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Playboy: The Success Story Of Hefner’s Empire

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Do you know about the most read men’s magazine which has been popular for more than four decades? The sales for a single issue of this magazine hit seven million by the early 1970s. Sounds familiar, right? Every other man was holding a copy this magazine back then. Any guesses? We are speaking about the most sold magazine of all times Playboy. Hugh Hefner and his remarkable magazine Playboy solely changed the story of the adult entertainment industry and became a multimillion dollar business endeavour that expanded to incorporate television, web ventures, clubs and more. The magazine was a game changer in the era of ‘70s where people were more conscious of what is being displayed and what’s not.

Playboy’s founding story

Hugh Hefner, the founder of the epic magazine had first shown his interest in publication at an early age. In high school he founded his school’s newspaper taking it as an opportunity, young Hefner illustrated his own comic book, School Daze. Although he had a high IQ of 152, Hefner was never really spirited about school, in general. However, after completing his schooling, Hefner joined the United States Army. Later, he went on to attend classes at the Chicago Art Institute. After two years at the Art Institute, Hefner attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in the year 1950. It was in the year 1952, Hefner started working as a cartoonist for the famous Esquire magazine. While working there, he was turned down for a $ 5 raise, he took it to heart and decided to quit his job at the publication. He went on to venture out on his own and the rest we know is history! In 1953, Hefner founded Playboy magazine using his $ 600 bucks and several thousand more he borrowed including $ 1,000 from his mom.

The rise and fall and rise of Playboy

The first issue of Playboy published in December 1953. The magazine featured nude photos of Marilyn Monroe and sold over 50,000 copies. As we all know, controversial stuff sells fast! Playboy had its strategies right and by the year 1958, the magazine’s annual profit was $ 4 million and Hugh Incredible Hefner had skyrocketed to fame. Over the years, apart from controversial stuff, Playboy’s publication of writers including Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Jack Kerouac and Margaret Atwood became famous overnight. Also, Miles Davis was the magazine’s first interview. Other interviews included Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and the then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, who confided that he had committed adultery in his heart. John Lennon before dying had spoken to Playboy in 1980 as well. Playboy became known for its sexually explicit content. By 1970, Hugh Hefner had gone from beginning an entrepreneurial endeavour in his own home to being the founder of a major corporation. The distribution of the magazine was extensively done and copies were selling at rates of seven million copies per month. The year 1972 earned Hefner a twelve million dollar profit.

The magazine’s monthly distribution was reaching new heights. Yes! An enormous 7 million issues were sold in 1971. By that time, nearly one quarter of  American young lads were buying or subscribing every month, according to a source. However, post that, Playboy saw a downfall in the late ‘80s and the franchise was struggling hard to reach out to the people. In the year 1994, Hefner established the Playboy Jazz Film Festival, funded by Playboy. The festival was the first showcase on the West Coast for rare jazz films and was free to the public. The franchise was slowly and steadily gaining its pace. Nevertheless, Hefner’s brainchild was back with a bang in the early 2000s with the release of his reality television show on E!. The program The Girls Next Door portrayed the lives of his three blonde girlfriends at the Playboy Mansion. The series was a super hit and doubled the popularity of Hefner between the years 2005 to 2010.

In the year 2017, Hefner died in Los Angeles at the age of 91. At the time of his death, Hefner’s global brand had an estimated net worth of at least $ 110 million. As of now, Playboy earns most of its money by licensing the bunny brand for a variety of products including liquor, clothing, fragrances, jewellery and bath products.

Cooper Hefner, Hefner’s son and the Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement …my father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.

