On May 1-3, during the days between Jazz Fest weekends, the second annual NOLA Crawfish Festival will return to an exciting new home of Central City BBQ. Presented by NOLA Crawfish King and Live for Live Music, the three day event will bring together some of New Orleans’ best musicians, food, and music for a true New Orleans experience from top to bottom. With beer and crawfish included in every ticket purchase, an Ultimate Crawfish Cook-Off judged by a celebrity panel, and unique supergroups featuring talent from George Porter Jr., John Medeski, Eric Krasno, Luther Dickinson, Jon Cleary, Ivan Neville, and so many more, NOLA Crawfish Festival is an experience unlike any other.The full daily schedules have been released and can be seen below. Single day, three day, and VIP tickets are still available and can be purchased here. The festival will run from 3 PM to 10 PM each day. Attendees can enjoy over 5,000 pounds of hot boiled crawfish prepared on-site by Chris “Shaggy” Davis and his NOLA Crawfish King staff, ice-cold beer from NOLA Brewing Company, and critically acclaimed barbecue from Central City BBQ. Guests can anticipate various super jams, exciting collaborations and surprise sit-ins, all in true New Orleans fashion. The three-day event will conclude with the Ultimate Crawfish Cook-Off, where twenty teams will compete for the best crawfish boil determined by a panel of NOLA celebrity judges.General admission includes one beer and a guaranteed minimum of two pounds of crawfish, complete with all the fixings. BBQ dishes will also be available for purchase. Single day passes will be available, but a three-day pass is the best way to enjoy the full hometown experience. VIP passes as well as a limited amount of Super VIP passes will also be available, allowing full 360° access to a festival experience that you will never forget.A portion of all ticket proceeds will go to The CAN’d Aid Foundation‘s “Send Me A Friend“ program, which was launched in partnership with Anders Osborne to provide newly-sober musicians and music industry professionals a support network to enable them to get back to work.More information and tickets are available here. This event is rain or shine.
Recently I blogged about the huge transformation underway in the financial services space and how the industry is being fueled by a wave of innovation and entrepreneurialism that mirrors that of the tech industry.Today, there are more alternative financial companies that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Whether its new forms of payment technology, emerging models for lending capital to business, or new devices that make financial transactions faster and more convenient, the fintech space is thriving.Houston, we have a branding problemSo how did these new entrants come into the fintech space to begin with? I’ll start the conversation by first stating that traditional financial services companies like banks and insurance organizations have a brand problem. To be perfectly candid, a lot of people don’t trust banks. You rarely see bankers portrayed in movies as sympathetic, likeable protagonists. I’m not saying that perception is fair, but banks are indeed struggling these days in terms of their brand and reputation.Disruptive companies are often borne out of branding problems. On-demand driving services like Lyft and Uber, for example, didn’t gain traction in the market because of their superior analytics, but rather than taxis had a brand problem. Airbnb, in another example, gained success because hotels have a brand problem with many non-business travelers.The lack of trust and feeling of disenfranchisement that many consumers feel about the banking, investment and insurance industries is at the core of this wave of innovation in fintech. As a result, the financial services market expanded to accommodate the demand from consumers looking for more flexible, convenient and easy ways to send, manage, save and invest their money.Do you not totally believe that premise? Then why have online Insurance quotes become more like one-click shopping experience on Amazon? Insurance fintech companies such as Esurance were one of the first innovators that drove change, only to be acquired by Allstate, an arguably more traditional insurance company. The effect of insurance fintech companies was not unnoticed by the industry.Redefining banks, lenders and everything in betweenAdditionally, it should be noted that at no point in time has the business relationship of companies to traditional banks ever been more disrupted.Let’s look at the historic way that businesses began. When I grew up, when you wanted to start a business, you went to the bank and you got a loan. Business owners today can launch a company without ever involving a bank, thanks to peer-to-peer platforms like Kickstarter where you can find investors within hours with a just a mouse click. I am not saying that having a bank account wouldn’t make it easier to engage in a business. The relationship has changed though.The way we pay for things has also radically evolved. With the emergence of Bitcoin, even the definition of currency has changed. These days “fintech” can encompass pretty much anything – it’s no longer limited to payment processors. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to define what makes a company a “lender” or a “bank.” For example, is Kickstarter a lending company now, if its members help to launch a business? Amazon now “lends” to small businesses anything they need based upon an algorithm.What about equipment manufacturers? Are they lending organizations? Increasingly, the answer is yes. When it comes to purchasing large equipment – say, a tractor from Caterpillar – you’re no longer tied to a traditional bank to process your loan. Many Fortune 500 companies (including Caterpillar, Allstate and State Farm) are entering the financial services space, allowing customers to bypass banks and self-finance directly through the manufacturer or insurer.Don’t lose sight of the dataAnd let’s not forget about the data security story here amid this financial services feeding frenzy. Financial organizations possess a massive, sprawling footprint of sensitive consumer and business data encompassing credit reports, credit histories, payroll information, tax information and more.The challenge comes when the industry evolves at such a rapid pace without ensuring that the protections, governance and controls associated with the traditional financial world remain in place. This presents an urgent and critical call to action for emerging fintech players to prioritize data security and governance and to educate themselves about the industry-specific regulations and requirements specific to the financial services sector. For example, Social Finance (SoFi) recently settled with authorities around their use of “soft pull” of consumer’s credit reports that were used in marketing campaigns.Many of the new entrants to the space are founded by teams that lack a formal financial or banking background – they may come from internet or tech companies, for example. As a result, they may not even know to ask the most basic, but very critical, questions about data storage and protection, as well