Facebook sued by Russian firm linked to woman charged by U.S.

(Reuters) – A Russian company whose accountant was charged by federal prosecutors for attempting to meddle in U.S. elections sued Facebook Inc (FB.O) on Tuesday, claiming it is a legitimate news outlet and its Facebook account should be restored.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Russian flag in this photo illustration taken on August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The Federal Agency of News LLC, known as FAN, and its sole shareholder, Evgeniy Zubarev, filed the lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California, seeking damages and an injunction to prevent Facebook from blocking its account.

Facebook deleted FAN’s account in April as it purged pages linked to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year for flooding social media with false information in a bid to sow discord in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment.

FAN and Zubarev said they were improperly swept up in Facebook’s purge, which took down more than 270 Russian language accounts and pages, according to the complaint.

“FAN is an independent, authentic and legitimate news agency which publishes reports that are relevant and of interest to the general public,” the company said in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit argued that Facebook had effectively acted as an arm of the government in improperly impinging on its right to free speech, and cited the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in claiming Facebook discriminated against it due to its Russian origins.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, described those arguments as weak and predicted the plaintiffs would have a hard time gaining any traction in the courts.

“It’s safe to say this lawsuit is not going to be very successful,” he said. “At first glance it seems like a PR stunt to me.”

FAN acknowledged previously sharing the same office building as the Internet Research Agency and said it has employed Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, the Russian woman charged by prosecutors last month for attempting to meddle in the 2018 congressional elections, as its chief accountant since August 2016.

But the plaintiffs said Khusyaynova’s role at the company has been limited to overseeing day-to-day bookkeeping, and that she was not an officer and had no discretion over editorial content.

The plaintiffs also said they were not involved in “Project Lakhta,”, a Kremlin-backed information warfare campaign U.S. prosecutors say was started in 2014 and financed by Evgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef” due to his catering company and its ties to the Kremlin, was indicted in February along with the Internet Research Agency, which he controls.

Khusyaynova was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, according to the charging documents in her case, which is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department’s Eastern District of Virginia.

A spokesman for the district did not respond to a request for comment.

Mueller is not handling Khusyaynova’s case because his focus is on the 2016 presidential election and the charges against her relate to the 2018 midterm elections.

Reporting by Nathan Layne and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang

Best Cookbooks (Fall 2018): José Andrés, Anissa Helou, Simone Klabin

In this zinger of a year, food’s role in our lives felt like it shifted every day. Cooking at home became more of an oasis than ever, a meal with friends somehow more important. Some nights, though, punting and ordering takeout was not a copout but a necessity. This year’s best books reflect this whipsawing, whether it’s about saving the world (or just a part of it), understanding it a little better, encouraging us to take a load off and pour a nice drink, or just tell us what to do because one more decision was one too many. We’re still hungry, though—more than ever!—and these are the books that reflect our appetites.

We Fed An Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at A Time

By José Andrés with Richard Wolffe (Anthony Bourdain Books/Ecco)

Ecco Press

The most important food book of 2018 doesn’t contain a single recipe or talk about technique. Instead, it talks about saving lives and keeping people fed in the wake of a disaster. Chef José Andrés is well known for his high-end restaurants in and around Washington, DC, but when Hurricane Maria barreled through Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing an estimated 2,975 people, Andrés made his way to the island just a few days later, fighting through the rubble to hand out sandwiches and bowls of sancocho.

Feeding a localized group of people is noble, but Andrés and his assembled team of local chefs had greater ambitions, eventually going on to serve three million meals, a monster feat on a flattened, demoralized island. We Fed an Island is a first-hand look at what it took to do it.

While Washington politicians struggled to help and shifted their focus to Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston, Andrés created a de facto emergency agency in Puerto Rico, forever changing what it means to be a chef. People are still into awards like the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, but for many reasons, those are starting to feel incredibly out of touch with reality. In Puerto Rico and several other disaster zones since, Andrés showed that there’s more important work to do, and in my book at least, he became the indisputable chef of the decade. $28, Buy now.

