The Luxury Bag Brand That's Reinventing Made-To-Order

These days, bespoke fashion is the epitome of luxury. Think London’s Savile Row, where people pay thousands for made-to-measure suits, or ateliers in Milan or Paris, where a predominantly female clientele commission one-of-a-kind handmade gowns.

Founders of 1Atelier

A hundred years ago, though, customized clothing was the norm. Manhattan was sprinkled with little shops where middle-class families could have trousers sewn from scratch or bags hand-stitched by expert artisans. It wasn’t until clothing companies moved toward more efficient and less expensive mass-manufacturing models that these workshops began to disappear.

And now, a Manhattan-based startup called 1Atelier is redefining bespoke fashion for the digital age, combining old-fashioned craftsmanship and modern technology in ways that could signal the future of customization.

When you walk into 1Atelier’s studio in the Garment District, tables are strewn with large bolts of premium leather, from full-grain cowhide to more exotic varieties of snake and crocodile. You can watch a master craftsman put the finishing touches on satchels, clutches, and hobos, each designed to the exact specifications of the customer. One saddle bag is made of champagne-colored python skin with a contrasting pink trim; a colorful tote comes in fuchsia, orange, and blue. There’s a little machine that stamps the owner’s name in gold lettering onto a label inside the bag.

In the past, a client would need to visit a workshop to order a customized bag, but at 1Atelier, she can do everything online. The company’s website allows customers to pick a style, then play with different colors and textures until they’ve dreamed up their perfect sack. The end product costs between $295 and $8,400, which puts the brand at the lower end of the luxury bag spectrum. But unlike Chanel or Céline, which requires six months or longer to ship a bespoke order, 1Atelier products are delivered to the customer in 21 days.

That’s all thanks to technology, from the snazzy customization tool on 1Atelier’s website to the company’s backend systems that make the supply chain and manufacturing models of efficiency. “Technology is the lever that allows us to transform the entire luxury experience,” says CEO Stephanie Sarka. Even the brand’s logo reflects how deeply 1Atelier’s mission is intertwined with tech: the number one surrounded by a circle resembles the power-on symbol.

Sarka, who has spent her career in fashion, e-commerce, and angel investing, cofounded 1Atelier last year with two other veterans of the fashion industry, Frank Zambrelli and Anthony Luciano. She believes that there’s a massive market opportunity to bring customization to the luxury accessories sector, which is worth $47 billion worldwide. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal from last year, 56% of luxury consumers say customization is increasingly important to them—an uptick that reflects a broader trend in consumer behavior. Deloitte research revealed that 36% of people want personalized goods and services in their everyday shopping experiences. “This makes sense,” says Zambrelli, who worked at Chanel, Coach, and Judith Leiber before cofounding 1Atelier and becoming its creative director. “We’re now surrounded by a culture in which we are encouraged to customize everything from our Facebook profile to the color of our smartphone. It was inevitable that this mind-set would enter the luxury industry.”

Major design houses have taken note. You can now monogram your Louis Vuitton bag or add your own combination of graphics—bees, tigers, flowers—to your Gucci bag, jacket, or shoes. You can choose the heel, color, and fabric on Manolo Blahnik’s classic BB stiletto. Jimmy Choo offers a collection of clip-ons and buttons to adorn your heels or clutch. For the 35th anniversary of Ferragamo’s iconic Vara and Varina shoes, you could customize these styles to your taste. And at the Opening Ceremony SoHo location, there’s an embroidery station where you can add the imprint of your choice to a shirt or jacket.

But as Zambrelli points out, these are personalized details on a few products from a collection. “These are condiments on an entrée, rather than a handcrafted meal,” he says.

Offering a more complete customization experience, where the customer has a hand in the entire design process, presents a logistical challenge for big brands, whose supply chain and manufacturing networks usually span multiple countries. In 2011, for instance, Burberry offered a bespoke service that allowed customers to alter every aspect of its iconic trench coat, from the cut to the fabric to the color, for between $1,800 and $8,800. But when the service failed to be profitable, Burberry quietly shut it down in 2015 and launched a simpler alternative, the Scarf Bar, where shoppers can monogram their initials onto scarves for $475 to $995.

Sarka and Zambrelli kept these case studies in mind when they built 1Atelier. “It’s hard to customize at scale unless you’re uniquely dedicated to it,” Sarka says. “We’ve been building our systems and infrastructure, thinking about how we can scale everything from the production to the user experience.”

Hence, the crucial role of technology.

In their research, the founders discovered that many women feel intimidated by too much choice. So they reasoned that the key to creating a website that clients would enjoy was to offer them ample options without overwhelming them.

Shoppers start by selecting one of nine silhouettes that Zambrelli designed based on classic handbag shapes. Then they select the leather, color, piping, and hardware. To guide them through the customization process, the site gives examples of fully designed bags, which I found useful when I was playing around on the site. I was drawn to bags with muted color palettes, full of blushes and celadons, but I quickly identified things I wanted to tweak: gold rather than silver hardware, no side pocket, more contrast on the piping. In the end, the bag I designed was totally different from the one I began with. And the vast majority of customers do get a one-of-a-kind product. “Of all the bags that we have sold, there’s only been one instance of the same design, a black python clutch,” Sarka says. “And even then, one of them had a chain.”

Once you’ve placed your order and your bag is being assembled, 1Atelier keeps you involved as best it can, sending emails every few days with photos showing, for instance, leather being cut or your name being stamped onto the label. “We think that this ongoing conversation with the consumer is ultimately what building a brand is all about,” Sarka says.

On the backend, Sarka is gathering plenty of user data, including consumer demographics, popular bag silhouettes, and average time to design a bag. While the company is barely a year old, it’s already using this information to improve the user experience. “We’re thinking about how to look algorithmically at decisions that the customer has made so we can provide suggestions along the way,” Zambrelli says. “For instance, we might discover that a customer who chooses white python subsequently goes on to choose one of four materials. We can use this to offer guidance as they design their bags.”

On the production side of the equation, 1Atelier uses logistical software to streamline the process. When orders come in, the team knows exactly what raw materials they will need and how many hours it will take to make each bag. Rather than stocking the workshop with hundreds of leathers that would require a hefty capital investment, the company orders skins from Italy and France to cover only the needs for each individual order. Over the course of Zambrelli’s career in the luxury bag industry, he’s built deep relationships with tanneries in Europe that can send products in 48 hours. Orders are also bundled together to make the workflow more efficient: If two customers want to use black tumbled leather, for example, the craftsman will cut the skins at the same time.

