hate the idea of traveling or you actually look forward to it, it’s hard to deny that travel can sabotage your productivity–at least temporarily. It takes hours of planning and coordination to prepare for some trips, and hours to navigate airports, not to mention the actual time you spend traveling.

It can make a full day of responsibilities feel like a waste, and put you behind on achieving your goals. Fortunately, there are some helpful strategies that can make you more productive–no matter how you’re traveling.

Try using these tactics to get more done when you’re setting course on a major trip:

1. Get used to a different sleep cycle.

One of the biggest sources of productivity disturbance while traveling is the disruption in your sleep cycle. Depending on where you travel to, you could be dealing with timezone changes and jet lag, and you may not be able to get a comfortable eight hours of sleep when you’re used to getting it.

Instead, you can try a biphasic cycle or an everyman cycle, which rely on split patterns to break up your time sleeping; that way, travel may not have as big of an impact on you. The caveat here is that it takes time to get used to a new sleep cycle, so it’s best for frequent travelers only.

2. Take a private jet.

One of the biggest sources of time delay while traveling is navigating the airport; going through customs, waiting to board the plane, dealing with delays, etc., can add several unnecessary hours to your trip.

Taking a private jet allows you to circumvent most of these problems–and it’s cheaper than you think. If a few hundred dollars can save you literally hours of time, and afford you a better workspace when you’re flying, it’s likely worth the extra money.

3. Look for coworking spaces when you arrive.

Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding one at your destination. Instead of going straight to a hotel or meeting, check into one of these productivity hubs; you’ll be able to get coffee, work in a peaceful environment, and if you’re up for it, socialize with other people who may be in similar situations. It’s a great way to both decompress and get more work done, so take advantage of it.

4. Rely on audio.

While you’re driving, navigating the airport, or dealing with a lack of lighting or Wi-Fi, you won’t be able to work on your most important heads-down tasks–but that doesn’t mean you can’t be productive.

Try focusing on audio-specific tasks when you can, listening to recordings of old meetings to prepare for the future, catching up on your favorite industry podcasts, and listening to audiobooks that can improve your skills or expand your professional horizons. There’s no shortage of audio content to plunder, so make good use of it.

5. Prepare travel-specific tasks.

While traveling, you won’t be able to do tasks that require multiple monitors, or meet with your teammates in person. You’ll have limited space, and in some cases, limited Wi-Fi connectivity.

Prepare tasks that you can work on under these conditions, so you don’t run out of things to do. As long as you have a few days’ heads-up, you can handle your least travel-friendly tasks in advance, and set yourself up to work offline for the next several hours.

6. Say “no” and delegate.

New things are going to come to your attention before and during your travel; for example, you might get a client email requesting a change to a piece of work you submitted. If this is the type of work that can’t be done efficiently when traveling, don’t bend over backwards trying to do it; instead, tell them you’re traveling, and not able to do it right now.

If it’s an emergency, or if you won’t be able to get to it for a while, consider delegating it to someone who can handle it.

7. Rest (if you can).

To some people, sleeping may seem like the opposite of productivity. But in reality, sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your mental energy and cognitive capacity. It can even reduce your susceptibility to illness and improve your overall physical health.

Accordingly, if it’s possible for you to take a nap during a long flight or car ride, take advantage of the opportunity. Use a face mask, a neck pillow, or some comforting white noise from your headphones–whatever you need to get some extra shuteye when you’re between destinations. You’ll thank yourself later.

Finding Your Own Style

Not everyone is going to travel the same way. For example, some people may not be able to read while in a vehicle, and some may have trouble sleeping on airplanes. The goal isn’t to fall in line with a series of productive habits, but rather to craft your own habits to maximize your personal productivity. Learn which strategies and actions suit you best, and customize your own set of approaches.

Walmart partners with MGM to boost video-on-demand service Vudu

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart Inc (WMT.N) said on Monday it would partner with U.S. movie studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer to create content for its video-on-demand service, Vudu, which the retailer bought eight years ago.

FILE PHOTO: Walmart signage is displayed outside a company’s store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Walmart has been looking to prop up Vudu’s monthly viewership that remains well below that of competitors like Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Hulu LLC, which is controlled by Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O).

