Romania shrugs off label of Europes poor man as economy booms

Since it joined the EU in 2007, government economic measures and communist-era educational excellence have spurred rapid growth

At a sleek new office in the heart of Bucharest, Fitbit co-founder and chief executive James Park explains why the smartwear giant is rapidly expanding its operations in Romania and following the lead of a host of multinationals. The tech talent here is amazing. Romania and other countries in central and eastern Europe have great existing talent, and also great universities, he says.

The US company, which bought Romanian smartwatch brand Vector Watches for a reported $15m (11.4m) late last year, and has tripled its staff in Romania since, has just opened its largest research and development centre outside the US, in the Romanian capital. Its not alone: in recent years, major global companies such as Siemens, Ford and Bosch have set up or expanded operations in Romania, boosting an economy thats already growing at speed.

While many see Romania as a country of migrants flocking abroad to find work, back home the economy is booming. The services sector is expanding at pace, along with exports and manufacturing. Meanwhile, private consumption from clothes to furniture and cars hit a nine-year high in 2016, and increased a further 8% in the first half of this year.

The economy grew 5.7% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2017, the fastest rate in the EU, where the average growth rate was 2.4%. This was on the back of a GDP rise of 4.8% in 2016 and 3.9% in 2015; during the same period the UK economy grew by a more placid 1.8% and 2.2%. According to the International Monetary Fund, Romanias economy is expected to grow by 5.5% for the whole of 2017.

The tech sector, in particular, is expanding fast, built on a communist-era legacy of excellence in science, mathematics and technical education, as well as Romanias strong language skills, which have long made it a hub for IT outsourcing. While the Romanian languages Latin roots have helped explained the countrys linguistic skills, some suggest it was a decision to subtitle rather than dub foreign programming on television that boosted foreign language exposure and proficiency.

According to industry insiders, the tech sector which employs about 150,000 people is expected to double its share of GDP to 12% by 2025, aided by one of the fastest broadband internet speeds in the world (behind only Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Iceland).

Elsewhere, Ford has announced plans to hire almost 1,000 workers for its plant in Craiova, 180km west of the capital, adding to its current workforce of 2,715. The automotive giant has invested more than 1.2bn (1.1bn) in its Romanian manufacturing operations since 2008. Renault-owned Dacia, a former communist state-owned giant, remains the countrys largest company based on revenue, with a turnover of 4.1bn in 2016. Joining the EU in 2007 clearly had an impact, while more recent government measures have also boosted the economy.

The government in 2015 decided to cut taxation for consumption, says Ionut Dumitru, chief economist at Raiffeisen Bank Romania and chairman of Romanias fiscal council. They cut VAT from 24% to 20%, and now 19%, and extended the reduced VAT rate for food and some other items. This was a very strong stimulus for consumption.

The government has also doubled the minimum wage in four years. And its not only the minimum wage that has increased a lot, but also public sector wages.

Wages in Romania remain far below the EU average, making it an enticing option for outsourcing; the minimum monthly wage is currently around 283 only Bulgarias is lower within the EU.

However, lower wages have stopped many Romanians returning home, leaving companies short of workers in 2016, the unemployment rate dropped to an historic low of 5.9% compared with an EU average of 8.6%, amid predictions it will drop to 5.4% this year.

Uncertainty over Brexit is having an impact, with companies looking at alternatives within the EU in case the UK pursues an exit that restricts trade.

Were getting inquiries from UK companies on a weekly basis since the referendum, says Shajjad Rizvi, the director of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce in the northern city of Cluj, one of the largest tech centres in central and eastern Europe.

We are seeing global companies hedging their bets, in case tariffs are not favourable or something else, and Romania is one of the choices they are looking at, he adds. Software companies, a lot are doubling or tripling their workforces in Romania, and a lot of those jobs are coming from the UK. Whole departments: marketing, PR, HR; they are being closed down in the UK and moved out here.

But there are also serious challenges. Romania has long been considered one of the most corrupt nations in the EU. Despite progress, there are still major concerns. In February, the country experienced the largest protests in decades after the government pushed through legislation that would have effectively decriminalised low-level corruption. The government backed down, but has yet to regain public trust.

Transportation infrastructure is also poor. Romania came 128 out of 138 countries for the quality of its road infrastructure in the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report; the railway system, which is old and slow, came in slightly better at 79. There are only 747km of motorway in the whole country.

There is also concern about the rising deficit. In 2016 the government deficit the gap between state income and spending rose to 3% of GDP, up from 0.8% in 2015, due to increased spending and tax cuts. The main concern for the economy is the fiscal situation, says Raiffeisens Dumitru. The deficit is under pressure.

Even so, Romanias economy looks set to continue to expand in the near future. Its hard to sustain more than 5% growth, says Dumitru. Most analysts are predicting closer to 4% for next year. But even 4% will probably be one of the highest growth rates in Europe, so its not bad at all.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/14/romania-economy-booming

One of the most celebrated mathematicians has died

Vladimir Voevodsky made math better.
Image: Getty Images

Not going to class isn’t typically something good to boast about. But perhaps the late Vladimir Voevodsky is the exception to the rule. 

Voevodsky is credited with founding new fields of mathematics, such as motivic homotopy theory, and a computer tool to help check mathematical proofs, as the New York Times explored in an obituary this week. The latter was a feat that other mathematicians didn’t dare approach, but Voevodsky’s effort has overwhelmingly benefited the industry — and everyone, really — by allowing mathematicians to fact-check their work.

He died at age 51 on Sept. 30, at his home in Princeton, New Jersey from unknown causes. He leaves behind his former wife Nadia Shalaby and their two daughters. 

“His contributions are so fundamental that it’s impossible to imagine how things were thought of before him,” Chris Kapulkin, a former colleague at the University of Western Ontario, told the Times.

Among Voevodsky’s achievements was changing the meaning of the equal sign. In 2002, he won the Fields Medal for discovering the existence of a “mathematical wormhole” that allowed theoretical tools in one field of mathematics to be used in another field. 

He wasn’t a top student of the traditional, rule-abiding sense. According to the Times, Voevodsky was kicked out of high school three times. He was also kicked out of Moscow University after failing academically. He later attended Harvard. Despite neglecting to attend lectures, he graduated in 1992.  

He worked through it all, and all present and future mathematicians have him to thank. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/08/vladimir-voevodsky-mathematician-died-awesome/

How economics became a religion | John Rapley

The long read: Its moral code promises salvation, its high priests uphold their orthodoxy. But perhaps too many of its doctrines are taken on faith

Although Britain has an established church, few of us today pay it much mind. We follow an even more powerful religion, around which we have oriented our lives: economics. Think about it. Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as derivative or structured investment vehicle. And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.

Over time, successive economists slid into the role we had removed from the churchmen: giving us guidance on how to reach a promised land of material abundance and endless contentment. For a long time, they seemed to deliver on that promise, succeeding in a way few other religions had ever done, our incomes rising thousands of times over and delivering a cornucopia bursting with new inventions, cures and delights.

This was our heaven, and richly did we reward the economic priesthood, with status, wealth and power to shape our societies according to their vision. At the end of the 20th century, amid an economic boom that saw the western economies become richer than humanity had ever known, economics seemed to have conquered the globe. With nearly every country on the planet adhering to the same free-market playbook, and with university students flocking to do degrees in the subject, economics seemed to be attaining the goal that had eluded every other religious doctrine in history: converting the entire planet to its creed.

Yet if history teaches anything, its that whenever economists feel certain that they have found the holy grail of endless peace and prosperity, the end of the present regime is nigh. On the eve of the 1929 Wall Street crash, the American economist Irving Fisher advised people to go out and buy shares; in the 1960s, Keynesian economists said there would never be another recession because they had perfected the tools of demand management.

The 2008 crash was no different. Five years earlier, on 4 January 2003, the Nobel laureate Robert Lucas had delivered a triumphal presidential address to the American Economics Association. Reminding his colleagues that macroeconomics had been born in the depression precisely to try to prevent another such disaster ever recurring, he declared that he and his colleagues had reached their own end of history: Macroeconomics in this original sense has succeeded, he instructed the conclave. Its central problem of depression prevention has been solved.

