“Branislav (“Banne”) Gjorcevski is a strategy advisor and Investor. He’s always been at the forefront of the corporate growth, innovation, and market positioning process. Collaboratively engaged in the design of company strategy, strategic partnerships, innovative revenue models, go-to-market strategy, transformational technology and leadership, his involvement has helped various companies achieve growth and success.
He co-founded IT Labs in 2005 and has assisted dozens of companies from startups to enterprises deliver innovation, strategy, and expansion. The goal of IT Labs is to offer technology transformation with cutting-edge solutions and innovation implemented in an agile, powerful and creative approach to problem-solving.
Representing IT Labs, he is also a Partner at Remagine Partners, a consortium brand of multiple high-performing transformational companies, offering transformational strategies for rapid growth, automation, and operational excellence. “
PICANTE Media: Let’s start with some questions about yourself, Banne. It is great to hear top entrepreneurs talking about themselves. Tell us the highlights of your life and career so far. Our readers would love to hear it.
Branislav (“Banne”) Gjorcevski: That is a great question. 🙂I think my biggest highlights were all results of my personal transformation, whether I was aware of those transformations at the time or not. Those transformative events take you into the next level of growth and result in a big milestone where opportunity meets the effort, or as people say, “I got lucky”. I was lucky enough to create one of the first online social networks, back in 1999, to help European artists present themselves to the world. That launched my career in online tech. I was lucky enough to start IT Labs in times when Web 2.0 was a big deal in California. I was lucky enough to work with amazing clients that have been with us for over a decade. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a team of amazing people that would do anything to help clients’ business. And so on…
PM: You have been a serial entrepreneur, starting from 2005 with IT Labs in 2006. What would be your one advice to the wannabe entrepreneurs?
BG: Be true to yourself about what your strong suits are and, more importantly, what your weak points are. Then find experts in the areas where you lack. Let customers lead the way, not your ‘intuition’. When you become a bigger company, then you can rely on ‘intuitive approaches’. Purpose first, services and product second. Always go the extra mile to help your market…customers will notice that and never leave you. Sleep as much as you need, not less, not more. Start with a healthy mind and spirit. That will give you the foundation for productivity.
PM: IT Labs have been offering a variety of services, ranging from technology design, app development, and consultancy services. In what ways do you think you can partner with betting and gaming companies and improve their performance?
BG: There is always room for performance improvements. Our job is to surround ourselves with great talent, internally and externally, that can solve a problem at a moment’s notice. What that means, in reality, is that every time a potential new client calls, we need to be able to quickly identify the points of improvement and immediately get on the road to a solution. On the other hand, our job to our existing clients is to be the first to notice potential performance improvements before it becomes a problem. That is a monitoring and risk mitigation value that we provide in order to support our clients’ growth and have an action plan way in advance. CFOs love us 🙂
As far as the gaming and betting industry is concerned, our biggest focus aside from catering to compliance and privacy is performance and scalability. We want to be a step ahead of the audience growth and have an infrastructure that is optimized for that growth, both from a performance and cost standpoint. Another aspect is customer experience and A/B testing. Finding the right mix of functionality, ease of use, and user journey that result in the highest stickiness factor, user loyalty and, finally, per-user-revenue. Again, CFOs love us 🙂
We always place ourselves in a fiduciary role. The services and the value that we provide will follow.
PM: Could you describe an example of a large-scale transformation that IT Labs have planned and effected in a client company?
BG: Yes. For a recent engagement, we had to design a next-gen platform for a SaaS company that caters to millions of users daily. The challenge was to design a highly scalable and flexible system that is able to perform in an auto-provisioning environment and migrate chunks of users incrementally. This new platform has to conform to a lot of compliance. The biggest challenge was to manage expectations of the client’s leadership team and their high risk around implementing the new infrastructure, not the infrastructure or the implementation itself. Sometimes change management is a much bigger task than technology, and assisting the leadership team through that process is of real value.
PM: How do you see the changing gaming and betting industry scenes in the USA? What are the threats and opportunities that you foresee in the future?
BG: Technology is getting commoditized, forcing creative approaches to become important more than ever. Purpose-driven and niche-driven business models seem to be taking the leadership role. The momentum is gained by providing a solution to an existing problem or niche market group/audience/direction. Having the USA market slowly but surely opening for online gaming and regulating that segment, gives great opportunities for bringing digital transformation and an omnichannel approach. It is great challenge for the companies to combine already well-working software for managing land base operations with new product from software providers for online gaming and all of that to be packed in a way to enable the continuance of the game from land-based to online and vice versa; and on top of that full compliance with the regulation and data protection policies. That is where I see the industry needs support and professional guidance for achieving continues growth.
PM: IT Labs seem to invest heavily in educating people and nurturing leaders. A section of IT Labs’ About Us page reads thus: “Molding Next World-Class Talent [no exaggeration]” How important the strategy has been for IT Labs’ growth?
