How ‘trauma cleaners’ can make over $300,000 a year clearing up after hoarders and crime scenes

Hazmat facemask
This specialty is referred to as “trauma cleaning”.

  • After Tugrul Cirakoglu finished his studies, he started a business cleaning up after house parties.
  • The 29-year-old noticed that the worse the mess, the higher the price he could charge for a job.
  • Cirakoglu specialized in “trauma cleaning,” cleaning up crime scenes and “unattended deaths.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Specialize and pick your own niche,” is a piece of advice most entrepreneurs will have heard at some point throughout their careers, however, 29-year-old Tugrul Cirakoglu seems to really have taken it to heart.

In September 2014, after graduating and struggling to find work elsewhere, Cirakoglu started a cleaning company that started by cleaning up after parties, and has since progressed to tidying up after hoarders and clearing crime scenes, according to an interview he gave to Vice Nederland.

This specialty is referred to as “trauma cleaning”. Taking on the tough jobs that seemingly no one else wants to do seems to work out in Cirakoglu’s favor, at least financially, as according to his interview with Vice, he’s regularly called out to clean-up jobs that can earn him up to several thousand dollars a day.

The Amsterdam-based cleaner regularly posts images online to showcase his work. However, a word of warning that some of the images on his Instagram account make for graphic viewing that requires a strong stomach, so scroll his feed with discretion.

How it all started

For Cirakoglu, it all started with much more inoffensive work.

Though “student digs” and “post-house-party” scenes aren’t exactly renowned for being the cleanest places on Earth, they’re certainly not in the same ballpark as most of the jobs Cirakoglu comes across nowadays.

Five years ago, Cirakoglu had earned a Master’s degree in Management & International Business, yet he was still struggling to find a job.

Kitchen clean-up after Christmas dinner. #Party #Christmas #Dinner #Cleanup #Kitchen #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Feb 8, 2017 at 8:03am PST

With a little over $300 in start-up capital, he founded his company, “Frisse Kater”. Though it initially focused on “deep-cleaning” after house parties, Cirakoglu soon started noticing that, the dirtier the job, the better they paid.

“The more extreme, the more lucrative,” appears to be the rule, according to the entrepreneur. It’s for this reason that Cirakoglu decided to focus purely on extreme and exceptionally dirty jobs.

He promises his customers such a thorough cleaning job, that it will be “as though nothing had ever happened”.

Trauma clean-up. #Trauma #Biohazard #Cleanup #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Feb 8, 2017 at 8:05am PST

Often, there are serious issues with hygiene in the homes Cirakoglu visits.

From hoarders who compulsively collect objects in their homes to the point where they’re drowning in clutter to people who soil themselves and their own homes, there are probably few things Cirakoglu hasn’t seen.

In May, a housing association asked Cirakoglu to shovel 150 kilograms of human feces out of a bathroom as residents had complained about the stench. Though the toilet had been clogged for some time, the resident had just continued to relieve themselves to the point where it had overflowed with waste and covered the floor.

Hoarding clean-up. #Hoarding #Biohazard #Cleanup #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Jun 19, 2019 at 1:00pm PDT

“In the end, the resident would simply go to the threshold of the bathroom and use the doorstep to relieve themselves,” Cirakoglu told Vice.

In 2017, Cirakoglu was called out to a job in Eindhoven, where it turned out that a large individual had passed away without anyone noticing. The death had remained “unattended” for five months, to the point where there was very little left in the way of discernable remains. The odor was so substantial that, when the police opened the windows, the guests in the hotel opposite were forced to leave.

The bodily fluids and human waste had spread over 10 square meters of floor space over the months. The house was in such an unimaginable state that the landlord was willing to pay the first price Cirakoglu offered in order to clean the house thoroughly.

Pigeon poop clean-up. #Poop #Pigeon #Biohazard #Cleanup #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:50pm PDT

As well as places where incidents have occurred, Cirakoglu often attends to scenes where violent crimes have taken place. The cleaner explained that certain types of accidents or death entail more cleaning than others.

Heavier-duty jobs can cost up to $4,000

Cirakoglu divides his jobs into categories to ascertain a price. The “heavier” the category, the higher the price. For example, cleaning out 150 kilograms of human waste from an overflowing bathroom would fall into the heaviest category, costing around $4,000 a day, he told Vice.

Even for a job in the lightest category, you can easily make somewhere in the region of $2,000. Last year, Cirakoglu made nearly $300,000 in turnover and he thinks he can definitely increase that figure to $1 million a year.

He’s earned this enviable salary despite working in a field he was never trained for – he is self-taught and for four months, he read everything there was to find on the internet about the toughest cleaning jobs.

Hoarding clean-up. #Hoarding #Cleanup #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Aug 26, 2018 at 8:12pm PDT

He learned everything about cleaning up bodily fluids, which cleaning materials to use, as well as which disinfectants and which degreasers are the best for which jobs. From brushes and shovels to gloves and disposable overalls, he researched it all himself.

He didn’t have to go through any kind of inspection for a permit as there isn’t one for this sort of field, which Cirakoglu finds “weird”. The only licenses required are those for transporting medical waste, which can’t just be disposed of in normal trash receptacles. Otherwise, there are no other permits or laws, according to the self-made cleaning entrepreneur.

Hazardous air and blood

Not only is the work incredibly dirty; it can also be rather dangerous.

Cirakoglu explained that, when someone has passed away and their remains are left for a considerable period of time, their body begins to decompose and produces a sort of dust.

Hoarding clean-up. #Hoarding #Cleanup #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Aug 27, 2018 at 12:33pm PDT

As soon as you start sweeping or vacuuming, you start unsettling this dust and blowing it around into the surrounding air.

“If you breathe it in, you’re basically breathing in parts of the deceased person. You can get contract all sorts of diseases from that,” he told Vice. He also warned that you need to be careful with blood – even if blood from a deceased person has been around for some time, there’s still a risk of infection.

Customers pay a danger premium for these kinds of jobs

When Cirakoglu gets called out, he goes armed with special equipment like special vacuum cleaners equipped with heavy filters that prevent bacteria from being blown into the air. The equipment also comes at a hefty price – according to Cirakoglu, this type of cleaner can cost up to $1,600.

The extreme situations in which the cleaner finds himself aren’t what stop him in his tracks; it isn’t the dirt or the graphic scenes but the devastating story behind each one.

Hoarding clean-up. #Hoarding #Cleanup #nofilter

A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:37am PDT

“I don’t find it shocking that people are murdered; that’s been happening for as long as we can remember. What surprises me is the prevalence of loneliness and mental health problems in the Netherlands,” he told Vice, highlighting the fact that the notion of a person willing to use a clogged bathroom for months on end is in stark contrast to the beautiful image of the Netherlands often painted out.

“You ask yourself how someone can lie dead in his home for five months unnoticed without anyone caring,” reflected Cirakoglu. “It’s then that you really start to notice that the Netherlands is actually one of the most individualistic countries in the world.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

You can see exactly where your hometown would have been while dinosaurs were on Earth using this digital globe

Earth
When the first dinosaurs began roaming Earth 220 million years ago, New York City was far closer to Morocco than it is today.

  • A digital globe makes it possible to see where your hometown would have been 750 million years ago.
  • Scientist Ian Webster was the brains behind the digital globe.
  • The globe shows how much change Earth has experienced over hundreds of millions of years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. While 750 million years may seem like nothing in relation to its age, a lot of can change in the space of 750 million years.

300 million years ago the world consisted of just one single continent: Pangaea – 200 to 150 million years ago it started to split into two parts: Laurasia and Gondwana.

With time and a very slow shifting of our tectonic plates, our planet morphed into what it is today.

