Tag: Some

Some of the renowned New Zealand’s business experts

There are many of the business experts in New Zealand who with their affordable and practical source of business have reduced the gap in the market. To enhance the mobility of the business in New Zealand there are some of the companies with some renowned experts who try to motivate the business owners with some kind of professional help.
Needs covered by the Business experts
There are some of the export consultants in Auckland who cover up many needs which are required in the business and some of the needs are:
* These experts try to achieve the longer term growth aspirations of the clients and try to troubleshoot all kinds of roadblock issues.
* The experts help to understand the clients how to save money and time.
* The experts try to keep the things simple and help the clients in all the possible ways it can.
Things delivered by the business experts
There are certain things which the business experts deliver to the clients which include:
* Through the leadership, management and hands-on business consultancy the experts provide some kind of business coaching manuals to the clients.
* The immediate worries of the clients are fixed properly and diagnosed in order to enhance their business opportunities.
* The delivery of the programs which improve the health of the clients with some of the pro-active work culture.
Business plan consulting company in Auckland
A consulting company in Auckland is always known for their business coaching and consultancy services and the services cover all the essential facets of the business. Some of the Auckland consultancy services include:
* Microsoft Office applications and Project Management.
* Human Resources and Employment Relations.
* A complete cover of leadership, management and strategy.
* Marketing, sales and Financial Management
The experts provide professional services with a sensible blend of business coaching and consultancy. The experts take appropriate action when they understand and address the needs of the clients and help significantly to execute the business plan successfully.
The benefits gained by clients
Some of the benefits which are gained by the clients from the business experts include:
* Improve the repeat business and enhance the customer value for the clients.
* Significant growth in profitability and sales.
* Competitive advantage which is increased to the maximum amount.
* Conducive to sustained growth and reduced risk in the business.
* High integration and improved business focus.

Bureau is a professional author. He loves to share his idea and knowledge to make people aware about on Business Development Advisers.

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Some Useful Tips to Start Home Based Business

Life can be simple and sweet for you, your family as well as for your future. A Home Based Business is a new business model which can transform your home into your office. This means that you can simply opt for a business and its program that you like and share with the individuals whom you already know.

A home based revenue business gives you an opportunity to work as your own boss. It even offers you a chance to cash your hobby. You can enjoy the hard work while sitting at home. Working from home avoids the stress and tensions of the employment. It even helps you to save the expenses on transportation. You even enjoy the flexibility of timings and working schedule. Here you have a chance to do your work whenever you get time. You act like your own boss and complete as much work as you like. You can set your personal deadlines according to yourself. As you stay at home so you can easily look after your family and maintain a perfect balance between your personal as well as professional life.

If you are thinking to start home based business then you must consider a business plan in mind. It should be something that you are well aware of. Your business plan should outline the ways of making money through business. A detailed business plan is the best way to start your business as it will assist you at each step. So planning is the foremost step to start a home based business. The next important criterion to consider is the financial structure of the business. You should know how much you need to spend to establish your business. Consider the work force required in business and how will you pay to your employees.

Consider the plans beforehand that how will you grow your business. You really need to think and plan accordingly the steps that are required to expand your business in near future. Whenever you start home based business it is essential that you thoroughly research all the legal issues that are involved. The law varies according to the state but every state requires getting a business license and a seller’s permit. Make sure that you fulfill all the licensing requirements to avoid undue hassles.

Take time to network and advertise your business. If you are working at home that does not mean you don’t require business contacts. You must schedule meetings outside your work area to get away and meet others in your field. This will help you greatly to expand your business. You must showcase your knowledge about your product to others. You can write online articles and add your contact information in them. You can even search for various seminars where you can participate and make people aware. By doing this you are building a good reputation of your home business.

Home business is the perfect idea. Here start up costs can be minimal while the after potential is certainly great. Your time and initial efforts are the greatest investment that you will enjoy afterwards. Following these tips will increase your productivity and will help you in achieving great profits.

Learn how to start home based business through our Start a Business Guide.Our guides are beginner friendly and the best part is there is no experience required to get started!

Keurig Admits Its New Soda Machine Has Some Problems

Keurig Green Mountain

When Keurig Green Mountain launched an at-home soft drinl maker called the Keurig Kold in the U.S. earlier this fall, a few things stood out immediately.

It cost $ 369 — or $ 299 on promotion — which is steep for a small appliance (Best Buy just started offering it on sale at $ 200). It ran on plastic, single-serve pods that cost $ 0.99 to $ 1.29 each and made a single 8-ounce cup of soda — also pricey, relative to the cost of cans or bottles in the supermarket. And it took 60 to 90 seconds to prepare each drink, calling its ultimate convenience into question.

The company now acknowledges it must address some of these shortcomings. CEO Brian Kelley told investors on an earnings call last week that “consumers love the taste” and, most importantly, “we're delivering a terrific beverage.” But Keurig is also “learning a lot about what needs to improve and what we can improve. And we know that the first product we put out in the new technology is never going to be perfect.”

The Keurig Kold was launched with popular sodas from Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple as well as Keurig's own brands of iced teas, sports drinks, and flavored waters. Some looked at the machine as a potential comeback vehicle for Keurig following the bumpy launch of its Keurig 2.0 coffee brewer last year. Sales of the company's coffee maker have been in decline for the last year, and Kold would be its first steps in an entirely new market, driven until now by the SodaStream.