Prosecco Made Me Do It: 60 Seriously Sparkling Cocktails

By Amy Zavatto (Andrews McMeel Publishing)

It is holiday feast time, and all that reveling requires bubbly and cocktails. For those, food and drink writer extraordinaire Amy Zavatto has us covered. Zavatto’s new book focuses on Italy’s famous fizz, giving some history on the country’s many different proseccos and focusing on its most important grape: the glera. Zavatto gives 60 sparkling cocktail recipes and tells the backstory for each, like the classic Bellini (white peach purée and brut-style Prosecco), the Venetian Spritz she first had at NYC’s Fort Defiance (Aperol, brut-style Prosecco, club soda, and an olive), and the Dance Party (does it matter?), each with Ruby Taylor’s poster-worthy illustrations setting the vibe.

You’ll learn and make some fine cocktails as you go, but Zavatto’s true gift is her take-you-along-for-the-ride charm. Are we learning? Yes! Are we laughing! Hell yes! Do we have a lovely drink in our hand, to boot? Yep! That too. Cheers! $17, Buy now.

Feast: Food of The Islamic World

By Anissa Helou (Ecco)

Art dealer, chef, and author of several cookbooks, Anissa Helou employs most of the skill sets involved in these jobs, and adds a healthy glug of anthropology in this beautiful and important work. For dumpukht/dumpokht biryani, she describes watching a noblewoman in Hyderabad cover goat marinated in papaya, cardamom, cumin, cloves and saffron with long-grain rice and cook it in a tight-lidded pot. When it came off the heat, the noblewoman heated a lump of charcoal over a flame, and dropped it right on the rice for a few minutes, giving the whole dish a smoky flavor.

When Helou finds room for improvement in an established recipe, or finds a way to make something more easily, she trusts herself enough to suggest a change. For complex multilayer breads like Pakistani paratha or Turkish tahinli katmer, where the classic technique can be difficult to master, she suggests a different dough-folding pattern that saves time and still yields excellent results. $60, Buy now.

Food & Drink Infographics: A Visual Guide to Culinary Pleasures

By Simone Klabin and edited by Julius Wiedemann (Taschen)

I may be biased, but while this whopper of a book might be difficult to pick up, it’s surprisingly hard to put down. Infographics are a great way to take a new look at food, and your first impulse with this beautiful tome might be to get out a razor and turn each page into a poster. Resist! At least hold off for a little while and learn visually.

Flip through the pages and certain aspects of food will begin to crystallize in ways they hadn’t before. Meat cut charts reveal the differences between regional and national styles of butchery, maps of cheese production detail mastery, diversity and depth. Conversion charts illustrate volume conversions like the ten tablespoons and two teaspoons in two-thirds of a cup, and if you ponder that for a moment, you might discover the vast superiority of going metric in the kitchen like the rest of the world.

There’s also hidden humor in Heather Jones’ “Correct Plating: And How to Get Through That (Sometimes Awkward) Holiday Dinner,” where she positions three tabs of Xanax just to the right of the soup spoon and not far from the Cognac. There’s also a bit of cross-cultural learning with Pop Chart Labs’ cocktail diagrams labeled “The Poison” across the page from “The Remedy—Hangover Cures From Around The World,” where your interest may be piqued by the Germanic take: mustard berries, juniper berries, and pickled herring. $70, Buy now.

36 Bottles: Less Is More with 3 Recommended Wines Per Month

By Paul Zitarelli (Sasquatch Books)

Sasquatch Books

A confession: I lived in Paris for a decade, where I wrote about food and drank a lot of wine. While I can speak knowledgeably about the latter, my knowledge of individual styles of wine probably isn’t what it should be. In France alone, never mind the rest of the world, there are hundreds of options.

Paul Zitarelli offers a simple, global solution. Focus on just three wines a month: a red, a white and a wildcard like rosé or a sparkler. In November, just drink French Chablis, or Italian Langhe Rosso, and say “oui” to a Thanksgiving-friendly Tavel rosé from the Rhône Valley. Next May, limit your purchases to Austrian grüner veltliners, Oregon pinot noirs, and try a sweet, divine Tokaji or two from Hungary. Each month’s suggestions are accompanied by a couple recipes that quietly affirm that Zitarelli’s good taste extends beyond the bottle.

