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The latest news from Business Insider

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    pier 1 imports 0361

    • Pier 1's market value has been almost completely wiped out over the past five and a half years, falling 97% since 2013.
    • Analysts say the outlook is discouraging. Of the few surveyed by Bloomberg who cover the name, none rate the stock a "buy," two carry a "sell" rating, and four say "hold."
    • Analysts say a combination of overwhelming store environments, offerings that don't reflect the latest trends, and expensive sourcing and supply chain costs have brought the retailer to its knees.

    Pier 1 is fighting to stay afloat.

    Shares of the home-furnishings retailer have gotten decimated, down 97% from their 2013 high, as the company has struggled to compete against the likes of online retailers and its turnaround strategy has yet to take hold. Additionally, investors have had to grapple with a second executive departure in two months. All of this has culminated with shares sliding below $1 last month for the first time in a decade. 

    So what happened?

    Pier 1, based in Fort Worth, Texas, said last week that its chief information officer, Bhargav Shah, left the company effective in November after announcing his intent to resign in October.* Last month, Pier 1 named longtime board member Cheryl Batchelder as its interim CEO after Alisdair James' departure following 19 months at the helm of the company.

    Read more: Pier 1 CEO steps down after turnaround efforts fail

    These moves were just the latest chapter in what seems to be an increasingly concerning story for the retailer. In April, Pier 1 announced a three-year strategic plan to right the ship.

    At the time, James said, "Pier 1 has a rich brand history and loyal customer base, a highly competitive e-Commerce platform and a team with the talent, experience and determination to succeed."

    But analysts say a combination of overwhelming store environments, offerings that don't reflect the latest trends, and expensive sourcing and supply chain costs have brought the retailer to its knees.

    "We are both sad and angry: sad that the company's associates and customers are now at significant risk and angry at a Board of Directors that, in our view, is culpable for allowing this crisis to develop," Budd Bugatch and Bobby Griffin, analysts at Raymond James, told clients after the company's most recent quarterly earnings report in December.

    "F3Q19 was a 'dumpster fire,' which unfortunately has become all too common for Pier 1 quarterly earnings," they wrote.

    Specifically, the analysts pointed to its 11.9% decline in total sales, 10.5% plunge in comparable sales, and a drop in operating income from $13.4 million last year to -$28.9 million this year.

    Read more:We went shopping at Pier 1 Imports and saw why it has struggled to turn things around and compete with Amazon and TJ Maxx

    Others tracking the stock echo a dim outlook. Pier 1 is one of three stocks in UBS's 28-member hardline retail coverage universe — alongside Office Depot and Sleep Number — that analyst Michael Lasser rates a "sell." He told clients earlier this month that Pier 1 would likely see "another tough year" after reporting "significant top-line deterioration" in 2018 despite last year's relatively strong spending environment.

    "It seemed like everything was on sale at Pier 1," Business Insider's Jessica Tyler wrote after visiting a Pier 1 location in Manhattan last month.

    "The issues raised about Pier 1's inability to keep up with trends, its overwhelming stores, and efforts to keep prices down were all clear when we visited the store. The brand has announced plans to rebrand the store and fix these issues, but it has a ways to go."

    Ratings agency Moody's has taken notice of the company's struggles. Following Pier 1's quarterly earnings report in December, Moody's cut its outlook from "stable" to "negative," pointing specifically to the risk the company's turnaround efforts would have a hard time gaining traction.

    "Pier 1's third-quarter fiscal 2019 results indicate that its turnaround will be more challenging and protracted than previously anticipated," analyst Raya Sokolyanska said in a report, adding that while liquidity was expected to be adequate in the next 12 to 18 months, it would "weaken over time if earnings do not recover."

    *Correction: This post was updated to reflect Bhargav Shah announced his intent to resign in October. Previously, the post said the company made no mention of his departure in its most recent earnings announcement. 

     

    Pier 1 stock pric

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    NOW WATCH: The equity chief at $6.3 trillion BlackRock weighs in on the trade war, a possible recession, and offers her best investing advice for a tricky 2019 landscape


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    smart home voice assistant benefits

    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

    The US smart home market has still yet to meet the expectations many observers had in the early part of this decade.

    The same issues Business Insider Intelligence first identified back in 2015 still plague the space — persistently high prices, technological fragmentation, and consumers' lack of a perceived benefit from the devices.

    But the newfound popularity of smart home voice control has revolutionized smart home ecosystems across the country, and convinces more consumers to equip their homes with smart devices on a daily basis. The Amazon Echo, released in 2014, has become immensely popular and capable, awakening users to the utility of both voice control and smart home devices. This has prompted companies to rush to release competing devices and integrate voice control into their smart home ecosystems.

    In a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, we examine the overall state of the US smart home market — both the professionally and self-installed markets. We analyze the factors driving demand for smart home devices and smart home voice speakers, and discuss the future of voice control in the home.

    Here are some key takeaways from the report:

    • Voice control is becoming a key remote interface within the home, a trend that began with the introduction of the Amazon Echo in 2014. Since then, Google, Samsung, and Apple have all integrated voice control into their smart home ecosystems.
    • While progress has been made, prices are still too high and consumers still have yet to show strong demand for smart home devices.
    • The US smart home market is only now entering the mass market phase of consumer adoption and overcoming the chasm that it sat in back in 2015.

    In full, the report:

    • Analyzes current consumer demand for smart home devices based off results from Business Insider Intelligence's proprietary survey.
    • Forecasts future growth in the number of smart home devices installed in American homes.
    • Analyzes the factors influencing the proliferation of voice control devices in the homes.
    • Identifies and analyzes the market strategies of various companies that have integrated voice control into their smart home ecosystems.

    Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to:

    This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports
    Access to all future reports and daily newsletters
    Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry
    And more!
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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    travelpro spinner

    Everyone has the packing essentials they never travel without, but the list can look a little different for business travelers, who tend to take shorter, more frequent trips and must juggle packed schedules once they touch down at their destination. 

    Business travelers need to stay organized, connected, comfortable, and well-rested as they shuffle between time zones. Anything that helps achieve this balance makes for a happier — and more effective — businessperson, so before you send your most trusted employee off to the international office, make sure she has these products and services packed. 

    There are the obvious options, like a reliable, expandable carry-on suitcase and a portable battery pack, but also consider smart and innovative additions like work shoes you can actually walk a whole day in and a notebook that saves all your meeting scribbles to the cloud. 

    Here are 12 things that should be on every business traveler's packing list. 

    DON'T MISS: Amex Platinum vs Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card offers superior airport lounge access, according to a frequent flyer

    SEE ALSO: 26 packing essentials we never travel without — from a $150 mobile WiFi hotspot to a $6 pack of face wipes

    Wireless earbuds

    Jabra Elite 65t Wireless Earbuds, $169.85, available at Amazon

    While over-ear wireless headphones offer better sound quality, earbuds are better suited for travel when you have limited bag space. The battery life of these earbuds is five hours (15 hours with the charging case) and once you're off the plane, you can make clear phone calls because they're optimized with four-microphone technology. They're also Alexa-, Siri-, and Google Assistant-compatible. For an affordable, under-$100 option, check out these SoundCore wireless earbuds from Anker.



    A foldable Bluetooth keyboard

    Jelly Comb Pocket Size Portable Bluetooth Keyboard, $29.99, available at Amazon

    If you're not packing your laptop but want to get some work done, this foldable keyboard that can connect to your tablet or phone will let you do so without taking up as much space. It's light and sturdy, but a drawback to its portability is that the key positions are squeezed together, so typing might not be as seamless of a process as usual. Still, the convenience might be worth the compromise

     



    A battery pack

    Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh Power Bank with Built-in Lightning Cable, $31.99, available at Amazon

    It's always a good idea to have a battery pack on hand when you travel, and this doesn't change when you travel for business. While there are many battery packs on the market to choose from, our pick is Jackery's because its built-in cable charges your phone twice as fast as the original charger, and it's neither so small that it can only charge your device once nor so bulky that it weighs you down. 

