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Entrepreneurs Save the World, Box Water, and China Struggles

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The Economist finally discovers the entrepreneurial society. Dr. Jeff Cornwall's blog points to a special report by the folks at The Economist on the role entrepreneurs will play in easing the global recession. There's a ton of great stuff in the piece. (Though, as Cornwall points out, The Economist's newfound love of entrepreneurship is just a tad late). One comforting note: when it comes to entrepreneurship, The Economist says, America still has a clear advantage over emerging countries like India and China. Check out our interview with Amar Bhide, a professor of business at Columbia University -- and a decided optimist on the American economy -- who's prominently featured in The Economist's report.

How much does Tesla's new electric car really cost? Tesla Motors revealed its second all-electric car yesterday, the Model S sedan. Today's NY Times Bits blog discusses its sticker price, which according to Elon Musk, Tesla's chief executive, isn't the whole story. The car costs $57,400, but really only $49,900 after tax credits. It's still not as affordable as other similar-sized cars, but Tesla says that after you factor in savings on gas, it's comparable to a $35,000 sedan.

Water in a Box, not a Bottle. The green movement has demonized bottled water as wasteful and eco-unfriendly. But Fast Company says that water companies are working on improving their reputation. Some established companies, like Aquafina, are creating bottles made with less plastic. But more intriguing is the start-up Boxed Water is Better, that ships empty recyclable milk-carton-like containers to the water source in an attempt to keep pollution levels low and donates 20% of their profits to charity.

Retrenchment in Portland. The New York Times takes a look at the economic troubles of Portland, Oregon, where even credit-worthy businesses like independent mega-bookstore Powells' are cutting back. Michael Powell, the store's owner, recently halted plans for a $5 million expansion. The NYT points to a viscous cycle at work here -- fears of borrowing lead to fears of lending, and vice versa: "Banks now confront accusations of clinging to their money, depriving the economy of growth, while the picture, as Mr. Powell attests, is more complicated. Even banks that are eager to lend find some of their best customers reluctant to extend themselves."

Tough time for Entrepreneurs in China. Think it's bad here? Well then take a look at this Wall Street Journal article on China, where years of headlong growth have slammed smack into the global slowdown. The last decade has been an unprecedented period of opportunity for Chinese entrepreneurs, who proved uniquely able to keep pace with the country's rapid development. But now they're facing their first major downturn, and many are struggling to figure out their next move. Tony Yu hopes a new killer application will create more demand for his firm GenTech, which outfits plants for high-tech work, but he's also asking his engineers to spend their spare time developing new equipment that could add value to the company if he decides to sell.

Facebook's cash crunch.. For every million users Facebook signs up, My Web Page says, Facebook needs $1 million in servers to store its user's photos, videos, and other facets of their online identities. But revenue may not be catching up. So despite raising more than $500 million from Microsoft and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Sing, Facebook CFO (and YouTube veteran) Gideon Yu is once again looking for capital. It's no surprise, then, that Valleywag says that Facebook valued at well below the $15 billion that Microsoft estimated when it bought a stake in 2007.

You're never too important to haul boxes -- at least for a week. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is spending a week working in a Kentucky distribution center, Silicon Alley Insider reports. Bezos apparently wants to know what it's like to be a rank-and-file employee, and his press team says there will be no photo or interview opportunities.

Lance Armstrong may own the tour. Lance Armstrong broke his collarbone earlier this week, and, although it remains to be seen how the injury will affect his return to the Tour de France this summer, the Wall Street Journal brings news of a feat that may be even more impressive than conquering Alpe D'Huez: Buying the Tour. Armstrong has exhibited an entrepreneurial streak for some time. He was a part owner in his team, he negotiated novel sponsorship deals, sold millions of Livestrong bracelets, and he recently announced plans to open a bike shop in Austin. The Journal chronicles how Armstrong attempted to orchestrate a $1.5 million buyout of the Tour in 2006 and 2007, but says that the credit crunch derailed the deal. Nonetheless, Armstrong still appears to be interested.

Michael Scott to start a paper company! Last night, The Office, NBC's send-up of all things corporate, went entrepreneurial. Michael Scott, clearly having secretly read Inc.'s "Starting Up in a Down Economy," announced he is starting his own paper company. (Note: This is fictional, but funny. Check out the episode here. And then read our Q&A with Office creator Greg Daniels. What else are you doing on a Friday afternoon?)

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Last updated: Mar 27, 2009




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