Founders of Canadian relationship app Couply talk gaining traction after winning Collision 2021 pitch competition

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Couply founders Denesh Raymond (left) and Tim Johnson (right).

  • The Canadian relationship app Couply won the 2021 pitch competition hosted by Collision, a Toronto-based technology conference attended by thousands of industry giants.
  • Insider spoke to its founders, Tim Johnson and Denesh Raymond, to learn more about their vision for Couply and the events leading up to its inception.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Imagine this. You finally met that special someone-whether it be on a dating app or in real life-and everything is going great until you hit that post-honeymoon-phase slump. Naturally, you turn to the app store for some guidance, only to find that the selection of relationship apps is rather slim in comparison to dating apps.

That was the ideation process behind Canadian startup Couply, founded by Tim Johnson and Denesh Raymond. It’s a free relationship app designed to inspire couples to deepen their connection with fun features like personality quizzes, which then help aid the process of planning dates that are mutually enjoyable.

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An example of a date idea proposed by Couply.

Couply’s vision was so successful that it won Collision 2021’s startup competition, PITCH, this past April. The bootstrapped company was one of 50 up-and-coming startups to pitch in front of a panel of judges, consisting of venture capitalists from B Capital Group, Salesforce Ventures, and Bessemer Venture Partners, to name a few.

The two founders crossed paths when they both worked at Wattpad, an online storytelling platform for writers. Johnson stills works on the business development side of Wattpad and is a published author with a strong background in the nonprofit sector. Raymond was a software engineer at Wattpad, where he specialized in iOS and Android development and was a member of the Wattpad Monetization team.

When Johnson came to Raymond with the idea for the app, Raymond was working as a tech lead at a product development company, building apps for companies like Bose and Peloton.

At first, Raymond had his doubts.

“I’m sort of taking it with a grain of salt because, being in the tech space, I’ve worked with different apps like this before,” Raymond told Insider.

Once Raymond came home that day and did his research, he realized that there weren’t any big players to compete with, aside from the Bumbles and Tinders in the dating space. From that point on, the duo “just got into a room and started cracking at it,” Raymond said.

Since its launch in December of 2020, Couply has grown from a few downloads a day to 1,000 downloads a week, with its daily download rate doubling each month as a result of word of mouth, Johnson told Insider. He and Raymond hope to grow their user base from their current total of 10,000+ to an audience of one million in a year from now.

Despite being developed in Canada, the app sees its biggest opportunity in the U.S. market, and this is where Johnson and Raymond plan to focus their efforts. Couply is also available for download globally and will eventually be accessible in different languages.

The foundation of Couply is rooted in its creators’ belief in the power of technology when used for good. Through research-based quizzes that are linked across both partners’ accounts, couples can better understand each other’s similarities and differences, as well as their own way of looking at the world.

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Couply’s in-app personality quizzes.

This information guides Couply in providing personalized date ideas, gift suggestions, and relationship advice. In addition, the app’s integrated calendar allows users to set reminders for important relationship milestones and book thoughtful dates, which is Couply’s ultimate end goal for its users.

“This kind of drills into that core sentiment of Couply, which is to get out there and do things with your partner in the real world,” Johnson told Insider.

Even in the heat of the pandemic, Couply has fared well among its users with the help of the in-app feedback system. Through this feature, the creators are able to directly communicate with their audience and gauge the kinds of dates they’re interested in at a given time-not surprisingly, innovative ideas for a romantic night in have been highly requested.

The app also boasts a daily conversation starter tool, which is designed to help the flow of meaningful interaction beyond simple check-ins.

“You can use it as a fun thing at lunch or dinner,” Johnson said. “Or even just text it to your partner during the day to keep that journey going, so that you’re not only doing transactional conversations, you’re actually learning about each other and your internal maps of the world.”

Johnson added that he and Raymond were lucky to be able to tap into a diverse set of perspectives in Toronto’s tech community for feedback on their user experience and its accessibility for all members.

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In 1953 a scientist predicted a man titled ‘Elon’ would lead humans to Mars and crown himself ‘Martian Emperor’

Elon Musk, head of Tesla, stands on the construction site of the Tesla Gigafactory.
In Grünheide near Berlin, a maximum of 500,000 vehicles per year are to roll off the assembly line starting in July 2021.

  • In October 2020, Elon Musk announced that in 2024, humans would set foot on Mars.
  • A book published in 1953 tells of how a leader titled “Elon” would lead humans to the planet.
  • The book was by Wernher Von Braun, a German-American astronautical engineer and space architect.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In October 2020, Elon Musk, CEO and co-founder of SpaceX announced that in 2024 humans would set foot on Mars.