No sooner do we persuade ourselves that the economic priesthood has finally broken the old curse than it comes back to haunt us all: pride always goes before a fall. Since the crash of 2008, most of us have watched our living standards decline. Meanwhile, the priesthood seemed to withdraw to the cloisters, bickering over who got it wrong. Not surprisingly, our faith in the experts has dissipated.

Hubris, never a particularly good thing, can be especially dangerous in economics, because its scholars dont just observe the laws of nature; they help make them. If the government, guided by its priesthood, changes the incentive-structure of society to align with the assumption that people behave selfishly, for instance, then lo and behold, people will start to do just that. They are rewarded for doing so and penalised for doing otherwise. If you are educated to believe greed is good, then you will be more likely to live accordingly.

The hubris in economics came not from a moral failing among economists, but from a false conviction: the belief that theirs was a science. It neither is nor can be one, and has always operated more like a church. You just have to look at its history to realise that.


The American Economic Association,to which Robert Lucas gave his address, was created in 1885, just when economics was starting to define itself as a distinct discipline. At its first meeting, the associations founders proposed a platform that declared: The conflict of labour and capital has brought to the front a vast number of social problems whose solution is impossible without the united efforts of church, state and science. It would be a long path from that beginning to the market evangelism of recent decades.

Yet even at that time, such social activism provoked controversy. One of the AEAs founders, Henry Carter Adams, subsequently delivered an address at Cornell University in which he defended free speech for radicals and accused industrialists of stoking xenophobia to distract workers from their mistreatment. Unknown to him, the New York lumber king and Cornell benefactor Henry Sage was in the audience. As soon as the lecture was done, Sage stormed into the university presidents office and insisted: This man must go; he is sapping the foundations of our society. When Adamss tenure was subsequently blocked, he agreed to moderate his views. Accordingly, the final draft of the AEA platform expunged the reference to laissez-faire economics as being unsafe in politics and unsound in morals.

Trinity
Economics has always operated more like a church Trinity Church seen from Wall Street. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

So was set a pattern that has persisted to this day. Powerful political interests which historically have included not only rich industrialists, but electorates as well helped to shape the canon of economics, which was then enforced by its scholarly community.

Once a principle is established as orthodox, its observance is enforced in much the same way that a religious doctrine maintains its integrity: by repressing or simply eschewing heresies. In Purity and Danger, the anthropologist Mary Douglas observed the way taboos functioned to help humans impose order on a seemingly disordered, chaotic world. The premises of conventional economics havent functioned all that differently. Robert Lucas once noted approvingly that by the late 20th century, economics had so effectively purged itself of Keynesianism that the audience start(ed) to whisper and giggle to one another when anyone expressed a Keynesian idea at a seminar. Such responses served to remind practitioners of the taboos of economics: a gentle nudge to a young academic that such shibboleths might not sound so good before a tenure committee. This preoccupation with order and coherence may be less a function of the method than of its practitioners. Studies of personality traits common to various disciplines have discovered that economics, like engineering, tends to attract people with an unusually strong preference for order, and a distaste for ambiguity.

The irony is that, in its determination to make itself a science that can reach hard and fast conclusions, economics has had to dispense with scientific method at times. For starters, it rests on a set of premises about the world not as it is, but as economists would like it to be. Just as any religious service includes a profession of faith, membership in the priesthood of economics entails certain core convictions about human nature. Among other things, most economists believe that we humans are self-interested, rational, essentially individualistic, and prefer more money to less. These articles of faith are taken as self-evident. Back in the 1930s, the great economist Lionel Robbins described his profession in a way that has stood ever since as a cardinal rule for millions of economists. The fields basic premises came from deduction from simple assumptions reflecting very elementary facts of general experience and as such were as universal as the laws of mathematics or mechanics, and as little capable of suspension.

Deducing laws from premises deemed eternal and beyond question is a time-honoured method. For thousands of years, monks in medieval monasteries built a vast corpus of scholarship doing just that, using a method perfected by Thomas Aquinas known as scholasticism. However, this is not the method used by scientists, who tend to require assumptions to be tested empirically before a theory can be built out of them.

But, economists will maintain, this is precisely what they themselves do what sets them apart from the monks is that they must still test their hypotheses against the evidence. Well, yes, but this statement is actually more problematic than many mainstream economists may realise. Physicists resolve their debates by looking at the data, upon which they by and large agree. The data used by economists, however, is much more disputed. When, for example, Robert Lucas insisted that Eugene Famas efficient-markets hypothesis which maintains that since a free market collates all available information to traders, the prices it yields can never be wrong held true despite a flood of criticism, he did so with as much conviction and supporting evidence as his fellow economist Robert Shiller had mustered in rejecting the hypothesis. When the Swedish central bank had to decide who would win the 2013 Nobel prize in economics, it was torn between Shillers claim that markets frequently got the price wrong and Famas insistence that markets always got the price right. Thus it opted to split the difference and gave both men the medal a bit of Solomonic wisdom that would have elicited howls of laughter had it been a science prize. In economic theory, very often, you believe what you want to believe and as with any act of faith, your choice of heads or tails will as likely reflect sentimental predisposition as scientific assessment.

Its no mystery why the data used by economists and other social scientists so rarely throws up incontestable answers: it is human data. Unlike people, subatomic particles dont lie on opinion surveys or change their minds about things. Mindful of that difference, at his own presidential address to the American Economic Association nearly a half-century ago, another Nobel laureate, Wassily Leontief, struck a modest tone. He reminded his audience that the data used by economists differed greatly from that used by physicists or biologists. For the latter, he cautioned, the magnitude of most parameters is practically constant, whereas the observations in economics were constantly changing. Data sets had to be regularly updated to remain useful. Some data was just simply bad. Collecting and analysing the data requires civil servants with a high degree of skill and a good deal of time, which less economically developed countries may not have in abundance. So, for example, in 2010 alone, Ghanas government which probably has one of the better data-gathering capacities in Africa recalculated its economic output by 60%. Testing your hypothesis before and after that kind of revision would lead to entirely different results.

New
The data used by economists rarely throws up incontestable answers traders at the New York Stock Exchange in October 2008. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Leontief wanted economists to spend more time getting to know their data, and less time in mathematical modelling. However, as he ruefully admitted, the trend was already going in the opposite direction. Today, the economist who wanders into a village to get a deeper sense of what the data reveals is a rare creature. Once an economic model is ready to be tested, number-crunching ends up being done largely at computers plugged into large databases. Its not a method that fully satisfies a sceptic. For, just as you can find a quotation in the Bible that will justify almost any behaviour, you can find human data to support almost any statement you want to make about the way the world works.

Thats why ideas in economics can go in and out of fashion. The progress of science is generally linear. As new research confirms or replaces existing theories, one generation builds upon the next. Economics, however, moves in cycles. A given doctrine can rise, fall and then later rise again. Thats because economists dont confirm their theories in quite the same way physicists do, by just looking at the evidence. Instead, much as happens with preachers who gather a congregation, a school rises by building a following among both politicians and the wider public.

For example, Milton Friedman was one of the most influential economists of the late 20th century. But he had been around for decades before he got much of a hearing. He might well have remained a marginal figure had it not been that politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were sold on his belief in the virtue of a free market. They sold that idea to the public, got elected, then remade society according to those designs. An economist who gets a following gets a pulpit. Although scientists, in contrast, might appeal to public opinion to boost their careers or attract research funds, outside of pseudo-sciences, they dont win support for their theories in this way.

However, if you think describing economics as a religion debunks it, youre wrong. We need economics. It can be it has been a force for tremendous good. But only if we keep its purpose in mind, and always remember what it can and cant do.


The Irish have been known to describetheir notionally Catholic land as one where a thin Christian veneer was painted over an ancient paganism. The same might be said of our own adherence to todays neoliberal orthodoxy, which stresses individual liberty, limited government and the free market. Despite outward observance of a well-entrenched doctrine, we havent fully transformed into the economic animals we are meant to be. Like the Christian who attends church but doesnt always keep the commandments, we behave as economic theory predicts only when it suits us. Contrary to the tenets of orthodox economists, contemporary research suggests that, rather than seeking always to maximise our personal gain, humans still remain reasonably altruistic and selfless. Nor is it clear that the endless accumulation of wealth always makes us happier. And when we do make decisions, especially those to do with matters of principle, we seem not to engage in the sort of rational utility-maximizing calculus that orthodox economic models take as a given. The truth is, in much of our daily life we dont fit the model all that well.

