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Scientists stimulate neurons to induce particular perceptions in mice's minds

Hallucinations are spooky and, fortunately, fairly rare. But, a new study suggests, the real question isn't so much why some people occasionally experience them. It's why all of us aren't hallucinating all the time.

In the study, Stanford University School of Medicine neuroscientists stimulated nerve cells in the visual cortex of mice to induce an illusory image in the animals' minds. The scientists needed to stimulate a surprisingly small number of nerve cells, or neurons, in order to generate the perception, which caused the mice to behave in a particular way.

"Back in 2012, we had described the ability to control the activity of individually selected neurons in an awake, alert animal," said Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "Now, for the first time, we've been able to advance this capability to control multiple individually specified cells at once, and make an animal perceive something specific that in fact is not really there -- and behave accordingly."

The study, to be published online July 18 in Science, holds implications for obtaining a better understanding of natural information processing in the brain, as well as psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, and points to the possibility of designing neural prosthetic devices with single-cell resolution.

Deisseroth is the study's senior author. Lead authorship is shared by staff scientists James Marshel, PhD, and Sean Quirin, PhD; graduate student Yoon Seok Kim; and postdoctoral scholar Timothy Machado, PhD.

Using optogenetics

Deisseroth, who is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and holds the D. H. Chen Professorship, pioneered optogenetics, a technology enabling researchers to stimulate particular neurons in freely moving animals with pulses of light, and to observe the resulting effects on the animals' brain function and behavior.

In the new study, Deisseroth and his colleagues inserted a combination of two genes into large numbers of neurons in the visual cortex of lab mice. One gene encoded a light-sensitive protein that caused the neuron to fire in response to a pulse of laser light of a narrowly defined color -- in this case, in the infrared spectrum. The other gene encoded a fluorescent protein that glowed green whenever the neuron was active.

The scientists created cranial windows in the mice by removing a portion of the animals' skulls to expose part of the visual cortex, which in both mice and humans is responsible for processing information relayed from the retina. The investigators protected this exposed area with a clear glass covering. They could then use a device they developed for the purpose of the study to project holograms -- three-dimensional configurations of targeted photons -- onto, and into, the visual cortex. These photons would land at precise spots along specific neurons. The researchers could monitor the resulting activity of nearly all individual neurons in two distinct layers of the cerebral cortex spanning about 1 square millimeter and containing on the order of several thousand neurons.

With their heads fixed in a comfortable position, the mice were shown random series of horizontal and vertical bars displayed on a screen. The researchers observed and recorded which neurons in the exposed visual cortex were preferentially activated by one or the other orientation. From these results, the scientists were able to identify dispersed populations of individual neurons that were "tuned" to either horizontal or vertical visual displays.

They were then able to "play back" these recordings in the form of holograms that produced spots of infrared light on just neurons that were responsive to horizontal, or to vertical, bars. The resulting downstream neuronal activity, even at locations relatively far from the stimulated neurons, was quite similar to that observed when the natural stimulus -- a black horizontal or vertical bar on a white background -- was displayed on the screen.

The scientists trained the mice to lick the end of a nearby tube for water when they saw a vertical bar but not when they saw a horizontal one or saw neither. Over the course of several days, as the animals' ability to discriminate between horizontal and vertical bars improved, the scientists gradually reduced the black-white contrast to make the task progressively harder. They found that the mice's performance perked up if the scientists supplemented the visual displays with simultaneous optogenetic stimulation: For example, if an animal's performance deteriorated as a result of a lowered contrast, the investigators could boost its discrimination powers by stimulating neurons previously identified as preferentially disposed to fire in response to a horizontal or vertical bar.

This boost occurred only when the optogenetic stimulation was consistent with the visual stimulation -- for example, a vertical bar display plus stimulation of neurons previously identified as likely to fire in response to vertically oriented bars.

Hallucinating mice

Once the mice had become adept at discriminating between horizontal and vertical bars, the scientists were able to induce tube-licking behavior in the mice simply by projecting the "vertical" holographic program onto the mice's visual cortex. But the mice wouldn't lick the tube if the "horizontal" program was projected instead.

"Not only is the animal doing the same thing, but the brain is, too," Deisseroth said. "So we know we're either recreating the natural perception or creating something a whole lot like it."

In their early experiments, the scientists had identified numerous neurons as being tuned to either a horizontal or a vertical orientation, but they hadn't yet directly stimulated each of those particular neurons optogenetically. Once the mice were trained, optogenetic stimulation of small numbers of these neurons was enough to get mice to respond with appropriate licking or nonlicking behavior.

The researchers were surprised to find that optogenetically stimulating about 20 neurons -- or fewer in some cases -- selected only for being responsive to the right orientation, could produce the same neuronal activity and animal behavior that displaying the vertical or horizontal bar did.

"It's quite remarkable how few neurons you need to specifically stimulate in an animal to generate a perception," Deisseroth said.

"A mouse brain has millions of neurons; a human brain has many billions," he said. "If just 20 or so can create a perception, then why are we not hallucinating all the time, due to spurious random activity? Our study shows that the mammalian cortex is somehow poised to be responsive to an amazingly low number of cells without causing spurious perceptions in response to noise."