A digital globe rendering of the Ancient Earth makes it possible to see where your hometown would have been 750 million years ago – 150 million years before the first multi-cellular life forms developed.

Using data from a software platform called G-Plates, scientist Ian Webster created a digital globe where you can see where and when you would have lived at various points in Earth’s history.

The map consists of 91 paleogeographic maps spanning the Phanerozoic and late Neoproterozoic periods, illustrating the ancient configuration of the ocean basins and continents, as well as important features including mountains, shallow sea, and deep oceans.

We searched where New York City would have been at different stages throughout history – the pale pink marker shows where New York City would have been.

Devonian Period. Life on land becomes more complex as plants develop. Insects diversify and fish develop sturdy fins, which eventually evolve into limbs. The first vertebrates walk on land. Oceans and coral reefs host a diverse range of fish, sharks, sea scorpions, and cephalopods.
At this stage, life on land was becoming more complex as plants developed. Fish developed sturdy fins that eventually evolved into limbs.

Around 400 million years ago, the first vertebrates began walking on land. The Earth’s landscape looked very different to how it does now.

Middle Triassic. The Earth is recovering from the Permian-Triassic extinction. Small dinosaurs begin to appear. Therapsids and archosaurs emerge, along with the first flying vertebrates.
At this stage, small dinosaurs were beginning to appear on Earth, along with the first flying vertebrates.

When the first dinosaurs began roaming Earth 220 million years ago, New York City was far closer to Morocco than it is today.

Mammals and birds continue to evolve into modern forms. Early hominids emerge in Africa. Use the ← and → keys to step through time Paleogeographic maps by C.R. Scotese, visualization developed by Ian Webster ·  Details » 20 million years ago
20 million years ago, the first hominids were emerging in Africa.

While the continents of North America and South America may look a lot more familiar than the previous landscapes, hominids were only just starting to appear at this stage.

Researchers have suggested that the Earth’s plates will eventually meld into a “supercontinent” in roughly 300 million years, which they’ve dubbed Amasia.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to avoid the 9 ‘thinking traps’ stopping you from achieving your goals

depressed lonely
In cognitive behavioural therapy, all thinking traps have one thing in common: as a general rule, they aren’t realistic, nor are they helpful.

  • As soon as something goes wrong in our lives, we tend to fall into negative “thinking traps”.
  • Not only do they prevent us from achieving our goals; they can have a serious effect on our health.
  • Psychologist Elke Overdick says there’s a way to rid yourself of some of these thinking traps.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The moment something unforeseen happens, many of us tend to slip into negative thinking habits.

Not only do these thinking patterns drag you down when it comes to achieving your goals – they can, in extreme cases, be detrimental to your health.

“Humans are very creative when it comes to finding new ways of thinking unconstructively and unrealistically,” explained psychologist Elke Overdick. “But in my experience, these nine – with which I enjoy working very much – are the most common.”

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, all thinking traps have one thing in common. As a general rule, they don’t meet the criteria for appropriate thinking:

  1. Thinking should be realistic.
  2. They should be helpful.

That may sound pretty obvious but it’s hard to ensure all your thoughts always fulfill these two criteria.

Take perfectionism or people-pleasing as examples: neither thought pattern is realistic or helpful and yet many of us fall into these thinking traps. Unfortunately, by the time we notice, it’s usually too late.

“To be honest, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who isn’t affected by thinking traps,” said Overdick.

In an interview with Insider, she explained how you can manage or even rid yourself of these negative thinking patterns.

Being an overly harsh critic

Self-deprecation is one of the most common and worst thought traps.
Self-deprecation is one of the most common and worst thought traps.

Self-deprecation can be very damaging.

“I think it’s the worst thinking trap of them all,” said Overdick.

If you keep telling yourself you’re not likable or loveable, that means you’re focusing single-mindedly on your weaknesses.

“And if you only look at your weaknesses,” she said, “then, of course, it will be hard to like yourself because you’re not picking up on your strengths or your potential.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

If you’re doing the above, are your thought patterns reasonable? Probably not.

“If you have friends or there are people in your family who enjoy spending time with you, that’s evidence that, realistically, you have positive or lovable qualities”.

As well as bearing this in mind, it might also be helpful to make a list of your own positive qualities.

If, on the other hand, it’s your work you’re devaluing and you genuinely believe you aren’t good enough for your job, you need to bear in mind that companies are always thinking about how to fill vacancies.

When negative thoughts enter your head, actively try to remind yourself to be realistic by saying “I am lovable” or “I make an important contribution”.

Catastrophizing

stressed office worker
If anxious thoughts get out of hand and become unrealistic, you’ve fallen into a thinking trap.

“Anxious thoughts can be rational and, to a certain extent, serve an important purpose,” said Overdick.

“If we’re afraid or worried, we may be able to better prepare ourselves for or avoid situations that endanger us — however, if the thoughts get out of hand and become unrealistic, you’ve fallen into a thinking trap.

How to get out of the thinking trap

Overdick likes to work with five questions against fears and inhibitions. These questions can help bring your fearful thoughts down to a realistic level and work as a good guard against catastrophic thinking. Here they are:

1. What’s the worst that could happen?

2. What can I do to prevent “the worst that could happen”?

3. How likely is it the worst thing will happen?

4. What can I do if the worst thing does happen?

5. What will it mean for my future if the worst thing happens?

If you take a moment to answer these questions, you may find that the problem is not as bad as you’d previously thought and, equally, that the worst-case scenario isn’t either.

Rather than worrying, try saying to yourself: “I can handle it” or “There is always a way”.

Taking on too much responsibility

Those who want to take care of everything end up more susceptible to burnout.
Aiming to take care of everything will only make you more susceptible to burnout.

Do you sometimes feel responsible for things that are out of your hands? Do you often feel like you want to influence things you can’t change?

That’s a sign you have a tendency to take on too much responsibility.

While it may sound a positive trait, unfortunately, your behavior can also have a negative impact on others, as Overdick explains: “People in this thinking trap sometimes tend to incapacitate others without intending to and, obviously, with no malicious intent at all — but not delegating tasks to others might prevent those people from learning something and progressing themselves.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

Sometimes you can take the time to ask yourself whether something is really your job, or you can ask yourself whether you can actually influence a situation.

Remind yourself: “That’s not my job”, “I have no influence over this” or “I’ll let another person do this for their own development”.

Dealing only in absolutes

demands
Unfortunately, you have to face the facts: you are not the measure of all things.

We all have values and standards we adhere to in life.

People who fall into the trap of absolute demands, “musts”, and “shoulds” find it very important to adhere to these values — perhaps even to an exaggerated degree.

“If someone doesn’t adhere to your standards and you can’t accept that, you’ll end up angry. Often we forget that our values aren’t universal.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

Unfortunately, you have to face the facts: you are not the measure of all things.

“Sometimes it’s also good to be in others’ shoes. Other people have different rules that may be just as good and valuable to them as yours are to you,” Overdick explains. “The trick to managing this trap lies in accepting that there are basically no universal values and standards.”

Values and standards are subjective — they vary from person to person and are influenced by things like upbringing, culture, religion, and education.

Alternatives thoughts for when you find yourself stuck in the “must” or “should” mindset are “I am not the measure of all things” or “standards and values are subjective”.

Perfectionism

mirror
If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you aren’t just putting yourself under a lot of pressure: you can’t develop any further either.

Salvador Dali once said: “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”

Perfectionists expect themselves and others to be perfect and end up failing massively.

“It’s unrealistic and unattainable,” said Overdick.

However, perfectionism shouldn’t be confused with striving to improve.

It’s useful to strive to better oneself so you can develop, progress, and be successful. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is not.

“If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you aren’t just putting yourself under a lot of pressure; you can’t develop any further either because, without mistakes, you can’t learn.

