Entrepreneurial

Mobile app helps diagnose Parkinson’s

Can smartphones help diagnose disease? Yes, according to Konrad Körding, one of the developers of an Android app being used to track the movement of Parkinson’s patients.

The app uses the phone’s sensory capabilities to evaluate a user’s patterns of movement, such as if walking is unstable or if a fall occurs.

“Most patients already carry a phone with them,” said Körding, a researcher who holds academic posts at both Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “It’s known that you can detect disease based on movement.”

The unnamed app is still in beta, said Körding, noting commercialization is in the very early stages. The technology works by sending diagnostic data from the phone to a server, where it is analyzed.

“It’s very, very precise,” said Körding. “Making sense of the data at that moment means that we are able to find out exactly what people do. We know if they walk, if they stand, if they hold the phone.”

Note to entrepreneurs: Your idea is not special

– Brad Feld is a managing director at the Boulder, Colorado-based venture capital firm Foundry Group. He also co-founded TechStars and writes the popular blog, Feld Thoughts. The views expressed are his own. –

Every day I get numerous emails from software and Internet entrepreneurs describing their newest ideas.

Often these entrepreneurs think their idea is brand new – that no one has ever thought of it before. Other times they ask me to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect their idea. Occasionally the emails mysteriously allude to the idea without really saying what it is.

Top 50 small business workplaces

Creating a workplace where employees love to be has been a key factor in the success of Firespring. The Lincoln, Nebraska-based marketing company recently made Inc. magazine and Winning Workplaces’ 2011 Top Small Company Workplaces .

“From the beginning at Firespring, we focused on making sure the employees felt a sense of empowerment and entitlement,” said Jay Wilkinson, CEO of Firespring. “If an employee doesn’t feel like they’re taken care of, then they’re not going to take great care of the customer.”

Besides Firespring, other winners include Cal-Tex Protective Coatings, training company TRX and audio firm Skullcandy. Bob LaPointe, president of Inc. magazine believes it’s important to recognize the commitment of the companies to creating work environments where employees are as important as customers.

Reboot your life by taking a sabbatical

Thinking about taking a break from the working world? You’re not alone. The “Sabbatical Sisters” — Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley and Jaye Smith — advocate people give themselves the “gift of time” by taking a sabbatical in their book, “Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break.”

Reuters interviewed Bearg, a national security consultant, about incorporating sabbaticals into one’s life.

Why take a sabbatical?

We think everyone needs one. There are a number of different reasons to do it. People who are stressed out from work, tired, people who need a career change. People who are nearing retirement might want to take a break to contemplate what to do in retirement.

Fewer small businesses taking summer vacation

– Robin Enos is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. –

We’ve written about how small businesses don’t really have a legal obligation to give employees paid vacation time. But what about the owner’s small business vacation time?

You’d think owner vacation time would rank low on small business owners’ priority list. And you would be right. A majority (59 percent) took no vacation last summer, says a report released by American Express.

Notes on raising seed financing

– Chris Dixon is the co-founder of Hunch and of seed fund Founder Collective. This blog originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own. –

I recently taught a class via Skillshare (disclosure: Founder Collective is an investor) about how to raise a seed round. After a long day I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and I stayed well past the scheduled end time. I think it worked well because the audience was full of people actually starting companies, and they came well prepared (they were all avid readers of tech blogs and had seemed to have done a lot of research).

I sketched some notes for the class which I’m posting below. I’ve written ad nauseum on this blog (see contents page) about venture financing so hadn’t planned to blog more on the topic. But since I wrote up these notes already, here they are.

Silicon Valley recruiter on tech hiring frenzy: “Everyone’s desperate”

Robert Greene, the founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based GreeneSearch Inc, specializes in recruiting hands-on talent for technology-focused companies, primarily startups. He provided his perspective on the current boom in technology hiring.

Q: How would you characterize the tech hiring market now?
A: It’s very competitive right now. It’s been like that for a while; it’s probably heated up even more of late. You have the bigger companies – Groupon, Zynga, Google, LinkedIn, companies that have been proven and successful – and then you have all these startups.
The supply doesn’t meet the demand.

Q: Is there an advantage to being a small company?
A: The advantage they have over those (big) companies is that they can move really quickly. They’ll do everything in a day and make an offer and hope that person will accept right away before they get into the bigger companies. Those are their selling points. They have to move quickly, they have to be agile, have to have the compelling story, have to give equity, along with competitive salaries.

from Reuters Money:

Self-employed? When to graduate from sole proprietorship

When Darin Edmonds started Waterproofing Solutions, Inc. earlier this year he knew making a go of it wouldn’t be easy in a struggling economy. But he was determined to get things off on the right foot, and to him part of doing that was putting a wall between his personal and business assets by setting up a Subchapter S Corporation.

“When I began in this business 21 years ago it was okay for me to start out as a sole proprietor. At this stage in my life, when I have personal assets to protect, that’s no longer a sensible option,” says the 46-year-old Corona, California, contractor.

Whether they are running a small side business, investing in real estate, or are established professional service or trade professionals like Edmonds, go-it-alone, self-employed individuals typically start out as sole proprietors because it’s easy and relatively uncomplicated. Under a sole proprietorship -- or general partnership if there is more than one owner --a business can get started simply by hanging out a shingle.

Small business at a crossroads

– Jeff Stibel is the chairman and CEO of small business credit rating agency Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. The views expressed are his own. –

What is a small business owner to make of the headlines?

Right now, leading indicators – like lending, hiring and optimism – paint a conflicting picture of the direction of the country’s small business sector. It’s no wonder we’d be confused. It seems one index rises, while another falls.

Take, for example, small business optimism.  There’s no doubt we’ve come a long way from where we were at the bottom of the recession. But, the leading optimism index, calculated by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), still looks like a seismometer in the days following an earthquake.

from Reuters Money:

Groupon regret: How great deals make you spend more

Justine Rivero considers herself a bonafide personal-finance expert. She’s an adviser at the credit-tracking website Credit Karma, doling out tips on how to control spending, avoid crippling debt and keep your credit record pristine.

But even Justine Rivero is powerless against the lure of popular daily-deal site Groupon. When faced with a seemingly incredible bargain, she finds herself compelled to click that mouse again and again – against her own better judgment.

“I regretfully admit to totally blowing money on Groupons I never used,” says Rivero. “A dinner cruise for six people, a paintballing weekend, yoga classes. I swore it off for awhile, until something else popped up that I couldn’t resist. I should know better.”

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