Deisseroth is a member of Stanford Bio-X and of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford.

Stanford's Office of Technology Licensing has filed a patent application for intellectual property associated with the work.

The work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, HHMI, the National Institutes of Health (grants R01MH075957 and P50DA042012), the Simons Foundation, the Wiegers Family Fund, the Nancy and James Grosfeld Foundation, the Sam and Betsy Reeves Fund, the H.L. Snyder Foundation, the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the Swartz Foundation.

Newspaper / Colors honours women entrepreneurs
« Last post by Priya on July 22, 2019, 01:31:29 PM »
Colors honours women entrepreneurs

Lifestyle magazine Colors has honoured women entrepreneurs in seven categories for their impressive success in the field of business.

The magazine, which is published from Dhaka and New York, organised the Colors Platinum Business Women Awards-2019 with the support from City Alo, the dedicated women banking division of City Bank.

State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das attended the award-giving ceremony at InterContinental Dhaka on Saturday.

The magazine honoured Rumana Chowdhury of Warah with the Platinum Business Woman of the Year award while Sausan Khan Moyeen of Enchanted Events and Prints received the Business Enterprise of the Year award.

Tania Wahab of Karigar secured the SME Enterprise of the Year award and Amena Khatun of Nila and Sons won the Innovative Project of the Year award.

The Start-up of the Year award went to Trina Falguni of Sugar Communications Limited, the Innovative Solution of the Year award in the IT category to Fahmida Islam of La mode while Nabila Nowrin and Nahid Sharmin of Moar got the Rising Star of the Year award. 

The event was also addressed by General Manager of InterContinental Dhaka Marc Reissinger and Additional Managing Director of City Bank Sheikh Mohammad Maroof.

“We took the decision to award the women entrepreneurs as part of an effort to recognise their endeavours of women who have tremendously been contributing to the economy,” Editor and Publisher of Colors Zakaria Masud said at the event.

The Daily Star is one of the media partners of the event for which InterContinental Dhaka was the hospitality partner.

Newspaper / Chinese companies seeking new purchases of US farm products
« Last post by Priya on July 22, 2019, 01:29:53 PM »
Chinese companies seeking new purchases of US farm products

Some Chinese companies are seeking new purchases of US agricultural products, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, citing authorities.

“Some Chinese enterprises have inquired with US exporters about the purchase of agricultural produce and applied for the lifting of tariffs on the products,” Xinhua said.

Newspaper / In sluggish Russian economy, halal sees growth
« Last post by Priya on July 22, 2019, 01:27:39 PM »
In sluggish Russian economy, halal sees growth

The manager of a sausage factory near Moscow, Arslan Gizatullin says his halal business has been feeling the pinch -- not so much from Russia’s sluggish economy but competitors vying for a piece of a growing Islamic market.

Ever more producers are catering for the domestic Muslim community, which accounts for around 15 percent of Russia’s population and is set to expand, and in some cases are also setting their sights on export.

“In the last few years in general, halal’s become something of a trend in Russia,” said Gizatullin, who has been at the Halal-Ash plant in the city of Shchyolkovo for seven years.

The factory was among the first of its kind when it opened two decades ago, recreating Soviet-style sausages in accordance with Islamic law, among other products.

“Now I go to shop displays and I see sausage from one, two, three producers... I see that competition is growing,” he adds from the factory, which employs 35 people and puts out up to 1.5 tonnes of produce a day.

The halal economy, worth more than $2.1 trillion globally, is far from limited to meat.

Cosmetics firms and services such as halal hotels have received licenses from the body that oversees Islamic production in Russia, while state-owned Sberbank is looking into creating an Islamic finance entity.

The Centre for Halal Standardisation and Certification, under the authority of the Russian Council of Muftis, has approved more than 200 companies since it opened in 2007.

The centre says that number is growing by five to seven companies a year -- from a standing start at the collapse of the anti-religious Soviet Union.

Rushan Abbyasov, the deputy head of the Council of Muftis, told AFP the Russian agriculture ministry was supporting the centre in its efforts to increase exports to the Arab world and Muslim-majority ex-Soviet republics.

“We’ve looked at international experience in the Arab world, in Malaysia, and we’ve developed our Russian (halal certification) standard following that model,” Abbyasov said in an interview at Moscow’s central mosque.

“We’re doing it in a way that matches international halal standards as well as the laws of the Russian Federation.”

The mufti pointed to an annual exhibition of halal goods and producers in the Muslim-majority Russian republic of Tatarstan, which this year saw its biggest ever turnout, as an example of the sector’s growth.

Tatar officials told Russian media the halal food market accounted for around 7 billion rubles a year ($110 million) -- or just over three percent of the region’s gross agricultural output.

But they said the sector was growing at a rate of between 10 and 15 percent a year.

The certification centre said Russia’s overall halal economy was also growing at a rate of 15 percent every year, but declined to give a breakdown of its figures.

Russia’s overall economy is stagnant, with the government predicting growth of only 1.3 percent this year, after 2.3 percent growth in 2018.