So who is buying these handbags? A very particular consumer—one who enjoys luxury products, has a disposable income, and is comfortable paying a high price for a product that doesn’t have the name recognition of an Hermès or a Louis Vuitton. “These are women who have already bought Chanel purses and no longer want their handbag to be a billboard for a brand,” Sarka says. This might seem like an idiosyncratic mix, but Sarka explains that Facebook and Google allow 1Atelier to target users based on psychographic profiles. And the approach has worked so far. In just under a year, the company has sold several hundred bags; a quarter of the purchasers have bought more than one.

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That’s a promising beginning, but the business wouldn’t be sustainable if 1Atelier couldn’t keep the costs low by making the bags in New York. While other luxury brands have managed overhead by consolidating manufacturing in big factories, 1Atelier makes the bags onsite in a relatively small urban workshop. Zambrelli says this allows them to charge 30% less than comparable styles from other luxury brands. “It’s innately sustainable,” Zambrelli says. “There’s no warehouse of materials or finished stock that we have to dispose of if they are not sold. It’s remarkably efficient; there’s no waste and there’s nothing we’re throwing into a landfill.” Even if 1Atelier outgrows its current studio, the founders say they are committed to staying in Manhattan.

As word about 1Atelier spreads, Sarka hopes that people will begin to associate the brand with high-quality materials and craftsmanship. Zambrelli has included subtle touches to make a 1Atelier bag identifiable: a logo on the front or the side, wide piping, unique hardware engraved with a tiny logo. Eventually, if the brand does take off, women familiar with luxury products will be able to spot these characteristics in the way they immediately recognize the iconic Chanel 2.55 bag or the Hermès Birkin bag. “A couple of our repeat customers have asked us whether we can increase the size of our logo on the bag,” Sarka says. “We take that as a sign that we’re doing something right.”

related video: How Gwyneth Paltrow Created A “Real Brand” With Goop

Slideshow Credits: 01 / Photos: courtesy of 1Atelier;

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Who's Using The iPad Pro At Work? Tattoo Artists

It’s 9:30 on a drizzly morning in San Francisco’s SOMA district, and the day is just getting going at Seventh Son Tattoo. As I sit on a leather couch at the front of the studio with tattoo artist David Robinson, staffers are coming in, coffee is being brewed, and floors are being swept.

One of the other artists is working with an early client; I can hear them talking quietly in the back, along with the sound of a tattoo machine. (They don’t call them “guns” or “pens” anymore.) Robinson is showing me some of his recent tattoo designs, but he has no paper sketches or Polaroids. Everything is on his iPad Pro.

Tattoo artists are making a gradual conversion to digital, and the iPad Pro is proving to be a catalyst for an industry that so far has only reluctantly let go of ink pens and sketch paper. Pen and paper, after all, has been where the art in tattoo art has originated. The iPad Pro, with the help of the Apple Pencil stylus and some advanced image processing software, may be the first affordable technology that feels authentic enough to move artists away from the familiarity of pen and paper.

Robinson has been using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil combo since December, and it’s gradually become a game changer—or, more accurately, a job changer.

“When it first came out I thought it would be cool to draw on, but I don’t think I realized until I started using it how much more I could use it for,” he said. He’s using the device to both design tattoos and help clients visualize how the tattoos will look on their bodies.

Part of the iPad Pro’s appeal to tattoo artists is simple: The larger version of the device has a huge 12.9-inch touch-screen display—about the size of a magazine—so there’s room to stretch out and do more detailed designs. (There’s also a model in the iPad’s traditional 9.7-inch size.) The design software has gotten better, too. Robinson uses a made-for-iPad app called Procreate, which, while not as feature-rich as Photoshop, contains many of the same basic attributes like layering and a wide variety of pens and brushes. Autodesk’s Sketchbook app is also widely used.

The iPad’s Role in the Process

For Robinson and others in the tattoo trade, the iPad has become a central workspace for the artist and the client. Artists use it to rough out designs both during and after the first in-person meeting with the client.

“[The iPad] has allowed me to draw my sketches directly onto an image of the body part that would be tattooed upon,” says Delaware-based artist Fred Giovannitti. Robinson says that base body image is sometimes emailed from the client, and sometimes taken by the artist in the studio at the first meeting.

The image is then typically loaded into the iPad where it occupies a layer in the image-processing app (like Procreate). The artist can then sketch tattoo ideas on another layer over the body image. Or, as Giovannitti points out, the client will often have sample images of the desired design, which can also be imported into a layer and used as a guide for the design.

For some clients, there may be more than one of these “anchor images.” A “sleeve” tattoo, for example, may comprise three distinct images, each to be placed on a different part of the arm and each occupying a different layer in Procreate.

Tattoo artist Fred Giovannitti sketches a tattoo design with his iPad Pro.

From here, Giovannitti uses the Pencil in Procreate to tie the images together in a cohesive way. “I will use a brush or pencil tool to figure out how I will use an organic flow to tie all the images together into on composition tailored for a three-dimensional canvas,” he explains.

No Tattoo Remorse

Judging by the popularity of laser tattoo removal, it’s clear that many, many people end up regretting their tattoos. Cutting down on this “tattoo remorse” might be one of the iPad’s biggest values to both artist and client. Clients naturally have some anxiety about the final result of the work; after all, a tattoo is more or less permanent. The iPad lets the client see both the aesthetic and the placement of the tattoo in the context on the affected body part before any ink flows.

Robinson said this is particularly important to people getting tattoos that cover large areas of the body, or to people who already have lots of tattoos. “Where you have a person who wants to fit a tattoo in between two tattoos that are already there, you can just take a picture of that empty space and have it fit in there exactly,” he told me. Visualizing a new tattoo on the iPad allows him to make quick sizing and positioning tweaks to make the design fit better.

Other clients come to Robinson hoping to carefully cover over an old tattoo that’s been lasered off. Even after a laser treatment, the faint outlines of the old tattoo are often still visible, and the coloration of the skin in the area is different. So the new tattoo’s lines and coloration must be perfectly placed to cover over the old tattoo.

The image of the tattoo design is superimposed over a photograph of the appropriate body part to give the client a clear idea of the result. The tattoo has been carefully placed to harmonize with an existing tattoo.

Toward a Finished Design

After Giovannetti has sat with a client, he instantly stores his consultation notes and sketches to the iPad. “Post-consultation, the digital process allows me more time to elaborate on the artwork [and] create a more complete and detailed version of the sketch that I can instantly email to my client for further approval,” he says. “This all helps to build the client’s anticipation and enthusiasm towards the project.”

Robinson usually meets with the client in person only once before they come in for the tattoo. In the meantime he works on his sketches of the tattoo on the iPad. He says he doesn’t like to send the client too many previews of the design, because it often leads to the client overthinking the idea or collecting too many opinions from other people.

For Robinson, the iPad sketching goes on up until the very last step in the design process. But he, like others, returns to the paper medium for the last steps before applying the tattoo.