     



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    khashoggi mbs

    • Saudi Arabia sold $7.5 billion in bonds on Wednesday, drawing in $27 billion in orders, highlighting strong demand for the country's debt by international investors.
    • The sale is the first for Saudi Arabia following the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which sparked a global outcry against the kingdom.
    • The Middle Eastern oil giant has been selling more sovereign debt in recent years as low oil prices impact the country's economy. 

    Saudi Arabia has tapped international debt markets for the first time since the twin PR disasters of the death of Jamal Khashoggi and the US senate's rebuke of the country's efforts in Yemen.

    It seems investors aren't perturbed. Saudi Arabia, a serial borrower, has attracting plenty of orders from major Western banks. 

    The country bought in $7.5 billion in issuance with orders of about $27 billion, a sign there's high demand for Saudi debt. The sale was led by BNP Paribas, JPMorgan, HSBC, Citigroup and NCB Capital.

    A $4 billion 10-year bond was priced at 175 basis points (a 100th of a percent) over US Treasuries and a $3.5 billion 31-year bond priced at 230 basis points. While those prices offer relatively generous yields for investors, they are similar to what Saudis paid on other recent bonds, suggesting demand wasn't dampened by the furor over the murdered journalist or its military activities.

    Investors were also keen to get involved in Saudi debt because the country is joining one of JPMorgan's key emerging-market bond indexes this year — boosting sentiment. Figures suggest that US investors made up around 40 to 45% of the total order book. 

    "It's been a strong start to the year for emerging markets and appetite has improved significantly," said Richard House, chief investment officer for emerging market debt at Allianz. "The country has become a big issuer in recent years." 

    The kingdom’s prosecutors are conducting trials for 11 suspects in Khashoggi's murder, which occurred in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October.

    Investors have been getting closer to Saudi Arabia in recent years after lower oil prices in 2016 forced the kingdom, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to seek new funding strategies in an initiative dubbed 'Vision 2030.'

    Saudi Arabia is likely to require even more international funding this year, with lower oil prices impacting its budget forecasts despite efforts to stabilize the market through OPEC. 

    In the past two and a half years, Saudi Arabia has sold close to $60 billion in bonds, becoming one of the biggest issuers of debt among emerging markets. The country raised $11 billion in one deal last year which was the largest single issuance by an emerging-market borrower, beating out its estranged neighbor Qatar in the process. 

    Diversification from oil has become key as the country seeks build out into the desert. It seems it has so far managed to win over deep-pocketed backers on the way.  

    SEE ALSO: Saudi Arabia announces higher oil reserves after audit

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Bernie Madoff was arrested 10 years ago — here's what his life is like in prison


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    Shaz & Ryan 2

    • Muzmatch is the first global matchmaking app for Muslims.
    • It was founded by 34-year-old Shahzad Younas, a former Morgan Stanley banker, and 25-year-old iOS engineer Ryan Brodie.
    • The app says it is close to hitting one million users, and claims 200,000 people have got married after meeting on Muzmatch.
    • Younas and Brodie told Business Insider they have declined attractive aquisition offers as they aim to become "the biggest app for Muslims worldwide."

    With pun-filled taglines like "Halal, is it me you're looking for?" and "You had me at halal,"Muzmatch may seem like just another quirky dating app — but there's much more to it than that.

    Muzmatch is targeted at finding marriage partners for Muslims around the world — and it claims to be close to hitting one million users globally.

    Operating in nearly every country (though it's most popular in the UK, US, and Canada), the location-based app shows users the most relevant people near them based on a "sophisticated algorithm" which considers a number of different factors based on the information they provide in their profiles.

    Muzmatch was the brainchild of 34-year-old Shahzad Younas, a former Morgan Stanley banker who told Business Insider he left his job in June 2014 to learn how to build apps after he had the idea for the company.

    "I thought, 'Why is nobody doing an app for the Muslim market?'" he told Business Insider. "We didn't have anything, we were still on websites."

    As a Muslim himself, he said he understood "the market, the audience, and the problem"— something other companies had a lack of expertise in.

    "For Muslims, marriage is such a big part of your life," he explained. "We don't really date, we marry."

    He added that the Muslim market was generally "at least five years behind the mainstream market and dating apps" with mainly web-focused platforms — so he decided to make Muzmatch mobile-only.

    Read more: This new app gives access to hundreds of private members' clubs around the world for $120 a month

    In April 2015, initially using nearly $200,000 of his own savings from his nine-year banking career, he launched the first version of the app from home, and grew it to 50,000 users around the world in less than a year.

    "They just heard about it going to mosques, hanging out, literally spreading the word by any means," he said. "I thought, 'There's clearly a demand here,' but it was just me doing all of it."

    Luckily, he came across iOS engineer Ryan Brodie, 22 at the time and now 25, on LinkedIn in April 2016.

    "He's kind of like me, an engineer, can code, and had some startups himself, so it was perfect," Younas said. "We literally had a three-hour phone call where we ripped the whole thing apart... and then Ryan wanted to come on board."

    Brodie, who had successfully started and sold two companies in the events and consumer tech space, said even as a non-Muslim he immediately saw the opportunity for Muzmatch — and it was an added bonus that both men knew how to build and improve apps.

    Starting from scratch, the pair revamped and relaunched the company in August 2016. By halfway through 2018, they had 500,000 registered users.

    "Even in 2019 it’s very hard and expensive to build an app, but the unique thing we had is, while we might not have had a huge amount of money at the time, we knew how to make the product," Brodie told Business Insider.

    Blurred photos, nicknames, and chaperones

    It's free to sign up on Muzmatch, initially using just your date of birth and gender. You can then start swiping through people near you.

    muzmatch_PP   in situ 3

    "To get initial users on board, we appreciate they might not want to fill out 30 different fields," Brodie said, adding that once you make your first match, you're then asked to give more information for your profile, such as your sect and ethnicity.

    One profile, for example, might state: "Modest dress, sometimes prays."

    When users get a match, they get a prompt to get a conversation going.

    They can also choose to go "premium" for £20 a month in return for extra features, such as unlimited swipes (there's a daily cap for free users), more advanced search filters and preferences, the ability to reset or change past swipes, and being at the front of the queue for users aroung you.

    It might sound straightforward, but there are a number of things that make Muzmatch different than its competitors.

    Firstly, users have the option of blurring their photos or using a nickname.

    "If [you choose to do this and] you match someone, they still can’t see your photos [or name], and it's up to you when you reveal them," Brodie said.

    Read more: These are the 18 most-wanted singles in London, according to the dating app Happn

    Younas added that after profile signup, the app also prompts users to "keep things Halal."

    "For us, it's a lighthearted way to remind users of what's expected, he said. "We're not a casual app, it's not a photo 'yes, no.' There's so much more to it.

    "The whole point of our app is we want serious people looking for marriage, serious about a relationship, so people invest a lot of time and energy into the whole process."

    muzmatch_PP   in situ 5

    The duo added that this type of "oath" is starting to be introduced to other mainsteam apps, like OK Cupid.

    Muzmatch also claims to be the only one in the world with a chaperone feature, which allows a friend or relative to be present in a chat.

    "There's an Islamic principle where when a guy and a girl are getting to know eachother there should be a third party present," Younas explained. "For [some users] it's important — if it didn't have that feature, they wouldn't use it."

    Brodie added that a dedicated team manually approve each profile to confirm users are who they say they are, and users also have the option to provide "positive feedback" on another user after they match and have a conversation, with enough positive praise resulting in profile badges.

    "We want users to feel comfortable, but equally we need people to feel that, actually, this is a more serious place, it's not just for messing around," Brodie added.

    "Halal, is it me you're looking for?"

    This is a message that's clear not only on the app, but also through Muzmatch's marketing campaigns.

    In October 2018, it launched ads on the London underground with catchy phrases like "Halal, is it me you're looking for?"

