Categories
Markets

MORGAN STANLEY: Buy these 4 undervalued aerospace stocks that will each surge at least 20% in 2021

  • Aerospace stocks have taken a beating during the coronavirus crisis, but those with defence exposure now offer cheap opportunities, according to Morgan Stanley.
  • The bank's equity analysts said in a note that concerns about these companies' budgets are "overtorqued".
  • Here are the four stocks that are likely to benefit from increased defence spending, according to Morgan Stanley
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Aerospace stocks have been some of the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which brought air travel to a standstill earlier this year and even though there has been a pick-up, it's a long way off where it was a year ago.

The shunning of this sector has been exacerbated by a growing preference among investors for more environmentally and socially responsible sectors, as well as the massive headwinds a lot of aerospace companies face with governments pouring money into fighting the pandemic, rather than other causes, such as defence spending. 

However, not all aerospace stocks are unpopular right now. Those with defence exposure offer a good opportunity at cheap prices, according to Morgan Stanley.

Some stocks, which were already undervalued by the market, have been weighed down further by worry over government budget cuts for defence contracts. However, this concern is "overtorqued," according to a Morgan Stanley note authored by equity analysts Andrew Humphrey and Joseph Ayoola.

"While higher government deficits (and absolute debt levels) create a degree of concern on budgets, we see several supportive factors," they said, listing the following:

  1. "Exposure among the group skews towards strategic capability development, recapitalisation and near-peer threats," they said
  2. "There is less scope for budget reductions through drawdown of deployed forces than was the case during the previous cycle" 
  3. "We do not perceive as much of an austerity agenda in government policy in key markets as we did post-GFC"
  4. "We see upward pressure on NATO spending, regardless of political outcomes. The recently announced 4-year settlement for UK MoD underscores resilient fundamentals for BAE Systems in particular," they said.

Moreover, the short-term underperformance of the sector has "coincided with a period of very high correlation with value factors," the note said. But, this performance is anomalous, and therefore likely to unwind, they added.

This is because the "recent high levels of correlation have not been as high in previous periods, and… we think there is scope for settlements on US and UK defence spending in 2021 to act as catalysts for a reappraisal," the note said.

These are Morgan Stanley's four picks from the aerospace sector that have plenty of scope to rally from here:

BAE Systems

  • Ticker: BAES.LDN
  • Overweight
  • Upside: 19.68%
  • Market cap: £16.96 bln
  • Price target: 630p

Analyst commentary:

"We derive our price target of 630p by applying a 10.5x EV/EBIT multiple on 2021e adjusted EBIT of €2.3bn. We view this as a reasonable multiple for a stock with stable to improving spending from government customers, a low cost of capital, and single-digit earnings growth with good visibility for the next several years," the note said.

  • Reasons for the overweight rating:
    • BAE has a defensive earnings profile: "We view the earnings profile as highly defensive, with >90% of sales in defence end markets. Visibility is underpinned by gains on US land programmes, and a record order backlog," the note said.
    • Its mid-term EPS growth path remains on track: "We expect a modest decline in 2020 EPS, largely reflecting temporary disruptions. We forecast an EPS CAGR of 5% over 2019-2022 as this normalises" it added.
    • Positive strategic developments may yield rating upside over time: "Recent acquisitions increase exposure to high-growth areas of the US budget, whilst funding actions have de-risked pension liabilities in our view. Over time, we believe this may support a narrowing of the discount to US peers," it concluded.

     

    Dassault Aviation SA

    • Ticker: AVMD.PA
    • Overweight
    • Upside: 23.32%
    • Market cap: $9.25 bln
    • Price target: €1,115.00

    Analyst commentary:

    "Our €1,115 price target is derived from a 6x EV/EBIT target multiple on average 2020-22 core business EBIT. Whilst this represents a discount to European defence peers, we view this as warranted given lower relative visibility in the core business and higher platform concentration," the note said, adding that Morgan Stanley "value the 25% Thales stake at market value, and also factor €2.2bn of customer prepayments unwind over the medium term as a debt item in our valuation."

    • Reasons for overweight thesis:
      • "The valuation of Dassault Aviation is tripartite – cash in the business, a 25% stake in Thales and two strong franchises in business jets (Falcon) and fighter jets (Rafale)."
      • "The recent decline in the share price – in line with the broader sector – now implies a minimal valuation for the core business in our view."
      • "Dassault Aviation is the OEM for the Rafale fighter jet and the Falcon. There is optionality on both platforms over the next several years with a large potential Rafale order for India, and the launch of the Falcon 6X, with deliveries starting in 2022."
      • "Our base case factors in a €2.2bn unwind of advance payments and takes into account the market value of the Thales stake."

      Leonardo SpA

      • Ticker: LDOF.MI
      • Improvements in fundamentals delayed; leverage rising
      • Upside: 25.42%
      • Market cap: $4.06 bln
      • Price target: €7.40

      Analyst commentary:

      "We derive our price target of €7.40 by applying a 7.0x EV/EBIT multiple on 2021e adjusted EBITA of €1.0bn. This is a 20-30% discount to the main peers and broadly in the lower range of its 3-4 year average of 7-8x. Higher financial leverage means the equity is sensitive even to a modest re-rating," the note said.

      • Reasons for equal-weight thesis:
        • "We believe headwinds are likely to persist in Leonardo's civil end markets – particularly in helicopters, aerostructures and the ATR joint venture."

        • "Previous progress on improving execution and cash generation within the business is likely to be delayed, we think, limiting the scope for a re-rating."

        • "We continue to see significant potential for longer-term upside, though higher operational and financial leverage than peers means there is potential for volatility. ▪ Our €7.41 PT is based on an EV/EBIT multiple of 7.0x on 2021e earnings, a 20- 30% discount to the main peers and broadly in the lower range of its 3-4 year average of 7-8x."

        Rheinmetall AG

        • Ticker: RHMG.DE
        • Overweight
        • Upside: 33.64%
        • Market cap: $4.01 bln
        • Price target: €104.00

        Analyst commentary:

        • Reasons for overweight these:
          • "Defence tailwinds to continue. We model a 7% 5-year revenue CAGR in defence, driven by high exposure to German budget growth and gearing into European land spending tailwinds."

          • "2020 contract wins can drive defence re- rating. We see significant mid-term optionality in the Lynx programme. We think positive news flow on >€10bn of contract opportunities in 2020-21 can highlight long- term growth prospects, and catalyse a re- rating."

          • "Automotive forecasts re-based, peer valuation supportive. We assume only partial demand catch-up, and forecast c4.5% margin in auto in 2021 (vs 6-8% mid-cycle margins). We value the business at a discount to peer sales multiples, with an EV equivalent to €30/share."

           

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Categories
World News

Here's the pitch deck a 26-year-old dropout used to raise $68 million for his software platform Paddle

  • Software billing startup Paddle has raised a $68 million Series C to continue its expansion plans worldwide.
  • Founded in 2012, the company's latest funding round took place remotely and was led by Silicon Valley fund FTV Capital.
  • "We've gone from a land-grab mentality, grow at all costs, to a more sustainable and considered growth plan within the market so we don't want to just raise for the sake of it," Paddle CEO Christian Owens told Business Insider.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Software billing startup Paddle has raised a £52 million ($68 million) Series C from investors including FTV Capital, Kindred Capital, Notion Capital, and 83North. 

Founded in 2012 by Christian Owens and Harrison Rose when they were just teenagers, Paddle has raised £72 million ($93 million) to-date. Owens dropped out of school to focus on the startup, and neither cofounder went to university.

The company essentially makes it easier for software-as-a-service firms, which rely on regular subscriptions, to bill customers and keep the money coming in. The firm promises to cover payment processing, billing, and sales tax, among other things.

"Successful companies often falter because their neighbors move into enterprise clients and international markets faster," Owens told Business Insider. "Business growth shouldn't be held back by infrastructure issues and companies shouldn't lose out to inferior competitors because they have difficulties with a sales tax in Japan, for example." 

Paddle claims to have 2,000 software sellers across 245 countries and territories and will use the fresh funding round to double its staff from 140 currently. The company's growth is riding the wider trend of subscription software booming as a sector with the industry's value skyrocketing to $105 billion this year, according to Gartner.

"It's been a very unexpected year," Owens added. The company didn't necessarily anticipate a funding round in 2020 given an expected coronavirus-induced slowdown, but Owens said Paddle has subsequently "blown through all of our growth plans for the year." 

"We planned for the worst and expected a slowdown in buying," Owens added. "We've been very pleasantly surprised in the business which led to us taking calls from investors."

Fundraising began in April but took a more formal structure in June with Paddle speaking to investors over video call with the round officially closing just over a week ago. Owens said that the round was popular with investors meaning there was "more appetite than there was room." 

"We've always had big ambitions," he added. "But we've gone from a land grab mentality, grow at all costs, to a more sustainable and considered growth plan within the market so we don't want to just raise for the sake of it." 

The funding will be used to continue the company's expansion in the US and globally, as well as further investments in the company's product, engineering, sales and marketing teams. 

Check out Paddle's redacted pitch deck below:

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle

Paddle


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Categories
Business

10 cheap online drawing and illustration classes that are perfect for beginners

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  • Whether you want to learn the basics of drawing or how to make your character sketches more dynamic, these expert-taught online classes cover everything you need to know.
  • You can buy or gift all of these for either a one-time fee or a monthly subscription, with the most expensive option ($129.99) giving you over 26 hours of in-depth instructional material.
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Besides being fun, drawing and doodling have a wealth of stress-relieving, memory-boosting benefits. And while you can't go to an in-person art class right now, there are seemingly endless drawing and illustration courses you can take virtually.

The best part is how specific these online offerings can be. You can sign up for an in-depth beginner course that teaches you all the fundamentals of drawing, or choose a class based on a skill you want to improve at (like sketching more expressive faces or realistic clothing). You can also take classes from artists with millions of Instagram followers or impressive illustration careers. 