The billionaire believes that the only way to save the future of Earth is to colonize space.

“If we make life multiplanetary, there may come a day when some plants & animals die out on Earth, but are still alive on Mars,” Musk tweeted in mid-April.

What Musk didn’t know was that his destiny was already sealed. Not in the stars, but on paper.

In 1953, a book was published that predicted Elon Musk’s plans to take humans to Mars.

On December 30, 2020, Musk quoted a popular line from Young Frankenstein on Twitter: “Destiny, destiny. No escaping that for me.”

Despite its fictional origin, the quote is, in fact, referring to ideas about predestination, in which the life of every human is already predetermined either by divine design or by genetics.

Quoting this on Twitter led to a surprising revelation – a fellow Twitter user, Toby Li, responded to him: “Speaking about destiny, did you know that Von Braun’s 1953 book “Mars Project,” referenced a person named Elon that would bring humans to Mars? Pretty nuts.”

The book he’s referring to is “Mars Project: A Technical Tale,” written by Wernher Von Braun, a German-American astronautical engineer and space architect, according to Gizmodo.

His non-fiction book is not a standard essay; it uses a narrative to explain to the average reader how a trip to Mars might look in the Cold War.

The problem is that user Toby Li’s explanation is not entirely accurate. In his book, Von Braun doesn’t say a person named Elon would lead humanity to Mars but that the name of the leader’s position would be “Elon.”

This was clarified by another Twitter user, Pranay Pathole, who provided the English version of the book.

The paragraph in question reads: “The Martian government was directed by ten men, the leader of whom was elected by universal suffrage for five years and entitled ‘Elon.’ Two houses of Parliament enacted the laws to be administered by the Elon and his cabinet.”

A screenshot of Elon Musk's Twitter profile
Von Braun’s book says the name of the leader’s position would be “Elon.”

In a temporary Twitter profile update, Musk proclaimed himself imperator of Mars.

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How Raleigh-based nonprofit RIoT is boosting entrepreneurship and job growth in the city

Rachael Newberry, RIoT's program director, connecting virtually to a cohort of startups during pandemic gathering restrictions.
Rachael Newberry, RIoT’s program director, connecting virtually with a cohort of startups during the pandemic.

  • RIoT is a nonprofit organization driving innovation and entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area.
  • One program, RIoT Your Reality, is a competition where teams pitch AR ideas to improve the city.
  • Other initiatives include an accelerator program and a data-centric stormwater management project.
  • This article is part of a series focused on American cities building a better tomorrow called “Advancing Cities.”

In July, six teams will demonstrate their ideas for how augmented reality can help solve some of the challenges facing Raleigh, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas.

Through the program RIoT Your Reality, the teams are examining ways to improve diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in city programs, promote workforce development, and reinvent the Raleigh Convention Center to drive economic development.

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Tom Snyder.

“It’s the intersection with government,” Tom Snyder, executive director at RIoT, a local nonprofit working to advance innovation, told Insider. “The city of Raleigh and town of Cary together posed a few problem statements that they’re looking for help on. And we’re running a challenge where people are developing new prototypes of augmented-reality applications to serve those challenges.”

RIoT Your Reality is a partnership with RIoT, the city of Raleigh, the town of Cary, Google Fiber, US Ignite, and Facebook Reality Labs. It kicked off in April with several teams pitching their AR ideas. Six were selected to receive $1,000 to build a prototype, which they’ll demo during an event on July 27. A final winner receives $40,000 and a spot in the RIoT Accelerator Program to launch a new startup.

Snyder said the goal is to create a municipal pilot project and learn how to scale a startup to assist cities beyond North Carolina.

The AR competition is just one of the ways that RIoT works to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area. Here’s a look at some of the organization’s other major programs.

Helping businesses create new tech jobs

RIoT was founded in 2014 as part of the larger nonprofit Wireless Research Center, located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which works to advance wireless technology innovation.

Originally, the name was an acronym for Raleigh Internet of Things, then Regional Internet of Things. Now it just goes by RIoT.

“Our grounding thesis is that the best new jobs are created at the forefront of emerging technology,” Snyder, who helped found the organization, said. RIoT’s programs help entrepreneurs start companies and established businesses grow through new technology adoption, all of which creates new jobs.