Alif, a Moscow-based cosmetics firm, is a new company at the forefront of the move towards exporting halal goods from Russia.

Manager Halima Hosman told AFP that, a year after launching, Alif’s products were being sold in the Muslim-majority Russian republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, as well as ex-Soviet Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

“Our priority targets for export now are France, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia,” she said, adding that the company had non-financial support from the halal certification centre.

The 28-year-old, who was born into an Orthodox Christian family in southern Moldova but converted to Islam as a teen, said promoting halal products was about more than business.

Human Resource / Role of Human Resources in the Workplace
« Last post by rakibul on July 22, 2019, 12:03:43 PM »
Role of Human Resources in the Workplace

Human resources are the people who work in an organization. It is also the name of the department that exists to serve the needs of those people.William R. Tracey, in The Human Resources Glossary, defines human resources as, "The people that staff and operate an organization… as contrasted with the financial and material resources of an organization."Human resources are the people who work for an organization in jobs that produce the products or services of the business or organization.
In the past, these people, also known as employees, staff members, coworkers, colleagues, team members, or workers in organizations and workplaces, were called personnel. In some organizations, they are still called personnel, manpower, operators, or workmen -- names that are generally no longer used in more evolved and modern workplaces.Human resources evolved from these older terms as the functions of the field moved beyond paying employees and managing employee benefits. The evolution of the HR function gave credence to the fact that people are an organization's most important resources.

Evolution of the Term "Human Resources"
Human resources, as a name for employees, was first used in a book published in 1893 according to Wikipedia and was regularly used in the early 1900's.The modern use of the term, human resources, dates from the 1960's. Now, most organizations call employees and the department or office designated to assist the organization and its people, Human Resources.Over the years, calling employees "human resources" has been the subject of much debate.People who do not like the term applied to people believe that identifying people as an asset or resource of an organization -- in the same terminology you'd use to refer to land, building materials, or machines -- is improper, and can lead to poor treatment of employees.
Efforts are underway to modernize the term, human resources. Increasingly, you hear employees referred to as team members, associates, members of the organization, knowledge workers, or talent. The new names imply that all of the employees in the company are essentially peers, and that they're all equally valued as people.This is reflected in statements like, "As employees, no matter your job title or rank, we are all equal as team members.

The Second Meaning for Human Resources
In a second meaning, human resources is also the name of the department or functional area from which the HR employees provide HR services to the rest of the organization.People are an organization's primary asset. You must hire, onboard, pay, satisfy, motivate, engage, manage, develop, and retain your employees.Your HR department is your investment in accomplishing these goals with the people you employ. Whether their customer is management or individual employees, your HR staff is accountable for producing the results you need in each of these areas. This does not mean that the HR department is solely responsible for results in these areas.Foremost in accomplishing these goals with employees are your managers or front line supervisors to whom the employees report. They are the people who interact with employees every day to ensure that you have a motivated, contributing workforce. The HR office supports their front-line efforts.HR provides the framework, processes, programs, procedures, training, and the information they need to succeed.

The Changing Role of the HR Team
Over time, this has changed and enhanced the role of your HR team. Dr. Dave Ulrich of the University of Michigan identified three significant roles for the HR team: strategic partner, employee advocate, and change champion. He believes that everything HR does must add value to the business.The next phase for HR “which is emerging, is using HR practices to respond to and create value based on external business conditions." Says Ulrich, “This direction needs to be connected to the business, both the business context which shapes decision making and specific stakeholders around whom business strategies are created.”If your HR staff remain focused on designing innovative business practices in areas such as sourcing, hiring, compensation, and communication, they are not transforming their role to align with forward-thinking practices.If every action is not focused on creating value, your senior leaders must question HR leaders about their contribution to the overall organization.HR must focus on finding, developing and retaining talent; driving organizational culture, and organizational leadership.It’s time for transformation and asking tough questions about past practices that have outlived their ability to contribute. Annual performance appraisals, outdated hiring practices that include discrimination, a command and control management style, and disempowering micromanagement are examples.Today’s organizations cannot afford to have an HR department that fails to lead modern thinking practices and contribute to enhancing company profitability. See how these new roles of the HR employees have evolved.

The Changing Names of the Human Resources Function
In keeping with the new roles of the HR professional, organizations are rethinking what they want to call the office that deals with the organization’s human resources. They seek names that will more effectively present the office’s primary role and meet the expectations of the employees for what they need from their HR team.Office of People' is cropping up as a term to describe the HR office. So are People Operations, Office of Talent, Talent Management, Employee Success, People Resource Center, Department of People and Culture, Support Services, People and Development, Employee and Management Solution Center, Partner (Human) Resources, and People Management.And, of course, changing the name of the HR service organization results in changes to HR job titles. VP of People and Culture, Chief People Person, Employee Happiness Cultivator, People Operations Manager, VP of People, Chief Happiness Officer, Director of Employee Engagement, Chief People Officer, and Chief of Culture are a few that have cropped up in recent years.

