1. Workers waste half their time as they struggle with data
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A recent report released by Irving, California-based analytics platform Alteryx and IDC shows how time is wasted as workers search for data. The report shows that 90 percent of a worker’s working week is spent on data-related activities and, on average, workers use four to seven different tools to perform the data activities, adding to the length of time and complexity of the data and analytics process. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: We live in a big-data world and all of this leads to organizations suffering from inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. The study found that workers waste 44 percent of their time each week because of unsuccessful activities due to lack of collaboration, existence of knowledge gaps, and resistance to change.
2. Airbnb introduces new search tools for business travelers
Airbnb logos on a street in South Africa
Airbnb recently introduced a new search capability on their site for business trips. While the company already provides countless listings geared toward those traveling for business, such as flexible access, personal kitchens, and on-site laundry, the new “Work trip” toggle (now available globally) will allow guests to personalize their search results in order to make more informed booking choices for work. The search will immediately filter out vacation homes, as well as any other offerings that may not be appealing or convenient for business travelers. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: There are over 500,000 companies that use Airbnb for business trips and travel, according to Airbnb and yet, because I’m so lazy, I automatically go with hotels when I travel for business. Now I’m thinking that I’m not only missing out on a better experience but probably spending too much money. This is on my list to try before the end of the year. You?
3. Alibaba welcomes U.S. small businesses to sell globally on its platform
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Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant, announced that they will begin allowing small U.S. businesses to sell on their site as they look to successfully go up against big companies like Amazon in the business-to-business e-commerce market. Previously, U.S. merchants were only able to buy on Alibaba; however, the change will now allow companies to sell to other U.S.-based businesses and will open up markets to U.S. merchants in countries, including India, Brazil, and Canada, that are served by Alibaba. (Source: Reuters)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: As I wrote here, now is the time to start really considering selling on Alibaba. Amazon isn’t the only game in town and it’s important to have as many channels as you can manage to get your products out to the widest range of customers possible.
4. Thumbtack raises $150 million for its local services marketplace
Thumbtack, a startup that began as a simple marketplace for local professionals, recently closed a new funding round of $150 million, making the company’s value at $1.7 billion. (Source: TechCrunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Thumbtack has had its challenges, but now the site for contractors, professionals and other 1099-types is back in form with a full bank account and aspirations of going public in the near future. You’re a service provider, and I strongly feel that if you choose to list your business on Thumbtack, and with the right amount of effort and resources devoted, it could be an important part of your ongoing lead generation efforts. But again, it will take time and resources – like anything else.
5. Why Andreesen Horowitz is investing in a newsletter publishing platform
Substack, a newsletter publishing platform, recently raised $15.3 million in Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, proving that venture capitalists continue to hold an appetite for email. Using Substack, writers can launch a paid or free subscription newsletter with no upfront fees. Substack makes money by taking a 10 percent cut of subscription revenue. Currently Substack has 50,000 paying subscribers across their entire network. (Source: Fortune)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: So why is a well-known VC firm made up of really smart people doing this? It’s because email is still king and people do read newsletters. This should give you confidence that if your firm invests in email newsletters and your campaigns are done correctly you too can reap some rewards. And maybe Substack could be a resource.
6. LogMeIn releases Grasshopper Connect for small business
LogMeIn Inc. announced the release of Grasshopper Connect, a new Unified Communications product for small businesses that brings together all forms of business communication into one, easy-to-use inbox. The application enables small businesses to create a professional identity through a single business phone number from their existing mobile device. (Source: Globe Newswire)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The unified experience will allow you to focus on work without sifting through multiple communication threads and channels. Some of Grasshopper Connect’s top features include unified messaging, business contacts, e-mail integration, and a timeline view. If you’re a Grasshopper or LogMeIn customer, this type of integration could significantly improve your internal communications and productivity.
7. The House passes SBA and small-business cyber bills
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On July 15, the House of Representatives approved two bills that aim to bolster Small Business Administration cybersecurity and assist small businesses in combating cyberattacks. The first of the two bills would require the SBA to report to Congress each year with an assessment of its IT, if any SBA equipment was manufactured in China, and information of all cyber threats and incidents that the SBA encountered since the previous report. The Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act would require small-business development center counselors to become certified in cybersecurity in an effort to help small businesses lessen and respond to cyber attacks. The two bills also have companion bills awaiting votes in the Senate. (Source: MeriTalk)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I’m not thrilled and here’s why.
8. Bad Google reviews are costlier to small businesses than Yelp or Facebook
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A recent study published by Womply, a marketing and CRM software provider for small and midsized businesses, found that low ratings on Google are more damaging to small businesses than unfavorable reviews on Facebook or Yelp. The study found that businesses received 33 percent less revenue than the average business per year if they had a Google star rating of 1 to 1.5, while businesses with the same ratings on Yelp averaged 19 percent less yearly revenue, and those on Facebook 9 percent less revenue per year. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The purpose behind the study is to help business owners make informed, critical decisions of how to engage with their customers online as well as manage their online presence, and it’s an interesting study. Google Reviews have become as important as Yelp and Facebook because they’re mostly easier to leave, so your business should be paying attention. Someone in your firm and at your clients’ companies should be checking and (professionally and constructively) responding to those reviews frequently.
9. Samsung has reportedly fixed the Galaxy Fold
A woman waits for an elevator behind a Samsung Electronics Co. logo displayed at the company's Seocho office building in Seoul.
Samsung is finally ready to begin assembling its Galaxy Fold devices after numerous complications with the folding phone’s hinge and screen, which resulted in Samsung cancelling the planned launch on April 26 once issues became clear with test phones. Complaints regarding the Galaxy Fold included cracks and bumps on the hinge of the device, as well as display issues. Samsung had to halt pre-orders of the device in order to solve the issues before the phone was released to the general public. (Source: Silicon Republic)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Could we finally see the folding phone this year? Although Samsung has not announced a new release date, issues with the hinge have reportedly been solved and experts in the industry predict the phone will still be released before Christmas. I’d avoid this first version, but you can expect there to be many devices like it in the years to come.
10. Walmart’s using VR to help decide who should get a promotion
Employees restock shelves of school supplies at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Burbank, California.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart is using virtual reality to help find candidates for their management positions throughout all of their 4,600 stores. The VR assessment allows evaluation of things that are difficult to identify in interviews, such as seeing how workers respond to difficult situations and the way that employees prioritize tasks. A Walmart spokesperson explained that VR is not being used to demote people, but that it’s only being used for specific roles throughout the company as one data point of many when considering who to promote. This approach is part of an initiative to identify high performers while cutting back on the number of managers. (Source: Fast Company)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Virtual reality and machine-based learning are slowly but surely working their way into a lot of human resources applications, including hiring and promotions. Many of these apps are still in their early days and at a price point that would exclude most small businesses. But as they mature I’m sure we’ll all be taking advantage.

Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.