How Big is the Walt Disney Company?

The highest-grossing movie of 2018 in the United States was Black Panther. My first guess would have been Infinity War but as it turns out, Infinity War was the number one in the worldwide box office and it barely came in number two domestically. However, your eyes should be fixed on what came in at number three. It’s The Incredibles 2. All three of these films were made by Disney. Not just the top three spots but Disney is responsible for numbers 9, 12, 14 and 18 on the list too. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that in 2018 they had a higher market share than any other studio in America. More than a quarter of all the tickets sold at the box office were for Disney movies.

The Disney Corporation Flag

Disney has been growing exponentially. Let’s take a look at their revenue over the past 25 years. In 1993 they brought in $8.5B and in 2018 that was up to $59B, which is around seven times higher. If we were to look at their total assets as well, because they’ve been growing even faster, Disney is 8.4x bigger today than they were 25 years ago. A huge portion of this growth can be attributed to them making some strategic acquisitions. The biggest of which was a $71B acquisition involving Fox that was finalized on March 20th, 2019. Let’s take a look at some of their more significant acquisitions over the past 25 years, starting with Miramax in 1993. Disney bought the independent film company Miramax for $60M and helped turn them into something big under their control. They made movies like Scream, Armageddon, Chicago, No Country for Old Men and a few Best Picture winners along with Quentin Tarantino. These were all technically Disney films but they let producers do their own thing. They took in the money from them and they always had a final say. After owning them for 17 years they decided to sell it in 2010. The collection of films they built up over that time helped make it much more valuable than when they bought it. They ended up selling it for $660M. Then in 1995, Disney spent $19B to acquire a company called Capital Cities. Around 10 years earlier, Capital Cities had bought the TV network ABC who was already the majority owner of ESPN. In that deal in 1985, control of both networks went to Capital Cities. Later in 1995, it all went to Disney. The deal also included significant interests in other cable channels along with a bunch of various newspapers and magazines. If you’re ever wondering why they’re giving away so many trips to Disneyland on America’s Funniest Home Videos or why there’s so many Disney themed weeks on Dancing with the Stars, it should all make sense now.

List of Disney Properties

There used to be a TV channel called Fox Family until Disney bought it in 2001 for $3B. They quickly renamed it to ABC Family and as of early 2016, the name has been changed again to FreeForm. A few years later in 2004, they bought the rights to The Muppets from Jim Henson’s family. The amount wasn’t disclosed but the Henson family had bought the rights for 78 million about a year earlier so it’s likely to be somewhere in that range. The deal included the rights to use Kermit and Miss Piggy and all of those characters but didn’t include the rights to the Sesame Street gang. Following that in 2006, they bought Pixar for the price of $7.4B. At that point, Pixar had yet to create anything considered even close to a failure. It was six great films; Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monster’s Inc, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles with Cars on the way. Disney and Pixar always worked closely together on a number of projects, but here they decided to come together for a bigger reason. Disney was having trouble with their animated movies and a deal like this would hopefully help things. Something interesting here is, Steve Jobs was the majority owner of Pixar, so this deal made him Disney’s largest stakeholder. In 2009 they made an acquisition that people continue to talk about. They bought Marvel for the price of $4B. An attractive part of this deal obviously was the 5000 characters that they would receive the rights to, but there were some major characters that Marvel could not get before the acquisition. Those included Spider-Man, all of the X-Men characters and the Fantastic Four. They didn’t get those but they got a lot of other good ones and because of this, they’ve had the freedom to create an entire cinematic universe.

In 2012 Disney paid $4B for Lucasfilms which is the owner of the Star Wars franchise which was fully owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas at the time. This deal made George Lucas the second largest shareholder of Disney after the now deceased Steve Jobs. George Lucas had been the main man behind the original trilogy and the prequels. Every Star Wars movie made since the acquisition starting with The Force Awakens has not really involved George Lucas and has been made by Disney. That brings me to their most recent deal with Fox where they paid $71.3B.  Another acquisition that has been a long time in the making was the $52B bid that eventually ran to $71B for Comcast. The bid was approved with the exception of Fox’s regional sports networks considering Disney already owns ESPN. The result would otherwise end up being that Fox would own and operate those sports networks and their news channels in the Fox Network as well as some others.

