Box Wants To Be The Center Of Your Company’s Content Universe

Aaron Levie on stage at BoxWorks 15. Last week, at Dreamforce,’s enormous customer conference, Salesforce personnel talked at great length about how everything they did was in the service of the customer. If it wasn’t about the customer — like ERP — they weren’t interested. In a similar way, today at BoxWorks at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the Box team made it clear their… Read More


What is Bonus Depreciation and Does Your Business Need It?

bonus depreciation

A group of small to medium-sized manufacturers is asking Congress once again to restore tax provisions that allow small businesses to write off equipment costs as well as deduct the purchase price of some equipment.

Known respectively as bonus depreciation and Section 179 expensing of the IRS tax code, the Senate Finance Committee in July voted to extend bonus depreciation and a $500,000 limit for a Section 179 deduction through 2016.

The Senate collectively has not yet said whether it will act further on the bill. Meanwhile, last December, Congress retroactively extended bonus depreciation and the $500,000 limit Section 179 deduction through 2014.

Originally enacted in 2001, the provisions were introduced as temporary measures to help  struggling businesses against the backdrop of a beleaguered economy. Bonus depreciation has been around since Sept. 11, 2001, though it periodically expired in 2005, 2006, and 2007. The write-off has ranged from 30 percent to 100 percent over the years.

As it now stands, bonus depreciation allows businesses that buy new equipment regularly to cut their tax bill by allowing them to “write off” 50 percent of the costs of the equipment.

Similarly, Section 179 of the IRS tax code allows full expensing of capital expenditures by small companies, allowing the deduction of the full purchase price of qualifying equipment bought or financed during the tax year.

The letter, which 19 small and mid-size technology manufacturers across 12 states jointly wrote, notes that “restoring Section 179 expending could add nearly 200,000 jobs and increase GDP by $18.6 billion over 10 years.”

Both of the measures increase capital spending, which stands to fuel economic growth as well as job creation, said the letter. It was addressed to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid and Congressmen John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi.

The letter’s conclusions are said to complement the results of a 2014 study from the University of Chicago professor Eric Zwick and Harvard professor James Mahon. That study noted that “bonus depreciation raised eligible investment by 17.3 percent on average between 2001 and 2004 and 29.5 percent between 2008 and 2010.”

Many small business supporters were pleased with the bill, especially the International Franchise Association.

Others are not so enthused, however. National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) surveys have persistently shown (PDF) that small business owners aren’t necessarily focused on tax breaks. They believe weak demand for their products and services are among the biggest problems they face.

The Tax Foundation, however, describes it as “the most beneficial tax extender” because it is “broadly applicable and allows all businesses to immediately deduct half of their investments in equipment and software.”

Economist William McBride says the measure would grow Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by one percent.

The companies behind the letter employ about 7,500 U.S.-based workers and sustain annual revenue of several billion dollars.

Stephen Szymanski, vice president for Prysmian Cables & Systems, one of the companies signing the letter, said:

“Like all businesses, we are always preparing for the future. Restoring these two measures – if not permanently, at least for a set period of time – provides us with the certainty we need to invest in manufacturing plants and equipment, and the ability to hire new employees while allocating more money towards research and development.”

Daryl Bouwkamp, Senior Director for International Business Development and Government Affairs for Vermeer Corporation, another one of the 19 companies, said:

“Since the economy has not yet fully recovered, we are urging our leaders in Congress to retroactively renew both provisions back to January 1, 2015, and also extend them for several years into the future. Doing this will stimulate investment, create jobs, and ultimately grow our country’s economy.”

Not all small business advocates think these two measures are a real solution, however. One viewpoint is that, because of weak revenue since the start of the Great Recession, few small business owners are making capital investments to expand. And if your business isn’t making capital investments, there’s nothing to write off, so the effort is of little immediate value for you.

Additionally, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data shows that sole proprietor businesses (which make up 72 percent of all small businesses) in very few industries have much depreciation.

In 2009, the depreciation deduction averaged only 6.8 percent of net income for sole proprietors with net income. Also, four out of five small businesses operate in industries in which the average depreciation deduction was less than 10 percent of net income.

Representatives of many of the 19 companies expressed interest in participating in a discussion with Congressional offices in Washington, D.C., centering on the two measures.

Manufacturer Photo via Shutterstock



This article, “What is Bonus Depreciation and Does Your Business Need It?” was first published on Small Business Trends

Localization at scale: Being relevant to your customers wherever they are (webinar)

flags localization


Join us for this live webinar on Tuesday, September 29 at 9 a.m. Pacific, 12 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free.


