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We went shopping at Victoria’s Secret and Aerie, and 4 key differences revealed why one is winning while the other is flailing (LB, AEO)

AerieBusiness Insider/Mary Hanbury

  • The women’s underwear market is going through a period of rapid change in the United States. Longtime industry leader Victoria’s Secret is increasingly finding itself under pressure as new brands enter the market and chip away at its market share. 
  • Its parent company, L Brands, reported fourth-quarter earnings last month and announced that dozens of Victoria’s Secret stores would close this year.
  • Meanwhile, American Eagle’s Aerie brand has achieved explosive growth and is opening stores. 
  • We visited Victoria’s Secret and Aerie to see how the shopping experience compared. 

Victoria’s Secret is the longtime leader of the underwear market in the United States, but it is increasingly coming under pressure as new brands enter the market and chip away at its market share

This includes American Eagle’s Aerie, which, since 2014, has doubled down on body-positive marketing in an effort to appeal to a new generation of shoppers.

We visited Victoria’s Secret and Aerie to see how the shopping experience compared at these stores. Here’s what we found:

The Victoria’s Secret store we visited is located in Downtown Manhattan, New York, in the World Trade Center Westfield mall. The mall, which opened in 2016, is classified as a Class A mall, which is determined by its tenants’ sales per square foot.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

The reviews are extremely positive online. "Probably one of the best Victoria‘s Secret stores I have ever been [to]," one shopper wrote on Yelp.

"The customer service here is spectacular," another said

For this reason, we were expecting a shinier version of a typical Victoria’s Secret store. 

First impression: Victoria’s Secret

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Our first impression was good — the store was well organized and the inventory was neatly laid out.

It wouldn’t take much for this to descend into chaos, though. Piles of inventory are a recipe for disaster in busier times.

The Aerie store that we visited is located in one of New York’s busiest shopping neighborhoods, Soho. It is a standalone location that opened in 2018.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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SEE ALSO: People slammed Victoria’s Secret after its marketing chief made controversial comments about transgender models, but he didn’t resign. This could be why, according to former executives.

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Trump’s border wall may strip money from a $65 million water treatment plant at a Marine Corps base with a history of contaminated water

Marine CorpsU.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cuong Le/Released

  • The Defense Department published a list of hundreds of military projects that may lose funding to pay for President Trump’s border barrier. It added that "no military housing, barracks or dormitory projects will be impacted" by the diverted funding.
  • The list includes a $65 million water treatment plant at Hadnot Point in Camp Lejeune.
  • Camp Lejeune has been embroiled in controversy for the revelations that as many as 900,000 troops and family members stationed at the base were exposed to contaminated water between 1953 and 1987.

President Donald Trump’s plans for the US-Mexico border barrier may tap into unawarded funds that could have gone towards a water treatment plant at Camp Lejeune, a base near North Carolina’s coast that struggled with contaminated water for decades, according to a government analysis.

Over $65 million was tentatively allocated for the water treatment plant at Hadnot Point, a section of the military base that includes a medical clinic and various third-party stores, the Defense Department said in its proposal.

The project is expected to replace a water treatment plant with a 8-million-gallon-per-day water treatment facility that complies with safety regulations, according to US Navy budget estimates sent to Congress in 2017.

"This facility is required to provide an adequate and environmentally compliant supply of potable water to meet the domestic, industrial, and fire protection requirements of Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune," the Navy said.

The plan was proposed after the Hadnot Point community was found to have increased its water usage, which comes from the same water system used for Camp Lejeune. The increased water usage contributed towards a contamination comprised of salt water that "cannot be reversed," according to the Navy.

"The Marine Corps will face certain high risk liabilities with continued use of antiquated water treatment plant technology," the Navy warned.

The Navy did propose other alternatives to a new water treatment plant, including repairs to its older system and individual upgrades, but deemed it was more cost-effective to construct a new facility.

"Camp Lejeune will continue to face rising maintenance and operational costs necessary to run the antiquated water treatment plants," the Navy said in its proposal.

"Environmental compliance will be compromised as it becomes more difficult to maintain the water quality required to comply with present and future Safe Drinking Water Act regulations."

LejeuneAP

It is unclear why, despite the initial request from the Navy, that funding for the project was shelved. Camp Lejeune was one of the military installations hit by Hurricane Florence in 2018, and the cost to replace some of its buildings was estimated to be around $3.6 billion.

