Animated Map: The Comparative Might of Continents


This post is by Iman Ghosh from Visual Capitalist

Animated Map: The Comparative Might of Continents

We’ve come quite a long way since the time of Pangea. Today, the world’s continents are home to over 7.8 billion people, and each one is unique in its own way.

This video from the data visualization tool Vizzu compares the surface area, population, and GDP of the continents—all in terms of their contribution to the world’s total. Let’s dive further into the results of each category.

Click through to source to see the country breakdowns. Antarctica has been excluded from these calculations.

Surface Area: Does Size Matter?

When it comes to sheer land mass, Asia emerges on top with over one-third of the global surface area. On that front, it certainly has a little help from the combined forces of Russia and China, even as the former overlaps Eastern Europe as well.

Rank Region Share of Global Surface Area Largest Country
#1 Asia 36.5% 🇷🇺 Russia
#2 Africa 22.3% 🇩🇿 Algeria
#3 North America 17.1% 🇨🇦 Canada
#4 South America 13.2% 🇧🇷 Brazil
#5 Oceania 6.4% 🇦🇺 Australia
#6 Europe 4.6% 🇷🇺 Russia

Africa comes in second, but doesn’t lag behind by much. A stone’s throw from Europe, Algeria is the largest country on the continent—and the 10th largest in the world.

Failing to grasp the true size of Africa is a common mental mistake, as many maps systematically underestimate its scale. The continent could easily fit the entirety of China, India, the U.S., and multiple European countries within its borders.

Population: Packing People Together

Another way to look at things is in terms of the number of inhabitants in each region. Asia is once again on top, with almost two-thirds of the world squeezed onto the continent.

Rank Region Share of Global Population Most Populous Country
#1 Asia 61.8% 🇨🇳 China
#2 Africa 16.1% 🇳🇬 Nigeria
#3 Europe 8.2% 🇷🇺 Russia
#4 North America 7.7% 🇺🇸 U.S.
#5 South America 5.6% 🇧🇷 Brazil
#6 Oceania 0.5% 🇦🇺 Australia

Asia’s lead in population is impressive, but it’s a margin that is unlikely to last forever.

By the year 2100—new estimates show the populations India and China could start to dip. Meanwhile Nigeria, which is already Africa’s most populous continent with near 196 million people, could potentially quadruple in numbers in the same time frame.

In this metric, Europe also rises to third place. This is thanks again to the approximately 146 million people within Russia. However, if only the countries located completely within the continent are considered, Germany’s population of nearly 84 million would win out.

GDP: Emerging Wealth Overtakes

Finally, economic output—measured in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—is the most common way to assess the relative prosperity of countries and continents.

At this, the U.S. dominates with $21.4T according to the World Bank, though it swaps places with China which boasts $23.5T when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP).

Rank Region Share of Global GDP Richest Country (both nominal and PPP)
#1 Asia 36.9% 🇨🇳 China
#2 North America 28.9% 🇺🇸 U.S.
#3 Europe 23.9% 🇩🇪 Germany
#4 South America 5.1% 🇧🇷 Brazil
#5 Africa 3.1% 🇳🇬 Nigeria
#6 Oceania 2.1% 🇦🇺 Australia

Source: World Bank for both GDP Nominal and PPP, 2019.

Global wealth share drops sharply between Europe and South America, though it’s worth noting that rising inequality is also hidden under the surface within many high-income regions.

In terms of overall GDP, the Asian continent makes up the lion’s share. Asia is also home to many of the world’s emerging markets—which means there may be an even more pronounced shift of wealth towards the East in coming decades.

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Such Great Heights: Where Are the World’s Tallest Buildings?


This post is by Iman Ghosh from Visual Capitalist

The Tallest Buildings on Every Continent 1200px

Such Great Heights: The World’s Tallest Buildings

It seems that humanity is always vying to exceed our past accomplishments, and nowhere is the evidence clearer than in the tallest buildings that make up our cities.

We’ve previously looked at how the architectural feats of humanity have simply grown in magnitude over time, tracing this progress as far back as the Stone Age.

The question now is, how much higher and further into the skies can we reach? This infographic by Alan’s Factory Outlet looks at the glittering urban skyscrapers on every continent. We also examine some interesting facts about each region.

Asia: Growing Ever Upwards

The first name on this list certainly needs no introduction. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East. With just a one minute elevator ride to the Burj Khalifa’s pinnacle, it must seem like even the sky is no longer the limit.

Building City, Country Height # Floors
Burj Khalifa 🇦🇪 Dubai, UAE 828m / 2,715ft 163
Shanghai Tower 🇨🇳 Shanghai, China 632m / 2,073ft 128
Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel 🇸🇦 Mecca, Saudi Arabia 601m / 1,971ft 120
Goldin Finance 117 🇨🇳 Tianjin, China 597m / 1,958ft 128
Ping An Finance Center 🇨🇳 Shenzhen, China 592m / 1,965ft 115

Ping An Finance Center from Shenzhen edges into fifth place on the list, and it’s worth mentioning the speed of change occurring in the city. China’s hi-tech capital will see the completed construction of approximately 51 buildings over 145m (476ft) by the end of 2020.

North America: Concrete Jungle

The One World Trade Center, built to memorialize the loss of the Twin Towers after September 11th, 2001, is also informally called the “Freedom Tower”. It’s exactly 1,776ft high—symbolizing the year the U.S. Declaration of Independence was adopted.

Building City, Country Height # Floors
One World Trade Center 🇺🇸 New York City, U.S. 541m / 1,776ft 104
Central Park Tower 🇺🇸 New York City, U.S. 472m / 1,550ft 98
Willis Tower 🇺🇸 Chicago, U.S. 442.1m / 1,451ft 110
111 West 57th Street 🇺🇸 New York City, U.S. 435m / 1,428ft 82
One Vanderbilt 🇺🇸 New York City, U.S. 427m / 1,401ft 67

While the Central Park Tower has reached its full height, parts of the interior are still undergoing construction. The price of luxury apartments in the complex start at $7 million for a two-bedroom, just in case you had any extra change lying around.

In fact, the illustrious New York City holds four of the top five buildings on the continent. However, a nod also goes to the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago, an imposing office building which held the title of world’s tallest building for 25 years, until the Petronas Towers were erected in Kuala Lumpur.

Europe: Russia’s Reign

The top five tallest buildings in Europe can all be found in Russia. What’s more, those from Moscow are all clustered within a single towering business district known as “Moscow-City”.

Building City, Country Height # Floors
Lakhta Center 🇷🇺 Saint Petersburg, Russia 462.5m / 1,517ft 87
Federation Tower: East Tower 🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia 373.7m / 1,226ft 101
OKO: South Tower 🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia 354.1m / 1,161ft 85
Neva Tower 2 🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia 345m / 1,132ft 79
Mercury City Tower 🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia 338.8m / 1,112ft 75

This begs the question—why doesn’t Europe build more skyscrapers? There’s an interesting historical reasoning behind this. As North America’s new age ideals and influence on the world stage grew, European cultural values focused on preserving heritage.

Of course, with globalization, things have changed somewhat, and major financial centers of London, Paris and more boast unique skylines of their own.

Oceania: The Views Down Under

Australia’s buildings unsurprisingly dominate the tallest ones in the region. In the surfer’s paradise, Q1 on the Gold Coast has a twist in its design—literally. Its architecture is loosely based on studies of ribbons moving in the wind, as they wrap around the tower.

Building City, Country Height # Floors
Q1 🇦🇺 Gold Coast, Australia 323m / 1,058 ft 78
Australia 108 🇦🇺 Melbourne, Australia 316.7m / 1,039 ft 100
Eureka Tower 🇦🇺 Melbourne, Australia 297m / 974.4ft 91
Crown Sydney 🇦🇺 Sydney, Australia 271.3m / 889.1ft 75
Aurora Melbourne Central 🇦🇺 Melbourne, Australia 270.5m / 889.1 ft 92

The Eureka Tower has a fascinating story behind it, too. It’s named after the 1854 Victorian gold rush, with elements of the building reflecting this history—from a gold crown to a red stripe for revolutionary bloodshed.