As someone who’s been overwhelmed by choice, this monthly trifecta strikes me as a great idea. Where 36 Bottles really clinches it is in the writing—both funny and smart—with lines like this: “Ultimately [using sherry in cocktails] reminds me too much of mixing liquid Tylenol into applesauce to get my daughter to take her medicine. If it tastes good in the first place, why do we need to hide it?” $20, Buy now.

Cooking With Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, Stems, and Other Odds & Ends into Delicious Meals

By Lindsay-Jean Hard (Workman)

Workman Publishing

We all do it. After a big trip to the produce stand and a nice dinner or two, we end up with a few pounds of wilty bedfellows in the icebox, and a stale bread heel on the counter, all destined for the compost heap, or worse, the trash.

A whopping 40 percent of food in the United States suffers a similar fate, says the Natural Resources Defense Council, a staggering $165 billion worth, but Lindsay-Jean Hard’s new book is an effort to chip away at that number. Hard breaks it all down by key ingredient, giving recipes for each thing you might have too much of: pestos made from asparagus ends or carrot top greens, or an ingenionus mushroom-stem compound butter. I was immediately attracted to the catch-all dishes throughout the book like frittatas, stratas, and stocks. Got extra cauliflower or okra or half a shallot? You can (quick) pickle that! Have some leftover pickle brine? Use it to turbocharge your potato salad.

Hand’s book isn’t the kind of thing you buy just for the recipes, but if you put it on the kitchen reference shelf, you’ll be happy it’s there the next time you have something that needs to be put to use in a hurry. $20, Buy now.

Food writer Joe Ray (@joe_diner) is a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of The Year, a restaurant critic, and author of “Sea and Smoke” with chef Blaine Wetzel.

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How To Become a Tech Entrepreneur, Never Learn Code, and Keep Your 401k

Innovation does not always come from the top of the organizational chart. Often, employees who have intimate knowledge of a company’s operations are best equipped to spot opportunities for innovation and change. Unfortunately, not all great ideas filter up to the C-suite. And many would-be entrepreneurs at corporations have families, mortgages, and other financial responsibilities that prevent them from leaving to embrace the high-risk, high-reward dynamic of a start-up.

Beyond risk-reward trade-offs, these employees are also loyal to their company and want to see it succeed. Fortunately, by demystifying exactly what innovation is, managers can stay in their positions as they build a low-cost prototype to prove their idea to their company’s leaders – leaders who are likely on the hunt for innovation.

How corporate entrepreneurs differ

Corporate entrepreneurship and innovation have become buzzwords that, through repetition, have warped into meaningless phrases. That’s why a CB Insights article poking fun at corporate innovation is so funny, because anyone who thinks about these issues knows each example rings true. Innovation initiatives often mimic the atmosphere, structure, and vibe of Silicon Valley, but fail to replicate the entrepreneurial spark that inspires a visionary to do difficult, high-risk/high-reward work.

At a corporation, no work will ever truly emulate the high-risk or high-reward environment of a startup, unless the corporation spins out its innovative arm into its own entity. Employees have 401ks and other benefits, HR follows a pay schedule with tiers and caps, and shareholders are wary of diluting stocks.

But that does not mean that a visionary employee can’t become an entrepreneur within their organization. As a corporate entrepreneur, the employee can become an innovation champion simply for the sake of watching their company succeed (while scoring a well-earned promotion). However, to get leadership buy-in, they’ll first need to prove their idea works – and they can without learning a single piece of code.

High tech platforms start with low tech, manual hacks

Part of the mystique surrounding tech startups comes from well-designed platforms that seem to anticipate a user’s every need. When a corporation innovates, its leaders expect sleek prototypes that run seamlessly on the right algorithms and tech. But the truth is that most prototypes are crude, manual, low-tech hacks. Before an entrepreneur builds a platform connecting pet owners to pet sitters, he or she sits behind a computer fielding pet sitting requests in a chat window and calling pet sitters on their phone. In the early days of a platform, entrepreneurs manually facilitate most transactions, thereby validating demand and supply, and building a low-cost prototype. Only once they’ve proven that the business demand is real do they worry about building technology that can scale.

There are many types of platforms, and for each there are unique hacks that can test underlying assumptions before a company invests millions of dollars in developing a platform. With a small budget and a good amount of hustle, a non C-suite manager can test assumptions, tweak the market, and deliver to the C-suite an actionable plan.

