Entrepreneurial

Chicago incubator hopes to SPARK startups

Think you can form a technology company from scratch in just a week? That’s the idea behind SPARK, a new incubator program launched by a group of Chicago-area entrepreneurs.

The program is aimed at seeding viable ideas for Web-based and mobile applications during an upcoming startup competition that runs from July 22 to 27 in the Windy City.

“SPARK is about doing, not talking,” said 29-year-old Maliha Mustafa, a former investment banker turned entrepreneur and SPARK co-founder. “What we’d like to do is actually execute.”

Toward that end, Mustafa and her fellow co-founders, including Seth Kravitz – who started a Web design company from his dorm room at Ohio State that later grew into a 55-person operation – are winnowing down contest applications to 60 participants.

During the six-day competition, the chosen candidates will form teams, decide on business models, build working prototypes and present their elevator pitches in front of angel investors and venture capitalists.

Scoutmob tries to outdeal Groupon

Despite Groupon’s virtual stranglehold on the group-buying space, David Payne thinks it’s vulnerable.

The co-founder of rival startup Scoutmob said Groupon’s margins aren’t sustainable and feels he has a better solution for deal-crazy consumers and businesses.

“When people look at this space they see it as a zero-sum game,” said Payne, who has heard all the naysayers since launching his Atlanta-based company last year. “They see it as Groupon’s raised a billion dollars in private capital and some (other) companies have raised one, or ten or twenty (million)… how can they compete?”

Want free publicity? Try these websites

announcement-megaphone- Adam Hoeksema is the founder and CEO of ExecutivePlan and a contributor to Under30CEO. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Entrepreneurs are always looking for an easy way to make a big PR splash.  If you are a local business that only serves a specific geographic area, then your local newspaper is still probably your best option for some free publicity.

On the other hand, if you offer a product or service that is available in multiple locations or via the Internet, then you must consider the following websites in which to submit your company to, and gain free publicity.

5 reasons your website isn’t attracting leads

USA/- Lisa Barone is co-founder and chief branding officer at Outspoken Media and a contributor to Small Business Trends. The opinions expressed are her own. -

So, what are your big Internet marketing plans for the New Year? Will you be investing more in social media? Will you start blogging? Will you take a more proactive stance with self-promotion? Whatever your online marketing plans, the end goal is likely to attract more people to your website in the hopes that the influx of new eyes will translate into new customers, new leads and new opportunities for your business. However, you won’t be able to do any of that if your Web site is turning people off, instead of turning them on.

Below are some very common reasons small and medium-sized business (SMB) websites fail to attract customers and how to avoid falling prey to them.

Your app likely won’t make you rich

– Paras Chopra is an entrepreneur and the director of online analytics startup Visual Website Optimizer. The views expressed are his own. –

Sorry for crushing your dreams but your Web app for tracking happiness levels (or for “social-aware” to-do lists) is probably not going to make enough money to let you retire in Hawaii.

Many programmers and developers find making a Web app very satisfying and there is nothing wrong with that – as long as you are doing it for fun, it’s OK.

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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