How to get out of the thinking trap

The goal should be to see the positive in mistakes and to accept one’s own mistakes, as well as those of others.

“Mistakes are a learning experience and help you to progress. They teach you how to do things differently and how to get closer to your goals.

Instead of looking into the past with an “Oh God, how could I have done that” mentality, Overdick said it’s more productive to think of the future and say to yourself: “Okay, that went badly and I did it wrong. Next time I’ll do it better.”

Alternatives phrases to say to yourself include “mistakes get me ahead in the long-run”, “mistakes are human” or even “mistakes make me likable”.

“After all, nobody wants to be around someone perfect all the time,” said the psychologist.

People-pleasing

people-pleasing party drinks woman man
It’s just unrealistic to aim to be liked by everyone.

Can you think of a single well-known public figure who has ever managed to be liked by everyone?

The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi? Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon?

While all these people were admired by many, they were by no means liked by everyone. This is demonstrative of how unrealistic it is to aim to be liked by everyone.

How to get out of the thinking trap

“I think it’s very important to remind yourself that you don’t like everyone,” said Overdick.

“Whether or not someone likes you depends on so many different factors, over which you simply often have no influence at all. For example, what does the person I’m trying to impress like? If he likes tall blonds, I can’t change that I’m small and dark-haired.”

Alternatives things you can say to yourself include “It’s enough if my friends like me”, “I don’t like everyone either” or “I don’t have to be popular, it’s enough if people respect me”.

Your telephone provider doesn’t need to like you; it’s enough if you get what you need.

Trying to mind-read

man laptop meeting cafe coffee
Is your thinking rational or accurate? Probably not if you’re trying to read someone’s mind.

Sometimes it can be as little as a glance or an ambiguous comment — those who get caught up in attempting to mind-read end up interpreting others’ actions or remarks as being directed against themselves, which leads to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

How to get out of the thinking trap

Is your thinking rational and accurate? Probably not if you’re trying to read someone’s mind.

Maybe there’s a completely different reason for the behavior you’ve picked up on.

For example, could it have something to do with the fact that the other person is stressed or under pressure? Is there a reason for his behavior that has nothing to do with you?

Counter-thoughts at times when you find yourself worrying about what someone else is thinking might include: “This behavior isn’t necessarily intended for me” or “It’s their issue; not mine”.

Self-victimizing

man orange t-shirt serious discussion argument glasses
If you can’t solve the problem alone, get help from a colleague, your manager or talk to HR.

Do you often find yourself saying: “Everyone else is to blame, not me”?

People who think like that are usually over-simplifying, according to Overdick.

“On the one hand it’s easy to cede responsibility; on the other hand — and this is the big disadvantage of this thinking trap — you end up losing sight of your own potential to influence a situation, as well as opportunities to develop yourself.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

Question the extent to which you’ve contributed to a situation.

Do you always get handed pointless, thankless tasks at work?

Well, had you ever stopped to think that, perhaps, you failed to mention that these tasks are a waste of time?

Have you ever asked to do something else? If not, then why aren’t you thinking about what you can do to change the situation?

If you can’t solve the problem alone, you can also get help — for example from a colleague, by talking to your manager or, in extreme cases, by talking to HR.

Remember to say to yourself “There’s always something I can do” or to ask yourself “How can I do something to change this?” before you start pointing fingers.

Kidding yourself when it comes to over-indulgence

whole 30 binge
Telling yourself the things that distract you from your goals are actually good for you is obviously an ineffective approach.

Sometimes it’s okay to indulge a little, but it can become problematic when you delude yourself into thinking something that isn’t all that good for you is somehow beneficial: it can prevent you from achieving your goals in the longterm.

“It’s good not to focus on goals and achievements constantly but, in the long run, continually indulging and focusing on things that distract you from what matters are actually good for you is obviously an ineffective approach,” said the psychologist.

“Unfortunately, as humans, we function in such a way that we want short term gratification but aren’t always prepared for the long term negative consequences. Take gambling addiction or food binges as an example: we’re looking for quick and immediate pleasure and, at the time, prefer to ignore the long-term negative consequences, like financial loss and weight gain.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

“I think the same logic can be applied here as for those who victimize themselves — you just need a bit of a kick up the behind,” said Overdick.

In general, it’s good to question yourself, to be critical, and to ask again and again what longterm drawbacks you may experience by seeking short term enjoyment. In that way, you can stop to consider what to do about it.

“It’s better to intervene with yourself as soon as possible.”

Useful affirmations such as “I can stand up for my own goals” may help you to stop and consider what needs to be done.

Practical tips to avoid thinking traps

happy hour friends
You can challenge your own thinking traps by finding a “sparring partner” to support you in changing your behavior, using their own experience and knowledge.

Thinking traps wouldn’t be so awful if we were able to recognize them and nip them in the bud immediately. Unfortunately, it’s usually only the case that we recognize the symptoms once they’re really getting out of hand.

One thing you can do to challenge your own thinking traps is to look for a “sparring partner”, which is basically someone who supports you using their own experience and knowledge — particularly any knowledge and experience that’s relevant to you.

“This can be anyone from a family member or partner to a good friend or colleague, and it can also be a coach or a therapist,” said Overdick, “as long as it isn’t someone who’ll be easily satisfied with your first answer.”

Another method is to write “counter-thoughts” on a small card and place them somewhere where you’ll look often during the day. It could be your wallet, your desk, or the front door — or you can also use a symbolic object.

“In psychology, we refer to these objects as ‘anchors’ — a new way of thinking ‘anchored’ into a postcard, a shell from a nice beach or a pretty piece of jewelry. The object itself is less important — it’s more important that you put it in a place where it will always actively remind you to think of the alternative.”

This is a great technique for those thoughts that resurface when you least expect them to, according to Overdick, “because they hit you even harder”.

It’s especially important that you’re reminded over and over again: you don’t adopt a new way of thinking overnight simply by flipping a switch. It takes a lot of repetition to get rid of your old thinking patterns.

“It’s like learning to play the piano — it’s not enough just to understand how a piece works; you need to consolidate what you learn through repetition and practice.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A daily 208-second ritual can boost your creativity and help you make choices, an international career coach says

ylva anderson
Leadership and teamwork coach Ylva Anderson believes that the pyramid model needs to be replaced by a “circle of creativity.”

  • Ylva Anderson is a coach in teamwork and leadership.
  • She explained that today’s style of leadership is outdated.
  • She thinks everyone should be “switching off” every day for 208 seconds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Team and leadership coach from May Strategies, Ylva Anderson thinks we should all be “shutting down for 208 seconds, every day.”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little frustrated by today’s organizations and leadership,” she said in a presentation titled: “Leadership: Are you ready to take a decision in 208 seconds?”.

The coach is confident not only that this method could be greatly beneficial for creativity in the workplace, but that we also need to change the way today’s leadership works.

Anderson has worked and published at various Swedish media companies – in television, radio, and print – for years.

She’s also an expert in dynamic communication and is currently involved in leadership training at The School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Rwanda.

The way we lead needs to change

Anderson said that in her work she meets managers and teams from different countries and industries every single day.

The coach described the way they work as fast-paced, disorganized, and stressful.

According to her, managers are prisoners of the rat-race – they work under enormous pressure, they have no motivation, and they’re exhausted.

In her opinion, they’re also not particularly innovative when it comes to changes in leadership.

“We’re doing more or less the same things we were at the turn of the 20th century – we’re working as though we’re in the early industrial era,” said the coach.

ylva anderson
According to Anderson, we need to mentally “log out” for exactly 208 seconds, or three and a half minutes every day.

She also highlighted that we’re still working according to a pyramid structure, where those in command are at the top and those who are contracted in are at the bottom – but what can we do to alter this way of working?

