Mills looks likely to lead SBA. Last night, Tootsie Roll heiress and former venture capitalist, Karen Gordon Mills, was unanimously confirmed to lead the Small Business Administration by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The whole Senate is expected to confirm her for the post as soon as today, says Independent Street.
Don't under price. That's the advice of serial entrepreneur Steve Blank, whose advice comes by way of Venture Hacks. Interestingly, Blank takes an exploratory approach to pricing. When doesn't know how to set a price for a product, his first step is to aim ridiculously high, and then observe how customers react. To gauge demand, he'll offer the product for free to another set of clients and see how many they want or if there's another person at the clients' company who needs to approve the sale. He calls this "bounding box" pricing: "[I[t's very easy to under price your product. Because you tend to value it on cost or need or competitive or whatever," he says. "Do not be bound by what other people are charging." For more on pricing, check out our recent story on cutting prices during a recession.
Firewalls are productivity killers. A University of Melbourne study, courtesy of Reuters, found that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about nine percent more productive that those who don't. "Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos, using social networking sites or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity," said the study's author. But, the study found that short web surfing breaks allowed employees minds to rest, resulting in greater concentration later on.
Credit crunch halts medical innovation. Medical start-ups are notoriously capital intensive, and the current dearth of funding, the NYT reports, has slowed much-needed innovation in the space. While health care costs continue to drag down the economy, credit issues have killed trials of new medical technologies.
Picturing the recession. The New York Times has a nice, if slightly depressing, interactive feature today of reader-submitted photos chronicling the recession in their hometowns. Included are several creative marketing efforts by small businesses, from a "Madoff's Victims Sale" in New York's West Village to a "credit crunch special" at a St. Lucia rum shop.
Should you let users call the shots? Though the sheer size of Facebook's user base would make it the world's sixth largest country, the site is suffering from user tyranny, says The Big Money's Edmund Lee. In February, Facebook capitulated to the backlash over changes to its terms of service, which may have set a dangerous precedent. Users will now expect to vet any significant alterations to the site, including methods of monetization, says Lee. Lee's advice is to ignore much of the outcry: "Sell more ads. Sell bigger ads. Sell membership fees. Sell everything. Close down the feedback boards. Stop surrendering to the users." Old users will quit, but younger, more tolerant (and more profitable) users will take their place. For more on user innovation, check out Max Chafkin's profile of Threadless here .
Bad news for iTunes, good news for Pandora. More teens are getting their music from websites that stream music, according to Business Insider. Teens bought 19 percent less music, but 18 percent more of them are listening to online radio like Pandora, and 20 percent more are listening to music through social networking sites like Myspace. All of this is good news for founder Tim Westergren, who, after almost a decade, has built his Pandora into a web radio giant. For more, see Inc.'s coverage of Pandora's long, strange trip and how their users saved the day. Meanwhile, yesterday Pandora launched a slick BlackBerry app.
Haberdashery -- with a dash of bitters More men's retailers are offering alcohol to lure customers to their stores and put them at ease while shopping, says the WSJ. Offerings include beer, or more refined spirits like the cognac that's served by a butler courtesy of Tom Ford stores. In many states, the stores don't need a liquor license because they're giving away drinks for free. Most of the retailers offering beverages are pretty high-end, which keeps out the heavy boozers: "No one's coming in and doing tequila shots," says designer Billy Reid in the article. "We're a clothing store not a saloon."
Gazing into the future of the SBA. At the Huffington Post, Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League, has some rather grim predictions for the tenure of Karen Gordon Mills, the new head of the Small Business Administration. According to Chapman, Mills will only ignore investigations of fraud and abuse in the SBA, will likely favor private equity investors, and will continue the diversion of federal small business contracts to large corporations. It's certainly not the warmest of welcomes.
The netbook, circa 1998. Netbooks have gotten so cheap that some wireless carriers are practically giving them away to customers who sign a service contact. That fact reminds Fred Wilson of an eerily similar product he invested in ten years ago. The Ian "internet appliance" failed for a host of reasons, including the fact that it actually didn't work very well. But mainly, Wilson argues, the Ian failed because it was too early. "We didn't know it would take ten years to become viable," he writes. "Beware of 'way too early'. It hurts and it keeps hurting. Which is good. Because no pain, no gain. You learn best from your biggest mistakes."