South America: Views From the Top

The tallest buildings in South America are mainly residential, and often found in Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela—but Chile is the one standout exception to this rule.

Building City, Country Height # Floors
Gran Torre Santiago 🇨🇱 Santiago, Chile 300m / 984ft 62
Yachthouse Residence Club Towers 1 and 2 🇧🇷 Balneário Camboriú, Brazil 281m / 922ft 81
Alvear Tower 🇦🇷 Buenos Aires, Argentina 239m / 784ft 54
Infinity Coast 🇧🇷 Balneário Camboriú, Brazil 235m / 771ft 66
Parque Central Complex: East Tower 🇻🇪 Caracas, Venezuela 225m / 738ft 59

Gran Torre Santiago is a retail and office complex, and the largest shopping mall across Latin America. It’s often considered the heart of Chile, and built to hold its ground steadfastly in the earthquake-prone country.

Africa: Budding Buildings

Located in South Africa’s largest city, The Leonardo is the jewel of Johannesburg. The tallest building in Africa was also designed by an architectural team of mostly women.

Building City, Country Height # Floors
The Leonardo 🇿🇦 Johannesburg, South Africa 234m / 768ft 55
Carlton Center 🇿🇦 Johannesburg, South Africa 223m / 732ft 50
Britam Tower 🇰🇪 Nairobi, Kenya 200m / 660ft 31
Ponte City Apartments 🇿🇦 Johannesburg, South Africa 173m / 568ft 54
UAP Tower 🇰🇪 Nairobi, Kenya 163m / 535 ft 33

For African nations, these tallest buildings mean much more than just breaking engineering records. In a journal article, it’s posited that skyscrapers can act as a symbol of power and the continent’s drive towards modernity.

Future Superstar Skyscrapers

A few more mammoth buildings are expected to rise up in the next couple years. Saudi Arabia’s 167-floor Jeddah Tower, while currently on hold, could someday take over the first place crown.

Meanwhile, Dubai’s set to outdo itself—and compete directly with Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom Tower is inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and is proposed to break the 1 kilometer-high (or 0.6 mile) mark not yet achieved by any building.

Who knows what greater heights we could scale this century?

Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.

—Adrienne Clarkson, Former Governor General of Canada

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Ethical Supply: The Search for Cobalt Beyond the Congo


This post is by Sponsored Content from Visual Capitalist

The following content is sponsored by Fuse Cobalt.

Ethical Supply: The Search for Cobalt Beyond the Congo

Ethical Supply: The Search for Cobalt Beyond the Congo

Each new generation finds new uses for materials, and cobalt is no exception.

Historically, potters and painters used cobalt as dye to color their work. Today, a new cobalt supply chain is emerging to build the next generation of clean energy.

However, there is lack of transparency surrounding the current supply chain for cobalt, as the metal is subject to a number of ethical issues from its main country of production—the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Today’s infographic comes to us from Fuse Cobalt and uncovers the potential for new sources of cobalt beyond the Congo.

Cobalt’s Growing Demand

Cobalt’s specialized properties make it crucial for rechargeable batteries, metal alloys, and EVs:

  • Thermal stability
  • High energy storage
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Aesthetic appeal

As the markets for EVs and rechargeable batteries grow, the demand for cobalt is expected to surge to 220,000 metric tons by 2025, a 63% increase since 2017.

But can industry meet its demand with a supply of ethically mined cobalt?

A Precarious Supply Chain

In 2019, the DRC produced 70% of global mined cobalt—a majority of which went to China, the leading importer of mined cobalt and an exporter of refined cobalt.

Moreover, 8 of the 14 largest cobalt mines in the DRC are owned by Chinese companies, resulting in a highly controlled supply chain.

Why the Democratic Republic of Congo?

When it comes to cobalt reserves and concentrations, DRC looms over the rest of the world as a clear leader.

Country Cobalt reserves as of 2019 (tons)
Congo (Kinshasa) 3,600,000
Australia 1,200,000
Cuba 500,000
Philippines 260,000
Russia 250,000
Canada 230,000
Madagascar 120,000
China 80,000
Papua New Guinea 56,000
United States 55,000
South Africa 50,000
Morocco 18,000
Rest of the World 500,000
World total (rounded) 7,000,000

The African Copper Belt hosts the majority of the DRC’s cobalt deposits, where it is primarily mined as a by-product of copper and nickel mining.

Low labor costs, loose regulations, and poor governance in the DRC allow for the flourishing of artisanal mining and cheap sources of cobalt.

However, cobalt from the DRC is tainted by ethical and humanitarian issues, including:

  • Child labor
  • Corruption
  • Crime
  • Poverty
  • Hazardous artisanal mining

With the current supply chain of cobalt facing scrutiny and criticism, a transformation in the cobalt universe is well underway.

Cobalt’s Changing Landscape

As consumers become aware of the dirty costs of cobalt mining in the DRC, EV and battery manufacturing companies are looking for ethical sources.

Tesla, BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen are part of more than 380 companies that have committed to responsible sourcing through the Responsible Minerals Initiative. Responsible sourcing entails increasing supply chain transparency and searching for sources of cobalt outside the DRC.

Here’s how some companies are leading the way:

  • Ford, Huayou Cobalt, IBM, LG Chem, and RCS Global are using blockchain technology to improve transparency and trace the sources of cobalt.
  • BMW signed a $110 million deal for cobalt from Morocco’s Bou Azzar Mine, in an effort to avoid cobalt sourced from the DRC.
  • Tesla agreed to buy 6,000 tonnes of cobalt annually from Glencore, a multinational company financing North America’s first cobalt refinery.

The U.S. recently added cobalt to its list of critical minerals—minerals for which it seeks independence from imports. The effort aims to reduce its net import reliance of 78% for cobalt, encouraging more localized and reliable production.

As a result of these shifts, the entire supply chain is beginning to reconsider cobalt sources in better-managed jurisdictions.

Cobalt Beyond the Congo: Why Not North America?

North America has comparable sources of cobalt to what is found in the Congo. As of 2019, Canada had 230,000 tons in cobalt reserves, whereas the U.S. had 55,000 tons.

Canadian Opportunity

Ontario hosts some high-grade cobalt deposits such as the Cobalt Silver Queen, Nova Scotia, Drummond, Nipissing, and Cobalt Lode mines.

In fact, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires from the Breakthrough Energy Fund are already fueling the exploration and development of cobalt deposits in North America.

Unsung North American Potential

The United States is home to 60 identified deposits of cobalt. These sources along with Canada’s deposits, should provide explorers and miners with a massive opportunity to develop cobalt mining in North America.

As the EV industry booms with gigafactories in construction, will North American carmakers and other battery makers be able to pivot to ethical, local raw materials?

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The 100 Most Popular City Destinations


This post is by Theras A.G. Wood from Visual Capitalist

100 Most Popular City Destinations for Travel

The 100 Most Popular City Destinations

The pandemic has grounded many of us, but it can’t curb human wanderlust.

Cities like Hong Kong, Bangkok, and London have led city destination rankings for years, but movement within the ranks below them—revealed in the above infographic—help to highlight the intriguing travel trends happening before COVID-19.

With data from Euromonitor International’s 2019 travel report, we can uncover where travelers are likely headed once their passports are useful again. Pulling data from 400 cities, collected into mid-2019, the report encompasses millions of international travelers who stayed at their destination longer than 24 hours.

Here’s a closer look at where travelers are likely to touch down in post-pandemic life.

Not-So-Lonely At the Top

Although the top of this list has remained fairly stable in terms of rank in recent years, two cities have seen an impressive influx of travelers.

Paris and Istanbul both made significant gains between 2017 and 2019 with 20.6% and 37.2% growth in visitors respectively:

Note that only one North American city, New York City, is found in this top 10. As well, Asian cities account for half of the leading group, with two of the top 10 cities are located in China. Although Hong Kong leads the top 100 list, political turmoil led to a marked decline of international visitors of 4.2% from 2017 to 2019.