According to Anderson, the answer is actually “the most powerful tool of all”.

“It can change the world, it can change ourselves, it can bring about unexpected opportunities,” she said. “It’s creativity – the ability to adapt, transform, search for new methods, to improvise, and to play.

She believes that, in management and leadership, the pyramid model needs to be scrapped and replaced by a “circle of creativity” consisting of four elements.

1. Joint problem-solving

Communication and feedback, where everyone talks and discusses, where everyone is open to others’ ideas without judgment and every reflection and conclusion is welcome.

2. Co-operation and co-creation isn’t enough

The expert also proposed a new way of making decisions, where responsibility and decisions are taken together.

3. Management through training

This isn’t just about bosses training their coworkers, according to Anderson; we should all be learning from one another.

“We should help elevate each other to the highest level,” she said.

4. “Switching off” during the day

“We’re not cut out for the speedy, messy, stressy lives we lead – our brains are constantly on the boil. In the circle of creativity, we need time for reflection and pause,” said Anderson.

According to Anderson, “turning yourself off” during the day is the key to creativity, her suggestion being to mentally “log out” for exactly 208 seconds, or around three and a half minutes.

“If you take out 208 seconds a day or around three and a half minutes for a break, for silence, and for focus, you’ll notice a big difference,” said Anderson. “Those three and a half minutes do offer real results.”

“The next time you are stressed before making a decision, stop putting pressure on yourself,” she continued. “Instead, take a step back and give yourself those 208 seconds. I’m positive you’ll notice the difference.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A ‘sleep coach’ says bad sleep impacts performance more than diet or exercise, and reveals how to combat it

coffee tired caffeine
Bad sleep doesn’t just cause fatigue, irritability, memory problems and poor focus; it works against you in your work as well as in relationships.

  • Entrepreneurs, athletes, and high performers badly need adequate sleep.
  • Good sleep may be more important than diet or exercise, according to sleep coach Floris Wouterson.
  • Here are five tips the coach gave Insider to become a “super-sleeper.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“He’s a wonderfully creative person, but he shouldn’t be getting very little sleep,” Richard Branson once said, referring to Elon Musk’s late-night tweeting escapades.

Branson isn’t the only one who thinks Musk could benefit from similar advice.

“Entrepreneurs, athletes, and other high performers desperately need good sleep,” Floris Wouterson told Insider, claiming that sleep is even more important than eating or exercising well.

Author of the book “Superslapen,” Wouterson is the first self-proclaimed “sleep performance coach” in Europe.

“Although, that’s not exactly hard, considering I came up with the term myself,” he told Insider. “I’ve been researching everything I could find on optimal sleep for years.”

He then started coaching, with athletes and top managers claiming to benefit greatly from Wouterson’s approach. Wouterson, based in Flanders, Belgium, comes from an entrepreneurial family himself and since 2002, his wife has set up a number of sleeping comfort stores.

Over the past sixteen years, Wouterson spoke to thousands of customers and became increasingly intrigued by sleep, as he too had struggled with poor sleep for a period of time.

According to Wouterson, the consequences of bad sleep are hugely underestimated. “Fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration, forgetfulness… it works against you in your work as well as in your relationships. The risk of injuries or accidents also increases by 40%.”

The long-term effects of bad sleep can also be severe – depression and burn-out can take hold if you don’t relax. Here are the five tips Wouterson gave Insider to become a super-sleeper.

1. Forget the “eight hours of sleep is a must” myth

alarm clock
You have to find your own sleep rhythm, go to sleep at a fixed time, and get up at a fixed time as much as possible.

According to Wouterson, this rigid notion that you must sleep for eight hours can actually cause sleep stress.

“If you think you should sleep eight hours every night, it can work against you,” said the expert. Lying awake and staying in bed because you have to reach eight hours in bed is illogical according to Wouterson.

You have to find your own sleep rhythm, go to sleep at a fixed time, and get up at a fixed time as much as possible. “Don’t stay lying down – it’s a misconception that sleep will come naturally.”

2. Don’t believe stories about super-short sleep

margaret thatcher
Margaret Thatcher is famously said to have slept for only four hours a night.

Stories about CEOs or politicians who only need a few hours of sleep make them sound tough, but according to Wouterson, only a small percentage of people can genuinely cope with little sleep.

It’s possible to train to temporarily sleep less, he said. Wouterson coached Sanne Haarhuis, a pilot in hot-air balloon competitions, to regulate her sleeping pattern and endure heavy, multi-day races with a minimum of sleep. Wouterson also sees top athletes who can quickly refuel with napping.

“You can recharge your batteries with a 12-minute power nap for two hours,” said the sleep expert however, you have to wake up in time before you sink into a very deep sleep.

According to Wouterson, you can achieve this by, for example, holding a bunch of keys in your hand while taking a short nap. “As soon as you sink too deeply, your hand relaxes, the keys fall to the ground and you’re awake again.”

3. Small steps bring about big changes

bed
Letting your mind drift is one thing but, of course, brooding and pondering won’t help if you want to sleep.

Wouterson is convinced there isn’t just one quick fix to sleep better; there are several areas that demand your attention.

“80% of the five main sleeping problems are learned,” he said. You can achieve an enormous amount by taking small steps to alter your diet, exercise, and sleep routine, for example.

But self-examination, looking at your own attitude to sleep, is perhaps most important according to Wouterson.

4. Eat well and take a break from your phone

woman yawing drinking coffee
You can massively change the way you sleep by taking small steps to alter your diet, exercise, and sleep routine, according to the sleep expert.

Eating and resting your head are two things that require extra attention when it comes to ensuring a good night’s sleep.

Wouterson said to choose healthy food and to be careful with carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol, adding: “A good night’s sleep starts on your plate.”

Letting your mind drift is one thing but, of course, brooding and pondering won’t help if you want to sleep – negative media reports about “the state of affairs in the world” can keep you feeling worrisome, tossing and turning.

Wouterson advises you to focus on your own circle of influence – what are some challenges in your life you can influence yourself? Focus mainly on those things and try not to keep worrying too much about problems you can’t do much about.

A media diet can bring peace – make sure to put your smartphone away in the evening, a few hours before you go to sleep.

5. Employers should see their employees’ sleep as an investment

woman sleeping desk work nap
Offering sleep training or sleeping facilities can actually be a good investment for employers, according to Wouterson.

Keep going, slog away, work through lunch, soldier on, stay an extra hour – it may seem logical to squeeze as much as you can out of your employees but it’s actually counterproductive, according to Wouterson.

Businesses may see a drastic improvement in the performance of their employees when they’ve slept better. The number of mistakes decreases, while better decisions will take the company further.

“As an employer, you don’t exactly want to be in your employees’ bedrooms, but offering sleep training or sleeping facilities can actually be a good investment,” said Wouterson.

According to the sleep performance coach, this is already a common phenomenon in Japan.

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 lessons from ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ that will help you save up quickly

dollar bills in a wallet
One way to get on the right track with your money is by reading.

  • Reading is a fundamental step when attempting to improve your personal finances.
  • One of the most acclaimed books is Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which includes tips to help you save money.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There are some must-read books in personal finances that will help you develop good saving habits.

Undergoing training and taking the time to read can help you improve economic control so you can become more financially literate and, ultimately, increase your financial freedom.

While many manage perfectly well relying on their intuition to guide their spending habits, it can also be useful to expand your knowledge and set up a budget, an emergency fund, or ensure you have a financial contingency plan in the event of something unexpected.

One way to get on the right track with your money is by reading.

There is a wide range of reading material that can help you apply a better philosophy to your finances.

One of them is Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a must-read if you want to learn about personal finance.

GettyImages 847741824
Laughing and getting in the sun are two ways to release endorphins.