All of the classes below cost either a one-time fee through Udemy or a monthly fee via Skillshare. 

10 affordable online drawing and illustration classes:

The Art & Science of Drawing / BASIC SKILLS

Available on Udemy, $13.99 for the course

The course's instructor Brent Eviston asserts that "drawing is not a talent. It's a skill anyone can learn." With 17 lectures and over four hours of videos, you'll learn the most important groundwork for actually learning how to draw, using shapes and lines to break down complicated subjects and get your proportions right.

You Can Draw Anything! In Three Simple Steps

Available on Skillshare, free with seven-day trial, $19 a month or $8.25 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

Ink and watercolor artist Yasmina Creates says you can draw anything in three steps, and this beginner course focuses on exactly that. In breaking down the fundamentals of drawing, this class provides an approachable introduction to the craft. Yasmina also talks about a lot of the common challenges artists go through when they first start out, and offers concrete solutions to those obstacles, so being a novice becomes less daunting. 

The Ultimate Drawing Course – Beginner to Advanced

Available on Udemy, $109.99 for the course

Perfect for true beginners, this bestselling intro course offers 63 lectures and over 11 hours of learning material, and doesn't require fancy materials or prerequisite knowledge. You'll work your way up from the basics to drawing specific objects, from a realistic eye to a still life to portraits and figure drawings. Plus, as game artist and course instructor Jaysen Batchelor says, drawing is an extremely sought-out skill for any design job, so this class can open up new career opportunities as well.

Learn to Draw: Daily Practices to Improve Your Drawing Skills

Available on Skillshare, free with seven-day trial, $19 a month or $8.25 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

In one and a half hours, portrait artist Gabrielle Brickey shows you how to see your subjects as shapes and think about negative space when you draw — two fundamentals of drawing that are crucial for all beginners to know. You'll also cover basic measuring techniques to draw more accurately, and will have plenty of class projects to test out your new skills right away.

Character Art School: Complete Character Drawing Course

Available on Udemy, $129.99

One of the most popular drawing courses on Udemy, this class features a whopping 115 video lectures (over 26 hours of content), so despite the pricier price tag, the instructional material will last you a long time and is incredibly thorough. Illustrator and character artist Scott Harris will teach you what you need to know to create exciting, vibrant character art, from getting the form right to drawing realistic hair and clothing.

Character Illustration: Drawing Faces, Figures & Clothing

Available on Skillshare, free with seven-day trial, $19 a month or $8.25 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

Intended for more intermediate artists, this one-hour long course teaches you how to add more exciting, dynamic touches to your subjects. It's taught by Brazil-based graphic artist Gabriel Picolo, who has over 2.8 million Instagram followers and illustrated books for DC Comics, and covers the four core facial expressions of characters. He'll also teach you how to add more "movement" to your artwork via the hair, clothing, and body language of your characters.

Drawing Comics: A Beginner's Guide

Available on Skillshare, free with seven-day trial, $19 a month or $8.25 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

Taught by comic illustrator and teacher Ira Marcks, this class is great if you love telling stories with your artwork. In about two hours of instructional material, he'll help you arrange your scenes in panels, show you the right drawing tools to use for your projects, and provide professional tips and examples from famous artists.

Ink Drawing Techniques: Brush, Nib, and Pen Style

Available on Skillshare, free with seven-day trial, $19 a month or $8.25 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

This beautiful beginner-level course is for anyone who's specifically drawn to inking. It's led by illustrator and veteran School of Visual Arts professor Yuko Shimizu, whose work has appeared on GAP and Nike t-shirts, Pepsi cans, and VISA billboards. In about an hour and a half, she'll go over basic brush and nib techniques; the best ink, paper, and brush supplies to use; how to achieve different textures, and, lastly, how to start your first sketch.

Drawing and Painting on the iPad with Procreate

Available on Udemy for $19.99

If you're particularly into digital art (and own an iPad), you can take this course to learn more about the graphics editor app Procreate. In about five hours' worth of video lectures, comic artist and graphic designer Brad Colbow will go through all the tools available on Procreate before having you draw a comic for yourself.

Drawing as Self-Discovery: 5 Ways to Start

Available on Skillshare, free with seven-day trial, $19 a month or $8.25 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

If you're looking to doodles as a form of emotional release, this 40-minute course is perfect no matter what drawing level you're at. Writer and illustrator Mari Andrew, whose artwork attracts 1.1 million followers on Instagram, provides reflection prompts to think about before you start, and teaches you how to work through your emotions as you draw so you can learn something new about yourself through the process.

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Categories
Business

10 of the coolest Airbnbs in the US, from a boxcar bunkhouse to an underground hobbit home

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • From hobbit holes to boxcar bunkhouses, these one-of-a-kind Airbnbs found across the US are seriously unique. 
  • Experts agree that private Airbnbs are safer than hotels right now, and all of these listings follow strict COVID-19 protocols.
  • All are highly-rated homes at a range of price points from $71 to $400 per night to start.

In the age of COVID-19, staying in private Airbnbs has become increasingly preferred over staying in heavily trafficked hotels due to limiting interaction with other guests and staff. Although many travelers have stayed in Airbnb apartments or houses before, there is a whole sub-section of unique Airbnb listings rising in popularity that offer incredible, one-of-a-kind accommodation experiences.

While there are plenty of popular tree houses and airstreams available to book on the platform, we've gone a step further than that to find seriously cool stays across the US from a lobster boat in Maine to an underground hobbit home in Washington. 

Before you eagerly book one of these striking stays, it's important to keep in mind that without a vaccine there's no guarantee of safety when it comes to travel right now. We always recommend following guidelines from the CDC, including wearing masks in public spaces, washing hands frequently, practicing social distancing, and considering personal risk factors before making any vacation plans.

However, Airbnb has implemented new cleaning guidelines all hosts must follow as part of its Enhanced Clean Protocol. Hosts can also choose to go further and implement additional safety measures, such as a Booking Buffer where days between stays are blocked off. Additionally, many of the Airbnbs listed below are located in remote areas, and we've noted COVID-19 policies for all.

With that in mind, we've scoured the depths of Airbnb for singular listings across the US, based on the following criteria:

  1. All listings are for the entire home, per current expert recommendations.
  2. We looked for truly standout properties that make them exceptionally cool and unique from whimsical stone domes to a wooden ark set on 50 picturesque acres.
  3. We looked for COVID-friendly listings in remote and secluded areas, though all are accessible via car and within driving distance of major cities.
  4.   Listings suit a variety of price points and range from $71 to $400 per night to start, though most come in under $200.

Here are 10 of the coolest Airbnbs in the US, sorted by price from low to high: 

Colorful airplane hangar in Geneva, Florida, $71

Book this airplane hangar starting at $71 per night

Billed as a "man-cave" and built inside an airplane hanger, this colorful stay is a dream come true for aviation enthusiasts. There is nothing usual about this space, with eclectic decorations ranging from suspended model airplanes and motorcycles to vintage slot machines. Between the hanging egg chair, maps littered across the walls, LED-lit bar, and American flag tiling in the bathroom, the decor is borderline frenetic, but in a fun and quirky way.

There is one queen-size bed located in the loft, as well as additional cots available upon request. Pets are also allowed, as long as they aren't left unattended. The home includes a kitchen space equipped with a coffeemaker, bar, microwave, toaster oven, and refrigerator.

During the day, you can experience milking Pygmy goats at an on-site barn or go horseback riding across 500-acres of parks for an additional fee. You can also take a look at classic cars that the hosts work on in the garage and maintenance facility on the property. In the evenings, relax in front of the wood-burning fireplace and enjoy satellite-TV, Wi-Fi, and A/C.

There are some dates available for bookings in November and December, and there are many more dates available from February on.

Rating: 4.95

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Geo-dome in Pescadero, California, $133

Book this geo-dome starting at $133 per night

This 20-foot geo-dome is located in an open field that is part of a horse and farm animal sanctuary. It boasts a direct view of the Pacific Ocean, which you can enjoy through triangular, floor-to-ceiling windows. The isolated nature of this Airbnb makes it an ideal choice for travelers looking for a fully immersive glamping experience in nature.

The dome is entirely off-grid, which means that there is no electricity or Wi-Fi. However, the host has mentioned that there is phone service for AT&T and Verizon users. One recent reviewer praised the property for being "A great place to getaway & recharge".

This geo-dome has one bed and is ideal for couples. There is a shared shower on the property with two shower stalls, as well as a propane space heater and propane fire pit that can be used at an additional cost. While here, you can spend your day meditating in nature, relaxing at one of the local beaches, or hiking in a nearby state park. At night, head back to the geo-dome to catch a stunning sunset and before watching the stars come out.

There are limited available dates in January and February. Many more dates are available starting in March.

Note: Because of COVID-19, the host asks guests to bring their own towels and linens.

Rating: 4.94 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Boxcar bunkhouse in Canyon, Texas, $142

Book this boxcar bunkhouse starting at $142 per night

It doesn't get much cooler than staying in a 111-year old rustic boxcar located on a Texan ranch. This former train has been through an extensive restoration and remodel, and it now serves as a unique stay for history buffs.

As you might expect, the boxcar's layout is long and narrow and all essentially one room. However, the home has been designed to be highly function, with one Queen-size bed, a pullout sofa, a tall glass dining table, and a small bathroom. Particularly noteworthy features include the shower, which is located in a former ice-chute. There is also a private hot tub found built into the ground at the end of the patio.

The boxcar is conveniently located near Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Cadillac Ranch. After a day out hiking and exploring, you can return to the boxcar and enjoy free Wi-Fi and a meal on the gas grill.

This Airbnb has a few available dates for bookings in November, with more dates opening up starting in December.