For decades, neoliberal evangelists replied to such objections by saying it was incumbent on us all to adapt to the model, which was held to be immutable one recalls Bill Clintons depiction of neoliberal globalisation, for instance, as a force of nature. And yet, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the consequent recession, there has been a turn against globalisation across much of the west. More broadly, there has been a wide repudiation of the experts, most notably in the 2016 US election and Brexit referendum.

It would be tempting for anyone who belongs to the expert class, and to the priesthood of economics, to dismiss such behaviour as a clash between faith and facts, in which the facts are bound to win in the end. In truth, the clash was between two rival faiths in effect, two distinct moral tales. So enamoured had the so-called experts become with their scientific authority that they blinded themselves to the fact that their own narrative of scientific progress was embedded in a moral tale. It happened to be a narrative that had a happy ending for those who told it, for it perpetuated the story of their own relatively comfortable position as the reward of life in a meritocratic society that blessed people for their skills and flexibility. That narrative made no room for the losers of this order, whose resentments were derided as being a reflection of their boorish and retrograde character which is to say, their fundamental vice. The best this moral tale could offer everyone else was incremental adaptation to an order whose caste system had become calcified. For an audience yearning for a happy ending, this was bound to be a tale of woe.

The failure of this grand narrative is not, however, a reason for students of economics to dispense with narratives altogether. Narratives will remain an inescapable part of the human sciences for the simple reason that they are inescapable for humans. Its funny that so few economists get this, because businesses do. As the Nobel laureates George Akerlof and Robert Shiller write in their recent book, Phishing for Phools, marketers use them all the time, weaving stories in the hopes that we will place ourselves in them and be persuaded to buy what they are selling. Akerlof and Shiller contend that the idea that free markets work perfectly, and the idea that big government is the cause of so many of our problems, are part of a story that is actually misleading people into adjusting their behaviour in order to fit the plot. They thus believe storytelling is a new variable for economics, since the mental frames that underlie peoples decisions are shaped by the stories they tell themselves.

Economists arguably do their best work when they take the stories we have given them, and advise us on how we can help them to come true. Such agnosticism demands a humility that was lacking in economic orthodoxy in recent years. Nevertheless, economists dont have to abandon their traditions if they are to overcome the failings of a narrative that has been rejected. Rather they can look within their own history to find a method that avoids the evangelical certainty of orthodoxy.

In his 1971 presidential address to the American Economic Association, Wassily Leontief counselled against the dangers of self-satisfaction. He noted that although economics was starting to ride the crest of intellectual respectability an uneasy feeling about the present state of our discipline has been growing in some of us who have watched its unprecedented development over the last three decades.

Noting that pure theory was making economics more remote from day-to-day reality, he said the problem lay in the palpable inadequacy of the scientific means of using mathematical approaches to address mundane concerns. So much time went into model-construction that the assumptions on which the models were based became an afterthought. But, he warned a warning that the sub-prime booms fascination with mathematical models, and the busts subsequent revelation of their flaws, now reveals to have been prophetic it is precisely the empirical validity of these assumptions on which the usefulness of the entire exercise depends.

Leontief thought that economics departments were increasingly hiring and promoting young economists who wanted to build pure models with little empirical relevance. Even when they did empirical analysis, Leontief said economists seldom took any interest in the meaning or value of their data. He thus called for economists to explore their assumptions and data by conducting social, demographic and anthropological work, and said economics needed to work more closely with other disciplines.

Leontiefs call for humility some 40 years ago stands as a reminder that the same religions that can speak up for human freedom and dignity when in opposition, can become obsessed with their rightness and the need to purge others of their wickedness once they attain power. When the church retains its distance from power, and a modest expectation about what it can achieve, it can stir our minds to envision new possibilities and even new worlds. Once economists apply this kind of sceptical scientific method to a human realm in which ultimate reality may never be fully discernible, they will probably find themselves retreating from dogmatism in their claims.

Paradoxically, therefore, as economics becomes more truly scientific, it will become less of a science. Acknowledging these limitations will free it to serve us once more.

Main image: Maxian/Getty/iStockphoto/Guardian Design

This is an edited extract from Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong by John Rapley, published by Simon & Schuster on 13 July at 20. To order a copy for 17, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/jul/11/how-economics-became-a-religion

Meet the millennials making big money riding China’s bitcoin wave

The cryptocurrency may have no physical form but the returns from trading it can be very real and for some theyre worth giving up your job for

On a sunny afternoon in west Beijing, on the auspicious eighth floor of a nondescript concrete high-rise, Huai Yang sits with the curtains drawn in his apartment, making his own luck.

For the past six months, 27-year-old Yang has worked mainly from home, mainly from his sofa, tracking and trading bitcoin, and watching the money roll in. The flat itself is modestly sized; Yang moved in in his pre-bitcoin days when he worked variously for a crowdfunder start-up, a branding consultancy and dabbled in hedge-fund management, all of which he describes as creative financial work. Now, though, his main focus is bitcoin, which is much younger, more fun, and much more money. Yang claims to make up to 1m yuan (116,000) a month, under the radar of the taxman, purely from trading the online cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin has no physical form but the rewards are very tangible; Yangs home is packed full of expensive gadgetry, most prominently a mega-sized flat screen smart board, over a metre wide, which Yang uses to chart bitcoins rise and fall in HD.

Normally, the graphs on Yangs screen show bitcoins and his own fortunes going up and up. At the time of writing, one bitcoin is worth 6,600 yuan (768) recent months have seen the value hover well above 8,000 yuan. The global worth of bitcoin is over $14bn USD (11.3bn), of which over 90% is in yuan, and Yang and his peers are cashing in. I want a more splendid life, he says.

Huai
Huai Yang, who trades bitcoin from his sofa Photograph: Naomi Goddard for the Guardian

Theres certainly big money to be made in bitcoin, but it comes at a high risk. Bitcoin was designed to be a peer-to-peer currency, free from interference from government and central banks. Since the currency was launched in 2009, however, the Chinese market, where government interventions are common, has come to dwarf all others.

One such intervention took place in February this year, when the government warned that there would be serious violations for trading platforms that failed to abide by strict money-laundering regulations. In line with this, OKCoin and Huobi.com, the two biggest exchanges in China, announced that they would be suspending bitcoin withdrawals for one month.

Incidents like these, which Yang sees as not convenient, but not [a] problem, give Chenxing (who asked that I only use his first name) pause for thought. Chenxing, a boyish, skittish 35, has been trading bitcoin for the past four months, after giving up his too comfortable job as a geo-information engineer for the government. The governments pressure on bitcoin platforms is not so easy to understand, he tells me. Im not sure its really about money laundering they try to control [bitcoin], but they cannot.

For Chenxing, its the system itself that is vulnerable: Technology changes every day, he explains. Maybe tomorrow a hacker can find a way to crack bitcoin the security is from mathematics. If you can crack the mathematics, bitcoin is nothing. Thats why, even though Chenxing describes himself as a believer in bitcoin, he doesnt plan to stay involved for the long term.

Its really not a stable thing, he says, both in terms of fluctuating prices and the uncertain technological future of the cryptocurrency. That said, hes still making more money than in his previous government job. In a good month, Chenxing will pocket the cash value of around five bitcoin, which is close to 40,000 yuan, and which Chenxing prefers to have in cold, hard cash.

Chenxing is something of an anomaly in Chinese bitcoin circles, where the general mood is one of evangelical faith in the currencys potential, especially in an economy where the government often devalues the national currency.

Brendan Gibson, 32, is a United States national who has been in China for six years, trading bitcoin for three. Weve barely sat down to talk when Gibson takes my phone and downloads the BTC Wallet app onto it, before transferring me the seeds of my cryptocurrency fortune: 0.0027 bitcoin, worth 2.50, which is the amount that everyone in the world would have if the 21m bitcoin in existence were equally divided up between all 7.8 billion of us. He believes that everybodys aunt or grandma should be using bitcoin.