BuzzFeed News

So far, consumers have been skeptical. The Kold has scored a 3.3 out of 5 rating on Amazon.com, putting it somewhere between “It's okay” and “I like it,” — below what you'd expect from a much-hyped product the company lauded as a “disruptive countertop-size innovation.” On Keurig's own site, Kold got a 3.6 out of 5 rating, which is better than “Ordinary” but not enough for “That's good stuff.” The company launched Kold in Canada this week.

Based on current trends and due to the gradual rollout of the Kold machine, Keurig expects to sell 60,000 to 100,000 Kold machines during its first year in the market, still a drop in the bucket compared to the 9.2 million Keurig hot brewers sold in fiscal 2015.

CEO Kelley noted several improvements consumers so far have demanded on the investor call.

“Consumers want it to be smaller,” said Kelley.

Keurig Kold is 12-inches wide and 19.25-inches deep (most kitchen countertops are about 25 inches deep). It weighs 23.7 pounds. “The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was, this machine is HUGE. It's pretty bulky and does not fit underneath my kitchen cabinets, so it takes up a lot of counter space,” one Best Buy customer wrote in a review.

“They want it to be less expensive.”

Consumers pay about $ 369 for the Kold machine, and some have complained that even at this price, it is “buggy.” The appliance is more expensive than Keurig's coffee makers, and is also more than other carbonated water makers, such as SodaStream, which offers models for less than $ 100. On top of that, each Kold pod costs a lot more than a regular bottle or can at the supermarket. As another Best Buy reviewer put it: “Seriously….buy a 2 liter and use your icemaker. It tastes better and it's reliably cheap.”

Keurig plans to gradually offer lower-priced pods, but as its Chief Innovation Officer Kevin Hartley told BuzzFeed News, “The bargain, really large 2-liter and above sizes at really promoted prices, I don't think that will be the Keurig market.”

“They want to have more sizes of drinks available.”

Especially because each drink takes more than a minute to prepare, it would be nice to be able to make more than an 8-ounce cup at a time, for example, if you are trying to serve guests.

Still, it's worth noting that one of Keurig's big selling points for the 2.0 coffee maker was that it could, unlike earlier models, make either a single cup or a carafe of coffee. That feature wasn't enough to make the 2.0 a hit.

“They want a broader selection of drinks,” Kelley said.

On its hot brewers, Keurig offers 60 brands and more than 600 varieties, which has been a strength. “I think in the not too distant future we'll have something like that unbelievably beautiful array of beverages,” including all kinds of cold drinks, not just sodas, Hartley said. He adds that the pods will be used as a platform for testing and developing new varieties that might otherwise have no place on retailers' shelves.

Having noted these areas for improvement, the company has not announced any details about when it might launch of the next generation KOLD drink maker.

“Each of these [points] is being addressed and will get addressed both from a machine standpoint and pod standpoint. But it doesn’t happen on the very first machine, we’re going to learn and we’re going to improve,” Kelley said on the call.

Of course, any future for Keurig Kold will depend on how consumers respond. “We’re going to be very disciplined and pragmatic in our approach to investment levels over the long term and we’re going to invest only as the marketplace success dictates,” Kelley said.

The K-Cup In Crisis

The K-Cup Crisis Continues

Keurig’s Home-Brew Coca-Cola Machine Launches Tuesday

BuzzFeed – Business

An Old Folks Home In San Francisco Has Some New Residents: Young Techies

Amid an unprecedented real estate boom, one longtime home for San Francisco’s low-income retirees is welcoming fresh-faced tenants paying market rates.

Zane Riley, who moved to San Francisco's Mission neighborhood this spring.

William Alden / Via BuzzFeed News

Some luxury apartment buildings in San Francisco lure young tech workers with perks like housekeeping, dry cleaning, and concierge services. But at one newly renovated building in the city's Mission neighborhood, techie tenants are instead encountering amenities like a free blood pressure screening and an educational workshop on arthritis.

That's because the building, in addition to housing some fresh young faces, is also a government-subsidized senior community, where most of the residents are elderly retirees.

For several years now, with the San Francisco real estate market reaching stomach-turning heights, developers have been finding new ways to cash in on surging demand. Gleaming high-rises in the South of Market and mid-Market areas, featuring pricey apartments within longboarding distance of many tech companies, have helped push the median monthly rent for a studio apartment in the city to $ 2,722 as of June, according to Pricenomics.

But the transformation taking place at the Mission building, a longtime home for the elderly, highlights how the city's real estate gold rush can occasionally veer into the absurd. The building, known as the Vincentian Villa, had been owned by the St. Vincent de Paul Society charity for 40 years, until it was sold to a Los Angeles–based developer for $ 13.5 million last year. The purchaser, GHC Housing Partners, agreed to extend a federal contract to keep about 60% of the building's units priced far below market rates. But it is now gradually renting out the rest as they become vacant — apartments so small they are called “micro studios” — to tech workers paying around $ 2,000 a month for roughly 300 square feet of space.

One new tenant, Zane Riley, a 24-year-old product designer from southern Missouri, came across the Vincentian Villa toward the end of a two-month apartment search this spring, while he and his girlfriend, Megan Keesee, were staying with an Airbnb host in Berkeley. “We didn't know anything about the San Francisco housing market,” said Riley, an artsy type with a slight country twang, who grew up fishing and swimming in a quarry near his hometown of Blodgett (population: 211). “We got our apartment in Missouri with a handshake, basically.”

The young couple, who shared their first kiss on the banks of the Mississippi River, were surviving only on Keesee's starting salary as a public relations associate. The craft beers and cage-free eggs at the nearby Berkeley Bowl were out of reach; for dinner, they would sometimes split a single appetizer at a local Korean place. “We usually walked to McDonald's,” Riley said. “That was about the extent of going out.”