BG: It’s the most important. We used to collectively spend more daily brainpower focusing on reaching more potential clients; but as we grew, it became clear that we needed to spend more time and energy on perfecting the process of creation and growth of talent. There is a global talent shortage that has been addressed already. We have a very strong and strict succession plan that takes a beginner to a high-quality level junior over a period of 6 months to a year, under very strict mentorship by a senior (12+ years of experience). I think we solved that problem. But that opened up our next challenge…individuals don’t produce deliverables and innovation, a team does. The next level of our focus is generating high-performing teams. Our mission is to provide high-performing, process-driven teams to organizations around the world for high-productivity and innovation.
PM: Automation is tipped to be the buzzword of the near future. What do you think about the role of automation in software/app development and content creation? How relevant will be people — the real, working people — in the future in these domains?
BG: Automation is my middle name 🙂 You can automate everything that has a pattern. However, anything that is difficult or should not be templatized will require a human touch. In every market, each company is unique and provides a different kind of value; therefore, there always will be a need for something custom made….or a human being. Some jobs will be automated but some will be created. I’ve witnessed quite a bit of automation with the rise of robotics, and the person that used to be doing that job is now monitoring that robot. And that is how it goes. Content, creative work, people-interaction, people-management, and technology management will always require a high level of a human role.
PM: Finally, do you have any big announcements to make about the company or possibly about a new venture that you are founding? Go on and break the news here!
BG: Ha! You got me there 🙂 Yes, we are considering expansion into new territories in 2020 and that is gaining momentum. Initial expansion is planned for London and NY. We’ll keep you posted!
European investors will spend from €100 to €500 on Christmas gifts this year
This was revealed in a survey of the European P2P investors conducted by the platform Robo.cash. According to the findings, such an amount will be spent by 55.5% of respondents. It is notable that 58.5% of investors are going to buy presents online.
The second most popular sum, which the respondents are willing to pay for Christmas gifts, is up to €100. This answer was given by 29.0% of them. 11.6% of P2P investors are going to spend from €500 to €999 and 3.9% – €1,000 or more.
Analysts of the company clarify that the most common range mentioned by the respondents – €100-499 – is just enough to buy presents for family members and close friends. At the same time, the limits are explained by investors’ reasonable approach to spending and a thorough budget planning.
It is noteworthy that 58.5% of respondents are going to buy Christmas presents online, whereas 65% of average Europeans are planning to do it in offline stores.
Such a tendency among P2P investors is due to several reasons. On the one hand, they are active users of digital tools in general. Apart from investing on P2P platforms, 32.3% of them regularly use online banking and 25.7% – mobile payments, according to Robo.cash findings. On the other hand, investors value their time. Therefore, they opt for fast and convenient online shopping instead of waiting in a queue.
The survey was launched by the platform in mid-November. In total, it collected responses of 440 P2P investors from European countries.
Robo.cash is a Croatia based fully automated P2P platform with a buyback guarantee on investments operating within the European Union and Switzerland. Launched in February 2017, the platform belongs to the financial holding Robocash Group that unites non-bank consumer lending companies in seven markets in Europe and Asia. As a part of the group, Robo.cash works according to a “peer-to-portfolio” model providing an opportunity to invest in short-term loans issued by the affiliated companies. For the time of operation, it has attracted over €9 mln of investments, which has allowed to finance €115 mln worth of loans.
How Social Networks Have Displaced Books From Our Lives
Gone are the days of teenagers spending their spare time engrossed in a novel, according to findings from a study conducted by the American Psychological Association.
As a matter of fact, 1 in 3 high school students in the US didn’t read a book for pleasure in 2016. Also, 82% of 12th graders regularly visited social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram in the same time period.
The lack of reading books is concerning. And today, we’re going to talk about how social networks have displaced books from our lives.
It’s No Longer a Top Priority
In the past 10 years or so, with the advent of social media, our lifestyles have transformed dramatically.
To a teen born in today’s age of the Internet, reading a book for fun doesn’t seem very exciting as most kids their age are already immersed in the world of social media.
Television used to be the king of digital media during the pre-internet era. Teenagers didn’t have many choices for watching things that would align with their likings. Therefore, spending downtime reading on topics they loved was very common.
However, things changed drastically after the arrival of the internet. As time went by, more people started using Google to learn how to detox knowledge and information, rather than reading books.
Don’t get us wrong here. The Internet might just be the greatest invention of the modern era. It has surely made our lives easier. However, the internet today is mostly influenced by social networks, which in many ways have veered from the key purpose of it.
Today’s generation prefers using social media over reading books because it seems more fun and they feel this sense of connection toward a community from which they’re accessing information. Little did the know, the information found on social networks is often unreliable—which normally isn’t the same for books.
Short Attention Span
With the entire world at your fingertips, you’re always multitasking and obtaining information from the internet faster—often at the cost of obtaining the full information.
Therefore, multitasking has slowly made us become more impatient, especially in terms of gathering knowledge. Instead of getting quality information and details on a specific topic, we scroll through several different pages on social media and end up receiving incomplete knowledge on a number of unnecessary topics.
To read a book, you must invest your time and fully focus on it. However, a short attention span, combined with impatience, might just be the reason why most people today favor quantity over quality.