Being headquartered in Raleigh offers advantages, Snyder said. The area is home to several top universities, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, which fosters a talent pipeline. Several major tech and data companies, including IBM and SAS, have a presence in the region, creating a “great diversity of industry” within the tech sector, he said.

“There are just massive industries and a really nice balance here that makes it a more attractive place for people to be,” Snyder said. “You can’t just job hop during your career, but you can industry hop successfully. And that brings fresh ideas and really makes us a strong place to live.”

RIoT has another location in Wilson, North Carolina, though its presence extends beyond the state. The organization hosts events around the country and is planning to establish new offices in Colorado and Virginia.

Enabling startups to get off the ground

One of RIoT’s programs to boost economic development, the RIoT Accelerator Program, connects entrepreneurs with partners in their industries and gives them access to prototyping tools and other resources.

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RIoT Accelerator winner Michael Bender, founder and CEO of Intake, a healthcare analytics company, holding the RIoT championship belt.

The accelerator is currently on its eighth cohort. Snyder said RIoT is purposeful in supporting underrepresented groups when selecting startups to participate, and about 60% of the companies involved have been run by women, minorities, and veterans.

Since 2014, the companies participating in the accelerator have created more than 200 jobs, generated more than $100 million in revenue, and earned millions in grant and venture funding, he said.

Growing the accelerator to help more startups is one of its goals. By the end of 2021, Snyder said the accelerator will be offered in multiple cities.

To help startups prototype and experiment with ideas without having to spend money on equipment, RIoT Labs offers hardware, wireless, and software prototyping tools, including a 3D printer, electronic equipment, soldering irons, and more.

“We can provide that equipment for you to go create your new connected device, do the performance testing on the front end, do the regulatory certification testing on the back end, and get it to market,” he said.

RIoT works with government and corporate partners, including Cisco and SAS. Snyder said the organization is always on the lookout for new ones willing to support the entrepreneurial community.

“We want Raleigh to be the place that anyone in the world who wants to participate knows if I come here, I can find the partners that I need to be successful,” he said.

Making Raleigh the center of the ‘data economy’

RIoT worked with Raleigh and the surrounding communities on a data-centric stormwater management project.

Partnering with local startup GreenStream Technologies, they used water-level monitoring sensors to better understand water movement and predict when to shut down a street before it floods or dispatch emergency responders before flooding reaches emergency levels.

Snyder said Raleigh has done a good job of thinking about how to make data collected at the city level accessible – and has the potential to be the “center of excellence of the data economy.” Processing and measuring data depends on the advancement of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and automation technologies.

“We’re moving from a world where the economy was driven by the internet to now one where it’s being driven by real-time data,” he said.

Through programs like RIoT Your Reality and the water management project, Raleigh serves as a testbed to experiment with new ideas and technologies.

“When we can do that successfully, not only are we solving the city’s needs in a way that they can remain focused on their day-to-day operations, but if it’s a local company that provides for those needs, we’re creating jobs here in the community,” Snyder said.

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Why cities can’t get rid of rats

  • Cities across the US are getting more infested with rats. As hard as we try to get rid of the pests, they always seem to find a way back.
  • In many ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls and “tightrope walk” over telephone cables.
  • Their incisors grow 14 inches a year, which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Wormtail. Professor Ratigan. The R.O.U.S. Pop culture has given rats a bad rep. And it’s understandable why.

Take northeastern India’s rat flood. Twice a century, rats swarm when bamboo forests drop about 80 tons of seeds. After they devour the seeds, they devastate local agriculture. In the 1960s, the resulting famine was so bad, it lead to a major political uprising.

It’s no wonder that the technical term for a group of rats is a “mischief”! And they’re not just a problem for farmers. These crafty rodents are the ultimate urbanites.

Meet your average city rats: Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. These rats live pretty much wherever we do. Especially in cities. Take New York City, for example. We don’t know exactly how many rats call the Big Apple home. But a 2014 study gave a ballpark estimate of 2 million rats.

That means for heavily-infested areas you could have several rats per person! And in some ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls, “tightrope walk” over telephone cables, and their incisors grow 14 inches a year. Which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.

But their most powerful ability? Rats are clever. Too clever. Scientists have shown that rats can learn to use tools. And when offered the choice between a chocolate and freeing a trapped friend. Rats chose to free their friend over chocolate!

Translate those smarts to the real world and rats easily avoid traps. Trying to poison them won’t help much either. Rats are extremely patient when it comes to new foods. They’ll taste just a tiny portion at first, wait to see if that food makes them sick and only then, consume the rest if it’s safe.