The Craigslist ads for studio apartments in the Vincentian Villa didn't mention that the majority of the building's units were covered by the federal government's Section 8 housing assistance program for low-income tenants. At first glance, the building, which was recently renovated at a cost of $ 3 million to include granite countertops and new plank flooring in the units, and a modern-looking courtyard in back, resembles the countless other habitats marketed to aspiring yuppies. Riley said he didn't remember the building's Section 8 status being mentioned on the tour. Only when he later googled the address on a hunch — after signing the lease and paying the security deposit and first month's rent — did he learn the building's history.

The agent who did the deal, Kent Boeker of J.Wavro Associates, said Riley should have known better. “Everyone was told that this was an assisted living, subsidized housing building, where a small number of units were currently available for market-rate tenants,” Boeker told BuzzFeed News. “But it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention. I would only say it once.”

Boeker's boss, James Wavro, put it more bluntly.

“Anyone who walks in that building will see a critical mass of old people, rolling around the building, hanging out in the common areas,” Wavro said. “The way that we train our agents, I tell them, 'Kill the deal, kill the deal, kill the deal.' What I mean by that is, let people know what they're getting themselves into.”

“Our joke was, we're going to have multigenerational bridge games going on in the club lounge, which we thought would be kind of fun,” Wavro added. “Because you can learn a lot from old people.”

A longtime home for the elderly, known as the Vincentian Villa, was sold to a Los Angeles–based developer for $ 13.5 million last year.

William Alden / Via BuzzFeed News

The San Francisco real estate boom, accompanying the city's rise as a major new tech hub in recent years, has reshaped neighborhoods and inflamed local tensions. A growing number of new residents — many of them young, highly skilled workers — are competing for a limited number of apartments in a few hot neighborhoods, like Soma and the Mission. Even as new apartment buildings have gone up, competition for living space has intensified.

By the end of this year, the city is projected to have a 3.2% apartment vacancy rate, compared with a projected rate of 4.8% for all major U.S. cities, according to the real estate brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap. In a report this spring, Forbes, using Marcus & Millichap data, declared San Francisco to be the No. 1 worst city in the nation for renters.

While developers have seized the moment by erecting structures like Nema, a luxurious apartment complex where some studio apartments rent for more than $ 4,000 a month, the situation at the Vincentian Villa is more complicated.

The building's new owner, GHC, is one of the largest owners of affordable housing in the United States, and it took certain steps last year to keep the elderly residents in their homes. Crucially, it extended for 20 years the federal contract that had ensured Section 8 affordability for 72 of the building's 124 apartments. Many of the other apartments, though lacking the federal subsidy, are still being subsidized by an ad hoc fund created by GHC and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. (Companies like GHC that own Section 8 housing receive payments from the government to make up for the lower rent.)

The arrangement hasn't attracted much attention from local housing advocates, who say they are instead concerned about buildings like Frederick Douglas Haynes Gardens, a development in the Fillmore district that is apparently at risk of losing its Section 8 designation altogether. “I wouldn't have done a deal that would have required us to displace people to make a profit, or to make a property financially viable,” Gregory Perlman, the chief executive of GHC, told BuzzFeed News.

Indeed, GHC is pursuing a more nuanced strategy, with plans to reap its biggest profits from the 52 apartments that aren't covered by Section 8. When residents in those apartments leave — or die — GHC will rent out their homes to new tenants at market rates.

At least 14 such units have been rented out so far. Riley and Keesee, who pay $ 1,700 a month for a roughly 285-square-foot studio that they share with Champ, their 65-pound German shepherd–border collie mix, were among the first young people to move in. The other new tenants include “young twentysomethings moving to the city for a new job, or even their first job,” according to Boeker, the real estate agent.

To speed this process, and also to ease the challenge of renovating the building with elderly people living in it, GHC offered $ 25,000 last year to any resident who chose to leave. Five people took the money. Perlman said the offer was not intended to drive people out of the 52 apartments that would go on the market. Three of the tenants who took the money, he said, had been living in the Section 8 apartments, which will stay subsidized for 20 years.

But even in those cases, the landlord can benefit from a tenant taking a buyout. When a Section 8 apartment becomes vacant, elderly residents in the other apartments have first dibs on moving there, according to Perlman — creating vacancies among the apartments that can be rented at market rates.


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BuzzFeed – Business

Zenefits Is An HR “Rocket Ship” — But Some Customers Get Left Behind

Matt Chase for BuzzFeed News

Mike Hawkins' four-month health insurance nightmare began in November, when he started doing business with a Silicon Valley startup called Zenefits.

Hawkins, the founder and CEO of Netizen, a cybersecurity startup in Allentown, Pennsylvania, had heard good things about Zenefits, a health insurance broker that offers free human resources software as a lure for small businesses. Launched in 2013, the San Francisco–based Zenefits is one of the fastest-growing and most talked-about startups of the moment, with more than 10,000 companies using its services, a valuation of $ 4.5 billion, and a roster of powerful investors.

But for Hawkins, 33, who became a software engineer after serving in the Army, Zenefits was instead a source of one headache after another. A process he thought would take about a month instead dragged on into March, when Hawkins finally gave up.

One of his employees, Max Harris, 37, the chief business development officer, wanted an allergist's opinion about what was ailing his 4-year-old daughter, Caley, who had been getting sick with respiratory infections whenever the seasons changed. Harris, a former Army intelligence specialist and Arabic linguist who served in Iraq, hadn't had health insurance since leaving a job in a Wegmans deli to join Netizen in early 2014.

