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Report: Activision Blizzard shed 37 employees during misconduct scandal

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The Wall Street Journal today released a new report on the situation at Activision Blizzard. According to this report, the company has either fired or “pushed out” 37 people since last July. Presumably this is part of the company’s efforts to address its culture of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Allegedly Activision Blizzard collected 700 reports from employees about the company’s situation. It intended to release a summary over the holidays, but CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly withheld the report, supposedly because it would make the problem “seem bigger than is already known,” the Journal said.

Last December, COO Daniel Alegre published a letter acknowledging “the need to share more information openly as a company” and promising change going forward.

Activision Blizzard spokeswoman Helaine Klasky confirmed that 37 people had left the company and 44 had been disciplined following the company’s investigation. This investigation began in July, after the company was sued by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Among many other reports, one alleges that Kotick knew about several of the incidents of workplace harassment and discrimination and failed to inform the board of directors. The board has since affirmed its support of Kotick. Klasky also noted the 700 number included complaints not related to harassment.

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Last week, Lego announced that it was putting its Overwatch set on hold to review its partnership with Activision. A spokesperson expressed “concerns about the progress being made to address continuing allegations regarding workplace culture, especially the treatment of female colleagues and creating a diverse and inclusive environment.” The heads of all three console manufacturers — Phil Spencer, Doug Bowser, and Jim Ryan — have also expressed discomfort with how the company has dealt with its own culture. Klasky said Activision Blizzard is communicating its changes to Lego.

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Edtech unicorn Vedantu lays off about 385 employees: Report

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Tiger Global-backed edtech unicorn Vedantu is reportedly laying off about 385 employees across different verticals like HR, learning, and content.

An Entrackr report stated that the edtech company is now left with around 3,300 people. Vedantu’s founding team including its CXO are taking a 50% pay cut, the report noted.

YourStory could not independently verify the report. Vedantu did not respond to queries at the time of publication.

The development comes after Vedantu acquired a majority stake in Deeksha (Ace Creative Learning) at a deal size of $40 million to strengthen its offline presence.

The edtech firm has laid off over 1,000 employees this year. This May, the company laid off approximately 624 employees in two phases—due to changes in the business environment and as part of the company’s annual review of its employees.

Edtech blues

Vedantu’s recent layoffs come at a time when edtech unicorns are witnessing losses, cutting jobs, slowing expansion plans, and trying to burn as little cash as possible amid a funding winter. 

Recently, BYJU’S, India’s most valuable startup, said it will lay off 2,500 employees, which makes for about 5% of its workforce, across product, content, media, and technology teams in a cost-cutting initiative as the company’s losses widened.

Last month, Unacademy laid off 10% of its workforce or about 350 employees across verticals. 

Other edtech firms like Lido Learning, Udayy, Crejo.Fun, Qin1, SuperLearn are halting operations.

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StructureFlow helps attorneys visualize deal flow in a workflow-style interface • TechCrunch

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Most M&A deals involve a lot of activity from the buyer to the financiers and a myriad interested parties. The typical way of describing this is to write dense text in a contract explaining the relationships, an approach that quickly becomes difficult to follow, even for the most experienced legal minds.

StructureFlow’s founder and CEO, Tim Follett, who was trained as a lawyer prior to founding the company in 2017, thought that moving that information to a visual workflow-style approach would transform the process.

Today, the company announced a $3.6 million investment.

StructureFlow identifies all of the parts of the textual description as different components: people, assets, funding flows and contractual relationships. “What our software does is it visually models those things and those relationships so instead of having to engage with that information through mountains and mountains of written text, which is the way the legal industry has operated for decades, centuries; what we do is we provide a visual interface into that information,” Follett told TechCrunch.

“And by doing that, we help people understand what’s going on far faster than if they were reading 200 pages. Contracts are long, long documents, and we allow people to communicate that information far faster than they would be able to do if they were writing it out, or just speaking to it.”

The software works like a lot of the no-code workflow tools we see on the market. You can drag and drop the different components onto the canvas and show the relationships between the different items and how the money flows from one group to another. Sometimes it’s simple and sometimes it’s complex, but being able to visualize it all makes it far simpler to understand than reading.

This could be at the start of a deal, or after a deal is completed to get the big picture (useful for tech journalists or others looking at big deals like the $44 billion Twitter acquisition) or it could be how to untangle a company as is happening now as lawyers are working to shut down FTX.

Deal flow of the Twitter deal in visual workflow style of StructureFlow software.

Twitter deal flow visualized in StructureFlow Image Credits: StructureFlow

As a non-technical founder, Follett has had to hire technical people to implement his product vision. He produced his first version of the product in late 2019, and then COVID hit, but he has been able to build up a business with 45 firms using his product today across several continents.