The largest rank changes in the top 10 were made by Macau and Istanbul, but the rise was subtle. Both cities gained two spots each between 2013 and 2018, though each had sizable traveler growth rates, with Macau growing by 19.0%.

Rank City Country Arrivals (Millions) 5yr Rank Change Growth (’17-19)
1 Hong Kong China (SAR) 29.26 -4.2%
2 Bangkok Thailand 24.17 15.1%
3 London United Kingdom 19.23 -1.4%
4 Macau China (SAR) 18.93 2 19.0%
5 Singapore Singapore 18.55 -1 12.2%
6 Paris France 17.56 -1 20.6%
7 Dubai UAE 15.92 3.4%
8 New York City US 13.60 1 7.0%
9 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 13.43 1 9.6%
10 Istanbul Turkey 13.43 2 37.2%
11 Delhi India 12.65 30 49.6%
12 Antalya Turkey 12.44 -1 40.6%
13 Shenzhen China 12.20 -5 2.0%
14 Mumbai India 10.59 28 38.5%
15 Phuket Thailand 10.55 8.4%
16 Rome Italy 10.07 -3 8.3%
17 Tokyo Japan 9.99 15 9.3%
18 Pattaya Thailand 9.61 -1 8.9%
19 Taipei Taiwan, China 9.60 -1 7.7%
20 Mecca Saudi Arabia 9.57 1 0.3%
21 Guangzhou China 9.00 -5 0.1%
22 Prague Czechia 8.95 -3 3.9%
23 Medina Saudi Arabia 8.55 1 0.7%
24 Seoul South Korea 8.43 -10 19.1%
25 Amsterdam Netherlands 8.35 3 12.6%
26 Agra India 8.14 38 52.6%
27 Miami US 8.12 -7 6.9%
28 Osaka Japan 7.86 69 36.2%
29 Los Angeles US 7.50 -7 7.8%
30 Shanghai China 7.48 -7 7.8%
31 Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam 7.20 6 31.6%
32 Denpasar Indonesia 7.19 13 37.5%
33 Barcelona Spain 6.71 -6 11.6%
34 Las Vegas US 6.59 -9 -0.8%
35 Milan Italy 6.48 -9 3.9%
36 Chennai India 6.42 7 55.8%
37 Vienna Austria 6.41 -8 7.1%
38 Johor Bahru Malaysia 6.40 8 29.8%
39 Jaipur India 6.38 29 42.9%
40 Cancun Mexico 6.04 17 1.8%
41 Berlin Germany 5.96 -10 10.1%
42 Cairo Egypt 5.75 18 55.1%
43 Athens Greece 5.73 18 31.3%
44 Orlando US 5.55 -10 8.7%
45 Moscow Russia 5.51 -10 24.4%
46 Venice Italy 5.50 -16 5.3%
47 Madrid Spain 5.44 -8 6.3%
48 Ha Long Vietnam 5.29 14 44.0%
49 Riyadh Saudi Arabia 5.27 -9 0.9%
50 Dublin Ireland 5.21 -12 9.4%
51 Florence Italy 5.06 -15 3.9%
52 Ha Noi Vietnam 4.69 21 19.3%
53 Toronto Canada 4.51 10.5%
54 Johannesburg South Africa 4.12 -10 3.4%
55 Sydney Australia 4.09 1 12.1%
56 Munich Germany 4.06 -7 11.0%
57 Jakarta Indonesia 4.03 17 30.9%
58 Beijing China 4.00 -25 3.8%
59 St. Petersburg Russia 4.00 -11 23.9%
60 Brussels Belgium 3.94 -13 24.8%
61 Jerusalem Israel 3.93 -9 27.0%
62 Budapest Hungary 3.82 -7 10.4%
63 Lisbon Portugal 3.54 9 3.4%
64 Dammam Saudi Arabia 3.50 -14 0.3%
65 Penang Island Malaysia 3.44 -2 16.3%
66 Heraklion Greece 3.40 -1 -3.8%
67 Kyoto Japan 3.29 58 4.4%
68 Zhuhai China 3.26 -9 4.4%
69 Vancouver Canada 3.21 13 13.3%
70 Chiang Mai Thailand 3.20 6 4.2%
71 Copenhagen Denmark 3.07 8 7.8%
72 San Francisco US 2.90 -14 3.1%
73 Melbourne Australia 2.89 12 20.9%
74 Krakow Poland 2.85 -8 3.9%
75 Marrakech Morocco 2.84 2 13.1%
76 Kolkatta India 2.83 14 22.3%
77 Cebu Philippines 2.81 51 -4.2%
78 Auckland New Zealand 2.80 6 9.7%
79 Tel Aviv Israel 2.78 -8 16.0%
80 Guilin China 2.75 29 19.7%
81 Honolulu US 2.74 -11 6.0%
82 Hurgada Egypt 2.74 45 108.1%
83 Warsaw Poland 2.73 -16 7.2%
84 Mugla Turkey 2.72 -33 47.5%
85 Buenos Aires City Argentina 2.69 -31 8.6%
86 Chiba Japan 2.68 106 14.4%
87 Frankfurt Germany 2.64 -7 9.2%
88 Stockholm Sweden 2.60 10.1%
89 Lima Peru 2.54 -11 17.5%
90 Da Nang Vietnam 2.51 72 44.0%
91 Batam Indonesia 2.49 20 27.8%
92 Nice France 2.47 -17 10.7%
93 Fukuoka Japan 2.44 104 24.6%
94 Abu Dhabi UAE 2.40 12 14.7%
95 Jeju South Korea 2.35 -8 -6.2%
96 Porto Portugal 2.34 22 11.7%
97 Rhodes Greece 2.34 -11 10.6%
98 Rio de Janeiro Brazil 2.28 -7 3.6%
99 Krabi Thailand 2.26 -5 12.7%
100 Bangalore India 2.24 83 50.6%

It’s also worth noting that based on the data collected into 2019, London was projected to continue its downward trend, bringing it to 5th spot—mostly due to complications brought on by Brexit and associated visa restrictions.

Trending: Indian and Japanese Cities Take Flight

Most of the dramatic shifts in city travel patterns are happening below the top 10. Asian hot spots are gaining steam and swiftly making their way up the top 100 rankings, signaling a shift in global preferences before lockdowns began.

Take Japan for instance. The five Japanese cities in the top 100 rose by 352 places collectively since 2013. The country’s top city destinations have had an average traveler growth rate of 17.8% from 2017 to 2019. In light of Japan’s impeccable containment of COVID-19, that trend may be compounded in coming years.

Japan’s dramatic rise in the ranks is echoed by India. India’s seven cities in the top 100 have risen 229 places — with a huge average growth rate of 44.6% from 2017 to 2019. Some of that growth is the result of lifestyle tourism, particularly in the case of Delhi, which saw its traveler rate grow by 49.6% since 2017.

Prior to the pandemic, Delhi was expected to continue that steady growth and experience a leap in rank, which currently sits at 11.

With health and wellness tourism on the rise, India has gained noteworthy attention for its yoga retreats and Ayurveda practices. Delhi’s connectivity to important locations across North India has boosted inbound arrivals to the city.

— Euromonitor International

Where in the World? Asia and Europe

Asia continues to lead all other regions, followed by Europe.

Since 2013, the number of Asian cities in the top 100 has grown from 34 to 43. Asian outbound travel has also seen a surge, spurring a rise in travel campaigns from Europe and the Americas that target Asian travelers on social media platforms like WeChat.

Why the Ranking Matters: In Travel, They Trust

Before the pandemic, tourism was considered a leading and resilient economic sector.

In 2019, 1.5 billion people traveled internationally. By 2030, that number could grow to 1.8 billion—and many cities could become increasingly reliant on tourist dollars.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, cities like Macau, Cancun, Marrakech, and Las Vegas are all heavily dependent on direct tourism and travel contributions to their respective GDPs. As of 2018, more than 50% of Macau’s GDP was derived directly from tourism, while almost half of Cancun’s GDP relies on travelers.