Finally, in late February this year, with coverage supposed to start days later, Zenefits informed Hawkins that it had made a significant mistake, attempting to enroll his employees with an insurance provider that didn't cover the company's region. The insurance wouldn't come through as planned.

“I'm done being patient with you people,” Hawkins told Zenefits in an email that he shared with BuzzFeed News. “This is why no one likes Silicon Valley — companies like yours apparently have your heads up your asses. You're growing beyond your means and you'll be bankrupt within a year.”

As it rapidly matures into a Silicon Valley giant, vacuuming up customers and burning through a mountain of venture capital, Zenefits has also racked up a number of customer complaints, over issues like software glitches and human error. More than a dozen customers who were interviewed for this article — a small but angry subset of the company's book of business — said Zenefits turned the HR process into an expensive nightmare. In several cases employees like Harris, who had put their trust in Zenefits, were left without health insurance for a month or more after they had expected it.

Matt Chase for BuzzFeed News

According to Zenefits, which is led by CEO and co-founder Parker Conrad, these service failures are rare, and not reflective of the experience of most customers. The company says it keeps 99.2% of its customers every month.

“Zenefits' customer satisfaction (as measured by net promoter score) is exceptional for a software-as-a-service company, especially one with 10,000-plus customers,” Kenneth Baer, a Zenefits spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “It's also true that we sometimes make mistakes. This is the exception to the rule, and happens less and less frequently with each passing month. But when we do make a mistake, we work hard to correct it as quickly as possible, and make things right for our clients.”

Zenefits claims it has grown more quickly than any other company delivering business software over the internet; it acquired those 10,000-plus customers and hired more than 500 employees in under two years, according to its website.

And unlike other richly valued startups like Uber and Airbnb, whose products are largely luxury items, Zenefits makes much of its money trading in a service that is essential to people's lives. So when Zenefits breaks, or when it makes a mistake, or even when it takes a particularly long time to fulfill a customer's request, the consequences can be serious.

Zenefits’s success and rapid expansion can be partly attributed to the industry it is disrupting. The majority of the insurance brokers who serve businesses are deeply — almost defiantly — old-fashioned, using their powers of persuasion and tolerance for tedium to convince insurance providers to give their clients a good deal. It's a business overflowing with forms and spreadsheets that companies resent having to fill out. Many insurance brokers are local, independent outfits. A few, like Digital Insurance, a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial, or Wells Fargo, which has an insurance brokerage arm, are major corporations.

The insurance brokerage business is extremely lucrative. After selling insurance policies, brokers are paid commissions by the insurance companies every month, in perpetuity, even if they do nothing. Zenefits has become a broker itself, collecting around 5% of its customers' monthly insurance premiums, in line with the industry standard.

This predictable stream of revenue has made Zenefits very popular among investors. The monthly payments cause Zenefits’s financial statements to resemble those of startups that sell software over the internet on a subscription basis (a widely used business model known as “software as a service”). Except in Zenefits’s case, the software is free. That tempts customers to use it to organize their employee benefits and payroll, which in turn often encourages them to buy insurance through Zenefits. And the payments from the insurance companies keep flowing in.

“It's a genius business model,” said Jonathan Marcus, the CEO and founder of Goodsie, a New York–based startup that provides e-commerce software to businesses, and which is a Zenefits customer. “I'm very jealous I didn't think of it.”

Matt Chase for BuzzFeed News

The early success of the business model has some of the world's best venture capitalists enthralled with the prospects for Zenefits. Andreessen Horowitz, which has been an investor in success stories like Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb, now has more of its money invested in Zenefits than in any other company. (Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in BuzzFeed.)

From the beginning, Zenefits took an aggressive approach to entering the market and defending its turf. In fall 2013, just months after Zenefits launched, Conrad, the CEO, learned that a group of investors who had provided seed financing to Zenefits had also backed SimplyInsured, a rival insurance broker that used a similar business model. Zenefits and SimplyInsured had been peers in the prestigious Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator, completing the program together in early 2013.

Conrad, concerned about a possible conflict, told the investors that he planned to return their money, according to people briefed on the matter and emails obtained by BuzzFeed News. While such a stance wouldn't be surprising for regulating later-stage investments, some experts said it was an unusual way to handle investments made at the seed stage, when a company's place in the marketplace isn't yet established.

The investors, opting to stick with Zenefits, instead sold their stake in SimplyInsured, people briefed on the matter said. Zenefits went on to raise a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz. SimplyInsured, focusing more narrowly on health insurance and courting smaller companies, has been left in the dust.

Zenefits is now a juggernaut, raising $ 500 million of venture capital in May to fuel its expansion. After opening an office in Scottsdale, Arizona, it recently signed a lease on an office in nearby Tempe, which will soon house hundreds of new employees. Late last year, in a sign of its clout, the company hired David Sacks, a founder of Yammer and a former PayPal executive, to be its chief operating officer.

“Just managing something that's growing this fast, it's kind of like building the rocket ship in mid-flight,” Sacks said in a recent Zenefits promotional video. “That's an incredibly challenging thing to do.”

Setting up health insurance for a small company is a complicated process, with plenty of potential for error, regardless of who the broker is. Brokers, both old-school and new, make mistakes, sometimes forcing employees to go without health insurance for months. “It's kind of like buying a house,” said Jessica Miller-Merrell, a human resources expert and blogger who advises tech companies on their HR. “You have a mountain of paperwork you have to complete and sign. If you miss a particular paper, it delays the process.”