An Overview of the Walt Disney Company

So here’s what Disney gained. A massive list of studio market shares I wrote about in the beginning. Number five on that list was 20th Century Fox, which by the way, was just bought by Disney too. Further down the list at number 11 is Fox Searchlight who was also bought by Disney. If next year is anything like last year, they’ll be up to about 36% market share. Not to mention a huge collection of previously made movies that they now own. Something that’ll help them maintain these high sales is the fact that the new deal also includes the X-Men and the Fantastic Four characters. Don’t be surprised if you see some of them popping up in the MCU. This deal also includes some television networks such as FX and the National Geographic along with the rights to any characters owned by them and content produced by them in the past.

They also recently purchased Fox’s 30% share of Hulu. If my math is correct, that gives them a 60% stake, which is a majority stake. They’ve also expressed interest in acquiring an additional 10% from AT&T. Comcast owns the rest of it but I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw that transfer over sometime soon. This brings me to what was likely the biggest motivation behind all these deals and acquisitions. Streaming. Disney will continue to be completely dominant at the box office but that might not be the best industry to dominate. In the US, digital home entertainment revenue has been exceeding movie ticket sales for some time and as of 2018 fewer people are going out to the movies because they’re choosing to stay home and watch Netflix instead. This deal gives them controlling interest in Hulu but it’s also providing them with content for Disney Plus, a subscription service they’re planning to launch later this year.

I can only imagine how much content they can put out there. Disney has all these characters in their collection to create new content, all of which they plan to do. In my final attempt to show you that Disney is bigger than you know, there’s a lot more to this company that I failed to mention until now. Beyond TV networks and in addition to all the ESPN and Disney Channel’s FreeForm, ABC, FX and National Geographic they also own a 50% share of the History Channel and National Geographic along with some others that I’ve never heard of. They also have theme parks across the world. Disney as a whole has a number of entertainment channels that rake in over $20B per year which is about twice as much than their entire movie business. It’s safe to say that the deal with Fox will be beneficial to this part of their business too. It gives them all these new characters they can incorporate and endless possibilities for content that is yet to come.

Uber vs Lyft: Comparing the Titans of Ride-Sharing

The battle between Uber and Lyft is one of the fiercest and most intense business rivalries we have today. It’s riveting to watch and assimilate what these two companies are doing to rub each other off. There’s been a lot of talk about Uber and Lyft these past few years and we know that they’ve thrown a major blow to traditional cab companies changing the business of transportation forever.

If you’re following the stock market, you would know that there’s been a lot going on with both of them racing to get listed as public companies. Private companies don’t have to release their figures to the public, but public companies do. Basically, if you can’t see the figures, how can you decide where to invest? This means that for the first time ever, both Lyft and Uber will finally reveal how they’re financially achieving their goals.

Uber and Lyft are each required to file a prospectus that has a ton of information on it and now that it’s publicly available, it would be a great time to see how they compare to each other. It makes sense to take a quick look at how they both started.

Uber started way back in 2009 while Lyft got into the market late in 2012. It may seem relatively fresh although they have had roots that reach five years before this. The inception of Uber was headed by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. Camp was the co-founder of a company called StumbleUpon that was sold for $75M in 2007. Kalanick was the co-founder of a company called Red Swoosh that was sold for $15M in 2007. In 2008, the two were attending a tech conference in Paris. They had trouble getting a cab and came up with a concept for a business that would eventually be called Uber.

They dropped the idea for a while, but then in early 2009, Garrett Camp went right back to it. An app was developed. He convinced Kalanick to come to be a part of it. They ran trials and by May of 2010 Uber cabs were available to the public in San Francisco.  Initially, it cost about 50% more than a traditional taxi but it was more convenient and with higher-quality cars. So they didn’t have much trouble finding people willing to pay the premium. That year, the city of San Francisco ordered them to stop conducting business but they worked it out partially by dropping the ‘cab’ part from their name. Simply going by Uber they quickly expanded into other cities around the country.

The big ones included New York, Chicago, and Boston. Of course, they’ve since expanded all around the country and internationally. Over the years they’ve raised money for all of this, mostly through different rounds of funding or exchanging cash for a piece of ownership. In 2011 their valuation was around $50M. By 2013 they were into the billions and in 2019 for their IPO they’re setting their valuation around $100B. Obviously, they’ve come a long way in the past eight years.

With the inception of Lyft, there are two guys to talk about here. John Zimmer and Logan Greene. The way this company started is a little hard to believe. It was initially called Zimride and you would assume it was named after John Zimmer but in actuality, Logan Greene came up with the name before he even met Zimmer. As it turns out, the ‘Zim’ part of the name came from Zimbabwe.