    It launched a second campaign in January with similarly tongue-in-cheek taglines.

    You Had Me At Halal!

    Younas said the company wanted to put out a positive message that was also humorous.

    "It's a side that, especially for the Muslim segment, doesn't get portrayed that often," he said. "Sadly it's nearly always negative. [We wanted] to do things a bit differently, freshen things up a bit."

    He added that the reaction to the ads has been "overwhelmingly positive," with plenty of attention on Twitter and Instagram.

    "Obviously there were a few EDL [English Defense League, a far-right, Islamophobic organisation] types who basically don't like any sort of Muslim reference," he added. "We had a bit of that, but that was 1% of the feedback we had."

    Support from Silicon Valley

    And the strategy certainly seems to be paying off.

    In the summer of 2017, Muzmatch was accepted into Silicon Valley-based accelerator Y Combinator, who have backed the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit and provide a network of resources and support for startups — as well as investment.

    "They invest $120,000 for 7% of the company," Younas explained. "13,000 companies apply, 800 are flown out to San Francisco for an interview, and 100 are accepted. It's harder to get into than Harvard."

    He added that Muzmatch was the first Muslim-centric startup to ever be backed by Y Combinator.

    Also in summer 2017, the duo raised just under $2 million in seed investment.

    They confirmed to Business Insider that they've even turned down attractive acquisition offers because they believe in the future of the business.

    brodie younas sky news muzmatch

    Part of this is because the duo believe they have a sustainable business model.

    "People doubted we could monetise this market at all, but the model we have works," Brodie said.

    Younas added: "Even though most users don't end up upgrading, because of the scale we're at, the people who do more than cover our costs and make sure we can invest in the platform."

    'Muslims don't date'

    However, he also believes the interest in Muzmatch is due to the fact no other company has been able to cater to this market before.

    "Probably more so with other faiths, people are more open to marrying outside of the faith, but generally for Muslims people stick to their faith," he said.

    "You've got things like JSwipe for Jewish people, Christian Mingle for Christians, but for [Muslims] we have to remember that generally people don't date. They use the app to find someone to have a few initial chats with and have coffee a couple of times, and then they get the family involved."

    He added traditionally, Muslim parents would call women called "aunties" who would charge thousands to match up their son or daughter with someone in the community. However, now young Muslims are meeting people and having conversations themselves.

    "In places like India [the aunties] take a percentage of the wedding, so it's crazy, they make a lot of money. [We have made] it so much more affordable for people, and [are] empowering the person doing the search. Nobody knows apart from them the kind of person they'll get on with."

    He added: "People are getting younger and younger when they're finding Muzmatch. They're getting the experience of meeting people, talking to people, having that social interaction."

    Shaz & Ryan 4 (1)

    Reaching the world's 1.8 billion Muslims

    Now, Younas and Brodie are cofounders in the business, which they're looking to grow right away with at least 10 new hires.

    "We’ve grown to the stage where we’re going to hit one million members very soon, mostly by word of mouth," Younas said, adding that the company is growing even faster than digital mobile-only bank Monzo, which reports to have 20,000 new sign-ups a week.

    "Now we're looking at how do we get to five million, 10, 20? For us, there are 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. We reckon 300 to 400 million of those are single and eligible in terms of our app — that's a massive user base."

    In order to do that, the company has recently conducted a project localising the app in different places around the world. It's now live in 14 different languages, including Arabic and Turkish.

    "The core mission is to be the biggest app for Muslims worldwide," Brodie added. "We want to be a standout brand for Muslims around the world."

    Younas added that so far, the company knows of 20,000 people who have got married after meeting on Muzmatch.

    "We have something called Wedding Bell, where every time someone leaves the app it sends us a Slack alert with the comment they put in [about why they left]. People who met on Muzmatch say [things like] 'thank you, Muzmatch' and 'met someone, got married.' It's nonstop. We get about 100 a day."

    The company also regularly features "success stories" on its blog.

    v2 success_2

    'Our users aren't on Tinder and the other apps'

    For those still not convinced the likes of Muzmatch can compete with giants like Tinder, Bumble, and Happn, Younas said: "The key thing with Muzmatch is we're not a Tinder competitor.

    "Our users aren't on Tinder and the other apps — they don't serve their need. From the off, this is not a hookup app. The Muslims who do want to hook up aren't essentially our customers."

    However, since starting the app, Younas believes he's already seen a shift in how Muslims are approaching dating.

    "Three generations ago, your parents would decide who your partner was going to be and that would be that, you'd go along with it," he said. "With the second generation, your parents would still be involved, talk to the families, but they'd show you people and you'd meet them and both have the decision.

    "Now, we have parents coming to us saying 'We don't know anyone, families aren't as connected as they used to be, can you help us find someone for our son or daughter?' and we say 'no — get them to sign up.' In a sense, the son or daughter are now saying 'I want to find someone on my own terms.'

    "Attitudes are changing so quickly. Through technology, this is how people are finding partners."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: You've probably been folding your shirts and socks all wrong, according to organizing expert Marie Kondo


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    Bluebird Bio

    • Biotech company Bluebird Bio proposed a five-year installment plan for its pricey gene therapy at a major healthcare conference on Tuesday.
    • The company hasn't put out a price tag for the experimental product, which hasn't yet been approved, but capped it at $2.1 million a treatment.
    • Bluebird CEO Nick Leschly told Business Insider the inside story of how the plan came about and what challenges it could face.

    Installment plans are used for big-ticket items like dishwashers and TVs — and now, for medical treatments?

    That's exactly what the biotech Bluebird Bio is suggesting for its cutting-edge, experimental gene therapy, LentiGlobin, which is intended as a one-time treatment for the rare blood disorder beta thalassemia.

    The idea works like this: Patients get the treatment, and their health insurer or employer will then pay Bluebird over five years. The company hasn't yet said how much the treatment will cost, but capped it at $2.1 million.

    A key difference from other payment plans is that Bluebird will get paid in years two through five only if the treatment works for patients. Medicines are usually paid for as the patient takes them — whether or not the drug works.

    It's a bold proposal, one that puts substantial financial risk on Bluebird itself, and there are still problems left to be ironed out, CEO Nick Leschly acknowledged in an interview late Tuesday with Business Insider.

    But the decision was ultimately about the nearly 30-year-old Cambridge, Massachusetts-headquartered biotech's principles and its belief in doing the right thing, Leschly said. In that sense "the die was cast long ago," he said.

    In developing the model, he told employees, "Don't limit yourself to what the system can't digest," Leschly said. "Do not feel that we should be penalized because we came up with something that provides value over time."

    Metallica and caffeine

    Leschly put the new pricing proposal out on Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the biggest industry event of the year.

    Before presenting to a packed room, Leschly psyched himself up with four cups of coffee and by listening to Metallica, he told Business Insider.

    LentiGlobin won't cost more than $2.1 million total, according to Bluebird — the amount of value that the biotech estimates its treatment should provide to patients by allowing them to live longer and with a better quality of life.

    The plan has evolved significantly over time, Leschly said. The biotech originally considered a 10-year payment timeline, he said, but decided against it as because of the heavy administrative burden. In the current plan, health insurers can choose to distribute their payments over less than five years, he said.

    Read more:From the gene therapy that spurred a $9 billion acquisition to a CBD medication for rare types of childhood epilepsy, here are the 12 promising drugs to watch in 2019

    The plan will face serious challenges, including: What happens if a patient switches insurers? What if the individual becomes uninsured?

    But Leschly is confident that Bluebird can get through them. For one, beta thalassemia — which is caused by a genetic mutation and can require regular blood transfusions and lifelong medical care, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders — affects about one in 100,000 individuals, a relatively small patient population.

    Individuals with "very severe conditions like this have a tendency to not change payers as often," Leschly said.

    Bluebird Bio biotech lab pharma

    Payers can also check in to see if the treatment is working by looking at their claims data to see if, say, the patient suddenly needed new blood transfusions, he said.

