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How to register for Fast Company’s Taste of Innovation dinner series

Taste of Innovation, a unique culinary experience during Fast Company’s 8th annual Innovation Festival, features curated dinners from top chefs in NYC.

How to register for Fast Company’s Taste of Innovation dinner series

Fast Company’s 8th annual Innovation Festival returns to New York City September 19-22. The Innovation Festival will feature engaging panel discussions, interactive workshops, site visits around the city, as well as our one-of-a-kind Taste of Innovation series.

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Taste of Innovation is an exclusive dining experience with multicourse meals curated by some of New York City’s most innovative chefs. Across three days, Taste of Innovation will highlight the histories of these restaurants and the stories that inspired the dishes. Ticket holders will also have the opportunity to meet the Fast Company editorial staff and network with festival guests.

Each Taste of Innovation dinner is sold separately and not included with a festival pass. Read more about each dinner below and register for Taste of Innovation here.

Monday, September 19: 6 – 9 pm ET

Fast Lane to American Chinese Cuisine: Celebrate the rich heritage and future of Panda Express
Celebrate 35 years of Panda Express’s fan favorite, the boldly marinated orange chicken, with director of culinary innovation, chef Jimmy Wang. Take a seat inside their kitchen for a special meal, drinks, and an intimate conversation on how they continue to innovate, attract new customers, and reimagine the brand.

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Tuesday, September 20: 6 – 9 pm ET

Plant-Based Pivot: Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park pairs delicious plant-based dishes, an amazing view of Madison Square Park, and the ambition to reconfigure the restaurant model to combat food insecurity and create a sustainable and equitable food system. Feast on a variety of innovative meals created by chef Daniel Humm, and join Dominique Roy, chef de cuisine, for an exclusive presentation and discussion about the restaurant’s pivot to a plant-based menu.

Wednesday, September 21: 5 – 8:30 pm ET

Raising the Bar: Overstory/SAGA
In the heart of the Financial District in an iconic 1930s-era art deco building, enjoy a Fast Company-themed or classic cocktail at the 64th-floor cocktail lounge Overstory while you network with fellow festival attendees. Head one floor down to SAGA and explore the culinary delights created by chef James Kent. The menu features several courses inspired by flavors from around the world.

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Why companies like Nerf and Olipop are hiring TikTok creators to run their accounts

Some brands are building a following by hiring TikTok creators to take over their accounts.

Why companies like Nerf and Olipop are hiring TikTok creators to run their accounts
[Source Images: Marijan Murat/picture alliance/Getty; Olipop]

Many companies have had success with paying TikTok influencers to promote their products, but some brands are now taking it a step beyond. Organizations like Nerf are hiring creators to run their brands’ TikTok accounts, in the hopes of growing their following on the platform—and developing a long-term relationship with their audience.

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The toy brand Nerf‘s TikTok account is now run by Sophie Lightning, a creator with 2.1 million followers on the app. She is featured in most of the brand’s videos where she acts out characters in original skits, shares behind the scenes footage, and reacts to TikTok trends—always with Nerf products included. One of the most popular videos with 9.4 million views was Nerf’s take on the “is it cake?” trend where viewers guess whether an item is a Nerf toy or cake meant to look like one.

@nerf

Did we do this trend correctly??? #Nerf #fyp #viral

♬ original sound – Nerf

Companies like delivery startup GoPuff, plant-based chicken maker Simulate, and L.A. Times have also experimented with having TikTok personalities run their accounts, to varying degrees of success.

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The goal is to create engaging content and build a following on TikTok, which is driving more visibility compared to other social networks at the moment. The creator also acts as the face of the brand to help humanize the company online.

JT Barnett, the owner of a TikTok recruiting firm that connects brands with creators, says founders actually make the best brand TikTok personalities (see Bobbi Brown), but that hiring creators is a great alternative. “[Founders are] the closest to the product—it’s the easiest way to build an audience and get them to care about you,” he says.

“But the majority of these founders just don’t either have time or don’t have the energy to be the creator and be in the content, so the second best thing is to get somebody that can be in it consistently, so they can build a relationship with your audience.”

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While they perform many of the same duties as a social media manager, what’s different is that the TikTok creators are the on-screen talent in the videos and have a deeper expertise in TikTok specifically. Since the creator already has an audience on TikTok, they understand the platform enough to drive results and are comfortable being on camera and putting themselves out there.

Often brands hire a social media manager to run their accounts on multiple channels, but it’s difficult to be an expert on all the nuances of each network with this approach, Barnett says.