Green had recently been there and took notice of how everyone over there shares rides. This strange naming coincidence is actually part of what brought them together. The two had a mutual friend on Facebook. Green posted something about Zimride on that friend’s page. Zimmer came across it and was immediately interested and confused because it was similar to his idea and contained part of his name. The two of them connected through that mutual friend and soon started working together on Zimride. The idea behind Zimride is carpooling. They focused their efforts around college campuses and provided a way for people to connect who wanted to carpool long distances. All pretty solid ideas and Zimride was pretty successful in functioning like this over the next five years. In 2012 they saw greater potential.

They observed the success that Uber was having and figured that they can start something using their own approach and get in on their share of the pie. At that time Uber was serving more wealthy people. They only had their black car service which was pricier and involves higher-end cars. The guys at Zimride envisioned something similar that can serve everybody. Within weeks of the idea, they launched the Lyft app which was essentially every average man’s version of Uber. Then very soon after Uber started offering Uber X, which was essentially every average man’s version of Uber Black, it became their most popular option.

The battle between Uber and Lyft began in the middle of 2013. The metric I’m interested in studying is of their market share. According to SecondMeasure, Uber is much bigger and they always have been. That’s no surprise, but Lyft is gaining on them pretty fast. Four years ago they were hanging around a 10% share and today that’s crept to 30%. This pie also shows just how much these two dominate the US ride-hailing market.

There are other services out there too. There are Via and Juno. Both of which I’ve actually never heard much of unless you’re from a major city where they operate. Uber and Lyft together form 98% of the industry and everything else combines for the remaining 2%. I also want to mention that I’ve seen some conflicting data here. Lyft states that they have a 39% market share which was irrational to me until I learned that the company that provided that figure may have a bit of a conflict of interest. I’m not accusing anyone of anything but I’m more inclined to believe third-party figures. But either way, they’re gaining.

Let me theorize the reasons behind it. Lyft has been pretty aggressive in their marketing. Specifically, in 2016, they spent more money on sales and marketing and than any other department. Their marketing expenses were higher than their sales by a considerable amount. They also tended to have lower rates for travelers and greater incentives for drivers.

However, I would guess, a bigger reason they’ve been catching up is because of Uber. Uber has been controversial these past few yers and it’s caused people to switch over. I’m talking about sexual harassment claims, self-driving cars being released in California without a permit and then running red lights. Additionally, #DeleteUber was a whole political thing that caused about 500,000 people to delete their Uber account. Misleading drivers about how much they can earn was a $20M lawsuit and then there was that case of underpaying New York City drivers. All of this led to their CEO, another controversial figure, stepping down in 2017. On the other hand, Lyft has maintained a pretty clean image over the years.

Uber saw over $11B in 2018 which is about five times higher than Lyft who brought in about $2.2B. It’s worth noting that those numbers are definitely growing. This market is evolving fast and they’re basically the only two taking advantage of it. However, reports show that Lyft is growing at a much faster rate.

The reason Uber’s revenue is so much higher can be explained by their greater share in the US ride-hailing market. This is also because they have a much greater presence internationally. Uber provides services all around the globe whereas Lyft only operates in the US and Canada. That’s 63 countries compared to 2, and it’s a pretty major contributive difference. Uber also makes a lot more money because they’re involved in a lot of businesses beyond ride-hailing. Ride-hailing accounted for only $9.2B. Of that, $1.5B came from Uber Eats. According to Uber, it’s the largest meal delivery platform in the world outside of China. Based on gross bookings, they have a network of more than 220,000 restaurants in over 500 cities globally. It’s a good option for drivers to make these food deliveries when there’s not much else going on. Since the last couple of years, there’s also been Uber Freight, their service that connects shippers and carriers of goods. Lyft is much more niche-focused whereas Uber has expanded into other related businesses.

However, for both companies, and this is the point of focus that everyone’s been talking about, they’re losing money. Uber had about a $3B operating loss for 2018 and for Lyft it was just under $1B. This makes everyone question, is it even a good business model? They are bringing in money, but once they’re done paying for their insurance and marketing and everything else, there’s nothing left. It’s difficult to see how they will be able to figure it all out and eventually start turning a profit. None of them has much of a plan on how to do it either. The business model may have flaws but from my perspective, they seem to be more concerned with edging each other out. They are both strengthening themselves and they have to since it’s a two-person fight and neither one of them can afford to let their guard down.

