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Reality TV for Entrepreneurs; SBA Lenders Say No to $15B
 

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And you thought the competition for venture capital was fierce. Got a business plan and an appetite for televised humiliation? Good news: Survivor producer Mark Burnett has teamed up with ABC to bring you "Shark Tank," in which aspiring entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to a panel of multimillionaires. It's an adaptation of Japan's successful "Dragon's Den" program. The winners will get capital; the losers walk away with nothing (except, of course, a few minutes of TV time to promote their product). Presumably it won't involve complex alliances, roasted rats, or campfires.

So much for opening up lending to small businesses Two weeks after Obama unveiled his $15 billion initiative to aid small businesses, the Washington Post reports that every major provider of SBA loans says the plan won't work. Their issue is with the conditions attached to the TARP money (where the $15 billion is coming from), since the TARP program mandates that financial firms surrender equity to the government and limit executive pay. Small business lenders finance SBA loans from middlemen, who buy the debt and package into securities that get traded by private investors. The linchpin of Obama's plan to unfreeze credit to smaller companies was to have the Treasury Department's spend $15 billion to buy those pooled SBA loans, rendering the lenders and middlemen free to offer more credit. After the crackdown following the hullabaloo over AIG bonuses, the top six middlemen, representing 80 percent of the market, now say that they would rather hold onto the SBA loans and take the interest payments rather than submit to restrictions on ownership and executive pay.

How about an elevator pitch with that beer? What better way to get candid feedback than from a room full of strangers. Welcome to Bloblive, a new networking event where entrepreneurs pitch their business idea in an open mic format at a bar. The hope is to get some good tips--or maybe even a partner. Bloblive kicked off last fall, and since then there have been a series of events each month in LA and Philadelphia, says the L.A. Times. It's an offshoot of Ideablob.com, an online forum where anyone can post business ideas and the most popular pitch each month gets a $10,000 prize.

French workers turn on their bosses. No matter how strained relations may be between managers and workers at your company, they're likely not as bad as they are right now in France. The Wall Street Journal reports that workers at the luxury company PPR held the CEO hostage for an hour yesterday until riot police were dispatched. It was the latest in a string of similar incidents at Caterpillar, Sony, and 3M, all in France. "France isn't suffering more than other big economies. But the country's tradition of egalitarianism triggers strong reactions when people think they are being mistreated, or when better-off people appear to flaunt their wealth at a time of general hardship," according to the Journal. At PPR, which controls Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, workers were responding to a restructuring plan that would cut 1200 jobs.

Facebook IPO in the works? Facebook parted ways with it's CFO Gideon Yu yesterday. Kara Swisher at AllThingsDigital says the move was "clearly an ouster" and suggests that he'd clashed with founder Mark Zuckerberg over how aggressively to pursue growth. "Zuckerberg...has been known to run hot and cold on top managers, especially with those who disagree with him too much," Swisher writes. In a statement announcing the departure, Facebook said it "will looking for someone with public company experience," stoking speculation that an IPO may be planned in the near term. In any case the move came as something of a surprise: it was Yu helped arranged the famous $15 valuation last year. Yu's interim replacement is former Netscape CFO Peter Currie, who knows a thing or two about handling young founders at fast growing tech companies.

Help, from Yelp. It's hard to hear negative feedback about your business, but it's even worse to see customer rants posted on a public forum. CNN Money has some advice from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman on how business owners can work with the internet's fastest growing consumer review site. He suggests e-mailing customers who post both good and bad reviews of your business. But don't try to buck the system by reviewing yourself or your competitors—Yelp has an algorithm that recognizes and removes suspicious reviews. Check our Inc.'s guide: What To Do When Your Customers Yelp here.

Attention local businesses, consumers can now find your Citysearch reviews on MySpace. Speaking of public forums, MySpace struck a deal with IAC's Citysearch to feature Citysearch's database of local business profiles on the social networking site, reports the Wall Street Journal. Users will be able to rate, review, and comment on businesses. MySpace execs hope the initiative will open up a new revenue stream for them. Citysearch charges advertisers a fee when consumers do things like download a menu. Under new deal, the two companies will split the revenues when content is accessed via MySpace Local. The Journal notes that local Internet-advertising has been one of the biggest growth areas in internet advertising as small business take their marketing online. Last October, MySpace launched a self-service tool called MyAds that lets small businesses to buy ads on its site.

Maybe matters will improve once the stimulus money hits? Clean tech investment fell off the proverbial cliff in Q1, the Business Insider reports this morning. It dropped 41 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008, and it's down 48 percent from last year. Capital flow is at its lowest in two years, according to the Cleantech Group. The vast majority of cash went to solar companies, and Kleiner Perkins was the most active VC.

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Last updated: Apr 1, 2009




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