The base was previously embroiled in controversy when up to 900,000 service members and families stationed at the base were found to have been exposed to contaminated water between 1953 and 1987, the Associated Press reported.

"If you served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune …, you may have had contact with contaminants in the drinking water there," the Department of Veterans Affairs says on its website. "Scientific and medical evidence has shown an association between exposure to these contaminants during military service and development of certain diseases later on."

Former Camp Lejeune service members who are later diagnosed with various diseases — including leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple myeloma — may be eligible for disability benefits.

In January, the Navy denied over 4,400 claims worth an estimated $963 billion. Defense officials cited several legal statutes for their decision, including a 10-year statute of limitations and a Supreme Court ruling that relieves the US of liability if service members are injured on duty.

The water contamination scandal has since been engrained in the military’s culture, which may raise the project’s necessity in light of potential budget cuts.

"The optics of deferring this project could likely be a public relations disaster not just for the Marine Corps, but the Defense Department in general because of the past history at Camp Lejeune and water contamination," Dan Grazier, a military fellow at Project on Government Oversight, said to INSIDER.

Donald Trump Army West PointREUTERS/Leah Millis

In declaring his national emergency, Trump would divert $3.6 billion from unused military projects towards funding for the controversial border barrier. Trump justified the decision by claiming the US was being flooded "with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs" across the southern border.

After Democrats and 12 Republicans passed a resolution opposing him in the Senate, Trump used his first presidential veto to force the proposal forward last week. The House and the Senate are likely to fall short of the required two-thirds majorities to override his veto.

The Defense Department made clear that its list of project affected was not final. It added that "no military housing, barracks, or dormitory projects will be impacted" by the diverted funding.

But Democratic lawmakers voiced concerns over the possibility and railed against what some view as a "medieval vanity project."

"President Trump is putting his border wall ahead of the safety of our troops," Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said in a statement to INSIDER. "The projects that could lose funding include military training centers in Virginia, a plant to prevent water contamination at Camp Lejeune, and a cybersecurity facility in Georgia."

"I hope my colleagues in Congress will take a serious look at the projects that support our military in their own states and then vote to override the President’s veto," Kaine said.

"What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure," Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, added in a statement.

NOW WATCH: Here’s how North Korea’s Kim Jong Un became one of the world’s scariest dictators

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Trump was reportedly annoyed by a trio of Republican senators who interrupted his dinner to discuss the national-emergency declaration

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15 shoe organization ideas that make the most of your space

Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider, Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

shoe organization 14

  • As your shoe collection grows, it seems that the space to store it is only shrinking. 
  • Depending on what your closet and room look like, there are multiple possible organization solutions to address this problem. 
  • With these 15 products, you can store them vertically, side by side, or in individual boxes. Find the best shoe organization solution for your needs below. 

Of all the clothes and accessories we have to store in our room, shoes are among the most egregious problem item. We possess too many pairs for our own good, and they’re often bulky or come in weird shapes. 

It’s time to stop tripping over your heels or digging through mismatched sneakers every time you want to leave the house and look presentable for society.

There are many different ways you can organize your shoe mess, whether you prefer to stack them or line them up — or maybe you’ll take any configuration as long as it saves space and makes your shoe situation neater. 

We found 15 unique shoe organization products that can help you make the most of your limited closet space and keep track of your shoe collection. 

Looking for more ways to organize your clothes? Check out these guides:

A waterproof shoe rack

Amazon

Songmics 5-Tier Shoe Rack, $29.99, available at Amazon

This shoe rack features waterproof, non-woven fabric tiers that you can wash. It stores up to 25 pairs of shoes and the metal tubes are removable so you can adjust each layer’s height. 

A hanging closet organizer

Amazon

mDesign 10 Shelf Soft Fabric Closet Organizer, $12.99, available at Amazon

To make the most of the vertical space in your closet, get this hanging closet organizer. Its deep, narrow shape is optimized for all types of shoes. 

 

A stackable shoe rack

Amazon

Seville Classics 3-Tier Resin Slat Utility Shoe Rack, $27.98, available at Amazon

This rack is very easy to assemble, plus you can build upon it once your shoe collection grows by stacking multiple units on top of each other. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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19 celebrities, professional athletes, and politicians Trump has golfed with as president

trump golfJane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump’s well-documented golf habit has paired him with some famous names.
  • In his first two years in office, Trump has played golf with dozens of athletes, celebrities, and politicians at his properties and golf clubs around the world.
  • Here are some of Trump’s most notable playing partners.