Media outlets had reported the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company was looking to launch a subscription streaming video service to rival that of Netflix and make a foray into producing TV shows to attract customers.

Walmart is not planning such a move, company sources have told Reuters. The retailer continues, however, to look for options to boost its video-on-demand business and offer programs that target customers who live outside of big cities.

Walmart and MGM will make the announcement at the NewFronts conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday. It will include the name of the first production under the partnership, which Walmart will license from MGM.

“Under this partnership, MGM will create exclusive content based on their extensive library of iconic IP (intellectual property), and that content will premiere exclusively on the Vudu platform,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing told Reuters.

The focus will be on family-friendly content that Walmart customers prefer, Rushing said.

The financial deals of the deal were not disclosed.

Licensing content is a cost-effective strategy at a time when producing original content has become a costly venture. As of July, Netflix said it was spending $8 billion a year on original and acquired content. Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) programming budget for Prime Video was more than $4 billion, while U.S. broadcaster HBO, owned by AT&T Inc (T.N), said it would spend $2.7 billion this year.

Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010 to safeguard against declining in-store sales of DVDs. Walmart bet that customers would continue to buy and rent movies and move their titles to a digital library, which Vudu would create and maintain for viewers.

But the video site has not posed a significant challenge to rivals that dominate the segment even though it is pre-loaded or can be downloaded to millions of smart televisions and video-game consoles.

Vudu offers 150,000 titles to buy or rent, while its free, ad-supported streaming service, called Movies On Us, includes 5,000 movies and TV shows.

There are currently more than 200 video services that bypass cable providers and stream content directly to a TV, laptop, phone or game console. That is up from 68 five years ago, according to market researcher Parks Associates.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney

The Cars of the Paris Auto Show Reveal a Quirky, Urban, Electric Future

The Renault Ez-Ultimo brings the high-end glitz to the show this year. Just because cities of the future may prioritize ride sharing over private cars doesn’t mean you should have to slum it on the way to opening night at the Opéra national de Paris.

This rounded bronze box is about as far from a production car as a concept can be (could those wheels even turn? where’s the ground clearance for cobbled streets?) but Renault says it shows a vision of an autonomous future, where passengers demand more from vehicles. In particular, the interior “reflects French elegance” with wood, leather, and marble.

Citroën went the opposite direction, unveiling a very real, very modest EV. The DS3 Crossback E-Tense is a fashionable crossover SUV, and an update on Citroen’s tres popular DS3 supermini car. The electric version comes with a 50-kWh battery—about half that of a high-end Tesla—a range of 186 miles on the generous European test cycle, and a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds. None of those specs are going to blow buyers away, but at the right (to be revealed) price, the quirky car, with sharp angles and odd window cutouts, could rival the Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe, as a city runabout.

Europe has taken styling cues from the US for the Peugeot E-Legend concept, albeit with a little added flair. There are plenty of muscle car hints in the styling, with a side profile reminiscent of the modern Dodge Challenger, and a Mustang-like front squint. Of course it’s a concept, so it’s electric and autonomous, and supposed to show that those things don’t have to be boring or bland.

The retro theme continues inside with velvet upholstery and fake wood screensavers for the displays when they aren’t in use. It’ll apparently have a 100-kWh battery pack and all-wheel drive, but it’s so concept-y that wise money should be on all that potentially changing, if and when the E-Legend makes it to production.

It wouldn’t be a European auto show without a city car, and Smart is the brand synonymous with cars so small they can be parked end-on to a curb. The Smart Forease moves that theme into an electric age. The rather optimistic concept banks on the future always being sunny, given that it doesn’t have a roof. Not even an optional one. (Have these people been to Europe?)

Smart has already stopped the sales of all internal combustion engined cars in the US, and if this car makes it across the Atlantic (and to reality) it could find a place in some Californian garages. The Golden State has good EV electric rebates, and as close to a guarantee of good weather as you’re going to find.

Infiniti is keeping it real with its Project Black S hybrid, based on a Q60 coupe and its V6 engine. Infiniti engineers turned to electrification, and lessons from partner Renault’s Formula 1 team (there’s the French connection) to give the machine an e-boost.