Armed with a functioning prototype and a few months worth of data, it’s time to get the idea funded. Luckily, corporations have built in venture capitalists: their board and executive leadership. To be successful in wooing your leadership, it is critically important to capture all data from the manual prototypes and develop a business plan around how the platform would integrate with or expand the company’s core business.

Instagram Bug Leaves Some User Passwords Exposed

Instagram users have been asking for a way to view all the data the company has on them, but this may be more than they were hoping for. The new Download Your Data tool that allows users to receive that information may have left some users’ passwords exposed.

When using the new feature, some Instagram users’ passwords were displayed in the URL, which was then also stored on Facebook’s servers—a bigger issue for those using a shared computer or compromised network, according to The Information. Facebook already notified users who were affected.

The tool has since been updated and the problem should no longer occur. Those Instagram users affected are encouraged to change their passwords and clear their browser history.

But it’s still a troubling update, as Instagram and parent company Facebook fight back against a seemingly unending stream of scandal and security breaches.

Fortune reached out to Instagram for comment, but did not receive an immediate reply.

During Chicago Toy And Game Week, Products Get Licensed

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a remarkable toy inventor named Mary Couzin. In 2003, Couzin founded Chicago Toy and Game Week — affectionately known as ChiTAG — to bring toy inventors, toy companies, and toy lovers together. Now in its 16th year, the annual celebration of play and innovation has become the event for toy inventors of all ages and degrees of experience. Currently taking place right now, this event is unlike any other I’m aware of for inventors in the best way possible.

It’s beloved by the industry, for starters. Event sponsors include industry titans like Mattel, Hasbro, Spin Master, LEGO, and Goliath Games. And get this: Product acquisitionists from more than 90 companies, representing 26 countries, will be there. Wow. That’s a lot of decision-makers in one place. Every year, new inventors, professionals, and even young inventors license their toy and game ideas as a result. That makes ChiTAG a uniquely successful event for inventors.

Unlike typical trade shows — such as Toy Fair in New York City — the focus at ChiTAG is squarely on invention, not retail. There are several distinct components. This weekend, more 30,000 attendees (half of whom are children) will peruse and interact with toys and games exhibited at the fair. Retailers including Target also make a point of attending the fair, because they can observe how customers interact with the toys and games on display.

Before the fair gets underway, there’s a two-day conference for new inventors focused on education, including how to pitch. Professional toy inventors — who set their own meetings with companies looking for ideas — are provided with meeting space. Young inventors are encouraged to compete in a challenge by submitting videos of their invention ideas, and receive feedback and mentorship in return. And finally, there’s an awards gala. (This year, my former bosses David Small and Paul Rago from the startup Worlds of Wonder are being recognized for their decades of innovative toys with a Lifetime Achievement award.)

In the 1990s while she was in real estate, Couzin pursued her love of inventing as a side-hustle. After achieving some success, she began advising and representing other toy inventors.

“Coming together can only help the industry,” she explained in a phone interview. “We really make a point of this feeling like a community. People who don’t carry that out are not invited to return.” Industry leaders make themselves available because they view this as their time to give back, she added. Opportunities to network are a core part of the experience. “You could sit down to breakfast with the head of Hasbro,” she said.

I personally know of inventors who have licensed their ideas because of ChiTAG. When novice inventor Eduardo Matos had an idea for a new toy that he thought was a hit, he considered his options. Sharing his royalties with a toy broker didn’t appeal to him. What he heard about ChiTAG on LinkedIn sounded too good to be true. But after an executive convinced him it was the real deal, he took the risk and paid to participate in the conference for new inventors, included the opportunity to pitch.

It paid off. He received a lot of interest, and eventually secured a licensing deal with a leading toy company. His invention is scheduled to debut next fall.

“ChiTAG a must,” he said. “The information shared was hugely valuable. For example, I learned that when a company asks to option your product, the typical fee paid is $5,000 a month. When my invention was optioned later that same day, I knew to ask for that.”

His recommendations? Take as many notes as you can, attend the entire conference, make your prototypes look as professional as possible, and have a hit on your hands.