In March 2019, President Donald Trump paid the 174th visit of his presidency to one of his golf courses, according to NBC’s tracker.

From visiting his course close to the White House in Sterling, Virginia to playing a diplomatic round in Japan, Trump has partnered with several high-profile athletes, celebrities, and fellow politicians on the course.

Trump’s outings and who’s joining him are sometimes slated as part of official visits, recorded in White House press pool reports, and often captured on camera.

Here are some of the most notable people who have joined Trump on the course:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Kyodo News via Getty Images

Trump and Abe have bonded over golf in both of their respective countries, with a February 2017 round in Mar-a-Lago and a November 2017 round near Tokyo.

Fox News host Bret Baier

Warren Little/Getty Images

Baier and Trump played through the wind and rain in April 2018 at Trump National in Virginia, Politico reported.

NFL quarterback Kirk Cousins

Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Then-Redskins quarterback Cousins joined Trump at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey in June 2017.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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SEE ALSO: On his 590th day in office, Trump had visited his golf courses on 25% of the time

DON’T MISS: How often Trump golfed during the first 100 days compared to Obama, Bush, and Clinton

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A Waymo engineer reveals how the self-driving car company develops its robot brains (GOOGL)

Shilpa WaymoWaymo

  • Shilpa Gulati leads Waymo’s Behavior Prediction team.
  • The India-born engineer works on perfecting Waymo’s robot brains.
  • Her inspiration was reading Isaac Asimov’s legendary robot stories when she was 12 years old.


Editor’s note: Business Insider has been talking with Waymo employees from different parts of the company to learn more about their work. What we discovered were some of the coolest jobs at Alphabet, Waymo’s parent company. This is the latest profile in the series. To read the others, click here. For a brief history of Waymo, click here.

It’s a common Silicon Valley story: a young person reads science-fiction novels or watches some movies that feature robots and decides to make futuristic technology their life’s work. 

Cue Stanford, MIT, or CalTech. 

Shilpa Gulati leads the Behavior Prediction Team at Waymo and has worked on NASA projects as well as at Apple and self-driving startup Nuro, and she holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin. She, too, was inspired by sci-fi, but she wasn’t sitting in an American suburb when inspiration struck.

"I grew up in a small town in India," she said in an interview from Waymo headquarters, at the Alphabet Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.

"The wasn’t much to do but read books in summer," she added. Some of the books she encountered were in Isaac Asimov’s "Robot Series," originally published in the 1950s. Students of both Asimov and robots know that the extensive series contains Asimov’s now-famous "Three Laws of Robotics," which have actually shaped contemporary thinking about machine intelligence as it transitions from fantasy to reality.

Read more: A Waymo employee reveals what it’s like to create the unique voice of self-driving cars

Asimov’s books also featured something that would entrance a 12-year-old Gulati: "positronic brains," as Asimov termed them ("Star Trek" enthusiasts will recognize the reference, updated for the "Next Generation" in the character of the android Mr. Data).

"I didn’t know any such things existed," Gulati said. "That you could build a brain indistinguishable from a human brain!"

Making a career from childhood thrills — and becoming a female engineer against the odds

Waymo LaunchWaymo

Excitement over a non-human human brain is understandable in a 12-year-old. What’s impressive about Gulati is that she’s maintained that childhood thrill for her work at Waymo. And in many ways, her success has had to draw on that adolescent revelation.

She noted that robotics didn’t provide a clear professional path when she was entering the field, and she also suffered from a lack of female role models in technology when she was growing up. But her parents were extremely supportive, and it helped that her father was a professor of mechanical engineering who let her tag along to professional fairs and joined her for science experiments when she was a kid.

After starting out at an aerospace company, Gulati joined Bosch in the early 2010s. She later moved on to Apple, leading an autonomous-systems team, and then to Nuro. (In 2008 and 2009, she also worked with NASA to develop an autonomous underwater vehicle that could potentially explore Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. The work took her to the frozen Antarctic.)

"Waymo and Google were always on my mind," she said, recalling her fascination with the Google Car project and its "secret sauce" of self-driving. When a position opened up last June, she had to take it.

"It’s really, really exciting," she said. "The talent is incredible. As a newcomer, I know they’ve been at it for ten years, but it feels like a hundred years of knowledge. It’s like going to Moon — only harder."

