How to: Trade Private Stock, Diversify, Save a Project
BY Nitasha Tiku
5 warning signs your project is in danger.Web Worker Daily has another handy list, this time warning signs that a project is on its way to be being derailed. Moving away from the agreed plan, unprecedented behavior, sudden silence, fast-talking, and general unease should all send up a red flag.
A stock market for private companies. Private company stock has traditionally been the stuff of backroom deals -- it's secretive, hard to value, and next to impossible to sell in a secondary market. The NYT has word of a new company that hopes to be a kind of NASDAQ for private company stock. With IPOs waning, SecondMarket offers entrepreneurs and investors a new way to cash out. The idea may already be catching on: "The founders of SecondMarket say that in the last several months they have been getting an increasing number of calls from shareholders, including employees, founders and investors, who want to sell their stakes in tech start-ups, including Facebook, Twitter, Glam Media, LinkedIn and Tesla Motors." On his blog, Fred Wilson rhapsodizes about the idea, and passes along some insider data on Facebook common stock, which is now trading at just $8 a share. Sounds like a bargain.
Diversify, diversify, diversify. The key to surviving this recession? Don't just sell the same old products to the same old people. The Wall Street Journal looks at five small companies that figured out a way to appeal to new markets and increase profitability in existing ones. Chicago-based Mike George Fitness System started offering group classes to the same clients at lower costs. A 19-year old Somerset, NJ landscaping firm went green: offering solar panel installation and home energy audits that seemed like a more justifiable expense to their well-heeled clientele. Sparkle Pool company gave up on tired vinyl-lined pools, instead offering higher-end, customized pools to new clients who could pay in cash.
Details emerge on Apple backdating. Forbes has a report on the backdating scandal that engulfed Apple and its reclusive CEO Steve Jobs in 2006, causing a $84 million earnings write down and providing a plenty of grist for Jobs' fictional counterpart. The magazine obtained a deposition Jobs gave to the SEC in 2008, and it sheds some light on how the scandal got started in the first place: Jobs was "feeling under-appreciated," the magazine says, after he'd, you know, saved the company. The actual backdating seems to have happened when the Apple board missed a filing deadline and then attempted to fix its mistake by doctoring board minutes. In any case, this seems a lot less exciting than the prospect of a Macbook Touch.
A cautionary tale about financing. Entrepreneurs who took out adjustable rate mortgages to fund their businesses are being hit with the world's worst one-two punch. Business Week reports on owners at the center of both the recession and the housing bust, who are facing the prospect of both bankruptcy and foreclosure. As the recession hit and sales went soft, many began making only the bare minimum payment, adding interest to the loan. Now, a lot of those mortgages are about to reset, leaving already cash-strapped small business owners in the lurch.
Recessionomics in Japan? Pay foreign workers to leave the country. Recession-racked Japan has offered hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants of Japanese descent to leave the country, says the New York Times. The government will pay thousands of dollars to fly families back to their country of origin, in exchange for never attempting to seek work in Japan again. (Spain has a similar program.) Japan is only targeting Latin American guest workers, whose Japanese parents and grandparents emigrated to countries like Brazil and Peru to work on coffee plantations a century ago. They came back to Japan starting in 1990 when the country faced a growing industrial labor shortage. Critics say the program is inhumane and shortsighted in jeopardizing the country's future with foreign workers who will be needed again once manufacturing picks up.
Designers blog their way up the fashion chain. According to CNN, savvy designers are starting to leverage the popularity of their blogs, which feature regular examples of their designs, to get the attention of major brands and established designers. Rumi Neely's fashiontoast.com caught the eye of American Apparel and designer Esteban Cortazar of Emanel Ungaro, who invited Neely to an Ungaro show in Paris and personally fit her for a dress. "I think a lot of industry people are actually reading blogs to get ideas of what's going on with real people out there -- that's probably the best way to do that kind of market research," says Neely. "Even commercial companies have e-mailed me, and I've had different proposals about how we can work together."
A new Tom?. The Wall Street Journal reports that the front runner to replace MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, is former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta. Van Natta, the Journal says, could bring some Silicon Valley savvy to a company that has had its share of tech problems. Meanwhile, the article details some of the squabbles between the MySpace guys and News Corp. which acquired the social network in 2005. In particular, the founders clashed over a move to Beverly Hills, canceled stock options, and control of ad sales. What can Van Natta do to better compete with Facebook? Mahalo CEO (and, it would appear, self appointed candidate for the MySpace job) Jason Calacanis, offered his thoughts.
Reporter NITASHA TIKU covers technology, finance, green business, and social entrepreneurship for Inc. magazine and contributes to the staff’s daily links blog. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, The Villager, Chelsea Now, and on nymag.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. @nitashatiku