Blue Apron Is Now a Penny Stock After Falling 11% to Below $1 a Share

Blue Apron’s stock fell below $1 a share Tuesday, becoming a penny stock for the first time since it went public last year. The stock price has now fallen more than 90% from Blue Apron’s $10 a share IPO price.

The stock of the meal-kit delivery service plunged 11.2% Tuesday to close at 90 cents a share. The company ended the trading day with a market cap of $173.8 million, according to Yahoo Finance. Blue Apron’s stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, which will often delist stocks that trade below $1 a share for more than 30 days.

Blue Apron went public in June 2017 at $10 a share, after initially hoping to price its IPO as high as $17 a share. After briefly rising to $11 a share on its first day of trading, Blue Apron’s stock slowly declined over the following months, as interest in meal kits faded just as competition was growing more intense. Notably, Amazon has been offering meal kits for Prime members.

Shares of Blue Apron have not only fallen below all price target set by analysts, it’s the third-worst performing IPO on U.S. exchanges so far this decade, according to Bloomberg. Only two IPOs have fallen more during their first 18 months: CHC Group and Eclipse Resources, both operating in the energy industry, which has been hurt by declining oil prices during recent years.

Last month, Blue Apron said it would lay off 4% of its staff. In October 2017, the company also had a round of layoffs that reduced its workforce by 6%.

The Best Sales App I've Seen in 15 Years and OMG It's Free

What makes a sales app great? Three things: 1) it helps you sell, 2) it’s easy to use, and 3) it costs nothing or next-to-nothing. Using that criteria, it’s obvious why CRM isn’t a great sales tool because while 1) it (arguably) helps you sell, it’s also 2) difficult to use, and 3) can cost you big time in lost opportunity cost, even if you’re using freeware.

Because of that, for the past 15 years, the most valuable sales tool has been LinkedIn. Sales is all about building relationships and that’s impossible without knowing who works inside a company and the role they play in the decision-making. Thus while LinkedIn was designed originally for recruiters, it’s been a total godsend for Sales and Marketing.

However, while LinkedIn has been the king of sales tools since it was launched in 2003, its own email system (InMail) has never caught on as an alternative to regular email. As one of my clients put it a couple of days ago: “I just don’t get many responses when I use it.” And that’s too bad because InMail is theoretically much better than regular email.

Email has become increasing important to sales and marketing because now that most people (especially decision-makers) no longer answer their phones making cold calling obsolete. Today, the only effective form of outbound sales is email marketing which everyone is doing (but most aren’t doing it very well.)

The big challenge with email marketing, however, has always been getting the decision-makers’ email addresses. While you can buy email lists on the open market, the data is often inaccurate or out-of-date. Also, email lists encourage one-to-many email marketing (aka SPAM), which isn’t all that effective.

What IS effective with email marketing is a well-researched personalized email that doesn’t attempt to sell but instead just makes contact and opens up a conversation. I’ve written extensively on how to execute this strategy and helped dozens of companies develop the technique. BTW, if you want to fix your cold emails so that you get geometrically more responses, I’m still available for an hour each week… at least for now.

Once you’ve identified a decision-maker on LinkedIn, the difficult part has always been getting that decision-maker’s real email address (business or, better yet, personal). In the past this involved a online research, guesswork, and even calling the reception desk and asking. None of these approaches were ideal and all consumed a fair amount of time.

Well, no longer, because there are now some very easy-to-use tools that troll through big data on the web and give you the email addresses and even the telephone numbers of the profiles that interest you. I’ve tested several of these tools and have concluded the best is Contact Out, which runs as a Chrome Extension.

Contact Out took me 5 seconds to install and 5 seconds to learn to use (it’s a one-click drop down). To test it, I looked up some of my former editors. Not only did I get their current work emails, I also got personal emails for most of them, and even work telephone numbers. If I’d tried this by hand, it would have taken hours of tedious effort.

Contact Out lets you harvest 50 profiles a day for free, but that’s far more than any salesperson needs if they’re doing personalized emails which, again, is the only form of email marketing that actually works.

