Is Selling to Larry Ellison the New IPO? The Wall Street Journal has a front page story on a rare "shopping spree," in which Larry Ellison's Oracle is aggressively buying small software companies. The Journal says that with fewer big software companies, Oracle has focused on small companies, which have been desperate to sell as investment capital has dried up. One CEO who sold out calls Oracle the "new IPO." Alley Insider isn't buying this story, pointing out that Oracle's acquisitions have actually slowed.

Anatomy of a meme. In The New York Times Magazine Rob Walker takes readers through the story of how an illustration of a whale held aloft by a flock of birds became Twitter's iconic "Fail Whale". We would say something about the dangers of using stock photos (Twitter co-founder Biz Stone paid a few bucks for the worldwide rights). But in this case, where the illustrator got some publicity and a few thousand from related merchandise, the Fail Whale ended up mobilizing Twitter users who built a small community (on Twitter) around the image.

New York: down but not out. Phoenix, on the other hand'¦ Where will the next great entrepreneurs and the post-recession opportunities arise? A look at Richard Florida's cover story for the Atlantic suggests some answers. He predicts the decline of the suburbs and argues talent and ambition will continue accumulating in specific cities. Sun Belt cities powered by growth alone and Rust Belt manufacturing towns will be the hardest hit, while key urban areas like New York, Silicon Valley, and North Carolina's research triangle will be hotspots for output, jobs, and innovation.

Zuckerberg: 'Trust Us' Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg responded yesterday to a growing din of online criticism over a change to his company's user terms. In brief: the company deleted a clause that allowed users to regain the legal rights to their messages, photos, and blog postings if they deleted their Facebook accounts. Consumerist warned, "Make sure you never upload anything you don't feel comfortable giving away forever, because it's Facebook's now." Zuckerberg basically says that because user terms are "overly formal and protective" you should basically just ignore them and trust Facebook. Many think he's overreaching. What do you think?

Something's killing the video game business, and for once it isn't the recession. Slate examines why video game publishers are reporting record losses despite sales of games increasing. Talking heads blamed the economic crisis. But Slate finds otherwise: "They're spending more than they're bringing in." While there are still plenty of cheaply-made games, these days big publishers hire hundreds of professional developers per game for projects that take years to complete. Midway, the company behind This is Vegas, spent between $40 million and $50 million on development. Behemoths like Electronic Arts are relying on "the Hollywood" model, where a few blockbuster hits cover other losses. But Slate's N. Evan Van Zelfden argues that it should borrow from the old Hollywood "studio system" instead where during the Great Depression, a movie could be made in two weeks—and people would pay to see a new one every week. His advice resonates even outside the industry: "Change the scale and scope of the world. Make the story shorter. Use lower-quality graphics. Recycle proven tools and technology."

Women-owned companies come up short. Independent Street looks at a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation that found that businesses owned by women underperformed those owned by men. The report says, "women-owned firms recorded lower survival numbers, as well as lower numbers for size, growth, earnings and profits." According to the study women tend to start off with less capital and lower credit scores, which can affect their ability to get loans.

Currency is so overrated.
The WSJ says bartering is on the rise in small firms. Cash-strapped businesses that are finding loans increasingly hard to come by are trading goods and services instead of shelling out money. Informal bartering agreements are easier to accommodate between small firms, especially those that know each other well. For example, one sandwich company in Atlanta, GA is catering lunches to satisfy an overdue refrigeration bill.

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