When questioned about their business model, this is what Uber had to say. “We have incurred significant losses since inception including in the United States and other major markets. We expect our operating expenses to increase significantly in the foreseeable future and we may not achieve profitability. We will need to generate and sustain increased revenue levels and decrease proportionate expenses in future periods to achieve profitability in many of our largest markets including the United States. And even if we do, we may not be able to maintain or increase profitability.”

Understandably investors ought to be apprehensive and it does seem strange to be valuing a company around a $100B when they’re not making any money. This means that the price they’re paying is really based on the company’s potential and if they can get all this together down the line. This post is being written at a very specific period between their initial public offerings. Lyft had theirs on March 29th, 2019 and Ubers is happening soon. The Lyft IPO valued the company at around $24B whereas Uber’s will likely be around four times higher. We can continue comparing these numbers but I think we get the picture that Lyft is laser-focused on that US ride-hailing market, and for a variety of reasons they’ve been doing well in it. Uber, on the other hand, is much bigger by any measure and they have much more of a broad focus in other countries and other services. Yet, neither one of them is making any money. Eventually, they’re going to have to find a way to start generating a profit. It seems that they already had a decade to figure it out and they’re not even close.

A CaseStudy of How AMC Became Leaders in the Movie Screening Business

What do you think was the average price of a movie ticket in North America last year? It was $9.11 even though the average ticket price at an AMC theater is $9.55. The average patron spends $5.17 on food and beverages. On Saturday, April 27, 2019, both of those numbers set new records. A lot of people were at AMC theaters watching Avengers End Game. So much so, that AMC sold $2.6M tickets that day. On Friday they recorded their highest single-day food and beverage sales at around $13M. The next day they set a new record when they sold $15M.

AMC has an 84% gross profit margin meaning for every dollar you spend at the concession stand, they’re giving you something that costs them $0.16 and they’re pocketing the other $0.84. We can go further into their finances in a little bit but right now, let’s be clear that AMC is the largest chain of movie theaters in existence. They are the largest in the US, UK, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania making them the largest in the world. They operate over 1,000 theatres, each having an average of 11 screens, and about two-thirds of their properties are in the United States. They’re in 44 US states and 52% of the US population lives within 10 miles of one of their theaters. They have the number one market share in the two biggest markets. That’s an amazing 44% share in New York and a 28% share in Los Angeles. So the obvious question here is how did they get so big?

AMC Theatres

Stanley Durwood was the brains behind the success of AMC. It all started in 1920. That’s the year Stanley was born but it’s also the year that his father Edward got together with his brothers to purchase a movie theater in Kansas City. Through the 1940s, Stanley, the son, impressively attended Harvard and served in World War II. After the war, he returned back home to become part of his family’s business, which by now had expanded into a handful of locations called Durwood Theatres. In 1960, Edward died and Stanley took over the business. The one thing that Stanley Durwood will forever be known for is inventing, or at least innovating, the multiplex we know today. The multiplex is pretty much the standard for watching movies on the big screen. It’s a place where you typically get your ticket in the lobby and then walk past ten different theaters on your way to find the one that’s showing your movie. That’s a multiplex. It’s a building that houses multiple movie theaters. Today it would be strange to find a building that only shows one movie, but in 1963 that was pretty much the only way to watch movies.

There were instances of co-joint theaters showing multiple movies in one building well before the 1960s but I do believe that Stanley Durwood came up with the idea. He was the first one to implement the concept in a big way. Back in the day, most establishments were having trouble selling out these large theaters for a single movie and started thinking how great it would be if they could somehow divide the space and show multiple movies at the same time. That way the rent and many other fixed costs would stay the same and yet they’d still be selling more tickets and generating more income.

In July of 1963, Stanley Durwood opened his first multiplex and it instantly became a huge part of the business. He continued opening them through the rest of the 1960s. In fact, in 1968, when he incorporated the business he changed the name to American Multi Cinema (AMC). It was a way to reflect the concept of multiple cinemas per building that the company had become known for. By the 1980s people were watching more movies than ever and willing to pay more for their tickets, which made the movie screening industry tremendously attractive. Stanley Durwood and AMC were doing their best to take advantage of this situation. In 1982 they increased their number of screens from 500 to 700 but found themselves in need of more money. If they wanted to continue expanding at this pace, their solution was to sell 12% ownership of the family-owned company to the public. They would then use the money to build more multiplexes with more screens and by 1988 those 700 screens had more than doubled to 1500.

