Immigration and innovation. In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman has a thought-provoking column about start-ups and immigration. Friedman argues that limiting immigration (H1-B visas in particular) will only hurt America's entrepreneurial endeavors. He cites some very under-reported statistics: "According to research by Vivek Wadhwa, a senior research associate at the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, more than half of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants over the last decade. These immigrant-founded tech companies employed 450,000 workers and had sales of $52 billion in 2005, said Wadhwa in an essay published this week on" If this study is correct, limiting H1-B visas seems ridiculous. Here's the original essay by Wadhwa.

15 minutes to managerial success. One quarter of an hour each day. That's all it takes to become a better manager according to an article in the Harvard Business Review (via BusinessPundit). Here's a snippet: "Show up in their workspace. Employees expect you to stay in your seat. Don't. Once per day, get up and walk over to the desk of someone you haven't spoken to recently. Take two minutes to ask her what she's working on. Once she's done answering, respond "What do you need from me to make that project/transaction successful?" Message to employee: I know who you are, I've got high expectations — and I've got your back."

This man will shut you down. Silicon Valley is full of specialists who cater to the start-up ecosystem in Northern California--accountants, bankers, lawyers, venture capitalists, and management consultants--but today's Journal introduces us to a new character: the wind down guy. As venture-backed start-ups struggle to raise additional funds or get to profitability, business is booming at Sherwood Partners, which has been shutting down an average of three start-ups a week. The article says that even viable companies--that is, companies with products and revenue, if not profits--are being forced by their investors to shut the doors. One upside: for companies that make it, now may be a great time to snap up a competitor. The average price for a venture backed company has fallen by a staggering 87 percent from a year ago.

Surprisingly, retail sales are up. U.S. retail sales were up 1 percent in January according to according to a Commerce Department report described in this NYT story. The uptick came as a surprise to some analysts. Just yesterday, the AP reported that a 0.8 percent drop was expected by economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. And earlier this week, the AP reported that that retail sales were expected to be down 1.6 percent, according to an analysis by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs.

Bebo founders give cash to kids. Last year Michael and Xochi Birch got ridiculously rich when they sold their social networking startup to AOL. Now, the Birches are putting some of that money to good--or at least novel--use, sponsoring a contest called Maker Your Money With a Tenner. The contest gives 20,000 British kids £10 (or about 15 bucks) each, and tells them to do something useful. Prizes go to the children who make the most money or have the most impact on society. (Via Tim Ferriss's Twitter stream.).

Luxury lodging for less. According to ABC News , if you're planning on traveling (for business or leisure) you should check out discount rates at top hotels before you check in anywhere else. The recession has crippled the luxury hotel industry, as Americans cut back on travel or downgrade to cheaper lodging. Even some Ritz-Carlton hotels have lowered their room rates to fill vacancies. The chain's hotels in Philadelphia have dropped rates from 10 percent to 15 percent, with some rooms available for under $200.

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