as industry regulations and policies specific to financial organizations:Should I use encryption?Have I implemented solid security controls around storage?What regulations like GLBA, Dodd-Frank, Glass-Steagall, and FCRA impact a fintech startup and their usage and governance around consumer data? (with a small “trick” question in there)How can I avoid becoming the next security breach waiting to happen?Will banks become obsolete?Despite its rapid growth, remember that we’re still early in the game when it comes to fintech. It’s premature to say that traditional banking organizations will fade away entirely, the reality is that there has to be some bare minimum of a construct for businesses to make and sell goods and services. You might be buying supplies via some form of alternative lending versus writing an old-school paper check, but you’ll still, in some form or another, leverage a financial services organization. European banks are already starting to broker partnerships with fintech companies to better meet their customer’s needs. Insurance companies acquired most of the insurance fintech startups, so that route is possible as well. Disruption will inevitably change the current order of things a little bit, but I don’t foresee any major downfall of the industry.I’d like to close with a quote from Clayton Christiansen’s book, The Innovator’s Dilemma about the origins of disruption:“Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use”
While even Midwestern Irish fans might come for a few home games each year, usher Paul Matthew journeyed 15 hours from Ottawa to South Bend for each and every one of Notre Dame’s home games this season. A volunteer usher since 2002, Matthew recently signed on as a full-time usher. He said he has seen a positive progression on the field and in the stands in recent years. “The team’s come so far – if we don’t do it this year, the future looks very bright,” Matthews said. “I think this year I’ve noticed the crowd’s been louder more often, but the odd thing about Notre Dame is the Stadium is always packed. Other schools have successful years but then during the unsuccessful years the crowds don’t come – not so at Notre Dame. The smiles just got a little bit bigger this year.” Matthew makes a significant trek to see those smiles throughout the season. After a three-hour drive to Syracuse, N.Y., he boards a 12-hour, overnight Amtrak train ride to South Bend, arriving early Friday morning. While he maintains a full-time job at home, working as a statistical analyst for the Canadian government, Matthew said his trips to Notre Dame do not complicate his working life. “From a work standpoint, it doesn’t affect work[ing for the government,]” Matthews said. “I get five weeks of vacation each year, and I’m there for seven games – that’s fourteen days. I still have three weeks of vacation time, and because it’s only two days at a time I still have three work days in between.” Matthew said his interest in American college football is not the norm for Canadians. “To the Canadians this is all a foreign concept, college football,” Matthews said. “When I first started doing this it was a true culture shock, and then I realized it was a pretty cool gig.” Despite his usual Friday-morning arrival, Matthew said his responsibilities typically don’t begin until early Saturday. “We have a meeting [Saturday morning] to find out what’s going on that day, how many people to expect on the sidelines, who is coming, who will help with the players’ entrance: What’s happening in the stadium that day,” Matthews said. Matthew is usually stationed near the north end zone by the tunnel and helps control the crowd and facilitate the entrance of the team, coaches, media and notable fans. “A lot of the work is pregame: Some people who have tickets to the game get access to the field, some people just have the pregame pass that allows them to be on one side of the tunnel until just after the Irish football team enters the game, some people have field passes and are allowed on the field for the entire game in a different area,” Matthews said. “You also have to separate recruits … they go on the side with the Irish and get to hang there during the game.” While he does not have much direct communication with those on the field, Matthew said he has gained a new appreciation for all the people working behind the scenes for the football program. “They have a job to do, so I’m an observer,” Matthews said. “There’s some minimal dialogue, very minor small talk … but I have developed a perception of the network behind the team: the trainers, coaches, doctors, the people who tape and retape the players when they get hurt.” Matthews said he has been awestruck by some of the people who have passed through the tunnel. “[Basketball legend] David Robinson was coming down the tunnel because his son was coming to Notre Dame … I made sure I was the person who said ‘Welcome to Notre Dame, Mr. Robinson,’” Matthews said. “He stopped, turned around and stepped towards me, offering me his hand to shake … I had to calm down after that; that was a personal highlight.” Matthews said he was thrilled to meet the Canadian Olympians during the tribute to the Notre Dame Olympians earlier this season. “I knew about the women’s basketball player [Natalie Achonwa], but I didn’t know about the two women on our soccer team [Melissa Tancredi and Candace Chapman],” Matthews said. “They stopped and introduced themselves to me – famous Canadians introducing themselves to me, an unfamous Canadian.” Matthews said the unpredictability is one of his favorite parts of the job. “That’s the beauty of the job: you never know who’s going to show up that day,” he said. “All I can do is to try to take it in stride and do my best … I have a job to do.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that a body found Thursday floating in the Dominguez Channel in Carson, Calif., is that of 23-year-old Elgin Stafford, a former USC graduate student who went missing from his home in Carson on March 20.As of Sunday, the cause of death had not been determined. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office is waiting on lab results that could take six to eight weeks to process.According to the Daily Breeze, Stafford’s body was spotted in the channel area between Avalon Boulevard and 213th Street in Carson.Stafford enrolled in the graduate program for public diplomacy at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in fall 2011 before withdrawing in January. He received his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.The Sheriff’s Department said Stafford had exhibited erratic behavior before his disappearance.Michael L. Jackson, vice president for student affairs, said the university expresses its condolences to Stafford’s friends and family.“We are very sad to learn about the death of Elgin Stafford,” Jackson said. “He was an important member of the Trojan Family and our hearts and prayers go out to his family. Every student is very precious to us and has great potential. We are sorry that Elgin’s life journey has ended in such a tragic way. We will do our best to support his family, friends and the Annenberg school community during this difficult period.”