“What I feel [the iPad] is used best for is getting the concept down—all your sketching, the layout of the tattoo, placement, and all that kind of stuff,” Robinson says. “Get that all dialed in, and do your final crisp line drawing on paper.”

Then, on the day of the tattoo, he reviews the final line drawing with the client. Any last-minute changes can be made on the iPad then and there.

When a stencil is needed to apply a complex design to the skin, Giovannitti traces out the lines of each layer of the design in Procreate. In the end, this creates a final, two-dimensional line drawing. But before the line drawing can be sent out to a thermal printer, it must first make a stop at his laptop, where he uses Photoshop to get the sizing of the stencil drawing just right.

“This has to be done because I have yet to find a drawing app with ruler guides to size my image to the very specific size it needs to be,” Giovannitti says. “For example, if the the face design has to be exactly 4.5 inches from forehead to chin, the only way to do it is in an app with real-time rulers that will translate to the printer.”

The thermal printout is fed into a special machine that makes the stencil drawing, which then transfers the line drawing to the body part being tattooed. Once transferred to the skin, the lines provide the map Giovannitti follows with the tattoo machines. He may also free-form draw some additional lines to the skin with a marker.

So the iPad Pro doesn’t entirely digitize the art of giving tattoos—paper is still used in some crucial parts of the process. But the device does provide an important focal point for collaboration between the artist and the client, which creates more transparency and may cut down on tattoo remorse later on.

Sketching With Apple Pencil

Robinson says it took him a little while to get used to sketching on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. Unlike paper (and unlike the screens of other tablets he’s tried) the iPad’s screen is a large piece of glass with no texture—it’s completely smooth. So the tip of the Pencil moves more freely over the iPad surface than a real pen moves over paper.

But as he did it more, Robinson says it began to feel more natural. “It looks like a sketch, and it feels like you’re sketching.” Apple says when the iPad Pro senses the Pencil, it scans the stylus’s signal at a rate of 240 times per second—twice as fast as it scans a finger touching the screen. This eliminates almost all the delay between the touch of the Pencil to the screen and the appearance of the line it’s drawing.

Robinson says the pressure sensitivity of the Pencil further contributes to the “natural” feeling of drawing. When the user presses down hard on the screen, the Pencil makes a hard, dark line; when he exerts very little pressure it produces a light line. Procreate allows users to control the range of light to dark as it relates to the range of pressure that can be applied.

The Pencil weighs about three quarters of an ounce. “It’s actually heavier than a lot of the pens we use, but I kind of like it,” Robinson says.

Savage Interactive, which makes Procreate, says all of the 128 brushes in its app now take advantage of the Apple Pencil’s pressure and tilt, which creates shading like the side of a pencil.

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Less Stuff

For many tattoo artists, the iPad represents the first time much of their work has been digitized.

In general, the introduction of the iPad in the tattoo process eliminates a lot of paper. “We’re not running to the copy machine so much,” Robinson said. “If we want to flip a drawing or invert it, we just tap a button and we can do it on [the iPad], instead of trying to print it out and resize it.”

Having everything stored on the iPad or in the cloud also reduces the amount of stuff tattoo artists have to carry when they travel. This is a big deal for Giovannitti, who travels from his Delaware home to Las Vegas every month to ink.

Same for Robinson, who just spent a week working in San Diego. “All I had to bring was my iPad and all my reference materials were in there—everything I needed was either on the iPad or on a Google Drive account,” he says. “Before, I would have to bring my tracing paper, sketchbooks, masking tape, all the books I would need.” Robinson said. “My backpack would just be loaded.”

A purist might say the iPad removes some of the art from tattooing. Robinson and Giovannitti would tell you there’s just as much art in the process as ever, it’s just moved to a different medium.

And the iPad Pro certainly isn’t the only option on the market for tattoo artists. Some artists opt for a (more expensive) Wacom tablet. The Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 (with pen stylus) costs $2,500. Wacom tablets run various kinds of design software, such as one of the Clip Studio products from the Japanese graphics software company Celsys.

The 12-inch iPad Pro, on the other hand, starts at $799 for a model with 32 GB of storage and Wi-Fi and ranges up to $1,299 for one with 256 GB of storage and both cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Pencil stylus is $99. Procreate costs $6 at the App Store.

The iPad Pro’s (relatively) low price point might let many artists reap the rewards of digitization for the first time—without losing too much of the artistic feel traditionally associated with pen and paper.

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The U.K.'s New Prime Minister Wants To Transform How Businesses Run

Change is afoot in the United Kingdom, which last month voted to break with the European Union amid a wave of working-class frustration and renewed nationalism, sending stocks tumbling and forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to resign.

After weeks of alliance forming and intrigue, leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May has taken over from Cameron.

By Parliament’s standards, she is a moderate. But in a sign of the times, May has aligned herself with pro-labor reforms that would raise eyebrows in conservative U.S. political circles. Most notably, earlier this week she came out in favor of installing employees on corporate boards, a practice called “codetermination” that is already required in countries such as France and Sweden.

Theresa May

“It is not anti-business to suggest that big business needs to change,” May said on Monday, as she outlined the proposal as part of a campaign speech. “If I’m prime minister . . . we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but workers as well.”

Minutes later, Andrea Leadsom, her last remaining rival for the job, conceded the contest.

May did not elaborate on her proposal, and many analysts have dismissed her reference to consumers as imprecise and unenforceable. But corporate governance models involving employee representation have gained momentum in Europe, with the idea that such boards are more likely to curb executive pay and respond to workers’ demands.

Whether that idea holds water depends on what you read. The Times of London was quick to note that C-suite pay has “spiralled to new heights” in Germany, which requires a two-tier board structure involving employees at large companies. CNN, in contrast, points to the model as the reason for Germany’s manufacturing growth.

Business leaders in Britain sounded a cautious note following May’s remarks. “These items would not be at the top of businesses’ wish lists right now,” Tim Thomas, director of employment and skills policy at a manufacturing trade association, told the Financial Times.

“It sounds fair, if worryingly European, but can backfire badly,” Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in the Telegraph, pointing to scandal-plagued Volkswagen as an example.

As for the U.S., it’s unlikely that May’s proposal would find a welcome reception here. American policymakers have shown little interest in setting aside board seats for women, as many European countries have done—despite research suggesting that female representation improves company performance.

With employee representation, the data is even murkier. But if May’s proposal moves forward, researchers will have a new set of companies to study, and potentially a stronger case.

related video: “You Have To Have Big Ideas:” New York’s Chief Digital Officer talks about combining technology and government

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Four Ways You’re Messing Up Your Salary Negotiations Early In Your Career

Brett Baughman is the Founder of Master the Masses Coaching Alliance

You just got the call you’ve been waiting for. After several rounds of interviews for a job you really want, it’s finally time to get down to discussing the offer.