Behavior prediction is a challenging area, particularly as Waymo begins to commercialize its service, beginning in the Phoenix area with Waymo One in December of 2018.

Waymo’s autonomous "driver" — a combination of software programming and hardware sensors and radars — has racked up millions of miles in real-world testing and billions in simulations. The driver can operate in a sophisticated rendering of reality. But it can’t predict everything that will happen on the road. 

A modern Mr. Data at the wheel

star trekParamount Pictures

That’s where Gulati’s team comes in, crunching data on what they call "relevant agents" — a cyclist, for example, or a pedestrian waiting near a crosswalk. The Waymo driver needs to be able to react safely to subtle relevant-agent cues, undertaking the sort of quick situational evaluation that human’s excel at, but that modern-day positronic brains struggle with as they crank through their algorithms.

Tacking this challenge with her team, Gulati stays well-organized and makes use of Alphabet’s flexible work culture. Each day ends with a review of what was accomplished and a look ahead to the next day’s schedule, a process than Gulati undertakes in the evenings. The following morning, she’s up at 7 AM, enjoys breakfast at 8 AM, and lands at the office around 10 after dropping off her child at school. The official work day wraps at 5 PM.

Consistency is vital because Gulati is serious about aiming for perfection. 

"If I were to look far into future," she said, "self-driving cars don’t have to have flaws. They can learn more from data than a human can. My prediction is that they’ll get better and better."

At the same time, she reminds herself to remain humble, erring on the side of caution and taking a conservative path to a fully autonomous tomorrow.

Nonetheless, for someone who, as she puts it, has been the only woman on most projects in her life, Gulati feels pride in how far she’s come. She read about robot brains when she was 12, and now she’s creating them.

"I can’t believe I’m living my dream, every single day."

NOW WATCH: Waymo is now letting ordinary people sign up to test its self-driving cars in Phoenix

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MoviePass has officially launched its new unlimited plan — here are the details

MoviePassHollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • MoviePass released details of its new unlimited plan, "MoviePass Uncapped," on Tuesday.
  • It will offer two price points for the unlimited plan: $119.40 up front for a year subscription or $14.95 month to month (increasing to $19.95 after an unspecified promo period).
  • Business Insider reported on Monday that the upcoming unlimited plan was a source of internal turmoil at the startup.

 

On Tuesday, MoviePass released details of its new unlimited plan, "MoviePass Uncapped."

MoviePass says there will be "no cap on the number of 2D movies subscribers can see in MoviePass’ theater network," but that it can throttle a subscriber’s access at its discretion.

MoviePass will offer two price points for the unlimited plan: $119.40 up front for a year subscription or $14.95 month to month (which will go up to $19.95).

To break that down, for a limited time the monthly subscription price will be $14.95 via credit card, but the standard price will be $19.95 per month. Those who sign up for the monthly rate will be transitioned from $14.95 to $19.95 after an unspecified amount of time. The other option is paying $9.95 per month for 12 months up front ($119.40), which requires you to pay through ACH (giving your bank account information).

With Uncapped, you will have the ability to have access to blockbusters and independent films on more than 30,000 screens through the US and reserve tickets three hours before showtime, according to MoviePass.

Read more: Alamo Drafthouse’s movie-ticket subscription plan will launch in all its theaters by the end of the year

But, as Business Insider reported on Monday, there’s a catch. MoviePass will restrict subscribers’ choices in response to what it deems "excessive individual usage."

For further explanation of what that means, MoviePass pointed to a section in its terms of use:

MoviePass 3MoviePass

There, MoviePass said that it "makes no guarantee on the availability to any particular theater, showtime, or title that is presented in our app" and that it may use its algorithms to restrict users "based on their location, day of movie, time of movie, title, and the individual user’s historical usage."

These restrictions are similar to existing MoviePass restrictions that remove some popular showtimes and movies from the app.

The decision to bring back to an unlimited plan caused internal turmoil at the company and contributed to recent resignations by management, a source close to MoviePass told Business Insider. Last week, Business Insider reported that Khalid Itum, the executive vice president in charge of day-to-day operations, had resigned along with three other management-level staff members.

