Friday, May 18, 2018

Recycled Tech

I've oft wondered where all of the techie stuff consumers purchase - from electric cars to smartphones - go once their lifespan is over. Knowing that the world's most coveted metals, are used in batteries, must somehow be reclaimed or not?
Listing of Rare Earth Elements

Batteries are unclean. They contain all sorts of toxic chemicals and metals. For example, a Tesla, uses huge lithium ion batteries that weigh thousands of pounds. These batteries are dirty to make and when their life is over, about 5 years or so, they must be disposed of into a toxic waste dump. Not very green. In fact, these batteries negate any reduction in greenhouse gas admissions and wind-up having a larger pollution factor than fossil fuel operated vehicles.

There is reclamation occurring, as waste companies around the world, sort through piles of lithium-ion batteries from cars to laptops. Termed "urban mining", this reclamation is increasing as the hunt for cobalt, lithium, and rare earth metals needed to produce batteries is causing a global shortage of these key elements.

For example, electronic waste reclamation was valued at $18.8b in South Korea in 2016 , meeting roughly 22% of S. Korea's total rare earth metals demand.  These reclaimed metals are now part of the supply chain for two of the world's major battery makers, Samsung and LG. Spent lithium-ion batteries and electronic components are recycled to extract lithium phosphate, cobalt, nickel, gold, and other metals.

Electric cars use thousands of pounds of lithium-ion batteries
This is all great, but the demand for batteries increases each day. China, the biggest user of rare earth metals goes to countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chile to fulfill its appetite. Reclamation helps but the need is huge and with that demand has come higher prices. For example, cobalt prices have seen a 4x increase in the last two years.

There is a lot of research going on to come up with a substitute for lithium-ion batteries but so far nothing that can be commercialized. Within the next decade a replacement must occur: first, because of the negative impact on the environment and secondly, because they are not called rare earth elements for nothing.

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top Risk For Businesses: The Skills Gap

The metric that hits the top mark and is currently at an all-time high is the percentage of businesses that identify a lack of skilled employees as their worst management problem. The 'skills' gap' has been a challenge for some time and it is getting worse. It spans all types of jobs from manufacturing to IT to marketing to HR - and it is occurring at all management levels.

Skills' shortages are growing as a major long-term business issue that must be addressed. Companies will need to look at training programs to boost skills among existing workers, and work more closely with educational institutions to ensure the right skills are being taught at an early age.

What are the right skills? Maybe not what you think. Evidence suggests that it is not technical know-how, but soft-skills that are equally, or more, important than technical skills.

Currently, according to LinkedIn, the skills most sought after by companies were:

- Communication
- Organization
- Teamwork
- Punctuality
- Critical Thinking
- Social Skills
- Creativity
- Interpersonal Communication
- Adaptability
- Having a Friendly Personality

Not surprising, LinkedIn's list is very similar to the top 10 skills identified by the World Economic Forum:

- Complex Problem Solving
- Critical Thinking
- Creativity
- People Management
- Coordinating With Others
- Emotional Intelligence
- Judgment and Decision Making
- Service Orientation
- Negotiation
- Cognitive Flexibility

The skills' gap is a key risk for businesses, and the skills they are looking for are soft-skills rather than hard (technical). So, the question becomes: where does one go to get the required soft-skills?

Educational institutions, at all levels, have historically been much better at teaching technical know how than cultivating soft-skills. Teaching models where students have to learn to work together - including across cultural divides must now be emphasized as never before.

Employees, at all levels, know that their skills directly impact their earning power - as the saying goes: "the learning curve is the earning curve."  Additionally, businesses have an incredible opportunity to gain competitive advantage by training current employees in the 'missing soft-skills'.

In a world increasingly saturated with social media and with renewed focus on customer service, the need for mastering soft-skills is paramount and not going away.  Talent is and will in the future be the #1 source of competitive advantage.

Jim Lavorato
Principal, Fund-House Ventures

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cannabis: High On Branding

I've, like I'm sure you have, watched with a mix of curiosity and awe the introduction of cannabis into U.S. mainstream consumerism - an industry estimated to reach over $50 billion within 8 years.

As more States legalize cannabis it is fast becoming the base for many health/wellness and beauty products vs. the counter-culture drug that will make you high.  Brands are being forged around lifestyle products that address beauty and health issues - and they are being developed FAST.

From easing menstrual cramps and arthritic pain to cosmetics, companies like L'Oreal and Aveda are about to bring to market cannabis infused beauty products that are manufactured with cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive substance that lacks THC (the high producing drug in cannabis).

A slew of new Branded beauty products
The trend is that the old taboos against cannabis are fast eroding in the face of its health and cosmetic benefits.  Brands being developed and built on this trend will very lucrative to many new businesses large and small.

Brands reflect what's happening in the culture and our culture is changing regarding our views on cannabis. This acceptance will push the entire cannabis industry to high heights over the next few years.

Keep in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Branding Workshop: Forging An Iconic Brand

Fund-House Workshops
Yesterday, the first presentation of 'Forging An Iconic Brand' was made. The workshop delves into the whys and how-tos regarding the development and sustainability of a Brand.

The seven steps to Brand development and creation of a brand narrative were discussed in an informal setting with heavy input from the attendees. Logo design and the proper use of colors was covered. The development of a corporate vision and the meshing of that vision with the culture and brand as one single message were the main topics of the workshop.

Branding and imaging on social media platforms was explored with the goal of communicating an on-brand narrative that would be universally delivered to selected consumers. 'What's behind your logo' is a workshop designed for the business that is already existing but needs an overhaul or redo of its branding needs.

'What's Behind Your Logo: Forging an Iconic Brand' will next be presented at a convenient Valley venue: the date and time of which will be scheduled within two months. Please look for notice of this upcoming event in this blog.

Jim Lavorato

Responses to the Workshop:

"Very thorough and probably the most useful session I have seen so far. Very concise. Thank you again for your time. Well spent for sure!"

Paul Schleiper, CEO/Founder, Amazing Things

"I have to say, the class on Branding far exceeded my expectations and I want to say Thanks. I work with young, natural products companies and branding is always a big topic. Appreciate your insights and your matter-of-fact, no nonsense approach. Thanks again for a great presentation.

Leila Bakkum, Partner, Matrix Marketing