This is called “delayed learning” and it’s why rats are notoriously difficult to poison. Plus, they can develop resistance to many poisons over time so even outwitting them might not work in the long run.

Another major issue is that rats reproduce quickly. A single doe usually has 8-12 pups every 8 weeks! And those babies can have pups of their own after only 5 weeks!

So as long as they have access to food, rat populations will rebound from just about any attack. The only attack they can’t handle is improved sanitation.

And cities are using that to their advantage. In 2017, for example, New York City launched a $32 million war plan against its rats. Eliminate 70% of the rats in its 10 most-infested neighborhoods.

The plan is simple. Cut off their food source.

You see, NYC produces around 33 million tons of trash a year – more than any other city on Earth! The trash piles aren’t getting any smaller but the city can at least make it harder for rats to reach by replacing traditional trash compactors with a mailbox style opening.

Will NYC succeed by the end of 2018, as proposed?

Judging by the thousands of years where rats came out on top, it sounds a little too optimistic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

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The dream of the truly driverless car is officially dead

Google driverless car
This May 13, 2014 file photo shows a row of Google self-driving Lexus cars at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

  • Driverless technology has been heralded as a way to save costs and save lives.
  • But driverless does not mean humanless. Technology still requires human oversight.
  • This often means increased, not reduced, costs for business and consumers alike.
  • Ashley Nunes is Director for Competition Policy at the R Street Institute.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lyft’s quest for driverless cars is over. The company recently announced the sale of its self-driving unit to auto giant Toyota. The move isn’t surprising. Despite hefty investment, Lyft’s driverless utopia, like many others, remains more fiction than fact.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In 2016, Lyft President John Zimmer predicted that driverless cars would, “account for the majority of Lyft rides within five years.” By 2025, Zimmer reasoned, private car ownership will all but end in major US cities.”

Such reasoning was largely rooted in “techno optimism:” a deeply held belief that machines are superior to humans in terms of servitude. Sensors and software, after all, don’t complain, don’t tire, and don’t demand pay hikes – or salaries at all for that matter. This trifecta is purportedly a surefire way to lift profits. Hence, the tech-centric spending spree on all things autonomous. Ride-hailing companies have burnt millions over the years on perfecting the technology.

Yet, autonomous does not mean humanless. In Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy,” Historian David Mindell explains why. “There are no fully autonomous systems,” Mindell reasons. “The machine that operates entirely independently of human direction is a useless machine. Only a rock is truly autonomous.” Put another way, the type of automation ride-hailing companies are betting on to boost earnings doesn’t exist. It never has.

And if it did, humans would still play a role. The reason? Machines – much like humans – can’t be trusted to get it right all the time, every time. Take what is arguably the longest serving piece of automation today: the airplane autopilot. First introduced in 1912, the system is designed to balance an airplane so human pilots don’t have to. The result is a smoother, safer ride for passengers. But as we know, there have been hiccups. In 1985, a jetliner nearly crashed after the autopilot failed to inform the crew about an imminent ‘loss of control’ – a dangerous condition that can cause a crash. Because of such oversights, autopilot use today is contingent on human supervision.

This also explains why driverless cars remain, after years of development, not so driverless after all. Look beyond the headlines and you’ll find human overlords watch from afar over purportedly automated systems. Customer support staff are also on hand to answer rider queries – such as “What if I want to change my destination during the trip?” And then there’s an armada of pricey engineers standing ready to solve vexing road problems, like what to do when a lane is blocked by double-parked cars, orange traffic cones, or the occasional taco truck.

All this human capital means more, not less, expense; bloated, not pared down, balance sheets. And that’s problematic for an industry that has struggled to turn a profit. In 2019 alone, ride-hailing companies lost over $10 billion, their financial statements being described as, “a hemorrhaging fountain of red ink with no path to profitability.” Company execs had hoped self-driving investments would provide relief. The available evidence suggests otherwise.

It’s time we see the driverless dream for what it is: a Disneyland-style spectacle that can’t “live up to its sci-fi imaginings, a series of very expensive and glitzy pilot projects that can’t cut it in the real world.” Driverless technology may,, on its best days, be astounding, but those days have been few and far between. Self-driving algorithms may – given the frequency of human folly – make intuitive sense but intuition isn’t always right.

Earlier this year, the UK government suggested that driverless cars could soon hit the A10, an major road in England that connects London to various cities to its north. “We’re on the cusp of a driving revolution,” noted Transport Minister Rachel Maclean. But turning that revolution into reality demands a guarantee of technological perfection – a guarantee that few, if any, driverless tech developers can give. Until that happens, expect human drivers to stick around.