Countries like India and the Philippines are also particularly reliant on travel. India has a related job-to-tourist ratio of two jobs for every tourist and the Philippines has a ratio of one job per tourist.

By 2030, there could be 1.8 billion tourists – just over one in five persons in the world–traveling around the globe.

United Nations World Tourism Organization

Where to Next? Wheels Up

Millions of travelers don’t lie — the siren call of cities is undeniable. In turn, those tourists have become a major lifeforce for many of these destinations, and a boon for the international travel industry.

The pandemic has thrown these dynamics off course, with much of the world grinding to a halt since early 2020. However, it’s only a matter of time before the world opens back up again.

Although travel may look very different in the future, wanderlust doesn’t simply disappear. In fact, frustrated travelers — including digital nomads and remote workers — may have all the more reason to run away.

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Omio takes $100M to shuttle through the coronavirus crisis


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Multimodal travel platform Omio (formerly GoEuro) has raised $100M in late stage funding to help see its business through the coronavirus crisis. It also says it’s eyeing potential M&A opportunities within the hard-hit sector.

New and existing investors in the Berlin -based startup participated in the late stage convertible note, although omio isn’t disclosing any new names. Among the list of returning investors are: Temasek, Kinnevik, Goldman Sachs, NEA and Kleiner Perkins. Omio’s business has now pulled in around $400M in total since being founded back in 2013 — with the prior raise being a $150M round back in 2018.

In a supporting statement on the latest raise, Georgi Ganev, CEO of Kinnevik, said: “We are very impressed how fast and effective Omio adapted to such an unprecedented crisis for the global travel industry. The management team has delivered quickly and we can see the robustness of the business model which is well diversified across markets and transport modes. We are looking forward to supporting Omio on its way to become the go-to destination for travellers across the world.”

While COVID-19 has thrown up major headwinds to global tourism and travel — with foreign trips discouraged by specific government quarantine requirements, and the overarching requirement for people to maintain social distancing meaning certain types of holidays or activities are less attractive or even feasible, Omio is nonetheless sounding upbeat — reporting a partial recovery in bookings this summer in Europe.

In Germany and France it says bookings are above 50% of the pre-COVID-19 level at this point, despite only “marginal” marketing spend over the crisis period.

Its business is likely better positioned than some in the travel space to adapt to changes in how people are moving around and holidaying, given it caters to multiple modes of transport. The travel aggregator platform spans flights, rail, buses and even ferry routes, allowing users to quickly compare different modes of transport for their planned journey.

More recently Omio has added car sharing and car rentals to its platform, including via a partnership with rentalcars.com. So as travellers in Europe have adapted to living with COVID-19 — perhaps opting to take more local trips and/or avoiding mass transit when they go on holiday — it’s in a strong position to cater to changing demand through its partnerships with ground transportation networks and providers.

“That diversification in terms of not depending on a single mode of transport has really helped the business come back much stronger, because we’re not depending on — for example — air or bus,” CEO and founder Naren Shaam tells TechCrunch. “The diversification has helped us.”

“People will travel a lot more to smaller regions, explore the countryside a little more,” he predicts, suggesting the current dilution of travel focus it’s seeing — away from usual tourist hotspot destinations in favor of a broader, more rural mix of places — augurs a wider shift to more a diversified, more sustainable type of travel being here to stay.

“It’s not longer just airport to airport travel,” he notes. “People are traveling to where they want to go — and it’s a lot more distributed across geographies, where people want to explore. A platform like ours can accelerate this behaviour because we serve, not just flights, but trains, buses, even ferries etc, you can actually reach any destination with us.”

Direct booking via Omio’s platform is possible where it has partner agreements in place (so not universally across all routes, though it may still be able to offer route planning info).

Its multimodal booking mix extends to 37 countries in Europe and North America — where it launched at the start of this year. Last year it acquired Rome2Rio, bulking out its global flight and transport planning inventory. The grand vision is “all transport, end to end, in a single product”, as Shaam puts it — although executing on that means continuing to build out partnerships and integrations across its market footprint. 

Asked whether the new funding will give Omio enough headroom to see it through the current coronavirus crisis, Shaam tells TechCrunch: “The unknown unknown is how long the crisis lasts. But as we can see if the crisis lasts a couple of years we will make it through that.”

He says the raise will help the business come out of the crisis “stronger” — by enabling Omio to spend on adapting its product to meet changing consumer demand, such as the shift to ground transportation. “All of those things we can use these capital to shape the future of how the travel industry actually interacts with consumers,” he suggests.

Another shift in the industry that’s been triggered by the coronavirus relates to consumer expectations around information. In short, people expect a lot more travel intel up front.

“We have hypotheses on what comes back [post-crisis]. I think travel will be a lot more information centric, especially coming out of COVID-19. Customers will seek clarity in the near term around basic information around what regions can I travel to, do I need to quarantine, do I need to wear a mask inside the train etc,” he says.

“But that’ll drive a type of consumer behavior where they are seeking more information and companies will need to provide this information to satisfy the consumer needs of the future. Because consumers are getting used to having relevant information at the right point in time. So it’s not a data dump of all information… it’s when I get to the train station, what do I need to do?

“Each of those is almost hyperlocal in terms of information and that’s going to drive a change in consumer behaviour.”

Omio’s initial response to this need for more information up front was the launch of a hub — called the Open Travel Index — where users can look up information on restrictions related to specific destinations to help them plan their journey.

However he admits it’s a struggle to keep up with requirements that can switch over night (in one recent example, the UK added France to a list of countries from which returning travellers must self quarantine for two weeks — leading to a mad dash by scores of holidaymakers trying to beat a 4am deadline to get back on UK soil).

“This is a product we launched about a month and a half ago that tells you, if you’re based in the UK, where you can go in Europe,” he says. “We need to update it faster because information’s changing very, very quickly — so it’s on us now to figure out how to keep up with the constant changes of information.”

Discussing other COVID-19 changes, Shaam points to the shift to apps that’s being accelerated by the public health crisis — a trend that’s being replicated in multiple industries of course, not just travel.

“More than half of the ground transport industry was booked at a kiosk at a station [before COVID-19]. So this will drive a clear change with people uncomfortable touching a kiosk button,” he adds, arguing that that shift will help create better consumer products in the sector.

“If you imagine the kind of consumer products that the app/web world has created you can imagine that should come to the consumer experiences in travel,” he suggests. “So these are the things, I think, that will come in terms of consumer behavior and it’s up to us to make sure that we lead that change as a company.”

“We’re investing quite heavily in some of the other shifts that we’re seeing — in terms of days to departure, flexibility of fares, more insurance type products so you can cancel,” he adds. “We’re also trying to help customers in terms of whether they can go.

“We’re investing heavily in routing so you can connect modes of transport, not just flights, so you can travel longer distances with just trains. And we’re also in talks with all our suppliers to say hey, how can we help you come back — because not all suppliers are state monopolies. There’s a lot of small, medium suppliers on our product and we want to bring them back as well so we’re investing there as well.”

On M&A, Shaam says growth via acquisition is “definitely on the radar for us”. Though he also says it’s not top of the priority list right now.

“We’ve actively got our ears out. More so now, going forward, than looking back — because the last four months, imagine what we went through as a travel company, I just wanted to stablize that situation and bring us to a stable position,” he says.

“We are still in COVID-19. The situation’s not yet over, so our primary goal coming out of this is very much investing in the shifts in consumer behavior in our core product… Any M&A acquisitions we’ll do is more opportunistic, based on [factors like] pricing and what’s happening in the industry.

“But more of our capital and my time and everything will go a lot more to build the future of transport. Because that’s going to change so much more for so many millions of consumers that use our product today.”

There is still plenty of work that can be done on Omio’s core proposition — aka, linking up natural travel search for consumers by knitting together a diverse mix and range of service providers in a way that shrinks the strain of travel planning, and building out support for even more multifaceted trips people might wish to take in future.