Rating: 4.93

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Ark in Springfield, Tennessee, $150

Book this ark starting at $150 per night

This wooden ark, nicknamed Kellysjubilee, is located next to a picturesque pond on a peaceful, 50-acre property. The ark features multiple wooden decks, cabin-style octagonal windows, and touches of flowers throughout. Inside the ark, you'll find appropriately all-wood interiors, as well as a small kitchen stocked with utensils, a stove, microwave, coffeemaker, and more. Previous guests have mentioned being greeted by fresh flowers, comfortable robes, chocolates, and snacks.

On the property, you can take a walk to the creek, through various hiking trails, and even a labyrinth, or you can spend your day fishing in the pond. You can end your day by soaking in the private hot tub located on the deck of the ark, roasting marshmallows by the fire pit, or stargazing on clear nights. Though the ark is located in a quiet, secluded location, it is only a 30-minute drive to nearby Nashville.

This Airbnb is available for bookings on a few dates in November, and most dates from December on.

Rating: 4.94 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Whimsical stone abode in Sandgate, Vermont, $179

Book this stone abode starting at $179 per night

This whimsical cottage blends seamlessly into the environment with its white stone exterior and unrefined shape. Despite having an off-grid appearance, this home offers all of the modern comforts you could need, from heated bathroom floors to a thermostatically controlled propane stove.

The organic, nature-inspired decor includes a wood-burning stove fireplace, maple tree trunk sink, painted flower dresser, and carved wooden end tables. Little built-in wall pockets found throughout the home act as vases for various plants and flowers. Eat at the indoor dining table or choose to dine on the garden terrace with views of the meadow, woods, and mountains.

During the day, you can explore the ten acres of surrounding woodlands or take a short walk to check out the town hall. There is also a river nearby for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. While the Airbnb is located in a seemingly remote location, it's only a short 10-minute drive to cities like Arlington.

There are limited dates for bookings from November to February, but most dates in March and April are currently available.

Rating: 4.99

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Secluded glamping yurt in Topton, North Carolina, $179

Book this luxury yurt starting at $179 per night

This luxury yurt offers the ultimate glamping experience in the Great Smoky Mountains right next to a stream. While it may be in a remote area fully surrounded by nature, you can stay plugged in with free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen satellite TV. There is no cellular service in the area, but the host does offer guests a satellite phone.

Inside, you'll find exposed wooden beams, a tree-root lamp, a wildlife-patterned rug, and two bedrooms outfitted with colorful quilts. The kitchen, fully equipped with high-end appliances, opens up to a spacious outdoor balcony and gazebo. The kitchen comes fully stocked with coffee, snacks, and more.

Additional highlights of this stay include a hot tub located along the creek and a private porch with gas and wood fire pits. There are three other yurts on the property, but they are all secluded and separated from one another.

This yurt has plenty of dates available for bookings starting in January.

Rating: 4.96

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Discover more of the best yurt rentals here

Cottage connected to lobster boat in Machiasport, Maine, $230

Book this cottage connected to a lobster boat starting at $230 per night

This tiny-home gives you the true Maine experience via the opportunity to experience hanging out aboard a lobster boat. You can enjoy private access to a library and lounge in the lobster boat, accessible via a short series of boardwalks and decks.

The cottage itself is surrounded by the Long Point nature reserve and offers stunning views of Holmes Bay. The two-bed home can accommodate four guests, and it is a great option for families or friends looking to explore the outdoors. The interiors are midcentury modern with tasteful nods to the nautical theme, including a wire fish sculpture, an old boat steering wheel, and model ships.

The home is located minutes away from some of Maine's best hiking trails, and it is a short drive to popular destinations including Acadia National Park, Campobello Island, Eastport, and the Schoodic Peninsula. 

There are some dates available for bookings in December. Almost all dates from January forward are currently available.

Rating: 5.0 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Rock house built into the hills in Joshua Tree, California, $295

Book this rock house in Joshua Tree starting at $295 per night

This stone villa sits on five-acres of land covered in iconic Joshua trees. It was built using boulders gathered from nearby mountains during the '60s and '70s, and it features floor-to-ceiling windows, slanted wooden ceilings, dramatic stone archways, and carved rock walls.

But the architecture isn't all that sets this listing apart. The hosts describe this house as a living breathing sculpture, and everything was built by hand. Unique interior design features include wood-burning stoves, an Egyptian-esque tiled mural in the bathroom, and a fireplace carved into the rock steps.

This three-bed villa can comfortably accommodate four guests, and any additional guests can stay in an on-site airstream ($50 additional cleaning fee applies for using the airstream).

Other notable features include a hot tub, target range, wading pool, and the option to book a facial or in-room massage. Because of the sensitivity of certain architectural elements in this Airbnb, the host requests that all guests be 18 and over, so this is not ideal for families with young children.

This Airbnb has limited available dates for bookings in December and plenty of availability from January forward.

Rating: 4.9 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

See more caves and rock homes you can rent here

Chic shipping container in Rockbridge, Ohio, $342

Book this shipping container starting at $342 per night

While a shipping container may not sound ultra-luxurious, this one is a seriously posh stay. Sleeping up to six guests in three bedrooms, this home is two levels made up of a shipping container with a cabin crafted on top and connected via a narrow, spiraling staircase.

The expertly styled interiors include a wooden, bench-style dining table, a comfy leather couch, a spa-like bathroom complete with a deep soaking tub, and floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedrooms for looking out at the surrounding woods. Some of the windows even act like garage doors and can be lifted up for an indoor-outdoor experience.

There's also a large deck with string lights and patio furniture arranged around a fire pit, along with a grill.  As an extra bonus, there's a private hot tub on its own mini deck accessible via a boardwalk.  

This Airbnb is extremely popular and has limited availability over the next several months. It may be worth booking now for a future stay next summer or even next fall.

Rating: 4.97

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Underground hobbit house in Orondo, Washington, $400

Book this underground hobbit house starting at $400 per night

This magical earth house will transport you straight from Washington to the set of "The Lord of the Rings." This Airbnb is located right next to the Columbia River Gorge, and it offers incredible views of the mountains and river from its round windows. The charming indoor area comes complete with a cozy stone fireplace, an oversized iron chandeleir, a wooden bathtub, and a barrel of drinking water attached to the wall.

Outside, you can explore the Airbnb's six-acre property by heading out on one of the various hiking trails. This Airbnb is best for travelers looking for a solitary nature getaway, as there is no Wi-Fi or cellular reception on the property. There is also no kitchen, so be prepared to bring pre-cooked food or drive 20 minutes into town for meals. While the property is off-grid, it uses solar-powered energy to offer running water, electricity, and a flushing toilet. The home can accommodate two guests over the age of 12, and pets are also welcome.

This hobbit house has many available dates for bookings from January forward.

Rating: 4.85

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

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The 22 startups that Salesforce has bet on during the pandemic, including cybersecurity, commerce, and sales engagement firms

  • Salesforce's venture capital arm has invested in many well known enterprise software companies, including Zoom, DocuSign, Box, and Snowflake, and its interest in a startup often signals that it's one to watch. 
  • Salesforce is also known to acquire companies it has invested in: Acquisitions Quip, MuleSoft, and Vlocity were all previously funded by Salesforce Ventures. 
  • Business Insider looked at 22 of Salesforce Venture's recent investments to see what the cloud giant may be interested in this year amid the pandemic-spurred shift to remote work.
  • We found a focus on cybersecurity, payments and commerce, remote work, new sales technologies, and virtual events. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

An investment from Salesforce's venture capital arm is often seen as positive validation for startups given its large, pioneering presence in the enterprise software market. Since the fund was started 2009, Salesforce Ventures has funded over 400 enterprise cloud companies, including many well-known names like Zoom, DocuSign, Box, and Snowflake.

An investment also often leads to partnerships with Salesforce, like its recent one with payments startup Stripe. Salesforce is also known to acquire companies that it has invested in as it looks to expand its product offerings: Acquisitions like Quip, MuleSoft, and Vlocity were all previously funded by Salesforce Ventures. The venture arm also looks to fund companies that are built on Salesforce's AppExchange or in its ecosystem.

It has several different funds it's actively investing in, including a new $100 million Impact Fund that seeks out mission-focused cloud companies tackling social issues like education and reskilling, climate action, diversity, equity and inclusion. It's also a global investor, with branches in Europe, Australia, Japan, and Canada, and it partners with Forbes and Bessemer Venture Partners every year to select a list of the world's top 100 private cloud companies and the 20 rising stars.

Business Insider looked at some of Salesforce Venture's investments from 2020 to see what the cloud giant may be interested in this year amid the global pandemic-related shift to remote work. 

We found several investments for companies focused on cybersecurity — like Tanium and Auth0 — which is increasingly important during this era of remote work. A few firms focused on capabilities that extend the customer relationship management capabilities of its platform, like Outreach, Gong, and Hearsay Systems. Salesforce also funded a number of companies focused on payments and ecommerce, like PredictSpring.

Salesforce Ventures says automation, open-source developer tools, and remote work and collaboration were also areas of focus. 

"Since the pandemic, companies have quickly embraced remote work and collaboration, set up at-home call centers, developed new go-to-market strategies and supported their employees from home, while ensuring all devices are secure," Salesforce Ventures managing partner Matt Garratt said in an email. "There is a broader shift happening to fully realize digital transformation centered around making data useful and nimble, which will unlock the potential for artificial intelligence, business intelligence, and automation to deliver strategic and impactful insights." 

He adds that this informed Salesforce Venture's investments in companies like Auth0, Automation Anywhere, Hopin, Tanium and Snowflake (Salesforce Ventures increased its investment in the firm by purchasing $250 million in shares when it went public earlier this year).