I also tried two other Chrome Extensions, Lusha and Hunter, but they didn’t seem to harvest as much data. Hunter was interesting, though, because it got me email addresses associated with a specific website, even if the people in question didn’t have LinkedIn profiles. Since neither tool is expensive, you might want to add them to your tool box, too. 

Oracle sees strong third quarter on cloud strength, share rise

(Reuters) – Oracle Corp on Monday forecast current-quarter profit above estimates after growth in its cloud services and license support unit helped the business software maker surpass Wall Street expectations for the second quarter.

FILE PHOTO: People gather prior to the start of a keynote speech at the All Things Oracle OpenWorld Summit in San Francisco, California September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jana Asenbrennerova/File Photo

Shares rose 5 percent, with the company saying that excluding fluctuations in exchange rates, it expected third-quarter adjusted profit to be between 86 cents and 88 cents per share.

Analysts on average were expecting 84 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue at its cloud services and license support unit, its biggest, rose 2.7 percent to $6.64 billion and beat analysts’ estimate, as more companies shifted to cloud computing from the traditional on-premise database model to cut costs.

Oracle’s in June created a new revenue reporting structure that merged its cloud and software license businesses, which analysts have said gives little insight into the standalone performance of its cloud unit.

Oracle is a late entrant to the rapidly growing cloud-based software business, but has aggressively stepped up its efforts to catch up with rivals such as Workday Inc, Microsoft Corp and Salesforce.com Inc.

“Oracle’s growth in cloud services and license support of just 3 percent appears to be contradicting the strength in the overall cloud market,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager of Synovus Trust Co, which hold 152,500 shares in the company.

Last month, Workday reported a 35 percent jump in cloud subscription revenue, while Salesforce’s flagship product Sales Cloud grew 11 percent.

“Oracle is still dragging behind other old line enterprise software players like Microsoft in its transition to becoming a top cloud company,” said Morgan, whose firm also hold shares in Salesforce and Microsoft Corp.

The company’s net income rose to $2.33 billion, or 61 cents per share, in the second quarter ended Nov. 30. Excluding items, the company earned 80 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 78 cents.

Total revenue fell marginally to $9.56 billion, but brushed past analyst expectation of $9.52 billion.

Shares of the company were up at $48 in after-market trading.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

This Doctor Took His Diagnostic Tools and Bedside Manner Into His Business, to Great Effect

Just like every other winter, it’s likely that many will suffer from various bugs and ailments. The same might be said about your company. What potential illnesses are floating around your office? Do people get along, or is the culture crumbling before your very eyes? If something is wrong, how do you know? Were there warning signs you missed? How can you tell whether it’s a 24-hour bug or a long-term health crisis? The answers in business can be as ambiguous as they are in medical health.

Whatever your ailment, YPO member Elikem Tamaklo can prescribe just the right medicine. Tamaklo is a medical doctor specializing in emergency and tropical medicines, and is the Managing Director of Nyaho Medical Center in Accra, Ghana, a facility founded by his father that pioneered modern medicine in the country. Being a doctor and a business leader are jobs that require radically different skillsets, but Tamaklo found several elements of the disparate experiences that overlapped a surprising amount.

1. Diagnose Continuously

With his expertise in emergency and tropical medicine, Tamaklo knows doctors must be rapid, accurate diagnosticians. “I actually love thrillers and love mystery and love problem solving, and I think that’s why I like what I’m doing now…You always have a problem where you’re trying to find out what the root cause is and trying to fix it…In terms of my work with an individual person coming into the ER, you’re trying to problem solve very quickly to identify risk, and then addressing the risk first,” he says. Tamaklo has taken that same diagnostic approach from medicine into his experience in management. “Every time in my mind,” he says, “[I’m] looking at how we are organizing ourselves to deal with the next crisis, because there’s always a crisis awaiting.” If you’re not able to quickly assess the situation, you can make critical mistakes early on and doom yourself to failure before you even begin.

2. Recognize the Lives at Stake

Medicine can be emotionally draining, but empathy is key for Tamaklo. This was first instilled in his student days: “I was privileged to train in a very forward-thinking medical school, which brought a lot of empathy into the education. So communication skills, understanding patients, patient centricity in decision-making,” he shares. “To be a better doctor requires you to empathize…If you try to detach yourself, that’s actually the wrong thing. You have to embrace it, and you have to embrace the humanity of the situation in front of you, because you’re dealing with people,” he reflects. He goes on, “To be a great doctor means that you have to understand where people are at. The family can become part of the problem. When you’re making a decision, you’re not making a decision just because that person is in front of you. You’re actually thinking a lot about the consequence of the decision.” In business, leaders need to recognize the humanity of both their customers and their employees.