NOW WATCH: How ‘white savior’ films like ‘Green Book’ hurt Hollywood

See Also:

SEE ALSO: The most shocking part of HBO’s Theranos documentary, "The Inventor," according to director Alex Gibney

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Elizabeth Warren wants to eliminate the Electoral College and let the popular vote decide presidential elections

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenScreenshot/CNN

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on Monday that she supports eliminating the Electoral College.
  • Two Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, recently won the popular vote in their bids for the presidency, but were denied the White House after losing the Electoral College. 
  • "My view is that every vote matters and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College — and every vote counts," Warren said during a CNN town hall. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on Monday night that she supports eliminating the Electoral College. 

Warren is among the first 2020 presidential candidates to call for a fundamental restructuring of US presidential elections. She argued during a CNN town hall on Monday night in Jackson, Mississippi that the Electoral College unfairly values swing-state voters over those in states dominated by one of the major parties.

"Come a general election, presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi. They also don’t come to places like California or Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states," Warren told the audience. 

She went on, "My view is that every vote matters and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College — and every vote counts." 

Read more: Pete Buttigieg wants to end the Electoral College, add more seats to the Supreme Court, and become America’s youngest president

The announcement earned the Massachusetts Democrat big applause from the Southern audience. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the only other presidential candidate yet to call for an end to the Electoral College.

Democrats have for centuries come out on the losing end of the Electoral College despite winning the popular vote. A Democrat was on the losing end in four out of the five instances in US history in which a presidential candidate has lost the Electoral College but won the popular vote, dating back to Samuel Tilden’s loss to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.

More recently, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote against Donald Trump by almost 3 million votes in 2016. Trump’s narrow victories in swing states including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania handed him his Electoral College victory, and consequently, the White House. 

And in 2000, former Democratic vice president Al Gore also beat George W. Bush in the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College and the presidency. 

Prior to entering politics, Trump himself railed against the "sham" Electoral College , calling the system a "disaster for democracy" and a "total travesty" in 2012. After his November 2016 win, Trump said he would still rather let the popular vote determine the outcome of presidential elections, but added that he "respects" the current system.

Read more: Elizabeth Warren says it’s time for Mississippi to adopt a new state flag

During her hour-long town hall, Warren also took the opportunity to endorse a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and called to repeal "every single one" of the laws that critics say are designed to suppress the vote. 

And she called for a "full-blown national conversation" about reparations for the descendants of slaves and for treating the right to housing as a human right. 

NOW WATCH: The top 15 presidents, according to historians

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Ocasio-Cortez blames her poor approval rating numbers among New York state voters on Fox News

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We give our child at least half an hour of playtime before school, and it’s made all our mornings better

steven john family

  • Children thrive on routine, which is why my family gives our 5-and-a-half-year-old son at least 30 minutes of playtime before school.
  • Scheduling playtime for him has made him more motivated to go through his morning routine each day.
  • Adding that to his day has made all our mornings smoother.

Children thrive on routine, as years of research has shown.

But I don’t need an expert to tell me that — I just need to ask my son if he wants to skip his nighttime snack because he ate such a big dinner.

The answer? No. No he does not.

And if you want to hear screams like you read about, my wife can try to put our almost one year old daughter to bed without a bath, book, and rocking time, in that order.

Routines help children feel safe and secure and foster healthy emotional development. When a kid feels like they are in a stable place where predictable things happen, they develop better self-confidence, better self-regulation, and it helps them to feel more connected to their families as well.

Read more: Prince Harry is reportedly asking the queen for paternity leave — here are 6 things millennial dads do that their parents didn’t

But family routines don’t have to be boring. And in fact, they shouldn’t be. That’s why we add playtime into every otherwise structured segment of the day.

We give our son playtime first thing in the morning

At 5 and a half years old, my son Ben is old enough to entertain himself for long stretches of time. And he’s finally old enough not to be a liability to himself or to the things in our home when he’s playing independently.

Once his OK To Wake clock lights up green at 6:20 a.m., he is allowed to engage in myriad activities of his choosing, from books to Legos to coloring to puzzles and more (but no video games on school mornings; I’m strict there).

Once I come downstairs at 6:45 a.m., Ben knows this period of playtime will wrap up in about 10 minutes. I make his breakfast (and coffee for the adults), lay out his clothes, then call him to the table.

After breakfast, it’s time to wash hands, brush teeth, and then get dressed. These are all the critical steps to be taken before he leaves for school, so we build in plenty of time for each, knowing that on some days breakfast will take 10 minutes, on others 25, and that some outfits take less than a minute (T-shirt and shorts when it’s warm out) and others three or four (shirts with buttons, for example).

