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Baidu: famous as “Chinese Google”

The history of Baidu dates back to a time when Google was still under development.Back in 1994, Robin Li, working for the Down Jones and Company, began researching on algorithms for search engines. He developed RankDex in 1996. It was an algorithm that ranked web pages. However, around the same time, Larry Page began developing a similar kind of algorithm PageRank, which would be used in Google. After working for Infoseek for a few years, Robin Li moved to China in 1999 to launch Baidu. At that time, Internet use in China has just begun and it was a land of overwhelming possibilities. Baidu began as a paid search service for major corporations. After a year, Robin Li scrapped that idea launched Baidu as an independent service.

It was during this time that Robin Li and his team worked the hardest to improve Baidu. They worked overtime, doubled the effort and within the span of just one year, Baidu’s index of searchable pages was double the size of its nearest competitor in China.Baidu continued to dominate the search engine and internet marketing domains in China and to this date, it remains the number one search portal in China. When it went public in 2005, Baidu was the largest IPO since 2000. On its opening day, the stock gained immensely and ended the opening day with a return of 354%! The company offers various internet based services ranging from search to cloud storage, Web browsers to online advertising and marketing. Initially famous as “China’s Google”, Baidu is the second largest independent search engine today. The company has its share of criticisms though. Baidu was accused of censorship and promoting illegal music downloads. Its public image always suffered because the search results would be flooded with sponsored ads making it difficult for users to spot organic search results.

The company is taking steps to make the experience more user centric and friendly by introducing Phoenix Nest – a better way to display advertisements, similar to how Google displays its sponsored ads. The company is trying hard to improve its image.

Baidu Headquarters

Baidu is currently a China centric company with markets in other South East Asian nations, but it has plans to expand onto the global platform soon.The growth of Baidu can be attributed to its founder Robin Li’s vision and dedication. When his algorithm RankDex was shadowed by Google, he did not silently watch his ideas slip into oblivion. Instead he moved on and launched his own business in China and today the success of Baidu is overwhelming. Baidu’s journey from a small startup to the world’s 2nd biggest independent search engine is a story which will inspire many. Considering that its opposition is the mighty Google, the story is all the more motivating. As Baidu begins to rework its strategies to make amends and improve its image, the success story tells you that first step to achieving your dreams is to never give up on them.

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How JD.com get into future success

After graduation, Liu (JD.COM’s CEO) put his dreams of entrepreneurship on hold and went to work for health products company Japan Life, where he quickly rose through the ranks, in 1998 Liu decided to take another shot at starting his own business. With just 12,000 yuan he established Jingdong Century Trading, a consumer electronics shop specialising in magneto-optical products.The business was a success, opening 12 stores in just five years and earning more than 10 million yuan. Then severe acute respiratory syndrome struck. The disease which swept China in 2003, killing more than 300 people, sparked a panic and kept customers at home, leaving Jingdong teetering on the edge of disaster.

“The Sars crisis was a shock to the whole retail business in China,” said Jasmine Sun, an e-commerce and retail expert at consulting firm SmithStreet. “Because of Sars, a lot of people started to use e-commerce so they didn’t need to go out and take the risk of being infected, so there was a boom in e-commerce that year.”

 Recognizing that the demand to buy goods online was unlikely to go away once the Sars crisis was over, Liu threw himself wholeheartedly into e-commerce. He launched his first online retail website in 2004 and founded JD.COM later that year. By 2005, all of the company’s original bricks-and-mortar stores were closed.

The pivot was a risky move. In 2005, after all, JD business had moved online, sales dropped to 30 million yuan, less than half of what it had made the previous year. Liu stuck to his approach, however, and in the five years from 2004 to 2009, the company recorded an average growth rate of more than 300 percent. JD has struggled at times to compete with e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, which owns Taobao and Tmall. In March, Liu’s company got a much-needed boost from another Alibaba-rival, Tencent, which acquired a 15 percent stake in JD for US$214.7 million in cash. The web giant also transferred its e-commerce businesses QQ Wanggou and Paipai, as well as a minority stake in Yixun, to JD.

Within months of the Tencent deal, JD.com Inc debuted on Nasdaq, beating Alibaba to an IPO. The deal also catapulted Liu into the ranks of China’s super-rich. According to Forbes, he is now worth around US$8 billion, making him one of the 100 richest individuals in China. With 84 per cent of voting power under a dual-class share structure, Liu also retained effective veto control over all JD’s future decisions, something no doubt important to a chief executive who is so detail-oriented that he once served as a delivery boy to better understand the company’s logistics wing.

Liu seems determined to go his own way, shrugging off comparisons to others. “Copying business models of any other companies is doomed to fail,” he told Bloomberg in May.

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Yelp’s empire

In 2014, Yelp even managed to become profitable, an achievement that had previously eluded it. It’s a big milestone for a ten-year-old company; While Yelp’s $36.5 million profit last year is approximately what Google spends reupholstering its beanbag chairs, it was a big deal for a company that had spent its entire life wandering in a desert of red ink. “We’ve had to endure nearly 10 years of the bears saying, ‘Oh, a money-losing Internet company–what a surprise,’” says Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO and founder.

In fact, he says, Yelp could easily have crossed into the black years earlier, although it would have required pumping the breaks on hiring and other areas of investment crucial to sustaining momentum. “We always knew it was up to us to choose the time and place,” he says. “The nice thing about the last couple quarters was we didn’t actually slow our growth.”