3. Get Buy In

Medicine has taught Tamaklo a great deal about influence and persuasion. He explains, “When you are the doctor, you have all the power. You are literally the one making decisions, unless the patient is well. But in an emergency situation, you have to make very quick decisions, so most times everyone follows your lead.” While they may fall in line in an emergency, it’s not always simple. You do have to use a lot of influence to get people to understand why you’re doing certain things and to make sure they are willing to accept it,” he says. The real challenge is getting genuine buy in. “When you are working as a manager, or working in an organization, actually getting people to follow you – not just because you’ve said it, but because they believe in it – is really interesting and very tricky,” he describes. This shared belief is difficult to achieve, but critical for success.

4. Cultivate Teamwork

Traditionally in medicine, doctors were idolized, often going unchallenged. Tamaklo says this is an attitude that still lingered in Ghana when he became managing director of the hospital. He was faced with a dilemma: “How do you change culture, moving away from the demigod, which is what healthcare historically was, to a more team sport?” he asks. He was particularly cognizant of the emotional challenges that came with being in healthcare, explaining, “You can only deal with it once you’re working as a team. You can’t handle it yourself, otherwise you’ll go mad.” In keeping with his no-ego approach, Tamaklo also advises, Surround yourself with experts. I think I was not ever the smartest person, but I was very much a learner, and very much wanting to improve myself…I’m thankful for mentors. I’m thankful for people who have been in the business for a long time, because I had those people in my life,” he shares. When the doctors and other medical professionals see their managing director seek outside advice, they may be more likely to do the same, and to lean more on their team.

5. Reflect

While Tamaklo knows that doctors need to be quick and decisive in an emergency, he also knows when it’s time to pause and think. You have to always reflect,” he emphasizes, explaining, “When you have lots of people’s lives at stake – not just your staff’s lives, but also the lives of patients – you really second guess yourself a lot.” If you’ve surrounded yourself with mentors, experts, and colleagues that believe in teamwork, the reflection process will be fruitful. Tamaklo enthuses, “I’m excited about this year, because I think this is the year we really start executing.” You may find yourself reflecting on a happier future!

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world’s premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

A Southwest Airlines Captain Turned a Plane Around For the Most Bizarre Reason Ever. (Here's the (Mostly) Happy Ending Nobody Could Figure Out)

The captain’s announcement on Southwest Airlines flight #3606 to Dallas last week certainly got passengers’ attention.

They’d departed Seattle and were now over Idaho–but they’d have to go back to Seattle, the captain said, after a human heart had accidentally been left aboard. 

I imagine you reading that on your phone, and needing some verification. So, imagine how people aboard the flight felt. But yes: a human heart.

Passengers reacted with shock, Dr. Andrew Gottschalk, who was aboard, told the Seattle Times. They Googled to figure out how long a human heart can remain viable for transplant (mere hours, as it turns out). And the mood changed. People were just “happy to save a life,” he said.

But then, the plane landed. The story spread People started asking the obvious question: Had a life actually been saved?

Because hospitals in the area didn’t report any scheduled heart transplants. Southwest Airlines didn’t apparently know, or at least was not in a position to say. The airline reported that:

“[W]e learned of a life-critical cargo shipment onboard the aircraft that was intended to stay in Seattle for delivery to a local hospital. Therefore, we made the decision to return to Seattle as it was absolutely necessary…”

And to make things more uncomfortable, back in Seattle, the flight was delayed another five hours due to a mechanical issue. But hey, it was a life-saving mission, right?

As it turns out: Maybe not exactly.

Because the local newspaper in Seattle kept digging, and to her credit, reporter Paige Cornwell figured out where the heart was headed–not to a patient, waiting in a hospital for a life-saving transplant that very day, as many envisioned.

Instead, she wrote the human heart “was being sent to an area tissue processor to recover valves.” And while the valves will ultimately be used in transplants, there isn’t a waiting patient at this time.