In the 1990s they found themselves a bit overextended. They had trouble turning a profit but they dealt with it in two ways. They not only slowed their expansion efforts but they actually started closing their underperforming locations and consolidated their screens into what became known as a MegaPlex. These are just really big multiplexes. Instead of five to ten screens, these establishments had 20 screens which meant they were even more cost-efficient and had greater potential to bring them back to profitability. They opened their first MegaPlex in 1995 and the rest of the industry quickly followed. When talking about how AMC got so big, up until this point my biggest reason would be that they had a head start. They were seemingly always a step or two ahead of the competition. They technically entered the industry in 1920 which is almost a hundred years ago. In 1963, when everyone else was operating one theater at a time, AMC was the only one experimenting with the advantages of operating multiplexes in the 1990s.

With the MegaPlex, AMC was the first in the industry to provide their customers with that cup holder in the armrest. It was a simple idea that empathizes how cold people’s hands must have been holding ice-cold soda for two hours. They were a smart and innovative leader that wasn’t afraid to take risks and make the right sacrifices to take advantage of potential growth opportunities.

In 1999 Stanley Durwood died of cancer and soon after the industry ran into some trouble. It turned out that AMC wasn’t the only theater chain that saw a growth potential throughout the 1980s. They weren’t the only chain to invest heavily in these MegaPlexes in the 1990s. Later on, there were too many theaters. Everyone seemed to have entered this booming market and it was now oversaturated. Virtually every competitor started facing financial troubles and many of them didn’t make it through. On the other hand, AMC was so big and established that they were one of the fortunate companies that took advantage of the misfortune of others. Example: In 2001, they outright purchased one of their competitors, General Cinemas, in a bankruptcy auction.

This brings us to the next phase of their growth which is attributed to mergers and acquisitions. The movie screening industry has been consolidating. This is evidenced by the fact that in the year 2000 the top four theater chains generated about 35% of total box-office revenue. In 2018, that number was up to 64% and AMC has been a big part of this. There have been some smaller ones but here are some of the key mergers and acquisitions. In 2006 AMC merged with Lowe’s which, right there, made them twice as big by adding about 2200 additional screens. In 2012, AMC themselves were acquired by a massive Chinese company called Wanda Group for $2.6B. Wanda Group is primarily a real estate development company but they have a lot of other businesses including the ownership of a number of Chinese theatres. The stock is arranged in such a way that Wanda Group now owns 50.01% of AMC but have 75.01% of the voting power.

AMC was at about 5000 screens at this point and since they’re now around 11,000 it means they’ve grown more than twice as big over the last few years. In November of 2016, they acquired Odeon which is a larger theater chain in Europe. It cost them $1.2B and added 2200 more screens. One month later they made another similar-sized acquisition when they bought the US chain called Carmike Cinemas for $1.1B. Then the very next year they bought Nordic Cinemas which was the largest theater chain in Northern Europe for $921M. The last 20 years has been a long line of mergers and acquisitions for AMC that has helped to consolidate the industry. That’s how they got so big. But a new question is how do they manage to stay this big? Obviously, their success is dependent on Hollywood releasing big and AAA type movies. Their revenue is the highest in the summer when most blockbusters are released. There’s not much they can do about the quality of movies that are released but there are parts of the experience that they can control. The factors that determine their success over other theaters, in their words is, “We believe it is the quality of the movie-going experience that will determine our future success.”

New York

AMC has tried to improve this experience through a number of ways but their winning endeavor has been with their recliners. They’ve been remodeling their theaters and replacing the traditional seats with plush electric recliners. They do require more room and can result in the loss of up to two-thirds of their seats but those losses are offset by the fact that the renovations on an average drive at 30% to 50% increase in attendance and allows them to raise ticket prices. Right now, they have these new recliners in 30% of their theatres and they expect that to be up to 43% within the next couple years. They also try to drive sales through their concession stands which have new and extensive menu items. Patrons purchasing these items has increased from 64% to 71% over the past seven years. They also have more IMAX screens than anyone else at a 51% market share in the US. Additionally, they have a loyalty program that encourages customers to return by offering them incentives and making them feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. Their club is called AMC Stubbs and it has over 17 Million total members. The membership program has 2 tiers. The Insider Level and Premier level. The Insider is around $15 per year and has a bunch of benefits. Recently, they also introduced an A-List membership tier that is around $20 per month. The A-List was launched in June of 2018 likely as an answer to movie passes since it allows you to watch three movies per week. During the times of cheaper 65″ 4K TVs at home and all available streaming options, AMC has been successful in finding ways to get people to come to their theaters.