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An indoor farming startup is valued at $2.3 billion after a historic fundraising round as climate change concerns become more urgent

indoor vertical farming
Indoor vertical farming.

Hello! This story is from today’s edition of Morning Brew, an awesome daily email publication read by 2.5 million next-generation leaders like you. Sign up here to get it!

Yesterday, Bowery Farming announced a $300 million fundraising round that included A-list investors like Natalie Portman, José Andrés, and Lewis Hamilton. Justin Timberlake also chipped in.

The startup, now valued at $2.3 billion, grows produce using indoor vertical farming setups. Its 13 varieties of greens are sold in 850 stores, and with its new funds it’ll build additional farms and expand into new crops including tomatoes, strawberries, and carrots.

Sci-fi farming is catching on

Climate change concerns and a renewed focus on the food supply chain have contributed to increased investor appetite for indoor farming. Last year, global VC investment in indoor farms tripled to almost $1.9 billion.

Bowery’s deal is the biggest on record for the industry, but competitors have scored plenty of dough in recent months, including BrightFarms ($100 million last October), “Omakase” strawberry grower Oishii ($50 million in March), and AppHarvest, which SPAC’d in February and is now worth $1.5 billion.

Zoom out: The indoor farming sector is growing but is still just a wee seedling. In 2019, California grew nearly 4x more pounds of lettuce than all indoor-grown veggies across the country combined.

This story is from today’s edition of Morning Brew, a daily email publication. Sign up here to get it!

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Cathie Wood sees inflation rising in the near term, but says ‘innovation-based deflation’ will keep rising costs in check in coming years

Cathie Wood

  • Cathie Wood sees inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rising to 3% or 4% in the coming months.
  • However, according to Wood, inflation is just a temporary state brought about by monetary and fiscal stimulus as well as supply imbalances.
  • “Innovation-based deflation” is set to keep rising costs in check over the long term, the ARK Invest chief says.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Cathie Wood sat down for Ark Invest’s monthly mARKet update webinar on Tuesday and said she isn’t concerned about inflation or rising interest rates.

The Ark Invest CEO said she does see inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rising to the “3% to 4% range” over the next few months, but argued it won’t last.

Wood also said the Producer Price Index (PPI) will “move to the 6% to 8% range or even higher than that” in the webinar.

Still, despite rising near-term inflation, Wood believes that “innovation-based deflation” will help keep rising costs at bay in the long term.

“The technologies and the innovation around which we have centered all of our research and investing is rife with examples of the deflationary undertones that the global economy is facing… innovation-based deflation is very good deflation. It’s associated with very strong growth,” Wood said.

The Ark Invest chief went on to give multiple examples of how advances in technology act as deflationary forces for the markets.

Wood’s first example was about DNA sequencing and the falling costs associated with innovation in that space.

“For every cumulative doubling of the number of whole human genomes sequenced…costs associated with short-range sequencing go down about 40%. The costs associated with long-range sequencing go down about 20%,” Wood said.

Wood also gave examples of falling costs due to innovation in battery production and robotics, but noted markets aren’t yet feeling the deflationary effects of this innovation because of the relatively low activity of companies in these spaces as of 2021.

“That activity is going to scale exponentially, so these deflationary forces will begin to move the needle in the next three to five years,” Wood said.

Wood went on to explain that current inflationary pressures are a result of monetary and fiscal stimulus combined with supply imbalances brought about by the pandemic.

She said these forces will only affect inflation figures temporarily and that she isn’t worried about a sustained inflationary environment unless there are problems with the US dollar.

Finally, Wood discussed how she believes the bull market has room to run.

The Ark Invest chief said that the “wall of worry” in the markets today is a good sign for market bulls and that rising savings are an example of the “firepower” the consumer has to add to the economy amid the reopening.

Read more: Ex-Ark analyst James Wang breaks down his bull case for Ethereum as its token breaches an all-time high of $3,300 – and explains why it could eventually reach $40,000

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How DREAMSTAGE is taking live music streaming by storm, with global streaming service Deezer by its side

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D Smoke performing his album “Black Habits” on a live virtual tour with DREAMSTAGE this past April.

