Some companies really do benefit from stiffer Internal Revenue Service regulations. Last year's tax law (see "Your Money or Your Car, page tk) requires people who use their cars for business to record the date, mileage, and purpose of each trip. Lattitude Corp., a four-month-old company in Madison, Wis., has developed a device to make such a record. Hooked into the car's electrical system, the box buzzes when you start the car to remind you to enter an account number that corresponds to your trip's purpose. The gadget stores the information until you retrieve the data. Cost: $150 to $200 -- tax-deductible, of course.
When Philippe Villers starts a company, he sees another piece of the factory of the future. In 1969, he founded Computervision Corp., which makes computer-aided-design terminals that enable designers to draw products on the computer screen. Eleven years later, he quit and started Automatix Inc., perhaps the leading maker of artificial-vision products. Now he is at it again, this time with Cognition Inc., of Burlington, Mass. The new company plans to make systems that produce and analyze the earliest engineering sketches of products. Cognition has several competitors, and the business could enjoy tremendous growth as American and Japanese manufacturers continue to butt heads.
How far will the boutique-food craze go? First it was ice cream shops, then cookie stores. Now muffin makers are peddling calories. The first All My Muffins store -- whose 233 flavors include chocolate/white-chocolate chunk and morning-glory bran -- has opened in Beverly Hills, Calif. The 24-karat gold Rodeo Drive crowd may be an unusual test market for muffins, but owners Dalia and Gary Ratner hope to eventually franchise the stores.
For Howard Anderson, it was a case of doing exactly what he asks his clients to do: rely on the research and analysis of his Bostonbased INC. 500 company, the Yankee Group. Anderson founded Battery Ventures, a venture capital fund, to invest in start-ups identified by research done by the Yankee Group. And he raised $34 million from such Yankee clients as Nynex and Sears, Roebuck & Co. Battery Ventures has invested in five technology start-ups.
One market niche has gone begging in the auto repair business: shops that would actually treat customers nicely. St. Paul Classics Inc., of St. Paul, Minn., is plunging headlong into these risky waters. The company promises to pick up and deliver your car -- and you, too, if necessary -- and all "without [you] being intimidated or cursed or lied to," says owner Lyle Taipale. We have all heard those promises before, but Taipale insists that his strategy will create goodwill among distrustful consumers.