Watch the success story of Playboy here,

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From Unicorn To Bankruptcy; Knotel Bears The Brunt Of COVID-19 Pandemic

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It is no secret that in the fast paced world of startups, fortunes can change at the snap of fingers.  Sometimes startups tend to scale so quickly that they become unicorns and sometimes the fortunes reverse so quickly that a startup can immediately go bankrupt from being a unicorn.  The latter was the case for an American property technology startup Knotel, who are now bankrupt due to the disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Knotel is a property technology company quite similar to WeWork.  Knotel designed, built and ran custom headquarters for companies which It manages the spaces with ‘flexible’ terms.  Knotel does a mix of direct leases and revenue sharing deals.  Knotel marketed its offering as ‘headquarters as a service’ or a flexible office space which could be customized for each tenant while also growing or shrinking as needed. For the revenue-share agreements, Knotel solicits clients, builds out offices, and manages properties, and shares the rent paid to it by the client with the landlord.  This model is the majority revenue generator for Knotel.

In March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed its economic destruction on the world, Knotel was valued at $ 1.6 billion.  What is even more interesting is Knotel raised $ 400 million in Series C funding in August 2019 which led to its unicorn status.  However, with the COVId-19 pandemic and its consequent lockdowns and curfews by various governments across the world, startups and businesses shifted to a remote working model.  This in turn led to startups pulling out of Knotel properties to cut down on working costs.  

ALSO READ: Quibi : Startup With A Billion Dollar Launch To Shutting Down All In Six Months

In late March 2020, according to Forbes, Knotel laid off 30% of its workforce and furloughed another 20%, due to the impact of the coronavirus.  It was at this point that Knotel was valued at $ 1.6 billion.  The company had started the year with about 500 employees.  By the third week of March,Knotel had a headcount of 400.  With the cuts, about 200 employees remained with the other 200 having either lost their jobs or on unpaid leave, according to Forbes. 

In 2021, Knotel filed for bankruptcy and agreed to sell its assets to Newmark, one of their investors for a total of $ 70 million dollars.  As work culture is still undergoing changes as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and with many companies realising that remote work model saves costs and improves work efficiency, the flexible workspace sector would continue to face challenges.  Knotel is just the tip of the iceberg and is a warning call for the flexible working spaces industry.

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5 Reasons Why Telegram Founder Pavel Durov Thinks Whatsapp Is Dangerous

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Whatsapp found itself in the midst of a public relations nightmare over its latest privacy policy update.  Data privacy is currently a widely debated topic worldwide and Whatsapp has found itself in the midst of this debate time and again.  However the latest update seems to have irked a lot of people enough for them to make the shift to Telegram and the much recent app, Signal.  Telegram Messenger was launched in 2013 and although it is not as well known as Whatsapp, it enjoys quite an amount of popularity owing to its data security and encryption.

Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram Messenger, is no fan of Whatsapp and he believes Whatsapp is dangerous and not safe.  Elucidating more on the topic, Durov made his reasons known in a blogpost he published in late 2020.  Here are the five reasons why Pavel Durov thinks Whatsapp is dangerous.

1) If Jeff Bezos’ phone can be hacked via Whatsapp then nobody is safe.

One of the richest men in the world and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos’ phone was allegedly hacked by Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.  Some of Bezos’s private communications and images were taken during the hack following which Whatsapp’s security was questioned.

2) The United Nations recommends its officials to remove Whatsapp from their devices

The United Nations recommends its officials to not use Whatsapp because it thinks Whatsapp is not a secure mode of communication.  In June 2019, a U.N., spokesman Farhan Haq said, “The senior officials at the U.N. have been instructed not to use WhatsApp, it’s not supported as a secure mechanism (sic.)”  This directive came when independent U.N. experts found a possible involvement of Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, in the alleged cyber attack of Jeff Bexos’ phone in 2018.

3) End to end encryption does not guarantee security.

Durov says “in their marketing, WhatsApp uses the words “end-to-end encryption” as some magic incantation that alone is supposed to automatically make all communications secure. However, this technology is not a silver bullet that can guarantee you absolute privacy by itself (sic.)”

ALSO READ: Users Flock To Signal Messaging App After Whatsapp’s Latest Privacy Policy Update

4) Chat backups on Android and Apple cloud are not encrypted.