It’s a hybrid, but one that delivers performance rather than economy. The three motors add 213 horsepower to bring the total to 563, and drop the 0-60 mph time to under four seconds.

Toyota didn’t use the Paris show to unveil radical new concepts, but did introduce a term that will be new to most buyers: self-charging hybrids. This is no magical perpetual motion-type technology: Self-charging hybrids are just cars that can run on battery power, but can’t be plugged in. The type Toyota has been selling for years with the Prius, when they used to be just called “hybrids.” As they’ve gone from being radical, to commonplace, to somewhat lame given the influx of more robust electric options, Toyota is looking to rebrand to remind people that the tech is still quite clever, and does save fuel.

Physicists Condemn Sexism Through ‘Particles for Justice’

This week, of all weeks, should have been triumphant for women in physics. For her work on lasers, Canadian physicist Donna Strickland became the first female Nobel Laureate for the field after 55 years. She finally joined a short list consisting of just two other women, Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert-Mayer.

But Seyda Ipek barely had time to celebrate. The UC Irvine physicist was preoccupied: A dumpster fire had just erupted in a neighboring corner of physics culture.

Just days before the Nobels, at a workshop on gender issues in physics in Geneva, physicist Alessandro Strumia of the University of Pisa delivered a presentation about how physics discriminates against men. (Women make up 18 percent of all physics doctoral degrees worldwide, according to a survey by the American Physical Society.) Case in point: a hiring committee had once picked a woman over him, he said. Before an audience of young physicists, many of them women, he explained how men like working with things, and women like working with people. He proposed an experiment to support his belief that physics has biological roots: measure the ratio between the second and fourth fingers on the hands of women physicists, an indication of testosterone exposure in the uterus.

Ipek, who wasn’t at the workshop herself, heard about Strumia’s presentation through her Facebook community. “I immediately got enraged and started tweeting about it,” she says. “He was telling a group of young woman physicists that they were inferior to their male colleagues. This was just mind-boggling. I couldn’t believe that Strumia did this—that he used his platform this way, that he used his title this way. I was like, no. I will not stand by idly while you do this.”

Her outrage quickly spread on Twitter. She and 17 other physicists decided that they needed to publicly denounce Strumia’s presentation. Last weekend, they created a Slack channel to coordinate their response. Through the channel, the group, which includes about equal numbers of men and women at various points in their careers, discussed how to refute Strumia’s arguments, trading thousands of messages in a matter of days to debate word choice and syntax. “I don’t think any of us slept more than 4 or 5 hours a day in the last week,” says Ipek.

It was important to respond, says physicist Djuna Croon, so that younger female physicists explicitly knew that established members of the community didn’t condone Strumia’s ideas. “I know from experience how difficult it is to deal with impostor syndrome,” says Croon, who works for TRIUMF, a particle accelerator in Canada and received her PhD in 2017. “I just think of myself from a few years ago. If these statements had been unopposed, it would have been a huge hit for me.” As a student, Croon recalls a physics teacher joking that women belong “in the kitchen,” and that people would encourage her to go into medicine, even though she excelled in physics.

In on an online letter, which they call Particles for Justice, they push back on the arguments, point by point, in Strumia’s presentation. They dug into Strumia’s personal anecdote of getting passed over for an opportunity in favor of a woman. His publications had been cited more often than hers, he’d said. “He reduces the quality of a scientist to one number, that scientist’s citations,” says Croon. “There is so much more to a scientist, and to the hiring process, than that one number.” Citations can be particularly misleading as a metric of a physicist’s ability: about a third of Strumia’s publications are papers written by gigantic collaborations of more than a thousand people. In these papers, “we can safely conclude his contribution […] was modest,” they write in the letter.

They published the document on Thursday evening after recruiting signatures from about 200 physicists. They also created a form so that physicists could keep signing the letter after publication. Within a day of publication, 1,400 more academics submitted signatures. “I’m not remembering the last time, as a community, we really jumped up like this,” says physicist Brian Nord of Fermilab, who signed the letter.

