SMALL BUSINESS ADVICE

NEXT Insurance Participates in Amazon Insurance Accelerator

NEXT Insurance | August 10, 2021

NEXT Insurance, the leading digital insurtech company transforming small business insurance, today announced it is participating in Amazon Insurance Accelerator, providing Amazon sellers looking to buy insurance with instant quotes at competitive rates, directly within Amazon Seller Central. NEXT is the only US-based carrier currently participating in the initiative, further building on its partnership with Amazon Business Prime, NEXT's fully digital, customized e-commerce General Liability coverage also provides sellers with instant, automated Certificates of Insurance (COI) and seamless online claims resolution processes.

"The pandemic ushered in a tremendous amount of innovation and growth for small business e-commerce strategies and access to simple and affordable insurance to protect their livelihood is more important than ever," said Guy Goldstein, CEO of NEXT. "NEXT's digital insurance products are easily embedded into the software systems that small businesses regularly use to run their companies. Today, through Amazon Insurance Accelerator, sellers can seamlessly purchase NEXT's affordable and customized insurance coverage for a simple, frictionless experience. We are excited to partner with Amazon to support small businesses in their quest to thrive."

Amazon requires most third-party sellers carry commercial liability insurance in order to protect both customers and sellers. Through Amazon Insurance Accelerator, third-party sellers on Amazon will be referred to NEXT's online application directly from their account. In 10 minutes or less, sellers can get a customized quote and bind a policy. NEXT automatically adds Amazon as an 'additional insured' and instantly emails COI information back to the seller, creating a simplified, no-worry insurance process that meets Amazon's requirements. In the past, sellers would have to manually mail in COIs, but with this innovative NEXT feature, customers can experience the simplicity and ease of a truly digital experience so they can focus on what matters most - running their business.

About NEXT Insurance
NEXT Insurance is transforming small business insurance with simple, digital and affordable coverage tailored to the self-employed. Trusted by 250K business owners, NEXT offers policies that are easy to buy in 10 minutes or less and provides 24/7 access to Live Certificates of Insurance, Additional Insured, and more, with no extra fees. Revolutionizing a historically complicated insurance industry, NEXT utilizes AI and machine learning to simplify the purchasing process and drive down costs by up to 30% compared to traditional policies.

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JEA hosts an evening seminar for small and emerging businesses along with a city task force that includes the other independent authorities.


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FINANCE

BayFirst Financial Corp. Launches LoanBud, a Nationwide Lender Focused on Serving the Self-Employed

LoanBud | April 21, 2022

BayFirst Financial Corp. announced that First Home Bank (d/b/a BayFirst Bank), its wholly-owned subsidiary, has launched LoanBud, a lending division designed specifically to serve self-employed homebuyers and small business owners across the U.S. LoanBud provides the option to qualify for a mortgage loan without tax returns and underwrites each self-employed borrower's income before providing a pre-approval letter. LoanBud also offers government-backed Small Business Administration (SBA) loans up to $5 million – making it a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners looking to get the home and business financing they require. This division is the first of its kind for the Bank as it combines both residential and small business lending services, creating synergy between two typically separate lines of business. “As a nationwide lender focused on assisting those facing unnecessary challenges in their pursuit of financing, we are proud to now provide a comprehensive solution for self-employed individuals looking to buy a home or grow their business,” said Anthony N. Leo, CEO of BayFirst. “When it comes to residential mortgages, lenders don't thoroughly review self-employment income documentation up front and many self-employed homebuyers who receive a pre-approval letter are later denied a mortgage. As the future of work changes, more homebuyers are being impacted by lenders who base mortgage approval on tax returns only. LoanBud is proud to serve as a residential mortgage lender that gives self-employed homebuyers the tools and resources to make smart homebuying decisions and secure a mortgage, while also supporting their businesses through SBA lending.” More than one in three workers, 53 million people, are part of America’s independent workforce, according to a study from UpWork. In a new survey from LoanBud conducted by Pollfish, 53% of self-employed home buyers reported having trouble securing mortgage approval because of tax return requirements, with 63% saying they wished lenders offered additional qualification options. In addition, half of the survey respondents received pre-approval from a lender based on self-employment income information that was later denied. “LoanBud is solving two major problems for self-employed homebuyers seeking a mortgage. First, we offer the option to qualify using bank statements or 1099s instead of tax returns. Second, whether they use tax returns or alternative documentation, we underwrite each applicant’s income up front, giving our customers confidence that their loan will close once they find a home to purchase.” Burke Purcell, Director of LoanBud Business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs face unique challenges seeking approval for a home loan because most banks still qualify people based on the net income reported on tax returns after deductions and write-offs. LoanBud offers more mortgage options, including qualifying using bank statements or 1099s instead of tax returns. Its lenders are trained to understand the income of self-employed borrowers seeking assistance with buying a home or obtaining a small business loan, saving them time and money. The launch of LoanBud further solidifies First Home Bank’s commitment to serving every member of the community as it positions the Bank to better support a wide range – and growing number – of self-employed professionals who might otherwise be denied access to the capital they need to realize the dream of home and business ownership. About LoanBud LoanBud is a division of First Home Bank. LoanBud’s mission is to become the number one lender in the country for self-employed people by providing mortgages and SBA-backed loans to entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners. About BayFirst Financial Corp. BayFirst Financial Corp. (f/k/a First Home Bancorp, Inc.) is a registered bank holding company which commenced operations on September 1, 2000. Its primary source of income is from its wholly owned subsidiary, First Home Bank d/b/a BayFirst Bank, which commenced business operations on February 12, 1999. First Home Bank is a Federal Reserve member and a state-chartered banking institution. The Bank operates seven full-service office locations, 23 mortgage loan production offices and is in the top 25 by dollar volume and by number of units originated nationwide through the second quarter ended March 31, 2022, of SBA's 2022 fiscal year. BayFirst Financial Corp., through the Bank, offers a broad range of commercial and consumer banking services including various types of deposit accounts and loans for businesses and individuals. As of December 31, 2021, BayFirst Financial Corp. had $917.10 million in total assets.

