Friday, December 9, 2011

Media Mogul

The ninth of 10 children, Robert L. Johnson was born in Mississippi in 1946. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and a Master's degree in International Affairs from Princeton University. After graduating, Johnson moved to Washington, D.C. where he lobbied on behalf of the budding cable television industry. During his time in the nation's capital, he established business and political connections that would later help him fund his dream.

While working as a lobbyist, Johnson realized that the African American population was largely underserved in the cable industry. He obtained a $15,000 loan as well as a $500 million investment and launched Black Entertainment Television (BET) in January of 1980. At its inception, BET aired mainly music videos and reruns of black sitcoms; but the network blossomed over the next decade adding a variety of news and special interest programs aimed at African Americans to its lineup.

BET became the first African American-controlled company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991; and by 2001, Johnson was listed on the Forbes list of the world's richest people, making him one of the first African American billionaires to make the list. Although Johnson sold the network to Viacom in 2003, he continues to support African American interests. One of his biggest campaigns is aimed at reducing unemployment in black communities. His proposal calls for companies to consider several African American candidates when hiring for senior level positions. His proposal also calls for companies to consider African American companies when contracting out work which would decrease the number of unemployed African Americans.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It All Started With a List

Chances are you've never heard of Craig Newmark but you've heard of his list. Newmark is the founder of Craigslist, the extremely popular online classified site that helps users find everything from cars and apartments to jobs and local events. After receiving Bachelors and Masters degrees from Case Western Reserve University in the 1970s, Newmark spent 30 years working in the computer field for a variety of companies including Bank of America, Charles Schwab, GM and IBM.

When Newmark relocated to San Francisco in 1995, he started a list of all his friends' e-mail addresses. He sent notifications of area events to the list and before long, many people were asking to be added to the list and to have their events or job openings distributed. As the distribution list grew, new categories were added including job openings and for sale items. In 1996, Craigslist transitioned from an e-mail distribution list to a website and by 2000, pages were added for Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and six other regions. That same year, Newmark realized that the project he considered his hobby had grown by leaps and bounds and decided to hire nine employees to help develop and maintain the site.

Until 2004, all listings on Craigslist were free, regardless of the category. Starting in 2004, the company began charging  certain listings such as job postings in some of the larger markets. Despite this fact, Newmark does not focus on the fact that his site could be making more money if he charged  all listings or added advertising; however,he is more interested in helping people find what they need. Newmark works at Craigslist not as an executive as many might think but rather as a customer service representative seeking out people using Craigslist to scam others.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Many Applications

Depending on where you’re coming from, the company Garmin may give you different impressions. I first heard about this company because of running. They have a line of watches that not only monitor your heart rate, but also your speed and distance travelled through the use of GPS.

So I was under the impression that this must have been a watch company that had become more sophisticated and was now using GPS. In fact, some of their great watches feature a digital running man which lets you know if you are running at the pace you planned and can tell you if you’re falling behind or running too fast ahead.

After a bit of research, I found out that the company’s main line of business really has to do with producing products with GPS applications. I initially thought Garmin was an acronym for something sophisticated only to find out that it stood for the first names of the company founders Gary Burrell and Min Kao; but the products they produce, though customer friendly have sophisticated technology behind them.

Garmin started out with a marine product and then moved into handheld GPS devices which were heavily used by the military industry.  From then on, the company has been producing many products with GPS applications. Created in 1989, the company continues to grow. Annual sales in 2010 stood at $2.7 billion.

Combining GPS and mapping is so useful. The most important thing is you know where you are, or in other words you won’t get lost.  It gives you the capability to track yourself or track others be they persons, bicycles, cars, boats, or airplanes.

The applications for GPS just keep on growing, Garmin even has products with GPS applications for golf!  By offering more products for general public use, this company will become more recognizable, and it looks like it will continue its growth.

This company was able to take advantage of a technology (GPS) that is free for civilian use and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business.