Things have generally been going Yelp’s way lately. In September, a storm cloud that had been looming over the company for four years suddenly dispersed when a federal appeals court ruled against the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit accusing Yelp of giving better reviews to businesses that bought advertising. He faces a challenge when it comes to setting strategy now that Yelp is a publicly-traded company. In its early days as a startup, Stoppelman was able to make gutsy calls with a minimum of deliberation. Two that proved particularly crucial to long-term success were deciding to invest a large share of Yelp’s then-modest resources in developing an app for the iPhone when it first arrived in 2007; and electing not to devote significant time and money to Facebook’s first developer platform, which came out around the same time but quickly withered from a lack of support.

On the rare occasions that he has to make a snap decision, he says he’s glad to be able to draw on the credibility that comes from being a founder-CEO. “It’s helpful to be able to say: This company is my identity. I know how and why it was built in the first place and I know where to take it in the future,” he says.

That sort of maneuverability may come in handy as more and more competitors take the model Yelp pioneered of user-generated business reviews and iterate on it. After all, that old saying about opinions cuts both ways: Yes, Yelp has them by the millions, but it’s hardly alone.

Stoppelman is dismissive of efforts by the biggest of the Internet giants to muscle in on his turf. “The reality is it’s very hard for somebody in a particular core business to go completely outside that business,” he says. “If I had a dollar for every time someone said, ‘The new product from Google is going to kill Yelp,’ ‘the new product from Facebook is going to kill Yelp’ – I would be a very happy man if I was getting paid for those headlines.

And Fitzgerald notes that the number of reviews submitted by Yelp’s users, an important measure of engagement, has steadily grown by about 20 percent annually. “They’re continuing to scale the model,” he says.It’s clearly the case, however, that advertisers are willing to pay more to companies that can offer them not just consumers’ awareness but also their actions. Yelp’s $134 million purchase of the food-delivery service Eat24 in February was a big step in that direction; more quietly, it has been building out its transactional platform, which 60,000 local businesses now use.The future holds a lot more of that, Stoppelman says: “Whatever it is the consumer might want to transact with, we want that to be able to plug into Yelp.

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The Doorman App

Have you ever ordered something offline and when it was delivered to your house you weren’t there? Instead of coming home to find the product you ordered you find a delivery notice. Well, there is a new and innovative app called Doorman that is aiming to solve this problem.

Doorman is trying to eradicate this problem by allowing customers to schedule their own delivery times. Even if it is as late as midnight seven days a week.

Doorman was created by a former Pixar Technical Director named Zander Adel. Zander came up with this idea by looking at the retailers that offer same day shipping. Places like Amazon or Postmates. He goes on to explain that all of the shipping and deliveries are done through companies like FedEx and UPS. As a result of this customers have less control over the time their product is delivered.

Doorman fixes this by allowing customers to give these retailers their “Doorman address” which is a location of the company’s warehouse. The customer will then be able to specify exactly when they want their order delivered.

Doorman has already delivered over 25,000 packages in its first market in San Francisco and is preparing to spread to the east coast.

When looking at how awesome the name of this app is and how cool of an idea it is, I wish I could have come up with it first.

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Squeeze

As a senior in college, I am getting closer and closer to the day I have to take responsibility for my own finances. Luckily we live in a world with effective and innovative tools that can help me do so. One of those tools is an app called Squeeze.

Squeeze is a personal finance app that is designed to help users manage their finances. Tasks it helps with are saving money, reducing debt, and growing wealth by giving you access to price comparison tools for all of your bills. As well as other tools. Such as a spending tracker, financial analytics, and coaching on how to do these things.

Squeeze will sync users’ online banking, credit cards, consumption habit, and evaluate pricing on the users’ recurring bills. The creators of Squeeze look at the app as being an all in one financial solution to managing their personal finances. Squeezes’ financial management app has often been compared to other sites like Expedia and Travelocity. This app also brings together the users mobile phone, the internet, and internet plans all into the app and compare their prices to others constantly.

I personally feel that this app would be a great tool for anyone to use in order to manage their finances effectively and in a new way.

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Digital Trends 2017 Overview

Every year, We Are Social and Hootsuite release an annual report covering major trends in internet, social media, and mobile use. This report is massive – they released a deck of over 100 slides with graphs and statistics about the growth or decline of internet usage across hundreds of countries. You could spend a whole day or more digging into the specifics of this report and what it means to internet based businesses, but here are a few snapshots:

We can see a sharp increase of mobile device usage as well as a definite growth in “other devices,” though the total usage for this category remains small. This keeps in line with Google’s recent shift toward valuing mobile-friendly websites over non-responsive sites. As Internet entrepreneurs, we should keep in mind how much people value the ease of accessing the Internet from mobile devices, and build our websites and apps accordingly.

We Are Social’s analysis of what Internet usage means for businesses is spot on. Gone is the day that having a strong Internet presence was just an option. The Internet has become engrained into our very way of life, and should be treated as such from the business side of things. Internet usage and access should be factored in to every business plan and model. Not only do we need to understand how our customers think and what pains them, but we have to know how the behave on the Internet and what the best ways of reaching them digitally would be.

Facebook is absolutely top dog when it comes to social media platforms. It will remain one of the best ways to reach a lot of customers at once and it shows no signs of slowing down. Facebook along with Google dominates the online advertising world. We can expect to see more advertisements being integrated to the Facebook platform and should capitalize on this social media giant by advertising on Facebook as well as other online places such as Google. It is also moving toward a serious social ecommerce platform, which can be a tremendous advantage for Internet-based businesses.

You can view the entire presentation on Digital Trends in 2017 on Slideshare.

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