  • The paid live music streaming startup DREAMSTAGE has delivered over 50 concerts with a dynamic range of artists since its creation at the start of the pandemic.
  • Deezer, a Paris-based music streaming service, recently made a significant investment in DREAMSTAGE in a symbiotic deal that will fuel both companies’ growth.
  • Insider spoke to DREAMSTAGE co-founder and digital media veteran Thomas Hesse about the platform’s potential for long-term success.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The coronavirus pandemic nearly eliminated the live music business. DREAMSTAGE, a ticketed live music streaming platform launched in the spring of 2020, has plans to reverse this fate and to even go as far as transforming the traditional live music business model for years to come.

The US-based startup has provided artists with a method of generating income during lockdowns, but it’s also future-proofed for long after fans return to in-person gigs with the goal of offering simulcasting opportunities in addition to premium digital-only concerts.

The brainchild of former Sony Music executive Thomas Hesse, world renowned cellist Jan Vogler, and tech aficionado and CTO Scott Chasin, DREAMSTAGE has delivered over 50 high-definition concerts featuring musicians across multiple genres and levels of experience in the one year since its creation. Artists such as Polo G, Chief Keef, Grammy nominee D Smoke, and most recently Yo-Yo Ma have taken the virtual stage, with co-founder Jan Vogler himself kicking off the platform’s classical lineup in its first livestream in August.

Now, the startup has caught the attention of the Paris-based music streaming service Deezer, which houses a catalog of 73 million tracks, including content from major record labels like Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. Deezer will serve as a cornerstone investor in DREAMSTAGE, leveraging its global subscriber base and millions of monthly active users to provide DREAMSTAGE with significant funds to expand its operations and establish it as a leading new format for entertainment.

The strategic partnership will see both companies working together to merge recorded and live music in a streamlined experience, while operating independently with the ultimate goal of accelerating DREAMSTAGE’s growth. Their mutually strong appreciation for musicians and genuine desire to support their craft solidified the deal.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Thomas Hesse, co-founder of DREAMSTAGE, told Insider. “It’s come together in a great spirit of partnership, and we’re both mindful and cognizant of the significant benefits of us working together.”

ThomasHesse_Headshot_KlasFoerster
Thomas Hesse, co-founder of DREAMSTAGE.

The DREAMSTAGE and Deezer teams share the unified mission of growing within the currently exploding global recorded music and livestreaming markets. Both have a deep understanding of the intersection of technology and music, Hesse said, and a shared entrepreneurial and innovative mindset.

“We think that DREAMSTAGE is the service that really has cracked the live streamed music experience. The live streamed events they offer go beyond simple video streaming and feel personal, dynamic and fun,” Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht wrote in an email to Insider. “Their goal is to make you feel like you’re really in the room with the artist, making the experience dynamic and interactive.”

Interactivity is key to DREAMSTAGE’s product. Fans not only benefit from the personalized experience of watching live music streamed directly into their living rooms, but they also enjoy the capability of communicating with one another in real time using the platform’s built-in chat function, which “is what truly separates this experience from watching a YouTube video on your own,” Hesse said.

Artists benefit from the interactive equation, as well. “Even when live concerts start again, live streaming will become a natural addition to live shows,” Albrecht wrote. “Artists will be able to connect to the fans in the room, but also to let fans who can’t make it enjoy the concert live, online. The ability to connect to more people also opens up a number of new digital revenue streams for musicians.”

Musicians and entertainers largely rely on live performances and touring as a means of financial survival. In the year before the pandemic, the US live music business reached nearly $8 billion in ticket sales, trailing slightly behind recorded music, which came in at $11 billion, as found in a report published by Music Watch. The live music streaming industry is expected to generate $6.4 billion by 2027, according to MIDiA Research.

Professionally livestreamed concerts allow musicians to reach a much larger audience, and through supplemental digital-only concerts that are executed and marketed compellingly, artists can collect additional revenue on Spotify and other music distribution services when live gigs aren’t an option. It’s a domino effect – digital-only concerts promote engagement with the artists, bouncing their songs back into the charts, and in turn stimulating the demand for live in-person events, Hesse said.

Through DREAMSTAGE’s integrated platform, artists can sell tickets, merchandise, and VIP experiences, as well as raise donations for charities, with the company taking a platform fee that varies according to the individual deal. DREAMSTAGE offers performers the option of utilizing their in-house production crew and social media marketing team, but also leaves artists the ability to employ their own teams.

The venues are selected according to the artists’ choice, and then cast into their virtual concert halls developed by a “world class team of engineers,” according to a release. Some concerts are available via on-demand for a select period of time, although the offering of a permanent on-demand archive is contingent upon the clearing of rights, Hesse explained.