While technology has paved the road to localization, it’s the expectations of today’s users that are pushing companies to location-based relevance at a faster pace — particularly with a generation that’s come of age with the technology.


“Millennials and GenY’s are expecting to have things that are local,” says Dave Fish, SVP, Expert Services of the customer experience company MaritzCX and one of our upcoming panelists tomorrow. “They prefer to buy groceries that are sourced locally and they prefer to know the people they’re dealing with rather than dealing with a big anonymous corporate entity.”


It’s this kind of thinking that is creating a challenge for companies providing localized experiences and communication — at scale. That gets even more complicated when you’re in the context of going global, where cross-cultural considerations can spell mammoth success or embarrasing failure.


“If you’re not communicating using local language or idioms, you can be very off-putting,” says Fish. “What can be a good engagement can turn into something that’s very, very negative. So it’s a requirement nowadays rather than a nicety.”


It’s why for Fish, the experience is what it all comes down to. Whether you’re one of the 3,000 micro-breweries across the U.S. trying to express that unique pride of place, or a global brand appealing to a vast market, you need to be able to cross the great divide with ease.


“You have a brand that stands for something — and that should be translatable across cultures and langauges and local markets,” says Fish. It can come down to specific channels and what works and doesn’t in different countries.


“In some countries, you can do email, in some countries, you can’t,” he explains. “In some you can do telephone, in some you can’t and in some you can do mail, some you can’t — so just picking the right modality to communicate is important.”


And while Fish believes that the role of Chief Customer Experience Officer is now essential to organizations — and many are rolling that out in various ways — localization can be boiled down to something rather simple.


“It’s really just a subset of segmentation,” he says. “Just a different way of looking at people.”


Join us tomorrow as Fish will join Stewart Rogers, VB Insight’s Director of Marketing Technology for an important discussion on what’s needed to get localization right, whether it’s the next state, or the next continent.


They’ll be sharing tips not just on the process, but on how to deliver better metrics to senior leadership to communicate the true story of your brand’s globalization.




Don’t miss out!


Register here for free.



In this webinar, you’ll learn how to:


  • Re-think campaign creation at the regional level — and the global one
  • Effectively use in-market experts to drive better impact
  • Make your branding as world-ready as possible.
  • Use metrics to show the truest picture of your campaign’s effectiveness
  • Enhance the customer experience through added local flavor




Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VB Insight


Dave Fish, SVP, Expert Services, MaritzCX



This webinar is sponsored by Lionbridge.




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Supercharged List Building with Content Upgrades


Content Upgrade are great tools for blogs connected to businesses because they capture the contact info of people who are likely to want your product or service. They get the valuable content, you get another email on your list of subscribers plus a free pass to market to them. The best part is that it’s not just any old email address, owned by someone who doesn’t care what you’re saying.

How John Carmack pestered Microsoft to let him make Minecraft for Gear VR

It took a lot of work from Oculus's CTO to make this happen.

Oculus VR chief technology officer John Carmack was desperate to get the block-building open-world game Minecraft into virtual reality, but it took a lot of effort and a meeting between two of the most powerful people in tech to make that happen.


At the Oculus Connect developer conference in Hollywood today, Carmack explained that, for him, VR gaming is all about exploring worlds. He explained that cresting a hill to see a beautiful vista “means something” when you’re in a head-mounted display, and he could think of no better game to bring that kind of experience alive than Mojang’s exploration-heavy phenomenon. So he got to work convincing Mojang and, eventually, Microsoft to let him make that happen — but he needed the power of Mark Zuckerberg to finally seal the deal.


“Minecraft was my quest, really, for the last year and a half,” Carmack said. “Before Gear VR even existed, Minecraft was something I was desperate to get into virtual reality because I thought it would be critically important.”


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Carmack explained that while Minecraft is a game about exploring, it also has a number of other aspects that make it ideal for VR. It’s a metaverse with an infinite number of worlds where people can put on different skins to play as different characters. And it was with that stuff in mind that Oculus invited Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson into the office to talk about putting a version of the game into the Rift.


“We had Notch over,” said Carmack. “And we showed him early prototype stuff, and I talked with him about geeky programmer stuff for a long time. We were trying to get into a situation where he would let us try to put the [mobile] game on Gear VR — if it’s great, then we’ll see where we can go from there.”


But that didn’t work out right away. You might remember that when Facebook acquired Oculus in July 2014, Notch “blew up about it,” as Carmack puts it. Notch referred to the social media company as “creepy” and publicly stated that it wasn’t the partner he was envisioning when he backed the original Oculus Rift when it was just a Kickstarter project.