Strumia’s lecture is only the latest example in a long list of recent sexist controversies in physics. In 2014, British astronomer Matt Taylor went on television wearing a button-down shirt covered in cartoon drawings of half-dressed women, later dubbed #Shirtgate. In 2016, Nobel Laureate Barry Barish, who won the 2017 Nobel Prize for helping discover gravitational waves, delivered a presentation with a slide that showed a man writing on a woman’s bare back. A YouTube video starring one of this year’s Nobel Laureates, Gérard Mourou, shows him dancing in a lab surrounded by scantily clad female students.

Despite these high-profile controversies, some scientists still don’t believe systemic sexism or racism exists in their field, says Nord. “Humans in this world experience all kinds of discrimination,” he says. “Just because we’re the scientific community doesn’t mean we’re separate from that larger conversation. It’s important that the world understands this, that scientists understand this.”

But in response to these cultural missteps, scientists tend to keep their head down and tell each other to focus on the science. But this is a mistake, says Ipek. “I really dislike it when people say, ‘You’re a scientist. Why do you care about these things?’” she says. “I work here. It’s a workplace first. Workplaces need respectful relationships.”

They’re optimistic that the letter will have a lasting impact. CERN, which organized the workshop, issued a statement calling Strumia’s presentation “highly offensive,” and suspended their relationship with Strumia on Monday. “I am tired and frustrated and ready for big change,” says Nord.

“I had to put a halt on research,” says Ipek. “I couldn’t work on anything this week. That’s bad.” Research isn’t the only thing demanding work these days—so is the culture of physics itself.


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?Red Hat Satellite integrated new, improved Ansible DevOps

When Linux’s sysadmin graybeards got their start, they all used the shell to manage systems. Years later, they also used system administration programs such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)‘s Red Hat Satellite and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES)‘s YaST. Then, DevOps programs, like Ansible, Chef, and Puppet, appeared so we can manage hundreds of servers at once. Now, Red Hat is bridging the gap between the old-style server management tools and DevOps with Red Hat Satellite 6.4.

This new management tool comes with a deeper integration with Red Hat Ansible Automation automation-centric approach to IT management. This enables sysadmins to use the Red Hat Satellite interface to manage RHEL with Ansible’s remote execution and desired state management. This integration will help identify critical risks, create enterprise change plans, and automatically generate Ansible playbooks.

Also: How Red Hat’s strategy helps CIOs take baby steps to the cloud TechRepublic

Red Hat claimed, “This exciting integration is designed to help not only identify critical risks but then create enterprise change plans and automatically generate Ansible playbooks to better remediate those risks.”

The updated Red Hat Satellite also comes with these new features:

  • Redesigned user interface for easier navigation and improved auditing of user events.
  • Increased supportability including the ability to provision in AWS GovCloud and custom configuration preservation.
  • Enhanced performance including RHEL Performance Co-Pilot integration and general stability fixes.

Red Hat Satellite 6.4 will be available later in October through the Red Hat Customer Portal.

But that’s only the start of Red Hat’s DevOps and sysadmin news. Red Hat is also introducing a Red Hat Ansible Automation Certification Program to deliver tested, trusted, and supported Ansible Playbooks.

These certified Playbooks, from Red Hat and its partners, will provide everything you need to automate your infrastructure, networks, containers, and deployments. Besides Red Hat’s offerings, Cisco, CyberArk, F5 Networks, Infoblox, NetApp, and Nokia will offer 275 Ansible modules in the initial release.

These Playbooks, Modules and Plugins are scanned against known vulnerabilities, checked for compatibility, and validated to work in production. These will have a similar lifecycle to Ansible Engine. They’ll also be regularly re-evaluated for certification qualification and are fully-backed with Red Hat’s support.

Also: From Linux to cloud, why Red Hat matters for every enterprise

If you’re using Ansible and RHEL and you don’t want to build your own Playbooks, this new offering is a must.

Looking ahead, Red Hat is adding automated security capabilities, such as enterprise firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and security information and event management (SIEM) to Ansible.

In 2019, Ansible will include the following security features:

  • Detection and triage of suspicious activities: Automatically configure logging across enterprise firewalls and IDS,
  • Threat hunting: Automatically create new IDS rules to investigate the origin of a firewall rule violation and whitelist non-threatening IP addresses.
  • Incident response: Ansible will be able to automatically validate a threat by verifying an IDS rule, trigger a remediation from the SIEM solution and create new enterprise firewall rules to blacklist the source of an attack.