Zenefits's heavy emphasis on software, Miller-Merrell added, introduces additional risks. “When you use technology to automate the process,” she said, “mistakes are likely going to be made. And they're probably big ones.”

The Zenefits spokesperson argued that the company's technology actually lowers the potential for mistakes, because it is less reliant on humans.

Many customers interviewed for this article declined to speak on the record; since many of them were startup companies based in Silicon Valley, they were fearful of angering powerful friends of Zenefits, like Andreessen Horowitz or Y Combinator. But their stories showed how even small failures of the Zenefits “rocket ship” can be disastrous for its customers.

When setting up health insurance coverage, Zenefits can be prone to seemingly careless errors, several customers said — like premiums being charged for an employee who had left a company, or a current employee being incorrectly cut off from health insurance.

Several startup executives said administrative errors by Zenefits caused employees to go without health insurance while they were being resolved. In one case, a startup executive said they paid out of pocket for an employee's prescriptions during a month that the employee went without coverage.

Zenefits declined to comment on these examples. Without knowledge of the customers' identities, representatives said they could not determine whether the errors were the fault of Zenefits, an insurance company, or the customer.

Part of the problem may come down to resources. While many Zenefits customers have dedicated account managers, companies with fewer than 25 employees generally don't have one after their initial setup period. “We can't afford to have one person for every two-person company; we wouldn't be in business,” a senior Zenefits executive, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, told BuzzFeed News.

Many of the unhappy customers said it seemed to them like Zenefits was growing too quickly to adequately resolve their issues. Several described a churn of customer service representatives — they would start working with one Zenefits representative, and then learn that person had been either fired or promoted to a different job.

“Everybody I talked to got promoted within two weeks, it seemed like,” said Hawkins, the Netizen CEO. Marcus, the CEO of the New York–based startup Goodsie, said, “The contacts we had are no longer there.”

Zenefits very well “could end up being revolutionary,” said Adam Beck, a health insurance professor at the American College, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. But he said Zenefits would have to find a way to balance its reliance on technology with a personal touch.

“There is very much a human element in many aspects of insurance, really outside property and casualty,” Beck said. “You do need more human interaction, just because the nature of the financial product is inherently more personal.”

Some customers were willing to forgive missteps by Zenefits, especially when they related to software bugs — an issue that any fast-growing technology company has to deal with. But bugs in Zenefits software, which create problems when customers try to perform daily tasks, can be particularly aggravating.

Michael Schneider, a 34-year-old serial entrepreneur in Los Angeles, signed up for Zenefits in June after starting a company called Service, which aims to resolve customer complaints relating to any company. “Overall, I love the idea of Zenefits,” Schneider said. “I hate paper, and I hate bullshit, and Zenefits seems to be a really efficient play to solve all those issues.”

Schneider wanted to use Zenefits to pay a couple of contractors, but he was stymied when the software wouldn't verify Service's bank account. “They finally acknowledged it as a bug,” Schneider said. The senior Zenefits executive said the bug stemmed from a software glitch known as a race condition, which prevented the system from verifying test deposits. Before the issue was fixed, however, Schneider used PayPal to pay his contractors on schedule, incurring almost $ 300 in fees. He said he was led to believe the fees would be reimbursed by Zenefits.

He never received the reimbursement, though he says he is now a happy customer. The senior Zenefits executive dismissed the notion that Schneider would be paid back, drawing this analogy: “It's like saying there was something I encountered, like a technical snafu or a bug, at Amazon, and so I bought the product at Best Buy for a higher price, and then I came back to Amazon and said, 'I want you to refund me the difference in cost.'”

Since Zenefits relies on insurance companies, some problems are out of the company’s hands. For Marcus, of Goodsie, the process of enrolling in health care for his small company last year was painfully slow, with insurance cards failing to arrive until late in September, the month that coverage was supposed to begin. Zenefits says this delay stemmed from the insurance company, which took a particularly long time.

But Marcus, who switched to Zenefits after becoming fed up with a local insurance broker, also had complaints with Zenefits itself. Despite the free software, he said, he didn't feel the process was much more automated than his previous experience. When an employee recently applied for coverage, for example, Marcus assumed the employee's status would be reflected in the Zenefits software. But Marcus only learned the coverage had been approved, he said, when he happened to call Zenefits to inquire about it.

“I thought there would be a change in the process, but there wasn't really,” Marcus told BuzzFeed News. “There's just a lot of manual paperwork required by Zenefits, the same way that would be required by any broker.”

“So I'm left scratching my head,” Marcus added. “What are they doing to earn the monthly commission they earn off of us? The answer, as a 10-person company, is nothing, really.” Marcus remains a Zenefits customer.

A number of Zenefits customers have complained about their problems through Twitter, including Netizen, the cybersecurity startup in Pennsylvania. Hawkins, the Netizen CEO, said in a tweet in late November that he wasn't able to get his employees set up with insurance. He soon got an email from Matt Epstein, Zenefits's vice president of marketing, who said a gap in a Zenefits database meant Netizen wouldn't have immediate access to price quotes.

Matt Chase for BuzzFeed News

“It looks like we have live quotes for your company zip code, but not your employee zip code,” Epstein said in the email. “This happens very rarely, but unfortunately happened to you.”

With the automated process having fallen short, Netizen would have to use a manual method, including sending personal information about its employees to Zenefits. The senior Zenefits executive who spoke to BuzzFeed News said Hawkins didn't send this information until late January, delaying the process. Hawkins countered that he was busy and had hoped Zenefits would help him avoid this very type of paperwork.