When you have an idea for a new product that you want to commercialize, determining how to spend your resources is incredibly important, because they’re always limited. This is true for startups that raise millions of dollars as well as independent inventors. What’s worth it? What’s not? When? These questions are especially relevant when considering industry events like trade shows, as costs quickly add up.

At the end of the day, being able to access the people in your industry who are decision-makers is remarkable. I wish more trade events provided access like this. (If you’re looking to license your product idea, I don’t recommend buying a booth and waiting for someone to walk up. Read more of what I believe inventors need to know about trade shows.)

Missed out this year? There’s a wealth of information on the ChiTAG website, including a regularly updated blog and white papers.

Mary Couzin’s Tips For Inventors

1. Do your research first. Does your product idea already exist? Use Google to find out. You could also visit a local retailer or toyshop. Ask, has this been done? Will it sell?

“It’s so easy to check. It’s not like the old days when you had to visit every show and store. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.”

2. Don’t give up too soon. “Persistence is the number one quality you must have to become successful at toy inventing,” Couzin said. “Believing in what you have will carry you for the most part.”

Remember, no one has all the answers all the time. So take the opinion of others with a grain of salt. Couzin says she abstains from passing judgment on any toy or game for this reason.

3. Tell your story in the media. She emphasized the importance of storytelling, and referenced the success of the startup GoldieBlox. “Their marketing was brilliant. Before the product was as good as it is today, it had sold the public.” (Interestingly, GoldieBlox describes itself as a disruptive media company on its website.)

Toys are part of the entertainment industry, she pointed out, which means they compete for attention with movies, music, books, and television. “We’re the only ones not telling our story!”

If you want to succeed in the toy industry, you absolutely must attend this show.

5 Lessons Raising Kids Can Teach You About Running Your Company

Your employees need your time and attention as they and the business grow. So why not use the lessons you learn at home with your work family. Here are a few key lessons executives can learn from our kids.

Every moment is a new opportunity.

Kids are fully present, always in the moment. They don’t obsess about the past or worry about the future. Children have what Shunryu Suzuki, the master who brought Zen Buddhism to America, calls “beginner’s mind.” In the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Suzuki writes, “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Kids bring creativity, openness, and a natural curiosity to everything. Try bringing this fresh perspective to brainstorming with your teams. Challenge them to channel the unselfconscious, no-idea-is-too-silly energy of childhood.

Negotiating means making things work for everybody.

If you’ve ever seen a group of kids working together to make up their own game with their own rules, you’ll see how important it is for them to create something everyone can play together. One kid might try to boss the rest of them around, but if he can’t hold their interest, they will quit and go home. As a result, kids’ homemade games are naturally diverse and inclusive. Don’t be afraid to let your teams make up some of their own rules and find their own ways to bring everyone together.

Prepare for the unexpected.

Everybody loves a best-case scenario, but as any parent who’s ever tried to get a child out the door in a hurry knows, you need to build in enough time for some worst-case reality too. Just as you wouldn’t assume you’ll only need a minute to pack a diaper bag, you also shouldn’t make your product launch date dependent on everything going right. Smart parents will tell you: someone will get an earache, it will snow, plans will be derailed, stuff will always happen. Stay flexible and, above all, realistic about what you can do and how quickly you can do it.

Change is the only constant, so you better embrace it.

With kids, as soon as you’ve figured out how to handle one milestone, you can be pretty sure they will have moved on to the next one. The tactics that worked for a 3-year-old who won’t go to bed are useless with a 13-year-old who sleeps till noon. Just like what worked for your million-dollar company won’t work when you reach 10 or 20 million. And your junior employee won’t be new forever. If raising kids teaches us anything, it’s that we need to constantly adjust our strategies to suit ever-changing needs. Be willing to continually review and refine your company’s processes, and to make changes that keep up with your growth.

Sometimes everybody just needs a snack or a nap.

To avoid meltdowns with little kids, you have to pay attention to the basics: food, sleep, fresh air. It’s the same with your teams. Sometimes big problems are really small ones, but the team dealing with them is burnt and needs a timeout.  Don’t schedule important meetings when people are likely to be cranky and hungry, or anxious to get somewhere. Help your teams to recharge and reset when they need to. Model your own commitment to work-life balance. Employees who feel cared about will work smarter, not harder, and that’s good for everyone.