The success of AMC mostly comes down to innovations and acquisitions, but there have been other factors that have contributed too. While it seems to be a continuous struggle to remain profitable, they seem to be doing rather well. Although they do have plenty of debt and the future of the industry is so uncertain, they’re confident in staying at the top. They have been there for almost a hundred years and they’ve set some pretty great records too. Will they be able to maintain their composure or will something cause them to fall apart? I’d like to see if Regal Cinemas can give them a run for their money.

How to Start your Own Freelance Social Media Marketing Business and Attract New Customers

There’s a lot being said about freelancers and the opportunities the internet has brought forward for them. Not only is it everything that almost every pundit says, but the fact that there’s nearly 3 billion social media users across the web means these so called opportunities are often undermined. Bigger companies just do not have the time or resources to take advantage of these platforms and hence it has given growth hackers a reason to get into the freelance business of social media marketing.

Getting started with your own freelance social media business requires you to endure a few broad steps. These often have to do a lot with developing your internal brand, polishing up your qualifications and portraying the correct credentials to attract clients.

Developing your Social Media Credentials

Social media has a lot to do with recognising what skills are required by clients that do not have the expertise to work on multiple social platforms. All they want is an omnichannel solution that maintains their branding standards. Your clients will already understand that you know how to handle accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. What they really want to know is if you are capable of living up to their expectations. This means that you need to be proficient in:

  • Writing grammatically correct posts and be fluent in the language they need.
  • Evaluating the market and studying the competition in which your clients intend to reach out to.
  • Building a strategy that works well in their favour as well as budgets.
  • Relating with the public on their level.
  • Using various tools and technologies and leveraging them to their advantage.

Once you are capable of showcasing that you have the skills they need, you will need to demo these aforementioned skills to them. This means that you will want to prepare a case study or a review document that outlines the work you have done. If you have the right industry experience and if you can pair it with additional technical qualifications, then you have managed to get half the job done. You can always get this certification on Udemy of Skillshare to help you get started. The best way to build this kind of credibility is to show how you have used your skills to work for your own social media profiles.

Promote your Freelance Social Media Business

If you don’t tell anyone you’re in this business, then no one is ever going to know. Print some business cards, meet people, share conversations whenever you can and tell them about your skills and how you help companies reach out to a better audience with social media marketing.

Look out for freelancer sites where you can list your services. There are a bunch of places around the web that have people looking out for freelancers to handle their social media business. You can check out Upwork, Elance or ODesk to help you get started.

One of the best ways to reach out to people with your business is to look out for profiles that are underdeveloped. Approach them and tell them what you can do. Remember to price your services accordingly. The last thing you want is to overcharge some SMB that is just starting up.

Build a Clientele that is Diverse

Most freelancers out there make a common mistake of looking out for big players to ensure they have a stable income. It’s great to have big brands as a part of your portfolio but don’t shun out the smaller players. You’ll be surprised at the number of smaller guys out there that are need help and are willing to stick around with you in the long run. Remember that smaller brands have the tendency to talk a lot to other small brands and collaboration is always on the table for them. It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone here.

Additionally, with larger clients, freelance work is not stable and is most of the time unpredictable. Since you will not be entering into a contract with them, it means that you will get work only when they decided to run a campaign. Develop a network of diverse clients of all sizes and soon you will realise you will have contacts from every stream contributing to your bank.