“The most important part is that no one was waiting,” said Deanna Santana of Sierra Donor Services in Sacramento, Calif, who added that it was delivered with 12 hours to go before the tissue would no longer have been usable. “Despite the detour, all is well.”

So, the good news, if you can follow this–

  • Passengers were aghast to think that someone might have died if he or she had been waiting for the heart that had been inadvertently left on their flight.
  • But their fears were allayed because there was no waiting patient in the first place.

With no life-saving transplant patient waiting in Seattle, however, some of the passengers were no longer quite so happy to have had to turn around to begin with.

“As it turns out, there was nothing critical about the shipment,” Dr. Gottschalk, told the newspaper after the update. “The shipment may as well have been a suitcase.”

Amazon and Apple: Here's the $3 Billion Difference

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Let’s talk about Amazon, Apple, New York City, and Austin, Texas.

New York got half of Amazon’s HQ2 pseudo-headquarters, but the cost was high: $3 billion reportedly for a guarantee of 25,000 jobs. And now the deal faces a serious backlash, with the New York City Council holding hearings and demanding a renegotiation. (They’re not likely to change much, but it tells you how the council members think their constituents feel about the whole thing.)

Juxtapose that with Austin, which has paid a comparative pittance to entice Apple to build its largest employment hub outside of Cupertino, California: 15,000 total jobs.

In fact, Apple is doubling down on an expansive workforce, adding a few thousand more jobs in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, and hundreds more in New York, Pittsburgh, Boston, Boulder, Colorado, and Portland, Oregon. 

All of which leads to some obvious questions: Here you have the #1 and #2 tech companies in America on any given day. They both need to expand and employ thousands of people. Do cities need to offer big breaks to get them to build and create jobs? 

And if governments are going to spend this kind of money — $125,000 per job in the case of Amazon and New York — maybe it would be better to spend it in smaller chunks, boosting a wider array of startups, small businesses, and even existing firms.

Only problem: Smaller businesses don’t have the kind of massive marketing, public relations, and lobbying budgets to make these kinds of deals happen in the first place. 

Here’s what else I’m reading today:

Half of Google’s workers aren’t treated like the other employees

An internal training document reveals that Google’s temp workers, vendors, and contractors (known internally as TVCs) are treated very differently than its full-time employees. Perks like free Google t-shirts? Only for full-timers, who make up 50.05 percent of the company. Google’s all-hands meetings and professional development training programs are similarly exclusive. It’s due to concerns over information leaks and the risk of being identified as a joint employer (which would cost Google a pretty penny).

Could you give up your smartphone for a year?

If so, you could win $100,000 in a contest hosted by Vitaminwater. Ironically, you can only enter by posting a photo to Twitter or Instagram–and if you’re selected, you’ll have to pass a polygraph test once the year ends. Science says spending less time on your phone will make you happier, so ditching the phone could be worth your time, whether you win all that money or not.

Americans aren’t retiring at 65 anymore

Median wages have barely changed in 20 years. Many employers offer 401(k)s instead of pension plans. The result: Nearly 10 million Americans over the age of 65 are still working today. Luckily, Americans are also living longer than ever before, but that’s hardly an excuse–especially for workers with health issues or disabilities.

The 8 best brand moves of 2018

Every once in a while, an inflection point for your brand comes along. How you respond can make or break you. Toyota, for example, gave a free truck to a heroic nurse whose car got torched during California’s deadly Camp Fire. An IKEA in Catania, Italy, literally went to the dogs when staffers opened the store’s doors to local stray canines. They’re just two of the many companies that handled those moments perfectly in 2018.

These co-founders really want to get into your bathroom

Need a new bathroom? If you live in New York or New Jersey, new startup Block Renovation promises to simplify your renovation process: no more bidding wars, upcharges, or unexpected results. The most interesting part isn’t what the company does, though. It’s who the company’s founders are: Luke Sherwin, one of Casper’s five co-founders, and ex-Rent the Runway executive Koda Wang. Keep an eye on this duo.