Here's How Leaders Get in Their Own Way Every Single Day

Leaders setting goals or New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on what they need to start doing: tracking more data, investing in better software, establishing a new annual review process.

While implementing new tracking or setting clearer review standards likely would make an impact, it’s what leaders are already doing that’s often the biggest barrier to their success.

Customer feedback, employee pushback, or failed marketing campaigns sometimes send signals about what you should stop doing. A lot of what you do, however, feels like forward motion but really keeps you in place. Your ideas about running your company or changing your industry are sometimes misguided, but that feedback’s a lot harder to gather.

How do you know, for example, if your goal-setting methods are effective? What tells you whether your risk-taking philosophy works? You’d need to make it through several quarters before you could tell whether your outlook was paying off. But there are three ways I’m sure you are hurting yourself and don’t even know it.

Adopting One Outlook Is Dangerous

We tend to absorb the thoughts we’re surrounded by. It’s not a weakness. It’s human nature. A 1969 study by French psychologists found that people who discuss ideas with others develop stronger attitudes than they’d held on their own. Their viewpoints intensified as they found more people with their perspectives, and human psychology hasn’t changed much in the intervening five decades.

The psychologists concluded that group consensus leads people to “adopt more extreme positions.” That phenomenon isn’t isolated to political discussions like the ones the researchers started. Our thoughts and behaviors are reinforced by what we come in contact with.

Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber where you’re only exposed to outlooks that affirm your own. It’s hard to see that something isn’t working. Worse, it’s difficult to come up with new ideas with only one perspective in mind.

3 Things You Can Stop Doing Today

Ditching a long-standing mindset is hard work, and that’s especially true if a leader’s viewpoints have been reinforced by policies or processes. But in my experience, there are three things leaders can stop doing today to make a new start:

  1. Stop hustling. “Hustle” has become a buzzword, shorthand that someone’s an endlessly hard worker. But hustling prevents thinking. If you’re always hustling — and trying to get your culture oriented around hustling — you’re leaving no space for creative ideas. Hustling is meant for execution, but creativity takes space.

    My best ideas don’t come during the hustle. Most come when you are not thinking about the issue like when you are on a run or in the shower. When I get away from the computer screen, my mind begins to think about problems differently. When I write speeches, I need space to think about stories and their key points.

    You can’t force the creative process; doing something unrelated sparks fresh approaches.

  2. Stop the complexity. Companies try to tackle too many strategies and find themselves making things too complicated. It’s hard for bosses to explain to employees what’s needed, and it’s even harder for customers to understand. Simplifying strategies doesn’t dilute their effectiveness — it helps them stick.

    Changing my sales flow to a two-step process impacted new clients enrolled. Over the years, I’d listened to experts’ different strategies. I found that first having a short qualification call was a rapport builder. Only in the second step do I dive into defining the problem and offering a solution. It’s simple, and I vow not to break this process after seeing how much easier it’s been to enroll new clients.

  3. Stop following others. Fast-growing companies don’t follow others. Imitation results in blander results for the copy, who can’t duplicate the excitement of the original. It’s good to remember that no matter how dominant a brand is, there’s always room for a competitor doing something different. MySpace was once the No. 1 site in the U.S., outpacing even Google, but that didn’t stop it from losing out to Facebook.

Rather than overwhelm yourself with all the things you should start doing, consider what you should quit. While some leaders have a hard time admitting they’re wrong, that can hurt their chances of success. And failing is a lot more painful than quitting.

Tencent profit beats estimates as investment gains offset gaming weakness

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings (0700.HK) said on Wednesday its third-quarter net profit rose 30 percent, beating estimates, as investment gains offset a weak performance in the Chinese company’s core gaming business.

FILE PHOTO: Tencent Holdings Chairman and CEO Pony Ma (C) visits the Tencent booth following the opening ceremony of the fifth World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Net profit at China’s biggest gaming and social media group in the July-September quarter rose to 23.3 billion yuan, compared with an average estimate of 19.32 billion yuan, according to 15 analysts polled by to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.

Revenue rose 24 percent to 80.6 billion yuan ($11.59 billion), the slowest quarterly growth in more than three years, in-line with estimates.