“No one brings the natural search for consumers. Consumers just want to go London to Portsmouth. They don’t say ‘London Portsmouth train’. They do that today because that’s what the industry forces them to do — so by enabling this core product to work where you can search any modes of transport, anywhere in Europe, one click to buy, everything is a simple, mobile ticket, and you use the whole product on the app — that’s the big driver for the industry,” Shaam adds.

“On top of that you’ve got shifts towards ground transport, shifts towards app, shifts towards sustainability, which is a big topic — even pre-COVID-19 — that we can actually help drive even more change coming out of this. These are the bigger opportunities for us.”

Uncertainty clearly remains a constant for the travel sector now that COVID-19 has become a terrible ‘new normal’. So even with an unexpected summer travel bump in Europe it remains to be seen what will happen in the coming months as the region moves from summer to winter.

“In general the overall business outlook we’re taking is purely something of more caution,” says Shaam. “We just don’t know. Anything at all with respect to COVID-19, no one knows, basically. I’ve seen a number of reports in the industry but no one really knows. So in general our outlook is one of caution. And that’s why we were surprised in our uptick already through the summer. We didn’t even expect that kind of growth with near zero marketing spend levels.”

“We’ll adapt,” he adds. “The business is high variable costs so we can scale up and down fairly easily, so it’s asset light and these things help us adapt. And let’s see what happens in the winter.”

Over in the US — where Omio happened to launch slightly ahead of the COVID-19 crisis — he says it’s been a very different story, with no bookings bump. “No surprise, given the situation there,” he says, emphasizing the importance of government interventions to help control the spread of the virus.

“Governments play a very important role here. Europe has done a superior job compared to a lot of other regions in the world… But entire economies [in the region] depend on tourism,” he says. “Hopefully entire [European] countries shouldn’t go into shutdowns again because the systems are strong enough to identify local spike in cases and they ring fence it very quickly and can act on it. It’s the same as us as a company. If there’s a second wave we know how to react because we’ve gone through this horrible phrase one… So using those learnings and applying them quickly I think will help stabilize the industry as a whole.”

cargo.one gets $18.6M to take its air freight booking platform over the pond


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Berlin -based cargo.one, which runs a marketplace for booking air freight, has closed an $18.6 million Series A round of funding led by Index Ventures.

Next47 and prior backers Creandum, Lufthansa Cargo and Point Nine Capital also participated in the round, along with a number of angel investors — including Tom Stafford of DST Global and Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas (COO of GoCardless and former Chief Product Officer of Skyscanner).

The August 2017-founded startup says it’s seen bookings rise during the coronavirus crisis travel crunch as airlines seek alternatives to selling seats to passengers.

Over the past 12 months the startup says it’s scaled GMV by 10x and is expecting continued fast-paced growth as COVID-19 accelerates the adoption of digital distribution in air cargo.

The new funding will go on expanding the business, with the team aiming to increase the number of airlines signed up — including beefing up coverage in Europe. cargo.one is also targeting expanding into North America and Asia — planning to triple headcount to 70 staff by the end of the year via an aggressive hiring drive.

Currently it has 12 airlines signed up to use the platform to book in freight shipments, including Lufthansa, All Nippon Airways, Finnair, Etihad, AirBridgeCargo and TAP Air Portugal. It launched the booking product two summers ago, with Lufthansa Cargo as the first airline signed up.

“cargo.one is a two-sided marketplace, connecting airlines with forwarders of all sizes,” says co-founder and MD Oliver Neumann, discussing the business model. “We receive a commission fee from the airlines for selling their air freight capacities on our platform. For freight forwarders the access to the booking platform is free.”

The platform offers real-time visibility of available air freight across covered airlines and routes — aiming to replace what can be an arduous process of phone and/or email back and forth for its target users (freight forwarding offices).

Airlines set prices for air freight products sold via cargo.one.

“The air cargo market has been stuck in the 90s when compared to the passenger business. The vast majority of air cargo to this day is booked by calling the airlines directly. Many processes are still manual and time-consuming,” says Neumann, who describes the product as “more than just a booking platform”.

“We design, build and maintain custom integrations to our airline partners, creating both the front end for freight forwarders and integrating into the systems of the airlines and helping them improve the back-end infrastructure. That’s why we refer to it as the operating system for air cargo.”

“At cargo.one we are building a 100% digital solution and enable airlines to transform their business digitally. Over the past years, cargo.one has built tailored technical integrations with airline partners that enable them to distribute their capacity online without the need to overhaul their infrastructure,” he adds.

Currently, cargo.one’s platform has some 1.1M+ air freight offers per month, covering 120+ countries and 300 airports globally.

On the customer side it has more than 1,500 freight forwarding offices signed up at this point — which it touts as including “21 of the top 25 companies globally”.

“From January to June 2020, cargo.one saw the number of air cargo search requests by freight forwarders quadruple. In response to increased demand from airlines and freight forwarders, we expect to triple the size of the business by the end of the year,” adds Neumann.

Index’s Martin Mignot and Max Rimpel led the Series A investment in cargo.one.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Mignot, said: “cargo.one has formed close partnerships with major global airlines, who have subsequently seen their cargo business expand significantly. Conversations with dozens of other airlines in the Americas and Asia show the clear need for a simple booking engine for air cargo, and early signs of the far-reaching impact it will have on the airline industry and businesses around the world who rely on it to serve their customers.”

Venture capital has been pouring into the logistics space over the past decade, chasing an increasing number of startups spotting opportunities to apply digital efficiencies to the movement of physical goods — including aiming to replace freight forwarders themselves, in the case of another Berlin logistics startup, FreightHub, which raised a $30M Series B last year for a logistics play that covers sea, air and rail freight.

Tracking the Growing Wave of Oil & Gas Bankruptcies in 2020


This post is by Omri Wallach from Visual Capitalist

The Growing Wave of Oil & Gas Bankruptcies in 2020

2020 hasn’t been kind to the energy sector, and a growing wave of energy bankruptcies has started to build.

After a difficult year marred by rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and crude prices in the $50-60 per barrel range, analysts warned that the energy sector needed a strong recovery to offset a rising (and expiring) mountain of debt.

Instead, the oil patch has seen one bombshell after another, and the impacts are adding up.

Fueling the Wave’s Growth

The new year opened with a U.S. attack on a top-ranking Iranian general in Baghdad, followed by an Iranian counterattack on two bases in Iraq that hosted U.S. military personnel.

Then, the energy industry worried that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) wouldn’t renew its production deal with non-member countries, causing increased production and negative pressure on crude prices.

All the while, the threat of COVID-19 grew and started to spread. In March, the new coronavirus hit markets hardest, right as the OPEC+ deal collapsed. Russia and Saudi Arabia subsequently flooded the markets with cheap oil, starting a price war to drive out competition.

What developed was the perfect storm of nonexistent demand matched up against oversupply. Crude prices plummeted and hit a historic sub-zero low on April 20th, with futures for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Crude closing at -$37.63.

The Wave’s Initial Damage

Now, following a renewed OPEC+ deal limiting production agreed upon on April 9th and slowly restarting economies driving up crude demand, prices have started to tick up.

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done and will take a long time to recover. By charting the sector’s bankruptcies over the first half of 2020—tracked by law firm Haynes and Boone, LLP for the U.S. and Insolvency Insider for Canada—we can see the wave start to swell:

Company Type Q1 Bankruptcies Q2 Bankruptcies Total (H1 2020)
Oil & Gas Producer 7 18 25
Oilfield Services 7 12 19
Midstream Services 2 1 3
Total 16 31 47

For oil and gas producers, the second quarter of 2020 saw 18 bankruptcies, the highest quarterly total since 2016.

So far, they’re largely centered in the U.S., which saw a boom of surface-level shale oil production in the 2010’s to take advantage of rising crude prices. As prices have dropped, many heavily leveraged companies have started to run out of options.

Company Type Q1 Total Debt Q2 Total Debt Total (H1 2020)
Oil & Gas Producer $1.4 billion $29.2 billion $30.7 billion
Oilfield Services $10.8 billion $13.2 billion $24 billion
Midstream Services $0.2 billion $0.2 billion $0.5 billion
Total $12.5 billion $42.7 billion $55.1 billion

The biggest victim in the first half of 2020 was Chesapeake Energy, a shale giant that declared bankruptcy on June 28 with more than $9 billion in debt.