How to Structure your Digital Team Effectively

When you set forth to create a digital product, you will realise very early that this is a process that deserves multi-disciplinary action that blends creativity, engineering, support, compliance and business strategy.
Due to its complexity, large businesses and global brands undergo various transformations and they struggle when it come to figuring out how they need to structure their digital teams. To succeed, they need to ask themselves several questions that range from;
  • What is the right way to organise all the necessary roles and their responsibilities?
  • What part of the organisation should take up capable ownership?
  • How do we get every team member working together?
Ideally, the optimal structure of a digital team should vary from company to company. However, one effective way of making this approach would be to use a defining framework that would help identify 10 – 15 key roles of the project. These roles can be further divided into three conceptual teams – Digital Business, Digital Technology, and Extended Business. We shall take a look at what these define independently.
Digital Business Team
The Owner of the the digital business team has a vision that defines the key business and its objectives for the property. This includes target market segmentation and its objectives etc. This vision makes the final decision on the product to take proper direction.
Product Management teams own the product on a daily basis and ties up with other areas of the business to make sure that the value of this digital proposition is realised very early on in the product lifecycle. Product teams tare responsible for commissioning and reviewing research exercises to develop and build the roadmap for the company in terms of business vision and the ability to prioritise improvements and changes.
Program Management, not to be misunderstood for Product Management is responsible for the long term ownership of the product and making sure that all objectives are in place to achieve the roadmap desired by the product team. This can extend to budgeting and resource allocation that eventually comes together to maintain a good release schedule.
UI and UX teams are responsible for the overall look and feel of the product. This team maintains and develops a standard for the product where they outline the user flow and intended usage pattern for some time to come. These teams work with user testing initiatives as well as focus on quality assurance teams to ensure that new releases bring the product on par with the goals of the company.
Content Developers create non-marketing and non-campaign oriented material for the site/product. These include articles, instructions, FAQ and so on. Their primary job is to create content that is easy to understand and at the same time that is consistent with the brand or vision of the business.
Digital Technology Teams
Front End Development teams select the framework. They also define the code that will be deployed to the front of site thereby standardising technologies to be used. Tech teams here will also help contribute to writing code that will render in browsers. These languages extend to HTML, JS and Objective C etc. This kind of development drives requirements for back-end teams thereby ensuring that the best user experience can be implemented.
Back-End teams manage all the enterprise responsibilities including inventory, finances and content management systems. They are responsible for enforcing standards that protect the integrity of all systems a business relies on. These teams need to be scalable enough to ensure that they are able to implement new capabilities, features and tech requirements.

 

These teams have Data Developers that consistently monitor the health of databases, services and infrastructure architecture. The infrastructure built will be able to maintain the physical hardware used for applications and data processing. They also maintain disaster and business contingency programs, while at the same time being able to monitor the scalability and reliability of all physical infrastructure. These teams will also need to proactively monitor the security of the businesses tech requirements.

 

Quality Assurance, popularly known as QA, maintain standards for code in production and develop automated systems to test scripts that are based on the business’ contingency plan. These teams execute any integration and manifest testing scenarios such that there is a certain degree of quality that is being published. Team members here will also be responsible for monitoring key metrics that could identify potential problems. These are then manifested with documentation to the tech teams to carry out bug fixing or rollbacks. It should be kept in mind that although you may want a trained professional to carry out QA, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that quality is maintained across the board.
Extended Business Teams
Marketing teams are responsible for most key operations. They are the ones that develop campaigns and offers to drive traffic to the site. Their goal should be to focus on numbers while studying every detail through ongoing business analysis. They also manage subscriber lists, CRM systems and make first level reach-outs.
Within the marketing team, there is a Product and Pricing division that is setup to ensure that the responsibility of pricing is effectively measured and offered across all digital properties. In appropriation, they develop, merchandise or license anything sold on the website. They set all pricing and drive the overall requirements for aligning features with new products based on the company’s parameters.
Another essential team within extended business is that of Operations. They are the ones responsible for fulfilling the value proposition of the company. eCommerce sites have operational assistants to handle picking, packing and shipping. Digital video business have searching, vetting and uploading teams etc.
Business Development teams or BD is responsible for creating partnerships that help increase site visitors and help sales teams find a new stream of revenue. The focus here is to shift dynamics from traditional exhaustive channels of sales and introduce new ones where market research dives.
Customer Support is the aftermarket team that is responsible for sharing knowledge of the digital policies, platforms and solutions a business needs to provide. They assist customers with issues and help maintain track performance of satisfact levels.
While this structure may seem exhaustive, most teams differ from company to company. This means that if you have key roles in your business, you will need to create a list of well defined responsibilities that define these processes. Finally, you will need to see how they function together and tweak teams in the most effective manner that is beneficial for individuals as well as the business. The ultimate goal here is to ensure that digital business teams, digital technology teams and the extended business teams are all in sync and working effectively on the projects they are assigned.

The Easy Way to Build a Social Network with Buddypress and WordPress for Free

Face-to-face gossip replaced by Facebook, reading the news replaced by Daily Rundowns on LinkedIn, friends communicating over emails replaced by WhatsApp chats and SnapChat, sharing artistic physical photo albums and catalogs replaced by Instagram and Pinterest respectively. It’s now time to build that social network using just two simple tools – WordPress and Buddypress.