It offers smart ways to escape the vicious circle of working hard for others your whole life while failing to save anything.

Here are seven helpful lessons you can apply from the book to your own life.

1. The rich make their money work for them

You must have heard the phrase “live to work or work to live”.

This is one of the basic concepts addressed in the book.

Most work to survive. If they have money problems, they ride them out or ask for a raise.

This is the vicious cycle most middle and working-class people fall into.

Generally, people with fewer financial resources study to get a good education to qualify for more relevant jobs so they can then earn more money.

They tend to avoid taking risks for fear of not being able to pay their debts, being fired, or not having the money they need to survive.

On the other hand, rich people make money and don’t work to earn it.

In other words, they buy assets that generate income. This is one of the book’s most important lessons.

2. Financial education is your greatest asset

According to this book, money isn’t your greatest asset.

If people are prepared to be flexible, have an open mind, and learn, they will tend to get richer.

If a person thinks capital solves all their problems, they will usually have problems their whole lives.

“Intelligence solves problems and produces money, and money without financial intelligence is quickly lost,” says Robert Kiyosaki, author of the book.

The book recommends having knowledge of accounting, investing, markets, law, bidding, marketing, leadership, writing, public speaking, and communication.

3. Don’t work to earn money; work to learn

Another of the book’s great teachings is that work is to be used as a platform to improve the skills you have.

“Find a job where you can learn the above skills,” says Kiyosaki.

A man in red sunglasses reading a red book on a towel on a beach
Use work as as a platform to improve the skills you have.

He stresses that learning can make you much more knowledgeable and can provide you with unique skills to improve your professional situation.

4. Know the difference between assets and liabilities

“An asset is something that puts money in your pocket and a liability is something that takes money out of your pocket,” the book explains.

In this sense, rich people acquire assets (securities and investments) and poor people add liabilities (commitments and obligations).

This is the main difference that can punctuate the future development of an individual’s personal finances.

5. Reduce your spending as much as possible

This lesson is closely linked to the previous one.

The author advises having as little debt load as possible because, in the end, it hinders the financial freedom you want to achieve.

“Reduce your liabilities” is one of the most repeated phrases throughout the book.

compromises buying home
Though some debt can be positive, it’s generally best to reduce your liabilities.

You have to keep in mind, however, that there is “positive” debt, like a mortgage, and then “negative” debt, like quick loans.

6. Reinvest the profits you make

The profitability created by your assets should be reinvested in other assets, according to the book.

“Don’t think about how to earn more income; look for more valuable assets – that’s how you should repeat the cycle,” says Kiyosaki.

7. Don’t rely exclusively on financial advisors

The book’s final piece of advice is that every individual has great insights into the capital that makes up their own personal finances.

Getting help from a financial advisor can be useful, but you also need to have control over your own money.

“Learn how to invest because nobody will do it better than you,” says Kiyosaki.

Read the original article on Business Insider

16 European tech startups to watch closely in 2021, who they’re hiring, and when to apply

HealthITcare is a startup with a telemedicine platform based on AI, aimed at health professionals.
HealthITcare is a startup with a telemedicine platform aimed at health professionals.

  • Insider spoke with 16 of Europe’s hottest tech startups to watch closely in 2021.
  • They confirmed whether or not they’d be hiring and when – as well as what they’ll be looking for.
  • The vast majority are recruiting for teams focused on product, business, or operations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

To find out how much capital they’d raised and what they planned on using the money for, Insider spoke with 16 of the hottest new tech startups to watch in Europe 2021.

Among the objectives that came up time and again were product development, consolidation of growth, and international expansion. One, in particular, stood out: growing their respective workforces.

This is interesting given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on companies, specifically where lay-offs and redundancy plans are concerned.

The economy is now waking up, gradually.

Activities that were stopped in their tracks due to lockdowns or mobility restrictions are resuming and it looks like emerging companies have decided it’s time to bolster their teams.

Of the 16 startups that Insider spoke with, only one MediQuo – a startup based on a platform that offers an online medical consultation service 24 hours a day – has said it has no plans to expand its workforce in the short or medium term.

The rest confirmed they’re hiring – they told Insider how many personnel they plan to add, over what period of time, and for which roles.

16. APlanet

Johanna Gallo, co-founder of APlanet.
Johanna Gallo, co-founder of APlanet.

Johanna Gallo, co-founder of APlanet — a startup created with the aim of helping SMEs and corporations to frame everything relating to corporate social responsibility (CSR) — says the company is planning to make new hires. 

Gallo says that since raising its seed round in August 2020, the company’s expanded their workforce by 80%, focusing on areas like customer success, product, and technology with the aim of “offering the best service” as they grow. 

The founder says the team is constantly looking for new hires for other key areas like user experience (UX) or business development, both in markets where they already have a foothold and in those where they have only recently landed, like the United Kingdom. 

15. Baluwo

Baluwo startup team, with Josep Arroyo in the center.
Baluwo startup team, with Josep Arroyo in the center.

Baluwo is a Spanish fintech startup with its business model focused on helping African migrants living in Europe make transfers to their home countries.

CEO Josep Arroyo says his intention is to recruit up to 15 new people by the end of 2023. 

The startup’s CEO adds that these positions will be focused on expanding the commercial network in France, the UK, and the US. 

14. Belvo

The co-founders of Belvo, Pablo Viguera and Oriol Tintoré.
The co-founders of Belvo, Pablo Viguera and Oriol Tintoré.

Belvo is an open banking API platform in Latin America that was founded in May 2019. 

It allows users to connect their bank accounts to a management application and is joining the list of companies that will be growing their team in coming months.

The company claims it has grown exponentially in the last year, going from 18 employees in May 2020 to 70 in May 2021. 

According to sources at the startup, they currently have around 15 positions open on their website for areas such as engineering, the legal department, and business development. 

In addition, the company is looking to continue making new hires in different segments and countries, mostly in Latin America.

 

13. Bipi

Bipi car rental team: from left to right, Alejandro Vigaray, co-founder and COO; José Luis Hernández, CSO, and Hans Christ, co-founder and CEO.
Bipi car rental team: from left to right, Alejandro Vigaray, co-founder and COO; José Luis Hernández, CSO, and Hans Christ, co-founder and CEO.

Bipi is a car subscription platform known as the Spotify of rental cars.

According to Hans Christ, CEO of the company, in the last year the number of employees has increased “significantly.”

Furthermore, there are now more than 100 people in the startup. 

“We are in full growth and our team will increase even more in the coming months,” says Christ. 

At present, the company has over 10 positions open across operations, sales, technology, marketing, product, logistics, and accounting.

“Our objective is that the internal growth policy should go hand in hand with the company’s own growth,” he says. 

12. Capchase

Capchase
Capchase helps Software-as-a-Service companies to finance the growth of their operations with immobilized cash in future monthly payments.

Capchase is a startup that helps software-as-a-service companies to finance the growth of their operations with cash tied up in future monthly payments.

One of the company’s founders Ignacio Moreno says his company is also in a “fairly accelerated” expansion phase. 

In the last nine months, he says the team has grown from eight people to more than 40. 

The company is now looking for new recruits for its product and technology teams in Europe, areas where they expect to double the team in the next six to nine months. 

Moreno says they are looking to add open up one  to two financial analyst positions to continue improving their SaaS risk model.

At the same time, Moreno says that, in the US, they are building a strong team in strategy, finance, and capital markets.

11. Criptan

Jorge Soriano, CEO de Criptan.
Jorge Soriano, CEO at Criptan.

Criptan is a Valencian cryptotrading startup.

Cofounder Jorge Soriano says he intends to expand the workforce “in the next two to three months.” 

Soriano also says the company is looking for technical, financial, and operations profiles, but with a particular focus on the technical team. 