Brendan
Brendan Gibson: Im just kind of fed up with the system. Photograph: Naomi Goddard for the Guardian

For Gibson, bitcoin is a way of life. He hopes to be completely bank free in the near future. Hailing from the shady mortgage industry of corporate America, Gibson shares Chenxings distrustful attitude, but is more concerned about private banks than bitcoins technological vulnerability. Im just kind of fed up with the system, he tells me over coffee in a slick caf and co-working space from where Gibson does most of his work remotely.

I dont think economies should be built on inflated numbers, and I think its kind of ridiculous that everybody relies on this inflated number in their bank account when its definitely not there bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are making it so that we are our own banks, and thats one less things we have to worry about. Gibson owns two companies in China, and as far as possible uses bitcoin for all his daily expenses, converting the personal profits he makes into bitcoin to avoid using banks.

One of the commonly cited weaknesses in the bitcoin system is that if you lose your private key to access your bitcoin wallet, the bitcoin within are lost forever. In 2015, it was estimated that up to 30% of all mined bitcoins had been lost, with a value of 625m. Unsurprisingly, plenty of people see this as an opportunity to make some money.

Sun Zeyu, 27, works at a tech start-up based near Beijings university district that specialises in bitcoin. His latest project is Coldlar, an offline, physical wallet that stores users bitcoin and can be accessed by scanning a QR code. Bitcoin security is a tough question, Sun tells me, which is why he and his colleagues designed a product that allows people to circumvent bitcoin platforms and have even greater control over their bitcoin. Now that the value [of bitcoin] is going up, he explains, people really realise the importance of security.

Before, when we just traded one or two coins, people didnt mind, [but] now the value of bitcoin is much bigger. Sun got involved with bitcoin while at university after attending a seminar run by Huobi, one of the biggest trading platforms in China. Like his flashier friend Yang, Sun wanted money, and lots of it. He wont tell me exactly how much he earns, but assures me that its hundreds or thousands times more than the 10,000 yuan per month he was earning when he first dabbled in bitcoin three years ago.

His money comes from both his trading activity and his company salary. With the growth of bitcoin and related products like his Coldlar wallet, Sun believes that in 10 years time, the value of the cryptocurrency will be one bitcoin, one house in Beijing. Minor shocks to the system, like the recent suspension of bitcoin withdrawals in China, are just like breathing, he insists, and the inhalations of profit dwarf any other bumps in the road.

Sun
Sun Zeyu at work. Photograph: Naomi Goddard for the Guardian

Despite the solitary nature of their work, Yang, Sun, Gibson and Chenxing are all sociable creatures. Gibson is connected to hundreds of bitcoin aficionados in China, and has introduced close to 1,000 new people to the technology (although how many are like me, with 2.50 lying dormant in an unused wallet, is unknown), such is his enthusiasm for the cryptocurrency. Chenxing cites the social side of the bitcoin scene in Beijing as one of the main attractions of staying in the industry and the city.

I can meet some fun people who really love bitcoin I think most of the people who like bitcoin are people who like freedom he says. Yang, however, takes a slightly harder-edged approach. He has little patience for sceptics: Yes, bitcoin is a risk. Why should I have to discuss these things with [people concerned about the security]? I earn my money, thats enough. I dont waste my time explaining bitcoin [if] youre not my client. In some ways, Yang concedes, the less people understand bitcoin, the better it is for him. At the moment, the industry is like an ATM for him and his peers, and hes perfectly happy for things to stay that way.

In the fast-changing world of the crypto-currency, nothing seems to stay the same for long. Whether its unpredictable government interventions, or debates within the community about how the industry can and should be scaled, general growth in value thus fair doesnt necessarily suggest anything about the future of bitcoin, despite the faith of its adherents. Gibson makes the point that bitcoin has only been around for nine years; it took PayPal at least 10 to properly catch on.

In Japan it has recently been recognised as legal tender. Its unlikely that the same could ever happen in China, no matter how much its popularity continues to balloon. Chenxing, who has years of insider experience, is sure that [the government] will never accept a thing thats not built by themselves. Many bitcoin traders in China are in it for the long haul, confident that they can ride out any governmental interferences, as long as they have access to the internet. Chenxing, however, is more paranoid. His final thoughts on bitcoin are: I never feel secure.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/11/meet-the-millennials-making-big-money-riding-chinas-bitcoin-wave

College majors dominated by women lead to lower-paying jobs, Glassdoor found

The gender pay gap is linked to college majors, but even choosing a high-paying field doesn't always help.
Image: Shutterstock / silvabom

The gender pay gap in the United States starts early with what you choose as your college major.

Majors that tend to lead to higher-paying jobs are dominated by male college students and majors that feed into lower-paying jobs are dominated by women, Glassdoor found in a new report.

“Because men and women systematically sort into different college majors, they experience different early career paths, which pay differently,” Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain and senior data analyst Jyotsna Jayaraman wrote in their report. “These pay differences in turn reveal themselves as major contributors to the well-documented gap between male and female pay in the labor market.”

The well-documented gap shows that women earn just over 80 cents for every man’s dollar, with the gap increasing significantly for women of color.

In companies’ reports on equal pay, they tend to point out that the gender pay gap narrows or almost disappears when it’s adjusted women and men in the exact same jobs, especially early in their careers, earn about equal salaries. But the unadjusted pay gap, caused by men being awarded higher-paying roles and women working in lower-paying jobs, persists across majors and industries, as Glassdoor found.

The jobs site analyzed nearly 47,000 resumes uploaded to its platform to find these results. Across college majors, men earned $56,957 per year to women’s $50,426 per year. That’s a pay gap of 11.5 percent.

“Solutions to todays remaining gender pay gap must go beyond examining current pay practices among employers.”

Of the 10 college majors that lead to the highest-paying jobs in the first five years after graduation, nine were dominated by men. Those majors were six engineering degrees, plus information technology, management information systems, statistics, and the lone women-dominated degree, nursing.

Of the 10 lowest-paying college majors, six were dominated by women. Those majors were healthcare administration, social work, education, liberal arts, psychology, and biology. Men made up more students in the low-paying criminal justice, kinesiology, and music fields. The last low-paying major, exercise science, was about equal in its gender divide.

It’s not enough to say that women should choose majors that lead to higher-paying jobs. Part of the problem is that professions where women make up most of the workforce sometimes called “pink collar” jobs have been undervalued and underpaid. Over 85 percent of social work majors were women and 66 percent of education majors were women, Glassdoor found. Women’s choices of college majors are affected by their pre-college preparation, gender norms, and other societal factors besides just their own individual interests.

And choosing a major that leads to a higher-paying field doesn’t insulate women from the wage gap. After graduation, women biology majors found jobs as lab technicians, pharmacy technicians, and sales associates, according to Glassdoor. Male biology majors were employed as lab technicians or higher-paid data analysts and managers. The majors with the biggest wage gaps for their male and female students were healthcare administration and mathematics.

“Our findings suggest that solutions to todays remaining gender pay gap must go beyond examining current pay practices among employers,” Chamberlain and Jayaraman wrote. “Instead, they must also address pipeline issues including the choice of college major that help drive men and women into different career paths and pay.”

WATCH: This typewriter-inspired keyboard will have you kickin’ it old school

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/19/college-major-gender-pay-gap-glassdoor/

Meet the millennials making big money riding China’s bitcoin wave

The cryptocurrency may have no physical form but the returns from trading it can be very real and for some theyre worth giving up your job for

On a sunny afternoon in west Beijing, on the auspicious eighth floor of a nondescript concrete high-rise, Huai Yang sits with the curtains drawn in his apartment, making his own luck.

For the past six months, 27-year-old Yang has worked mainly from home, mainly from his sofa, tracking and trading bitcoin, and watching the money roll in. The flat itself is modestly sized; Yang moved in in his pre-bitcoin days when he worked variously for a crowdfunder start-up, a branding consultancy and dabbled in hedge-fund management, all of which he describes as creative financial work. Now, though, his main focus is bitcoin, which is much younger, more fun, and much more money. Yang claims to make up to 1m yuan (116,000) a month, under the radar of the taxman, purely from trading the online cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin has no physical form but the rewards are very tangible; Yangs home is packed full of expensive gadgetry, most prominently a mega-sized flat screen smart board, over a metre wide, which Yang uses to chart bitcoins rise and fall in HD.