“Notch eventually got over that, and then there was the Microsoft acquisition,” said Carmack. “I started pestering Mojang about it. I would drive home this case that ‘we don’t want to ask anything from you. Just let me try to build this, and if you think it’s cool, then we’ll figure it out from there.’”


Carmack said he was so confident that Minecraft would work that he would agree to just about anything with Microsoft — and that seemed to do the trick.


“Microsoft actually got me GitHub access to the Minecraft: Pocket Edition code base,” he said. “But we signed a contract that our lawyers said was terrible. ‘They own everything you do. John, you’re basically working for Microsoft when you’re working on this.’”


But the CTO assured Facebook and Oculus’s legal team that this was worth it, and he got to work. Now, it’s up to him to get it up and running. He says he’s already given the framerate a boost and implemented head-tracking, which are the “fundamentals of VR.” But he’s also considering all kinds of other technical improvements — although, he notes that a lot of that stuff isn’t critical.


“It was amazing how quickly I was thinking to myself that I’m in the game and having fun,” he said. “I’ve played more hours of Minecraft in [Samsung’s] Gear VR than all other games put together. I still want to fix everything — I’ve talked to Mojang’s engineers about it. But it turns out that I wouldn’t say they are at all necessary for an initial release because I had an immense amount of fun with it.”


But despite all of that, Minecraft almost didn’t end up on the Oculus stage today. It took a last-minute emergency meeting to make that happen.


“I guess I can say this now. I got the email at 12:30 a.m. this morning that the deal was signed,” said Carmack. “We did all this preparation about how to announce it with the assumption that we would get to, but it really came down to the wire.”


Carmack said that after he did the initial work on Minecraft for VR about eight months ago, Oculus and Facebook spent the rest of the time trying to reach a deal with Mojang.


“I was willing to do just about anything,” he said. “On the phone I said that if this doesn’t happen, I’m going to cry. This will just be so terrible. This will be the best thing that we can do for the platform. But there are some problems that compilers can’t solve.”


It turns out that the solution was to get the top executives from Facebook and Microsoft together.


“Mark [Zuckerberg] and Satya [Nadella] were able to sit down and make sure that the deal happened,” said Carmack.


“I’ve called this my grail,” he continued. “I think it’s the single most important application that we can have to ensure we have an army of fanatic, passionate supporters that will advocate why VR is great. It’s part of this infinite playability that our current ecosystem is missing.”


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Verizon Hum Makes Your Business Vehicle Secure

hum verizon

Verizon Telematics, a division of Verizon, has announced the release of hum, a technology that makes cars smart, regardless of the their wireless service provider.

With Verizon hum, Small businesses can now benefit from services that have been available to fleet managers and insurance companies for more than a decade.

As a subscription service, hum is a combination of TelStar, Triple A, and the vital sign monitors that athletes wear. Among the many features offered by this service are roadside assistance, emergency incident assistance, and stolen vehicle location.

Andrés Irlando, CEO at Verizon Telematics, says in the company’s announcement:

“hum is an important service, one that we feel passionately will help save lives and keep drivers and their loved ones protected whether they are traveling across town or across the country. This service equips drivers on the road today with the same level of information about their vehicles that fitness wearables deliver about our health. Simply put, hum democratizes the safety and convenience of vehicle connectivity.

“By modernizing traditional ‘roadside assistance,’ hum is designed to deliver ultimate peace-of-mind behind the wheel. Now, in addition to being protected with live help and emergency services, drivers will know what their check engine light means and will be empowered with information and knowledge on how to get the problem fixed and what it may cost.”

If you’ve seen the Progressive commercials featuring “Snapshot”, you have an idea of how hum works. A device is plugged into the on-board diagnostic (OBD) port of the car. Place a Bluetooth device on the driver’s side visor and then link it to your smart phone.

Via smartphone, hum can remind the owner about routine things such as oil changes and tire rotations. It will alert the owner to engine problems, too. When the Check Engine light comes on, hum can tell you why.

In the event of an accident, hum will notify emergency and roadside services, if necessary, and pinpoint the location via GPS. This subscription service even includes discounts on hotel, rental vehicles, and other travel expenses.

Two-year subscription plans begin at $14.99 per month plus taxes. There are fees and equipment to pay for upfront. Up to four vehicles can be enrolled in one plan and secondary drivers can have access to the account.

Image: Verizon

This article, “Verizon Hum Makes Your Business Vehicle Secure” was first published on Small Business Trends