    Another key part of the plan is that Bluebird won't make any price increases beyond a measure of inflation, an interesting commitment that comes at a time when pharmaceutical price increases have prompted controversy.

    Read more:Trump may have shamed Pfizer for increasing drug prices, but that isn't stopping drugmakers from doing more of the same

    Bluebird has been criticized for not yet disclosing its price tag.

    Leschly told Business Insider that there's "more work to be done on what the price exactly ought to be."

    LentiGlobin hasn't yet been approved. The company expects a decision in Europe this year and could get a decision in the US as early as next year.

    Gene therapies challenge the health system

    Gene therapies like LentiGlobin are challenging the status quo and the limits of what the medical system can and will pay for.

    To large extent, that's because the sums talked about when it comes to gene therapy are astronomical.

    Read more:Bill Gates warns that nobody is paying attention to gene editing, a new technology that could make inequality even worse

    Drugmakers say that's because their products are for rare, often deadly conditions with few or no other options. Moreover, they say, gene therapies could have lifelong benefits for patients and are expected to save the medical system money on things like hospitalizations.

    That hasn't lessened the sticker shock: Swiss drug giant Novartis' suggestion that its new gene therapy for a deadly, rare disease would be cost-effective at $4 million to $5 million per patient encountered substantial resistance last fall, for example.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Saturn is officially losing its rings — and they're disappearing much faster than scientists had anticipated


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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    IMG_1126_900x

    • The BetterBack (as seen on "Shark Tank") is a $49.99 posture corrector that has completely eliminated any back pain I usually experience while sitting at a desk. 
    • I have two slipped discs in my spine and suffer from chronic back pain. I've tried plenty of treatments and products, but this is the only one that has worked.
    • If you have any sort of back pain or posture problems from sitting at a desk all day, this product is actually worth your money. 

    Take it from someone with two slipped discs in her spine — sitting at a desk all day is no walk in the park. In fact, sometimes my back is in so much pain that an actual walk in the park is no walk in the park, either. 

    According to the American Chiropractic Association, half of all working Americans experience some form of back pain — including the youngest rung of the workforce. That means the "aching backs" we used to hear about from our parents now often apply to us, too.

    This is often a result of the poor posture that desk jobs cause us to develop. I know for a fact that I'm not the only 26-year-old with bad posture, but there aren't quite as many people my age who also suffer from severe and chronic back pain. 

    In addition to things like stretch, yoga, chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and massage, I've tried a ton of different ergonomic chairs, quite a few back rests, seat cushions, balance balls, etc. to combat the constant stress on my back that's caused by my slipped discs and generally terrible posture. After dumping way too much money into treatments that didn't help much, I found one thing that has worked for me — a $59 product you might have seen on "Shark Tank" by the name of the BetterBack

    BB_OpenWbg_720x

    The BetterBack isn't particularly pretty, and yes, its name is a little gimmicky, but it is extremely effective at reducing back pain. It looks almost like a harness, with a soft pad that sits behind your back and a connected set of straps that are placed over your knees as you sit. It uses the tension from the straps to correct your posture and relieve pressure from improper spinal alignment, effectively eliminating discomfort.   

    This is going to sound really dramatic, but hear me out: The Better Back has had a drastic impact on my quality of life at work. 

    After attempting so many ineffective and expensive treatments and testing out so many products to help my back, I honestly never thought that I'd be able to feel "normal" again, or that I'd ever experience what it was like to have zero pain in my spine. But the first time I tried the Better Back, it completely eliminated the buzzing discomfort I was so (frustratingly) accustomed to, which was usually at its worst when sitting at my desk.

    When I try to describe to people the sense of physical relief it gave me, I pretty much come up short of words. And for a writer and someone who generally just talks too much, that's an extremely rare occurrence for me. I'm talking like, angels singing in a choir from above, children throwing flowers at your feet, suddenly a whole new person type of pain relief — I hope that gives you somewhat of an idea. 

    be3b2115932b17bdec1d9519378fdf02_original

    The company suggests that you use the Better Back for about 15-30 minutes a day to help correct posture and re-train your body's sitting position — but I just tend to keep mine on all day. Plus, because it folds up neatly into a built-in zippered pouch, it can also be easily transported for use at home or on airplanes. 

    You don't need to have a diagnosed spinal injury for the BetterBack to help out your discomfort. It wasn't necessarily invented to help severe spinal problems — it just happened to make an extra significant difference for me because of the intensity and persistence of my pain. But if it helped me as much as it did, I can only imagine how helpful it would be to others who experience general discomfort from misaligned posture. 

    If you suffer from back pain, particularly as a result of sitting at your desk all day, I cannot recommend the BetterBack enough. 

    Check out the BetterBack on Amazon for $49.99

    SEE ALSO: The 32 best things we ever bought on Amazon for under $25

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    coworkers strategy office work

    • To come up with a more creative idea, minimize talking in meetings at work.
    • Instead, have participants write down their suggestions anonymously and share them. 
    • This way, everyone can share their thoughts without fear of looking silly.
    • That's according to Steven G. Rogelberg, author of "The Surprising Science of Meetings."

    Meetings get a bad rap. At best, they're pointless; at worst, they're soul-sucking.

    A new book, "The Surprising Science of Meetings," aims to revamp meetings' reputation, with strategies for maximizing their efficiency and eliminating the pain that comes with them. The author is Steven G. Rogelberg, a professor of management at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and a consultant to companies like IBM and Procter & Gamble.

    One of Rogelberg's most compelling ideas is no-talking meetings (or, at least, no-talking portions of meetings). Apparently, talking, and specifically group brainstorming out loud, is where things go awry. Some people are too embarrassed to share their ideas; some people babble for so long that everyone else forgets their ideas.

    Read more: 9 expert tips to hold meetings that don't waste people's time

    To that end, Rogelberg proposes “brainwriting.” Instead of people talking through ideas together, each meeting participant writes down their ideas on paper — without their name. The group leader has the option to pass around the papers (or place them throughout the room) so everyone can read them and add their thoughts.

    Research suggests that silent brainstorming yields better and higher-quality ideas than talking out loud.

    Another option is to open every meeting with a period of silent reading, a strategy that makes sure everyone does the assigned reading instead of just pretending. Only then does a verbal discussion take place.

    Amazon has been known to hold meetings this way. In an interview at the George Bush Presidential Center in April 2018, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said: “For every meeting, someone from the meeting has prepared a six-page, narratively structured memo that has real sentences and topic sentences and verbs. It's not just bullet points. It's supposed to create the context for the discussion we're about to have."

    Rogelberg sums it up: “If attendees don't share key information and insights relevant to the meetings goals, especially information they hold uniquely, the meeting is destined for mediocrity, at best.”

    SEE ALSO: 14 business books everyone will be reading in 2019

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    Money

    • Money-saving tactics can often be unrealistic or forced.
    • There are easy ways to spend and save money every day, like removing stored credit card numbers, implementing a 48-rule of spending, and logging every expense.
    • Here are 12 unusual ways you can save money every day.

     

    While you may already be familiar with some money-saving tactics— such as bringing your lunch to work instead of buying it or getting fewer cups of coffee out — there are more creative ways to save money every day that you may not yet be doing.

    After all, when it comes to money matters, every cent does add up — literally.

    For instance, I used to fall into the buy-lunch-at-work trap. Even though I’d aim to only spend up to $10 per day in the work cafeteria or going out with friends, that number would often inch up.

    Once I added up how much I was spending per week, I realized that money was better off in savings or my emergency fund versus in overpriced lunches that I didn't even enjoy that much.

    Bank of America’s recent Better Money Habits Millennial Report found that 73% of millennials (ages 23-37) said their generation overspends on unnecessary indulgences. In addition, 35% of millennials reported not saving enough, while 17% said they spend more than they should.