It will do this, in part, by integrating Check Point Next Generation Firewall (NGFW); Splunk Enterprise Security; and Snort, the open-source IDS program.

Joe Fitzgerald, Red Hat Business Management VP, explained in a statement:

“Since

Red Hat acquired Ansible in 2015, we have been working to make the automated enterprise a reality by driving Ansible into new domains and expanding automation use cases. With the new Ansible security automation capabilities, we’re making it easier to manage one of enterprise IT’s most complex tasks: systems security. These new modules can help users take an automation-centric approach to IT security, integrating solutions that otherwise would not work together and helping to manage and orchestrate entire security operations with a single, familiar tool.”

It sounds good to me. We’ll see early next year how well Red Hat delivers on this promise.

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When it Comes to Autonomous Cars, the Department of Transportation Says ‘Drivers’ Don’t Have to Be Human

The Department of Transportation is getting a little more creative about how it defines “driver,” Secretary Elaine Chao announced Thursday. In the third version of the department’s official stance on self-driving, the department said it would “adapt the definitions of ‘driver’ and ‘operator’ to recognize that such terms to not refer exclusively to a human, but may in fact include an automated system.” The computers have a ticket to drive now—at least where federal regulations are concerned.

And while this is good news for everyone working on building, and eventually deploying, self-driving vehicles, it’s especially welcome for the automated trucking crowd. Waymo, Daimler, Volvo, Embark Trucks, Kache.ai, Starsky and Kodiak Robotics, TuSimple, Ike: Automated trucking companies have boomed this year, even after Uber got out of the trucking race. And all these VC-funded people would one day like to use their robot vehicles to transport the 50 million tons of freight shipped on American highways each day.

To get there, though, the trucks have to be legal drivers, all by themselves. And they have to be able to drive everywhere freight goes. (So, everywhere.) This new guidance, which is the first to address automated trucks and buses specifically, looks to be the initial step in making that possible.

“We have a much clearer roadmap now,” says Jonny Morris, who heads up public policy at Embark. (Embark is shipping commercial loads with test trucks in California and Arizona, though drivers behind steering wheels monitor the technology during each drive.) “We’re starting from a point where the DOT is acknowledging that what we’re trying to do is generally allowable under existing regulations.”

The guidance is an especially handy thing for truck developers because trucks are much more likely than robotaxis to cross state lines. If there’s a single federal regulation for all highways, it will be much easier for these nascent companies to strike deals to ship goods all over the US. Today, different state rules create a patchwork of self-driving laws, where automated vehicles are welcomed enthusiastically in some states (Florida, Arizona) and require special licenses, permissions, permits, or testing parameters in others (California, Nevada, New York).

The DOT also announced in its guidance an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” for automated driving systems, both on passenger cars and trucks. Basically, that’s a heads up that the DOT will very soon start to solicit the public’s opinions on how the technology should be governed.

The goal here, the DOT says, is to guarantee road safety while ensuring that the federal government’s vehicle design standards don’t get in the way of self-driving vehicles. Today, anything on wheels is required by law to have features that won’t do much if the computer is driving the car: steering wheels, gas pedals, rear-view and side mirrors. Manufacturers have to apply for specialized exemptions if their vehicles don’t have those elements, and only a certain number of exemptions are available each year. As automated vehicle developers like Waymo and GM prepare to launch their own robotaxi services, they would love for those requirements to disappear—ASAP. (For now, DOT has pledged to “streamline” this exemption process, though it will need Congress to pass new legislation to hike the number of exemptions available each year.)

“These rulemakings could matter a lot, and the devil will be in the details,” says Bryant Walker Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies automated vehicle policy. In other words: A lot might be about to change in the world of vehicle regulation. We just don’t know what yet.

In the interim, though, the DOT Thursday strongly reasserted its authority to order any technology it finds unsafe off the road.