He also says that, as their intention is to expand their business focus to other countries such as Mexico, they plan to form small teams in each of the regions where they are located. 

Although the technical part would be handled by the parent company, Soriano says the company would need to incorporate people for customer service, operations and marketing.

 

10. Devo

Devo's platform analyzes a large number of datasets (logs) in real time.
Devo’s platform analyzes a large number of datasets (logs) in real time.

Devo is a startup that uses its software platform to analyze large amounts of datasets (logs) in real time.

Pedro Castillo, founder and CTO (chief technology officer) of the company, says the company’s intends to increase its workforce by more than 50% by the end of the year. 

“We are currently looking for professionals to fill different positions in all areas of the company, especially in our engineering team in Madrid,” he says. 

Devo has opened job offers for positions such as security engineer, cloud engineer, and DevOps engineer.

 

9. ECOncrete

ECOncrete
ECOncrete develops infrastructures that promote the regeneration of marine biodiversity.

ECOncrete is a platform that develops infrastructures that promote the regeneration of marine biodiversity. 

Paolo Tedone, regional sales manager of the platform, said the company’s intention is to grow “more than 200% in the next two years.” 

The hope is to add between three and four people to sales, two to marketing, two to research and development, and one to design over the next year.

The company has already doubled to four employees recently.

8. Goin

Goin CEO David Riudor.
Goin CEO David Riudor.

Goin is a Spanish mobile app — it provides sensible saving and investment opportunities for people who aren’t financially literate.

The firm intends to hire more staff in the coming months. 

According to CEO of the startup David Riudor,, they are looking for 30 people to fill various positions. 

Some of the roles they want to fill cover developers, product managers, business developers, customer success and other profiles to lead the expansion. 

7. Holded

Javi Fondevila and Bernat Ripoll, co-founders of Holded.
Javi Fondevila and Bernat Ripoll, co-founders of Holded.

People manager at Holded — a company whose software helps small businesses control all aspects of a business from a single platform — says the startup wants to focus on growth “both in Barcelona and Paris.”

Forment says it expects  to add around 45 more people to its team by the end of the year — their job offers are available on their website. 

It already has 80,000 users and more than $22 million in funding rounds.

Its objective in Barcelona is to strengthen the technical and product team — it’s looking for tech leads, senior backend and frontend developers, and senior mobile developers.

It also wants to hire a vice president of product to lead the department, designers, and various profiles related to data such as data analyst, data scientist, and data engineer.

In Paris, the company is aiming to create a customer success, marketing and product team for its French market. Consequently, it’s looking for a customer success specialist, amarketing manager, and product manager profiles.

After being acquired by leading European software company Visma, the company said it intended to hire more than 300 people, with the aim of improving its product and consolidating its position as the “fastest growing company in the ERP market.” 

 

6. HumanITcare

HealthITcare is a startup with a telemedicine platform based on AI, aimed at health professionals.
HealthITcare is a startup with a telemedicine platform based on AI, aimed at health professionals.

HumanITcare is a Spanish startup with an artificial intelligence-based remote medicine platform aimed at healthcare professionals, is also looking for new staff. 

CEO Nuria Pastor says her company is growing exponentially and that she expects to double the workforce to more than 30 people by the end of 2021. 

She says they’re looking for software developers, mobile developers, and data scientists. 

 

5. Kokoro Kids

Kokoro Kids
Kokoro Kids is focused on its mobile app, which promotes kids’ cognitive and emotional skills.

Kokoro Kids is a Spanish startup.

It consists of a mobile app to enhance the development of cognitive and emotional skills of children aged between two and six.

It does so through activities and games and offering tailor-made experiences. It is one of the companies that is not planning to hire in the short term. 

However the company says it’s planning a round of funding for the beginning of next year — with the funding, the company intends to expand its team with technical and artistic profiles, as well as marketing and sales. 

 

4. Meetoptics

Meetoptics is a metasearch engine with artificial intelligence specialized in photonics.
Meetoptics is a metasearch engine with artificial intelligence specialized in photonics.

Bárbara Buades, CEO and co-founder of Meetoptics — an artificial intelligence meta-search engine specializing in photonics — says it’s looking to hire eight new employees by the end of the year. 

According to the startup’s CEO, there are now six people on the team and they want to add two to sales for customer acquisition, market analysis and risk analysis, a product owner, a UX/UI product designer, three software engineers, as well as a frontend and full stack developer.

3. Mox

The co-founders of Mox, Gregorio López and Antonio Valenzuela.Mox
The co-founders of Mox, Gregorio López and Antonio Valenzuela.

Mox is a startup dedicated to last mile logistics — it covers everything from goods delivery and staff recruitment to the development of technology systems.

It plans on hiring in logistics and parcels (warehouse workers, forklift drivers and delivery drivers).

As for the timescales, company leaders say these will be linked to the growth in demand and the volume of merchandise, although it will be “an increase in the short and medium term.” 

2. Submer

Pol Valls and Daniel Pope, founders of Submer.
Pol Valls and Daniel Pope, founders of Submer.

Poll Valls, co-founder and COO (Chief Operating Officer) at Submer says the start-up is seeking to reduce the cost of electricity for cooling computers. 

Thanks to consistent growth they are experiencing, they are doubling their workforce “year after year.” 

They currently have 70 employees and, over the next year, they plan to add 60 extra people. 

Valls says the 60 new staff members will be mainly in front-office (B2B sales, solution architects and marketing) and technical profiles of different types (mechanical engineering, software, robotics, thermodynamics, chemistry, industrial). 

 

1. Trucksters

The founders of Trucksters, Luis Bardají, Gabor Balogh and Ramón Castro.
The founders of Trucksters, Luis Bardají, Gabor Balogh and Ramón Castro.

Trucksters is a Spanish startup that’s looking to optimize the world of logistics and the long-distance freight transport industry with an innovative service based on a relay system. 

One of its founders, Gabor Balogh, says they are in “full growth” and that they plan to incorporate more new profiles to the company, which they’ve already succeeded in doing this year. 

Balogh explains that the company currently employs more than 30 people in its offices in Madrid and Valencia, as well as associates in Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium and Hungary. And he anticipates that they will soon be opening a new international branch office. 

“We are now very focused on our international expansion and we are mainly looking for different profiles for positions in operations, technology and sales,” he says.

The company’s co-founder says its work model, which combines on-site and remote work, has allowed them to recruit staff from different parts of the world: “We startups have to lead this transformation of the work system, which is more technological and efficient than ever.” 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Firms should always focus on bad news, according to a book Bill Gates says all leaders must read this summer

Bill Gates
“I wanted to understand what really went wrong and what lessons this story holds.”

  • Bill Gates has recommended reading “Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric.”
  • Gates said it was hard to read criticism of fellow leaders but that he got a lot out of the book.
  • One key takeaway of the book for Gates was not to focus exclusively on good news.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In his annual summer reads recommendation this year, Bill Gates mostly suggested books that strengthen the relationship between humans and nature.

One title in particular, however, stands out: “Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric.”

As explained in Inc, this book is a warning about how the leaders of General Electric, one of the world’s largest companies, were so blinded by their success for so long that it got too late to do anything about it.

“I was eager to read ‘Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric’ by the Wall Street Journal reporters Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann,” said Gates in his blog, Gates Notes. “I wanted to understand what really went wrong and what lessons this story holds for investors, regulators, business leaders, and business students.”

Adding this to his recommendations may not have been easy for Gates, however, as the book is a critique and analysis of decisions that should never be taken in a company – and General Electric was one of Microsoft’s first customers.

“At times, it was a bit hard … to read such harsh criticism of fellow leaders,” Gates added, “[b]ut I got a lot out of reading this book.”

Here are some of the main takeaways of the book, according to Gates.