    All that said, there are many under-the-radar ways to save more money each day. Below, experts weigh in:

    SEE ALSO: 6 things people who are good with money always splurge on

    1. Automate small amounts of money

    You may already pay your bills and add to your savings through automatic transfers, but once you start automating smaller amounts, they'll add up to bigger ones. For example, once I eliminated buying lunch at work and daily Starbucks runs, that was approximately $20 a day I was not spending, which meant an extra $100 per week toward my savings just from skipping frivolous lunches and coffees.

    "Automate weekly savings for small amounts you won’t miss, even as little as $10 or $20 per week," Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized consumer expert, told Business Insider. "These small amounts will build quickly over time and you will learn to live without those extra funds." 

    She also recommended putting the money toward an online savings account that offers a higher interest rate than savings account at traditional banks.



    2. Create a 48-hour rule and remove stored credit card numbers

    The speed and simplicity of online shopping make it easy to fall into the habit of impulse buying clothes and other items. "To prevent impulse purchases, wait 48 hours after identifying something you’d like to purchase," Chris Whitlow, CEO of workplace financial education company Edukate, told Business Insider. "This will separate your need spends from your want spends."

    Similarly, having your credit card numbers stored online may be efficient, but it’s also dangerous as far as spending money is concerned. "Removing this information can save you fromimpulse shopping, and allows you to cut back on the amount of money you spend," Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate at finder.com, told Business Insider. "Plus, the more time you have to think about a purchase, the more likely you’ll make a better financial decision."



    3. Take public transportation or walk

    Yes, it may be convenient to drive, but is it cost-effective? "Stop driving your own car to work every day," Andrei Vasilescu, CEO of money-saving platform DontPayFull, told Business Insider.  

    "Instead, use public transportation, such as trains, buses, or shared vehicles, or try biking or walking for a few miles every day. This will extensively save your wallet and health at the same time." Plus, there are a lot of extraneous costs involved with owning a car, from insurance to parking fees.



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    man at doctor

    • Cancer can affect anyone, but there are some types that are most likely to affect men. 
    • Cancer of the esophagus and bladder cancer affects men far more than women.
    • Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among men.
    • Both lung and esophagus cancer are linked to tobacco use. 

    Cancer affects people of all sexes, but there are some types of cancer that are more likely to occur in men. Being informed about your cancer risk and potential symptoms can help you make better healthcare choices.

    Here are some of the most common kinds of cancer that men should be aware of.

    Cancer of the esophagus affects men far more than women.

    According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there areapproximately 13,600 new cases of esophageal cancer in men per year. In contrast, there are only about 3,645 new cases in women annually.

    Esophageal cancer affects the tube that carries food and fluids from the mouth to the stomach. There are actually two types of cells that make up the walls of the esophagus, which means that there are two different types of esophageal cancer. Risk factors include tobacco use and age, as over85% of cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 55.



    Kidney cancer can come from exposure to certain chemicals.

    According to the CDC,about 37,000 men are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year. More than 9,000 men die from kidney cancer annually.

    The kidneys are organs on either side of your lower back that make urine and filter waste.Symptoms of kidney cancer include blood in the urine, pain in the lower back or side, recurrent fever, and a loss of appetite.

    Smoking, being overweight, and being exposed to certain types of chemicals such as trichloroethylenecan raise your risk of developing kidney cancer.



    Colon cancer is the third most common cancer among men.

    Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the US. According to the CDC, there areapproximately 73,900 new cases of colorectal cancer in men per year. For comparison, there are about 66,800 new cases in women annually.

    Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine and the rectum is the passage that connects your colon to your anus. This type of cancerusually develops from abnormal growths called polyps, though not all polyps progress into cancer.  Symptoms include bloody stools, stomach pains or cramps, and unexplained weight loss.

    You’remore at risk of colorectal cancer if you have an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Your lifestyle can also raise your risk of colorectal cancer, especially if you are overweight, eat a diet low in fiber and high in fat, and use tobacco or alcohol.

    Colon cancer is curable, especially if treated early. In fact, about 9 out of 10 people who are treated for early-stage colorectal cancer survive for more than five years. About 90% of new cases of colorectal cancer occur in people who are over 50, so it’s especially important to keep up with screening appointments as you get older. There is also some evidence that taking low-dose aspirin might help lower your risk of developing colon cancer.



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    samsung foldable phone

    • The world's biggest phone company is reportedly ready to show off a fully functional foldable smartphone.
    • Samsung is preparing to show off the device in London and San Francisco on February 20, according to the Wall Street Journal.
    • The device might be called the "Fold", "Galaxy Fold", or "Galaxy F."
    • Samsung still hasn't determined a sale date, but it's indicated the device will be available in the spring.

    Samsung is reportedly preparing to show off a fully functioning foldable phone on February 20, marking the tenth anniversary of its flagship Galaxy lineup.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung will unveil the phone at events in San Francisco and London. The device still doesn't has a name, but names being floated include the "Fold", "Galaxy Fold" or the "Galaxy F."

    It isn't clear when the phone will actually go on sale. Prior reports peg a release date around March or April, with a price tag of $1,770. According to the Journal, Samsung has been showing the device to its carrier partners at the CES tech conference in Las Vegas this week.

    Samsung has teased some details of its first foldable phone already, showing off its "Infinity Flex" display on a prototype device in November at its developers' conference. That appeared on a clamshell device which, when folded up, has a regular display on the front.

    When the device is unfolded, the interior opens like a book to show off a 7.3-inch screen and turning the phone into a small tablet.

    Read more:Samsung finally unveiled details about its foldable smartphone — here's how it works

    That device ran a custom version of Android with features such as "App Continuity." That allows the user to keep using the same app whether the phone is folded or unfolded, with the app adapting to the display size.

    Normally, Samsung announces new devices at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but it appears to have made an exception for its latest flagship. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is because Huawei plans to launch a competing foldable phone at Mobile World Congress.

    Samsung is the world's biggest smartphone maker, according to IDC, accounting for 20% of all mobile phone shipments globally in the third quarter of 2018. The second biggest is another Asian phone maker, Huawei, which holds 15% of the market, with Apple in third place at 13%.

    While it's Apple which has been in the news for declining iPhone sales, there's a wider drag on the smartphone market that's also impacting Samsung. IDC noted an overall decline of around 6% in phone shipments for the third quarter, and pointed to economic instability and the fact fewer people are replacing their smartphones.

    Like Apple, Samsung suffered a year-on-year decline in its shipment numbers, according to IDC. Its shipments were down two percentage points.

    Samsung warned earlier this month that its fourth-quarter operating profit and revenue declined, and blamed the slowdown in China.

    The foldable phone, then, is the firm's latest shot at producing another hit phone, with a major innovation that may land well with consumers. As quality smartphones become commoditised, it is harder for the top-tier manufacturers to offer more than incremental upgrades even on their flagship devices.

    SEE ALSO: Samsung is hinting that it will reveal its long-awaited foldable phone on November 7 — here are 11 things to expect from the Galaxy X

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    r kelly 2008

    • R. Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls for decades.
    • He was accused of making child pornography in 2001 and 2002, but prevailed in court in 2008.
    • More recently, numerous people accused R. Kelly of running a "sex cult" where he holds women against their will.
    • R. Kelly continues to deny all the accusations against him.

    R. Kelly is reportedly under investigation for sexual abuse following the premiere of the Lifetime docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly."

    The R&B singer, whose full name is Robert Kelly, has been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct, child pornography, and relationships with underage girls for decades. They ramped up in 2017, when BuzzFeed News published a story about women who accused R. Kelly of holding girls against their will and sexually abusing them as part of a cult.

    Kelly also has an extensive criminal record with allegations for other crimes, including assault and disorderly conduct.

    Kelly has denied all the allegations against him. He's settled a number of sexual misconduct cases and secured nondisclosure agreements from accusers. In the child pornography case filed against him by Chicago authorities, he was found innocent by a jury after a long court battle.

    Here's everything we know about the accusations against him.