One article posted on The New York Times regarding “The Eight-Second Attention Span” further discussed the short attention span of society and how this occurred.
We cannot solely blame social networks for this sudden decrease in attention span. However, giving unnecessary time to socializing in the virtual world versus spending some quality time in real life surely has its consequences.
Lack of Leisure Reading
“The lack of leisure reading is troubling,” said Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. According to her, the most crucial discovery hidden in the data is the following statistic:
In the 1970s, nearly 90% of high school goers reported reading a book, newspaper, or magazine daily. Four decades later, 16% of high school students reported doing so in 2016.
This decline in reading books is troubling as the attention and skillset required to digest topics in long-form writing are significantly different from glancing at a status update on Facebook.
Reading long-form texts (e.g., books, magazines, articles, etc.) is vital for learning complex ideas and for improving critical thinking abilities.
The lack of effort makes the whole social media experience less rewarding.
We spend more hours on social networks than on reading books. We take more pleasure in technology than reading books. Therefore, our sole purpose is to bring the present vulnerable condition of reading habits into everyone’s attention.
Feel free to share this post with your friends and family members. Remember what Mark Twain said, “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Spread the word.
How to Get Rid of Your Back Taxes
Back taxes are the taxes that individuals do not entirely pay on the due date. You should pay your taxes on time every year. In case you fail to pay your tax, then you are liable to fines, penalties, and collection activities like bank tolls or salary garnishments. Not paying taxes can make things complicated. So, here are a few strategies to help you get rid of back taxes.
Do not avoid the IRS
The first approach towards relief on back taxes is keeping your communication open with the IRS about tax status. Do not ignore the letters and calls from the IRS. Ignoring their efforts of communication will make the matter worse. Instead, answer the IRS calls and explain to them your situation. They might come up with a resolution to help you in avoiding the collection activity and settling your account. Based on your conditions, you can request them for deferring your taxes citing reasons of hardship for paying your back taxes. IRS can grant you hardship deferment in the following situations:
- Loss of job
- Suffering from a severe disability or medical ailment.
- Loss of a loved one
To confirm whether you are eligible for hardship deferment, consult your tax expert before proceeding to ask the IRS.
Request IRS to waive off your penalties
The interest and penalties keep increasing until you pay the back taxes. The greater the fees, the more difficult it gets to pay off your tax debt. You can request the IRS for a penalty waiver to eliminate the additional costs, considering you to pay just the tax balance.
Do not delay your current tax filing
You must continue to timely file and submit the current tax return every year, even when you are facing the back tax problem. When IRS is reviewing your account, make sure that you file the current tax on or before the April filing deadline. In case you miss the current year tax filing dates, then you can ask the IRS to arrange a mode of payment to avoid further piling up on what you already owe to the government. You can ask them for an installment payment method or any other method to demonstrate that you are reliable and willing to make the payment.
Settle your back taxes using a credit card
Use a low-interest credit card to settle your back taxes. It will help you to settle your tax debt and buy you some time before reimbursing your credit card bill after a few months. Paying through a credit card is a more stable choice than using a debt settlement since it disburses your debt in a single return. This way, you can dodge off the fees and penalties that would have come if you had delayed the payment to the IRS.
Get organized while dealing with your back taxes and start with the previous year when you filed taxes. Start making copies of your salary earning receipts and paperwork from that year onwards for which you failed to file a tax. You can get a copy of your income-earning record from your local IRS in case you do not have the original ones. Also, double-check with a tax professional about your back tax numbers and ensure that you report accurate annual income figures to avoid any penalties.
Calculate the precise amount that you owe to IRS
While filing your back tax returns, go through each one and make sure that you prepare it as per the IRS instructions. Your goal is to find out how much you owe to IRS and how much, if any, does IRS need to refund you at the end of every filing form. If you are not particular about your filing abilities, then ask a tax professional to go through your returns to make sure everything is correct. In case of any errors in the math, the tax professional can correct them before you submit your returns.
Submit past tax returns by paying a nominal amount for each debt
You must provide $5 for every tax debt you have to pay them while sending your tax return. It will get you back into compliance with the IRS. They will notice that you are sincere about repaying your back tax returns.
Ask for an alternate payment option for paying back taxes
If you are not able to repay the IRS in full, then ask them for a different payment option. Payment options like:
A monthly installment agreement
Check to withhold
An Offer in Compromise or OIC
Monthly credit card withdrawals
Currently Not Collectible Status or CNC
These payment options allow you to pay off your back taxes in the best affordable way.
Ask a Tax Specialist
Lastly, if you have no idea how to settle back taxes, then appoint a tax professional. Your tax professional would be the right person to suggest you the best way to solve your outstanding payment. In some cases, they will settle your back tax amount for less than what you owe them. They will also suggest ways to deal with the IRS for the next time when you owe back taxes.
The IRS aims to collect the debts that you owe in the form of back taxes from the past few years. If you do not take this seriously, you will run the risk of income loss or seizure of assets. To avoid these extreme penalties, you can resolve your back taxes by filing your back taxes, asking for waiving off your penalties or involve an expert tax consultant who can help you file your taxes and satisfy your account with the IRS.
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