Here are 22 companies Salesforce Ventures invested in so far in 2020 (total funding amounts and valuations via PitchBook):

Stripe

Salesforce partnered with payments startup Stripe in September to allow Salesforce customers using its ecommerce cloud to have the option to set up payment processing using Stripe's technology. The terms of the deal and number of customers who will use the tool weren't disclosed, but the partnership is a sign that Stripe is signing on larger enterprise customers, cofounder John Collison told Forbes. 

For Salesforce it's a way to grow its ecommerce software offering, at a time when retailers are relying on online shopping to keep business going.

Salesforce Ventures invested in the payments company in 2015, as part of its $100 million Series C2 round led by Visa, according to PitchBook. 

Total funding raised: $1.89 billion

Valuation: $36 billion 

 

 

 

 

 

ServiceMax

ServiceMax, a "field service management" software tool to help customers manage the employees and equipment needed to meet customers externally, is build on Salesforce's platform. In February, Salesforce participated in a $80 million funding round led by Silver Lake, a private equity firm that owns a majority stake in ServiceMax. 

In September, ServiceMax announced a new product built on Salesforce's Field Service tool which will give customers a "360-degree" view into their service contracts, product performance, and install bases. The goal is to reduce maintenance costs and maximize the time equipment runs.

ServiceMax has changed ownership a few times in the last few years. In 2017, GE acquired ServiceMax for $915 million, but in 2019 it was bought by Silver Lake Management. 

Total funding raised: $80 million

Valuation: $915 million as of January 2017

 

 

Outreach

Outreach makes sales engagement software, which is meant to help salespeople track and manage all of their relationships with customers. Salesforce Ventures was a new investor in Outreach's most recent $50 million Series F round led by Sands Capital in June, meant to help the firm expand overseas.  

For Salesforce, the investment helps the company keep tabs on what sales people want and need to do their jobs. Salesforce also has its own sales engagement product, but analyst firm Forrester ranked Outreach's product higher than Salesforce's offering in a recent report. 

Total funding raised: $287.96 million

Valuation: $1.33 billion

 

Auth0

Auth0 makes software for identity and authentication, baking existing login and identity verification tools into code that developers can easily add to their websites or apps. There's options for single sign-on, two-factor authentication, password-free login capabilities, and the ability to detect password breaches. 

Salesforce led a $120 million Series F round for the startup in July that raised its valuation to $1.9 billion. The investment gives the CRM giant a stake in a market that's growing as more people work digitally. 

Total funding raised: $333.47 million

Valuation: $1.92 billion

 

 

 

 

Tanium

Tanium is a cybersecurity startup that makes tools to simplify the process of protecting a wide variety of employee devices. Tanium's valuation soared to $9 billion after it received a "strategic investment" from Salesforce Ventures in June. The company didn't reveal how much the investment was, but CNBC said the funding was likely around $100 million. 

Along with the investment, Salesforce also said it would partner with Tanium to bring its device management technology to the CRM giant's customer base. 

In October, Tanium said it raised $150 million in new funding that put its valuation over the previous $9 billion mark, Business Insider's Rosalie Chan reported. 

Total funding raised: $837.58 million 

Valuation: $9 billion+

 

 

Gong

Gong raised a $200 million Series D funding round in August at a $2.2 billion valuation. The round was led by hedge fund Coatue, with participation from Salesforce Ventures, and others. The startup makes artificial intelligence software that analyzes customer interactions for sales teams. 

Gong is part of a new type of sales software that is used on top of — or in tandem with — customer relationship management systems. 

Total funding raised: $333 million

Valuation: $2.2 billion

 

Snyk

Cybersecurity firm Snyk raised two funding rounds this year: The first was a $150 million round in January, led by Stripes, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and others, before a $200 million round led by Addition in September which valued the company at $2.6 billion. 

Snyk offers an open-source tool to help developers find potential vulnerabilities before they commit their code. During the pandemic Snyk's business has accelerated as more companies move to the cloud, CEO Peter Mckay told Business Insider. 

Total funding raised: $454.51 million

Valuation: $2.6 billion

 

Hopin

Hopin is building a virtual events platform and has seen its business soar this year as companies have to turn all their in-person events into remote affairs. It raised a $40 million Series A round in June, led by IVP, with participation from Salesforce Ventures, Slack's venture capital group the Slack Fund, Accel, and others. 

Total funding raised: $47.18 million

Valuation: $285.2 million

 

 

Airkit

Airkit helps companies digitize their customer service by making it easy to build customer-facing digital tools without much code. It's meant to boost a customer service center's productivity and recently raised $28 million from Salesforce Ventures, Accel, and Emergence Capital. Salesforce was also previously an investor in Airkit's seed round in 2017.

Notably, Airkit's founders were previously executives at RelateIQ, a relationship intelligence company acquired by Salesforce.com in 2014. Salesforce Ventures often invests in startups founded by former Salesforcers. 

"The last mile of customer experience continues to be a challenge for every company — and as consumers, we've all experienced those pain points acutely," Stephen Ehikian, CEO of Airkit said in a press release. "With Airkit, we set out to build a low-code solution purpose-built for customer engagement that would be as simple to use as Excel and as powerful as Salesforce."

Total funding raised: $56.67M 

Valuation: $81.67 million (excluding its most recent funding round)

 

TechSee

TechSee is an AI-powered visual customer engagement platform that aims to give customers an interactive, visual experience to improve overall service and customer satisfaction. Salesforce led a $30 million Series C funding round for TechSee earlier this year and was an existing investor from previous rounds. 

TechSee's product is also integrated with Salesforce Service Cloud.

Total funding raised: $53.5 million

Valuation: $46.86 million before Series C

 

Qatalog

Qatalog makes a "virtual workspace" that helps bring different cloud software tools together to improve team collaboration. It recently announced a $15 million Series A round that included Salesforce Ventures.

The investment speaks to Salesforce's focus on improving tools for remote work and collaboration. Qatalog can connect to widely used tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, the Microsoft suite, Google's GSuite, Zoom, and Atlassian's tools like Confluence and Jira. 

Total funding raised: $18.13 million

Valuation: $9.36 million before Series A

 

Salto

Salto emerged from stealth in October, after a Series A funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Salesforce Ventures. The company aims to create a "connective tissue" between different software tools, Business Insider's Joe Williams previously reported.

It essentially wants to make it easier for organizations to host many different software services, including Salesforce's CRM and Oracle's NetSuite, by making it easier to make back-end adjustments to all at the same time. 

Total funding raised: $27 million

Valuation: Unknown

 

 

 

PredictSpring

PredictSpring makes an ecommerce mobile platform for retailers and stores to manage inventory and clients, while making it possible to buy things in multiple ways, like in-store or for curbside pickup. It also lets store associates place online orders for shoppers if the items are not available in store. Salesforce made a strategic investment in the company in October, but didn't disclose the amount. 

This is another investment Salesforce has made in a commerce company, as the retail industry has been shaken up this year by the pandemic. 

Total funding raised: $13.5 million excluding Salesforce funding

Valuation: $34.2 million excluding Salesforce funding

 

 

Qualified

Qualified is a conversational marketing platform that makes it possible to track and connect with potential customers that visit a company's website. It just raised a Series A earlier this year, led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation Salesforce Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.

Salesforce also participated in the company's seed round last year. Notably, Qualified's cofounders — Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley — are former Salesforce executives.

"As sales and marketing teams evolve, we continue to look for partners who share our interest in making the pipeline more efficient," Salesforce Venture's Matt Garratt wrote in a medium post announcing the seed investment last year. 

Total funding raised: $16.99 million

Valuation: $47 million

 

Hearsay Systems

Hearsay Systems makes makes digital communication software for the financial services industry. Earlier this year, Hearsay partnered with Salesforce to work together to develop additional integrations beyond the existing app in Salesforce's AppExchange.

At the time Salesforce Ventures also poured some fresh funding into the startup, through Hearsay did not reveal the amount of the investment. Pitchbook estimates the funding was $10 million.

The partnership will help financial agents and advisors communicate information with other departments to better serve customers. Salesforce Venture's investment comes as it focuses on building out its industry specific tools like Financial Cloud. Additionally, CEO and cofounder Clara Shih is a former Salesforce employee, and worked in product marketing for Salesforce's AppExchange for three years in the late 2000s. 

Total funding raised: $61.02 million

Valuation: $125 million

 

 

OwnBackup

OwnBackup makes a data backup system that companies can use to store data from Salesforce and other cloud software tools. It's best known as a backup system for Salesforce and other tools in the Salesforce ecosystem like nCino and Veeva, which is likely why Salesforce Ventures participated in OwnBackup's most recent $50 million funding round.

With the funding, OwnBackup plans to expand outside of the Salesforce ecosystem. 

Total funding raised: $99.75 million

Valuation: Unknown 

 

Copado

Copado is a DevOps platform for Salesforce, and its technology helps companies manage and simplify the process of deploying the CRM platform. Earlier this year, it raised a $26 million Series B led by Insight Partners, with participation from Salesforce Ventures. Salesforce was already an investor and also participated in its previous round in 2018. 

Total funding raised: $47 million

Valuation: Unknown 

 

Odaseva

Odaseva is a data governance platform for Salesforce customers, who use it for things like backing up and archiving data and ensuring their data privacy. Salesforce participated in its most recent $25 million in Series B round in October, which was led by Eight Roads Ventures. 

This is another example of Salesforce investing in companies built in its ecosystem. 

Total funding raised: $38.64 million

Valuation: $43.23 million as of previous funding round in 2019

 

 

Bugcrowd

Bugcrowd is a crowdsourced cybersecurity platform that gives companies a customized security testing program to improve their security. Salesforce first became an investor when it participated in Bugcrowd's Series B funding round in 2016 and recently participated in a $30 million Series D round this year. 

Total funding raised: $81.67 million

Valuation: $167 million 

 

Bridgit

Bridgit makes construction resource management software. Salesforce Ventures participated in a $7 million funding round led by Autodesk earlier this year and was also an investor in a $4.7 million round last year. Its one of the handful of construction tech companies Salesforce has invested in. 