Once all the critical steps are through, it’s back to playing. Ben might have only five minutes more free time or he may have 20, but he knows that once my wife or I calls out "Shoes!" it’s time to head to the door and off to school.

Scheduling playtime for our child has made him more motivated in the mornings

The block of free playtime Ben has right after waking up ensures his mornings don’t feel like a rigid march toward school. (For the record, he loves school, but he’s a kid; playing at home will always rank higher.) The chance to enjoy more time after the tooth brushing and hand washing and all of it helps him tackle the more chore-like parts of the morning routine better as well.

When Ben gets home from school, he has plenty of free time to play, and after dinner cleanup and his book time — a gentle preparation for the coming of homework — we always have family playtime. And then a snack.

It’s a routine he thrives on, and it’s made all of our days much smoother.

NOW WATCH: How to make a bouquet of bacon roses for Valentine’s Day

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Prince Harry is reportedly asking the queen for paternity leave — here are 6 things millennial dads do that their parents didn’t

DON’T MISS: I’m in my 30s, and I’ve completely changed my mind about 5 things since I was in my 20s

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Exploding Kittens is the most-backed project on Kickstarter to date — here’s how a $20 card game became an internet phenomenon

Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider, Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

exploding kittens card gameExploding Kittens

  • The card game Exploding Kittens ($19.99) is always part of our game-night lineup because it’s creative, easy to learn, and fun for the whole family. 
  • It was created in 2015 by a cartoonist, game designer, and creative director trio who wanted to help people connect over physical games again. 
  • Raising more than $8.7 million from more than 219,000 backers on Kickstarter, it’s an online crowdfunding legend that has gone on to sell 8 million games worldwide. 

The components of a great night in aren’t tricky to assemble. Gather your favorite friends and family members, load the table with snacks and drinks, queue up your party playlist, and present a few fun card games. Voila, you can now stay entertained for hours. 

If it’s a good game, you’ll scream and laugh until your stomach hurts, and you won’t want to stop playing (unlike certain games, *cough* … Monopoly … that you lose interest and patience in halfway through). 

Exploding Kittens, created in 2015 by cartoonist Matthew Inman and game designer Elan Lee, is one of those rare games you look forward to taking off the shelf every time you host game night. 

exploding kittens $19.99Amazon

From cat cartoons to more than $8 million in the bank 

Lee, the former Chief Design Officer at Xbox, was initially inspired to create an interactive game that encouraged real-time connection after seeing his young nieces and nephews glued to video game screens. He shared his original "Bomb Squad" game idea with Inman, creator of the popular comic site The Oatmeal, who suggested some tweaks.

Along with creative director Shane Small, the creators introduced their game, described as a "highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette," to the world on Kickstarter in 2015.

The family-friendly game, designed for up to five players, is simple to understand and play: Players draw from a stack of 56 cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten card, which renders them dead and out of the game. If they have a Defuse card — which are things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches — they can live another day. All the other cards in the deck similarly move, weaken, and avoid the dreaded Exploding Kitten card. 

Initially seeking $10,000, the campaign raised an astonishing $1 million in only seven hours. As it continued to exceed expectations and reach stretch goals, the creators introduced new cards and expansion packs. 

Exploding KittensKickstarter

All in all, Exploding Kittens raised more than $8.7 million from more than 219,000 backers. Today, it holds the record for the #1 most-backed project as well as the #7 most-funded project in Kickstarter history. 

Outside of Kickstarter, the game has sold 8 million units worldwide to date and is consistently among the top-selling toys and games across major retailers like Amazon and Target

The company has also created nearly-as-popular games like Bears vs. Babies and You’ve Got Crabs. It’s currently hoping to continue its history of Kickstarter success with "the world’s first dodgeball card game," Throw Throw Burrito

How to make a card game people will love 

Though it may seem like we’re living in an increasingly digital world dominated by video games, many people are also running in the opposite direction towards physical, tabletop games. Better than online interactions, these analog games are enabling more natural and immediate connections. Playing games like Settlers of Catan, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, has even become a popular form of networking on Wall Street

It’s not easy, however, to create a game that inspires people to get together — and keeps them together. 

"The creative process for making a tabletop game is mostly finding a core mechanic that makes the people you’re playing with entertaining," Lee told Business Insider. Surprisingly, fun shouldn’t be the main thing you look for in the next new card game you shop for. 

exploding kittens card game 2Exploding Kittens

"Games are not supposed to be fun," Lee says. "Games are supposed to enable the people playing to entertain each other."