Performances can be viewed via the Apple TV app, “with the big screen being the medium of choice, accompanied by great sound and picture,” Hesse said. The company plans on delivering mobile apps for iOS and Android in the near future, but in the meantime, performances and interactive features can be accessed on DREAMSTAGE’s website on any device.

While the pandemic was the catalyst for DREAMSTAGE, the real appeal to DREAMSTAGE lies in its longevity. The co-creator of video hosting service Vevo and former Sony Music President of Global Digital Business, Hesse is no stranger to the recorded music industry and music video space. He spearheaded Sony Music’s merger with BMG and was responsible for driving the transformation of recorded music to streaming. It also helps that Hesse is a trained concert pianist, having studied at major concert halls in Austria and Germany.

“DREAMSTAGE, in a way, creates a new format that’s a hybrid between a music video and a live performance,” Hesse said. He calls this the “Live Music Video,” which he hopes will one day compete with Netflix as its own form of appointment TV.

“We’re not really competing with people going to the concert a few times a year, which they will do,” Hesse said. “That’s a big thing; you have to get tickets which are more expensive than an online ticket, you need to get a babysitter, get the car out, drive to the venue, park the car – it’s not something you do on a weekday night.”

If your favorite artist is performing in a different town, it’s easy to just buy the ticket in one click on your mobile and watch it on your TV, he explained. This high-value streaming experience is designed to take the formal aspect out of watching artists perform by granting all viewers a front-row seat. At the same time, the quality and vibrance of the in-person viewing experience is intended to be preserved with DREAMSTAGE’s premium technology, which utilizes high-definition audio/video signal and a clear and friendly user interface.

“Our goal is to make live events in music and entertainment, which can include comedy and other forms of entertainment, as attractive and as interesting as live sports,” Hesse said. “People go to live events and go to watch the Mets and Yankees at the stadium, but lots of them watch them on the television. And the same should be true for music.”

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People – not process – are the drivers of transformation, according to business leaders from Microsoft and Accenture

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Historically, business transformation has been a top-down endeavor largely focused on technology, process, and operations. As savvy leaders know, there’s another essential component to successful reinvention: People. By empowering their employees to be catalysts for change, and inviting them to help reshape their organizations from the bottom up, today’s business leaders are finding that culture and purpose are key.

As head of global employee, leader & culture communications at Microsoft, Letty Cherry’s primary goal is to keep employees informed, engaged, and proud of their association with the company. With Microsoft currently employing more than 160,000 people worldwide, this is a significant task. Cherry and her team have managed to increase engagement and invite outside perspective via activities like employee town halls, company hackathons, and “Outside in,” a cross-company learning event wherein business leaders on book tours stop by the company to talk business philosophy, creativity, mindfulness, and more.

Reaching this point required that Microsoft get a drum beat on its mission.”The mission of the company is everywhere,” Cherry says. “It’s printed on our employee badges. We talk about it a lot in terms of empowering every person and every organization on the planet. But the culture needs to ladder up to it.”

Company culture needs to evolve over time as you see gaps or as circumstances change, Cherry explains. As such, a central team monitors Microsoft’s cultural attributes, ensures employees are familiar with them, and makes sure leaders are exhibiting them. Microsoft prioritizes diversity and inclusion, and works to teach its people how they can be “good allies to each other,” Cherry says. Providing employees with channels for different topics of conversation is critical, too, even if they don’t always agree with each other.

Abiding by the company’s values, which include respect, integrity, and accountability, helps employees in a number of ways; it creates a sense of security so they can be free to maximize their potential, but it also “clears away the clutter” so they can innovate. But Cherry notes that in order for companies to effectively convey these rules, their managers must learn to embrace them.”

Making culture and purpose real

You can roll out whatever you want on culture. If the manager of your individual team isn’t living by that culture, it causes problems,” she says. Her advice to business leaders unsure of how to activate their workforce? “Check your bias at the door.” Empathy, vulnerability, and promoting two-way dialogue are all critical to removing barriers so you can develop both your talent and your brand.

At Accenture, Amy Fuller, chief marketing and communications officer, takes a similar approach. She manages everything from how the company markets to how it communicates to its talent brand, but the latter is increasingly important. As Fuller puts it, “For anything to work at a professional services company, it really needs to work with the people because they are the brand.”

There’s a lot of focus on the concept of purpose at Accenture, which Fuller calls “the topic of the moment.” For purpose to endure, she says, it has to embody the value of your business: who you are, and what you do.