Normally, the graphs on Yangs screen show bitcoins and his own fortunes going up and up. At the time of writing, one bitcoin is worth 6,600 yuan (768) recent months have seen the value hover well above 8,000 yuan. The global worth of bitcoin is over $14bn USD (11.3bn), of which over 90% is in yuan, and Yang and his peers are cashing in. I want a more splendid life, he says.

Huai
Huai Yang, who trades bitcoin from his sofa Photograph: Naomi Goddard for the Guardian

Theres certainly big money to be made in bitcoin, but it comes at a high risk. Bitcoin was designed to be a peer-to-peer currency, free from interference from government and central banks. Since the currency was launched in 2009, however, the Chinese market, where government interventions are common, has come to dwarf all others.

One such intervention took place in February this year, when the government warned that there would be serious violations for trading platforms that failed to abide by strict money-laundering regulations. In line with this, OKCoin and Huobi.com, the two biggest exchanges in China, announced that they would be suspending bitcoin withdrawals for one month.

Incidents like these, which Yang sees as not convenient, but not [a] problem, give Chenxing (who asked that I only use his first name) pause for thought. Chenxing, a boyish, skittish 35, has been trading bitcoin for the past four months, after giving up his too comfortable job as a geo-information engineer for the government. The governments pressure on bitcoin platforms is not so easy to understand, he tells me. Im not sure its really about money laundering they try to control [bitcoin], but they cannot.

For Chenxing, its the system itself that is vulnerable: Technology changes every day, he explains. Maybe tomorrow a hacker can find a way to crack bitcoin the security is from mathematics. If you can crack the mathematics, bitcoin is nothing. Thats why, even though Chenxing describes himself as a believer in bitcoin, he doesnt plan to stay involved for the long term.

Its really not a stable thing, he says, both in terms of fluctuating prices and the uncertain technological future of the cryptocurrency. That said, hes still making more money than in his previous government job. In a good month, Chenxing will pocket the cash value of around five bitcoin, which is close to 40,000 yuan, and which Chenxing prefers to have in cold, hard cash.

Chenxing is something of an anomaly in Chinese bitcoin circles, where the general mood is one of evangelical faith in the currencys potential, especially in an economy where the government often devalues the national currency.

Brendan Gibson, 32, is a United States national who has been in China for six years, trading bitcoin for three. Weve barely sat down to talk when Gibson takes my phone and downloads the BTC Wallet app onto it, before transferring me the seeds of my cryptocurrency fortune: 0.0027 bitcoin, worth 2.50, which is the amount that everyone in the world would have if the 21m bitcoin in existence were equally divided up between all 7.8 billion of us. He believes that everybodys aunt or grandma should be using bitcoin.

Brendan
Brendan Gibson: Im just kind of fed up with the system. Photograph: Naomi Goddard for the Guardian

For Gibson, bitcoin is a way of life. He hopes to be completely bank free in the near future. Hailing from the shady mortgage industry of corporate America, Gibson shares Chenxings distrustful attitude, but is more concerned about private banks than bitcoins technological vulnerability. Im just kind of fed up with the system, he tells me over coffee in a slick caf and co-working space from where Gibson does most of his work remotely.

I dont think economies should be built on inflated numbers, and I think its kind of ridiculous that everybody relies on this inflated number in their bank account when its definitely not there bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are making it so that we are our own banks, and thats one less things we have to worry about. Gibson owns two companies in China, and as far as possible uses bitcoin for all his daily expenses, converting the personal profits he makes into bitcoin to avoid using banks.

One of the commonly cited weaknesses in the bitcoin system is that if you lose your private key to access your bitcoin wallet, the bitcoin within are lost forever. In 2015, it was estimated that up to 30% of all mined bitcoins had been lost, with a value of 625m. Unsurprisingly, plenty of people see this as an opportunity to make some money.

Sun Zeyu, 27, works at a tech start-up based near Beijings university district that specialises in bitcoin. His latest project is Coldlar, an offline, physical wallet that stores users bitcoin and can be accessed by scanning a QR code. Bitcoin security is a tough question, Sun tells me, which is why he and his colleagues designed a product that allows people to circumvent bitcoin platforms and have even greater control over their bitcoin. Now that the value [of bitcoin] is going up, he explains, people really realise the importance of security.

Before, when we just traded one or two coins, people didnt mind, [but] now the value of bitcoin is much bigger. Sun got involved with bitcoin while at university after attending a seminar run by Huobi, one of the biggest trading platforms in China. Like his flashier friend Yang, Sun wanted money, and lots of it. He wont tell me exactly how much he earns, but assures me that its hundreds or thousands times more than the 10,000 yuan per month he was earning when he first dabbled in bitcoin three years ago.

His money comes from both his trading activity and his company salary. With the growth of bitcoin and related products like his Coldlar wallet, Sun believes that in 10 years time, the value of the cryptocurrency will be one bitcoin, one house in Beijing. Minor shocks to the system, like the recent suspension of bitcoin withdrawals in China, are just like breathing, he insists, and the inhalations of profit dwarf any other bumps in the road.

Sun
Sun Zeyu at work. Photograph: Naomi Goddard for the Guardian

Despite the solitary nature of their work, Yang, Sun, Gibson and Chenxing are all sociable creatures. Gibson is connected to hundreds of bitcoin aficionados in China, and has introduced close to 1,000 new people to the technology (although how many are like me, with 2.50 lying dormant in an unused wallet, is unknown), such is his enthusiasm for the cryptocurrency. Chenxing cites the social side of the bitcoin scene in Beijing as one of the main attractions of staying in the industry and the city.

I can meet some fun people who really love bitcoin I think most of the people who like bitcoin are people who like freedom he says. Yang, however, takes a slightly harder-edged approach. He has little patience for sceptics: Yes, bitcoin is a risk. Why should I have to discuss these things with [people concerned about the security]? I earn my money, thats enough. I dont waste my time explaining bitcoin [if] youre not my client. In some ways, Yang concedes, the less people understand bitcoin, the better it is for him. At the moment, the industry is like an ATM for him and his peers, and hes perfectly happy for things to stay that way.

In the fast-changing world of the crypto-currency, nothing seems to stay the same for long. Whether its unpredictable government interventions, or debates within the community about how the industry can and should be scaled, general growth in value thus fair doesnt necessarily suggest anything about the future of bitcoin, despite the faith of its adherents. Gibson makes the point that bitcoin has only been around for nine years; it took PayPal at least 10 to properly catch on.

In Japan it has recently been recognised as legal tender. Its unlikely that the same could ever happen in China, no matter how much its popularity continues to balloon. Chenxing, who has years of insider experience, is sure that [the government] will never accept a thing thats not built by themselves. Many bitcoin traders in China are in it for the long haul, confident that they can ride out any governmental interferences, as long as they have access to the internet. Chenxing, however, is more paranoid. His final thoughts on bitcoin are: I never feel secure.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/11/meet-the-millennials-making-big-money-riding-chinas-bitcoin-wave

12 boss women ruling the tech world

Image: Christopher Mineses/mashable

On this International Women’s Day, women are striking to make clear their value in the workplace, at home and beyond. That includes the tech world.

According to the Department of Labor, only 26 percent of people employed in computer and mathematics jobs are women. And a big chunk of that 26 percent comes from outside Silicon Valley.

Despite the challenges facing any engineer who doesn’t fit in with the testosterone-fueled culture of Silicon Valley, many women have made their mark in the field and fought to make it better.

On International Women’s Day, it’s worth celebrating a few of the tech world’s badass women.

Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe.

Image: noam galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

1. Whitney Wolfe

Whitney Wolfe left her job as a co-founder at Tinder amid allegations of sexual harassment at the company, but she refused to quit the dating app game. Instead of going quietly, she founded Bumble, the app that gives women control when swiping.

Not only did Wolfe help create two of the biggest players in online dating, but she did it on her own terms. Bumble has expanded beyond dating to matching friends on Bumble BFF, and raised $40,000 for Planned Parenthood in January. Not bad!

Laura Weidman Powers at SXSW.

Image: jealex photo/Getty Images for SXSW

2. Laura Weidman Powers

Laura Weidman Powers is one of the tech industry’s strongest advocates for diversity. With CODE2040, she supports young black and Latino engineers, working to ensure they are proportionally represented in the field.