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TECHNOLOGY

Vodafone Business and RingCentral Bring Flexible Cloud Communications Solutions to Organisations

Vodafone Business | February 04, 2022

Vodafone Business and RingCentral Inc., a leading provider of global enterprise cloud communications, video meetings, collaboration, and contact centre solutions, today unveiled ‘Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral,’ a powerful new communications platform that brings together RingCentral’s flagship offering RingCentral Message Video Phone™ (MVP™) with Vodafone’s mobility and 5G capabilities to give customers more choice, flexibility, and simplicity when it comes to workforce collaboration and remote working. Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral will be rolled out in the UK, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, and Sweden. The way people work and collaborate has changed. There is an increased focus on enabling people to work from anywhere. To support hybrid work, companies need a secure, reliable, and flexible cloud communications platform. Bringing together Vodafone Business’ mobile first approach, global brand, reach, and scale with RingCentral’s deep Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) expertise, Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral combines all preferred modes of communication including team messaging, video meetings, and cloud phone into a single intuitive app that is accessible on any device, anywhere. “As businesses adapt to a disruptive and changing environment, they need to become more automated and agile in their way of working. Bringing technologies together that work in sync, connecting people, processes and information for faster decision making, will be critical. Vodafone is committed to supporting the digital journeys of companies big and small, so we’re pleased to be working with RingCentral to support this move and help organisations become fit for the future.” Giorgio Migliarina, products and services director at Vodafone Business Providing businesses with an effective way to move their existing legacy infrastructure to the cloud, the platform is highly secure and robust and offers an expanded portfolio of next generation unified communication and collaboration capabilities including team messaging, HD video meetings, and calling. Homayoun Razavi, Chief Business Development Officer at RingCentral said: “Enterprises today have growing global communications needs to meet the ever-evolving demands of their mobile and distributed workforce—from servicing global customers to expanding their global talent pool. Combining RingCentral’s industry-leading cloud communications with Vodafone’s leadership in mobility, 5G, and international connectivity unlocks new ways for companies to grow and run their businesses. Our open platforms and joint innovation are paving new paths to productivity and engagement around the world.” All features can be run standalone or integrated with various business applications, including Microsoft 365, leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Helpdesk services – ensuring everything works in sync. In addition, Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral includes real-time and historic analytics, extensive call management, and team collaboration and task management capabilities, which will be available to larger businesses. Vodafone Business plans to expand the platform to smaller businesses in the UK and Germany soon. About Vodafone Unique in its scale as the largest pan-European and African technology communications company, Vodafone transforms the way we live and work through its innovation, technology, connectivity, platforms, products, and services. Vodafone operates mobile and fixed networks in 21 countries, and partners with mobile networks in 52 more. As of 31 December 2021, we had over 300m mobile customers, more than 28m fixed broadband customers and over 22m TV customers. Vodafone is a world leader in the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting more than 142m devices and platforms through innovation that aligns with the aspirations of society for cleaner and safer cities, better transport, and improved agriculture. Vodafone’s digital leadership is also changing how governments deliver healthcare and education, and how businesses, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), serve customers. We have revolutionised fintech in Africa through M-Pesa, which celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2022. It is the region’s largest fintech platform, providing access to financial services for more than 51m people in a secure, affordable, and convenient way. Our purpose is to connect for a better future, enabling an inclusive and sustainable digital society. We are taking significant steps to reduce our impact on our planet by becoming net zero by 2040, purchasing 100% of our electricity from renewable sources in Europe and across our entire operations by 2025, and reusing, reselling or recycling 100% of our redundant network equipment. Vodafone proactively works to expand access to connectivity for rural communities, students, and jobseekers. For more than 30 years, Vodafone’s Foundation has supported communities in Europe and Africa in the areas of health, education, and equality. We support diversity and inclusion through our maternity and parental leave policies, empowering women through connectivity and improving access to education and digital skills for women, girls, and society at large. We are respectful of all individuals, irrespective of race, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, belief, culture, or religion. About RingCentral RingCentral, Inc. is a leading provider of cloud Message Video Phone™ (MVP™), customer engagement and contact centre solutions for businesses worldwide. More flexible and cost-effective than legacy on-premise PBX and video conferencing systems that it replaces, RingCentral empowers modern mobile and distributed workforces to communicate, collaborate, and connect via any mode, any device, and any location. RingCentral’s open platform integrates with leading third-party business applications and enables customers to easily customise business workflows. RingCentral is headquartered in Belmont, California, and has offices around the world.