Total funding raised: $16.78 million

Valuation: Unknown 

 

 

Andpad

Andpad is a project management software company focused on construction projects: It provides information on materials and workers, as well as photos from construction sites.

The company is based in Japan and Salesfsforce Ventures participated in its $37.3 million funding round earlier this year, which was led by Sequoia Capital China and Minerva Growth Partners. Salesforce has also invested in both of the company's previous two rounds, according to PitchBook. 

Salesforce has been investing in growth in Japan over the last few years. 

Total funding raised: $83.24 million

Valuation: Unknown 

 

Apisero

Apisero is a consulting partner for MuleSoft, helping customers implement MuleSoft tech, run trainings, and build software connectors to expand the product. Salesforce recently injected funding into the company, though didn't disclose the amount. 

The round was the first-ever venture funding Apisero had ever received — and will be a catalyst for the firm to enter the broader Salesforce ecosystem. Apisero is planning to expand and focus on Salesforce's Financial Services Cloud and Health Cloud as Salesforce pushes its focus on industry specific solutions, it told Business Insider. 

Total funding raised: Unknown

Valuation: Unknown

 

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Here are the six-figure salaries that cloud software companies like Slack, Atlassian, Okta, and Salesforce pay their non-tech employees

  • At cloud software companies that sell products on subscription basis, customer facing roles like sales and marketing and business development are equally as important as engineering jobs.
  • Business Insider analyzed salary data that U.S. companies have to disclose when they apply for visas on behalf of foreign workers to find how much Slack, Atlassian, Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, and Okta pay for roles in sales, marketing, business development, and strategy 
  • Many of the roles netted salaries in the six-figures, with some higher than 200,000. A role for the head of customer analytics at Atlassian earned between $241,696 to $316,250. 
  • It's not a comprehensive look, because the data only includes salaries for foreign workers and the roles they were hired for, and doesn't include bonuses or stock awards, but it is a snapshot into what these competitive jobs pay. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When Salesforce launched in 1999, it introduced a new way to sell software: as a subscription service via the cloud. As Salesforce grew in popularity, more companies adopted that same model of selling software on a monthly, per user, or usage basis, a model often called software-as-a-service or SaaS. 

While software engineers are key to actually building these cloud-based products, customer facing roles like sales, marketing, and business development are equally important to companies' success. 

So what do top cloud software companies like Salesforce, Slack, Atlassian, and others pay their top non-tech workers? 

Federal data gives some insight:

American companies have to disclose salaries when they apply for visas for current or prospective foreign workers. The Office of Foreign Labor Certification, which collects and processes those applications, publishes the salaries every year. Business Insider analyzed active foreign-worker visas at Salesforce, Slack, Atlassian, Box, Dropbox, and Okta to find out how much they each pays workers in sales, marketing, and business development roles. 

Because the data only includes salaries for foreign workers and the roles they were hired for it's not a comprehensive look, but it still provides a rare snapshot into what these competitive firms pay. The data also doesn't include bonuses or stock awards, so this is base salary versus total compensation, and for some positions, the companies gave only a salary range, rather than a specific figure.

Here's how much these six cloud software companies paid employees in non-tech roles like sales, marketing, and business development hired in 2020:

Atlassian hired a marketing designer for Confluence in California with a salary between $86,700 and $117,300.

Australian collaboration software firm Atlassian is best known for productivity tools Jira, Confluence, and Trello. Over the last few years, it has invested heavily in shifting its products to the cloud. 

Here are some of Atlassian's recent hires for sales, marketing, and operations roles based on 85 approved visa applications:

  • Manager, business solutions, sales and marketing technology (California): $161,845 to $212,750
  • Marketing designer, Confluence (California): $86,700 to $117,300
  • Sr. technical account manager (California): $144,040 to $194,143
  • Strategy and business operations manager (California): $169,603 to $207,000
  • Technical account manager (New York): $119,000 to $161,000
  • Senior sales strategy & operations analyst (Texas): $110,500 to $149,500
  • Head of customer analytics (California): $241,696 to $316,250 
  • Senior business systems analyst (California): $122,408 to $149,247

For more Atlassian salaries see here.

Box hired a chief of staff, head of sales strategy in California with a salary between $216,653 and $285,000.

Box is headquartered in Redwood City, California, and makes file management and storage software. It was built to run in the cloud, and counts companies like Coca-Cola, Farmers Insurance, and Morgan Stanley as its customers. CEO Aaron Levie was recently included on Glassdoor's list of the best performing CEOs during the pandemic. 

Here are some of Box's recent hires for sales and business analytics roles based on 43 approved visa applications:

  • Chief of staff, head of sales strategy (California): $216,653 to $285,000
  • Manager, business intelligence analytics (California): $135,013 to $190,000
  • Sr. IT business systems analyst (California): $135,262 to $180,000
  • Sr. manager, technical accounting & external reporting (California): $185,000 to $205,000

Dropbox hired an account executive lead in Texas with a salary of $130,145.

Like Box, Dropbox also makes software for content management. However, it has started to branch out to include other work management tools. Like many of its peers, it recently announced plans to become a completely remote workplace going forward, even after the pandemic. It plans to turn its offices into spaces for collaborative work. 

Here are some of Dropbox's recent hires for sales and business strategy and analytics roles based on 141 approved visa applications:

  • Account executive lead (Texas): $130,145
  • Accounting manager, marketing (California): $121,800 to $164,800
  • Business strategy team lead (California): $165,800 to $224,300
  • Finance business intelligence manager (California): $133,500 to $180,600
  • Sales manager (Texas): $90,300
  • Sales strategy analyst (California): $135,013 to $148,800
  • Deal desk management (California): $122,400 to $165,600
  • Revenue analytics (Washington): $128,400 to $173,700
  • Strategic finance associate (California): $108,800 to $147,200

Okta hired an enterprise customer success manager in Washington, DC with a salary between $123,400 and $150,800.

Okta makes identity management software that allows people to log on to websites securely. The firm has experienced unprecedented growth during the pandemic due to the shift to remote work and recently hired a new head of worldwide field operations from Splunk, who will join in February. 

Here are some of Okta's recent hires for sales and business analytics roles based on 76 approved visa applications:

  • Business systems analyst (California): $122,408 to $142,100
  • Business systems analyst (California): $168,958 to $189,600
  • Sales engineer (District of Columbia): $147,718 to $153,600
  • Enterprise customer success manager (District of Columbia): $123,400 to $150,800

Slack hired a senior account executive for large enterprise in New York with a salary of $131,893.

As people needed to find new ways to communicate while working from home, Slack's workplace messaging tool has grown significantly. While the firm has initially been focused on internal company communication, it's now looking to transform the way people communicate with peers outside of their company. 

Here are some of Slack's recent hires for sales and business analytics roles based on 37 approved visa applications:

  • Account executive, mid-market (New York): $81,661
  • Data scientist, sales analytics (New York): $129,709
  • Senior account executive, large enterprise (New York): $131,893
  • Senior account executive, large enterprise (New York): $152,818

 

Salesforce hired a customer success architect in Massachusetts with a salary of $107,598.

As a company that sells customer relationship management software, Salesforce's own customer facing roles are among some of the most important within the company. Roles like account executives and customer success managers are focused on developing relationships with clients. As Salesforce adapts to the pandemic, its salespeople are increasingly focused on selling industry-specific tools as well as the firm's Work.com tools aimed at reopening offices safely.

Here are some of Salesforce's recent hires for sales and marketing roles based on 1,294 approved visa applications:

  • Account executive (New York): $99,362
  • Customer success manager (Georgia): $57,803
  • High touch success manager – director (California): $205,650
  • Senior analyst, sales strategy (California): $110,094
  • Customer success architect (Massachusetts): $107,598
  • Associate technical account manager (Indiana): $87,131
  • VP, technical product marketing (California):$227,802
  • Product marketing manager (California): $114,442
  • Sr. technical product marketing manager (California): $160,701

For more Salesforce salaries see here.

 

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10 affordable online classes to boost your public speaking, presentation, and storytelling skills

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • Strong public speaking skills can help you shine in a job interview, get promoted to higher-level leadership positions, and access new career opportunities.
  • Below is a list of courses that can help you become more comfortable in front of a group, from free classes you can audit to certificate programs.
  • These aren't limited to direct public speaking courses — some are focused on storytelling or persuasive writing, since you need to be confident in what you're saying before you can learn how to present it well.
  • See more: Yale's most popular class ever is available free online — and the topic is how to be happier in your daily life
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If giving presentations or chiming in during brainstorm sessions makes you nervous, you might not mind your current remote work setup. But a pandemic may actually be the best time to brush up on your public speaking skills.

For one, many online classes remove the scariest factor — a live audience. When you can pre-record your assignments or simply watch an expert share their tips, the barrier to entry gets lower. And even in courses held over Zoom, presenting via camera takes away the very real panic of standing at a podium. 

Beyond that, the ability to captivate a crowd is invaluable even when you're working remotely. Whether you're trying to make your virtual team all-hands more engaging or need to nail those final rounds of job interviews, having more confidence as a presenter can make all the difference in your career.

The courses below range from public speaking and communication tips to storytelling and rhetoric, since your presentation is only as good as your actual speech. Some classes are also free to audit, meaning you have access to them but won't receive a grade or certification. If you want to take a paid course or earn a certificate of completion, prices can range from $15-$49 a month, depending on the learning platform.

10 affordable online courses that will make you a better public speaker:

Introduction to Public Speaking

Available on Coursera, included in free 7-day trial, $49 per month after trial

Offered by the University of Washington, this is the first of four courses in Coursera's Dynamic Public Speaking Specialization. As an intro class, it covers rehearsal techniques and speechwriting tips to reduce presentation jitters. Learners practice by recording themselves and receiving feedback so they can gradually become more self-assured orators. More advanced courses in this specialization focus on specific types of public speaking, such as informative presentations and motivational speeches.

Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking

Available on edX, free to audit

This Harvard course gets to the root of what makes an argument compelling by looking at some of the most well-known political speeches in American history. Students can annotate examples of rhetorical devices and hear professors unpack what makes each speech memorable, all while crafting a persuasive essay of their own. There's also a section devoted to public speaking advice, helping students put everything together into an unforgettable presentation. The class is free, but costs $99 if you want a certificate of completion. 

Robin Roberts Teaches Effective and Authentic Communication

Available on MasterClass, $15 a month for the course or $180 for annual membership

Robin Roberts, Emmy-winning co-anchor of "Good Morning America," shares her tips on how to connect with an audience in a more meaningful way. She touches upon vulnerability and how to "make your mess your message" before diving into public speaking strategies that can help you stand out in a job interview, ask for what you're worth at work, and even feel comfier on TV, should the occasion arise. 

Communicating with Confidence

Available on LinkedIn Learning, included in free one-month trial, then $19.99 or $29.99 per month depending on your subscription plan

The most popular public speaking course on LinkedIn Learning, "Communicating with Confidence" emphasizes the importance of your physical presence as a speaker. The class walks you through breathing techniques and other tips for slowing down your speech, managing your facial expressions, and maintaining self-assured body language, so that you genuinely feel less jittery when it's your turn to present. Once you're done with the course, you'll be able to add a certificate of completion to your LinkedIn profile for employers to see.

The Complete Public Speaking Course

Available on Udemy, $139.99 for the course

Available in both English and Chinese, this course provides a well-rounded education in public speaking. It addresses common issues like "data dumping" that can make stories hard to follow, and teaches you the key attributes of a successful speech. Part of the class will require practicing over video, which you can conveniently access via laptop, phone, or tablet. You'll also receive a certificate of completion at the end.

Presentation Essentials: How to Share Ideas That Inspire Action

Available on Skillshare, included in free one-month basic subscription trial, then $19.99 per month or $99 per year

TED Talk thought leader, motivational speaker, and author Simon Sinek shares his best public speaking secrets in this quick, one-off class. In 30 minutes, he shows you how to pinpoint what you're most passionate about, use your nerves to your advantage by converting them into an energetic stage presence, and cut down any bulkiness in your speech to get to the heart of what you really want to say. It's perfect if you have a big presentation or interview in the next few days (with little time to prep), or just want to dip your toe into public speaking without making a huge commitment. 

How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence

Available on CreativeLive for $29

Mel Robbins is a CNN host, one of the most popular TEDx speakers of all time, and the most-booked female speaker in the world, so she definitely knows a thing or two about carrying yourself with confidence. In about five hours of videos, she tackles one of the biggest obstacles to public speaking: imposter syndrome. With tactics to help you de-escalate anxiety and hop over similar mental blocks, her class doesn't just help you talk to a crowd — it shows you how to move through the world with a greater conviction of your own self-worth. 

"TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking" by Chris Anderson

Available on Audible, included in free one-month trial, $14.95 per month after Audible Premium trial ends

Written by Chris Anderson, the head of TED, this audiobook shares insights from all the top TED speakers, from educationalist Sir Ken Robinson to Monica Lewinsky. It's less about subscribing to one set of guidelines and more about exploring tips from the public speakers who do it best. As a bonus, the book is also sprinkled with TED tidbits and history, if you happen to be a hardcore TEDx fan in general.

"Public Speaking for Success" by Dale Carnegie

Available on Audible, included in free one-month trial, $14.95 per month after Audible Premium trial ends

Dale Carnegie, the famed author of "How to Win Friends and Influence People," is considered one of the most iconic public speaking teachers to this day. This particular guide was originally written in 1926, and has inspired many generations of public speakers with advice that still feels relevant today. The audiobook covers all the essentials of addressing a crowd, from diction exercises and voice techniques to building an authentic sense of self-esteem as a speaker.

Communication Strategies for a Virtual Age

Available on Coursera, included in free 7-day trial, $49 per month after trial

This University of Toronto course feels especially useful right now, given that it focuses specifically on remote public speaking skills. More than ever, it's important to be as engaging as possible over video, and this four-week course covers everything from making virtual meetings less boring to giving attention-grabbing presentations over Zoom. This is particularly helpful if you're already a manager or work in a professional environment where you find yourself leading virtual meetings fairly often.

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Apple iPhone 12 lineup: All the differences explained before you buy

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  • Apple's iPhone 12 series consists of two premium models, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, and two ultra-premium models, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • There's about a $300 gap between these two categories, and the differences are subtle.
  • All of the models have lots in common, including major features, like 5G, MagSafe for iPhone, and OLED displays.
  • The main differentiating factors are screen sizes, frame metals, and cameras. 

Apple's new iPhone 12 series consists of four different iPhones, and they can be broken down into two distinct categories — premium and ultra-premium.

There's a big jump in price between the standard and "pro" models of the iPhone 12. Here's a breakdown of prices starting from least expensive to most expensive: 

  • iPhone 12 Mini: $699
  • iPhone 12: $799
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099

Indeed, that's about a $300 difference between the two standard iPhone 12 models and the two "pro" versions, and it's the cameras that make up the bulk of the distinction between Apple's premium and ultra-premium lineup.

Otherwise, the standard iPhone 12 and "pro" versions are mostly the same phones. That's a similar situation to the iPhone 11 series, where iPhone 11 buyers weren't missing out very much compared to iPhone 11 Pro owners.

There's still time to make a decision on which model you'd like. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are now available to preorder and will ship on October 23. The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available to preorder on November 6 and will ship on November 13.

What they all have in common

All four models in Apple's new iPhone 12 series have these factors in common:

  • Apple's A14 Bionic processor
  • 5G connectivity for the same carriers and specific 5G networks
  • Wireless charging, including MagSafe
  • Super Retina XDR displays
  • All the screens are OLED
  • Screens protected with "Ceramic Shield" glass
  • Metal frames: aluminum for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, and steel for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • Glass backs: glossy on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, and matte on iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max
  • IP68 water resistance

Screen size

There are three screen sizes between the four phones that should satisfy preferences and, as mentioned earlier, they're all Apple's Super Retina XDR OLED for ultra-rich colors, brightness, and contrast. Here are the iPhone 12 screen sizes from smallest to biggest:

  • iPhone 12 Mini: 5.4-inch
  • iPhone 12: 6.1-inch
  • iPhone 12 Pro: 6.1-inch
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 6.7-inch

Cameras

Cameras are where the bulk of the difference will be found between the standard iPhone 12 models and the iPhone 12 Pro versions. If you're looking for the absolute best and latest that Apple has to offer — and you can afford them — the iPhone 12 Pro versions are what you're after. 

Otherwise, the iPhone 12 will, in almost all likelihood, take extremely good photos, too.  

What all the iPhone 12 cameras share:

  • 12-megapixel wide; f/1.6; OIS
  • 12-megapixel ultra wide; f/2.4; 120-degree field of view
  • Smart HDR 3
  • Apple's Deep Fusion for improved detail, texture, and less noise in low light

The extra specs and features in the iPhone 12 Pro cameras:

  • 12-megapixel telephoto; f/2.0; up to 4x optical zoom; up to 10x digital zoom
  • Apple ProRAW — an option that gives greater control over photo editing to those who want it
  • Night mode portraits enabled by the new LiDar scanner

The extra extra specs and features in the iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras:

  • 12-megapixel telephoto; f/2.2; up to 5x optical zoom; up to 12x digital zoom
  • Apple's advanced sensor-shift optical image stabilization

Battery life

Apple only gives estimated battery life, and it commonly uses video streaming playback as a reference. To that end, here's how each model stacks up:

  • iPhone 12 Mini: 10 hours
  • iPhone 12: 11 hours
  • iPhone 12 Pro: 11 hours
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 12 hours

 

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Here are the 32 books our 2020 rising stars of Wall Street think everyone should read

We asked our Rising Stars of Wall Street to recommend a book to our readers and their selections range from investing "how-to" classics to a timely retelling of the Spanish Flu Pandemic, from "Margaritaville" singer Jimmy Buffett's autobiography to a 368-page work on why we sleep. 

The full selection of 32 books, and the stars' comments about them, are below.

Read our full list of the rising stars of Wall Street shaking up investing, trading, and dealmaking.

"A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara

Rising star: Alexander Tingle, director of technology, media, and telecom investment banking, UBS Investment Banking

Tingle's partner, who is also a banker, once recommended he read "A Little Life," the haunting, critically acclaimed novel by Hanya Yanagihara that was published in 2015 and centers on ambitious young men who move to New York City.

"I loved it," Tingle said, admitting with a laugh that he's not the most avid reader, but "A Little Life" has stuck with him — and not only because it's set in New York, where he's now building his career.

One of the central characters, a successful go-getter, is struggling with his mental health throughout the story. For Tingle, he was inspired by that character's portrayal and brought to mind mental health-related stigmas that persist in some workplaces, especially for people in cutthroat positions.

"How to Lead: Wisdom from the World's Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers" by David Rubenstein

Rising star: Will Boeckman, head of US electronic sales, Citadel Securities

Will Boeckman, Citadel Securities' head of electronic trading for fixed income, currencies, and commodities, named Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein's recently-released book "How to Lead: Wisdom from the World's Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers" as his go-to pick.

"It's kind of an anthology of various industries," Boeckman said of the book, which aggregates highlights from Rubenstein's interviews with noteworthy individuals like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, whom he spoke with on his eponymous show on Bloomberg TV.

"A key takeaway from these stories is the importance of finding your passion. I'm obviously very passionate about finance," Boeckman said, "and it's something that was mentioned by a few of the people" that Rubenstein interviewed.