Don’t be too ambitious in the short term

“One of GE’s greatest apparent strengths was actually one of its greatest weaknesses,” Gates said in his blog.

GE always met or exceeded Wall Street analysts’ predictions in its quarterly or annual results.

But what happens is that they were simply serving investors and stock market performance, which isn’t always an indicator that all is well.

A company can have a sizeable turnover but if it’s lower than analysts’ expectations, analysts will publish negative comments and share prices will plummet.

Conversely, a company can make huge losses, but if they’re lower than analysts’ expectations, its share price will soar.

Lights Out reveals some questionable methods GE used to arrive at the numbers it felt it should.

Seeking this short-term profit weakened the company.

Don’t focus exclusively on good news

“In many companies, bad news travels very slowly, while good news travels fast,” Gates said.

The leader said he tried to fight this at Microsoft – whenever an employee told him positive news, Gates would ask him what wasn’t going so well.

While some might find this off-putting for employee morale, the ultimate message is not to motivate people to focus only on the good news, as it may mean you don’t get to the bad news in time.

Don’t fool yourself and definitely don’t fool your team

Believing that they could have it all was one of General Electric’s biggest mistakes.

Investors had full confidence in the company, but that confidence should never transfer over to the leaders themselves.

Unfortunately, it did.

So they tried to dip their hands into almost every jar they could, including filmmaking, insurance, finance, and nuclear power plants – as well as making light bulbs and household appliances.

“GE didn’t have the right talent and systems to bundle together a dizzying array of unrelated businesses and manage them well,” said Gates. “GE successfully persuaded people that its generalists could avoid the pitfalls that had tripped up big conglomerates in the past.”

“In reality,” he explained, “those generalists often didn’t understand the specifics of the industries they had to manage and couldn’t navigate trends in their industries.”

If customers and partners believe your company is the best or the most cutting-edge, they will trust it – but if a leader assumes it to be true and has no concerns nor any capacity for self-criticism or improvement, he or she is lost.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A startup that can ‘translate’ baby cries is now exploring early detection of autism in newborns

baby crying
Laguna was looking for a way to know what her baby was telling her so she decided to found Zoundream.

  • Founded two years ago, Zoundream specializes in cataloging and translating baby cries.
  • In its first round of funding last October, Zoundream raised just under $1 million.
  • The company now wants to expand into early-stage detection of atypical developments in newborns.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We all know children don’t come into the world with a “how-to” guide.

During the first months of a newborn’s life, it’s often a struggle for parents not just to meet their baby’s needs but simply to know what they are.

However much a new parent may want to soothe their baby’s endless desperate crying, it can be challenging without knowing what they want.

Many resign themselves to one of their first lessons as parents: they won’t always understand their children.

In the age of the Internet of Things, smartphones, and tablets, however, some are using tech to explore modern ways of working around age-old problems.

Ana Laguna, a 33-year-old scientist and expert in data management, gave birth to her first child in 2016.

crying baby
Zoundream was born out of a single idea: the way newborn babies express their needs is universal.

After a few hours of crying, she had a thought – there had to be a way of translating a newborn’s cries.

The idea seemed such an obvious one that she assumed there must already have been a company that had successfully developed some kind of device or app, but the only thing she could find was a Korean application that was just about functioning.

Taken aback by what seemed somewhat of a technological oversight, her intuition soon turned into a project: she would record her own baby’s cry to look for patterns.

“Many projects come about by mistake or by necessity. Mine is one of the latter,” Laguna told Insider.

Over the years, Laguna’s project transformed into a fully-fledged company, Zoundream.

The company specializes in developing software to translate newborn babies’ cries, particularly those up to the age of six months.

After raising just under $1 million in its first round of funding in October 2020, Zoundream now wants its studies to help detect atypical developments in newborns at an early stage.

There have been several stages in Zoundream’s development to get it to where it is now.

baby sleeping next to baby monitor
The company specializes in developing software to translate newborn babies’ cries, particularly those up to the age of six months.

Laguna’s first major concern was to find out whether babies from different countries cry differently.

If, for instance, the cry of a German baby were different from that of a Spanish baby, that would have significantly reduced the software’s potential audience – as well as the viability of the whole project.

After many hours of gathering information through scientific publications on the subject and analysis of sound samples, Zoundream came to a conclusion – although there were notable differences in the prosody of the cry, the content is always the same across languages.

In other words, though German and Spanish babies may sound different, they’re essentially trying to say the same thing.

The only thing left to do was to get the business going – that’s where Roberto Iannone, the company’s current CEO, comes in.

Hundreds of kilometers away from Laguna, almost at the same time as her, Iannone, an entrepreneur, had already had a similar idea. So, when a colleague told him about Laguna and her studies on crying patterns in newborns, which were already beginning to gain some traction in the press, Iannone knew what he needed to do.

Zoundream was born out of a single idea – while there are more than 7,000 languages in the world, the way newborn babies express their needs is universal.

Now the company translates babies’ cries into five types: hunger, sleep, pain, gas, and attachment or the desire to be held.

breastfeeding
The company translates babies’ cries into five types: hunger, sleep, pain, gas, and attachment.

This classification method works best on infants up to the age of three months, when crying is more genuine. From this point on, according to Laguna, the baby’s brain synapses become more complex – they start to be able to learn at full speed.

As a result, babies start using certain strategies to get what they want.

In other words, human beings learn to lie before they learn to speak.

After the birth of her second child, Laguna decided she didn’t just want to record her own child’s cries; she wanted for other parents to be able to contribute to the project.

A newborn cries an average of two to three hours a day. Over time, Zoundream managed to collect thousands and thousands of hours of cries analyzed using spectrograms, from Europe, Asia, and the entire American continent.

This means tZoundream is already working on refining translations through devices that are still just prototypes.

Zoundream is building partnerships with companies that, in the coming years, will make it possible to integrate this technology in prams, bracelets, or even in surveillance cameras.

The one condition is that the system has to be automatic.

Autism awareness
Zoundream wants to move towards detecting atypical developments through the way babies cry.

“When a child cries, their parents will go to attend to them and entirely forget about the mobile phone and everything,” says Laguna.

In addition to the audio, the company started to receive feedback.

“I remember, for example, a mother who said that her son wouldn’t stop crying. The recordings told us that he was hungry,” says Laguna. “It didn’t make sense to her, because she kept breastfeeding him. Eventually, she told us that we were right, that the doctor had detected a problem with his lingual frenulum and that he wasn’t feeding well.”

Cases like these have inspired Zoundream’s team to try to take the next leap and detect atypical developments through the way babies cry.

Some cases, she says, are obvious: “The cry of a child on the autistic spectrum is very characteristic, very hoarse. You can see it quite clearly on the spectrogram.”

By doing this, Laguna explains, the company hopes to help improve the early diagnosis possibilities, which can greatly improve quality of life.

“In cases of early diagnosis,” she says, “autism is detected at around the age of two. Imagine the improvement if it could be done before the age of six months.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

In Australia, a former McDonald’s executive reinvented Kmart. Now Kmart ‘influencers’ are some of the most prolific creators on the Aussie internet.

A bed styled with peach bedding and a gray pillow
  • By 2008, Kmart’s performance was lagging in Australia.
  • The former chief executive of McDonald’s Australia took over, and the brand had a resurgence.
  • A huge online fanbase arose, and its viral content raises questions about digital labor’s value.
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The heavily abridged story of Kmart Australia goes like this: After opening its first store in Burwood, Victoria in 1969, Kmart expanded to become a mainstay of Australia’s department store scene.

Nestled between the upmarket Myer and David Jones, and cheaper two dollar store offerings, Kmart offered Australian households access to affordable essentials, selling microwaves, mugs, trackpants, and paperbacks by the pallet.

