The pandemic put the brakes on economies worldwide, but it’s also fueled a historic housing market recovery in some areas. Now that many tech industry professionals are working remotely, they’re leaving crowded cities and moving to “Zoom towns” (i.e., places in the U.S. with more elbow room than New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and similar urban areas).
Zoom Towns Will Define the Future of the Tech Industry
People who move to Zoom towns are drawn to natural amenities and a better quality of life. For example, the Hamptons offer homeowners a respite from the bustle of New York City. Between March and August 2020, housing prices in the Hamptons increased by 25%. Similarly, Truckee, a town near California’s Lake Tahoe, experienced a nearly 100% increase in housing prices during the same period.
Housing prices across the nation
These housing price booms might be exceptional — but the same trend is playing out to a less explosive degree across the country. Now that tech professionals are untethered from their offices; they’re leaving big cities en masse.
This shift will leave a lasting impact on the tech industry by redefining which states and cities are known as tech hubs.
What Makes a Zoom Town?
What are tech professionals looking for in a Zoom town? Tech professionals demand reliable broadband internet, and it might be the most important criteria.
Beyond a fast connection to the digital world, remote workers are looking for outdoor recreation opportunities (such as ski slopes, hiking trails, or biking tracks). Most individuals are leaving major cities with large populations — so they’re looking for small towns with great views.
Affordable housing is also important to tech professionals.
On average, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,900, and the median home value in California is nearly $580,000. Comparatively, a one-bedroom apartment costs just $975 per month in Kansas City, and the median home value in Missouri is only $167,700.
Tech professionals also want to live in towns with welcoming atmospheres that are close to large cities (but not too close). While the exact criteria tech professionals seek will vary from person to person, there is one thing that everyone is looking for by moving to a Zoom town: a better life.
The Benefits of Moving to a Zoom Town
Tech professionals didn’t pick cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago because they were the most desirable places to live — those areas simply offered the best career opportunities.
Now that remote work is commonplace; it has resulted in a mass exodus from California and other overpriced states.
Zoom towns offer tech professionals way more location-based benefits, including:
• A Lower Cost of Living
San Francisco’s median home price was $1.4 million in March 2021, a 9.7% year-over-year decrease but still four times the national median. Zoom towns offer tech professionals the chance to live in less crowded places with much lower living costs, which means their money goes further.
• A Better Work-Life Balance
Working remotely from a Zoom town doesn’t require a long, stressful commute. Out of all the proven benefits of working remotely, the positive impact on an individual’s work-life balance might be the most important. Since they’re not wasting time traveling to and from the office, remote workers can spend more time on the things that matter most, such as their hobbies, family, and friends.
• Outdoor Amenities
Tech professionals who are moving to Zoom towns can better pursue their favorite outdoor activities. Avid skiers might consider Idaho or Wyoming, while people who love boating might pick Missouri or Minnesota.
Tech people in Zoom towns wand recreational opportunities
There are many up-and-coming Zoom towns across the U.S., so tech workers can decide exactly which locations offer the best recreational opportunities.
It’s not hard to see why Zoom towns are growing in popularity: They offer tech professionals more benefits than crowded cities — and they deliver those benefits at an unbeatable price. That’s why many areas are seeing an influx of new residents in 2021.
Changes in the Tech Industry
The tech industry is well-suited for remote work, which is why some companies embraced flexible working arrangements even before the coronavirus crisis. Since the pandemic, however, remote work has become the new norm.
And with tech industry professionals around the country fleeing major cities to pursue better lives in Zoom towns, there’s no going back.
Companies such as Coinbase, Dropbox, and Salesforce now offer fully remote work options, and about 50% of Facebook’s staff will be able to choose permanent remote arrangements moving forward. As tech professionals spread out across the country, organizations can expand their hiring regions and diversify their workforces like Square has been doing in the Midwest.
The Zoom town phenomenon has the potential to change aspects of the tech industry that seemed set in stone, such as the concentrated urban hubs on the East and West coasts. Now, tech professionals can call in remotely from more affordable locations. Organizations that refuse to offer similar flexibilities will be left behind as employees pursue companies that value their quality of life.
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Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!