"Give and Take" by Adam Grant

Rising stars: Rachel Murray, vice president at Moelis, and Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto, vice president at Credit Suisse 

Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto, a vice president in syndicated loans sales at Credit Suisse, named "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" by Adam Grant, a legendary Wharton professor, as among her favorites. "It's about striving to be somebody who gives to others and then expects nothing in return," she said, "and how ironically fruitful that can be for your own life and career."

Moelis's Rachel Murray, a restructuring banker told Business Insider: "It shows that it's not just about you. In the grand scheme of things, it's how you help others along the way. How you can grow the pie for everyone.'

"Open" by Andre Agassi

Rising star: Daniel Costanza, chief data scientist, Citigroup

Citigroup's Daniel Costanza recommends "Open" by tennis champ Andre Agassi, which he called "a really wonderful book about his experience in tennis where he didn't really like tennis in the moment," but eventually came to embrace it, he said.

"I think his experience of learning how to love the day to day and love the moment is really powerful," Costanza explained. 

 

 

 

"Young Money" by Kevin Roose

Rising star: Daniel Costanza, chief data scientist, Citigroup

For those flirting with the idea of a finance career who have yet to take the plunge, Daniel Costanza recommended "Young Money," a collection of stories by author Kevin Roose about the trials and tribulations of young financiers. 

The book holds insights into "all the wrong reasons why you can go into finance," Costanza said, making it a cautionary tale for those who aren't sure if the intense pace of life on Wall Street is right for them.

 

 

"Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown

Rising star: Alexis Rosenblum, chief corporate sustainability officer, BlackRock

Throughout the pandemic, Rosenblum has switched to audiobooks — "I'm not sure why, but I think that's the only time I get out of the house: when I take a walk in the afternoon, put my headphones in, and listen to something" — and recently listened to"Dare to Lead", a book by Brené Brown.

It resonated with Rosenblum, who said that she's always been drawn to learning about the field of psychology, and Brown explores human themes like empathy, courage, and shame.

Brown builds the book around the famous "arena" quote from Theodore Roosevelt, about credit belonging "to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood." It inspired Rosenblum, who took away lessons about being a leader.

"Leaders are in the arena, and there are lots of people in the stands who are there just to criticize or comment on what you're doing. But being in the arena takes courage. It gives you a lot of advice around, how do you think about having that courage?" she said.

"Active Portfolio Management: A Quantitative Approach for Producing Superior Returns and Selecting Superior Returns and Controlling Risk" by Richard Grinold and Ronald Kahn

Rising star: Robert Lam, co-head of credit, Man Group's Man Numeric 

Man Group's Robert Lam recommended "Active Portfolio Management: A Quantitative Approach for Producing Superior Returns and Selecting Superior Returns and Controlling Risk" by Richard Grinold and Ronald Kahn.

"It's pretty technical, but a must-read for any quant," he said. 

"The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace" by Jeff Hobbs

Rising star: Mir Subjally, credit trader, Deutsche Bank

"It was a really interesting dichotomy. It's about a young African-American man who grew up in a rougher neighborhood in Newark but went to Yale and ended up being really successful in his academic work. But he struggled at times to mesh the two worlds together," Mir Subjally, a credit trader, told BI about "The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace" by Jeff Hobbs. 

"It shows that the path to equality isn't always as easy and seamless. Going to Yale on a scholarship, it can still be really hard for people. People often don't get that."

"Start With Why" by Simon Sinek

Rising star: Doug Scott, CEO, Ethic

In Ethic's early days, CEO Doug Scott said he and his team gave investors and employees the business and leadership-focused book "Start With Why," written by the author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek. It was inspirational for the co-founder, and integral for starting Ethic and making a transition from traditional financial services.

It tries to get across that the "core of everything is: why this, why are we actually focusing on this? Why are you building this business? Why are you in this career? 'Why' — that was the core tenet," he said.

"The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson

Rising star: Danielle Cooper, director, Annaly Capital Management

"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson is an analysis of the 70-year Great Migration of Black people in America from the rural south to the urban north after the end of reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow segregation.

The book is very narrative, following the lives of multiple migrants, and inspired Danielle Cooper, who is Black, to talk more with her family about their history of migration.

"The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" by John M. Barry

Rising star: Danielle Cooper, director, Annaly Capital Management

Danielle Cooper also recommended an exceedingly timely read: "The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" by John M. Barry.

While Cooper said she usually reads fiction, she read this book as part of a series of firm-wide virtual book clubs since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The Great Influenza," is an in-depth retelling of the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the last global pandemic, and Cooper said the similarities between this pandemic and the last one show how much we still have to figure out.

"Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming" edited by Paul Hawken

Rising star: Jay Lipman, co-founder and president, Ethic

Jay Lipman pointed to a book that Ethic has given to people close to the company, called "Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming," edited by Paul Hawken and produced by the non-profit organization Project Drawdown.

"For me, it's a game plan of how to actually seek solutions to the biggest existential threat that we actually face as a species and as a planet," Lipman said. "Whenever I introduce people to the book, you see people get obsessed with the kinds of things that we can be doing, whether that's regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, or reducing food waste."

 

"Beating the Street" by Peter Magellan

Rising star: Jennifer Fo Cardillo, portfolio manager, Fideltiy

"Being a Fidelity person, I had to pick a Peter Lynch book," said Jennifer Fo Cardillo, a small-cap portfolio manager at the firm, referring to the famed money manager and longtime Fidelity investor.

Lynch ran the firm's Magellan Fund from 1977 to 1990.

"'Beating the Street has been one of my favorites, such a classic. It's about how Peter ran Magellan day-to-day. And so I've just found it to be an excellent guide to investment processes for new fund managers," she said.

 

"Faith of My Fathers" by John McCain

Rising star: Victor Perez, vice president in credit derivative trading, Wells Fargo

For Victor Perez, a Naval veteran and vice president in credit derivative trading at Wells Fargo, the late John McCain's "Faith of My Fathers,"a 1999 autobiography and memoir, is a must-read.

The late Arizona senator and Naval officer "was a role model for us going through the Naval academy," Perez said. The book looks back on McCain's pedigree, his father and grandfather both being esteemed four-star Naval admirals, and McCain having survived imprisonment and torture in Vietnam starting from when he was shot down while flying over Hanoi in 1967.

 

"A Pirates Look at Fifty" by Jimmy Buffet

Rising star: Victor Perez, vice president in credit derivative trading, Wells Fargo

Another book Victor Perez recommended, albeit with a much different tone, is Jimmy Buffett's "A Pirate Looks at Fifty," in which the musician takes readers on a journey through the Caribbean, and shares stories from his life. The book centers on Buffett's experiences surrounding his fiftieth birthday.

"The guy is just so chill, so cool," Perez said, adding, "I'm like, man, that's that's what I want to do when I'm older."

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith

Lauren Goodwin, economist and multi-asset portfolio strategist, New York Life Investments

"It's a story about friendship and finding beauty in New York City when times are hard both for yourself and for the city, and the drivers of the creative process," New York Life Investments's Lauren Goodwin said about Patti Smith's popular "Just Kids". "I am trained in music and language, and so these processes and styles are really near and dear to my heart."

"But Patti Smith is just a generous and lyrical narrator, and she shares glimpses of the fabulous yet grungy 70s, music scene, while really anchoring in the humanity of her experience and that time."

"Security Analysis" by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd

Rising star: Paul Kamenski, co-head of credit, Man Group's Man Numeric 

If you're looking to read about value investing, Man Group's Paul Kamenski suggests not worrying about getting your hands on billionaire hedge funder Seth Klarman's out-of-print book, "Margin of Safety".

"Much has been said about 'Margin of Safety' over the years, but in my opinion nothing quite compares to the original "Security Analysis" by Benjamin Graham and David L. Dodd. They epitomized the concept through their careful approach, still relevant to this day," said Kamenski.

 

"Contrarian Investment Strategy: The Psychology of Stock Market Success" by David Dreman

Rising star: Paul Kamenski, co-head of credit, Man Group's Man Numeric 

Paul Kamenski also put forward David Dreman's "Contrarian Investment Strategy: The Psychology of Stock Market Success"  as a must-read as they served as his first entrance into the world of systematic, quantitative investing.

"Compared with what has now often become fairly complex and evolved, his works as an early adopter of the approach were simple, intuitive, and persuasive, establishing clear roots for what it means to use a systematic approach," added Kamenski. 

"Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott

Rising star: Kelly Winnop, principal, Blackstone

Louise May Alcott's literary classic "Little Women" is Kelly Winnop of Blackstone's top pick.

"I was just drawn to Jo's independence, and I enjoyed that it was a book about family," she said.

"Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown

Rising star: Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto, vice president, Credit Suisse 

Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto's reading list comprises titles that can help make all of our lives a bit better.

"Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less," by author Greg McKeown, is a book that can help people who "feel pulled in multiple directions and can get overwhelmed," Vigmostad Giliberto said, and it helped her to "consolidate and prioritize the activities in my life, and more importantly, the thoughts in my head."

 

"Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker

Rising star: Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto, vice president, Credit Suisse

For those struggling to get in some much-needed rest, Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto recommended "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker. "This book explores sleep's impact on your body and mind," she explained.

"Before the coronavirus pandemic, I was a daily 4:30 A.M. workout warrior and advocate for holistic nutrition, but I certainly was not prioritizing sleep in my health equation."
"This was an eye-opening and convincing read," she added," that has helped me to get significantly more shut-eye."

 

 

 

"The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri

Rising star: Alice Leng, vice president and quantitative finance analyst in the data & innovation group, Bank of America

An artist on the side who paints landscapes, Alice Leng recommended Robert Henri's "The Art Spirit" in part because it taught her to respect the flow of nature in her work. 