    R. Kelly married Aaliyah when he was 27 and she was 15.

    In September 1994, R. Kelly married the R&B artist Aaliyah, his protégé, at a secret ceremony in Chicago. He was 27, and she was 15.

    The marriage was annulled in February 1995 after reporting that Aaliyah falsified her age on her marriage certificate and said she was 18.

    Aaliyah's parents told Jim DeRogatis at the Chicago Sun-Times, a reporter who has covered Kelly for decades, that the two never spoke again. She died in 2001, and R. Kelly has repeatedly declined to discuss his relationship with her.



    In 1996, Tiffany Hawkins sued Kelly for "personal and emotional distress."

    In December 1996, singer Tiffany Hawkins claimed she began a sexual relationship with Kelly in 1991, when she was 15 and he was 25. She said the relationship lasted for three years, ending when she turned 18. Distraught, she slit her wrists and tried to kill herself, she said in court documents.

    Kelly settled the suit in 1998 for $250,000 and agreed not to talk about the case. Chicago police investigated reports that Kelly slept with underage women, but dropped its investigation when the women they interviewed refused to cooperate, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which first reported on the Hawkins case and the police investigation in 2000.



    In the early 2000s, sex tapes of Kelly and underage girls surfaced.

    In 2001 and 2002, tapes that appeared to show sex between R. Kelly and underage girls set the stage for a legal battle that engulfed the singer's life for years.

    It started in January 2001, when someone anonymously sent the Chicago Sun-Times one such tape. Believing the tape could show a felony and could be considered child pornography, the paper sent the video to the police. Neither the Sun-Times nor Chicago police department could verify the identity of the girl in the video, the Sun-Times said.

    A second tape surfaced in 2002, anonymously left in Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis's mailbox. It was also sent to Chicago police. In the video, Kelly has sex with what appears to be a young girl, directs her to take different sex positions, and urinates in her mouth.

    The girl's aunt identified her to the Sun-Times and said she was 14 years old at the time.

    The second tape surfaced shortly before Kelly performed at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kelly told a local Chicago TV station that the tape was meant to undermine him and was distributed by people he had fired.

    "All I know is this: I have a few people in the past that I’ve fired… people that I’ve thought were my friends that’s not my friends," he said. "The reason these things are happening I really do believe is because of the fact that I didn’t fall back as far as blackmail was concerned. I didn’t give them any money."

    "The world is getting ready to watch me sing a song called 'The World’s Greatest,' and you’ve got a tape out there trying to ruin my career," he continued.

    On June 5, 2002, Chicago police indicted on 21 counts of making child pornography.

    Hours later, Florida authorities indicted him on 12 more counts of making child pornography based on additional images that prosecutors said showed him having sex with another underage girl.

    Kelly pleaded not guilty to all charges in June of 2002. Bootleg copies of the sex tapes circulated on street corners, according to the Sun-Times.

    In February of 2004, Chicago authorities dropped seven of the 21 indictments. Florida dropped all of its charges in March after a judge ruled that the local sheriff's office lacked the sufficient authority to search Kelly's home for the photos it ultimately found.

    After numerous delays, Kelly's trial for the Chicago charges finally began in 2008. The jury found him not guilty on all counts on June 14, after one day of deliberation. Jury members told the Sun-Times that they were certain R. Kelly was in the videos, but could not be certain about the identities and ages of the girls in them.



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    Google and a number of partners announced a range of new devices and capabilities that will employ the company’s AI voice assistant at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, according to TechCrunch.

    Communication and Remote Control Most Exciting Assistant Features

    The search leader is looking to establish a broad market of devices in all sorts of categories that feature its Assistant in order to provide consumers with constant access to the AI — even if they don’t have their phones on them. These steps are part of its continuing duel with Amazon for the pole position in the US home voice market.

    Here are a few of the most important announcements from Google:

    • It’s previewing a new initiative called “Assistant Connect,” which will be a framework for partners to incorporate some of the AI’s features into their devices. The new tools will allow companies to connect their devices to a consumer’s existing Google Home smart speakers, which will then handle communication with Google’s cloud. Examples of these sorts of devices include simple, low-powered displays that show weather or traffic as well as devices that incorporate microphones and can serve as conduits for voice assistants when there’s no smart speaker — similar to Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock.
    • The company is also working with Samsung and Sonos to allow Google Assistant to control more devices around the home. Specifically, the AI will be able to control music played through Sonos’ WiFi-controlled speakers and change settings on Samsung smart TVs, turning them on and off, adjusting volume, changing channels, and more. Given that TV control is one of the features of voice assistants that most excites consumers, according to an exclusive Business Insider Intelligence survey, this could help deepen engagement for Google.
    • And partners Anker and JBL both showcased car adapters for the AI assistant.These devices, which plug into a 12v outlet in the car, will give consumers yet another means of accessing the Google Assistant. They’re meant for users with older cars or those that don’t include built-in support for Android Auto, and they allow access to the voice assistant without needing to unlock the phone or keep it on.

    Google is in an odd position in its competition with Amazon for voice supremacy in the US market. The e-commerce leader boasted last week that it had sold 100 million Alexa devices, but that figure pales in comparison to the 1 billion devices that will include Google Assistant by the end of this month.

    Google is in position to take advantage of its wider installed base in conjunction with its better voice assistant technology, but Amazon has already established a major lead in dedicated devices in use. The market for such devices is still developing and there may still be time to change current dynamics, but Google and its partners will need to get these new products into consumers’ homes and cars quickly to make up ground on Amazon and stop the current gap from widening.

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    Bed bath and beyond

    • Bed Bath & Beyond slightly missed on sales but beat on profits in the third quarter.
    • The retailer's comparable sales decline was worse than expected.
    • The company maintained its earnings guidance that topped Wall Street estimates.
    • Watch Bed Bath & Beyond trade live.

    Bed Bath & Beyond soared 9% to $13.36 a share early Thursday as investors brushed off soft sales and instead focused on its better-than-expected profit.

    The home-goods seller announced late Wednesday that it earned $0.18 a share in the third quarter — $0.01 better than the Wall Street consensus, according to Bloomberg data. Its revenue totaled $3.03 billion, slightly missing the $3.04 billion that was expected. 

    But the results weren't all good. The company's same-store sales declined 1.8%, missing the 0.2% decrease that analysts estimated. 

    Looking ahead, Bed Bath & Beyond maintained its earnings guidance of $2 per share, topping the $1.97 that analysts were expecting. 

    The company's guidance reflects many factors, including "the holiday selling season; the continuation of trends it has been experiencing; and actions being taken in support of the company's stronger bias towards prioritizing long-term profitability over near-term sales growth," said Bed Bath & Beyond in a press release. 

    But at least one Wall Street analyst was skeptical of the plan. 

    "Traction is taking hold with next-gen stores and assortment improvements, but these remain in their infancy, so near-term fundamentals should remain bleak," said Jefferies analyst Jonathan Matuszewski in a note out on Thursday. 

    "We'd prefer stabilization in comps and margins until becoming more constructive. We appreciate BBBY's initiatives, but need to see more progress off a larger base. Valuation reflects uncertainty with turnaround materializing, encroaching online competition, and too many stores," Matuszewski added.

    Matuszewski maintained his "hold" position and lowered his price target from $16 to $15 — 22% above where shares were trading on Wednesday.

    Bed Bath & Beyond was down 34% in the past year.

    Now read:

     

    BBBY

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    Twitter is launching a program to let a selected sample group of users test and weigh in on potential features for the social platform, per Engadget. Though only a few thousand users will be directly involved in the test group, participants will be able to share new ideas openly with the larger community of users on their timelines.

    Twitter MAUs vs DAUs

    This is Twitter's latest move to crowdsource R&D from users. As we’ve written about previously, Twitter's approach to ideation around and development of new ideas is unique compared with rival social platforms — it often engages directly and publicly with users to solicit insights.

    Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been known to crowdsource solutions to platform issues from the community of users, for example. Involving users directly in the features R&D process theoretically helps Twitter create a constructive feedback loop between users, leaders, and engineers that will ideally promote good ideas, kill bad ones, and generate new ones.