SME / SMEs and our development goals
« Last post by rakibul on July 21, 2019, 01:03:23 PM »
SMEs and our development goals

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the most important segment of any economy in the world. SMEs are getting the highest priority from policymakers due to their already proven multidimensional contribution to the socioeconomic environment of a country. These enterprises are easy to start, require only minimum capital, employ a comparatively higher number of people, and produce goods that meet local demands as well as contribute to export earnings. Definition of SMEs is based mainly on indicators of replacement cost (invested amount), number of people employed, yearly revenue, etc. Size of the indicators varies based on the socioeconomic condition of the country or even the region. Table 1 shows how the government of Bangladesh has defined SMEs in its latest industrial policy, the National Industrial Policy of 2016.

Contribution and significance of SMEs
The 2013 National Economic Census conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics shows that there are in total 7.81 million economic entities in Bangladesh. About 88 percent of these economic entities are cottage enterprises, while 11 percent are SMEs. But in reality, about 99 percent of Bangladeshi formal business enterprises are SMEs (ADB Institute, 2016). They constitute about 75 percent of non-agricultural employment and contribute about 25 percent to the national GDP. This 25 percent is contributed by only the manufacturing SMEs. However, this amount could in fact be much higher if the contribution of service sector SMEs could be calculated. Till now there has been little data available on service sector SMEs of Bangladesh, even though this sector contributes around 56.34 percent to the GDP, making it the largest contributor.The significance of SMEs can be clearly observed if we take a look at the contribution of SMEs in some select Asian countries. For example, about 97.3 percent of enterprises in China, 97.3 percent in Malaysia, 97.5 percent in Kazakhstan, and 97.7 percent in Vietnam are SMEs. Furthermore, about 99.4 percent of enterprises in Singapore, 99.5 percent in Sri Lanka, 99.6 percent in the Philippines, 99.7 percent in Thailand, 99.7 percent in Japan, and finally, 99.9 percent in the Republic of Korea are SMEs.SMEs also play a vital role in employment in these countries. For example, SMEs make up 87.7 percent of employment by enterprise in the Republic of Korea, 80.3 percent in Thailand, and 71.8 percent in Cambodia. Similarly, SMEs are contributing to GDP growth and increasing export earnings of these countries. They generate 60 percent of GDP in Indonesia and China, 47.6 percent in the Republic of Korea, 45 percent in Singapore, and 43.7 percent in Japan.In terms of export earnings, about 42.4 percent of export earnings in India comes from SMEs, 41.5 percent in China, 26.3 percent in Thailand, 20 percent in Sri Lanka, 18.8 percent in the Republic of Korea, and 15.7 percent in Indonesia.

Targets of Bangladesh in Vision 2021
Vision 2021 has eight broad objectives that are to be achieved by 2021, the golden jubilee of our independence. Objectives of this perspective plan include: (i) caretaker government, democracy, and effective parliament; (ii) political framework, decentralisation of power, and people's participation; (iii) good governance through establishing rule of law and avoiding political partisanship; (iv) transformation of political culture; (v) a society free from corruption; (vi) empowerment and equal rights for women; (vii) economic development and initiative; (viii) branding Bangladesh in the global arena, etc.As the election manifesto of the current Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the national election of 2008, it aims to transform the socioeconomic environment of Bangladesh from a low income economy to the first stages of a middle income economy. Along with higher per capita income, Vision 2021 lays down a development scenario where citizens will have a higher standard of living, be better educated, enjoy better social justice, have a more equitable socioeconomic environment, and the sustainability of development will be ensured through better protection from climate change and natural disasters. The associated political environment will be based on democratic principles, with emphasis on human rights; freedom of expression; rule of law; equality of citizens irrespective of race, religion and creed; and equality of opportunities. The Bangladesh economy will be managed within the framework of a market economy, with appropriate government interventions to correct market distortions, ensure equality of opportunities, and ensure equity and social justice for all.Vision 2021 comprehensively lays down milestones for the country on its path to middle income status. In the sphere of education, the government targeted100 percent net student enrolment at primary level by 2010; free tuition up to degree level by 2013; full literacy by 2014; and a population skilled in information technology by 2021.In water and sanitation, the government aimed to supply pure drinking water for the entire population by 2011, and bring all households under hygienic sanitation by 2013.
By 2012, they hoped to attain self-sufficiency in food production; and by 2021, 85 percent of the population are targeted to have standard, nutritional food.The ten-year plan aimed for eight percent annual growth by 2013, and sustained 10 percent growth by 2017. Agriculture is to constitute 15 percent of the GDP, industry 40 percent, and services 45 percent by 2021. Employment in agriculture is to reduce to 30 percent in 2021 from the present  48 percent; while employment in industry is to rise to 25 percent from the present 16 percent; and employment in services is to rise to 45 percent from the present 36 percent. Unemployment is targeted to decrease to 30 percent in 2021 from the present 48 percent, and poverty rate is to decrease to 15 percent from the present 45 percent.7,000 megawatts of electricity was set to be produced by 2013, 8,000 megawatts by 2015, and 20,000 megawatts by 2021.All contagious diseases are targeted to be eliminated and longevity is to rise to 70 years by 2021. Infant mortality is to drop to 15 per thousand from 54 per thousand in 2010, maternal mortality to 1.5 percent from 3.8 percent, while the use of birth control will rise to 80 percent.So where do we stand on the path to realising Vision 2021? Though we have had remarkable achievements in power generation, we failed to achieve eight percent GDP growth by 2013, and it will be tough increasing the contribution of industry up to 40 percent by 2021. The only way forward is to promote SME growth, entrepreneurship development, and industrial cluster development, through a congenial investment-friendly policy. In this regard, establishing 100 special economic zones (SEZ) was a praiseworthy initiative and a step in the right direction. However, experience shows that making an SEZ functional takes up to ten years or even more. While we may be lagging behind in achieving our aspirations, the ball has begun to roll, and late is better than never.