But then, more than a month after Zenefits had received the paperwork, and with just days remaining before the coverage was supposed to start, a Zenefits representative said in an email that the company had submitted Netizen's application to a local Blue Cross member company that didn't offer insurance in Netizen's county. “There are 4 different versions of Blue Cross that operate in Pennsylvania and the underwriter did not inform us of this until your case was sent to be finalized,” the email, sent on Feb. 25, said.

Zenefits said it would have to apply again for the insurance — which would now start a month later, in April.

For Harris, the 37-year-old Army veteran who was Hawkins' first hire, the Zenefits failure came at a particularly stressful time. Harris had recently gone through a divorce. His daughter, Caley, had health insurance only through the Children's Health Insurance Program in Pennsylvania — which wouldn't fully cover a trip to an allergist to treat her seasonal illness. Harris said the problems with Zenefits aggravated his post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I had already reached out to my allergist” to set up an appointment for Caley, Harris told BuzzFeed News. “And then Zenefits was like, 'Oh, oops.'”

“I wanted to throw my computer at the wall,” he said. “I was furious.”

Zenefits ended up offering Netizen another option, to enroll with a different carrier by mid-March and have the coverage apply retroactively to March 1. Hawkins, frustrated by the lengthy process, dumped Zenefits instead.

He eventually got his employees health insurance through a Zenefits rival, Justworks. Harris is planning to take his daughter to an allergist in August.

“Look, I want to love the platform. It has promise,” Hawkins said in a tweet to Conrad, the Zenefits CEO, on the night Zenefits admitted its mistake. “But it has the appearance of moving too fast to keep up.”

BuzzFeed – Business

Robots Are Coming For Some Fast-Food Worker Jobs

The machines can’t make a decent burger just yet—but they can definitely take your order. Not that labor groups are worried.

Koji Sasahara / AP

America's growing force of fast-food workers may soon have a challenge on their hands greater than the inability to earn a living wage from full-time work in the industry: Much of the work they are currently doing could be taken over by machines within the coming decade or so.

While the full automation of fast-food cashiers isn't here just yet, researchers and those in the business say it's only a matter of time before ordering and payment become primarily self-service. Mobile apps and touchscreen kiosks that are already transforming the business will likely become more appealing as wages rise, and will probably take over even if they don't.

Restaurants are keeping a close eye on labor costs. Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco all recently approved increasing their minimum wages to $ 15. On July 22, a New York wage board recommended gradually increasing wages for fast-food workers in New York City to $ 15 by Dec. 31, 2018, and to $ 15 for the rest of the state by July 1, 2021. It now awaits approval by the state's labor commissioner.

“I fully believe that it will seem crazy, even just two or three years from now, that we used to wait in long lines until we got our turn, and then told [a cashier] what we wanted, and had them punch it into a machine for us,” said Noah Glass, founder and CEO of Olo, which makes mobile ordering and payment technology for restaurant chains including Five Guys and Chipotle.

The current system seems particularly outdated, he said, “in an era where 75%, 80% of us have supercomputers that are location-aware and web-enabled on our bodies at all times.”

Industry groups are keen to remind workers that demands for higher pay are taking place just as labor-saving technology is making its move on a core part of their work. “You can have a $ 15 [minimum wage] or you can have the same number of job opportunities you have now, but you can't have both,” said Michael Saltsman, research director for the Employment Policies Institute, a business-backed think tank.

A full-page ad the organization took out in the New York Post in June was less coy. “Meet the new minimum wage employee,” read the text over a photo of a touchscreen ordering kiosk.

The Employment Policies Institute ad in the New York Post.

Employment Policies Institute

Amid these declarations, many of the country's largest fast-food chains, including Starbucks and McDonald's, have rolled out or are in the process of developing smartphone apps and in-store kiosks that shift work from the cashier to the customer. It's still early days, but if consumers show in large numbers they're willing and happy to place orders themselves — primarily as a matter of convenience — even a $ 7.25-an-hour worker under today's federal minimum wage could become a questionable expense.

As wages increase, “franchisees have to find a way to pay for those extra costs,” Dunkin' Brands CEO Nigel Travis told BuzzFeed News. Operators of the company's Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins outlets can offset higher labor expenses through “some form of automation” like new ordering technology, adjusting supply chains, or increasing sales, he said.

Another option, less popular with customers, would be raising menu prices. Just this month, consumers saw increased labor costs lead to higher prices at Starbucks and Chipotle.


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BuzzFeed – Business

Some Parisian Uber Drivers Are Harassing Female Customers By Text

Several women complained about the texts on Twitter. Uber told a French newspaper that it’s investigating the claims.

Sergio Perez / Reuters

Several Parisian women complained on Twitter about Uber drivers hitting on them via text message after getting their numbers through the app, the French newspaper Libération reported on Tuesday.

“If you can't sleep, I can help you,” one driver texted a woman whom he had driven around; “I'm coming over, honey,” another texted a woman he was about to pick up. The women took screenshots of the messages and posted them on Twitter. Other women complained about drivers hitting on them during their ride. One of them said her driver told her that he had “a lollipop” for her.

Uber Paris replied to one of the women on Twitter asking her if they could talk about it via direct message. The company also told Libération that it would suspend any driver who doesn't respect the company's quality guidelines. Uber told the newspaper that it started investigating the claims, but that the women refused to give them more details about the incidents. One woman reportedly told Libération that she did not want to “cause any harm to the driver.”