Canada has also seen an uptick in energy bankruptcies, especially after facing years of stiff competition from U.S. shale producers. However, the number of cases in Canada is far fewer than in the United States.

One reason is that companies staved off bankruptcy or receivership in four of the seven insolvency cases in Canada since January 2020, at least temporarily. Instead, they are seeking protection under the country’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, giving them a chance to restructure and avoid insolvency.

A Prolonged Fallout

Another reason for the discrepancy in bankruptcy numbers is timing. The energy sector faced its biggest challenges in 2015/2016, causing many companies to take on debt.

Unfortunately, much of that debt is starting to expire, or becoming too difficult to pay off in the current market conditions.

That’s why, despite the wave of bankruptcies caused by COVID-19 gaining steam, the wave will continue well into 2020 and likely beyond.

July has already seen more companies declaring bankruptcy or seeking creditor protection. The question is, how many more are waiting to surface?

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The post Tracking the Growing Wave of Oil & Gas Bankruptcies in 2020 appeared first on Visual Capitalist.

Security decoy startup CounterCraft closes $5M Series A


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Spain-based CounterCraft, which builds b2b tools for gathering counterintelligence on evolving security threats, has closed a $5M Series A. The all cash round is led by Adara Ventures, with eCAPITAL and Red Eléctrica Group joining as new investors, and with participation from existing backers including Evolution Equity, ORZA, and Wayra.

CounterCraft was founded back in 2015 with the aim of helping security chiefs take a more proactive defense stance. The founders went through Telefonica’s Wayra Madrid accelerator — and went on to raise a $1.1M seed round, back in 2016.

While its early focus was on the European market, the startup has expanded to serve clients across Western Europe and North America — with particular focus on national defense and intelligence departments, major financial institutions, and large enterprises.

We understand they have 20 customers at this stage. The new funding will be used to build out CounterCraft’s business in the US, per Adara Ventures .

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Alberto Gomez, managing partner at the VC firm said: “We continue to be inspired by the combination of engineering ability and vision that CounterCraft has shown in defining a new category of defensive tool that responds to the current threat landscape. Nothing else we have seen effectively uses a Know-Your-Attacker stance to turn the tables on threat actors. We are now excited about CounterCraft’s prospects for expanding its presence with sophisticated, large clients in the U.S. and European markets.”

CounterCraft’s core product is what it bills as a “Threat Deception platform” — supporting its customers’ security function by contributing to three areas: threat detection, intelligence and response; and by using deceptive techniques as a lure to gather better intelligence on threats and attackers for a smarter response.

The platform offers a set of common use cases that can be automatically deployed without further configuration — including ‘Remote Worker Protection’; Pre-Breach Activity; Sphere Phishing Response; and Lateral Movement — with the three strands of ‘detection, intelligence and response’ covered for all use cases.

The platform is also designed to integrate with customers’ incident response workflows, and has the ability to reconfigure defensive systems in real time to mitigate risks from ongoing attacks.

CEO David Barroso notes, for example, that CounterCraft’s platform is fully integrated with the MITRE ATT&CK™ TTP classification project.

In terms of intelligence gathering Barroso says it mines assets such as WiFi, SWIFT, email accounts and social media. “Uniquely, the platform can automatically convert this harvested data into active responses. This puts CISOs back in the driving seat when defending,” he added in a statement.

Entrepreneurs, Look to Your Network to Help You Through the Pandemic


This post is by Daniel Isenberg from HBR.org

There’s strength in numbers.

Scandit raises $80M as COVID-19 drives demand for contactless deliveries


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Enterprise barcode scanner company Scandit has closed an $80 million Series C round, led by Silicon Valley VC firm G2VP. Atomico, GV, Kreos, NGP Capital, Salesforce Ventures and Swisscom Ventures also participated in the round — which brings its total raised to date to $123M.

The Zurich-based firm offers a platform that combines computer vision and machine learning tech with barcode scanning, text recognition (OCR), object recognition and augmented reality which is designed for any camera-equipped smart device — from smartphones to drones, wearables (e.g. AR glasses for warehouse workers) and even robots.

Use-cases include mobile apps or websites for mobile shopping; self checkout; inventory management; proof of delivery; asset tracking and maintenance — including in healthcare where its tech can be used to power the scanning of patient IDs, samples, medication and supplies.

It bills its software as “unmatched” in terms of speed and accuracy, as well as the ability to scan in bad light; at any angle; and with damaged labels. Target industries include retail, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, travel, transport & logistics and more.

The latest funding injection follows a $30M Series B round back in 2018. Since then Scandit says it’s tripled recurring revenues, more than doubling the number of blue-chip enterprise customers, and doubling the size of its global team.

Global customers for its tech include the likes of 7-Eleven, Alaska Airlines, Carrefour, DPD, FedEx, Instacart, Johns Hopkins Hospital, La Poste, Levi Strauss & Co, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toyota — with the company touting “tens of billions of scans” per year on 100+ million active devices at this stage of its business.

It says the new funding will go on further pressing on the gas to grow in new markets, including APAC and Latin America, as well as building out its footprint and ops in North America and Europe. Also on the slate: Funding more R&D to devise new ways for enterprises to transform their core business processes using computer vision and AR.

The need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated demand for mobile computer vision on personal smart devices, according to Scandit, which says customers are looking for ways to enable more contactless interactions.

Another demand spike it’s seeing is coming from the pandemic-related boom in ‘Click & Collect’ retail and “millions” of extra home deliveries — something its tech is well positioned to cater to because its scanning apps support BYOD (bring your own device), rather than requiring proprietary hardware.

“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the need for rapid digital transformation in these uncertain times, and the need to blend the physical and digital plays a crucial role,” said CEO Samuel Mueller in a statement. “Our new funding makes it possible for us to help even more enterprises to quickly adapt to the new demand for ‘contactless business’, and be better positioned to succeed, whatever the new normal is.”

Also commenting on the funding in a supporting statement, Ben Kortlang, general partner at G2VP, added: “Scandit’s platform puts an enterprise-grade scanning solution in the pocket of every employee and customer without requiring legacy hardware. This bridge between the physical and digital worlds will be increasingly critical as the world accelerates its shift to online purchasing and delivery, distributed supply chains and cashierless retail.”

Ranked: The 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World


This post is by Katie Jones from Visual Capitalist

Mapped: The 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World

The Most Expensive Cities in the World

Where personal wealth is concerned, there are two sides to every story.

The first of which is the amount of money a person earns, and the other is what they choose to spend their money on. The latter is influenced by the cost of living in the city where they reside—an ever-changing metric that is driven by a wide variety of factors, such as currency, population growth, or external market movements.

Today’s graphic visualizes the findings from the 2020 Worldwide Cost of Living report and uses data from 133 cities to rank the most expensive cities in the world.

Note: Report research was conducted towards the end of 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Asia Dominates the Ranking

Globally, the cost of living has fallen by an average of 4% over the last year, with much of the movement up and down the ranking being driven by currency fluctuations.

The locations with the highest cost of living are largely split between Europe and Asia. For the second time in the report’s 30-year history, three cities are tied as the top spot—Singapore, Hong Kong, and Osaka.

Rank Country City Index Score (New York=100) Rank Movement
#1(t) 🇸🇬 Singapore Singapore 102 0
#1(t) 🇨🇳 China Hong Kong 102 0
#1(t) 🇯🇵 Japan Osaka 102 4
#4 🇺🇸 United States New York 100 3
#5(t) 🇫🇷 France Paris 99 -4
#5(t) 🇨🇭 Switzerland Zurich 99 -1
#7 🇮🇱 Israel Tel Aviv 97 3
#8(t) 🇺🇸 United States Los Angeles 96 2
#8(t) 🇯🇵 Japan Tokyo 96 5
#10 🇨🇭 Switzerland Geneva 95 -5

Source: EIU. New York City is index baseline (score = 100). Ties in index score values are denoted by (t).