Ecology of SME development and challenges
Chapter 5 of the National Industrial Policy of 2016 concentrates on the development of micro, small, and medium enterprises and cottage industries. Special initiatives by the government are in place to eliminate the still existing barriers to SME development. Major commitments include the provision of collateral-free, single-digit SME loans; refinancing of SMEs; cluster-based SME development; a 15 percent quota for women entrepreneurs taking SME loans; continuous training for capacity building of SME entrepreneurs; special drive to increase market access and market linkage of SME products; special incentives for procuring environment friendly and productive machineries; priorities for export oriented SMEs to get fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, etc. The National Council for Industrial Development (NCID) headed by the Prime Minister, Executive Committee of National Council for Industrial Development (ECNCID) headed by the Minister of Industries, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) and SME Foundation are among the various entities working hard to create and maintain an SME friendly policy regime in Bangladesh. Despite so many achievements till now, there remain some mentionable challenges toward SME development in Bangladesh.We could sum up the findings in this article on the note that SMEs are important for self-employment, generating employment opportunities for others, increasing GDP growth, contributing to export earnings, supplying livelihoods to stakeholders, and poverty alleviation of the country. Cluster-based SME entrepreneurship development could be an effective tool to accomplish Vision 2021. But existing challenges like creating skilled manpower as per sectoral demands, providing product-specific manufacturing skills to the youth, improving productivity and product quality by adopting new technologies, increasing investment capacity by creating and maintaining an enabling environment through harmonisation of government policies, must be addressed if we are to achieve our development goals.

Business Incubator / How business incubators help boost growth and innovation
« Last post by rakibul on July 21, 2019, 09:20:22 AM »
How business incubators help boost growth and innovation
Incubators can speed up the growth of start-ups and guide small companies to success. In this piece, we discuss their rise and the benefits they can bring to your business.

What is a business incubator?
It is thought that there are more than 300 business incubators in the UK supporting around 12,000 businesses. Unlike research and technology parks, which generally support large-scale corporate or government projects, business incubators specialise in speeding up the growth of start-up companies and guiding early-stage businesses on the road to commercial success, both in the UK and internationally.Incubation can heavily benefit new ventures, particularly by adding credibility through association, access to shared and more affordable resources and by providing professional expertise and advice. There are some incubators that will provide assistance to any business looking for growth and support, and there are those that specialise in providing sector-specific support and expertise, such as technology. Incubators are set up purely to help both new and up-and-running businesses achieve their goals more quickly, whether this is in the provision of office space, providing access to funding or providing guidance and advice on any business topic when needed.

Where it all began
Business incubation actually began in the US in 1959, when Joseph Mancuso opened the Batavia Industrial Center in New York and since then, incubation has spread widely throughout the US and more recently across to Europe. The National Business Incubation Association now has on its records more than 2,100 members in 60 nations across the globe.

What can incubators offer new businesses?
Business incubators can be called innovation centres, pepinieres d’enterprises, technopoles or science parks. The exact offerings can differ but essentially all incubators will offer a mix of office space – a massive asset in itself for a new business, especially as the cost of office space can hugely impact the outputs of any business – plus the business advantage of access to experienced advice, mentorship, funding and the PR value and exposure of being part of the incubation programme brings.Traditional business parks are usually built as a blank canvas for occupants to make their own, but that often makes them feel quite soulless. More recently, a new kind of incubator has emerged, which takes its cue from the success of co-working spaces like WeWork, aiming to provide much more than blank office space.Modern incubators such as CodeBase in Edinburgh or Platf9rm in Brighton prioritise the workspace aesthetic, employee wellbeing and aim to foster a sense of community. They usually have a mix of hot desking zones, dedicated coworking spaces and offices for start-ups. They may also have social areas or even a café or restaurant that is open to the public, since the goal is to be a part of the local community, not hidden from it.

Incubation in the UK
Business incubators are going from strength to strength in the UK, whether run in partnership with education or with the private sector, they can still have a huge impact. All the incubators play a vital role in injecting commercial business growth and dynamism into the British economy, bringing new products and services to the market. Universities, and the innovation that they all nurture, bring a vital element to this economic mix. Many young entrepreneurs are coming through university looking to excel in the business world and business incubators provide them with the platform that they need to showcase their ideas.There are many universities across the UK that provide such environments for individuals and businesses. One of the highest ranked incubators by the University Business Incubator (UBI) Index in the UK and in fact the second highest ranked in the world is the SETsquared partnership, which looks to accelerate and focus on high tech start-ups and many young budding entrepreneurs with an idea can approach an incubator, such as SETSquared, to achieve such success.