In December, French authorities decided to ban UberPop, a service offered by Uber in which private individuals can offer rides to customers. “Currently, people who use UberPop are not protected if there is an accident. So not only is it illegal to offer this service but for the consumer there is a real danger,” a government spokesman told TV network BFM at the time.

Back in October, Uber Lyon (France's third biggest city) promoted an app called “Avions de Chasse” that offered to pair Uber riders with “hot chick” drivers. The promotion was deleted after BuzzFeed News got in touch with the company.

The new allegations are the latest in a string of abusive incidents toward women by drivers working for the massive startup. In December, Newsweek reported that the company had offered a woman credit after she accused a driver of sexually harassing her during a ride in London. The company also suspended its services in New Delhi, India, in December, after a driver allegedly raped a female passenger.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Virtual Reality’s Nagging Problem: It Makes Some People Sick

Facebook is going to need to find a killer app to get people to buy the Oculus Rift. But it also needs to deal with a queasy problem.

Attendees play a video game wearing Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets at the Intel booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press

Facebook's Oculus Rift virtual reality headset — and the VR industry in general — still have a technical problem to solve as they push to turn the technology mainstream: Using it makes some people feel sick.

In early versions of headsets like the Oculus Rift, simulation sickness — a phenomenon in which people become nauseous while playing a game on a VR headset — emerged as a surprising but not unexpected issue. Despite describing it as a “magical” experience overall, David Helgason, the CEO of gaming software company Unity, told BuzzFeed News the first version of the developer kit he used made him feel sick.

Historically, similar issues have emerged in piloting simulators and other immersive computer systems that can lead to sensory mismatches. If someone feels like they are walking around while wearing a VR headset, but their body is not actually moving, the result can be a feeling similar to motion sickness.

VR technology is certainly improving, with each new version producing a higher-quality experience. But it's hard to tell exactly what the impact will be until the devices are in use among a large consumer base, according to some game developers and executives.

As part of a larger story about the state of VR as the industry races to widespread adoption, BuzzFeed News interviewed Dr. Nik Blevins, chief of the Division of Otology and Neurotology and an expert in vertigo at Stanford Health Care, to discuss the phenomenon.

Dr. Blevins has also researched the use of virtual reality in surgery simulation. Here's an edited transcript of our interview.

Can you tell us a little bit about simulation sickness?

Dr. Nik Blevins: If you look at this from a balance, you look at why people get carsick, it's really a discrepancy between all of the senses, between how much you're moving and in what direction. There are a number of senses that give us an idea of where we are in space; one is our inner ear, two is our vision. Our eyes tell us where we move. Our inner ears give us information about linear and rotational acceleration. Then we have other senses: our touch sensation, what you feel about your skin, your joint position, the joints in your neck, your muscles that change when you move in space. Then you have to integrate all of that in your central nervous system, and you have to take the appropriate action given the cumulative info provided by those senses.

The problem is, some people much more so than others can be very intolerant of mismatches between the sensory info that comes in. For example, when people get sick in the back of a car and read, is because their inner ears are feeling every bump and curve, but your eyes and touch and muscles are experiencing the same motion sensation. So your brain is trying to make sense of these disparate sensory input, and it makes you sick. That sensory mismatch that is intolerable, some people are wired in such a way that any slight sensory mismatch provokes really horrible sickness, and some people can tolerate huge mismatches and not blink an eye.

What about in virtual reality environments?

NB: What we see in these VR environments, we're very good at providing some very compelling sensory inputs. We're moving in a certain environment, but we can't match all the sensations that go along with that. If you put on VR goggles and you're in an environment that says you're in a roller coaster, the other senses say you're standing in a lab. It's the same mismatch you would get if you were reading in the back of your car, or below deck on a boat. That's really the challenge: We don't have a way in your VR interfaces to match all of the senses that are required to have a unified picture of an artificial environment.

Is there a way to tune down the VR experience in such a way that it doesn't impact that sensory mismatch as much?

NB: It's kind of a paradox as I understand it. Usually what we're manipulating in VR environments is vision. We're pretty good at presenting a compelling 3D moving environment. You want to make that compelling, you want to make that so real that it overcomes the fact that you're standing in a still room. You can turn down the sense of motion in your vision, but you're doing that at the expense of the realism of the experience of the VR environment.

I don't think there's a way to make that VR environment real and compelling without having a risk of having it out of phase or out of sync with your other sensory inputs. I think there's a bit of a paradox: If you turn down the realism of the visuals you are necessarily gonna alter the realism.

What about as the technology improves?

NB: Again, some people, it's gonna have a big impact on, some people it's not. It's hard to tell what your audience is. The better the virtual environment is, the less you'll have disturbing sensory input. Having high refresh rates with good graphic quality that meets the 3D expectations of your visual system is going to help. What I've found in some of this, from personal experience, using immersive technology in our lab, if the parallax and the stereoscopic presentation of the environment is off, even without a lot of motion, you'll feel disconnected with the environment. That leads you to have more risk; your brain can find discrepancies between your right and left eye. In general the better the visual fidelity, the less likely you're gonna have bothersome input.

I think from a physiological standpoint, the way to get around it would be to provide additional sensory input from the other senses, but that's a difficult thing to do technically.

Would the problem be resolved if an additional sense was stimulated in the experience?

NB: I don't think we really know the answer to that; different people show such variable responses to these mismatched sensory stimuli. I see this every day when I see patients, people who have an otherwise small inner ear problem on one side that are just incapacitated by it because they can't cope with one ear being off. We see some people who have lost an ear completely who are hardly bothered.