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SMALL BUSINESS ADVICE

PlanetSpark Innovation Centre Launched to Enable Tech Startups Achieve Market Deployment

PlanetSpark | January 13, 2021

Backed by its SGX-listed parent company Excelpoint and supported by Enterprise Singapore, PlanetSpark Innovation Centre will be investing an initial S$5 million to expand its engineering capabilities, expecting to benefit more than 30 local startups over the next 3 years, while creating new opportunities across the semiconductor supply chain. SINGAPORE & TOKYO, Jan 12, 2021 - (ACN Newswire) - PlanetSpark Pte. Ltd., the entrepreneurial and strategic investment arm of SGX mainboard-listed Excelpoint Technology Ltd(1) ("Excelpoint"), has announced the launch of PlanetSpark Innovation Centre, the first hardware-targeted accelerator for Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) innovations, dedicated to supporting Singapore tech startups speed up market deployment. Supported by Enterprise Singapore and backed by Excelpoint, PlanetSpark will invest an initial S$5 million to expand the centre's engineering capabilities and develop technology platforms, and has secured a lineup of five startups for its upcoming pilot run of accelerator programme. The new centre, situated at Changi Business Park, is officially opened today by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. The path for an AIoT technology to reach market deployment has many hurdles and requires a long gestation period. A major contributor of this phenomenon lies in the high complexity associated with AIoT solution development - from proof-of-concept to production, and eventual commercialisation. PlanetSpark Innovation Centre sets out to address these challenges by offering a one-stop ecosystem that brings together innovators, hardware and software providers, venture capitalists, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), manufacturers and potential customers. Startups can tap into Excelpoint's vast industry networks of semiconductor manufacturers, sales channel partners and design engineering expertise - enabling the startups to expedite product design and optimise system-level integration for rapid prototyping, thereby reducing their time, cost and risks in bringing their solutions to market. Mr Satvinder Singh, Assistant Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Singapore, said, "The PlanetSpark Innovation Centre is a welcome addition to Singapore's vibrant technology and innovation ecosystem. It brings ideas, people and networks together to scale innovative AIoT solutions to market and provides enterprises with the necessary resources to build capabilities and drive the development of innovative AIoT solutions. This is important as demand for such solutions is expected to grow in tandem with the region's emergence of smart homes, cities and industries." PlanetSpark will be kicking off the 24-week accelerator programme designed to equip startups with tools and market-informed knowledge. Besides connecting the startups to industry mentors and supply chain partners, the centre will also be helping them jumpstart their AIoT technology by providing customised system integration solution (or "middleware") - one of the most critical link in determining the scalability and interoperability of an AIoT solution. The pilot group of startups are developing market-deployable solutions integrating the middleware to solve real-world challenges in thermal sensing, facial recognition, satellite tracking and edge AI analytics. Currently, the PlanetSpark-exclusive middleware is powered by the technology stacks of NASDAQ-listed global companies, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. ("Qualcomm") and Xilinx, Inc. ("Xilinx"), both Excelpoint's long-time partners. Qualcomm is the world's leading wireless technology innovator and the driving force behind 5G and related IoT technologies and chipsets, whereas Xilinx is a world leading manufacturer of programmable logic devices for edge AI computation. In time, PlanetSpark plans to add new industry partners to its ecosystem network to drive additional value for the participating startups. Mr. Albert Phuay Yong Hen, Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of Excelpoint, added, "In the fast-evolving electronics industry, speed to market is key and Excelpoint is uniquely positioned at the intersection of electronics technology and supply chain management. Excelpoint is honoured to have the strong support from Enterprise Singapore to groom the next generation of technopreneurs at PlanetSpark Innovation Centre. This innovation centre is an investment we made to nurture our Singapore-grown