For Leng, a machine-learning expert in BofA's data and innovation group, favorite quotes include: "Art when really understood is the province of every human being," and "For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself."

"The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell

Rising star: Rayhaneh Sharif-Askary, director of investor relations and business development, Grayscale Investments

Rayhaneh Sharif-Askar of Grayscale Investments recommended Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow."

"It's this really unique narrative that transcends time and space and involves a story that has extraterrestrial life in it. And also touches on themes of art and spirituality and society and language," Sharif-Askary said.

"A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market" by Ed Thorp

Rising star: Philip Dobrin, senior portfolio strategist, Bridgewater Associates

Senior portfolio strategist Philip Dobrin suggested Ed Thorp's autobiography "A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market" and Bill Browder's "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice".

"Reading the stories of great investors is both fun and informative," he said. "What's most interesting is the commonalities you see between the two investors despite radically different approaches and asset classes."

"Foundation" by Isaac Asimov

Rising star: Vlad Moshinsky, director, Miller Buckfire

"There's a lot of game theory involved, analyzing big data to predict outcomes," Vlad Moshinsky, a restructuring banker, told Business Insider about "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov.

"The concepts in that book and trilogy are very relevant today."

"Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction" by Dan Gardner and Philip E. Tetlock.

Rising star: Rachel Dwyer, principal, Apollo Global Management

Apollo's Rachel Dwyer put forward"Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction" by Dan Gardner and Philip E. Tetlock, which she read as part of her credit division's book club. 

"We have an Apollo book club. That is one of John Zito's (deputy CIO of Apollo Credit) brainchilds. Most of the people in the group participate in it. It's pretty interesting to read a book a month. We have Zoom get-togethers."

 

"When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi

Rising star: Shaan Tehal, vice president, Global Technology Investment Banking Group, Morgan Stanley

One of Shaan Tehal's favorite book picks is "When Breath Becomes Air," an autobiography written by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who died at age 37 from stage IV metastatic lung cancer in 2015.

The book was published by Random House after Kalanithi passed away.

Kalanithi wrote "so poignantly and beautifully about the hard questions we should ask about our life and how we live it," Tehal said. "It was a very well-written book around the deeper philosophical thoughts that you should have around life itself."

"Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein

Rising star: Shaan Tehal, vice president, Global Technology Investment Banking Group, Morgan Stanley

Another of Shaan Tehal's suggestions is a book called "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by journalist David Epstein; it was released last year.

The book, he said, "looks at the benefits of late specialization and a diversity of experience," and how knowledge in a variety of arenas can pay off "especially when solving complex problems that require creative solutions." 

"Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth

Rising star: Sharo Atmeh, equity analyst, Alyeska Investment Group

"Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth, was the pick Sharo Atmeh of Chicago-based hedge fund Alyeska Investment Group put forward.

He was impressed by how she could identify something as qualitative as "working hard" and dissect it.

 

"Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers" by Geoffrey A. Moore

Rising star: John Curtius, partner, Tiger Global

Tiger Global's John Curtius suggested "Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers" by Geoffrey A. Moore, which he calls a must-read for any aspiring tech investors

 

"Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

Miles Tobin, principal, Carlyle Group

Miles Tobin, a principal at Carlyle, said he's become more of a listener of books than a reader and that the "Catcher in the Rye", by J.D. Salinger is "one of his older but all time favorite" reads.

Read our full list of the rising stars of Wall Street shaking up investing, trading, and dealmaking.

Or take a look at their best career advice here. 

 

 

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Uber ATG has been hobbled by a deadly crash, infighting, and balky tech — and investors are losing patience with the self-driving division

  • Since launching a self-driving research program about five years ago, Uber has struggled to develop the technology.
  • A fatal crash, internal strife, and unreliable technology have created skepticism about Uber's ability to deliver a driverless car, both within and outside the company.
  • Uber says it has made improvements to its autonomous software, and the company's chairman was reportedly impressed by a February test drive.
  • Are you a current or former Uber employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected], on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address [email protected]
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Uber has said self-driving cars are essential to its future, but the ride-hailing firm's autonomy division, the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), has long struggled to make significant progress toward delivering a vehicle that can safely and efficiently move passengers and goods, obviating the need to give the bulk of each fare to a human driver. 

Part of the problem is that self-driving is really hard to make happen: Waymo has spent more than a decade on the tech, and just this month started offering a truly driverless service in the Phoenix suburbs. But Uber ATG has faced more struggles than its competitors, including the March 2018 crash in which it killed a pedestrian in Arizona, ongoing internal strife, and unreliable technology. 

Those issues have left some Uber investors frustrated and outside experts pessimistic about the division's prospects.

"I would not be surprised if Uber just pulls the plug on the whole program within the next 12 months," Guidehouse Insights research analyst Sam Abuelsamid told Business Insider in September. Unless, he said, Uber manages to sell of the division. 

Reports published by Business Insider and other outlets over the past two years, based on conversations with Uber ATG employees and internal documents, have helped explain why the project has failed to live up to its promise. 

To catch you up with the chaos and controversy surrounding Uber's efforts to build self-driving cars, we've laid out everything we know about ATG, below.

Are you a current or former Uber employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected], on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address [email protected]

The former head of ATG stole trade secrets from Waymo

Anthony Levandowski worked at Google's self-driving-car project, now called Waymo, before quitting in early 2016 to found Otto, an autonomous-truck startup that Uber bought a few months later. Levandowski then became the head of Uber's autonomous-vehicle program, which had launched the year before.

In 2017, Waymo sued Uber, alleging the ride-hailing firm had acquired Otto to access technical documents that Levandowski had taken with him when he left Google. Waymo didn't name Levandowski as a defendant in its suit (which the companies settled in 2018), but the Department of Justice in 2019 indicted the engineer on 33 counts of trade-secret theft and attempted trade-secret theft.

Levandowski pled guilty to one of those counts and in August received an 18-month prison sentence, to start after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A fatal crash exposed tech issues

In March 2018, an Uber's self-driving test vehicle hit and killed a woman in Arizona. It was the first known fatal accident involving a vehicle meant to be fully autonomous.

People who worked for Uber ATG told Business Insider that before the crash, Uber's automated-driving tech had trouble understanding its surroundings and predicting how nearby objects would move. Uber had also deactivated its test vehicles' ability to quickly hit the brakes to avoid a collision, thinking it would be safer for the person monitoring the vehicle's performance from behind the wheel to make such maneuvers to avoid unnecessary braking that could startle nearby drivers. Investigators said the safety operator behind the wheel was watching "The Voice" on her phone at the time of the collision; she was charged with negligent homicide in September.

Uber took its autonomous test vehicles off the road for nine months after the accident, left Arizona altogether, and brought them back slowly to its other testing sites. Even now, the company has fewer than 10 self-driving test vehicles on the road, Bloomberg reported in September.

An Uber representative said the company has made a number of "critical safety changes" since the March 2018 incident, including keeping its vehicles' automatic emergency-braking systems on at all times.

 

 

Uber is still struggling to refine its self-driving tech

The Information reported in September that an ATG manager sent an email to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi saying, "The car doesn't drive well" and that it "struggles with simple maneuvers." Former Uber CTO Thuan Pham told The Information that he described to Khosrowshahi his concerns about the pace of ATG's development.

"I just don't understand why, from all observable measures, the thing isn't making progress," Pham told The Information.

Last year, as Uber tried to improve the performance of its test vehicles in Pittsburgh, the vehicles made a mistake or questionable maneuver three times per mile, The Information reported. 

The Uber representative said the company has made significant improvements to its software and sensors.  

ATG has been marked by internal divisions

Over the years, rifts have emerged at ATG between employees with different backgrounds. In 2018, Business Insider reported that engineers in ATG's San Francisco office were frustrated that the former Carnegie Mellon researchers who worked in the Pittsburgh office didn't have experience building products designed for commercial use, while the Pittsburgh employees saw their San Francisco counterparts as "whiny and ungrateful."

According to The Information's September report, employees with experience at aerospace firms or government agencies believe ATG's software engineers want to develop their automated-driving tech too quickly, while the software engineers believe they're being held back by an excessive focus on safety.

 

Investors are getting restless

Bloomberg reported in September that two of Uber's biggest investors, SoftBank and Benchmark, have urged Khosrowshahi to reconsider ATG's approach and bring more outside investment into the unit. ATG has received funding from Toyota and Denso in recent years, and Eric Meyhofer, the head of ATG, suggested to The Information that Uber would seek new partners.

Uber declined to comment on Bloomberg's report.

Experts are skeptical

Abuelsamid told Business Insider in September that he wouldn't be surprised if Uber shut down ATG due to the unit's lack of meaningful progress. Guidehouse dropped Uber from its ranking of companies developing autonomous mobility services this year, and Bloomberg doesn't consider Uber one of the autonomous-vehicle industry's leaders.

Uber isn't the only company that's faced challenges in developing self-driving cars

As a whole, the autonomous-vehicle industry has not fulfilled the optimistic expectations created by companies and analysts during the 2010s. At this point, no automaker appears close to selling vehicles that can operate without human oversight, and only Waymo and Motional are giving rides to paying customers in self-driving vehicles, though both operate in relatively small areas.

Uber says improvements are coming

Uber is working on new automated-driving software, The Information and Bloomberg reported. Meyhofer told The Information that the new software will allow vehicles to better understand their surroundings, and the Uber representative told Business Insider it will speed up the implementation of new code into the company's test vehicles.

In February, Uber chairman Ron Sugar rode in self-driving prototype vehicles on a test track and came away impressed, according to The Information.

"Thanks again for a terrific visit to Uber ATG. I learned a great deal from you and your team — it well exceeded my expectations," Sugar reportedly wrote in an email to Meyhofer.

The Uber representative confirmed to Business Insider The Information's account of Sugar's visit to ATG.

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