In some ways, situations where sensory input that's really different than the input can have a bigger effect than input that's just a little bit different. If it's close and you can't put it together, sometimes it's worse than something that's far off that you can ignore. Because we're working with people that are always wired differently, it's hard to say one is always gonna be better than the other.

You can see that in some of the simulated roller coasters or flight sims that have some inner ear stimulation associated with it — in many ways that's something that can induce additional sickness rather than mitigate it because you're simulating the inner ear and the eyes, but you're not quite stimulating the ears correctly. You can't simulate all the inputs to the inner ear; you're substituting one sense for the other. For linear acceleration, tipping the ride or the simulator, rather than moving it in a linear way, there's subtle differences to that which can really evoke more of a sense of dissonance in your sensory input.

BuzzFeed – Business

Peers Wants To Offer Help (And Some Stability) To Sharing Economy Workers

Peers, an online community for sharing economy workers, announces a homeshare liability insurance program and a short-term vehicle lease program for rideshare workers whose cars are under repair.

Peers

As the sharing economy grows, so do the needs of its contract workers.

“There is an emerging sharing economy workforce,” Peers executive director Shelby Clark told BuzzFeed News. “It's totally different than anything we've ever seen before, it has new needs. So we need to create new products and services that meet those needs.”

To that end, Peers, an online community for sharing economy workers — which according to Clark boasts a quarter of a million people in the network — is rolling out two of the first programs to be made available to its networks of workers on the site's support marketplace: Homesharing Liability Insurance and Keep Driving.

The Homesharing Liability Insurance program aims to provide peace of mind to people who rent out their traditional residences (no tree houses or igloos yet) on platforms like AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway.

“This provides a million-dollar personal liability coverage of anything that happens while you are renting out your home,” Clark said. “Many people don't realize personal insurance may not cover commercial use. They may not realize they were at risk.”

For $ 36 a month, Peers members can buy homesharing insurance through United Specialty insurance company and made available by insurance broker Porter and Curtis, Clark said.

Keep Driving, targets the ridesharing or car service economy. Peers is partnering with short-term car lease startup Breeze to provide up to a month-long leases of cars to drivers whose cars may be being repaired as a result of an accident. As part of the program, Peers is fronting all the initial costs that an Uber or Lyft driver would have to undertake in renting from Breeze directly. According to Breeze head of operations Fernando Rodriguez and chief executive and co-founder Jeffrey Pang, the initial costs include a $ 250 initiation fee and the cost of insurance, which can vary, and the cost of the lease which comes to $ 28 a day. Though, both Pang and Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News, that rate only applies to the current business model of the company — which was founded earlier this year — and may change as the company evolves.

For a monthly membership fee of $ 19, Peers will cover all costs (“We just want to make it as easy as possible for drivers,” Clark explained,) and all the drivers will be left to pay is the membership fee.

Keep Driving, however, is only available in the San Francisco/Bay Area as of right now. The program offers a sort of backup plan for drivers during accidents or car repairs but requires that a driver is registered as a member of the program and pays the monthly fee. But so far, that hasn't seemed to cause concern among drivers in the company's initial focus groups.

“Based off initial interest, drivers seems really excited about it,” Clark said. “For the price of one or two rides a month they can give themselves peace of mind. The reaction we've gotten is really quite positive.”

In fact, the program launches today with its first subscriber: Michael Bendorf, a full-time Lyft driver, who was rear-ended during Thanksgiving week.

“I've been out of commission for about a week and a half and you don't want to be in an accident during a holiday week,” Bendorf told BuzzFeed News. “I finally got my car into a repair shop and they said it's going to be two to three weeks before it's done.”

Bendorf, who was invited to be part of a Peers focus group and was later asked to test drive the program, said when he's not working for Lyft he's not earning money. “[Keep Driving] is now going to enable me to get back on the road,” he said. “I can make $ 1500 to $ 1800 a week driving for Lyft. As far as I know it's just the $ 20 a month membership fee, so I think it's well worth it.” Through the program, drivers can lease cars under their own name (which is required by insurance companies in order to operate the car as for-hire vehicles) for up to a month.

Peers, which has a team of just five employees, focused much of their time and resources on offering these two initial products in their support marketplace and don't have their sights set on their next product yet.

“What we are trying to do is create a dialogue with the community,” Clark said.

“Specifically, we were hearing people talk about feeling vulnerable and being concerned about stability of income. [Workers] said they find the sharing economy liberating… and flexible. But they're coming across problems they never had to deal with before. [We] wanted to help them figure out how to keep their income stable and rely on it.”

BuzzFeed – Tech

A Bank Gave Away $30,000 To Some Customers And Here’s What They Did With It

Well, this is just lovely.

For 24 days, TD Bank surprised 24 of its customers with $ 30,000 and 24 hours to do one thing: #MakeTodayMatter.

For 24 days, TD Bank surprised 24 of its customers with $ 30,000 and 24 hours to do one thing: #MakeTodayMatter.

TD Bank / Via youtube.com

Earlier this year, TD Bank gave its customers life-changing surprises from trips to Disneyland and meetings with their sports heroes.

This time around, the bank spot-polled some of its customers across North America about what they would do to give back to their communities if they had the money.

They then identified 24 of the most inspirational ideas and surprised those customers with the resources to make their dream come true.

Michael Mulligan, a paraplegic from Ontario, knew how difficult it was to regain independence in a wheelchair.

Michael Mulligan, a paraplegic from Ontario, knew how difficult it was to regain independence in a wheelchair.

TD Bank / Via youtube.com


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BuzzFeed – Business