Pavel Durov does not believe chat backups in the cloud are safe and says “Users don’t want to lose their chats when they change devices, so they back up the chats in services like iCloud – often without realizing their backups are not encrypted.  The fact that Apple was forced by the FBI to abandon encryption plans for iCloud is telling (sic.)”

5) Backdoors continue to exist in Whatsapp

“There are backdoors.  Enforcement agencies are not too happy with encryption, forcing app developers to secretly plant vulnerabilities in their apps.  I know that because we’ve been approached by some of them – and refused to cooperate.  As a result, Telegram is banned in some countries where WhatsApp has no issues with authorities, most suspiciously in Russia and Iran (sic,)” claims Durov in his blogpost.

As data privacy is becoming more and more important in the current day and age of the internet, we wonder what messaging application is totally safe.  

 

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5 Warning Signs For A Startup To Avoid Failure

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A startup can go on for months without paying attention to some warning signs which indicate imminent failure.  The startup journey would be smooth until suddenly problems keep popping up one after the other.  Founders will scramble to plug the holes in their startup which would often lead to a diversion of their energies to the problem rather than steering the startup towards their vision.  Sometimes, the problems would not even come to light until and after a startup goes bust.  While the warning signs are there, they often tend to be ignored till it is too late.  However, looking for these signs and making a conscious effort to address them would definitely course correct a startup for good.

Here are the five warning signs for a startup to avoid failure

1) Unable to define customer needs

A startup always needs to be aware of the needs of their customers as well as understand these needs keep changing from time to time.  Clients are the key to a successful startup even more important than investors.  Addressing customer complaints and listening to feedback is highly important and needs to be followed through even though some of the feedback could be highly negative.  

2) Failure to pivot

A startup could be doing great things and scaling up rapidly but can still go under if it does not adapt to the changing demands and technology.  A business model or a product which is working now does not mean it would work forever.  This has been the hubris for many well known startups and startups which successfully pivoted have thrived.  For instance Blockbuster, the video rental chain was one of the biggest companies in the United States of America before they closed shop due to the arrival of Netflix.  The online streaming platform offered Blockbuster an opportunity to acquire them and adapt their model but Blockbuster declined and the rest is history.

3) Not accounting for market forces

The market is a special place which could teach a lot of things to a startup about pricing, demand and supply, sales, management and so on.  While things might be sailing smoothly for the time being, startups need to have contingency plans for scenarios which might happen in the future.  Forecasting needs to be done for at least a year to ensure smooth flow of operations.  The recent COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example as a lot of startups were completely blindsided.  While the situation could be termed as an act of god, some startups have put away some funds for use exactly for times like these.  Another example would be UberEats in India, which did not account for a saturated market in food delivery which is ruled by Zomato and Swiggy.  This led to them having to sell the business to Zomato.

ALSO READ: What Is Organisational Development And Why Is It Important

4) Mistimed products

While a startup can come up with a game changing idea, releasing it into the market should be a calculated affair.  There is a risk of the product not being accepted widely in the market even though the technology and the idea behind it is ages ahead of its time.  This has led to many products to fail miserably only to have another player taste success with the same idea.  Famous examples of failures and success respectively include Orkut and Facebook, Meru and Ola, Foodpanda and Zomato, Blackberry messenger and Whatsapp.

5) Running out of cash

Working capital management is the biggest focus point for any startup as it directly impacts the survivability of a startup.  Running out of capital is one of the biggest reasons startups often fail apart from poor product fit and failed pivots.  Take the case of Hola Chef for example, a startup which connects users with chefs who cook exotic meals.  Venture capitalists loved the idea of this startup but the arrival of Zomato and Swiggy saw investors backing out of Hola Chef which ultimately led the startup to shut down and eventually be acquired by Ola backed Foodpanda.

If you can locate any of these warning signs, you could better adjust the course of your startup to navigate choppy markets and to mitigate those risks on the road to survival and growth.

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