The DOT also announced today that it will work with the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Health and Human Services to formally study how automated vehicle tech might affect the workforce—including truckers—and what sorts of skills the workforce will need to excel in a robotic future. A recent study by labor economists concluded that automated vehicles won’t begin to seriously displace workers until the mid-2040s, and that even the losses then will be relatively minimal. Still, the economists warned, now is the time to start preparing the workforce for the disappearance of some trucking jobs. And the federal government has begun to heed the call.

For now, Morris says Embark will wait to see how this new guidance document works in real life, meaning the company won’t start to test in place where lawmakers haven’t wanted them, yet. While the feds insist that they have the power to preempt state regulations of automated vehicle technology, expect states to at least have a voice in the testing process moving forward. At this point, everyone still wants to be on friendly terms as they welcome the robots.


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Tesla's Autopilot Report Makes Big Safety Claims With Little Context

Tesla has published its first voluntary “Vehicle Safety Report,” and the numbers seem to clearly back CEO Elon Musk’s assertion that drivers who use Tesla’s sort of self-driving Autopilot feature are involved in fewer crashes than those who turn it off, and far fewer crashes than the general driving population. But without more detail, the numbers mean little.

In the report, Tesla says that between July and September of this year, it “registered one accident or crash-like event for every 3.34 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged.” Tesla drivers not using Autopilot went 1.92 million miles between incidents.

The company equates “crash-like events” with near misses but didn’t respond to a request for more detail on what that means. The report offers no insight into the severity of the crashes, whether anyone involved was injured, what may have caused the crashes, or where and when they happened.

Tesla’s Autopilot cleverly combines adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front even if it slows down, and steering assistance, which keeps the car between painted lane markings. Tesla stresses both features are intended for use in limited circumstances. “Autosteer is intended for use only on highways and limited-access roads with a fully attentive driver,” the Model S’s manual says. Although the system can be engaged anywhere, that technically means drivers using Autopilot sticking to roads like freeways—routes free of intersections, pedestrians, cyclists, and other complicating factors. Drivers not using it might be on crowded city streets or twisty country roads, making a comparison useless without that extra information.

Since releasing Autopilot in 2014, Tesla has faced criticism that the system makes drivers overly confident in its abilities, lulling them into a dangerous sense of complacency. At least two people have died in crashes when Autopilot was engaged. Three have crashed into stopped fire trucks in 2018 alone (all survived without serious injury). Musk has tangled with the National Transportation Safety Board over its investigations into Autopilot crashes and attacked critics of the system during a May earnings call.

“It’s really incredibly irresponsible of any journalists with integrity to write an article that would lead people to believe that autonomy is less safe,” Musk said. “Because people might actually turn it off, and then die.” During that same call, he promised Tesla would start releasing these quarterly reports.

The safety report compares that 1.92 million miles per incident figure to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It says NHTSA figures show “there is an automobile crash every 492,000 miles.” (Tesla apparently used the NHTSA’s public database to derive this number.) That indicates drivers in other manufacturers’ cars crash nearly seven times more often than drivers using Autopilot.

But again, a closer look raises questions. A broad comparison of Tesla with everyone else on the road doesn’t account for the type of car, or driver demographics, just for starters. A more rigorous statistical analysis could separate daytime versus nighttime crashes, drunk drivers versus sober, clear skies versus snow, new cars versus clunkers, and so on. More context, more insight.

“It’s silly to call it a vehicle safety report,” says David Friedman, a former NHTSA official who now directs advocacy for Consumer Reports. “It’s a couple of data points which are clearly being released in order to try to back up previous statements, but it’s missing all the context and detail that you need.”

Tesla’s one-page report comes the day after Consumer Reports published its comparison of “semiautonomous” systems that let drivers take their hands off the wheel but require them to keep their eyes on the road. That ranking put Cadillac’s Super Cruise in first place and Autopilot in second, followed by Nissan’s Pro Pilot Assist and Volvo’s Pilot Assist. It evaluated each on how it ensures the human is monitoring the car as well as its driving.

In response to those criticisms that Autopilot lulls users into trusting it too much, Tesla has recently used over-the-air software updates to ratchet up how often the human must touch the steering wheel to confirm they’re still alive and concentrating. Cadillac’s approach is more sophisticated: It uses an infrared camera to ensure the driver’s head is pointed at the road (instead of down at a phone), allowing for a truly hands-off system. (Audi’s Traffic Jam Pilot uses a gaze-tracking setup that allows a driver to look away in certain conditions, but it isn’t available in the US.)