If you’re relatively new to the workforce—and especially if you’re about to negotiate your very first job offer—there are some common pitfalls you may not know to avoid. Here are four of the most common ways early-career professionals tend to get out-negotiated by employers, and tactics you can use to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

1. You Break The Silence Too Soon

Silence is a negotiating tool that many employers use during salary negotiations. Don’t let them. Silence is designed to make you feel like the employer is losing enthusiasm for your candidacy during the course of negotiating an offer.

Once you state your salary requirements, many employers will fall silent or not react to your request. This uncomfortable moment often prompts candidates to volunteer information they shouldn’t—like, “If that’s too high, though, I can always consider a few thousand dollars less.” Resist that urge to backpedal. Just ride out the silence, calmly return the interviewer’s gaze (or wait out their silence if you’re speaking by phone), and force the person on the other side to speak next.

It doesn’t have to be standoffish, either. If you’re presented with a salary that’s lower than you’d hoped for, use that silence in your favor. Let them see that you haven’t been wowed by their offer. This can open the opportunity to ask for more money in the course of the discussion, because your interviewer won’t want to lose you and start the process over again—all over a couple of thousand dollars.

2. You Ask For A Salary That Reflects Your Lifestyle, Not Facts

Lifestyle salary requests are based on a candidate’s cash needs to support their current style of living. And indeed, it’s hard to blame less experienced job candidates for thinking along the lines of, “In order to pay my student loans and live on my own, I need to earn around $40,000 a year.” Unfortunately, though, your lifestyle has no place in a salary negotiation.

To your employer, your living needs are your concern, not theirs. Most employers work within salary guidelines set by the company for entry-level positions. If you bring any mention of your lifestyle into the salary negotiation, the company can quickly shut that down by pointing to its compensation protocol.

However, if you present your salary requirements based on average salaries listed on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other job sites for jobs similar to the one you’re being considered for, you can now get on the same page—using facts that are pertinent to the employer, not just you. And once you do that, your chance of landing a better starting salary dramatically increases.

3. You Accept A Low Salary Without Negotiating

Many early-career job candidates are grateful to be in the position to be offered a job with a company they really want to work for, so they accept an offer that’s below market value. The candidate’s thinking often is that they just want to get into the company at any cost, and they’ll worry about the money later.

But the truth is that if you do that, you’ll likely be underpaid as long as you stay at that company. That means the only way to get your salary up to industry standards is to leave, and you may not want to. Remember, there’s almost always room for negotiation in any salary discussion, even at the entry level.

The best way to handle a situation like this is to ask for a little more, not a lot more (where you might actually risk losing the job). Usually there’s no harm in asking for 4% to 6% more than what’s initially offered. This way you’ll walk away feeling that you’re being fairly compensated. Every company has a little more to pay you if they really want you.

4. You’re An Uncreative Negotiator

Most entry-level candidates look at salary negotiation as a black and white thing. Maybe a $38,000 starting salary has been presented to you as a final offer, so you feel like there are only two choices: Either accept it or reject it—and take your chances on finding a higher-paying job.

But rather than rejecting the offer, what if you were to ask for a six-month review and a salary adjustment based on your performance? That’s actually pretty common. Many employers will agree to this, understanding that they can keep their entry-level salary structure intact while at the same time giving you an incentive for strong performance during your first six months on the job. It’s a win-win situation for both of you—just as long as you think to ask about it.


This Is The Most Likely Reason Why You Feel Successful But Still Aren't Happy

“How can I succeed?”

It’s a question many of us ask ourselves and have trouble answering. Because what is success, anyway? Is it writing a book and selling a million copies? Winning awards? Or just feeling satisfied with your work? We’re often told that success is in the eye of the beholder—that we need to define it for ourselves, on terms that are meaningful to us.

Which is true. But it doesn’t tell us how to do it, and try as we might, many of our achievements still wind up fitting a mold that suits somebody else—like our employers or society—at least as much as, if not more than, it suits us personally. And we still find ourselves left unsatisfied or unhappy, wishing we had something more or something else, no matter how “successful” we’ve been.

Here’s a look at one of the most likely reasons why.

The Three Kinds Of Success

As someone who’s studied and written about the psychology of happiness, I’ve discovered there roughly are three types of success. The trick—first—is to remember that you can’t have them all at once, and then to figure out which one you’re aiming at. It looks something like this:

1. Sales success is about getting people to buy something you’ve created or put on offer: Your book is a commercial hit! Everybody’s reading it, everybody’s talking about it, you’re on TV. You sell hundreds, then thousands, then even millions of copies. Dump trucks beep while backing into your garage to pour out endless royalty payments. (Most book authors can tell you the publishing business doesn’t work anything like this except for a lucky handful, but you get the idea.)

2. Social success means you’re widely recognized among your peers—people you respect. You’ve earned critical success. Industry renown. To extend the book author example, the New York Times reviews your latest novel. You’re short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and the top tastemakers are all talking about you and your work (whether or not it’s a commercial hit).

3. Self success is in your head. It’s invisible. Only you know if you have it, because it corresponds to internal measures you’ve established on your own. Self success means you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve. For yourself. You’re deeply proud of and satisfied with your work.

These three categories are broad and therefore approximate, but that’s why they’re so useful: Chances are good that any major achievement you reach will fall more clearly into one than another. They apply to pretty much all industries, professions, and aspects of life. The point is that success is not one-dimensional. In order to be truly happy with your successes, you first need to decide what kind of success you want.

Are you in marketing? Sales success means your product flew off the shelves and your numbers blew away forecasts. Social success means you were written up in prestigious magazines as a result, nominated for an award, or recognized by your company’s CEO. Self success? That’s always the same no matter who you are or what you’ve achieved: How do you feel about your accomplishments?

Are you a teacher? Sales success means you’re offered promotions based on your work in the classroom, which your superiors want to magnify and implement more widely. You’re asked if you’re interested in becoming an administrator. Social success means well-regarded educators invite you to present at conferences, mentor new teachers, and the principal or school district administrators recognize you for your work. Self success? Again: How do you feel about your accomplishments?

You Can’t Have It All—But You Can Still Be Happy

Here’s the catch, though: However they may overlap, it’s impossible to experience all three successes at once.

Picture the triangle above like one of those wobbly exercise planks at an old-school gym. If you push down on two sides, the third side springs into the air. In our lives and work, it’s rare that any given thing we do—any single success we achieve, no matter how great—can satisfy ourselves and others in equal measure. Aspiring to that, if you ask me, is a mistake.

Sales success, for instance, can block self success. That’s what happened to me as a writer when I got hooked on best-seller lists. Personal goals took a backseat to more tangible commercial ones. “Make hay while the sun shines,” the saying goes, even if you feel like going to bed—but this is the artist who sells out. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with chasing commercial success. But you can see how it can block your personal goals sometimes—those that can’t be tracked on a retailer’s weekly sales rankings.