Access to ‘live’ business experience
Incubators can offer a ready-made support system for new businesses, often providing access to mentorship and investment. As well as this formal support, the informal networks created in these environments can be just as important, since residents are surrounded by potential business partners, creative resources such as graphic designers and sometimes even future customers!Incubators also foster the idea that everyone can learn from each other, hosting training sessions and networking events for founders to meetup and share their advice, challenges and stories with one another. This can be really useful for start-ups trying to scale up or secure funding, since they share the same space as people who have been through the process themselves already, know the challenges involved and how to succeed. Email groups and tools like Slack are a lot more popular now too, to help business leaders and their employees communicate with their peers.More recently, business incubators have employed ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ – individuals still working in business and industry, whose real life experience and successes can help start-ups navigate the road to success. As well as employed ‘Entrepreneurs in Residence’, many incubators also provide start-up companies with access to mentors who advise on relevant topics such as legal or finance, on a volunteer basis.

Incubators offer a social space
There is also a social side to most incubators, since creating a sense of community has become more important to many business founders. Businesses will often hold parties for the other residents when they reach a milestone or close a round of funding. In some incubators you might expect table tennis tournaments, coffee mornings, and drinks after work.

Space to grow into
Choosing office space is a huge commitment for start-ups and small businesses. If start-ups grow quicker than expected, office spaces that are too small can quite literally cramp their growth. Similarly, nothing is worse for morale or finances than a large empty space waiting to be filled. A benefit to the modern incubator/co-working space hybrid is their flexibility. They offer a fantastic alternative to long term fixed contracts, since businesses can scale up and down within this space, rather than moving offices each time.

Knowing when your business is right for
incubation When an entrepreneur sets up a business and is looking for assistance, most will be unaware of how a business incubator can help, however, the benefits are clear. Shared learning, mentorship, faster access to funding and the various funding grants that are on offer and office space are all vital for any new start-up and, when you are kick-starting a new business, advantages like these can put you ahead of the competition to enjoy accelerated growth in the future.

How To Raise Money / 3 Honest Ways to Raise Startup Money
« Last post by rakibul on July 20, 2019, 12:06:45 PM »
3 Honest Ways to Raise Startup Money
Develop financial projections that are rooted in verifiable assumptions
Venture capital firms and angel investors typically want to see financial projections that shoot up like a hockey stick. Entrepreneurs often feel compelled to exaggerate projections to look like their businesses can reach a billion dollars of market value in a few years. There's no point in just fabricating a set of projections that aren't based on reality. One way to build a set of realistic projections is to start with business drivers that can be discussed and debated with investors. For example, if you're selling widgets that depend on the cost of oil, develop a set of financial projections that link market value to the number of widgets you plan to sell and the changing price of oil. This will show billion-dollar market value and allow investors to understand what assumptions you're basing your growth on.

Write paychecks that don't bounce, but increase as the business grows
One of the most difficult tasks for entrepreneurs is to convince talented employees to join the team and stay on the team before their company is profitable or stable. As a startup business owner, you're faced with a choice: Pay your employee a market salary (say $150,000 per year) and take a bet that you can grow the business to justify the salary, or share risk with your employee by paying a below-market salary (say, $75,000 per year) plus equity incentives (worth $75,000 or more). Most experienced entrepreneurs will tell you that it makes more sense to share risk with your employees until you have funding or until your product line gets market traction. While this makes sense, it often puts the entrepreneur in the precarious position of having to recruit employees by exaggerating how likely the prospects of venture funding are, how developed the company's strategy is, or how popular the company's products are.Employees are usually the first to know when funding prospects dry up, strategies fail and products don't sell, so it's better to be upfront about the risks of joining a young company. But enable new recruits to share in the rewards of business success immediately rather than waiting for their equity to appreciate. For example, one clever way to share risk with your new recruits is to outline a path to increase their base salaries as the business grows. For example, offer to increase a base salary from $75,000 to $100,000 when the company hits certain milestones, then again to $150,000 when profitability is attained. Put this in writing in the offer letter. This compensation plan will cost less than promising to pay out bonuses, which get spent then forgotten, or subsequent equity grants, which get expensive for the company if they are granted many times.

Get your clients to compete to be first
Successful entrepreneurs love to tell stories about how they got their first client. While working out of a closet or a garage, they print up business cards with a prestigious address and fancy logo and close the deal. That's what it takes to sell. Exaggerating the stability or size of your enterprise to secure your first client is the stuff of legend. Even if your product isn't ready, you can use a similar approach to raise money for your business by getting investors and business partners--who can provide financial support--to compete to be first. There's a certain prestige in being part of the first group of investors, partners or customers to help launch a business. Create the feeling of exclusivity. Require an invitation to use your beta product. Generate buzz about your product plans and your team among blogs that investors read. There's less need to exaggerate if you can set expectations that your product is still being tested among early adopters.