Other safety-minded groups, including the IIHS and the UK’s Thatcham, are designing their own tests for these increasingly popular features, acknowledging they’re all flawed.

Tesla does have an excellent safety record when it comes to crash testing. In September the NHTSA awarded the Model 3, Tesla’s newest car, five stars in every category. The Model X SUV got the same commendation, and when the Model S sedan was tested in 2013, it proved so strong it broke the test equipment.

And it could be that its Autopilot system is making highway driving safer, perhaps by reducing driver fatigue or reducing rear-end collisions. But this report isn’t enough to show that. Friedman says he was hoping for more. He wants Tesla to give its data to an academic, who can do a rigorous, independent, statistical analysis. “If the data shows that Autopilot is delivering a safety benefit, then that’s great.”

Tesla is unique among automakers in releasing this type of data at all, and going forward it could expand on it to make it more useful. The company’s blog post with the latest statistics says it “introduced a completely new telemetry stream for our vehicles to facilitate these reports.”

And the size of its fleet is growing fast, as Tesla ramps up production of the Model 3. Its delivery numbers released on Tuesday show it put 83,500 cars in new driveways in the same quarter its safety figures cover. That means there’s going to be a lot more data to analyze in the future.

Tesla has always moved faster than the mainstream auto industry and deserves credit for acceleration the adoption of electric driving, software updates, and self-driving features. But if it wants to be congratulated for making roads safer, it has to cough up more data.


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Weeks Before His Passing, 10 Handwritten Secrets to Life Were Discovered–And They're Truly Remarkable

Today, there’s no shortage of inspirational material to help lift you through the day–heck, even the hour. Google ‘inspirational quotes’ and you get over 900M results. The difference, however, is what you do with that new-found inspiration and how you apply it–and not just in that moment, but to your life. Savas “Sam” Tsakiris was one of those remarkable entrepreneurs who embodied exactly that. 

Sam was from Rhodes, Greece, born in a small village called Kattavia. He immigrated from Rhodes in 1961 where Baltimore became his new home. Tsakiris’ family and roots were always at the forefront of his heart and when he immigrated, he brought soil from his village to always remind him of his humble beginnings–that same soil was to be buried with him. Sam tragically passed from a battle with pancreatic cancer a few months ago on July 21, 2018.  

Tsakiris was an entrepreneurial jack-of-all-trades. He was Proprietor of the acclaimed Boulevard Diner, infamous for its appearance on Diner’s Drive In’s and Dives, along with hosting Presidential Candidates. He was a dentist, philanthropist, and gardener. He was an adored father & grandfather (“papou” in Greek), and proud Greek Orthodox Christian where he served as President of the Parish Council at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. He made time for it all–seamlessly. 

Weeks before his passing, his son Marc found handwritten notes while cleaning out a drawer at his dental office–those notes were Sam’s ’10 rules to live by’. Where the origins of these rules are unknown, the magnitude is not and Sam kept these close as a reminder of how he should live his life.

1. “Life is not fair”

Sam is right and it’s sometimes easy to forget. Life simply isn’t fair. But any seeming injustice can be re-framed as an opportunity to grow. Somebody taking credit for your idea at work, for instance, really just means the idea was a good one and you’re on the right track. So keep going. On the other hand, unfairness can work in your favor, too, so don’t be too quick to complain.

2. “Life is too short to waste hating anyone”

Are you working with–or worse, for–someone you don’t really like? It happens to everybody. But putting your energy into those emotions is like giving away your hours for free. How much more productive could you be when that time is spent focused on your own goals instead? Reharnessing that energy could completely change your perspective.

3. “Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will — so stay in touch”

“I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.”

According to one nurse, this is one of the most common regrets of people that are near-death. If you don’t take the time to stay connected, not only are you missing out on a support system in the present, you’re also setting yourself up for major loneliness down the road. And guess what? One of the other most common regrets is “I worked too hard”. Seems like these go hand in hand.