However they may overlap, it’s impossible to experience all three successes at once.

Personal achievements don’t necessarily have a marketable strategy—so no sales or social success may follow from them. That goes for the stunning birthday cake you bake for your daughter. Or the incredible lesson you, a teacher, put your heart into for weeks. The backyard deck you built with your bare hands. You wouldn’t expect royalty payments or critical reviews from those endeavors. You’re not trying to sell cakes, great teaching, or decks. You could! But that wasn’t your goal.

Finally, it’s worth noting that critical darlings rarely sell—which means that social success can sometimes block sales success. One of my favorite movies a last year was Spotlight. Tense, dramatic—I was glued to the screen. The movie won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, a high honor. But its total domestic box office last year was $45 million.

Furious 7 made $353 million.

If you were a filmmaker, which one would you have rather made?

Know which of the three kinds of success you want. Pick one, aim, and then fire.

Neil Pasricha is the author of The Happiness Equation and The Book of Awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @NeilPasricha.

related video: The Hyper-Focused Approach To Balancing Success In Your Work, Life, And Everything

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Nest Launches A Stylish New Outdoor Version Of Its Nest Cam

Turns out large numbers of Nest security camera users point their devices through a window toward the outside, so the company took the clue and built the Nest Cam Outdoor. The new camera is basically a Nest Cam wrapped in a stylish weatherproof container. It sells for the same $199 price as the Nest Cam Indoor, as the company now calls it. It is the company’s first product in a year, a turbulent period that saw the recent departure of its charismatic founder Tony Fadell, who was replaced by former Motorola Home executive Marwan Fawaz.

Like the Nest Cam, the outdoor version also gives a wide 130-degree view and can stream 1080p HD video. A Night Vision mode illuminates the whole scene with eight LED lights. Nest Cam Outdoor has both a microphone and a speaker, making it a sort of intercom system when paired with a smartphone running the Nest app.

With the new camera comes a new software feature called Person Alerts, which uses computer vision technology to detect people in the camera’s field of view. In the demo video, a suspicious person ventures up onto a user’s porch, looks around, and checks the front door. The owner’s voice is then heard issuing from the camera’s speaker, saying, “Hey what do you want?” causing the stranger to turn and leave in a hurry. In another scene a postman shows up in the camera’s view, looks into the lens and says, “Hi, I have a package for you.” The owner, talking through the camera’s speaker, tells the postman to leave the package in the back of the house.

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The owner was alerted to those unexpected visitors (one potentially dangerous and one not) when the Nest Cam sent an alert through the app. Person Alerts, Nest says, will become available in September, and then only to users with Nest Aware cloud video archiving subscriptions.

By the sound of things, the Person Alerts feature is just the start of Nest’s plans for computer vision. “Person Alerts are the first of a new generation of intelligent alerts from Nest that leverage Google’s expertise in machine learning and powerful algorithms to deliver deeper insights to customers about what’s happening at home,” says the company, which was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now an Alphabet company.

The Nest Cam Outdoor comes with an extra-long 25-foot power cable that can extend to a nearby outdoor power outlet. The cable can be painted to match the wall siding. The camera itself can attach to an outside metal surface (like a rain gutter) with a powerful magnetic base (included).

Nest Cam Outdoor will hit store shelves this fall in the U.S. and Canada. A two-pack will be available later for $348. The Nest Aware subscriptions cost $10 for a 10-day subscription or $30 for a 30-day subscription. Additional cameras cost extra.

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Why Ashley Madison Thinks It Can Redeem Itself

Sometimes a company has an “oh no” moment that can cause it to fall by the wayside. How it responds speaks volumes about the organization’s potential longevity, as well as its leadership. For Avid Life Media, the company behind the infamous dating site Ashley Madison, that time is now.

After a huge public crisis that led to one of the biggest digital security breaches in history, the company is now trying to rise from the ashes. Last week it announced new leadership, this week it rebranded; “Avid Life Media” is now “ruby.” The question is: Is this enough to regain the trust of its users?

The Crisis

Ashley Madison, the storied dating site for people looking to cheat, has been in the spotlight for the last year when a hacking group claimed it had breached its system. The saga culminated in the attackers posting a database of every user on the website and the company spending months to figure out how best to regroup.

But changing a parent company name does not a new organization make. And when a website known for bucking social mores falls even further from public grace, it’s more than an uphill climb to become solid brand again. The two new executives at the helm believe they know what to do, and they explained the new “ruby” plan to me.

Rob Segal and James Millership[Photo: courtesy of Avid Life Media]

Last week the company announced that Rob Segal would be the company’s new CEO and James Millership would take the helm as president. Both men have worked with large companies and helped facilitate big turnarounds or rebrands. And, after talking with them about their plans for Ashley Madison and the like, it seems they both relish the challenge of repositioning an embattled company.

This project will be no easy feat. Indeed, the company has been in disarray for months, with users being outed and revelations that many accounts on the site were robots, or “fembots,” which were computer programs coded to chat with lonely men. A site like Ashley Madison is built on a strange form of digital anonymity and trust that was unceremoniously yanked last year.

The Plan

Last year the company decided to regroup, and probably the most important part of that equation was finding new leadership to steer the way. Both Segal and Millership were approached by ALM and spent months considering whether or not they would take the plunge. According to Millership, the two worked together performing due diligence to figure out if and how they could save the company. “We didn’t take the decision lightly,” he said. Ultimately the two figured there was an opportunity to be had and accepted the roles.

Following their appointments, this rebrand is the first important move the company makes to try and reclaim its territory. Now, “ruby” needs to reprove itself. Segal believes that what originally differentiated Ashley Madison from other sites could actually help rebuild the company. As he sees it, these sites have the “ability to operate at a level that most other dating sites can’t.” Sure, Ashley Madison was considered vulgar because of the kind of activity it facilitated, but he believes it looked at relationships in a markedly different way than every other dating platform out there. During our conversation Segal waxed philosophic about how human sexuality in 2016 is very different from even ten years ago. As Millership put it, he saw an opportunity to market to even more of Ashley Madison’s “adventurous clientele.”

What’s most interesting is that Avid Life Media is rebranding itself and not the infamous Ashley Madison name. This, says Segal, is because the site is a “huge brand.” The opportunity isn’t starting from scratch, but making something better from what is already there, he says. For one, the site will be “a lot more female-friendly.” Moreover, there will be a new emphasis on being both “tasteful” and “respectful.” The whole rebrand, says Segal, is to make now-ruby “a little more elegant.” The focus won’t be on cheating, per se, but on those excited moments that exist outside of monogamy and everyday monotony. Segal described that moment you first see someone that excites you; “you get butterflies,” he said. One ad in the company’s new campaign shows a woman in a boring job and tired relationship, and then seeing an attractive mystery man at a hotel counter. The new emphasis, from what I understand, is on facilitating that moment.