By 2008, Kmart was the black sheep in parent company Wesfarmer’s portfolio, generating earnings before interest and tax of $114 million (AUD) – well behind stablemate Target on $223 million (AUD).

With the brand reportedly slated for sale, Wesfarmers hired Guy Russo, former managing director and chief executive of McDonald’s Australia, to take the helm at Kmart.

One of his first tasks: Slashing the number of stock-keeping units (or ‘SKUs’), reversing Kmart’s “more is more” strategy and swapping periodic sales for a constant flow of discounts.

“When we removed the SKUs and dropped the price, we found our customer,” Russo told the “Scaling Up” podcast last year. “They were a customer that really wanted value.”

Removing brands was a ‘masterstroke’

Kmart also gutted its reliance on brand names, leaving its competitors to squabble over the big-name labels.

“Removing brands, I think that was the other masterstroke,” Russo said. “We used to sell some really significant brands, but when we dropped the price of underpants to a buck each, the brands weren’t selling at ten bucks each. All of the sudden, the brands took a natural death.”

Wesfarmers put faith in Russo’s vision, providing funds to renovate stores as the brand cut inventory costs. “Make them look like Disneyland,” Russo recalls telling colleagues.

Layouts changed, with traditional departments axed. Electronics aisles gave way to all-purpose “kitchen” sections, where customers seeking coffee machines could pick up new mugs and cutlery along the way.

“The last little masterstroke – although we got a lot of criticism for it – is [putting] the registers in the middle,” Russo said.

The move forced customers to spend a few more moments surrounded by product.

‘Affordable’, not ‘cheap’

It was expensive, time-consuming, and one of the most successful brand rehabilitations in Australian history. Kmart pulled off one of the hardest tricks in retail: convincing customers it was “affordable,” not “cheap.”

When Russo retired as chief executive of Wesfarmer’s department stores in 2018, the segment posted earnings before interest and tax of $660 million (AUD), led by “continued strong growth in Kmart.”

“The marketing got done by our customers, which was the best part,” Russo said.

The online Kmart fandom

One such customer is Helen James, who runs the Instagram account @i_heart_kmart for an audience of 121,000 followers. James is a star in a constellation of content creators, acolytes, and thrifty shoppers who form the Kmart fan community. It’s a massive, influential, and under-researched group, whose online ranks have grown with the company’s resurgence in the last decade.

A screenshot of a Kmart group shows a white cabinet in front of a white wall.

“I would go in store and just see so many cool, on-trend pieces for ridiculously low prices, so I would take photos and then post them to my page,” James told Business Insider Australia. “Instagram was just starting to take off, Kmart was just starting to refresh their image and homewares range, and I basically bought the two together.”

Jasmine Pisasale’s Instagram account, which uses the tagline “Lawyer by day, Bargain Hunter by night,” started seven years ago as an escape from Pisasale’s “stressful” job.

“I found Kmart to be more than just a shopping experience,” she told Business Insider Australia. “I love to pass time walking through the stores… It brings me a sense of excitement – ‘what am I going to see in Kmart today?'”

Her lifestyle shots show artfully rumpled linens, throw blankets draped over low-slung armchairs and, more recently, Pisasale’s young son, exploring the beach for the first time while wearing a Kmart-branded bucket hat.

Around 32,000 fans have “watched me get married and have my first child along the way,” Pisasale said.

James and Pisasale have leveraged their followings for active partnerships with the brand. Both have participated in invite-only Kmart events, which influencers use to share sneak-peeks at unreleased products with their own fans.

The world of Kmart ‘hacks’

Before and after shots of redesigned stools with black metal legs and wooden seats.

Over on Facebook, Kmart “hack” groups have become a dominant part of the Australian social media experience.

Content from the groups has been featured in Daily Mail Australia with the headline “Shopper transforms Kmart shelves into chic furniture.” News Corp’s parent-centric KidSpot has run the story “Kmart hack: How to turn $8 fruit bowl into mesh light shade,” and 7 News now dedicates several articles a week to ‘cult buys’ and other Kmart-related phenomena.

One of the larger groups, founded in 2015, now boasts 470,000 members. A group dedicated to recipes for Kmart’s cult-favourite pie maker has almost 65,000 members.

The Kmart look

For the most part, the Kmart look features textiles in muted colors: beige and burnt ochre, rosy salmon layered over blue-greys. Tables, drawers, and shelving units are typically a sunbleached woodgrain applied to cheap particle board while accent pieces are pearlescent silver, quartz, or chalky coral.

The general aesthetic is inoffensive – Scandinavian with a touch of beach house. But certain looks can still be tacky, according to the community. Many groups outright ban posts featuring Kmart’s infamous marble-effect book contact after users were condemned for covering entire countertops with it.

The virality of the groups has generated revenue for the brand and has transformed the “hack” community into one of the most powerful forces in the Australian influencer economy and a kind of focus group for Kmart.

“I recall some influencers at a past event asking about the possibility of expanding their plus size range, and the style team took it on board and made significant efforts to expand the styles available,” Pisasale said.

A light wood bedside table with a pair of pink slippers.

“They really do listen to community feedback, which I love,” James said. “Womenswear, the Curve Collection, the quality of materials, the introduction of more sustainable products … I think over the years all of these improvements have really been driven from a grass roots level.”

But Kmart does not pay any of the influencers associated with its brand for these insights.

“As a business we do not do paid or sponsored content,” a Kmart representative told Business Insider Australia. “Rather we have a ‘gifted for review’ program where media and social media influencers are sent product (where relevant to them or their family) to review, trial and are encouraged to share their feedback.”

James recently received a new sideboard through the program, which also invites key figures to seasonal events and product launches. But a question remains: in the modern influencer economy, should an online community, whose tastes help dictate the success of a billion-dollar company, ask for more than a free sideboard in return?

The uneasy relationship between marketing and ‘playbor’

Analysis of the influencer market suggests Kmart is getting a bargain.

A 2020 report by global social media analytics firm HypeAuditor found Australia’s professional Instagram creators can command four-figure fees per post.

For a brand like Kmart, the question then becomes one of scale: Why pay for access when everyday Instagrammers and a hivemind of 450,000 Facebook users will promote your product for free?

Catherine Archer, a senior lecturer in strategic communications at Perth’s Murdoch University, is one of several academics focused on digital “playbor,” the sticky middle ground between online fandom and paid service to a brand.

The benefit of these groups to Kmart is obvious, she said. But unlike traditional influencers, whose success is determined by click-through rates, it is harder to calculate their objective value to the brand. This under-researched commercial relationship makes compensation difficult to determine, if the conversation comes up at all.

“It’s all a bit blurred when you get to the ethics of interacting with people who are just like us, the everyday community,” Archer said. “Sometimes people don’t realize how absolutely amazing they are for that brand.”

Savvy operators can forge careers out of online fan accounts, but for the most part, there are “a lot of people who don’t make any money out of it.”

A group of photos: A mirror attached to a wall, a shelf with colorful containers, a hallway, and storage containers with calligraphy font.

Certainly, nobody is forcing hundreds of thousands of bargain hunters to proselytize for Kmart. The influencers Business Insider Australia spoke to expressed their genuine devotion to the brand, and appreciation for the way staff took their messages onboard.

“Customer feedback through all of these channels are incredibly important to the entire Kmart team from design, buying, our quality technicians, stores and across to our distribution centers,” a Kmart spokesperson told Business Insider Australia.

“It allows us to listen to our customers, apply learnings where possible and continue to deliver great quality products at the lowest prices for everyone in the family.”

The brand does listen closely: At least one major “hack” page, which does not advertise any official relationship with the brand, appears to be quietly administered by Kmart employees. The company did not respond to questions about that group.

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