China, the world’s biggest gaming market, has been imposing tougher rules on the industry, including a halt to new game approvals since March and calls to tackle young people’s gaming addictions.

This contributed to Tencent reporting its first quarterly profit fall in more than a decade in its April-June quarter. The company also cut its gaming marketing budget.

Tencent shares, which more than doubled in 2017, have dropped by about a third so far this year, wiping about $165 billion in value from the group’s market value.

In the third quarter, Tencent benefited mainly from a more-than-doubling in net gains from its investment activities, including the initial public offering of online food delivery to ticketing services company Meituan Dianping.

Douglas Morton, Head of Research, Asia at Northern Trust Capital Markets, said the result beat was a positive surprise even if not counting the investment income.

“What the real surprise is or the real comfort for the market will be that the mobile gaming data which beat expectations,” he said.

Tencent said smartphone games revenues grew 7 percent year-on-year and 11 percent quarter-on-quarter to 19.5 billion yuan, mainly due to contributions from new games. Despite the new approval freeze, Tencent already had 15 approvals and released 10 titles in the quarter, it said in the filing.

PC games revenue dropped 15 percent year-on-year due to continued user migration to mobile games and high base in the same quarter a year ago.

Advertising revenue, which accounts for 20 percent of the company’s total revenue, rose 47 percent, supported by a 61 percent jump in social and other advertising.

Tencent said its cloud services revenues more than doubled year-on-year in the quarter while the number of paying cloud customers grew at a triple-digit percentage rate year-on-year. Cloud revenues for the first three quarters of the year exceeded 6 billion yuan, it said.

Monthly active user number of WeChat, the most popular social network in China, rose incrementally to 1.08 billion.

($1 = 6.9536 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jane Merriman

Rest In Peace, Stan Lee. (Here's the Big Break He Told Inc. About in 2009)

The comics world mourned the death Monday of Stan Lee, the man who dreamed up some of the most iconic characters and superheroes of the last 60 years–including Spider-Man, Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Daredevil. 

Lee was also a reluctant entrepreneur. His creations became the center of an empire that Disney bought for more than $4 billion. But he told Inc. in 2009 that never loved the business side of his business. 

As he remembered, if you had to point to one big break in his life, it was the advice his wife gave him in the early 1960s when he was about to quit the comics business. His boss was his cousin’s husband, Martin Goodman, and Lee was annoyed that he was being pushed relentlessly to copy the competition, and wanted to go out on his own.

I said to my wife, “I don’t think I’m getting anywhere. I think I’d like to quit.” She gave me the best piece of advice in the world.

She said, “Why not write one book the way you’d like to, instead of the way Martin wants you to? Get it out of your system. The worst thing that will happen is he’ll fire you — but you want to quit anyway.”

So in 1961 we did The Fantastic Four. I tried to make the characters different in the sense that they had real emotions and problems. And it caught on. After that, Martin asked me to come up with some other superheroes. That’s when I did the X-Men and The Hulk. And we stopped being a company that imitated.

Lee’s wife died in 2017. They’d been married for 69 years. He leaves a daughter, and a legacy that people won’t soon forget.

Here’s what else I’m reading today:

Do not hire this 1 person

Seth Godin has a new book out. Like most of what he writes, there are some very interesting takeaways. If you take just one point away as an entrepreneur however, here’s his best advice about the one person no startup should ever hire: a chief marketing officer.

Instead, “go to a shelter and get a German shepherd,” he suggests in an interview with Inc.’s Leigh Buchanan, and train it to bite you every time you think about hiring a CMO. 

That’s because Godin thinks most startups fail because of product problems, or customer service problems that need to be addressed. And the person who is in charge of overseeing product and customer service–and yes, marketing and everything else–is called the CEO. Or maybe the founder. The entrepreneur. In other words, you.

It’s the hardest, best job you’ll ever have, and it’s the one you’ve signed on for. Relish it.

Netflix has some truly eye-opening new technology

Oh, there’s nothing dystopian about this at all: Netflix just unveiled a feature it calls EyeNav, in which its iPhone app tracks your eye movements so you can select shows by simply staring at them, and press stop by sticking out your tongue. Once you get past the inherent creepiness, the entertainment giant says it’s excited about how this could make its app more accessible.
–Bill Murphy Jr., Inc.