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Also, the company says it is learning from past mistakes. It is take security more seriously than ever, say the two new leaders. They say the plan is to rebuild the technology and bring on new names to the roster. Ruby is “investing into new technologies,” says Millership, adding that it’s also looking for new brands and potential acquisitions. They are also trying to show how much they care about security and privacy—indeed, there’s a very prominent link on its home page to a section titled just that.

Is This Enough?

Rebrands are hard, and crisis public relations is even harder. The company remained silent for almost a year, ousted its CEO, and began trying to figure out a new path. It seems after months of boardroom discussions and leadership searches, it has crafted a new plan. The rebrand is part of it, along with a slew of new advertising like the one described perviously. The two executives also referred heavily to its global user base.

This is all in line with how companies believe they should respond in times of crisis. The Avid Life Media brand was significantly marred when news hit of the breach. It needed to craft a plan and create a congruous positive message post-crisis it could disseminate to the world. Most importantly, If the company is to survive, the one thing it would have to do is regain the trust of its users while maintaining the individuality that it had.

Related Video: Why Even A Startup Company Needs H.R.

Crisis PR experts heavily refer to the strong “ties” and “relationships” organizations have with their customers. If that relationship is diminished, all bets are off. Companies have been able to do this in the past. For instance, 23andMe was in the spotlight three years ago for potentially giving erroneous information from the home DNA tests it offers. After months of bad press and fallout with the FDA, the company shifted slightly to still offer tests but focus more on the raw data provided, as well as ancestry information. The company is now back in good graces.

Of course a health-tech DNA testing company is a far cry from a website for people to cheat on their spouses. But Ashley Madison did have a fallout with its clientele and is trying to shift in a somewhat similar way. The rebrand and new focus on being “tasteful” is a way to offer a carrot to those who were scared off by the site before. Perhaps even those who don’t want to technically cheat; another ad shows a tired couple becoming excited about the addition of a possible third. Of course, the company isn’t swearing off the kind of services it offers. Instead, say Segal and Millership, ruby wants to show people that it wants to listen and be more amenable to what its customers want.

Photo: courtesy of Avid Life Media

As Segal describes it to me, ruby’s new intent is to build dating sites “that people relate to.” The ads feature women prominently, and tell stories of people in known relationship quandaries (tired of their partner, bored, etc). Part of that is changing the inherent culture of the site, he says, and being more inclusive. Before, Ashley Madison was perceived as an outlet for disgruntled men to find affairs, now the hope is to include more people in the mix. “Ruby is reflective of where we want to take the company: feminine, multifaceted, sensual.” This refocus mixed with the new ads is a way the executives hope to bring in a more diverse user base. The company says it’s trying to make the ratio of men to women (and not men to robots) more even.

In short, Ashley Madison isn’t changing what it does, but is trying to show its customers that it cares about them by reframing its services, focusing on more global customers, and pledging to be more secure.

The next year will show us whether or not the rebrand works and customers once again trust the site. For Segal and Millership it’s about explaining to people that they listened to their concerns and changed they handle things. At the same time, they feel they have to “stay true to the edginess of the product itself.”

For Ashley Madison, it’s not a new name. Instead, says Segal, “we just feel that she can be repositioned.”

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How These Companies Achieved Parity Without Diversity Initiatives

Some of the world’s largest banks and insurance providers just signed a pledge aimed at getting more women into leadership at their organizations. The likes of Barclays, HSBC, Deutche Bank, and Morgan Stanley, among other firms, agreed to set goals to diversify their upper management and report on their progress annually. Failure to meet the goals will be tied to the bonuses of their senior executive teams. According to Catalyst, women make up nearly half of all employees in the financial services industry, but only 25% of senior management roles.

The 50/50 Board

“It’s good to have a goal,” Mindy Grossman tells Fast Company. But the CEO of interactive multichannel retailer HSN, Inc. (you probably know it as the Home Shopping Network) says, “A mandate can create a falseness,” as opposed to working toward achieving diversity as sound business decision. Grossman, who says her passion for diversity extends back more than 15 years to her tenure as global VP at Nike, believes that the more voices and minds you bring to the table the greater the degree of problem solving and innovation you can have. “I’m also talking about a diversity of thought and experience,” she points out, not just of gender and race.

Under her direction since 2006, HSN has made gains in both market share and diversity. Revenues have been on the rise since 2011, going from $3.18 billion then to 3.6 billion in 2015. Currently, she presides over a staff that boasts 61% female representation at the director level and above. Forty-five percent of HSN’s vice presidents and 50% of its executives are women. “What’s happened here is the fundamental foundation of who we are,” she maintains, “We are naturally diverse as an organization.

With last week’s appointment of Fiona Dias to HSN’s board of directors, the company achieved gender parity there, too. But Grossman insists this wasn’t about driving toward a percentage, but creating the best board for the company. A company that, she underscores, has a customer base who is 85% female.

Grossman says that she’s been looking at the board composition for the past number of years not only through a gender lens, but also through one of competency. Having experience relevant to the e-commerce business was necessary, but she wanted to bring in another woman. It’s a challenge because currently, women only hold 19.2% of S&P 500 board seats in the United States, according to Catalyst.

“What I am finding is that you really have to be much more aggressive to stick to the fact that this is what you want,” she explains. “I’ve seen too many instances where a board makes a profile so narrow,” she recalls, that it turns into a pipeline problem. If you are looking for a female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, for example, how many are out there? ( Only 20)

To find the right person, Grossman says they worked with a consultant who has partnered with a lot of companies in the tech world. They looked for relevant experience, she asserts, but “we definitely had a focus.” The result, she contends is that the combination of personalities and insights creates a more stimulating dialogue. “That’s more thought provoking for management,” she adds.

Getting Generational Parity

As Grossman points out, diversity isn’t just about race and gender. Generational differences can create a similar chorus of disparate points of view.

At Everbridge, a global software company that helps government agencies and businesses warn people about severe weather, mass shootings, and cyber attacks, they’ve achieved a workforce split of 44% millennials, 44% Gen Xers, and 12% boomers.

The Massachusetts-based firm observed media coverage of the age bias heavily present in tech companies in Silicon Valley. But Everbridge’s CMO, Joel Rosen, tells Fast Company, “Fortunately, our team did not need to make any concerted effort to equalize any generational splits.”

He insists it’s been an organic occurrence that came as a result of the company’s culture. “Our focus on transparency, accountability, and opportunity, as well as our ability to “make a difference” in the lives of the communities and businesses that we serve,” Rosen says, “naturally appeals across generations.”

The staff has regular access to all Everbridge’s financial results and quantitative goals. On the HR side, says Rosen, core competencies and success metrics are established each year, and teams are given internal training, education resources, mentors and benefits. “This focus on providing clear direction and objectives appeals to both younger and older workers,” he says.