"The process for creating a game is a nearly endless exploration of mechanics that are evaluated against the criteria, ‘Did that just enable an interaction between us that we want to experience again?’ The moment the answer is ‘Yes,’ you know you’ve got something." 

Something Lee, who comes from a video game background, also discovered about the process of designing table games is that there’s no room for mistakes.

While you you can fix an error in a video game by releasing a patch, "Designing for tabletop offers no such luxuries. Spelling mistakes, unclear rules, and art glitches are printed hundreds of thousands if not millions of times, acting as a permanent shrine to our follies. It’s brutal." 

In the very crowded space of card games, all hoping to become part of your game night lineup, Exploding Kittens stands out among the rest for its creative execution of a simple, easy-to-grasp premise. There are no over-complicated rules or flimsy cards, only many, many delightful illustrations of cats and entertainment for the whole family. 

You can pick up the original card game for $20 at the below retailers, as well as expansion packs and party versions to enhance the Exploding Kittens game experience. 

Shop the Exploding Kittens Original Card Game (2-5 players) for $19.99 here: Amazon, Target, Jet, Walmart

Shop the Exploding Kittens Party Pack Game (up to 10 players) for $29.99 here: Amazon, Target, Walmart

Shop the Exploding Kittens Everything We’ve Got Bundle for $161.34 here: Amazon

Shop all Exploding Kittens products at Amazon here

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Citibank is abandoning its crypto ambitions (C, JPM, NDAQ, HSBC)

This is an excerpt from a story delivered exclusively to Business Insider Intelligence Fintech Briefing subscribers. To receive the full story plus other insights each morning, click here.

Citibank has abandoned its plans to launch a crypto, dubbed CitiCoin, according to Gulru Atak, head of the bank’s innovation lab, per CoinDesk.

Finance Execs' View of Blockchain ChallengesBusiness Insider Intelligence

Citi’s announcement comes within a month of JPMorgan launching its own crypto solution, JPM Coin, amid great fanfare. Although CitiCoin was never formally announced, Atak’s predecessor Kenneth Moore said in a 2015 interview with International Business Times the bank had the crypto up and running in its labs.

Here’s why Citi is abandoning CitiCoin and what it means for the bank’s blockchain efforts:

  • Citi was exploring crypto to streamline cross-border payments, but has decided to focus on improving existing infrastructure. Following its experiments with CitiCoin, the bank decided that a better payoff would be gained by making improvements to existing payment ecosystems like SWIFT, rather than starting fresh, according to Atak. This is likely due to the strength of existing networks: SWIFT, which has over 11,000 members, moves in excess of $200 billion per day, accounting for more than half of all high-value cross-border payments, for example. Citi is now focused on finding more ways to integrate and optimize legacy systems: One example cited by Atak is a partnership between Citi and Nasdaq to deliver an blockchain-based payment solution that integrates with Nasdaq’s Linq platform.
  • While Citi has scrapped its crypto ambition, it’s actively exploring blockchain initiatives in other areas. The firm is experimenting with blockchain in trade finance, for example; it believes the nascent technology has more potential for success in this area because it doesn’t require as many participants to build an ecosystem as cross-border payments would. Citi is continuing to experiment with blockchain in this space, but is not yet ready to announce anything substantial publicly, according to Atak. This suggests Citi could be falling behind some of its peers: Following a yearlong trial, HSBC is set to roll out its blockchain solution for forex trading to institutional clients, for instance.

Citi’s decision to pull the plug on its crypto project underlines industry-wide concerns about the thin rewards from blockchain efforts. Blockchain’s potential as a game-changer has seen financial institutions (FIs) invest heavily in the technology: In 2017 alone, the industry spent $1.7 billion on the nascent technology, per Greenwich Associates. Yet, while some participants have begun to make headway, such as HSBC and JPMorgan, CitiCoin is illustrative of the many other players that failed to move from testing to live implementation.

In part, this is likely because replacing entrenched systems like SWIFT would require participants to significantly overhaul their existing infrastructure and operations — a lift that is unlikely to pay off, in the short term at least, by adopting blockchain. For now, we’re likely to see other FIs adopt Citi’s strategy of focusing on deploying blockchain to solve very specific pain points — like trade finance — and working to improve other processes through alternative means.

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