talents and bring our Singapore pride to the globe. Through Excelpoint, we are thankful for the partnership with leaders in semiconductor technology, such as Xilinx and Qualcomm who have jointly worked with us for the first batch of platforms. Together, we wish to bring in our expertise and market knowledge, and open doors to opportunities in the region." Ms Phuay Li Ying, Managing Director of PlanetSpark, said, "Through my work at Excelpoint, I see many Singapore hardware startups face challenges in accessing technologies from industry leaders, gaining market knowledge and finding channels to enter the regional market. This is a gap that PlanetSpark Innovation Centre aims to bridge by leveraging on the strengths of Excelpoint and working closely with company founders to develop and integrate their AIoT technology and innovations in a way that is customer-centric and scalable, therefore creating new sources of revenue for these startups. Only then, we can build a robust foundation for them to co-pollinate with other players in the ecosystem. Our role as a technology validator will also provide an indication of the potential of the startups for venture capital firms, which plays a key role in the success of a startup. Our ultimate objective is to have a collaborative hardware ecosystem where such start-ups can accelerate their growth and commercialisation plans, attract venture capital funding and create new possibilities for local technology innovations and economic growth." The global IoT market is predicted to reach a scale of USD$1102.6 billion in 2026(2). Through the initiatives and collaborations spearheaded by the PlanetSpark Innovation Centre, the eventual market deployment of the startups' AIoT innovations is expected to create new opportunities in Singapore's semiconductor supply chain and accelerate Singapore's Smart Nation and Industrial 4.0 transformation. (1) Excelpoint Technology Ltd is a leading regional B2B business platform providing quality electronic components with integrated R&D capabilities. Excelpoint has been an integral part of the global electronics technology value chain for more than 30 years. (2) https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/ (https://bit.ly/3sbELxB) (Accessed 18 Dec 2020) About PlanetSpark Pte Ltd PlanetSpark Pte Ltd ("PlanetSpark") is the entrepreneurial and investment arm of Excelpoint Technology Ltd. ("Excelpoint"), investing in, supporting and collaborating with promising early- to mid-stage start-ups which have commercially viable technologies and products in Singapore and Asia that are related to the Artificial Intelligence ("AI") and Internet of Things ("IoT") ecosystem. PlanetSpark seeks to enable new market opportunities in hardware innovation and technology within the ecosystem with our investments and resources. PlanetSpark Innovation Centre is a go-to-market hardware accelerator in Asia for technopreneurs specialising in the AI and IoT arena to accelerate their technology innovations and enable them to make a fluid transition from proof-of-concept to production and commercialisation through our hardware platforms. Tapping on Excelpoint's extensive business networks and market knowledge across Asia Pacific, we strive to forge collaborative and innovative partnerships within our field. For more information about PlanetSpark, please visit https://www.planetspark.io About Excelpoint Technology Ltd. Excelpoint Technology Ltd. and its subsidiaries are a leading regional business-to-business platform providing quality electronic components, engineering design services and supply chain management to original equipment manufacturers ("OEMs"), original design manufacturers ("ODMs") and electronics manufacturing services ("EMS") in the Asia Pacific region. EBN, a premier online community for global supply chain professionals, recognised Excelpoint Technology Ltd. as one of its Top 25 Global Electronics Distributors in 2017. Excelpoint works closely with its principals to create innovative solutions to complement its customers' products and solutions. Aimed at improving its customers' operational efficiency and cost competitiveness, the Group has set up research and development centres in Singapore and China that are helmed by its dedicated team of professional engineers. Established in 1987 and headquartered in Singapore, Excelpoint's business presence spans more than 10 countries across Asia Pacific with a workforce of more than 650 people from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. For more information about Excelpoint, please visit www.excelpoint.com For any media enquiries, please contact: Mr. Alex TAN Mobile: +65 9451 5252 Email: alex.tan@8prasia.com