Self-Driving Cars? Don't Hold Your Breath

Yeah, yeah, I know. Self-driving cars are just around the corner. Any day now. They’re being tested everywhere. They’re going to revolutionize transportation. Put thousands of Uber drivers and teamsters out of work. Don’t hold your breath.

Despite conventional wisdom, AI programmers haven’t been able to solve basic problems, like identifying pedestrians, or differentiating between dogs and children. AI programmers have totally failed to implement programs that exhibit anything resembling common sense, which is exactly what’s needed to drive in a world full of humans.

According to a recent article on NPR, in California (the only state that requires the reporting of automobile deaths from autonomous vehicles) there have been three deaths in about 10 and 15 million miles of autonomous driving, That compares VERY unfavorably to conventional driving, where it would typically take 260 million miles to result in three deaths.

According to the Guardian, a whistleblower at Uber recently revealed that Uber’s self-driving program results in an accident every 15,000 miles. By comparison, the average human gets in 3 to 4 accidents over 65 years while driving an average of 13,474 miles a year, for roughly one accident every 250,000 miles. That’s a pretty big delta for a technology that’s supposedly right around the corner:

Self-driving cars are particularly hazardous to pedestrians, according to NPR, because their ability to recognize pedestrians somewhat more than 90 percent of the time. Humans, by contrast, are incredibly good at spotting other humans, with a success rate probably around 99.99 percent. Even AI proponents at Carnegie Mellon admit that a five year old child can out perform AI when it comes to common sense decisions. As NPR explains:

“[autonomous vehicles] can’t figure out what a pedestrian is or [what] a pedestrian is going to do. They can’t separate a child from a dog. Sometimes a tree branch overhanging the road will be taken as something in the way.”

Such limitations have huge consequences, as when an autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian because it couldn’t perceive that she was walking a bicycle. Similarly, simply slapping some stickers on a stop sign–an action that wouldn’t fool a toddler–can confuse a self-driving car.

And that’s far, far beyond the capability of any AI program, because it literally requires human intelligence.

Thus, according to the Guardian, so-called “self-driving” cars will always need a human being present to “take the wheel” when the AI program fails. It should seem obvious, though, that any automobile that requires a human “minder” isn’t really self-driving; it’s just doing cruise control on steroids.

So, while cars will be able to parallel park on their own, and function reasonably well in environments, like freeways, where human behavior is well-delineated, it seems highly unlikely, despite all the rosy hype, that fully autonomous cars are in our near future. Barring the emergence of the “singularity” (which seems unlikely), self-driving cars will remain an oxymoron.

But, but… what about all the breakthroughs we’ve been seeing in AI?

Not ready for prime time, I’m afraid. While AI programmers have successfully improved their programs’ ability to play games with bounded, well defined rules, they’ve been stumped when comes to operating inside environments (like businesses) where the rules are flexible and unbounded.

This is not to say that AI–as currently implemented–can’t be useful. Facial recognition, for example, is good enough to be useful to law enforcement. AI programs can play games (which have bounded rules) much better than humans. AI is excellent at looking for patterns in huge data sets. But none of those functions require common sense, which is required for a fully autonomous vehicle.

I fully expect to get plenty of pushback on this column because I’ve been making similar observations about AI literally for decades and I always get exact same pushback. Every freakin’ time. I’ve come to the conclusion that arguing with AI true believers is like arguing with fundamentalists about the end of the world which )like the long-awaited “singularity”) never seems to actually arrive. 

Alibaba-backed Lazada appoints new CEO; second change in 2018

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Lazada Group, a Southeast-Asian e-commerce company backed by Alibaba Group Holding, appointed Pierre Poignant as its new chief executive officer (CEO) on Thursday as part of its succession planning.

Poignant, the company’s executive president, will succeed Lucy Peng as CEO with immediate effect, Lazada said in a statement. Peng will remain executive chairwoman.

Poignant’s appointment marks Lazada’s second CEO change this year. He has led the development and expansion of Lazada’s logistics footprint in Southeast Asia, which is shaping up as a major battleground for technology giants.

One of the 18 founders of Alibaba, veteran executive Peng took over as the company’s CEO earlier this year, after Alibaba doubled its investment in Lazada to $4 billion. She replaced Lazada’s founder Max Bittner.

Launched in 2012, Lazada operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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