The arrangement appeals to creators because it’s an opportunity to get paid regularly for the kind of work they enjoy without having to chase one-off sponsorship deals. Almost 40,000 accounts on TikTok have at least a million followers, a signal that the network is becoming more saturated and there’s stiff competition for advertising dollars among creators. As a result, only 12% of full-time creators make more than $50,000 a year. For brands, paying a competitive salary or offering a fixed-fee per month to create a set number of videos for TikTok can be considerably more affordable than the usual sponsorship deals.

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Beverage company Olipop has embraced this approach by having two creators run its TikTok account. Sara Crane, a TikToker with 8,600 followers, works full-time on retainer for the brand, and Diana Rondi, who has almost 40,000 followers, also collaborates on the account part-time. Both creators are on-camera in most of the brand’s TikToks. They lip synch to trending sounds, act out comedic skits, share recipes, and announce new flavors to the company’s TikTok following. According to Olipop, the pair helped grow the brand’s following from 1,000 to 34,000 followers in six months. 

@drinkolipop

drop your guesses below ???? & text FIRSTSIP to 833-765-0935 to shop our new flavor in just 2️⃣ 3️⃣ short hours‼️#olipop #drinkolipop #olipoptiktok #soda #healthysoda #newflavorlaunch #newflavoralert #newflavor #sodaalternative #teaser

♬ original sound – nostalgia central????

It’s more efficient having creators in-house, says Steven Vigilante, Olipop’s head of new business development. It also allows you to create more authentic content than it would be to rely on an outside agency or a traditional social media manager. 

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Not all creators are a match, though, according to Barnett, who notes that a creator with more than 50,000 followers and a consistent flow of brand deals is unlikely to commit to one company. “We actually try to find creators that have made good enough content to where they’ve already started building a little bit of a community,” he says. Maybe they only have 5,000 followers, but they’re already getting traction and momentum—and have an interest in running a brand’s account and making stable income via TikTok. “You would be surprised how many people are in that place, that’s what they want to do,” he says.

To ensure these partnerships succeed, he says, it’s important to give the creator the creative freedom to guide your TikTok, as they’re best suited to determine what content might resonate for the brand. Unlike the transactional nature of the usual creator relationship, integrate them as part of the team so they’re celebrated for their contributions, are closer to the product, are aware of what’s happening at the company, and are given the opportunity to contribute beyond just TikTok.

Supporting creators in this capacity can help minimize the risks of them leaving abruptly after building a connection with your audience or sharing something inappropriate as the brand. And, most important, they need to be fairly compensated for their contributions, otherwise they won’t be part of the team for long, given the demand for their skills is on the rise.

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About the author

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant, adjunct professor, and LinkedIn Learning instructor.

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Black founders only receive 1.4% VC funds—here’s how to change that

In an industry that is driven by relationships, the disparities in venture capital allocation are clearly tied to who is signing the checks for whom.

Black founders only receive 1.4% VC funds—here’s how to change that
[Source Images: Getty]

Did you ever have to write a letter to your younger self at school? It’s a humbling feeling to look back and wonder what you wish you could have communicated to your past self.

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As I develop my next venture, 2045 Studio, I realize how much more I know now than eight years ago, when I quit my job in finance and took a terrific gamble on my career.

When I started building my first business, Jopwell, I knew I was up against difficult odds. For one, I had never started a business before (I was only 24!). I was not (and still am not) an engineer.  And I was going to be a Black founder. 

That last point means that I belong to a group that, at the time, received less than 1% of venture capital funds. In 2021, 8 years later, that number had only increased to 1.4%.

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Another obstacle at that time which still exists today was the lack of representation at the investor level. Black investors make up only 3% of the VC industry. In a survey conducted by BLCK VC, 90% of firms with more than seven investors didn’t have a single Black investor on their team. In an industry that is driven by personal connections and relationships – whether you’re an investor or a founder – the disparities in venture capital allocation are clearly tied to who is signing the checks for whom.

I knew a lot of this when I started. What I didn’t know was how utterly alone I would feel. From the lack of VC investors who looked like me to being typecast by the press as a “Black founder,” my experiences in the past decade have shown me how different the economic and psychological stakes are for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.

Being the “only” in a room full of VCs gets easier as you progress in your career, but the feeling never leaves you. Especially since you know everyone sees it too. 

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None of the above is unique to the Black founder community. In 2020, only 2.3% of VC funding went to startups led by women. In the same year, 28% of startups had at least one female member, even though we all know women make up roughly 50% of the population. Perhaps just as telling is the fact that women are more likely to get funding if they have a male founder on their team. On the other side of the industry, women make up only 5.7% of VC partners. Given that women make 70-80% of consumer purchases in American households, it seems ridiculous that they should be so absent from building the future of the economy.