Pricing / 10 different pricing strategies for your small business to consider
« Last post by rakibul on July 20, 2019, 09:49:09 AM »
10 different pricing strategies for your small business to consider

As we’ve just identified, project management and strategic, actionable decisions go into setting the price of a product. Here are ten different pricing strategies that you should consider as a small business owner.

1.Pricing for market penetration
As a small business owner, you’re likely looking for ways to enter the market so that your product becomes more well-known. Penetration strategies aim to attract buyers by offering lower prices on goods and services than competitors.For instance, imagine a competitor sells a product for $100. You decide to sell the product for $97, even if it means you’re going to take a loss on the sale. Penetration pricing strategies draw attention away from other businesses and can help increase brand awareness and loyalty, which can then lead to long-term contracts.Penetration pricing can also be risky because it can result in an initial loss of income for the business. Over time, however, the increase in awareness can drive profits and help small businesses stand out from the crowd. In the long run, after penetrating a market, business owners can increase prices to better reflect the state of the product’s position within the market.

2.Economy pricing
This pricing strategy is a “no-frills” approach that involves minimizing marketing and production expenses as much as possible. Used by a wide range of businesses, including generic food suppliers and discount retailers, economy pricing aims to attract the most price-conscious consumers. Because of the lower cost of expenses, companies can set a lower sales price and still turn a slight profit.While economy pricing is incredibly useful for large companies like Walmart and Target, the technique can be dangerous for small businesses. Because small businesses lack the sales volume of larger companies, they may find it challenging to cut production costs. Additionally, as a young company, they may not have enough brand awareness to forgo custom branding.

3.Pricing at a premium
With premium pricing, businesses set costs higher because they have a unique product or brand that no one can compete with. You should consider using this strategy if you have a considerable competitive advantage and know that you can charge a higher price without being undercut by a product of similar quality.Because customers need to perceive products as being worth the higher price tag, a business has to work hard to create a perception of value. Along with creating a high-quality product, owners should ensure that the product’s packaging, the store’s decor, and the marketing strategy associated with the product all combine to support the premium price.An example of premium pricing is seen in the luxury car industry. Companies like Tesla can get away with higher prices because they’re offering products, like autonomous cars, that are more unique than anything else on the market.

4.Price skimming
Designed to help businesses maximize sales on new products and services, price skimming involves setting rates high during the initial phase of a product. The company then lowers prices gradually as competitor goods appear on the market. An example of this is seen with the introduction of new technology, like an 8K TV, when currently only 4K TVs and HDTVs exist on the market.One of the benefits of price skimming is that it allows businesses to maximize profits on early adopters before dropping prices to attract more price-sensitive consumers. Not only does price skimming help a small business recoup its development costs, it also creates an illusion of quality and exclusivity when you first introduce your product to the marketplace.

5.Psychological pricing
Psychological pricing refers to techniques that marketers use to encourage customers to respond based on emotional impulses, rather than logical ones.For example, setting the price of a watch at $199 is proven to attract more consumers than setting it at $200, even though the actual difference here is quite small. One explanation for this trend is that consumers tend to put more attention on the first number on a price tag than the last. The goal of psychology pricing is to increase demand by creating an illusion of enhanced value for the consumer.

6.Bundle pricing
With bundle pricing, small businesses sell multiple products for a lower rate than consumers would face if they purchased each item individually. A useful example of this occurs at your local fast food restaurant where it’s cheaper to buy a meal than it is to buy each item individually.Not only is bundling goods an effective way to reduce inventory, it can also increase the value perception in the eyes of your customers. Customers feel as though they’re receiving more bang for their buck. Many small businesses choose to implement this strategy at the end of a product’s life cycle, especially if the product is slow selling.Small business owners should keep in mind that the profits they earn on the higher-value items must make up for the losses they take on the lower-value product. They should also consider how much they’ll save in overhead and storage space by pushing out older products.

7.Geographical pricing
If you expand your business across state or international lines, you’ll need to consider geographical pricing. Geographical pricing involves setting a price point based on the location where it’s sold. Factors for the changes in prices include things like taxes, tariffs, shipping costs, and location-specific rent.Another factor in geographical pricing could be basic supply and demand. For instance, imagine you sell sports performance clothing. You may choose to set a higher price point for winter clothes in your cold-climate retail stores than you do in your warm-climate stores. You know people are more likely to buy the clothes in the winter environments, so you set a higher price to take advantage of demand.

8.Promotional pricing
Promotional pricing involves offering discounts on a particular product. For instance, you can provide your customers with vouchers or coupons that entitle them to a certain percentage off the good or service. You could also entertain a “Buy One Get One” campaign, tacking on an additional product as an add-on.Promotional pricing campaigns can be short-term efforts. For instance, you may run a promotional pricing strategy over an extended holiday, like Memorial Day Weekend. By offering these deals as short-term offers, business owners can generate buzz and excitement about a product. Promotional pricing also incentivizes customers to act now before it’s too late. This pricing strategy plays to a consumer’s fear of missing out.