Weidman Powers also served in the Obama White House as a senior policy advisor to the chief technology officer.

Ellen Pao.

Image: maria aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women

3. Ellen Pao

Ellen Pao ran Reddit, and before that she was a junior partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.

Her name might sound familiar because she sued that company for gender discrimination. Pao lost the suit, but she brought sorely needed attention to bias in Silicon Valley tech culture. She is the cofounder of Project Include, a nonprofit that provides recommendations for startup management on how to build more diverse companies.

4. Laura Gmez

Laura Gmez is an advocate for diversity in tech, and supports that mission in her day job, too. As CEO of the people analytics tool Atipica, the Twitter alumna helps companies use data to strategize in hiring. That includes using data to help companies build more diverse workforces.

Slack’s Erica Joy Baker.

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5. Erica Joy Baker

Erica Joy Baker is one of the women behind Slack, the communication tool that has taken over offices nationwide. A former Googler, she splits her time between her roles as a senior engineer at Slack and as an advocate for diversity and more widely accessible tech education.

She also helps translate tech and the problems within it to the outside world by blogging about diversity, racism and life as a black woman in Silicon Valley.

Reshma Saujani at Advertising Week in New York.

Image: robin marchant/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York

6. Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code, the powerhouse nonprofit that has helped to make coding education and its gender gap more visible. Saujani has run for office and recruited high-profile ambassadors to Girls Who Code, like supermodel Karlie Kloss.

7. Jill Wetzler

Unlike that other ride-hailing company with all the problems with its treatment of women, Lyft has an awesome woman at the helm. Jill Wetzler is the director of engineering at Lyft, which she joined after stops at Salesforce and Twitter.

Recently, Wetzler told USA Today College that her best career advice was to “know your worth.”

“If I feel stuck, or underutilized, or if I feel like Im not getting to have the type of impact that I think I can have, I remind myself to know what Im worth,” she said. “Sometimes, that reminder causes me to do something bold.”

Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant at Glamour Women Of The Year 2016.

Image: mike windle/Getty Images for Glamour

8. Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls Code to give young women of color the opportunity to learn the skills to succeed in the tech industry. Bryant has a long resume in tech and has prioritized supporting the next generation along with her own work.

9. Arlan Hamilton

Arlan Hamilton founded Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in startups by women, minority and LGBT entrepreneurs. Her portfolio of startups is impressive, and committed to her initial vision. And Hamilton got Backstage Capital off the ground, despite lukewarm responses from mainstream investors, while she was homeless.

Hamilton has emphasized that her firm isn’t a nonprofit it’s trying to make money, just like its competitors. But Backstage Capital is able to do that by finding the best ideas from groups who often don’t get the support they need to get started.

10. Belinda Johnson

Belinda Johnson has been called “Airbnb’s Sheryl Sandberg.” As chief business affairs and legal officer for the home-rental giant, she helps craft the company’s approach to regulators and woos its hosts to act as Airbnb’s biggest supporters. Johnson has years of experience guiding the legal affairs of internet companies, including in the early days of Yahoo. As Airbnb’s CEO grows his public profile, Johnson is running things behind the scenes.

11. Stacy Brown-Philpot

Stacy Brown-Philpot is the CEO of TaskRabbit and an alumna of both Google and Goldman Sachs. At Google, she was the senior director of global consumer operations and ran sales operations in India. Along with running one of the major players in the gig economy today, she serves as a board member at Black Girls Code.

Tracy Chou at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015.

Image: steve jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

12. Tracy Chou

Tracy Chou is an engineer and alumna of Pinterest and Quora. She also helped spur tech companies to disclose diversity statistics through a Github project that collected numbers on women in engineering. Today, most major tech companies publicly share diversity information about their workforces and Chou’s repository played a big part in that.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/03/08/women-in-tech-international-womens-day/

Project Entrepreneur: ZoomDojo co-founder Carol Rattray

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This interview comes from our partners at Project Entrepreneur, as part of their #WednesdayWisdom blog series featuring industry leaders and disruptive visionaries who are working to build the future of entrepreneurship.

Carol Rattray is co-founder of ZoomDojo, an early stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in ambitious entrepreneurs to define and dominate a new generation of commerce. We sat down with Carol Rattray to discuss the future of entrepreneurship and the need for more women entrepreneurs.

What led you to start Zoomdojo?

My partner, Ritu Banga and I separately have had a long philanthropic involvement in education. We would from time to time compare notes on what we were doing, thinking about or worried about, that arose from our work in this area. One of those issues that wed often discuss was the difficulty students faced finding jobs.

After 2008 the youth unemployment rate soared and although as the economy began to recover and overall employment rate improved, youth employment continued to remain very stagnant. Finding a job remained a difficult and discouraging process for many young people. The stats were bleak, and that was underscored by what we directly heard from students who shared with us their job search challenges and frustrations.

Our alarm and concern grew as our awareness grew. Job information was very fragmented and what information was available narrowed in scope or was mostly focused on experienced job searchers rather than entry level. Ritu and I decided we had to do something to find a way to address these issues.We began by conducting an extensive listening and research period that involved students, recent grads, parents, faculty, university administrators, trustees and other organizations focused on youth employment, and testing.

Our conclusion from the listening and research process was that students needed simpler, more relevant and customized job search and career readiness tools. We strongly felt that by combining our professional, personal and philanthropic experiences we could create a platform for students to access good job information and generate new ways to think about career pathways that would improve their success in the 21st-century job market.

That became Zoomdojo, an initiative that includes an open source global job search platform providing internship and job listings and related career readiness resources and advisory services for students and recent grads.

What issues are top of mind among twenty-somethings as they embark on their careers?

Based on conversations and interactions with the twenty-somethings (Ill refer to this group as millennials from hereon) and those that teach or manage millennials in the workforce, top issues on millennials minds revolve around work/life balance, security and job fulfillment.

One of the questions that were often asked at our workshops is how did we manage to do all that weve done? This question covers a lot of territory, but its basically about work/life balance. When you break it down that means, how to stay connected (to friends, family etc.), pursue and develop outside interests, stay fit and healthy, be philanthropic while managing to build a strong happy family life. Combining these quality-of-life objectives with how to achieve, maintain and nurture them, while achieving career success describes the work/life balance issue.I believe security is on the minds of many millennials as well.

As a group who came of age during the Great Recession and as a witness to ongoing global tensions and turmoil, the world looks like a very uncertain place beyond ones control. You can work really hard for a long time and then find everything you worked for has disappeared. In a world where unexpected stuff continually happens, millennials more so than those from my generation at their age, seem to be aware of and need to better ensure their future outcome. There is a sense that every step requires thought and risk analysis.

That doesnt describe all millennials, but there are articles and studies that support the change in how the world is viewed by millennials compared to the way it was seen by their parents or baby boomers. The future feels less certain, more precarious and requires more carefully thought-out planning.

As for fulfillment, I would define fulfillment as finding and having a meaningful, purposeful, and satisfying work life. Through the review of reports and surveys, including one we conducted, and discussions with managers, weve learned that college students and young professionals want more out of their jobs (than compared to prior generations). Theres an expectation for more and frequent feedback from supervisors. Theres an expectation to form meaningful connections with managers and for managers to be more than supervisors, but to be mentors also. There is an expectation to be able to more clearly measure career growth on an ongoing basis and to be able to regularly track career progress and growth.

The hope is for meaningful, engaging work that offers good learning experiences. If the expectations are not being met, they are more likely than past generations to move on to another job in a short time. Recent articles support this. In the Gallup Report (May 21, 2016) Millennials: The Job Hopping Generation, it states that 21% of the millennials changed jobs within the past year that the poll was conducted in. Other reports cite the average tenure at one job for millennials to be 2 years, compared to the baby boomers and the generation before the boomers who averaged 7 and 9 years respectively.

This may seem in contradiction to the need for security, but security is not about striking the mother lode. Rather, it is about striking a balance between seeking financial security or a secure position” in a good company and security gained by developing personal capital even at the risk of sacrificing future potential wealth.

Understanding what makes millennials tick, and how to effectively address and respond to their concerns and expectations is a key topic of discussion, research and review these days as it impacts how business is to be conducted and managed.

What advantages exist for young women with startup aspirations?