Osaka is a newcomer to the top spot, climbing four places over the last year to join cost of living heavyweight champions, Singapore and Hong Kong. As Japan’s third-largest city, Osaka is a major financial hub and a breeding ground for emerging startups, with relatively low real estate costs compared to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Three European cities (Paris, Zurich, and Geneva) sit atop the most expensive city rankings, compared to seven cities only 10 years ago. Similarly, 31 of the 37 European cities have seen a decrease in cost of living overall—largely as a result of the Euro or local currencies losing value relative to the U.S. dollar.

Finally, the top 10 is rounded out with two cities from the United States (New York, Los Angeles) and one from Israel (Tel Aviv).

The Cheapest Cities

While East Asia is home to many of the world’s most expensive cities, South Asia hosts the largest grouping of cities with the lowest cost of living.

Rank Country City Index Score (New York=100) Rank Movement
#133 🇸🇾 Syria Damascus 25 -1
#132 🇺🇿 Uzbekistan Tashkent 30 -1
#131 🇰🇿 Kazakhstan Almaty 34 -1
#129(t) 🇦🇷 Argentina Buenos Aires 35 -4
#129(t) 🇵🇰 Pakistan Karachi 35 -2
#128 🇻🇪 Venezuela Caracas 36 5
#127 🇿🇲 Zambia Lusaka 38 -13
#126 🇮🇳 India Chennai 39 -1
#125 🇮🇳 India Bangalore 40 4
#122(t) 🇮🇳 India New Delhi 42 1

Source: EIU. New York City is index baseline (score = 100). Ties in index score values are denoted by (t).

Three Indian cities dominate the cheapest cities ranking due to a combination of low wages and high levels of income inequality, preventing any price increases.

Meanwhile, political and economic turmoil is a common denominator among the cheapest cities outside of South Asia. For example, the Syrian Civil War resulted in an economic collapse, leading to high inflation and a downward spiral in value for the Syrian pound.

A Spanner in the Works

The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to cost the global economy up to $2 trillion in 2020, so while governments attempt to boost the economy, many are concerned about higher inflation rates spreading across the world.

With a recession becoming more likely, uncertainty around real estate prices will heighten for every city, regardless of their cost of living ranking.

As we navigate chaotic and uncertain times, the next cost of living survey could look very different to today—the most important question will be how permanent the damaging effects of the pandemic will be.

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Mya Systems gets $18.75M to keep scaling its recruitment chatbot


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Hiring chatbot Mya Systems — which uses a conversational AI to grease the recruitment pipeline by automating sourcing for agencies and large enterprises needing to fill lots of vacancies in areas such as retail and warehouse jobs — has closed an $18.75 million Series C.

The funding round was led by Notion Capital with participation from earlier investors, Foundation Capital and Emergence Capital, along with Workday Ventures . The 2012-founded company, which was previously known as FirstJob, raised an $11.4M Series A back in 2017.

Touting growth over the past year, Mya said it saw 3x customer subscription growth in 2019.

In all it says it now has more than 460 brands using its tools — including six of the eight largest staffing agencies, and 29 of the Fortune 100 — name checking the likes of Hays, Adecco, L’Oreal, Deloitte, and Anheuser Busch.

Its chatbot approach to engaging and “deeply” screening applicants via a mobile app has led to more than 400,000 interviews being scheduled with “qualified and interested” candidates, it added. 

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, founder and CEO Eyal Grayevsky suggested there could be increased demand for AI job screening as companies face highly dynamic recruitment needs. “Now more than ever, organizations in healthcare, e-commerce, light industrial, transportation, logistics, retail, and other industries impacted by COVID-19 need help scaling recruitment to serve large, unexpected spikes in demand. Mya is uniquely positioned to help organizations with high volume recruitment needs and the increasing reliance on temp and contract-based work,” he said in a statement.

“While some hiring is slowing down due to COVID-19, we are seeing spikes in demand from industries such as healthcare, light industrial, call center, logistics, grocery, and supply chain. We have received multiple requests from our healthcare, light industrial and e-commerce customers seeking additional support to rapidly scale engagement with nurses, in-home care professionals, warehouse workers, call center representatives, etc. to serve rapidly growing demand for those functions,” he also told us, saying the team is prioritizing helping those dealing with spikes in demand as a result of the coronavirus public health emergency.

In addition to conversational AI, Mya has focused on integrating its platform with other tools used for recruitment, including CRM, ATS and HRIS systems — plugging into the likes of Bullhorn, Workday, and SAP SuccessFactors. Asked what the new funding will be put towards, Grayevsky told us deeper integrations with such partners is on the cards, along with expanding use-cases for the product.

“Mya will be using the funds to invest in our platform, further expanding the use cases designed to support the end-to-end recruiting and post hire engagement process, and continuing to deepen our integrations with partner ATS solutions like Bullhorn, Workday, and SAP Successfactors. In addition to deepening our integrations, we are also investing heavily in turnkey, fully-featured solutions built alongside our ATS partners that allow for even greater ease and speed to implement Mya,” he said.

“Mya will also be investing in deepening our core platform and conversational AI technology, specifically to expand our conversational capabilities across new industries. We will further enhance our self-service conversation design and configuration capabilities to make it even easier for our customers to rapidly scale the Mya conversational experience across both high volume, hourly and professional roles. Lastly, we are strengthening our infrastructure and support for global customers who are rapidly scaling internationally (e.g. L’Oreal is now live in 18 countries globally).”

At this point Mya is selling its product into more than 35 countries — predominantly in North America, EMEA and APAC — with a focus on large and mid-sized employers that operate globally, including staffing businesses and corporations across high-volume recruitment industries such as healthcare, light industrial, call center, retail, transportation and logistics, hospitality, grocery and automotive.

“We have teams in both the US and Europe to support our expanding global customer base,” Grayevsky added. “With the new funding, we will continue to invest in the distribution, infrastructure and support needed to address demand across target markets globally.”

He name-checks the likes of Olivia, AllyO, Job Pal, Roborecruiter, XOR, and TextRecruit as main competitors. In terms of differentiation, he points to Mya having processed “tens of millions” of candidate interactions thus far — amassing an “ever-growing domain specific conversational dataset” — which he said enables it to continue to enhance the experience the platform can deliver for candidates.

“We have the most robust conversational technology and platform enabling rich, dynamic, and natural conversational experiences that deliver higher engagement, conversion, and actionable insights,” he claimed “We have the most in-depth solutions that support use cases across the entire recruiting funnel (e.g. sourcing, talent pool nurturing and re-engagement, screening, scheduling, contractor redeployment, etc.).

“We have the most experience successfully delivering deeply integrated solutions that scale for the largest staffing business and corporations (e.g. our largest customer is now deployed in 600+ locations globally, across hundreds of job roles, and thousands of recruiters on the platform, engaging with millions of both passive and active candidates on an annual basis), and… we are closely partnered with the leading ATS providers such as Workday and Bullhorn, where we have differentiated integrations and channel relationships that give us a competitive advantage.”

We also asked Grayevsky how the recruitment tool is complying with different national employment and equality laws, and also avoiding introducing any discrimination/bias into its AI-aided screening.

On this he said: “Mya does not apply any advanced AI or machine learning to decision making (i.e. determining fit for a job role), we are squarely focused on developing a robust conversational experience that allows Mya to engage instantly, capture information with high response and completion rates, automate outbound sourcing and scheduling process, and provide ongoing engagement and support with both active applicants and passive candidates in our customer’s talent community.”

He also said they have put steps in place to confirm the accuracy of candidate responses through the conversation (such as by adding a confirmation step for core requirements); and by “employing processes that check for bias, both before a solution goes into production and once its launched”.

Another step it’s taken to “ensure a positive experience for all candidates”, as he put it, is to provides the user an option to reroute a question that the bot does not understand to a recruiter.

“Those queries are immediately submitted into our AI training and annotation pipeline, tested and deployed into production to continually expand our FAQ support within the platform,” he told us.

