A New Electric Ride and Raising Money Now
BY Max Chafkin
Tesla unveils new car. Elon Musk's electric car startup will show off it's latest model--a $50,000 sedan that the company hopes will take electric cars mainstream. Though many large automakers have announced plans to build electric cars, the Model S, if released on schedule in 2011, would be first mass produced electric vehicle, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News. (Via Business Insider.) Tesla's first car, a lightning fast two seater, was delayed initially but has been largely a success since it went into production last year. The company has delivered 250 cars, which sell for $109,000 each, and the roaster has earned high marks from car reviewers. For more on Tesla, check out Inc.'s profile of Elon Musk.
SBA lending plummets. Bizbox is livid this morning about the marked drop-off in SBA loans and is questioning whether the Obama administration can do anything to stop it. Despite billions of government dollars designed to get credit flowing again, major banks just aren't making the loans. Bank of America, whose CEO infamously referred to its SBA portfolio as a "damn disaster," lent $136.1 million in 2008; in the first quarter of 2009, the company only doled out $3.3 million. Bizbox concludes we're going to have to rely on community and regional banks to restart lending.
More Y Combinator copycats. The banks may be dry but there's a boom in small scale angel investing. In 2007 Paul Graham's influential seed-stage venture fund Y Combinator had a breakthrough idea: starting a great tech company didn't require millions in venture capital. Instead, what today's entrepreneurs needed was several thousand dollars in seed funding, some attentive mentoring, and time to build. Now, TechCrunch reports that the model has popped up in places like, Boston, Colorado, Philadelphia, and, now, Atlanta. We first wrote about Y Combinator's model here .
The latest recession-buster: military contracts. Despite longstanding concerns about the number of government contracts set aside for small companies, military contracts are helping some small companies stay afloat during the recession. The NYT examines a few small businesses that have broken into the $55 billion world of military contracting. Service firms are getting into the act too: "Beth Harshfield, the owner of Exhibit Arts, an advertising and marketing company in Wichita, Kan., said she started bidding on military contracts six years ago because "I got tired of the local economy kicking the legs out from under us." Now 80 percent of her business is with the military. Her company creates trade-show booths for Army recruiters and acts as a staffing agency for military bases."
The workplace as a chat-room. A Wall Street Journal piece looks at how growing up with the internet affects the workplace expectations of what they call "Generation F" or the Facebook Generation. (Meanwhile: Can we please get a moratorium on generational coinages?) The writer predicts that when the job market improves, these youngins will be seeking out a job environment that values peer-review, information-sharing, and chosen instead of assigned tasks. For more on the new generation--whatever it's called--check out Donna Fenn's excellent essay on young entrepreneurs.
Mossberg's favorite iPhone Apps. The Wall Street Journal's star tech reviewer lists his favorite applications for the Apple iPhone. Most are well known--he likes Facebook, Google Mobile, and Amazon's Kindle app--but there are a couple of interesting suggestions. One is Quordy a $3 application that allows you to quickly synch your office documents with your phone, which could make it possible to leave the laptop behind.
Moms slighted in hiring. Today's Economix blog discusses what it calls "the anti-mommy bias," or, more technically, the concept of Family Responsibilities Discrimination. In one study cited in the post, when fictional résumés and cover letters were sent to employers, childless women got 2.1 times as many callbacks as mothers. Fathers, the researches found, were not penalized.
Want to start a business in an unfamiliar industry? Do your research, of course, but consider an internship before taking the leap. You'll learn how the business works from the inside out, from the supply chain to HR policies. That insider knowledge will be essential in getting your business off the ground--and these days, you'll need all the help you can get.