Entrepreneurial

Things are looking up … sort of

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Small business owners say they’re more confident about the economy, but they’re still plagued by worries about paying their bills and slumping cash flow, new research from Discover Financial Services shows.

Their optimism is a bit of a head-scratcher, especially considering the slew of discouraging news the survey uncovers. Some highlights:

* nearly 70 percent of small biz owners say their take-home pay has taken a hit in recent months.

* more than half say they’ve held off on bill payment because of cash flow issues in the past 3 months.

* almost 60 percent rate the economy as “poor”, and half of them said it was getting worse.

Connecting local in a globalized world

SocialightImagine you leave a restaurant and would like to share your thoughts with anyone nearby, or picture yourself standing in an unknown place while reading notes that have been left there from previous visitors or even your friends.

“Urban spaces are increasingly densely populated,” said Dan Melinger, a resident of New York City. “People live in these spaces but may not even know what their neighbors think of the environment that they share.”

By leveraging existing technologies, socialight.com offers a platform that allows people to connect and share the content that is important to them, and allows brands to provide content related to the areas they and their customers inhabit.

Do your employees hate you? That’s just bad business

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Tough-talking Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz sure knows how to get the media’s attention. Virtually every quip she’s ever uttered — including her famous “Tell me why I shouldn’t fire the whole lot of you” line — has been happily devoured and dissected by reporters looking for juicy quotes.

It makes for a great story, but you’ve got to wonder what it’s like to work for her.

A recent article from Entrepreneur.com suggests that bosses like Bartz might want to lighten up — not just because it’s good for office morale, but it may also boost their company’s bottom line.

Immigrants: the new, high-tech entrepreneurs

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Picture the founders of any big-name tech company in the U.S. and you’ll probably think of Twitter’s Biz Stone, or Apple’s Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates from Microsoft.

In other words: white American men.

But a report released this month reveals that 16 percent of high-tech, “high-impact” companies are founded by immigrants.

The study, commissioned by the self-proclaimed “business watchdog” Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, is significant for a couple reasons. For one, consider the term “high-impact,” which describes firms with sales that have at least doubled over the most recent 4-year period, with notable employment growth. These aren’t fledgling gadget companies with no hope for survival.

The down side of raised wages

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Millions of minimum wage earners across the United States have circled July 24th on their calendars, marking the day a mandated pay hike will bump up their hourly wages to $7.25 from $6.55.

The move is the latest in a three-part pay increase approved by Congress in 2007 in a bid to fatten up the paychecks of the country’s lowest earners and “improve the lives of working families across the nation,” the Department of Labor said.

But many small business owners are left asking, “What improvement?”

“For the business owner who hires a lot of people, I see prices going up and doors closing,” a sandwich franchise owner told the Indiana’s Journal and Courier newspaper.

Would a CIT bankruptcy hurt your business?

CIT’s bailout talks with the government have fallen apart, setting the stage for a possible bankruptcy filing.

The lender provides crucial funding to small and mid-sized U.S. businesses, from clothing manufacturers to Dunkin Donuts franchises.

Founded in St. Louis in 1908, CIT boasts on its website that 1 million business customers depend on it for financing. Many may now have to depend on someone else, at a time credit markets remain tight, reducing business activity as the government tries to lift the economy out of recession.

Peer-to-peer lender Prosper resumes service after SEC nod

lendingLet the lending begin. Prosper, a popular Web portal that facilitates peer-to-peer loans, announced on Tuesday that it has been given the go-ahead by federal regulators to resume its lending platform in several U.S. states after wrapping up a detailed registration process with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC’s approval ends a nine-month enforced hiatus for the company and should come as welcome news to small businesses and entrepreneurs, many of whom are still struggling to find loans amid tight credit markets.

Prosper is now cleared to let lenders in 14 states and borrowers in all but a few use their online auction platform to buy loans and request to borrow money. The approval allows lenders in California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming to use Prosper, and more states will gain access soon, the company said in a press release.

Free labor could pose problems for companies

USA-ECONOMY/As any small business owner knows, getting a new company off the ground requires a lot of work. And for those entrepreneurs not enamored with the idea of running their company as a one-person show, hiring employees is among the first steps along the way to actually making it happen.

Unfortunately, many of the same startups burdened with so much work also suffer from a limited supply of funds in their early days, meaning they can find it tough to afford the number of employees they need.

But with the ranks of unemployed in the United States hovering at its highest rate in more than two decades, some small firms have found a rather unusual solution to this dilemma  – people willing to work for free. Employment agencies such as Jobnob.com and PeopleConnect have done their part in connecting unemployed individuals willing to work without payment to small firms in need of a helping hand.

Seattle startup looks for customers in the cloud

newlineWhat would happen if your laptop was lost, stolen or accidentally dropped in a pool? Would you be able to easily retrieve all the megabytes of precious content housed in its memory banks?

These are the questions that drove Seattle software developer Kory Gill to leave an almost 20-year career at Microsoft and start his own online data-storage company. For years, Gill has sought a Web-based storage solution that would safeguard his priceless family photos, home movies and other important digital data, but never found a single solution that addressed all his specific needs.

“If these are irreplaceable files, you need to have the same type of insurance for your data as you would of any other asset, like your home or car,” said Gill, who often shared his frustrations with friend and fellow Microsoft programmer Marius Nita.

Ex-Googlers seek traffic for how-to video startup

The Web is full of user-generated video, but for Sanjay Raman’s tastes most of it is too bland and poorly produced to actually watch.

That’s why Raman launched Howcast (http://www.howcast.com) – a high-quality, how-to video-sharing website – last year with former Google colleagues Jason Liebman and Dan Blackman.

While at Google the three Howcast co-founders noticed how popular do-it-yourself content was, but how little of it was in video format.

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