There has been a definite increase in attention and focus placed on improving and facilitating greater inclusiveness in the startup ecosystem for women and other under-represented groups, which is great news. While we are far from reaching the tipping point to achieve gender parity, the number of women-led startups has quickly risen in the last few years. The stats are encouraging.

There are also more women in business leadership positions along with more media attention being paid to women entrepreneurs. Shining a public spotlight on women founders and makers can definitely inspire and motivate. This is a global trend and one which we experienced first hand.

When my partner and I were in China a few years ago, we were invited to speak at one of the Chinese universities. The student groups that hosted one of the workshops were the universitys womens finance club and the universitys Lean In Club. It took a minute for us to digest the name of the latter club. Who would have thought, in China, wed meet members of the Lean In Club! We were delighted to be with all these young women who were so interested in learning about startups and about us as women founders. They were following social media, reading books and excited to be a part of the bigger community of women entrepreneurs and leaders. Public attention and awareness are factors that motivate and inspire, in this case, young women to strive to be like those they follow and read about.

Beyond the media attention, substantive changes and improvements can be found in many other areas. More organizations are making the push to support, educate and advance girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is key to grow the number of tech-literate women. Financial support from established venture capital funds and through more recently formed investing groups for women founders has substantially increased. Programs supporting and empowering women entrepreneurs have grown. A wonderful example of such programs is Project Entrepreneur, which provides tangible and needed skills, tools and guidance to educate and inspire women founders and makers. We hope more will follow these trends and trendsetters.

The momentum is strong and the foundation building is evident through education, inspiration and other support efforts to provide young women with far greater opportunities than there were available ten years ago. The change of pace has been encouraging and it’s a much better time for aspiring women entrepreneurs.

What barriers do they face?

Even though theres been much progress made to support women-led startups, barriers still exist. We arent at a point to say, yes, we made it! yet and heres why.

While in secondary schools, girls are at par to boys in studying STEM, a change occurs at the higher ed level. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, while women receive over half of bachelors degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in the computer sciences (17.9%), engineering (19.3%), physical sciences (39%) and mathematics (43.1%). We have to do more to improve these numbers. We need more women to study and succeed in STEM fields, to be early STEM adopters, adapters, and experts. That will help create a pipeline of women with skills that drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

More women in STEM is of course only a part of the answer. STEM is important, but not all of us have to become STEM majors and experts. STEM is only an aspect vital but only a part of what constitutes innovation and entrepreneurship. From my professional experience, its clear that key contributors to advancing innovation are the ability to apply critical thinking, to possess strong communications skills, along with the ability to step back, reflect and assimilate broader views and angles gained typically from a solid liberal arts education. The power of the liberal arts education combined with a level of comfort or being attuned to STEM concepts, in my opinion, create a compelling and substantive formula to build and deepen the pool of women entrepreneurs. We, therefore, need to do more work to further advance the intersection of women, STEM and the liberal arts.

There is also still a lack of a critical mass of women entrepreneurs to look up to as role models, mentors, and sponsors. Yes, more are in the news, but there are not enough women in various roles and positions throughout the startup ecosystem. Young women need seasoned women founders, investors, and managers to seek out for advice and support. Startups are hard work, and you want to be able to lean on others, in particular, those who share common ground and experiences to help support your efforts and that you can learn from and look up to as sources of inspiration.

The funding/buying side also represents a significant barrier. Raising capital is still challenging for women founders. Venture capitalists (VC) fund too few women-led startups. A recent CrunchBase report, Women in Venture Report (TechCrunch April 16, 2016), describes that between 2010 and 2015, 10 percent of venture dollars globally, a total of $31.5 billion, funded startups that reported at least one female founder. Only 10 percent.

One of the reasons for VCs funding few women-led startups could be attributed to the fact that women are under-represented in decision-making roles at VCs. In a report published by Deloitte and the National Venture Association in 2015, NVCA Deloitte Human Capital Survey Report, they found that out of the sample of 2,500 employees at 250 firms, women represented only 11% of the partnership pool. And Fortune found only 6% were decision makers at the VC firms they polled. Sounds pat, but if you have a predominantly male VC club, the club members will be more likely to decide to invest in companies that reflect the membership profile. It will be interesting to see if the investment dollar figures increase, as more women are moved into decision-making positions at VC firms. I would hope so, but it does look like real funding challenges will continue in the short run for women founders.

On the other hand, you cant just blame it simply on ingrained gender bias stemming from an all boys club environment. As an investor, investment decisions are made after reviewing many deals. Because there are few women-led startups seeking funding, there will be fewer to review and likely to invest in. We need to increase the number of women-led startups which leads me back to the need to find ways to increase the pipeline through education and other means to accelerate developing more women entrepreneurs, and remove the barriers young women entrepreneurs may still face.

The media portrayal of the Millennial says they are enterprising and entrepreneurial by nature, however, some studies show that the number of business owners under 30 today is lower than it has been since in the 1980s.

As an advisor to recent graduates and young professionals, what is your take on the future state of entrepreneurship?

Overall, the number of business owners under 30 is said to be lower than what there were in the 1970s and 1980s. Theres a lot of literature and statistical evidence that this is the case and very worthy of review. From where we stand, though, were so immersed in the startup community and culture that its difficult to objectively survey whats happening overall in this ecosystem.

From our perch, theres a great deal of activity and interest in entrepreneurship and startups directed in particular to support the under-30 crowd. There are programs offered at universities within the undergraduate and graduate levels, including funding, mentors and workspaces. Beyond the university system, attractive, cost effective technology and infrastructure to facilitate and promote entrepreneurship has proliferated.

Funding sources from traditional VC to new crowd funding options have provided greater access and opportunities for aspiring young entrepreneurs. There are articles about kidpreneurship that showcase teens, tweens and even younger kids who are starting businesses.

More recently, our work on advancing employment has led us to branch out to advise and review startups. We review many business plans and judge at pitch competitions. Were obviously not the only ones involved in these activities, but it underscores the many channels young founders have access to seek assistance and support.

So from our perspective, we believe today there is greater access to key resources that facilitate startup development. While its a different landscape than in the 70s and 80s, as long as people are willing to work incredibly and ridiculously hard, I believe the future state of entrepreneurship looks to be in good shape.

From an investor’s point of view, what problems should entrepreneurs be looking to solve right now?

This is an interesting, question without a simple answer! Lets start with what I look for as an investor first and move from there onto what problems there are to solve.

As an investor, I want to understand the story. That is, the story behind and about the product, the team, the market, and then compare all that to what other investment options are currently available. I may not be looking specifically at what problems should be solved, but how a founder and his or her team is presenting what they perceive as the problem, their approach addressing the problem and why that works. Its their story that I need to understand and believe in enough to want to make an investment. The interesting thing here is that I may not even be aware that such a problem exists, but by the story presented to me, I learn and am convinced that there is a problem and a solution worth investing in.

I would say entrepreneurs, as a general rule, should think about whats happening around them and how they could change and improve a situation that leads to one or more of these outcomes: improve an existing product, improve access, reduce inefficiencies and costs, save time or bridge a gap or adjust and align a mismatch. You can apply these outcomes to many areas including healthcare, energy, conservation, transportation, food, education, consumer goods and services, financial markets or information. Problems exist in each of these and many other areas. Some are big problems and issues that have global reach and implications such as water and food security, pollution, climate-related disaster mitigation and curing diseases and preventing pandemics. As a concerned individual, these and many other global problems I hope will be top priorities for many around the world to solve.

When I look closer to my personal and professional interests and experiences, I would say problems such as the following are worth a look: in healthcare, biotech solutions to common issues that an aging population face; new inexpensive ways to conserve energy; bridging in an innovative inexpensive way the gaps in providing relevant skills training; better transportation and distribution solutions for people, as well as for goods and services; or ways to render massive amounts of information and data in a smart understandable, quick and accessible way.I would really suggest thinking local first.

Id recommend to any aspiring entrepreneur to begin by looking at your own local environment and consider the following: is there something that bothers you a lot from personal or professional experience? Or, have you heard about a problem that urges you to fix it? Thats a good starting point. Then problem set to explore and determine if you have a possible approach to a solution. Most really successful startups began from solving a local problem: a few folks were unable to have a way to find rides to get around San Francisco, several entrepreneurs were unable to find affordable workspace in New York City and a group of young women were unable to afford a way to find accessible and affordable ways to make required upgrades to their wardrobe in Boston!