“Mya’s mission is to create a far more efficient and equitable job market powered by conversational AI, and a core principle of that mission is to level the playing field,” Grayevsky added. “Our AI, engineering and product teams (which includes individuals from highly diverse backgrounds) make all product design decisions to consciously remove bias from the hiring process and ensure that information surfaced to hiring teams is accurate and objective.”

“We are also investing extensively to ensure Mya is in full compliance with local employment laws, data protection and privacy regulations, rules around opt-in and consent, everywhere we operate in the world. Ahead of GDPR, we worked with outside counsel on a Privacy Impact Assessment. That led to our appointment of a Data Protection Officer, and informed our ‘Privacy by Default’ and ‘Privacy by Design’ philosophies. We’re continuing to keep an eye on regulations around AI in the EU, and are already in compliance with the seven key requirements identified in the European Commission’s white paper on artificial intelligence.”

Asked about the disproportionate admin burden automated hiring tools can place on candidates, as they grease up efficiencies of scale for employers — i.e. by requiring jobseekers respond individually to screening system vs just being able to submit a single CV to multiple companies — Grayevsky argued that dynamic data-capturing recruitment systems, such as Mya, offer a better experience to job seekers via increased responsiveness and through expanding potential future job-matching opportunities.

“Traditional job applications often have many steps, and can take a long time to complete, creating a negative experience and drop-off for the employer. Those questionnaires are not dynamic and often lead to no response. That time and effort invested often cannot be leveraged into other opportunities,” he argued.

“With Mya, everyone gets a response instantaneously and around the clock (24/7). They can ask questions and get answers in real-time, providing more transparency and insight into the opportunity, process, and employer. Mya can follow up and if deemed fit by the hiring team, schedule a phone call or on-site interview with the recruiter or hiring manager to help accelerate the process.

“If they are ultimately not deemed fit by the hiring team due to a missing requirement, Mya is able to re-engage to help that candidate connect to a role that is more suitable based on their profile, interests, and availability. The idea is that a candidate can build one profile and be connected to multiple jobs, quickly and efficiently. We built our solution through the lens of the candidate, making it easy to provide information about qualifications, interests, and availability, and get connected to the right opportunities.”

Where Are the Oldest Companies in Existence?


This post is by Iman Ghosh from Visual Capitalist

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Oldest Companies in Existence

Where Are the Oldest Companies in Existence?

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In just a few decades, it’s possible that some of today’s most recognized companies may no longer be household names.

Corporate longevity, or the average lifespan of a company, has been shrinking dramatically.

In the 1960s, a typical S&P 500 company was projected to last for more than 60 years. However, with the rapidly transforming business landscape today, it’s down to just 18 years.

The Companies With the Strongest Staying Power

Even with companies skewing younger, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Luckily, many companies around the world have stood the test of time, and today’s detailed map from Business Financing highlights the oldest company in existence in each country.

For centuries, here are the world’s oldest corporations which have made their mark:

Year Company Name Country Industry
578 Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd. Japan Construction
803 St.  Peter Stifts Kulinarium Austria Service Industry (Restaurant)
862 Staffelter Hof Germany Distillers, Vintners, & Breweries (Winery)
864 Monnaie de Paris France Manufacturing & Production (Mint)
886 The Royal Mint England Manufacturing & Production (Mint)
900 Sean’s Bar Ireland Service Industry (Pub)
1040 Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli Italy Manufacturing & Production (Bell foundry)
1074 Affligem Brewery Belgium Distillers, Vintners, & Breweries
1135 Munke Mølle Denmark Manufacturing & Production (Flour Mill)
1153 Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House China Service Industry (Restaurant)

Whether they were born out of Continue reading “Where Are the Oldest Companies in Existence?”

OMERS Growth Equity taps ex-tech CEO Saar Pikar as managing director

The appointment of Pikar, who previously led HIG Growth Partners-owned CDI Technologies, increases OMERS Growth Equity’s managing directors to two.

How to Attract Startups and Tech Companies to a City Without Relying on Tax Breaks

Invest in higher education, diversity, and infrastructure.

Research: How the Financial Crisis Drastically Increased Wealth Inequality in the U.S.

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We live in unequal times. The causes and consequences of widening disparities in income and wealth have become a defining debate of our age. Researchers have made major inroads into documenting trends in either income or wealth inequality in the United States, but we still know little about how the two evolve together — an important question to understand the causes of wealth inequality.

We do know that asset prices have been a key determinant of inequality in postwar America, based on our recent research. Although income inequality has been on the rise for decades, wealth inequality hadn’t changed much until more recently. Why not?

Our research demonstrates that wealthier and less-wealthy people own different types of assets: the middle class has a higher share of its wealth in housing, whereas the rich own more stock. An important consequence of this finding is that housing booms lead to

Continue reading “Research: How the Financial Crisis Drastically Increased Wealth Inequality in the U.S.”

What Would It Take to Get Businesses to Focus Less on Shareholder Value?

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Last week, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she’s about to propose the most significant change in U.S. corporate governance in 100 years. We don’t yet have the full details, but one reading of her piece is that she’s going to propose requiring every company with more than $1 billion in revenue to become a “benefit corporation” — a corporation whose fiduciary duty is not only to its shareholders but to all its major “stakeholders.”

The senator argues that such a charter would redefine the purpose of the firm — away from a single-minded focus on maximizing shareholder value and toward a perspective that balances the need to give returns to investors with the welfare of the firm’s employees, customers, and communities. She suggests that this has the potential to increase both investment and real wages, reversing almost 30 years of accelerating inequality.

Senator Warren has put her finger

Continue reading “What Would It Take to Get Businesses to Focus Less on Shareholder Value?”

Worker Representation on Boards Won’t Work Without Trust

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a novel way to reform corporate governance. It would require companies with more than $1 billion in revenue to get a corporate charter from the federal government (rather than from an individual state), which in turn would require a commitment to a broad range of stakeholders, including not just shareholders but also employees and the communities in which the businesses operate. In addition, federally chartered companies would be required to let workers elect 40% of board members. There are other aspects of the proposal, including an aim to limit stock buybacks and stock-based compensation — you can read more about it here or here.

Warren’s vision is to ensure that the success of U.S. companies is shared more broadly, rather than largely benefiting shareholders. But would it have that effect?

The idea seems to be that having a more

Continue reading “Worker Representation on Boards Won’t Work Without Trust”

Landing Amazon HQ2 Isn’t the Right Way for a City to Create Jobs. Here’s What Works Instead

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Melissa Ross/Getty Images

Amazon’s highly visible search for a second headquarters has offered one tremendous public benefit: it has raised public awareness of what bad economic development is. Even Saturday Night Live satirized the lengths to which local officials will go to woo a major company, which include offering massive amounts of taxpayer subsidies, despite dubious economic returns.

But if attracting Amazon and other companies is not the right way to create jobs, then what is?

To start, it’s easy to understand why local leaders pursue these business attraction deals: economic development is routinely mayors’ top policy priority, as new jobs can boost local employment rates, raise residents’ incomes, stabilize city budgets, and revitalize distressed neighborhoods. Landing a flashy new business headquarters is great PR, a highly visible way to show that leaders are directly helping local economies. This leads state and local governments to spend an estimated

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How Regulation Could Help Cryptocurrencies Grow

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Alexander Baumann/The International Photo Co./Getty Images

Ignorance may be bliss for some, but ask anyone in commerce or finance, and they will make it abundantly clear: Ignorance is risk. For that reason, U.S. markets embrace reasonable regulation to ensure transparency and fairness. Stocks are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), commodities by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and government currency by the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. But an emergent fourth asset class, cryptocurrencies, has no single regulator, and that is leading to uncertainty and confusion.

In early June the SEC announced the appointment of one of the agency’s veteran attorneys, Valerie Szczepanik, as associate director of the Division of Corporation Finance and senior adviser for Digital Assets and Innovation. This is a welcome development. As “crypto czar,” her job will be to rationalize the application of U.S. securities laws

Continue reading “How Regulation Could Help Cryptocurrencies Grow”