Everbridge’s workforce grew by 50% this year, but eliminates bias by hiring through a behavioral interview process. “This technique was adopted to improve our ability to assess candidates and to further focus on identifying candidates that have the competencies that we believe make an individual successful at Everbridge,” Rosen explains. Competencies include adaptability, collaboration skills, resourcefulness, and passion or drive.
For example, he says that when assessing someone’s passion you could ask the question: “Tell me about a time you set a really ambitious goal for yourself. What was the goal, how did you go about achieving the goal, and what was the outcome?” Rosen contends this question doesn’t factor in age or experience.

The company credits its generationally diverse staff as one of the reasons its revenue is over $50 million.

Hiring Toward Parity

Jellyvision, an interactive software company, has just over 300 employees. Though they haven’t tracked progress over time, the workforce in total is currently made up of 51% males and 49% females and their leadership team is 55% male and 45% female. 

Mary Beth Wynn, the vice president of people at Jellyvision, says getting close to gender parity wasn’t a direct initiative as much as a byproduct of the company’s values, leadership, and an intentional recruitment process.

Wynn also acknowledges that diverse staff can help the business succeed, and says Jellyvision is continually working to achieve diversity in as many aspects as possible, whether it be through gender, sexuality, race, etc.
If Jellyvision had made 50/50 a conscious initiative, though, they would have risked the reverse. Deserving individuals might not have the opportunity for a role because their gender wouldn’t fit the company’s goal. Wynn says they do work with recruiters who are directed to bring them diverse candidates.

For their job postings, Wynn says, “We lead with the characteristics that we’re looking for and leave “requirements” to the end of the posting.” She says this serves not to knock out candidates with requirements, but rather “give them a well-rounded perspective on what the job is and what characteristics we’re looking for.” The hope, she says, is that applicants will self-select based on those rather than a degree or years of experience. 

Jellyvision’s hiring team really pays special attention to cover letters. “We give folks the opportunity to tell us why they’re a fit, which may highlight things we won’t see in a resume,” she explains.

All candidates must also pass through an audition, which is a skills test for people to show what they can do, rather than count on their background and previous experience alone. Wynn says, “We make the ‘audition’ part of our hiring process identity redacted to avoid any subconscious bias that might be associated with a name.”

Wynn also notes that the company’s FAQ page addresses questions around transgender and disabled candidates and their needs. “This supports our position on welcoming individuals of all backgrounds.” 

Wynn notes that Jellyvision is still small enough for senior leadership to see who’s accomplishing what. “We move people into leadership positions based on what we’re seeing,” she says, which also occurs organically rather than through mandates.

Parity As A Business Imperative

Grossman underscores that there is still much work to be done. “Given the disparity, we are not going to get where we need to go if senior leaders don’t embrace this as a business imperative.”

Copious amounts of research have indicated that diversity quantitatively and qualitatively improves business performance. A recent study revealed that an even gender split at one company contributed to a 41% increase in revenue. Catalyst found that companies with higher female representation in top management outperform those that don’t by delivering 34% greater returns to shareholders. Although only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies have a female CEO, they generate 7% of the Fortune 1000’s total revenue and outperform the S&P 500 index during the course of their respective tenures. “If you are not diverse,” says Grossman, “you are saying: ‘I don’t want to be successful.’”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that their revenue was approaching $100 million. The company has since revised that estimate and tell Fast Company that their revenue is over $50 million.

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LinkedIn's Top Three Secrets To Getting Hired In 2016

Pop quiz: How many companies were looking for people with a background in cloud computing in 2014? So few that it didn’t even make LinkedIn’s list of the most sought-after job skills by U.S. employers. Just two years later, cloud computing tops that exact same list.

So how can you possibly prepare to stay ahead of changes you don’t even know are coming—changes not just in the skills you need to be competitive but also in the way we work, search for jobs, and get ourselves hired? For everything else that’s shifting unpredictably, a few things are staying pretty consistent, and some of that may surprise you.

Not too long ago, I started a company that focused on using data to help people get hired, and I’m now head of product here at LinkedIn Talent Solutions. I’ve had a front-row seat to some of the latest shifts we’ve seen in the job market and a few others that are on their way. Here’s what you need to know in order to stay ahead of the competition in 2016 and into the next few years.

1. It’s Less Who You Know Than Who You Know Knows

Our latest research shows that the number of professionals actively looking for jobs has increased steadily during the past three years, from 25% in 2014 to 36% this year. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 5.5 million jobs remained open in May 2016.

That suggests many companies are holding out for “A” players with all the right skills at the same time that more and more professionals are looking to change employers. But they don’t seem to be finding each other—which means we may need smarter ways to get connected.

As ever, companies love hiring people who were referred through someone they trust. Even if you don’t know someone directly at a company, chances are you know someone who knows someone. We’ve learned it’s not necessarily your best friend who’s going to help you land that next job. It’s more likely to be your best friend’s former coworker, or even that coworker’s neighbor.

When we surveyed more than 500 people in North America who changed employers between February and March this year, 40% said they were referred by one of the company’s employees. But only a little more than one-tenth (11.7%) of respondents had one or more first-degree connections on LinkedIn at the company six months before they started working there.

That means most of these professionals scored that referral from second- and third-degree connections, not from people they were connected with directly. As our economist Guy Berger puts it, “It looks like it’s not who you know, it’s who you know knows.”

So while I wouldn’t downplay the value of a first-degree connection as a valuable “in,” it’s important to pay close attention to that second layer if you’re in the market for a new opportunity: Who you know who may be linked to a company that interests you—albeit by a matter of several degrees. A former colleague from a big accounting firm might not be able to offer you a direct path to the tech company of your dreams, but they may know someone who knows someone on the inside who’d be willing to make an introduction.

2. It’s Less What Your Diploma Says Than What You Know Now

The top two hottest skills in 2016—cloud computing and data mining—didn’t even exist a few short years ago. The world is simply changing too quickly for even young professionals to rely on the hard-won skills from their college years. You may choose a well-researched major or what looks to be a stable career path, but there’s no guarantee those skills will be in demand in 10 years’ time—sorry!

But there’s an upside to that. Today, a number of once-steady careers face the threat of automation, from well-documented declines in manufacturing and certain facets of health care (a growth field overall) to retail and education. Still, many of the same forces that are automating some jobs out of existence are creating new fields and industries out of nothing—like artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, self-driving cars, and virtual reality to name just a few.

In such a world, it’s difficult to predict which industries and jobs will face decline and which will be the next wave. How many companies employed a chief data scientist or an economist in 2011? Now some companies (LinkedIn included) have both.