Today he has around 30 employees as he prepares to build out the product with the goal of getting to a Series A investment next year when he plans to start scaling and accelerating. As he builds his company, he says diversity is particularly important.

“So these things at the moment they’re obviously big topics. And I think for good reason. Because what you get through diversity and inclusion is different perspectives, different ways of thinking,” he said.

He says one area that is near to his heart is neuro-diversity “because what we’re doing fundamentally is we’re creating a new paradigm for engaging with complicated information.” He believes that will help people who have trouble reading this information as text.

Today’s investment was led by Venrex with participation of several industry angels. This investment brings the total raised, pre-Series A, to around $8 million, according to the company.

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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Branding

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By Tommy Mello, owner A1 Garage Doors, a $100M+ home service business. Sharing what I’ve learned to help other entrepreneurs scale.

You can buy a purse for $30. Or you can buy one for $4,000. You can buy a large pizza for $10. Or you can buy one for $40.

What’s the difference? Branding. It just makes your marketing and selling a lot easier.

Here’s why branding is more important than most people think:

1. Branding makes your marketing a lot more effective.

When your brand gets noticed, it increases the conversion rate on all of your marketing campaigns—whether you’re doing organic or pay-per-click.

Ken Goodrich—a home service entrepreneur who makes $75 million per year—told me that he went from a 4% to 63% clickthrough rate on his marketing when he wrapped his vans and did TV and radio hardcore.

It’s not just your clickthrough rate, by the way—your average ticket value can go up, too. I worked with a chimney repair company owner years ago, and I got him to wrap his trucks and get his employees amazing new uniforms, among a few other things. He ended up tripling his average ticket total.

A big reason why your average ticket increases is because you attract a different group of customers. This brings me to my next point:

2. You can attract better customers.

I had this lady call me up one day. She asked for the number of my buddy at flooring company A. I let her know they were really expensive. And you know what she said next? “Well, I don’t care. I want the convenience. I just don’t wanna lift my furniture and move everything. Give me his number because I don’t care what it costs.”

Read her last sentence again. She’s the perfect example of people who aren’t buying based on price. That’s the kind of customer you want, since a) they often value great service more than others, and b) they can pay more—they will usually be happy to do so if you overdeliver.

3. It’s how you prevent yourself from being a commodity.

Big companies like Google and Amazon are going into more and more industries. How do you compete if you’re a small player? You can’t compete on price—you will just commoditize yourself. As Alex Hormozi, the author of $100M Offers wrote: “Sell your product based on value not on price.”

How do you differentiate based on value? Let me give you an example. If you only do drywall installation, you might differentiate yourself by advertising noise barriers in your drywall. No one wants to hear their kid playing drums in their room from across the house, so you can stand out from the competition, since way fewer people are going to know how to do it—let alone offer it.

If you’re sold on the importance of branding, you might ask, “OK Tommy, I get it. But what exactly do I improve about our brand?” Based on my experience, here’s what I recommend:

What makes a brand great?

Here’s the obvious:

• Memorable: You want people to remember your brand upon first impression. People have short attention spans these days. Make sure your band has a great name and even a great jingle.

• Visually catchy: You could hire a professional branding agency like we did, or you could go to 99designs and create a design contest.

Now, what about the non-obvious? Two things:

1. Great branding is about reputation.

Branding isn’t what you say; it’s what they say. In other words, if your customers are trash-talking you, having the best-looking brand is useless.

Here’s what you want to have: lots of five-star reviews on multiple platforms, so that you’re credible no matter where your customers go to research you.

If you’re in the home services industry like me, you should be on Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor. Then encourage your customers to leave genuine reviews about their experience with you.

2. Great branding is about focus.

The mistake I often see home service company owners make is this: They put everything they do on the side of their van. It would be something like “Angie’s List! BBB! Yelp! Google Five Stars! By the way, I clean gutters! I wash gutters! I clean driveways, too!”

You should just put “I clean gutters.” That’s it! Most people only have a few seconds to read. And even if they have more time to read, they will end up getting confused by what it is that you actually do.

If there’s one thing you take away from my article, this is it: Branding isn’t just about looking good, it’s about being focused. That’s how you stand out in the market and get customers to choose you. Can you describe what you do in one sentence? A few words? Here are a few examples:

  • Disneyland: “The happiest place on Earth.”
  • Nike: “Just do it.”
  • Dollar Shave Club: “Shave time. Shave money.”

So, if you asked me, “What would you do if you started your company all over again?” I’d say: “Brand it right!”

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