In each case, what originally was a local problem and a personal condition ultimately hit a wider universal chord and solutions application.I would say to any aspiring entrepreneur, learn whats bothering you, your friends, family or neighbors. Can you make something that they need or better their situation? Is there a way you can improve your life or theirs? Do your research. Dig deep to find out the problems root cause and then figure out how you can change or make the situation better. Find out if there are others who have identified the same problem that you have and how you can differentiate your solution from theirs. Talk to a lot of people to find out if your solution is what works for them. Then start working as hard as you can on your solution.

You will always find investors willing and ready to hear your story, learn about your problem proposition, and your solution.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/22/carol-rattray-project-entrepreneur/

Is Snapchat the new Facebook?

As Snapchat plans the most eagerly anticipated technology IPO since its older rival floated in 2012, Rupert Neate examines the two companies striking similarities

Snapchat hopes its planned flotation in New York will value the five-year-old photo-sharing app company at up to $25bn (20bn) and turn its 26-year-old founder, Evan Spiegel, into the worlds youngest billionaire with a $5.5bn fortune. It is the most eagerly anticipated technology initial public offering (IPO) since Facebook floated in 2012 turning its then 28-year-old founder, Mark Zuckerberg, into the worlds richest man under 30. The similarities between Snap (the official name for the company that owns Snapchat) and Facebook are striking, and have got many financial analysts and advertising experts asking if Snapchat is the new Facebook.

How did they start?

Zuckerberg and Spiegel hit upon the ideas for their companies at university and then dropped out. Zuckerberg, a computer science major, began knocking up a website called Facemash, loosely based on Hot or Not, in his Harvard dorm room. The site evolved intoFacebook but not without a legal challenge from the Winklevoss twins, who sued Zuckerberg claiming he stole their idea.

Evan
Evan Spiegel could become the worlds youngest billionaire. Photograph: Jae C. Hong/AP

Snapchat was born out of banter between Spiegel and his Stanford fraternity brothers Frank Reginald Brown and Bobby Murphy. In 2011 the trio were discussing sexting and the need for a way to send pictures that disappeared.

As with Facebook, the genesis of the idea was disputed, and Brown sued Spiegel and the company. They settled out of court, with Spiegel, who was studying product design, and Murphy, a mathematics and computational science major, remaining majority shareholders with a 22.4% stake each.

How many users do they have?

Facebook had 900m users as it prepared for its 2012 flotation. Since then the social network has grown to 1.86bn monthly active users more than half the worlds population that has access to the internet. About 1.2bn check their Facebook accounts every day.

Snapchat has far fewer users, but the company claims they are much more engaged than Facebooks. Snapchat had 158m daily users at the last count. Two-thirds of them check the app every day and the average daily user visits the app 18 times a day, spending an average of 25-30 minutes a day sending snaps and watching snaps from their friends, celebrities and advertising brands.

Snapchat is only accessible via mobile phone. Snapchat claims to reach 41% of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the US each day.

How much are they worth?

Facebook has a market value of $373bn more than twice that of IBM. Facebook was valued at $104bn when it floated at $38 a share on the NYSE on 18 May 2012. Today the shares are changing hands at $131.

Facebook tried to buy Snapchat several times, and Spiegel has said Zuckerberg tried to force him to sell up. It was basically like, Were going to crush you, Spiegel told Forbes magazine. Spiegel rejected Zuckerbergs last $3bn takeover in November 2013. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has since developed versions of 15 of Snapchats features.

Snaps IPO filings show the company is planning to float its shares at a level that would value the companyat $20-25bn.

How much control do the founders have?

Snapchats flotation is unusual. The company is not selling any voting shares, so the founders will controversially keep total control of the firm even after raising public money. Facebook has a voting structure that gives the founders far more rights than other shareholders.

How much money do they make?

Facebook made a profit of $10.2bn in 2016, up 177% on 2015. Its total advertising income was almost $27bn. But Facebook only turned its first profit in 2009.

Snap, which is spending a lot of money on expanding its user base, made a net loss of $515m in 2016 up on the $373m it lost in 2015.

Where does the income come from?

Both companies make their money from advertising at the expense of traditional advertising markets such as newspapers and TV.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the worlds largest advertising company, has said his clients spent $1.7bn advertising on Facebook last year. That compares to $5bn WPP clients spent on Google ads, but is vastly more than the $90m spent on Snapchat.

Neil Campling, head of global technology research at Northern Trust Capital Markets, told CNBC: Snapchat is likely on a faster growth path than either Google or Facebook. Their opportunity is enormous and just beginning.

Snapchat has tried to differentiate itself from Facebook by not allowing adverts targeted directly at users interests or browsing history. I got an ad this morning for something I was thinking about buying yesterday, and its really annoying. We care about not being creepy, Spiegel said in 2015.

Facebooks advertising is sold entirely by computer program. Advertisers can visit ads.facebook.com, plug in payment information and create an advert. Those ads can be targeted as narrowly or broadly as the advertiser desires, and can be billed in a variety of ways, from paying a flat fee for every thousand views to payments per click, per like and more.

Where are they based?

Facebooks huge headquarters in Silicon Valleys Menlo Park has a green roof the size of seven American football pitches. The company employs more than 17,000 people across the world.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/03/is-snapchat-the-new-facebook

College-educated women earn $8,000 less a year than men as gap widens

The gender wage gap among 2016 graduates has increased, as men make about $4 more an hour than women, according to Economic Policy Institute study

The gender wage gap is not shrinking its growing. Female college graduates now earn $8,000 a year less than their male contemporaries, a gap that has widened in the past 16 years, according to a new report published by the Economic Policy Institute.

Young male college graduates earned 8.1% more in 2016 than in 2000, while young female college graduates earned 6.8% less than in 2000, according to Elise Gould, senior economist at EPI and one of the reports authors.

That gender wage gap has increased in a meaningful way, Gould said. If you just look at their wages in 2016, on average young men who are college graduates are making $20.94 compared to $16.58 for women. Thats a difference of more than $4. Over the year, thats more than $8,000.

According to Gould, this is due to the fact that men in higher positions are driving up wages for men lower on the totem pole as well. For women, however, the wage gap gets wider as they move further up the pay scale.

Overall, women earn less than men. According to the US census, women were still earning just 79% of mens wages in 2014.

Critics of the gender wage gap theory point out that the discrepancy in pay between men and women is due to the types of careers women opt for. Meaning that women are more likely to work in lower-paying jobs like retail, fast food, teaching or nursing.

Its an interesting idea when you say that out loud: Women chose lower paying jobs. Who would chose a lower paying job? How does that even make sense? said Gould. She added that its true women might be likely to select different majors than men and that men tend to end up in higher professions.

Its still remains a fact that even within occupations, even within lets say finance, women are making less than men. So some of it is because of the major or occupation that somebody chose, but those could also be driven by discrimination at younger ages.

According to her, there is a lack of encouragement for women to go into Stem fields science, technology, engineering and math. These fields, which tend to be dominated by men, are associated with higher paid positions.

Some say there isnt really a gender pay gap. Well, that is just wrong, said former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, when she appeared on a panel discussing equal pay last week. She, too, conceded that higher paying fields like engineering, science and mathematics can often be unwelcoming to women.

Gould also pointed out that the economy is filled with people who do not have a college degree. A strong economy caters to these workers usually high-school graduates and provides them with good jobs in which they can build a stable career, she said.

College graduates make up less than a third of US population. In 2014, 29.9% of men and 30.2% of women had graduated college. According to the US Census Bureau, it was the first year that womens college attainment was statistically higher than mens college attainment. Similarly, 65.8% of Americans aged 24 to 29 do not have a college degree, according to EPIs report.

However, female high school graduates are faced with narrower gender wage gap.

Gender wage gap among high school grads has been closing over the last several years. Thats due to the fact that women have been bolstered by minimum wage increases in cities and states, explained Gould, pointing out that women account for 55.9% of workers earning minimum wage. Its growing among college grads.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/apr/21/gender-wage-gap-college-graduates-women-men