The same argument could be made for people of color.  The year 2045 will be when people of color are expected to be the ‘majority’ in the US. The so-called “minorities” (see my perspective on the word “minority” here) will not be in the minority much longer. How can investors justify excluding the people who understand these economically influential communities from their investments? How can they claim to understand consumer trends when their senior teams don’t reflect the nation’s greatest demographic shift in a century? The stewards of capital are responsible for putting their money where their mouths are. Hiring more diverse investors leads directly to more equitable distributions of capital.

How the founder community can pay it forward

VC firms can help drive a lot of change, but the founder community also has to pay it forward. There is no way it’s going to get better for the next generation of diverse founders unless we acknowledge the uniqueness of our journeys and work to provide additional support.

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I remember when we started Jopwell, it felt like there was zero connectivity to founders who looked like me or had similar backgrounds. I personally didn’t know any other Black founders who had successfully raised capital – not that there weren’t any – I just didn’t know them. I also didn’t know that there were different kinds of capital to raise, each with its own strategic purpose. My lack of education as a founder, combined with my identity as a Black man in a very white industry, made me much more conservative about my business and its potential.

In the beginning, that actually wasn’t a terrible strategy: thinking with a small business mindset and focusing on building something that made money and survived was good for Jopwell. But it also prevented me from thinking bigger; it made it harder to envision the impact I could have at scale. Those limitations came from what I thought I could expect to accomplish, and it’s something I wish I had more help overcoming.

Even once we hit a stride and started growing the team, I found myself falling prey to the other silent killer: Impostor Syndrome. No matter how confident you are as a person, building something that matters to you produces self-doubt. It’s natural and common, but for founders from marginalized backgrounds, it’s doubly felt because we see so few examples of ourselves in our line of work. When you assume that most of the people you talk to – investors, other founders, corporate partners – don’t understand the feeling of being an impostor, it only makes you more afraid to acknowledge and work through it.

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As I became more accustomed to seeing people talk about me in the press as a “Black founder”, I realized it was important for other Black founders to see someone like me. Everything came full circle. It was clear that no matter how frustrated I was by the label of it, the reality was that I had a chance to have a positive impact on others because representation matters. 
I wish I could tell all of that and more to my 24-year-old self.

A cultural shift

Over the next few months, I’ll share what we’re building at 2045 Studio. Many of our projects will focus on increasing representation, deploying capital to underrepresented groups, and scaling products and services for the ‘new’ majority.

There’s so much we can do to try to improve representation in the VC industry, from dedicated accelerator programs to innovative hiring programs. Some firms have already been leading this charge successfully – Kapor Capital is one excellent example I’ve worked with in the past.

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But it will also take a cultural shift. As the ethnic composition of our country evolves, so must the economy and business leadership. And not just because it’s the right, equitable thing to do – but because the economic vitality of our nation depends on increasing access to capital, resources and talent.

Change starts with empathy. That’s what always connects us. If you’re a founder, investor, or aspiring entrepreneur, trust me when I say: you will not succeed if you cannot connect with people. As we work to improve the visibility of founders from diverse backgrounds at 2045 Studio, I hope we can help connect more people at scale by sharing their incredible stories.

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About the author

Porter Braswell is the Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Jopwell, Founder of 2045 Studio, author of Let Them See You, and host of the podcast Race at Work. Subscribe to his weekly content pieces at Diversity Explained.

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No one likes audits, but more IRS agents could bring its workforce closer to historical norms

According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, Congress has actually reduced the IRS budget by about 20% since 2010, once adjusted for inflation.

No one likes audits, but more IRS agents could bring its workforce closer to historical norms
[Source Images: iStock]

Democrats are gambling that a bigger IRS will equal a better IRS. The sweeping Inflation Reduction Act passed yesterday by the Senate allocates $80 billion to beef up the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the next decade, most notably by hiring another 87,000 agents.

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The goal, supporters say, is to amplify tax-enforcement efforts and aim more of them at corporations and individual high-income earners. Their argument is that more money could be collected by auditing these groups than by going after folks in the lower- and middle-income brackets who underpay their taxes or make math errors on their 1099s. Lately, the IRS has grown more reliant on these sorts of automated audits—they drain almost no resources; unlike, say, targeted enforcement against corporations or rich people with big teams of tax lawyers.

The Republican National Committee has claimed that “this army of new IRS agents [will] disproportionately target poorer Americans.” In response, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig vowed in a letter to Congress last week that the agency’s new enforcement money won’t mean more audits for anyone earning less than $400,000.

Regardless, conservatives aren’t responding well to news that more eyeballs will be laid on Americans’ tax returns.