    By continuously soliciting and iterating on feedback from users, Twitter hopes to avoid drastic errors that could either:

    • Harm user engagement, and the business as a result. Twitter wants to avoid making an ill-conceived move that winds up fundamentally or even peripherally disrupting what makes its core product vital to users. Early last year, Snap notoriously jumped the gun in rolling out its app redesign after its CEO Evan Spiegel reportedly ignored engineers who argued that the redesign wasn’t testing well with users, for example.
    • Indirectly harm platform health, and society as a whole. No matter how good their intentions to humanity or society at large, a group of creators that is too far-removed from the people its product serves risks producing something dangerous, or simply manifests unforeseen consequences. Being out of touch is a killer.

    Going forward, new features will likely strive to enhance the platform according to two key measures: user engagement and platform health. In recent quarters, even though Twitter's total user count (MAU) has mostly stagnated, its daily active user count continues to grow, signaling that Twitter is driving better engagement among the users it already has.

    Higher engagement has also generated higher revenue, despite plateauing MAU. Secondly, Dorsey has acknowledged its many problems (fake accounts, bots, trolls), and pledged to prioritize the health of conversation on the platform.

    Though engagement and overall platform health are relatively qualitative, we expect that Twitter will invest in developing features that address these goal above all. User feedback by way of this new testing group will likely prove influential in Twitter's attempts to divine which features truly boost these outcomes. 

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    Toy Story 4 Disney

    2018 was a huge year for the movie business.

    There were record-breaking figures domestically ($11.9 billion), thanks to the domination by Disney, which was responsible for an incredible 26% of the market share, as well as surprise hits throughout the year like "A Quiet Place" and "A Star Is Born."

    The international box office ($29.8 billion) also had a record year with big hitters like "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" proving their might, while movies like "Venom" and "Aquaman" showed they also had global appeal.

    But here's the thing — 2019 has the potential to be even bigger!

    With the final chapters in the current "Star Wars" and "Avengers" sagas coming out this year, plus (takes a deep breath) "Toy Story 4,""Captain Marvel,""Aladdin,""Lion King,""Frozen 2," a Quentin Tarantino movie ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"), a Jordan Peele movie ("Us"), the first "Fast and Furious" spin-off ("Hobbs & Shaw"), Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker, and Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers, on paper 2019 could be another record year.

    Here are 43 movies you should definitely check out in 2019: 

    SEE ALSO: The 29 hottest video games you shouldn't miss in 2019

    “Glass” — January 18

    Following "Unbreakable" and "Split," M. Night Shyamalan completes his unique comic book trilogy by bringing the characters (played by Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and James McAvoy) together to face off in one movie.



    “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” — February 8

    Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) returns, along with many of the characters from the hit first movie, to face a new evil — Lego Duplo. 



    “Alita: Battle Angle” — February 13

    A project that James Cameron was attached to for years (he's still listed as one of the screenwriters), it has since been taken over by Robert Rodriguez, who will bring to life this beloved manga using some of the best CGI.



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    Plaid, a US fintech that enables consumers to connect their bank accounts to other financial services providers through application programming interfaces (APIs), has acquired Quovo, a similar startup, per a blog post.

    How Open APIs Work

    Although financial details have not been disclosed, Plaid is said to be paying around $200 million for its biggest competitor, according to Bloomberg citing three people familiar with the transaction. The acquisition of Quovo comes on the back of a major Series C funding round for Plaid last month, in which it raised $250 million from a number of big-name investors at a $2.65 billion valuation.

    The tie-up with Quovo will enable Plaid to broaden its reach. Plaid connects consumers' bank accounts in the US with services from fintechs like Robinhood, Coinbase, and Acorns. And, according to the startup, 25% of US consumers with bank accounts have connected to other financial services apps using Plaid, per CNBC. The startup has also signed on major financial institutions (FIs), including Capital One and JPMorgan Chase.

    Although Quovo also allows consumers to connect their accounts to other financial apps, these are usually investment and brokerage services. Among the companies it connects to are fintechs like Betterment and Wealthfront, as well as incumbents like Vanguard. As such, the tie-up expands the FIs Plaid connects to, providing it with a broader view of a customer's financial life, CEO Zach Perret told CNBC.

    For instance, to see whether a prospective borrower could pay back a loan, a lender could ask a customer to see their bank account balance, which can be done through Plaid. The Quovo integration will bolster this by allowing those platforms to ask to view other assets like brokerage accounts, Perret explained.

    Plaid is in a prime position to capitalize on the digital revolution taking hold in financial services. Digitalization in financial services continues to accelerate at pace around the world, with authorities in markets like the UK and Europe introducing regulations to drive this evolution.

    Open banking legislation, which mandates FIs to share their troves of data at their customers' request with fintechs and other third-party providers, is a key part of this regulatory movement. As such, the acquisition of Quovo not only entrenches Plaid’s position in the US as a go-to provider of financial services APIs, but also opens the door for significant global expansion.

    Even in the US, where no such legal requirements exist, developments last year suggest industry players are moving toward open banking. Given this, Plaid’s latest play is like to see the firm heavily rewarded in the future.

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    SEE ALSO: THE FINTECH ECOSYSTEM: How the line between fintechs and incumbents will continue to blur — and what the future of fintech will look like

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    Improbable

    • Buzzy British game tech startup Improbable says its cloud gaming platform has been blocked by Unity.
    • Improbably says that Unity, which claims to be the most popular game engine, changed its terms of conditions to block Improbable's SpatialOS platform.
    • The move jeopardises all games built on SpatialOS and Unity, with at least one developer pulling their game offline until the dispute is resolved.
    • Improbable has raised more than $600 million from backers such as SoftBank, and is worth around $2 billion.

    Gaming technology firm Improbable has been dealt a blow after game engine Unity blocked the startup's core technology.

    UK-based Improbable is valued at $2.2 billion and has raised around $600 million from backers such as SoftBank for its SpatialOS cloud gaming platform. SpatialOS plugs into different game engines — such as Unity —  and allows third-party game developers to create massive online worlds. 

    Almost half of all games in the world are built on Unity, according to Unity's CEO.

    According to a post published by Improbable on Thursday, Unity altered its terms and conditions in December to "disallow services like Improbable's to function with their engine."

    According to Improbable, Unity hasn't given much further explanation.

    "Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small scale developers and damaged major projects in development over many years," Improbable wrote.

    The change jeopardises the lineup of current and future games developed on Unity and Improbable's SpatialOS, which remains a nascent platform.

    One game studio that was early in adopting SpatialOS, UK-based Spilt Milk, said it was pulling its multiplayer shooter "Lazarus" offline.

    The company wrote on Twitter: "Hi – we’ve got some really bad news. Due to a dispute between Improbable & Unity we have to shut down the Lazarus servers. It’s going to be down for an undetermined amount of time, basically until the dispute is resolved, one way or another."

    Other developers are awaiting clarification about how their games will be affected. UK-based Bossa Studios launched the massively multiplayer online world "Worlds Adrift"to much fanfare in 2018

    Worlds Adrift

    Bossa CEO Henrique Olifiers told Business Insider it was too early to say whether the company would need to pull the game offline, and that the firm was awaiting clarification.

    Improbable placed the blame squarely on Unity, and said the change could leave game creators in a difficult situation financially. The company said it was planning an emergency fund to help its partners.

    The firm wrote "For now, we believe this unfortunate and counterproductive action to be an error in judgement or coordination failure within Unity. We are urgently working to clarify this situation and believe that a swift resolution may be possible."

    An Improbable spokesman told Business Insider that it was difficult to estimate the potential financial impact on the startup, but added that the situation with Unity was "unique." 

    If the license change remains in place, it could put developers off using SpatialOS in future. The spokesman said Improbable was in the process of updating all of its partners.