“In the past couple of years, purpose has almost become a marketing cliché,” Fuller says, adding that “The value of a cliché is that everyone hears about it.” Still, when the company surveyed its workforce of 500,000 global employees to find out how they defined Accenture’s purpose, not everyone was on the same page. Some employees were unable to communicate it, while others defaulted to citing the company’s advertising tagline. “It was an open door for us to articulate something that was important,” Fuller says.

“Technology plus people”

Naturally, being purposeful as a business requires the help of your employees. “What we hear from our clients is that it’s all about people and technology. Not just one of those components – it’s actually both,” Fuller says. “That is the moment we’re in, in the world. It’s technology, plus people, and how they coexist.”

As Fuller notes, one thing many CEOs concern themselves with when it comes to their people is assessing how they collaborate. “How our people operate is actually the core of Accenture,” Fuller says. “[They] are not simply those who work at Accenture; they are literally the product and our distribution channel, all at once.”

In theory, that should make the task of empowering Accenture’s people to help grow the company feel monumental, but Fuller has cracked the code. It’s all about living those coveted values from the inside-out.

“For our purpose to become real,” Fuller says, “the number one thing is that it cannot just be words. When we’ve done additional research to ask people, clients, and our talent what would make this notion real, (the answer is), “I need to see it in my daily life. I need to see my leaders actually be using it to guide decisions. It needs to be extremely relevant.”

Encouraging your leaders to embody your company’s culture and demonstrate the optimal mindset, while also giving people – your most valuable asset – a voice, can transform businesses for the better. As Cherry puts it, “We look at our employees as a force for change.”

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New president of Universal Robots defines his leadership style and strategy for driving innovation in manufacturing

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Kim Povlsen, President of Universal Robots

Universal Robots launched the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot (or cobot) in 2008 and has since become the fastest-growing segment of the global robotics market. With the recent departure of Jurgen Von Hollen, the company’s new president Kim Povlsen, “the new enzyme to the UR innovation formula,” and former elite athlete talks to Insider about leadership, human ingenuity, and how COVID-19 has changed manufacturing.

Insider: How will you continue to drive innovation in your new role at Universal Robots?

Povlsen: UR is driven by ingenuity, creativity, and a genuine desire to improve workplaces and global productivity. It is my ambition to build on this heritage and bring the flexible cobots to new audiences.

I will draw on my background from The Maersk Mc Kinney Moller Institute at Syddansk Universitet. This unique environment hatched several figures from the Danish robotics community and the creativity found here is a key ingredient for future innovation. In this sense, I am the new enzyme to the UR innovation formula. I will support the boldest ideas and link them to commercial opportunities to push UR innovation forward.

Insider: What exciting new plans can we expect to see from UR?

Povlsen: The industrial world is at a crossroads. Decisions must be made for more agile and adaptable production paradigms to accommodate new consumer behaviors. This is relevant for large corporates as well as SMBs, and UR’s flexible cobots are positioned perfectly to play a pivotal role in this paradigm shift. UR’s open ecosystem and UR+ platform will play a key role in this transformation and continue to create new use cases for cobots.

Insider: How excited are you for what the next few years in robotics looks like and how does UR fit into this picture?

Povlsen: I am beyond excited to have entered the UR world at a time and place, when the manufacturing industry is reaching out for new approaches to increase productivity in a more flexible and customer-centric way. We have only just scratched the surface of potential within robotics. We see new applications, open innovation, and global developments driving flexible automation forward at an ever-increasing pace.

Insider: What’s your leadership ethos and what’s it like working with you?

Povlsen: I constantly drive myself and my colleagues mad with the “why” question. Why are we doing what we are doing and to what extent do our actions support this ethos? It is imperative to step back from time to time to reflect and to challenge. This can guide the organisation towards greater goals.

As a former elite athlete, I also believe in multifaceted talent development. You need to improve on several parameters to create sustainable growth and creative drive.

Insider: How has the pandemic impacted the industry (positive and negative) and how will the industry cope?

Povlsen: No doubt the pandemic has challenged the manufacturing industry. Restrictions disrupted supply chains and lockdowns have posed immense financial and practical urgencies on owners as well as staff and management. At the same time, we have witnessed new creativity and the adoption of new technologies – such as allowing more local and flexible production. In this light, I believe the manufacturing industry will come out on top, reinvent itself and be prepared for new global opportunities.

Insider: What lessons have you and your company learned?

Povlsen: We have witnessed, in the most challenging of circumstances, that human ingenuity and technological advancements present new and unexpected potentials. We have seen manufacturers realigning their production to Covid safety equipment assisted by flexible cobots. These examples will inspire and drive innovation forward.

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