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Senator Ted Cruz of Texas likened the increase to “asking for an infestation of locust and lice.”

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The agency’s losing fight for resources stretches back years—until now. You may recall the news in March that the IRS had found a way to hire 10,000 more agents to help clear a backlog of more than 20 million unprocessed tax returns. (Fewer Republicans complained back then.) Adding 80,000 more agents via the Inflation Reduction Act will be the agency’s largest-ever hiring spree.

Still, it begs the question: How big has the IRS been, historically?

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The short answer is larger for the past 10 years, plus many years before that, though according to a review of the agency’s data, the size has fluctuated. From the mid-1960s—when the IRS’s annual congressional reports began including workforce size—until 2010, the pattern was an upward-sloping line, but a year-by-year study of the reports shows the workforce size has never kept up with expenditures or revenues.

During that nearly half a century, the agency’s operating costs increased 20-fold: from $625 million in 1966 to nearly $12.4 billion in 2010. Tax revenues also increased about twentyfold: from $129 billion to $2.3 trillion. The workforce size increased less than onefold, from 63,000 to 107,000. It was actually back in 1987, under President Reagan, that the IRS’s workforce size first broke 100,000 employees. Operating costs then were $4.4 billion. The agency continued to employ more than 100,000 workers up until 2011, when cuts started shrinking the agency’s budget, although, by then, expenditures had climbed to $12.4 billion.

The IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service says that since 2010, Congress has actually reduced the budget by about 20%, once adjusted for inflation. The workforce has decreased by even more, reaching 78,661 last year, with operating costs of $13.7 billion. Proponents of better resourcing the agency argue that various Republican-led Congresses and the White House have diverted funding for so long that even $80 billion might not be enough to resolve all the problems.

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Erin Collins, the IRS’s national taxpayer advocate, has lately also been painting pictures of hard times inside the agency. “When funds are tight, organizations need to get creative and find ways to do with less,” she wrote early last year. “But there are limits to what can be done with less—particularly with 20% less.”

In 2020, she noted, the IRS received over 100 million phone calls. Employees answered just 24% of them. Hold times averaged 18 minutes. “Put differently,” Collins added, “IRS employees did not answer more than 75 million telephone calls from taxpayers seeking help in complying with their tax obligations.”

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Thinking of becoming a digital nomad? Set sail for these 10 best beaches for remote workers

Payroll company Remote ranked the world’s sandy shores by rent price and internet speed. Here are its winners.

Thinking of becoming a digital nomad? Set sail for these 10 best beaches for remote workers
Brades, Montserrat. [Photo: courtesy Remote]

Two years after the Great Office Shutdown, so to speak, remote work is growing fast. And with it comes the possibility of picking a home not because it’s close to your office, but because it’s somewhere you want to live—like by the beach, for example, where it’s sunny all year long, winter is just a dream, and rent is actually affordable.

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Before the pandemic, 4% of jobs were remote—but that rose to 15% by the end of 2021, and it’s slated to grow to 25% by the end of 2022, according to data from Ladders, a job search firm. Meanwhile, Google searches for remote jobs have increased by 72% as people keep dreaming of the possibilities of finally abandoning their office cubicles.

To aid the search, global HR and payroll company Remote compiled a list of the best beachside locations for remote work, based on factors including average internet speed, average monthly rent, and crime rate (on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the safest).

Here are the firm’s top picks:

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  1. Brades, Montserrat
    Internet speed: 0.7 Mbps
    Average rent: $313
    Crime rate: 0
  2. The Valley, Anguilla
    Internet speed: 18.16 Mbps
    Average rent: $748
    Crime rate: 16.67
  3. Zadar, Croatia
    Internet speed: 19.82 Mbps
    Average rent: $437
    Crime rate: 28.12
  4. Lagos, Portugal
    Internet speed: 0.7 Mbps
    Average rent: $638
    Crime rate: 25
  5. Taghazout, Morocco
    Internet speed: 4.16 Mbps
    Average rent: $152
    Crime rate: 34.29
  6. St. George’s, Bermuda
    Internet speed: 102.77 Mbps
    Average rent: $1,637
    Crime rate: 42.33
  7. Goa, India
    Internet speed: 7.53 Mbps
    Average rent: $243
    Crime rate: 47.63
  8. Flic-en-Flac, Mauritius
    Internet speed: 6.15 Mbps
    Average rent: $449
    Crime rate: 50.5
  9. Bridgetown, Barbados
    Internet speed: 60.25 Mbps
    Average rent: $366
    Crime rate: 41.67
  10. Noord, Aruba
    Internet speed: 61.55 Mbps
    Average rent: $666
    Crime rate: 43.75
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