What makes social media so powerful and influential? It is the strong network of people that it builds and the relevant information that it has on each and every user. Many times, we come across brilliant ideas for building a special social network but do not execute it just because we are hindered by the lack of technical acumen we have to build the product. But here, we will discuss how you can build a social networking app of your own without any prior coding knowledge!

BuddyPress, a free social networking site builder plugin that is available with WordPress is a life-saver when it comes to building social media sites from the scratch without prior technical experience. First and foremost, you should have a layout and the basic functionalities in terms of the engagement functions in your social media app as well as the website. Once clear, try choosing a BuddyPress theme that looks similar to the layouts for the website you had in mind complementing the app. Once you find the theme, you can customize it according to the layout you had in mind and voila! You have created a social media website using BuddyPress.

Some of the most popular themes to choose are:

Boss: Boss is a great theme to work with that is easy to integrate with some of the most renowned payment gateways like PayPal. Boss is also highly responsive in case of a mobile site to give a good viewing experience and can easily be converted into a native mobile app as well.

BuddyApp: BuddyApp is one of the most mobile optimized BuddyPress themes out there. This makes sense to use the maximum amount of crowd on social media (read around 90%) access it through their handheld devices or smartphones. Hence, BuddyApp is also a great option to go with.

Kleo: Kleo is highly responsive and is easy to build upon as it has visual composer which you can use to build the website block by block using a drag-and-drop technique.

Now, to convert a BuddyPress powered social media website into a compatible native app, one can use a powerful tool called Canvas by Mobiloud. It converts and configures all the UI elements of the BuddyPress site into a native app ready to be pushed to the Google Play Store as well as the Apple App Store.

So, what are you waiting for! Don’t let technical knowledge be a barrier between you and your dreams. Use the power of BuddyPress and Canvas to make your social network idea a reality.

PuneConnect has it’s Sights on the Future

Pune has always been my second home. I travel there more often than I can remember. It’s a place that has taught me how to differentiate between a tech-ready city and a tech-achieving one. Every trip I make here always leaves me with insights I would not otherwise comprehend.

 

I’ve attended a shit load of events. I’ve spoken at a few and met up with attendees from diverse sectors of the tech world. It’s always amazing to see such great talent under a single roof but nothing compares to PuneConnect’s insightful brilliance. It maybe a little late to say this now but when I was invited to the startup fundraiser this last year, I was a little overwhelmed knowing they would remember the rant I threw last year about how we should be diversifying the investment sector for startups. But in the greater scale of things, it felt great to once again be part of a group that converges together to achieve one goal – greatness.

 

Unless you happened to be living under a rock in Pune since the past few years, you’d know that PuneConnect is a SEAP organised startup conference and exhibition platform that annually comes together to help energise the technology ecosystem in Pune. It’s a brilliant event where emerging businesses showcase their prototypes and applications to investors and VCs, all with the hope that their funding can help change the world.

 

While most of the startups that presented here focused on application based models, there were a few that stood out in the hardware and physible sphere. My experience at PuneConnect was insightful and bullshitty at the same time. It gave me an opportunity to meet a bunch of enthusiastic young folk keen on changing the world but could not figure out how they could compete in the already existing cut-throat market. While funding is a race, what remains to be understood is that not everyone needs to win the race. Most entrepreneurs at the event had amazing products to showcase, but their lack of business insight made it impossible for them to get shortlisted at the round table conference. I truly believe that the only way these applications could make their way to the consumer market would be to bridge the gap between incubators and venture capitalists. But that yet remains to be seen.

 

Kunal Kumar, Municipal Commissioner of Pune and the guy behind Pune’s Smart City program shared some amazing fucking facts with attendees. His statistical findings were crystal clear in explaining what measures needed to be taken to ensure that the next big thing needs to be a greener vision towards the future. PuneConnect has always been great supporters of amalgamating environment and technology. While it did feel cheesy at first, I have to agree that the only way we can truly call ourselves a smart city is if we become smart people first. His session on next-gen convergence was then lead by Stephen Yarwood, the former Mayor of Adelaide and current Smart City Architect. That guy has some serious balls. I have to agree. He’s a brilliant guy with brilliant plans. Ive always advocated that if this country needs to survive we need to bring in people that are already doing this abroad. I’m delighted to know that Pune is leading the race.

 

With time, I sincerely do hope that we start working towards becoming smarter people. If there’s anything to learn here, it’s that we need more people coming to events like PuneConnect to show the world they’re gonna fucking change it.