For employees, that means everyone should be thinking about developing new skills right now in order to keep up, or how they could adapt their existing skills to a new specialty. Job seekers who will come out on top will be those who stay curious and are lifelong learners. For companies, it’ll mean arming existing workforces with new knowledge, getting creative with job requirements, and keeping an eye out for skills that could transfer well into newly imagined roles.

Related Video: Two Things You Need To Cut From Your Resume Right Now

3. You’ve Got More Power Than You May Think

We’re about to see more power shift away from companies and into job seekers’ hands as technology makes it easier than ever to find or change jobs. The rise of gig-economy players like Uber, Lyft, and Upwork is just the latest evidence of a trend that’s set to continue, with technology empowering people to take more direct control over their careers and livelihoods—even if the world that ultimately creates isn’t something we’ll still call the “gig economy,” as though it’s something distinct from the job market overall. Because increasingly, it won’t be.

In the process, job seekers will not only enjoy more connectedness and company transparency than ever before, they’ll also become savvier about promoting their professional brands online. We’re already seeing these trends today, so if you’re in the market for a new gig, it’s worth polishing up your online profile right around now. And as the gig economy and remote work options expand, professionals are finding more and more opportunities available to them. Traditional 9-to-5 work is no longer the norm; it’s just another option.

Finally, the most powerful job seekers in the market will also usher in a new era of reduced complexity, as technology continues to advance and employers, hard-pressed to find great people, leverage those advancements to simplify their hiring processes. Soon, job seekers will have new ways to signal their interest in a job, sending companies to them rather than the other way around. What will be more important is that those employers can readily find you online and see an accurate snapshot of what you offer, making it easy for them to knock on your door.

Beyond that, professionals need to keep doing what they’ve always had to do: Work your connections. Keep learning. Stay flexible. And always keep an eye on the market, because new, never-before-seen opportunities will be waiting around every corner.

Eddie Vivas is Head of Product at LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions.

related video: This Resume Angel Can Help You Get That Job

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Why The Chatbot Wars Won't Be Like iOS Vs. Android

Creating a new mobile app used to begin with a simple question: iOS or Android?

And if you believe the hype about chatbots (intelligent helpers that users can summon via instant message), the decision is about to get much more complicated. Tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Slack are all opening up bot platforms within their messaging services, letting users read the news, shop online, hail an Uber, and get customer service within a messaging window. The idea is to allow for quick interactions that don’t require installing a full-blown app.

But even as these companies build up their chatbot armies, we’re probably not headed for another bitter ecosystem war, like the one that led to the dominance of iOS and Android. Instead, we’re likely to have lots of bot-infused messaging services living together in harmony for years to come. Here are a few reasons why:

1. It’s Easy To Be Everywhere

At least for now, the best chatbots don’t try to accomplish too much, says Brendan Bilko, head of product at Dexter, a company that offers bot creation tools and also builds some bots on behalf of larger clients. Bilko believes that chatbots should focus on being good at a single task, which in turn makes them easier to port across different messaging services.

“Because they’re simple enough, we have the flexibility to go cross-platform,” he says.

It helps that compared to building an app, making a chatbot is fairly simple, Bilko says. Bot developers don’t have to worry about creating full menu systems, artwork, and animations because a lot of that overhead is replaced by a messaging window.

“When you’re building an app for iOS . . . it’s a blank canvas,” Bilko says. “With these messaging platforms, everything’s very much templatized, so the content is what’s speaking to users more than the UI is.”

While chatbot platforms will inevitably become more complex, most of the work to create them may still happen outside of any particular messaging service. That’s been the case with Mosaic, a chatbot that controls various smartphone devices through Slack, Facebook Messenger, SMS, and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

Sumang Liu, Mosaic’s CEO and cofounder, says most of the company’s efforts go toward building those integrations and correctly interpreting natural language. So when the user saysm “I’m hot”—a statement with several potential meanings—Mosaic knows to turn down the user’s Nest thermostat.

“From our experience, the heavy-lifting work is on the back end,” Lui says. “Plugging into chatbots is just creating an interface. Interface is very important, but Facebook makes it relatively easy for developers to do that.”

2. Different Messengers Serve Different Needs

With smartphone apps, developers gravitated toward iOS and Android—and away from alternatives like Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10—because of market share. Messaging is different because there are so many large-scale platforms already, and as developers experiment, they may discover that some messaging platforms are better suited for their bots than others.

Bilko discovered this himself while working with a business client to build a set of bots for Slack, Facebook Messenger, and SMS. Going in, the client assumed that the Slack version would see the most use. In fact, usage on Facebook Messenger was seven times greater. That client is now investing entirely in building bots for Messenger.

“Initially, it’s kind of figure out what works, see what piece of pasta sticks to the wall, and then go from there,” Bilko says.

Even if the same bot is available on multiple platforms, the experience on each one may differ. With the group shopping bot Kip, for instance, the Slack version focuses on coordinating purchases with a team of employees, so they can purchase lunch together or have an office manager authorize a supply order.

But with the messaging app Kik, users are much younger, and tend not to have any purchasing power. As such, Kip’s chatbot highlights the wish-list function, which users can fill out for their parents.

“It might be the same technology, but . . . we’ll highlight different sets of features,” says Rachel Law, Kip’s cofounder and CEO.

3. Multiple Users Require Multiple Messengers

Some chatbots, like Kip, are collaborative by nature. And in those cases, requiring all users to work with a single messaging service would be a major limitation.

Beyond group shopping bots like Kip, Law points to gaming as one example. A multiplayer game, played via text, might not be as popular if it’s confined to one platform. “You’d be limiting yourself to one group of players, as opposed to having players on Facebook, having players on Line, and having players on Kik,” Law says.

The same is true, she adds, with bots that involve scheduling. Requiring everyone to use Skype, for instance, would be a poor strategy for a chatbot that’s trying to coordinate meetings with multiple people. “You need it to be cross-platform, otherwise it won’t work, because you’re limiting your user base to one group of users,” Law says.

There may even be some scenarios where a single user wants to interact with a chatbot in different apps. That’s one reason Mosaic has supported Facebook, SMS, Slack, and Alexa.

“There are a lot of differences between platforms in terms of chatbots—their form factors, their interaction, their power varies a lot,” Mosaic’s Liu says. “But from a customer’s perspective, they just want to access the most convenient entrance at their most convenient moment.”

Still, all this work creating chatbots across different messaging platforms does introduce some unique headaches. As Law points out, all of the major chatbot platforms are constantly adding new features for developers to take advantage of. And with so many platforms to deal with, making sure they’re all running properly can be a hassle.

For that issue, Kip has come up with a novel solution: Every morning, a bot runs a quick check on every platform Kip supports, asking if each respective bot is alive or dead.

“We made a bot,” Law says, “for our bots.”

related video: Facebook Wants To Win At Everything, Including Artificial Intelligence

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