The war at 7-Eleven

There’s a war going on inside 7-Eleven, at least according to some franchisees who say the company is tipping off Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and resulting in raids on stores owned by it least cooperative store owners.
–Laureen Etter and Michael Smith, Bloomberg

A Black Friday prediction

A new study says Americans plan to spend $520 each on average during Black Friday, with over half of U.S. residents making at least one in-person purchase. It’s not exactly a double blind scientific study–online coupon site Slickdeals surveyed 2,000 people. But it’s good news, so we’ll take it.
SWNS

What on earth was Hasbro thinking?

The game of Monopoly is 83 years old. Hasbro owns the copyright now, and for almost 25 years, they’ve licensed lots of different versions, from Auburn University-themed edition to an X-Men Collector’s Edition. The latest edition to make the rounds, just in time for the holidays: Millennial Monopoly, in which players don’t buy real estate (it’s too expensive), and collect experiences rather than cash.

The rules say the player with the most student loan debt rolls first, and the rules recommend playing in your parents’ basement. Millennials are not amused, which leads to the question: who did they think would buy this?
–Gina Loukareas, Boing-Boing

Amazon and Apple Just Announced They're Working Together in a Very Surprising Way. (Everyone Else: Be Afraid)

Where did you buy the last thing you bought from Apple? At the Apple Store? Online via Apple.com? Maybe at a retailer like Best Buy or Target, or via your mobile phone provider? 

The one place you probably didn’t buy it: Amazon.com.

But that might be about to change. For the 2019 holiday season, Apple will be selling its iPhones, iPads and other products directly via Amazon

This is a big change, and it makes sense for Apple, which has seen iPhone sales dip and is looking for any advantage. But there’s risk on both sides. The two companies are competitors, and Apple is giving up some customer data by making this move.

Moreover, if you’re Amazon and facing rumblings about antitrust action basically every day, there has to be some hesitation to teaming up with other tech titans. And if you compete with either of these companies, sorry to ruin your Monday morning as you wake up to see them working together.

The upside: Well, if you’re looking for a last minute holiday gift like an Apple Watch, at least you can probably buy it with one click. 

Here’s what else I’m reading today:

The Satanic Temple sues Netflix

This is the kind of headline you have to read a few times to make sense of. A religious organization is suing Netflix for copyright and trademark violations, saying the entertainment giant ripped off their $30,000 statue of a deity called BBBB, and used it in the show “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

They’re asking for $150 million, but they probably already got what they really want: a 10X increase in Google searches for “The Satanic Temple.”
–Bill Murphy Jr., Inc.

Oh, and speaking of strange bedfellows with Amazon

A few months ago, Sen. Bernie Sanders was Amazon’s biggest antagonist on Capitol Hill. Then Amazon raised its internal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Sanders praised them for it.

Now, he’s promising to introduce legislation  in Congress to raise the minimum wage across the United States to that level (from $7.25 to $15).
–Sen. Bernie Sanders, Twitter

Awww, Black Friday is kinda cute compared to this

Alibaba sold more than $1 billion worth of products in the very first minute of the 2018 edition of Singles Day, which if you don’t know is a roughly 25-year-old Chinese tradition celebrating single people–and the biggest online shopping day of the year.

It’s on November 11 each year (11/11 representing four single people), and this was the biggest in history. By the time China hit Nov. 12, the total sales revenue on the world’s largest online platform was $30.8 billion.
–Arjun Kharpal, CNBC

25 years ago yesterday

Here’s a milestone that went completely unnoticed. Before Netscape, before Internet Explorer, before Firefox, before Chrome, before Safari, before Firefox again, there was Mosaic. The first consumer-friendly browser was released, in version 1.0, 25 years ago yesterday. 
–National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois

Criminals ruin something really cool

The U.S. Postal Service has a service called Informed Delivery that lets you get scanned images of your incoming mail before it’s actually delivered. It’s free, useful, underutilized- and apparently not as safe as people hoped. The U.S. Secret Service is now warning that hackers have figured it out and are using it to steal identities.
–Melissa Locker, Fast Company