Five Ideas to Watch

Going private, Republican ice cream, a fab scanner, and more. Plus: Remembering a factoring guru.
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1. The Public Life Is Not Worth Living

A recent survey of 209 public-company CEOs found that 80% would rather be running private companies. That may explain why, through September, about 80 listed businesses filed with the SEC to go private. Sarbanes-Oxley paperwork is a top reason cited. Already exorbitant accounting costs have doubled at many public companies. "That's manageable if you have a big company, but it can really hurt the smaller ones," says Ernest Jacquet, co-founder of Parthenon Capital, a private equity firm in New York that helps companies go private.

2. Talk Radio for Liberals

AnShell Media, which has raised $25 million to create a full slate of left-leaning talk radio shows, débuts in January. CEO Jon Sinton plans to launch in at least three major markets, distributing programs hosted by the likes of Al Franken to affiliates for free. AnShell will split the commercial minutes that air per hour with the affiliates.

3. Ice Cream for Conservatives

Meanwhile, Star Spangled Ice Cream -- "the conservative alternative to Ben & Jerry's," says VP Richard Lessner -- is busy shipping quarts of Smaller Governmint, Iraqi Road, I Hate the French Vanilla, and the Ted Nugent-endorsed Gun Nut. The company donates 10% of profits to causes like an Ollie North scholarship. The secret to ice cream success, says Crossfire's bow-tied conservative Tucker Carlson: "The more butterfat, the more people like it. Ice cream is a right-wing enterprise," he adds. "It sneers at Pilates and macrobiotic diets."

4. Death to the Bar Code

The bar code may soon be replaced by a new system that transmits data between radio frequency ID tags (RFIDs) and scanners using radio signals. The system requires no manual labor, and radio waves can carry more data than the one-inch stripe patterns commonly used today. The international bodies that oversee bar code standards support the technology, and Wal-Mart has plans to outfit warehouses with radio-frequency scanners. It has also mandated that all vendors adopt RFID tags by 2006. "It's like going from the telegraph to the Internet," enthuses Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams.

5. Scanner Envy

We never expected to love a scanner, but Fujitsu's ScanSnap rocks the house. It can scan 15 pages per minute and saves them (encrypted, if you wish) as Adobe Acrobat files on your PC. The device can detect color, duel-sided pages, and even right an upside-down image. It can also read business cards and export the information into Microsoft Outlook or ACT contacts. Technophobes, take heart: The $500 scanner has only two buttons -- one is the power switch.

Last updated: Nov 1, 2003




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