9.Value pricing
If you notice that sales are declining because of external factors, you may want to consider a value pricing strategy. Value pricing occurs when external factors, like a sharp increase in competition or a recession, force the small business to provide value to its customers to maintain sales.This pricing strategy works because customers feel as though they are receiving an excellent “value” for the good or service. The approach recognizes that customers don’t care how much a product costs a company to make, so long as the consumer feels they’re getting an excellent value by purchasing it.This pricing strategy could cut into the bottom line, but businesses may find it beneficial to receive “some” profit rather than no profit. An example of value pricing is seen in the fashion industry. A company may produce a product line of high-end dresses that they sell for $1,000. They then make umbrellas that they sell for $100.The umbrellas may cost more than the dresses to make. However, the dresses are set at a higher price point because customers feel as though they are receiving much better value for the product. Would you pay $1,000 for an umbrella? Probably not. Thus, external factors like customer perceptions force the value pricing strategy.

10.Captive pricing
If you have a product that customers will continually renew or update, you’ll want to consider a captive pricing strategy. A perfect example of a captive pricing strategy is seen with a company like Dollar Shave Club. With Dollar Shave Club, customers make a one-time purchase for a razor. Then, every month, they purchase new razor blades to replace the existing one on the head of the razor.Because the customer purchased a DSC razor handle, he or she has no choice but to buy blades from the company as well. Thus, the company holds customers “captive” until they decide to break away and buy a razor handle from another company. Businesses can increase prices so long as the cost of the secondary product does not exceed the cost that customers would pay to leave for a competitor.

How to Decide Between Pitching to a Venture Capitalist vs. Angel Investor

Getting funding for your business is no walk in the park, especially if you’re just starting up. But in order to keep your business dream alive, you need capital.Depending on what stage your business is in, you might seek funding from a venture capitalist (VC) or angel investor. Learn the difference between venture capitalist vs. angel investor to decide which to pursue.

Venture capitalist vs. angel investor
Both venture capitalists and angel investors are people who invest money into businesses. Angel investors and VCs both take calculated risks when investing in the hopes of earning a healthy return on investment (ROI).So, what is the difference between angel investors and venture capitalists? Being able to answer this question can save you time and help you seek funding from the best fit.Learn about key differences between angel investors and venture capitalists below.

How they work
One difference between venture capitalists and angel investors is what money they use to invest.A venture capitalist is a person or firm that invests in small companies, generally using money pooled from investment companies, large corporations, and pension funds. Typically, VCs do not use their own money to invest in companies.An angel investor is an accredited investor who uses their own money to invest in small businesses. They are required to have a minimum net worth of $1 million and an annual income of at least $200,000 to be considered an accredited investor. Many angel investors are small business owners’ family and friends.Small business angel investors focus more on helping build someone’s business than profiting right away. As a result, their terms might be more reasonable than a venture capitalist’s terms.

When they invest
Angel investors and venture capitalists invest in businesses at different stages. The investor you appeal to depends on whether you are established or if you are just starting up.Venture capitalists tend to invest in businesses that are already established to reduce their risk of losing investments.Angel investors are more likely to invest in businesses that are just starting out. They choose businesses that they are interested in and can see becoming profitable, even if the company has not proven itself yet. Because of this, angel investors take more risks than venture capitalists.If you are just starting out, an angel investor might provide you with enough money to get off the ground. When you’re established and looking to expand, you might try pitching to a venture capitalist.

Investment amounts
Another difference between angel investor and venture capitalist is the amount of business capital both investors are willing to offer.VCs invest more money into businesses than angel investors. According to the Small Business Administration, the average venture capital deal is $11.7 million.The average angel investment is $330,000 according to the SBA. While venture capital tends to be invested in the millions, angel investments are in the thousands.

Return expectation
The return on investment venture capitalists and angel investors want differs. Generally, venture capitalists expect a higher percentage.Venture capitalists might expect a return on investment anywhere between 25% and 35%.Angel investors may want a return between 20% and 25%.

An investor’s role in the business
After the investor invests in your small business, what do they want?Both venture capitalists and angel investors want business equity and/or some sort of control in how your business runs. Because they invested money into it, they want to make sure they get a high return on investment out of it.Venture capitalists might require that you establish a Board of Directors and give them a seat on it after investing. Generally, they are not interested in acting as mentors, although this varies from firm to firm.
Many angel investors act as mentors. They might offer suggestions about running your business, help you form connections with lawyers, accountants, and banks, and help with decision-making.What are you looking for in an investor? Are you looking for someone who acts as a partner and mentor, like angel investors? Or, would you prefer if the investor didn’t act as a mentor, like VCs?

How to pitch to investors
Whether you want venture capitalists or angel investors to invest in your small business, you need to be prepared. You will need to perfect your investment pitch.Before you pitch to venture capitalists or angel investors, research them to find ones that align most with your business.During your pitch, show investors your business plan, financial statements, financial projections, marketing plans, and market analysis.You will also need to detail how much capital you are seeking, how much money is already invested in your business, and how you plan on using the money.

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