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TECHNOLOGY

Switcher, Inc. Launches Shopify Solution for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses to Drive Video Commerce Sales through Shoppable Livestreams

Switcher, Inc. | June 10, 2022

Switcher, Inc. (Switcher), a leading content creation and video production software company trusted by customers across the globe, announced the launch of Cartr by Switcher Studio, a Shopify app that seamlessly integrates Shopify products with Switcher Studio’s iOS app to create branded shoppable livestreams on Facebook. This unique solution enables customers to easily add products to their online shopping cart by simply commenting on the livestream. Once a customer has selected an item from the livestream, Cartr, a chatbot, will deploy and request specifics in terms of size, color, and quantity. This technology takes video from a marketing tactic to a sales strategy and creates a new revenue stream for small and mid-sized businesses. Since the company’s founding in 2014, Switcher Studio has been helping small businesses and individuals create, edit, and share video content in a professional, polished manner without the need to invest in expensive technology and equipment. As live selling continues to grow in popularity, small and mid-sized businesses are looking for ways to tap into this new sales channel to not only drive revenue but expand their customer base by reaching new audiences on social media. “Our goal at Switcher is to change the way video gets made and empower small and mid-sized businesses to take ownership of creating video that drives sales, With live selling expected to generate $35 billion in sales by 2024, we wanted to create a video commerce solution that generates revenue, creates repeat buyers, and empowers small business owners to have the tools they need to compete with national and international brands.” -Nick Mattingly, CEO and Co-Founder, Switcher Studio Cartr simplifies the live selling process by allowing businesses to connect Switcher to their Shopify store to effortlessly manage inventory for their shoppable streams and deliver a seamless customer experience every time an in-stream purchase is made. Small and mid-sized businesses that use Cartr will benefit from: Selling live from iOS devices: Retailers can create branded shoppable livestreams for Facebook with just a few taps on their iPhone or iPad in the Switcher iOS app. No complicated technology or technical experts are needed. Simplifying Facebook Live shopping: Viewers can quickly and easily express their interest in a product right on Facebook during a livestream by commenting to add it to their cart in real time. Cartr helps customers finalize their orders via Facebook DM and then directs shoppers to the businesses’ secure checkout page within their Shopify store, allowing the customer relationship to stay between the buyer and seller. Streamlining inventory management: Retailers will decide which Shopify product collections they’d like to promote during their Facebook livestream, and Cartr and Shopify will manage inventory in one location, eliminating the hassle of multiple product catalogs. “Our business has been live selling since early 2021, We have been amazed by how easy the new Cartr app in Shopify makes live selling for boutique owners like us. Cartr makes it quicker to set up and integrate product collections from Shopify, with products magically showing up when we are ready to go live! When viewers comment on our Facebook Live Shopping events, the Cartr chatbot makes checkout so simple. We expect our customer base and sales to grow even further with Cartr. Live selling is a new sales channel that we are excited to continue investing in.” -Britney Renbarger, Owner of Pink Tag. Shopify is an all-in-one commerce platform developed for entrepreneurs to start, manage, or grow their businesses. Shopify serves creators and merchants in more than 175 countries and provides the building blocks needed to succeed in video commerce. To utilize the Cartr chatbot and create collections of products to use in your videos, businesses will need to have an existing Shopify store and install the Cartr plugin from the Shopify app store. Merchants will then start streaming live video to their Facebook Business Page using the companion app, Switcher Studio. The Switcher Studio iOS app can be accessed from the Apple App Store. Businesses will need an iOS device (iPhone or iPad). For additional support or resources, please visit the Switcher Studio Help Center. To see a live demo of Cartr by Switcher Studio, tune into Switcher’s Facebook and YouTube livestream on June 7, 2022, at 1 p.m. EDT. About Switcher, Inc. and Switcher Studio Founded in 2014, Switcher, Inc. helps creators and businesses produce videos more easily and affordably through its multicamera production software, Switcher Studio. Switcher Studio lets users sync multiple iOS devices to capture video content from many perspectives—to tell stories, showcase products, and more. And its real-time video editing features to ensure that content is dynamic and polished. Plus, Switcher's integrations with streaming platforms and video conferencing tools allow creators and brands to reach their communities nearly anywhere. The tech startup, based in Louisville, Kentucky, and Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, employs 40+ team members. For more information, visit switcherstudio.com or download the Switcher Studio app.

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