4. “Cry with someone — it’s more healing than crying alone”

This is a great rule for life, and looks to be especially true in the workplace as well. Don’t go at it alone–find someone to share with. It helps. ?

5. “Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present”

This comes back to our perspective on failure. If you have a win/lose mindset and see your past mistakes as losses, rather than opportunities to grow, then you’re less likely to learn from them, setting yourself up for more letdowns. In some instances, failure is actually preferable. Accept it, and deal with the moment at hand.

6. “Do not compare your life with others — you have no idea what their journey is all about”

7. “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood but the second one is up to you and no one else.”

Isn’t it funny how there’s such a big difference between saying that someone hasn’t grown up, and saying that they haven’t lost their inner child? It’s something that can be applied to your own life and that of your children–you have the power to ensure they have a happy childhood. Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner child, either.

8. “No one is in charge of your happiness but you”

External vs internal ‘locus of control‘ is Psychology 101 (check it out). Our tendency to fall on one side of the spectrum or the other is, to a certain degree, driven by our biology. But it’s also a gauge of something that’s less of a mouthful: resilience. If we can learn this one trait, we’re on the path to success in all aspects of life.

9. “Forgive everyone for everything”

This seems pretty similar to the second axiom, “life is too short to waste it on hating anyone.” Probably because it’s worth saying twice. At the end of the day, time is the most important currency that we’re trading. But forgiveness does more than just cut out dead weight; it also opens pathways to opportunity.

10. “All that matters at the end is that you loved and were loved”

“A rat race is a fierce, competitive way of life that involves pursuing goals in a repetitive, endless manner…and…may come from actual rat-racing sporting events held in the 1800s.”

We often use the phrase jokingly, but a long résumé, full bank accounts, public recognition–while nice–they don’t compare to firmly rooted, personal & professional relationships. Losing a partner, a child, or another loved one can leave someone in grief for a lifetime. You never see someone genuinely grieving over a job they lost ten years ago, a past bankruptcy, failed business, and the like. Science says life is about the journey, and what’s a journey if it isn’t shared?

After reading & absorbing Sam’s words, it provided me with priceless perspective. The perspective that with the right outlook, you truly can balance all the things you are passionate about in life, while still being happy and not be stretched too thin.

It brings me comfort knowing that such a powerful ‘legacy’ can be carried on through his words. And that is an honor.

Until we meet again, Uncle Sam.

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This article was written in memory of Savas “Sam” Tsakiris, October 29, 1951 – July 21, 2018. 

Cloudera, Hortonworks Stocks Soar as the Big-Data Rivals Announce a $5.2M Merger

Remember big data? The once unavoidable buzzword has become just another sector of the enterprise software industry that is already showing signs of maturing. Case in point, the $5.2 billion merger of Cloudera and Hortonworks.

The merger’s announcement put some needed life into the shares of both companies. Cloudera’s stock rose 26% in after-hours trading on the news, while Hortonworks rose 27%.

Both companies were pioneers in Hadoop, an open-source platform that could analyze data in ways that scaled up easily—a necessity during a time when the availability of data was increasing exponentially each year. Cloudera and Hortonworks were among the startups focused on Hadoop that found enough success early on to go public when the flow of tech IPOs had slowed down.

But while revenue from both companies have been growing—Cloudera’s 1,300 customers generated $411 million in the past year, while Hortonworks’ 1,400 clients brought in $309 million—losses at both have remained large.

Hortonworks debuted with an offering price of $16 a share in December 2014, while Cloudera went public at $15 a share in April 2017. Both stocks enjoyed initial rallies typical for tech IPOs as the trading desks of underwriters labor to ensure a smooth launch. But both have underperformed in 2018. At Wednesday’s close, Hortonworks up 4% this year and Cloudera down 2%, compared with a 15% gain in the Nasdaq Composite Index.

On a conference call to discuss the merger, Cloudera CFO Jim Frankola said the merged company will save $125 million in annual costs and generate more than $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. In addition, the companies said, the combined companies will be better positioned to serve their existing customers while competing for a bigger share of their market.

Cloudera shareholders will own about 60% of the merged company, while Hortonworks will own 40%. The combined value of the company as of Tuesday’s market close was $5.2 billion, they said.