    The change is a blow, but won't impact all games running on SpatialOS. Midwinter Entertainment's upcoming "Scavengers", which is partly funded by Improbable, will run on Unreal, for example. 

    Business Insider has contacted Unity for comment.

    SEE ALSO: SoftBank-backed Improbable doubled its valuation to $2 billion after raising $50 million from a Chinese gaming giant

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    Mike Bloomberg

    • Bloomberg LP has surpassed $10 billion in annual revenue for the first time.
    • Hitting this milestone means some employees will receive bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars, or 25% of their average annual compensation, that are paid out in March.
    • Bloomberg, known for its terminals that are ubiquitous on Wall Street trading floors, has lately shifted its revenue mix to new sources like selling data. 

    Bloomberg LP, the financial data and information company, brought in record revenue in 2018, surpassing $10 billion for the first time, according to insiders who were informed by senior management. 

    While the milestone would be something in itself, it also means some employees are in line to receive an additional bonus thanks to an incentive plan set up years ago to entice staff to push for revenue gains. 

    Bloomberg employees who joined the company before 2013 will receive an added bonus paid out in March, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Staff who worked at the media company when the incentive program was first announced in 2008 are eligible to receive 25% of their average annual compensation over the period, while those who joined later will have their payout prorated, according to a memo sent to employees and viewed by Business Insider. 

    Nearly half of the almost 20,000 employees are eligible for some payout and were told last week, the person said. 

    Bloomberg leaked memo

     

    The payout could have been higher if Bloomberg had hit the $10 billion mark sooner. The NYPost reported in December 2010 that the firm told employees that the bonus, known as 10B, would equal 70% of their average pay (calculated over some time period) if it reached $10 billion in revenue by June 2014. Later than that, the bonus as a percentage of annual revenue gradually declined. At the time, 12-month trailing revenue was less than $7 billion.  

    But by 2012, expectations for reaching $10 billion in revenue had run into the reality of the financial crisis and job cuts across Wall Street, which limited pricey terminals installs that run north of $24,000 a year. In a memo late that year, according to Politico, Bloomberg told employees it would pay them an interim bonus in 2014, with the remainder paid out whenever the firm reached $10 billion in revenue.

    Bloomberg, known for its terminals that are ubiquitous on Wall Street trading floors, finally reached the milestone by diversifying away from those machines, Jennifer Milton, an analyst at Burton-Taylor International Consulting, wrote in a LinkedIn post earlier this week

    Growth in Bloomberg's non-terminal revenue such as data and research tools outpaced the terminal revenue in 2018, and now accounts for 23% of total revenue, she wrote. The post also mentioned the $10 billion revenue figure, saying it was an estimate.

    A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment. 

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    the best neckband bluetooth headphones

    Headphones are getting better and better. Gone are the days when getting good private audio meant having to buy bulky and expensive over-ear headphones. These days, in-ear headphones sound pretty great — and they're much more convenient, too. Neckband-style headphones help give in-ear headphones a better battery life, more convenient controls, and more.

    Of course, there are a ton of neckband headphones available for purchase, and they're not all created equal. Because of that, it can be hard to figure out which neckband headphones are right for your needs. When buying headphones, there are a number of things to keep in mind. For starters, you'll want to think about the features you want.

    Most neckband headphones have a microphone built in to them for things like phone calls, but you'll also want to think about whether or not you want water-resistance, in case you sweat a lot or get caught in the rain, as well as the connectivity standard you want to use. Pretty much all neckband headphones connect through Bluetooth, but you should lok for the latest standard: Bluetooth 5.0.

    It's also worth considering how long of a battery life you want. One of the advantages of all that extra room around the neck is that you can include a larger battery — and as a result, most neckband headphones offer at least 10 hours of use.

    Here are the best neckband Bluetooth headphones you can buy:

    Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

    The best neckband headphones overall

    Why you'll love them: The V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless headphones feature a great design, excellent sound-quality, and aren't too expensive — making them easily the best neckband-style headphones.

    V-Moda has an excellent track record when it comes to building headphones that are high-quality and great-sounding, and as a result its headphones have topped this list. When it comes to neckband-style headphones, we think the V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless headphones are the ones to get.

    There are a number of reasons we like these headphones so much. For starters, they feature a great design. On the left of the neckband, you'll get playback controls that are relatively easy to use and feel high-quality, and on the right, you'll find a power button. There's a somewhat large bulge at the back of the headphones, but it likely serves as a way to store a bigger battery. The headphones have a 10-hour battery life, which is good for wireless headphones.

    Then there's sound quality, which is excellent. The headphones offer great bass response, but they don't go over the top. You'll get nice and punchy kick drums and thick bass tones without the bass sounding unnatural. There's plenty of warmth in the low mids, and there's excellent high-end response, too, which ensures that music will sound detailed and exciting.

    So what about downsides? The only real downside is that the battery could be a little longer, but the battery life isn't necessarily bad either — it's just middle-of-the-road. Because of the great features and sound quality, Trusted Reviews gave the headphones 9/10, while Headphone Review scored them a slightly more conservative 8.4.

    Pros: Nice design, excellent sound-quality, comfortable

    Cons: Battery life could be better

    Buy the V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless headphones on Amazon for $129.99



    The best noise cancelling neckband headphones

    Why you'll love them: The Bose QuietControl 30 headphones look good and sound great, too, but the best thing about them is their excellent noise cancellation technology.

    There are plenty of great neckband headphones on the market, but few of them come with noise cancellation technology. If you want noise cancelling neckband headphones, then we recommend the Bose QuietControl 30 headphones, which offer a great sound and good design, with the noise cancelling tech that Bose has become known for.

    There are a number of things that make these great headphones. For starters, they're very well-designed, featuring easy-to-use playback controls on the right arm. They're also pretty comfortable, both around the neck, and in the ears.

    Ultimately, however, the most important thing to consider is how the headphones sound, and they sound great. The headphones offer nice, pronounced bass, a scooped but still good-sounding midrange, and well-tuned high-end. Sure, they may not be the most natural-sounding headphones out there, but for most, having natural-sounding headphones isn't all that important, as long as they still sound good — and they do.

    And, of course, they have noise cancellation, which is well-implemented and good at cutting out any outside noise.

    So what are the downsides here? Well the biggest is perhaps the price. At $299, the headphones aren't necessarily cheap. Despite that, however, many reviewers love the headphones — TechRadar scored them 4/5 stars, while TechHive went further with a rating of 4.5 stars.

    Pros: Good sound, comfortable, well-designed

    Cons: Expensive

    Buy the Bose QuietControl 30 headphones on Amazon for $299



    The best neckband headphones for sports

    Why you'll love them: The JBL UA Sport Wireless Flex headphones look relatively nice, plus they feature a customizable fit, which is perfect for use during sports.

    Looking for a pair of neckband headphones to take to the gym? Neckband headphones may not be the most conducive for sports use, but there are still some great options out there — like, for example, the JBL UA Sport Wireless Flex headphones, which are the result of a partnership between JBL and Under Armor.

    So what makes the JBL UA Sport Wireless Flex headphones so great? Well, for starters, they're relatively easy to use, which is great news for those who need quick access to their headphones when they're running or at the gym.

    The headphones are also pretty comfortable and good at staying on your neck without moving around too much. That's thanks in part to the adjustable design, which allows you to tighten or loosen the neckband when you want. They even have a light on the back, which is great for those who like to run or cycle at night.

    When it comes to sound quality, the headphones are pretty nice. For those that like a bit of an extra kick when they work out, there's plenty of bass, while mids are relatively warm. The high-end sounds fine, but it's not quite as detailed as we might have liked — though for many, bass response will be more important anyway.

    Plenty of reviewers loved the headphones, too. TechHive gave the headphones 4/5, while Headphone Review gave them a slightly more conservative 7.4/10.

    Pros: Well-designed and customizable, relatively inexpensive

    Cons: Don't sound as good as others

    Buy the JBL UA Sport Wireless Flex headphones on Best Buy for $129.99



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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